Food to Fuel Writing

IMG_0448.JPG

This is just about literal food, not a metaphor for books or other writing inspiration. I am doing a photo gallery because it's been five weeks of being a rash zombie who can't sleep. (But I think things are turning around! I managed to fall asleep at 1:30 last night.) 

There are only four ingredients in the salad pictured above. I assembled it at work: cauliflower, sardines, parsley, and pine nuts. 

IMG_0385.JPG

This shake has no sugar. I made walnut and cinnamon milk, then followed a Moon Juice recipe to add chocolate, maca, avocado, and stevia. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

A simple kale salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds. Gotta massage those leaves with oil!

IMG_0239.JPG

Lentils, pine nuts, artichokes, sweet potato, and broccoli. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Lentils, daikon, wakame, carrots, and pumpkin seeds.

I hope you are eating delicious things when you are taking a break from work. It makes such a difference to have a home cooked meal rather than take out. 

Sugar Withdrawal

D278107E-FF4E-4B2A-A5E8-9213E9209B4E.JPG

I made this really delicious bean stew last week. Since then, my eating plan has taken a turn for the super strict because I figured out that the only way my skin is going to improve (and therefore my sleep and general sanity) is to cut out all forms of sugar, including things like brown rice, carrots, and lentils. (I watched a vlog where a guy cleared his psorasis by doing this. His skin was perfectly clear. Yes, I've hit rock bottom and I'm open to anything at this point.) This is a Hail Mary play; if I lose another night's sleep I am going to lose my mind.

Diet stories can be really boring, but if you're here and suffering from eczema, I went on a plant-based eating plan for nine days. During that time, my digestion improved a lot. (TMI: The combination of blended green vegetables and good fats has paved the way for smooth bowel movements; I know some of you are struggling with gastrointestinal issues so I figured I'd share. Two tablespoons of soaked flax seeds in your smoothie will make a huge difference.)

Yesterday, I cut out all sugar, fruits, starches, and grains for the next three months. By evening, I was in so much pain from sugar withdrawal, I imagine it was like coming off heroin. I was lying on the couch watching How to Get Away with Murder and shaking while trying not to vomit.  Plus I was so hungry I thought I was going to pass out in the shower. When I got into bed my body felt like a burlap sack of rocks. So today I added meat back into my diet. (No eggs and dairy due to allergies.) The red patch on my neck has already started to clear up overnight. I'm still suffering from brain fog though and I woke up at four a.m. because my legs were so itchy.

Still, I believe that I'm on the verge of being well enough to start writing again. I'm making space to make it happen. 

A Delicious Turmeric Latte Recipe

IMG_0975.PNG

I know it is summer, but I can't get enough of caffeine-free turmeric lattes at the moment. It may be due to the Arctic tundra A/C conditions in Hong Kong or the fact that the rain is relentless or that the beverage provides just the right amount of energy without a terrible crash. Yesterday I had a cup of turmeric latte before a yin yoga class and came out feeling so relaxed.

Ingredients 

1 cup milk of your choice (I used homemade almond milk) 

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 inch fresh ginger

sweeten to taste (I used a bit of stevia) 

Instructions

There are several ways you can make this. If you don't have a blender, combine all ingredients except for sweetener, warm on stove for a few minutes, and whisk until foamy.  Strain, pour into a mug, and add sweetener.

I used a blender, so I combined all the ingredients except for the stevia, blended them, then warmed up on the stove. Then I strained into a mug and added the stevia.

Here are links to some of my recent writing.

"Wonder Woman, Work, and White Feminism," The Unpublishables

"Ho Tzu Nyen,"  Ideas

"In Living Color," Open Space

Yoga Nidra for Insomnia and Relaxation

There's a typhoon 8 in Hong Kong and I'm on the verge of passing out after a weekend of writing and very little sleep.

A friend asked me for tips for fighting insomnia. When I have more time and energy, I'll round up everything I've learned about getting a good night's rest. For now, I'd like to share Jennifer Piercy's Yoga Nidra for Sleep track, which usually puts me into a deep and restorative sleep. All you have to do is lie down, don't move, and listen. If you can do it in bed, you can just drift off to sleep afterwards.

*

I wanted to share some recent writing I've published.

