Features + The Weekly Edit

The Weekly Edit: Habitually Complicated

This New Year, I resolved to “boss up, and change my life.”  But it hasn’t been easy.  Self-reflection can be messy and difficult.  You can start pulling back curtains and realize pretty quickly that you don’t like what you see.

I’ve spent the past three years in a kind of purgatory.  I go through each day just hoping that something big will happen to shake me out of my funk.  Where is the earthquake?  When is it coming?!?  But looking back, I realize that while I was waiting for something big to happen, I started living my life out of habit, not intention.

I stay up too late.  I procrastinate small tasks.  I dream up new goals, but seem paralyzed to put them into action.  I eat too much Door Dash.  I don’t take good care of my body. (I pulled a muscle reaching for a box last night.)  And a million other small choices that when added together are creating a life that isn’t reflective of who I want to be or how I want to live.

So far, I’ve done well putting some changes into effect.  My daily, habitual spending is way down.  I haven’t ordered food delivery in weeks. (Which would explain why UberEats, DoorDash and Postmates are all sending me coupon codes; it’s cute that they miss me.)  And I’m doing a better job of crossing lingering tasks off of my to do list.

I still have a long way to go to building up better practices and routines, but I feel like I’m off to a good start.   Because building the life you want isn’t just about the big things, it’s about all the small decisions and choices that you take for granted.

One of the big things that I need to change is my sleep schedule.  Staying up very late (3:00AM or 4:00AM) has become a regular thing in my house.  And while it’s great for my productivity, it isn’t sustainable or healthy.  As a part of building better sleep habits, I’m trying to build up a predictable bedtime routine that is enjoyable.  And it starts with the right pajamas.

I’ve shared these Splendid pajamas before, but I wanted to share them again, because they’re that good.  So soft, so warm, so comfortable.  They’re like wearing a hug.  And I liked them so much, that I treated myself to this discounted thermal pair (love the stars) and this cozy pink pair.  Putting on comfortable pajamas at the end of a long day feels like such an indulgence that it makes going to bed at an appropriate hour a little bit easier.

From their first season about the hunt from Brink’s-Mat gold to the second season, searching for answers about how the body of a young Swedish woman washed up on a beach in Scotland, Sky News’s Storycast is an incredibly entertaining podcast.  And with episodes running under 30-minutes, it’s perfect for commuting, listening to while you get ready in the morning, or diving into on your daily jog.

Like many men, Kyle believes that wherever he left something is where it goes.  Unable to break him of the annoying habit to leave keys, measuring tapes, mail, etc. wherever his hand feels right setting it down, I’m developing a very impressive collection of “catch alls.”

My latest purchase is this affordable terra-cotta bowl from Amazon.  It comes in several sizes, for small trinkets or large ones, and goes with any decor.  It also feels extraordinarily well made for the price.  I also like the seller’s selection of bowls and trays, including this round, wooden one.

This article about apartment hunting in Washington, D.C. brought on so many flashbacks. Finding an apartment in the District is not easy, but I didn’t realize how much effort goes into screening roommates.  One new wrinkle that I hadn’t anticipated, parents applying on behalf of their children and handling all of the decision making for them.  This read is definitely worth your time.

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  1. Leah says:

    “ I go through each day just hoping that something big will happen to shake me out of my funk. Where is the earthquake?”

    THIS! I’ve been feeling this way for about a year, too. It’s been bad enough that I finally started therapy and an anti depressant. Because unfortunately that earthquake just hasn’t hit.

    January 23, 2020/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’m going to make the small changes I need to make, and if that doesn’t start to fix it, I’m going to have to make my own damn earthquake.

      January 24, 2020/Reply
    • Melissa says:

      Same! It’s been about 3 years for me (since my mom died), and I’m tired of just surviving. Working on the small changes, too, and it’s helping. I’m making progress.

      January 24, 2020/Reply
  2. Joan says:

    Hi Belle,

    This resonated with me as well. When I truly accepted Annie Dillard’s wisdom that “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” It gave me to wake up I needed to focus on the incremental habits of how I was spending my mornings, my working hours, and my time with my family. And while from the outside probably no one would see the changes I’ve made, the impact has been profound. Good luck lady, out here rooting for you.

    January 24, 2020/Reply
  3. Mel says:

    I have been there before too. An earthquake didn’t happen. Instead, it was small, incremental movements that pushed me along. I started using a Bullet Journal to keep track of my healthy habits, building in rewards along the way. As I started to be more intentional about stuff, I was able to figure out my goals, write them down, and make the steps necessary to achieve them.

