Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why I've Been Taking Pictures of My Food and Hashtagging #EatMindfully Like a Basic B*

If you follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you probably have noticed that I've been posting collages of food everyday.

I decided to write about why, and to compile a list of reasons for this project, in case anybody was curious! But first, let me explain what it is exactly that I'm doing.

Everyday, for nine weeks now, I've been taking a picture of everything I eat, except for extremely low calorie or zero calorie things (unless I feel like it) and I post a collage at the end of the day on Instagram with the hashtag #EatMindfully.

The idea behind this is simple, but somehow I've always found it hard to explain when ambushed with a question! But in a sentence, I wanted to use the act of taking a picture to pause before I eat my food, and to record the experience at the end of each day to reflect on how I eat. The hashtag really encapsulates the whole thought: I wanted to eat more mindfully.

If this is still confusing, let me explain how I used to eat before this project. I was reaching a point where I was craving food nonstop and when it was there, I ate it so quickly that I felt like I wasn't even really enjoying it! For someone who loves food and can be very sentimental, this was really sad. And even though I kept telling myself to stop, even though I knew so many ways to eat healthier, there was nothing holding me accountable.

That's when I thought about taking pictures. I figured that I could use the phone photography practice, and it would hold me more accountable, even if it's just a little bit.

I didn't have any goals or guidelines about my food, but I did try to be reasonable basing on the evidence. I tried to avoid seconds when I'm not hungry or I didn't even love the food, and tried to balance my diet a bit more and not eat excessively. AND, as much as I can, I try to add a bit of information or philosophy to the captions, if I had it in me in that particular day.

Okay, so I sort of ended up explaining why I'm doing this up there ^ woops! So here's a list instead of the benefits that this project has personally provided me:

  1. As I mentioned previously, it holds me accountable. I've tried writing down my daily food intake instead before, but it's proved to be so boring and monotonous that I actually forget to do it a lot and when I look back at it, it does nothing for me. Seeing the food instead gives me a better idea of what the day was like when it comes to my eating. Of course, this might seem excessive to some people, and indeed for many people, especially women, this might even be an unhealthy habit that might trigger obsessions and anxiety. But personally, I'm not vulnerable to eating disorders and weight obsessions and things like that. And clearly, it has not made me very restrictive at all. I mean just look at the picture up there! 
  2. It slows me down. Having to take a picture before eating kind of quells the ravenous beast inside of me that just wants to dump all of the food in my pie hole. I'm more likely to plate my food nicely now, too, which makes me less likely to eat very fast (although it still happens).
  3. It shows me imbalances in my diet and allows me to make up for them. Like if one day looks super carby, I'm able to adjust the next day and add more veggies, or reduce calorific drinks, if I had three coffees with milk and sugar the other day.
  4. It gives me a sense of "hey I can stick to an activity everyday!" Doing something daily, or developing a habit might be something that comes naturally and easily to other people, but it's honestly one of my biggest flaws. I'm horrible at keeping at things and personal projects. So being able to do this everyday has really been good for my self esteem.
  5. It also gives me a sense of "I know what I'm doing and I don't mind if people think I'm being 'basic'!". I've always been a bit snotty and snobby as a teen, when it comes to things that I feel like sheepish people would do, when it comes to music, movies, clothes, etc. I felt queasy following trends because aside from not really liking most things in the first place, I was still an insecure young person who had to really hold on to who they are so much that they spit on everything else. Now that I know myself a lot more and have shed my Special Snowflake Syndrome, I'm able to participate in harmless trends for fun, and to allow myself to be open to discussing and appreciating things, even if they're not my cup of tea, and I'm very open to trying new things, that when something popular is actually good, I recognize it! Anyway, this particular project allows me to put this in practice by doing something that's often ridiculed as a simple-person/basic thing to do: photographing one's food. And I'm able to keep at it for my own personal reasons, instead of being self-conscious about what uninitiated people might think of what I'm doing. 
So yeah, overall I'm happy for sticking by this project this long (and losing 7 pounds on it certainly doesn't hurt), and I'm planning to keep doing it until January 1st because I want to document my holiday food intake and to develop balanced eating as a habit. I will need the photographing as a crutch so that I could only moderately overeat, if you know what I mean (like instead of eating like six people I'd like to only eat like I'm two people. It's the holidays after all.) And it would be great to start with a big win!