Learn How to Keep It One Hundred by Reading Toni Morrison's New Yorker Essay

I was talking to a friend about writing and keeping it one hundred. She said, "Did you read Toni Morrison's New Yorker essay about work? Talk about keeping it one hundred."

So when I left the office and got on the train, I pulled my phone out and settled down to read. I was exhausted because we were launching a huge project. My right wrist hurt and my brain was in shutdown mode.

Morrison's words are so uplifting. In the essay, she recounts a job cleaning a woman's house and the misery she was feeling. Then her father sets her right about how to frame one's mindset about work. It boils down to this:

"1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.

2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.

3. Your real life is with us, your family.

4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are."

"You are the person you are." I love this. We are people, separate from our work, even if that work is writing.

Self Care is Acknowledging that Structural Racism Exists

1. You are not crazy.

2. Being a person of colour is not a pathology, even if you're told otherwise every single waking moment of your life.

3. History is against you. The institutions are against you even though they espouse the language of inclusion and diversity.

4. When someone commits an act of violence against you, you are not sensitive if you call them out. You are stating a fact: "Please remove your hockey stick from my ass. Now."

5. This being said, there is nothing wrong with being sensitive. As Winona Ryder said, "I'm so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable. It's so bizarre to me." The same can be said for people of colour.

6. As your bruise blooms, know that the pain is real. Someone fucked you up. It is not in your head. You did not invent this for attention.

7. When someone commits an act of violence against you, they are responsible for their mistake. They may make it about your reaction, rather than about their transgression because they are evading responsibility. They are in the wrong.

8. When you call someone out on their violence, and their response is "I'm sorry you were offended" it is as if they never apologized. You may continue to be angry. You are not being petty or emotional.

9. The right response to being called out on fuckery is, "I am sorry. I made a mistake."

10. When someone doubles down with a racist response when being called out for acting in a racist fashion, it's not you, it's them. 

11. You may respond to "Can't you take a joke?" with "Dude, you're not fucking funny. You're no Aziz Ansari or Ali Wong."

12. There are people who will wield the words "free speech" to cut you down when you critique them because they believe they have the right to say anything they want without consequence. You are not afforded this same privilege.

13. If you object to anything they say or do, they will tell you that you're the thought police. They will accuse you of doing all the things that they are doing. They will accuse you of being a victim while calling you a bully.

14. They think they are good people. In their minds, this makes you the villain.

15. If you stay silent or say the words they want to hear, you will be told that you're articulate.

16. When they want you to know that they still have power over you even after you have pwned them so hard on national television, they will praise you for being gracious.

17. They believe that you are measuring yourself against their approval, their person, without knowing that the sun has set on that bloody empire. You are woke.

18. The reason why everything feels so heavy is that structural racism exists. It colours every interaction that you have, no matter what you do. It is why you feel powerless. You know that you cannot trust the law or the state to stand behind you even if you're in the right.

19. In conclusion, they are always telling you that two plus two equals five. You are good at math so they can just fuck off.

 

How to Conquer Procrastination

I began my recovery from procrastination in 2011. The book that set me on the right path was The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Dr. Neil Fiore. Before I identified this as a serious issue, I would leave writing until the last minute because I believed that the pressure helped me produce my best and most brilliant work. Instead of working steadily, I would watch TV or play online board games (I got really good at Knights and Cities of Catan in grad school), but I didn't enjoy any of this leisure time. I felt incredible guilt when I wasn't writing or studying, which was most of the time.

At that time, my default setting was stressed out. In my mind I was lazy, but I didn't know how to move past the anxiety, pain, despair I felt in the lead up to getting the writing done. There was also the sick need to leave room to explain away failure: oh well, it's okay, I left it until the last minute so of course things did not turn out well.

The Now Habit freed me from all of this. Lifehacker has a great overview of the book:

Instead of treating procrastination like a lazy man's disease that can be cured by a stiff shot of Puritan Work Ethic, Fiore redefined procrastination and the subsequent treatment:
Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.

One of Fiore's suggestions to is do an Unschedule and block out rest and relaxation time and other commitments. Yes, you put in the time for play like a champion, then you only put writing on the schedule after you've done it. I had a spreadsheet where I recorded every minute of my day when I was recovering. Since I have OCD tendencies I felt very pleased with this routine. It made my sick brain so happy. 