    January 24, 2020/Reply
    • Samara says:

      I bullet journal as well. One page that I find particularly useful is a daily intentions page where I have one column that lists the things I aspire to do every day (even simple things like make the bed and floss–guaranteed wins every day), and I check off the applicable box when I do each intention for each day of the month. I add in actions like read, be productive, meditate, work out, and drink water to hit goals that improve my mental (and physical) health.

      I have been pulling myself out of severe stress caused by a job I left over a year ago, and the single best thing that pulled me out was deciding to lead a weekly meditation class at work. There is a combination of purpose, accountability, stress reduction, learning (how to teach and how to speak to a group), helping others and all while not quitting my day job or drastically changing my life.

      January 24, 2020/Reply
  4. Amy says:

    Hi Belle. You and some of your readers might really like Kara Loewentheil’s podcast “Unf*ck your brain”. She’s a former attorney turned life coach (I heard about her from the Hustle & Flow podcast, if you’re familiar with that one), very no nonsense, and her teachings and approach have changed my life in my late 30s just as much as a brilliant CBT therapist did in my 20s. I tend toward anxiety, depression and overwhelm/procrastination and I’ve been able to make incremental changes that have allowed me to give myself a lot of grace and get more done, but without the drama.

    January 24, 2020/Reply
  5. Katee says:

    Belle, for your sleep, do some reading about circadian rhythm. Some of the “paleo-recommended” sleep hacks helped me get my sleep somewhere near normal. Orange glasses, getting sun & exercise in the morning, and liquid melatonin (so you can taper off) had the biggest impact.

    You might be a little young for this, but female hormones tend to start fluctuating a decade or two! before menopause and this can interrupt sleep. A bio-identical progesterone cream (Rx) has helped me immensely.

    January 24, 2020/Reply
  6. cait says:

    HBR has a recent article about creating micro habits and how they move the needle to achieving big goals. I found it helpful to set small but realistic changes in my daily routine.


    January 24, 2020/Reply
  7. Shelly says:

    My Mom didn’t do the searching for me but she veto’d more affordable apartment buildings in Arlington that I would’ve preferred saying I should have nicer surroundings to more easily focus on studying for my grad school classes. I’m sure it made some difference and I was able to afford it on the fellowship I had, but she started giving me unsolicited grocery money when she saw that I had lowered the quality of food I was buying to live within my paycheck.

    When she started doing the same level of input in apartment hunting for my younger brother I finally chimed in and told her that he was fully capable of looking at places, reading contracts and deciding with his roommates what he would prefer and she backed off.

    Happy I finally did that.

    January 24, 2020/Reply
  8. Leila Malekzadeh says:

    Dear Abra –

    This post really resonated with me and truly aligns with how I’ve been feeling lately myself. Thank you for sharing. I feel seen and validated. Furthermore, it makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Thank you.

    January 24, 2020/Reply
  9. Anonymous says:

    Love the blog–thank you for sharing this and so many other insights. Dying to know if the Full Focus Planner is helping and how you like it!

    January 25, 2020/Reply
  10. Sharon says:

    Belle – Definitely feeling your life situation at the moment. If it helps you, I’m sharing one small thing I did that kickstarted better habits for me: I have always wanted to floss more, so I printed out a free calendar for this month, taped it to the wall next to my bathroom sink, and started marking off the days I flossed. Every day this month/year! Don’t give up on yourself.

    January 27, 2020/Reply
  11. Jenn says:

    Hi Belle, Not sure if you’re looking for advice, but Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast has really helped me. I’ve taken maybe about 1% of the advice over the years I’ve listened and I would say that’s been enough to be happier and more productive overall. Hope you find a method that works for you 🙂 Just know that willpower is largely a myth, and you have to find what works for BELLE. It won’t be the same for everyone.

    January 28, 2020/Reply
    • Linds says:

      Ditto on anything from Gretchen Rubin. A year ago I joined a book club that was inspired by Gretchen’s Happiness Project book, which we read first, and we also read Better than Before (specifically focused on habits) later in the year. Her work and her insights are so accessible and helpful. Good luck to all of us out there trying to live our best lives.

      January 30, 2020/Reply
  12. AmandaG says:

    Such a good post! I see myself in a lot of what you say about yourself. Reading other comments on the post, it makes me wonder if people have always felt this way? Or is this more reflective of our times?

    It’s a really good reminder to be intentional. And that it doesn’t have to be the whole day, but bits of it can be focused on for now.

    January 28, 2020/Reply