If you'd like to try it yourself, feel free to use my hashtag #EatMindfully, or make up your own, based on your own goals! The trick is to find out what works for you by respecting your natural tendencies and being kind to yourself. Food is supposed to nurture and fuel us, but we have to let it!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Things I Learned From Marie Kondo's Book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I finished listening to the audio version of this book while playing Minecraft a few weeks ago, during my slump (I use this word so much in my blog that it probably belongs in the header somewhere). As lazy and messy as I naturally am, I have always been very interested and excited by the prospect of organizing things. In fact, when I'm not ailed by my seemingly chronic low energy, I do a pretty good job at fixing, tidying, and organizing things. At least I think so, and Beardy would agree! Although he might not be the best judge of that because he normally can't tell the difference unless it's drastic. :o)

One thing I've learned, though, is that you don't get from a normal cluttered hum-drum room or house to one worthy of being in a magazine just by shuttling all your belongings from here to there and chucking them into boxes and cabinets - you actually have to get rid of stuff for your space to truly feel tidy.

But these few things usually trouble me when I attempt to tidy up: 
  1. I have a lot of anxiety about parting with things as I have the tendency to be very sentimental.
  2. I have a lot of guilt about throwing things in the trash because I don't exactly know where everything ends up *insert picture of Smokey Mountain and audio clip of O Fortuna here*
  3. As sort of an effect of #2, I always have SO MANY IDEAS about how to recycle everything!!!
  4. I like displaying cute things around me and sometimes the things pile up and end up hiding less-desirable things behind/under/inside them (I LIKE DECORATIVE CANS AND BOXES :c) and so my things eat up a lot more space than they should.
But boy oh boy did this book help me deal with these feelings! What I really appreciated about this book, apart from the clever and simplified ideas, was that it not only told you what to do (which everyone has their own way of doing things in the end anyway) but how do deal with the feelings that normally come up when we part with things. In fact, the whole philosophy behind this book is centered on how you feel - specifically, about what sparks joy.

It won't ask you to tick boxes of qualifications for a thing to be deemed worthy of keeping. It simply asks you to hold each thing you have and contemplate on whether it sparks joy or not. And if it's something you truly need, but it doesn't exactly spark any joy (for example, if you're a medical student you probably have a buttload of books.. Hi Jess c;), it asks you to contemplate on the importance it has in your life and to appreciate the role it plays, so that you change your mental relationship with it into a positive one. Then it ends up sparking joy, as well.

What it comes down to, basically, is for us to Mindfully Own Things, so that we don't passively accumulate things over time and rather make it so that our belongings change with us, grow with us, and don't weigh us down. In this way, every single thing becomes useful and important, we know where everything is, and we have space to let our minds breathe in our dwellings. Also, it's much easier to re-decorate with less things in the way.