Later I bought Fiore's hypnosis series Productivity Engineering and woke up on day twenty-one of the program feeling happier than I had in years. 

I can now watch Riverdale without feeling any guilt. It's on my mental Unschedule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Webinar on How to Keep Your Writing Life Alive

So I had either food poisoning or an allergy attack that led to 4.5 hours of vomiting on the weekend, so I'm delaying on my post on wrist care for another week. Apologies!

In the meantime, please sign up for Rachel Thompson's webinar! She's hosting me and we'll be talking about not giving up on writing. It's on Thursday, April 13 at noon EST. If you sign up, you'll have access to the recording, so you'll be able to watch it later if you can't do it live.

10 Healing Ways to Spend 15 Minutes

Yesterday, I sat in my apartment wondering: what can I do during these turbulent times? How can I contribute and take action from where I am in the world that creates results? I settled on donating money to the ACLU and writing to my member of parliament and to the Prime Minister. This is a start, but I can see that this is going to be a long fight, so we need to take care of ourselves in order to continue kicking ass. 

If you feel like you don't have time, I suggest starting small. Commit to fifteen minutes a day. 

What can you accomplish in fifteen minutes?

1. Journal: Write down all the thoughts you're having. The good things,  the bad things, and the neutral things. List what you're grateful for that day. Let go.

2. Go to Bed Fifteen Minutes Earlier: You'll be surprised how that fifteen extra minutes makes a difference in your sleep quality. Or perhaps you'll get up earlier and suddenly you've created more time in the morning.

3. Meditate: Calming the mind does wonders. If you've never meditated before, I recommend the free sessions on Headspace.

4. Go for a Walk: A short stroll can be a mood changer or energy booster. Instead of having caffeine, I often go for a walk in the afternoon.

5. Read a Book: Do this for pleasure. A hot beverage makes this time even more delightful.

6. Oil Pull: Take a spoonful of oil (I prefer cold pressed sunflower because I'm allergic to coconut) and swish it around in your mouth for fifteen to twenty minutes. After you spit out the oil, scrape your tongue, rinse, and brush your teeth. Your mouth will feel so fresh.

7. Stretch: Yoga or simple stretches keep the body loose and the blood circulating.

8. Listen to Music: Put on headphones and sit on the couch or lie down. Don't multitask. Just listen.

9. Spontaneous Dance Party in the Living Room: This is exactly what it sounds like. Put on some music and bust a move. The sillier you look, the better.

10. Pack a Healthy Lunch: This will save money and give your body the fuel it needs to keep up the fight.

We need to be in top shape if we're going to last through what's ahead. No matter what, you can find fifteen minutes in your day to make your life a tiny bit calmer.

Try this Writing Trick to Get You Through Toxic Times

I've been reading The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh. If you're feeling anxiety right now due to current events and the resulting in-person and online abuse, you need this book. It will help you create the space you need to deal with the toxic bullshit that's flowing so freely from the mouths of people who are supposed to be leaders.

This opening paragraphs are all kinds of yes:

"Nothing can survive without food. Everything we consume acts either to heal us or to poison us. We tend to think of nourishment only as what we take in through our mouths, but what we consume with our eyes, our ears, our noses, our tongues, and our bodies is also food. The conversations going on around us, and those we participate in, are also food. Are we consuming and creating the kind of food that is healthy for us and helps us grow?
"When we say something that nourishes us and uplifts the people around us, we are feeding love and compassion. When we speak and act in a way that causes tension and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.
"We often ingest toxic communication from those around us and from what we watch and read. Are we ingesting things that grow our understanding and compassion? If so, that's good food. Often, we ingest communication that makes us feel bad or insecure about ourselves or judgmental and superior to others. We can think about our communication in terms of nourishment and consumption. The Internet is an item of consumption, full of nutrients that are both healing and toxic. It's so easy to ingest a lot in just a few minutes online. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use the Internet, but you should be conscious of what you are reading and watching."

Hanh then goes on to offer this:

"When you write an e-mail or a letter that is full of understanding and compassion, you are nourishing yourself during the time you write that letter. Even if it's just a short note, everything you're writing down can nourish you and the person to whom are you writing."