So for my four stumbling blocks, here are the lessons that the book has offered me to overcome them:
  1. Anxiety about parting with things- KonMari confronts us about the real reason why we keep things, and the true purpose of things and how we can part with things once they serve their purpose. She suggests that when we hold on to these things we are weighing ourselves down by holding on to the past and instead encourages us to cherish the present, and our present relationships. An example that really struck me was about how we hold on to gifts or letters out of guilt even when they no longer suit us even though the people who have given them have probably forgotten about them, or holding on to letters from people we've fallen out with, even though they probably don't remember anything about what they wrote and probably don't feel the same way anymore.
  2. Guilt about trash- Well, actually, this book's attitude towards trash probably hinges on a more effective waste disposal system in Japan because the throwing-away part in this book is as simple as just putting them in trash bags and promptly taking them outside before anyone who'd want to dig through it in your family could see. Although, the whole part about the true purpose of things has made me ready to part with much more things than I normally would be, especially when they could do better if given away, or even, yes, ending up where the trash goes - because they're valuable as picking items (This sounds really problematic because it's usually kids who do this here in the Philippines. It's a sad reality that I do not condone at all, but it's really the best option for these unusable items :c Feel free to suggest better options, if any.)
  3. Recycling- The book makes a good point that basically goes: "When though? I mean really.." when it uses the example of people keeping reference materials for finished classes under the pretense that they will want to read through it again one day. The reality is that we would likely only want to read through a couple of those things or even forget we even have them, so as for me, I probably would only be able to do some of these recycling projects, and forget about the rest. So I should either get with the crafting soon, or just ditch the project.
  4. My Penchant for Cute Clutter and Sneaky Storage- The book turns the old saying "A place for everything, and everything in its place" into "A purpose for everything, and everything in its place." It asks us to avoid "storage solutions" that actually just give us places to hide things we don't know what to do with. Honestly, this is the hardest part. I have numerous small containers for numerous small things. The situation is especially dire on my desk. The technique of dumping everything in a single pile and sorting every single thing makes it so that there's less chances of me keeping duplicates of things, and I will get to see all of the containers and... maybe get rid of the ones that aren't cute anymore due to rusting or wear and tear. Luckily, KonMari doesn't actually have anything against having decorations, as long as they all, individually spark joy. So that actually wouldn't be so hard.
"Do I find this knick-knack or doodad as cute as Marie Kondo?" If the answer is yes, then I can keep it.
I'm excited and to be honest quite nervous about doing it, because I still am not 100% sure about how to move the things I purge along, and I'm going to face a lot of internal struggling when it comes to things that can still be fixed!

I'm planning to buy a huge sturdy box for the stuff I'm going to donate, and plan out my purge on a free weekend. I'm going to be documenting it, of course! I wonder when though, because I kind of need a huge amount of energy to do this!

PS: Go here for an Illustrated Guide to KonMari style folding. It's really simple, but once you read/listen to the book you'll realise how important that is!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Shopping for Advice and Hoarding Wisdom

Imagine shopping for clothes one day, when a beautiful green sweater catches your eye.

You take it home, beaming with happiness. You feel like you've been looking for this sweater all your life. 

It makes you feel a sense of completeness; pride; even.

Then you put it in your closet with all your other clothes.

A few months pass, and the sense of completeness fades. You start itching to go shopping again. You go look for a new sweater.

You only ever wore the green sweater once.

Here's another one. Imagine buying a book that catches your fancy. You're relieved to snag a copy. You know the prints are limited and not everyone can get it. You feel very relieved that you are one of the chosen few. You put it on your shelf to read for later.. You smile at it every once in a while when you pass by your book shelf. You like how it looks like in your room. It feels very "you." But you struggle in finding time to read it. It spends so much time in your shelf that looking at it makes you feel a bit guilty now, and it dampens the feeling it once gave you.

When we buy things, getting the thing is just the first step to the experience of having it. For the item to fulfill you, it must be used according to the purpose it was made for.

The more we forget about the value of what's already there, the more we accumulate more of the same things. We start hoarding, uhm..."collecting" things that kind of just sit there, gathering dust.

Now stop thinking of the sweater and the book, and start thinking about advice you've gotten, read, stumbled upon, through the years. This kind of behaviour isn't strictly reserved to stuff we have in our rooms or houses. Beyond the physical realm, a lot of us have a habit of hoarding unused wisdom. In the sacred room that is our brain.

You receive it, and feel very enlightened to be someone who has this wisdom in their possession, but fail to use it. And so coming across this valuable piece of information becomes meaningless.

You know what I'm talking about right? There are figurative truckloads of overused quotes that you hear or read so much that they start to mean nothing. There are so many nuggets of wisdom that are quite universally familiar to the common person. And yet... Well, look at our world. Heck, just look at your Facebook feed.

Everyone knows they need to value their time more than they value money. Everyone knows that not all available knowledge is verifiable truth. Everyone knows how important empathy is. And yet... And yet.

The thing is, this is difficult for all of us. The second step after acquiring a good -which is actually using it- isn't always natural to us. And it's doubly hard to use advice and wisdom, because at least for our belongings, we are physically reminded that we have them, by their mere presence. It's far more difficult to do this to the contents of our brain and the behaviour that stems from it. Self-Awareness is the trickiest part of self-improvement.

Tricky because it's unlikely to be triggered to even really stop and think about it. There are no obvious signs that point to a lack of self-awareness in ourselves, even though it's easy to see it from other people. But if one feels that they've received so much good advice and yet their situation feels dis-aligned from what this wisdom was supposed to cure, it's pretty safe to say that they've probably been hoarding and not using.

I find this in my own life plenty of times. There are moments of clarity and peace, but every once in a while, because our lives naturally have ebbs and flows, I look at the state of my mind and my life and just go:

Then I'll have to gather myself, and try to focus on just a few nuggets of wisdom and really work on implementing them. Intently, whole-heartedly, self-criticisingly. It's always really messy and painful and humbling, but I always feel better, more together afterwards.

I'm currently undergoing a 90-day project after going to Arriane Serafico's workshop: I'm trying to create content regularly. And I have been struggling. In trying to come out of the rut, I find that using advice that I've known for a long time works just as well as looking for new inspiration. Especially if I've lost touch with the "old" advice. I just have to dust it off, and try it on again. It takes lots of practice and repetition before I feel like I've really learned and used a lesson and not just acquired it, and that first one is the secret to making the advice valuable at all.

It's easy to share a picture with a quote on it when it seems to make sense and is clever. But to be honest, a lot of the time, the people I see who do this very often, and with very varied (not ideologically-aligned) content, I've observed, seem to contradict themselves a lot, or seem to not really apply the wisdom to their lives, or worse, seem to have a habit of preaching, being offensive, or sub-posting (nagpaparinig in Filipino). While the people who do it less often seem to "curate" these pieces of wisdom and have them align with the way they live. They are not swayed by something just because it sounds clever, if they don't believe it. I think it might have to do with a person's relationship and openness to wisdom. Sometimes people like to skim the surface and be entertained or amused, or to criticise, and shame, while other times, they want to embody, teach, and share. Or maybe it has more to do with how careful a person is about what they impart to the world (some of those people I mentioned earlier post a lot of unverified "facts", too. haha.)

It is very easy to find faults in others, but hard to see them in yourself for the same reason that it's easier to make an inventory of what you own in your house VS what memories you have in your brain. We can see, hear, sense these faults around us, because we encounter these people and observe them. There are observable signals from outside ourselves that trigger our conclusions. The only way to observe ourselves is to make a point to do so. It rarely comes from the outside, and if it comes from other people, it's painful and will likely make us too defensive to make a real change.

So where do we start? First of all, when you see a quote that starts with "Some people..." Stop yourself from immediately thinking that you're not one of those people before you even read it. We always think we're on the right side of everything until we are proven wrong. It is very important to try to jump at any occasion to better oneself, before immediately thinking of someone else the advice must be useful to. Nobody wants to be that person who pushes their views, criticises and preaches to everyone but is unaware that everyone else thinks they don't follow their own advice. It also reminds people of advice they think you could use, if you get very critical and preachy to everyone else.

Second, think of the things that make you unhappy that you feel you have no control over. Then, think of the ways you can influence it. Accept that even though a lot of life is about luck, and social systems make it so that it's harder for some people than others, there's a way for you to make it at least a little bit better, and do that thing. This isn't to say that you shouldn't criticise the people that might be responsible, like, it's healthy to criticise some things, like the government, corporate greed, bad parenting or whatnot, but don't stop there and just give up. Do something from where you are. Every little bit helps. Everyone wishes someone else had done something, and yet they don't do much themselves.