Last week I declared 2017 the year of friendship. A while back, I mentioned that we can take a moment to tell the people we love that we appreciate them. So this week, if you're feeling down, write an e-mail or letter to someone that comes from a place of understanding and compassion. You don't need to send it if you don't want to. It's a way to heal and also to jump start your writing practice. If you want to really dig deep, pick someone with whom you disagree and address this note to them. You may find it freeing to send kindness out to this person. I swear it's better than watching remix videos of that Nazi getting punched set to "In the Air Tonight".

 

The Number One Secret to Productivity

You're not going to believe this, but the secret to productivity is rest and play.

That's right, I'm telling you to prioritize self care over getting things done. It's counterintuitive, but if you allot time in your schedule to rest and to play, even if you can only manage ten minutes to nap or meditate, you'll be more focused when you're working. This leads to better output. You'll also enjoy your time off more because you'll be present for it instead of thinking you should be doing something else. 

Before I recovered from procrastination, I'd punish myself for taking breaks. But rather than spend quality time on writing, I would binge watch hours of TV and feel bad during every second of this leisure time. This made me hate writing even more. I felt blocked all the time. My days seemed joyless.

Everything changed when I read The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Dr. Neil Fiore. This book taught me how to schedule in meals with family and friends, naps, walks, exercise, films, concerts, therapy, and reading time. Dr. Fiore recommends that we move for at least an hour a day, so sometimes I march in place or dance around while watching Netflix or stretch while listening to a podcast.

For many people, this is a good time of the year to rest and recalibrate. So for this week give this a try: put the fun first. Commit to enjoying that time. Step away from your computer. If it means turning off your phone, do it. If you have to delegate one of your responsibilities to someone else for a week to regain your sanity, figure out a way to do it. I know we all have to hustle so we can survive, but we owe it to ourselves to break the cycle of being exhausted and overwhelmed. No matter how tough our lives may be, we can take ten minutes and choose to rest and be present during this time. We can choose to take ownership of a few minutes of each day to put ourselves first. If we can take this step to bring real joy to our lives, everything else will fall into place.

 

Spilling the Tea on Being One Year Sober

In three days I will hit a milestone: one year sober. Over the past 362 days, I haven't had a single alcoholic beverage. No painkillers, no Diet Coke, no antihistamines. Anyone who follows this up with "no fun" can fuck off to rehab, because I'm not here for that noise. Yes, even sober I'm still working on my anger issues. The difference now is that I'm looking my bullshit in the eye.

What I've Learned While Sober

  • I don't miss drinking. I thought it was going to be hard, but I'm lucky that I wasn't addicted.
  • My real friends are happy to do sober activities with me. Like write! If I surround myself with the right people, nothing is too difficult to take on.
  • It's not selfish to put myself first. Self care for the win.
  • Pain subsides a lot more quickly when I'm not dulling the days with booze.
  • I need to re-establish a better connection between mind and body.

What I've Gained Over the Past Year

  • I don't smell like a rotting sugar cube anymore.
  • I can go more than two days without washing my hair and it still doesn't reek like death.
  • No hay fever, even without antihistamines.
  • I am much calmer. I don't go into an emotional tailspin every other day over dumb stuff like awkward interactions or slow walkers during rush hour.
  • I finally got around to all those repairs I was avoiding and now I'm never leaving my apartment again.
  • My eyes look really clear. I think my liver hated me before.
  • No weekends ruined by hangovers.
  • The spark to make things again. This blog is my way back to storytelling, to fiction. 

The takeaway? I don't need to drink. I'm serving clearheaded realness all the time and I love it.

 

 

Taking Stock and Planning Ahead

For the past few years, I've used the YearCompass "The Year Ahead" booklet to take stock and set intentions.

For part one, you review 2016.

  • Go through your calendar
  • Assess what your last year was about
  • Recall the best moments
  • List your three biggest accomplishments
  • Forgive
  • Let go

Each time I've sat down and looked over my calendar, I've been amazed by how much I accomplished over 365 days. It is really important to take time to celebrate our actions and to understand that each small step contributes to a longer journey.

Part two is all about planning for 2017.

  • Envision the year ahead
  • Determine what your year will be about
  • Set intentions across different parts of your life
  • Choose a word for the year
  • Make a secret wish

I'm excited to sit down this weekend for a few hours to assess 2016 and plan the year ahead. I am declaring 2017 to be the year of my novel. I will complete a full draft. You can hold me to this.

What do you want to do in 2017? What do you want to write?