Also, word to the wise: as much as you might think someone isn't criticising themselves, don't blatantly tell anyone that they never do. We don't fully know each other's inner journeys and if you happen to accuse someone of this who's actually undergoing a lot of self-criticism at the time, they might just stop trusting you. If you feel it is needed, maybe suggest it as a gentle nudge or ask it as a question. Don't assume!

Lastly, beyond understanding newly-acquired Golden Nuggets of Wisdom (or even old ones, because I'm sure you have a lot of gems in there that you haven't used to their full potential), try and find ways in which they apply to your own life, and think of specific behaviours you have that you could change accordingly. This part is very difficult for me, but I'm slowly learning to make my actions match my thoughts. The key is to keep trying, keep practicing, do it wrong, see what went wrong, change accordingly, fail better, keep applying again and again, keep learning, and to never give up. Or, to try again after every single time where you do give up, because ~even the best fall down sometimes~. 

It's never too late! Let's all do this together!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Five Friday Favorites

Here are some recently acquired/crafted/appreciated things that puts a smile to my face / have been making my life better. For good vibes, cos it's Friday!

Pretty Journals
I've been on the lookout for a journal for a while now and I recently found this really cute one; a simple watercolor woosh-y washy design with purple detail. I know I wanted it to be in the purple/blue color scheme to be calming because I intended to write on it before bed. Of course, I just write on it whenever in reality :D The floral one is a notebook where Beardy and I just write letters to each other. It's meant to evoke the feelings from when receiving letters from each other was the only way we could communicate. I don't know, it's kinda romantic. :)

Tin Lid Magnet Mount
I really felt bad when I didn't have a use for these lids. There are four tins and I used just one lid and stacked the other three under so these were left without a purpose! Until I got the idea to stick them onto this blank space on my wall because I was desperate for a way to use some cute magnets I got. And now the blank space is used! I like sticking stuff on it like paintings and stuff :)

Water Heater
This plug-and-heat thingy is a lifesaver. We've been having water pressure problems, and water doesn't eat in our room when there's not enough pressure. And if you know Beardy well you'd know that he can't bathe if the water isn't hot. This heats water SUPER FAST. It's so awesome! Just plug and drop it!

My Most Favorite Owl Mug
I have two of these but this one keeps the contents cool faaaar longer than the other one. I think it's that thick double wall. We have been looking for a twin so that we can both have one to keep water in the room, but we haven't found one that's as cute at this one :)

 WiFi Extender!!
Okay, this has been here for a while. We get bad WiFi reception from the router downstairs so Emmy had the brilliant idea to get an extender! Now I can use the internet anywhere in my room! You don't understand! I used to have to stay near the door to use the internet or just keep lugging my laptop up and down the stairs to get stable internet everyday. This just makes life so much better.

Taking time to appreciate the small things has really made me happier overall. Try it! Just focus on the little things that make life better, stare at pretty things more, and don't be ashamed that they are little things. If they make you happy, then that makes them great!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Just a warning, I will say the word "fate" here at least 1/10 times as much as it was said in this ^ movie.

I used to romanticise a few things that I find silly now: Unrequited Love, my future that I believed was "destined" for me, my fate in general.

I fancied myself a martyr for love, and I guess deep inside I was holding out for fate, believing it was destiny I sensed that caused my obsessions for those innocent bystanders that I happen to ordain with my affection from afar.

Of course it was not, and instead it was me choosing them, I didn't know I was, but I chose them while simultaneously holding on to the belief that I wasn't choosing them; that fate chose them for me somehow, and thus my obsession lingered and festered and ate me from inside.

I fancied myself special, someone inherently "meant to succeed", who cannot possibly fail, someone who'd find their way handed to them even if they just sit idly by, because people will recognise whatever value they had within them.

Of course this wasn't the case, and I soon found that I had to actively Show Up, Get Inspired, Have Ideas, Create Things, and Show My Work in order to be of value to anyone. I will not always be able to rely on people assigning things for me to create. Life as a creator means finding the needs myself, and filling up the spaces I find; a skill I'm still trying hard to learn to this day.

Life does not choose. Life is a book where our stories are written as they happen. Fate on the other hand, is like an imaginary book where things that have not happened are already written and fixed. How do we find out our fate? We can't. It cannot actually exist outside of the present moment and the moments that have already passed. Fate is a concept we pick up in our deck of psychological ways to cope when we want to be sure of things, or contented with what is there. It is something we sometimes use to soothe ourselves of our own responsibility in how our lives turn out. That's the difference between saying "Whatever happens is meant to be." and saying, rather that "Whatever happens, happens." The first one assumes that there's something else that is in charge. The second one does not imply anything, just that what is, is. In taking life as it is, we are closer to truth, and we can more easily access how to deal with this truth.

When they say "You make your own destiny", that means there is no path to find. You are dealt with a set of random cards time and again, and for every round, you choose. You can either choose carefully, knowingly, choosing as your heart desires, or you can play the whole game thinking the book of fate tells you all the answers, leaving you to second guess your choices endlessly.

Here are the facts:

  1. You can't control everything.
  2. Neither can anybody else.
  3. But everyone can control something. No matter how it looks, you have ways available to you right now to at least steer towards the right direction.

And sometimes, that is all you need to do good in this world.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What Love Could Feel Like

Guess what! Beardy and I are celebrating our Fifth Year Anniversary today!!! Yes, five whole years of being in each other's lives. It's a little crazy to think about! To celebrate, we filmed a vlog together doing The Boyfriend/Relationship Tag:

And on my own, I want to share some insights that I've gathered and observed to be things that need the most sharing from people who have experienced a nurturing, stable kind of love to people who are looking, or have been perhaps going after the kind of love that isn't really what they want in the end. In things that are common among us humans, we need to have a better line of communication in order to guide each other. That's what I think.

And love is a pretty common goal in people's lives. Humans are vastly preoccupied with romantic love. Not everyone, of course - but a lot of us are. We can philosophize about why this is so, but for most of us it's a very real, very deep-seated need, and done the right way, it can do a lot of good to a person. But it's as if we are used to being preoccupied with only the stage where it is sought, and when we have it, we are preoccupied with fixing it because a lot of the love we find is broken. I observe this a lot in the way that we often speak about love. How it feels. How it hurts. It's lead me to think that maybe we are made to have the wrong expectations about what it is, what it should be. I feel like maybe in a large extent, we are being made to look for the wrong kind of feeling in our search for love. I sure had the wrong expectations before befriending Beardy. I was looking for, and kept crashing head-on towards an idea of it that was simply unsustainable. Luckily, even without realising it at the time, starting a friendship with Beardy five years ago today eventually led me away from a long, painful path towards a really nice easy-going one so that I could, you know... Start worrying about other things. Life is about so much more than finding a partner after all.

Like being able to act like dumdums together once you've found each other.

Love shouldn't feel like competing to be the best one around in order to deserve being loved. It should feel secure, like the decision has been done. You should treat each other in a way that makes you feel confident and secure in your relationship. It shouldn't feel like a constant competition, like you always have something to prove. You should be able to show your whole self, not just the best parts. To be accepted for the good and bad, and to accept your partner wholly as well.

Love shouldn't be something we brace ourselves for, and reserve our strength for, but rather, something that gives us strength, and is a safe place to rest in in times where we are weak. Love should give us strength, not take it away from us. Yes, sometimes challenges may come that will need us to be strong, but it shouldn't come from the way we treat each other. I've observed that some people in relationships tend to fight and bicker a lot - about things big or small, and I think this causes a lot of lovers to have their guards up when they are around each other. I think it should feel like you are coming from the same place from every time you wind down, and face the same direction out to the world, together. The space you create should feel safe and nurturing, not like a battlefield.

Love shouldn't feel like the goal, the happy ending. It should feel like a beginning. It should improve your life in many ways, and not be the end goal. It should be a source of your energy, and the light to your way for the rest of your life.