habits

Small steps and self-compassion: a pre-surgery linkdrop

Remember in my last post I mentioned I’d be having surgery sometime this fall? It wasn’t scheduled to take place for a couple of months, but now it’s happening very suddenly, due to me getting a cancellation slot. It’s a good job I already started thinking about how to occupy myself while recovering. I won’t have time to organize my bookmarks and all that kind of stuff that I wanted to do beforehand, but I do have a shiny new tablet, and I guess I’ll make do!

Let this serve as official notice that posting here will probably be even more sporadic than usual while I’m recovering. In the meantime, have some links that feel timely (even though in actual fact, I’ve been meaning to post some of these for months…):

  • Follow Through, Don’t Give Up! over at the Language Pond has a lot of smart things to say that feel particularly relevant at the moment. The struggle to figure out if I really need to take time to rest, or if that’s depression talking me out of things because that’s what depression does (it’s a lying jerk), is a constant in my life. It’s also difficult to be kind to myself when I do need to chill out, to have the honesty and compassion to even acknowledge a need to rest.
  • 24 Unusual Ways To Learn a Language Every Hour from BRAVE Learning. I like the idea of sticking these into Evernote and then pasting in links relevant to what I’m studying: another project I probably won’t end up doing, to be honest, but I’m sure it would be really handy! In the meantime I can at least use these as prompts.
  • 5 Ways to Fit in 5 Minutes of Language Practice from Language in Bloom. I especially like the suggestions to conjugate verbs and to write down words you recognize from a short podcast.
  • Language Learning Goals Derailed? 8 Simple Steps to Getting Back on Track from Language Hero. Setting yourself a target time for language study every day and then halving it is a really good idea; it reminds me of what blogs like Zen Habits always say about starting so small you can’t fail.
  • Set D.U.M.B. Goals – Motivation March – Part 3 from Language Surfer (I almost typoed “Language Surgery” — guess we know what’s on my mind! What would a Language Surgery blog be like, anyway?!). This is so important! I appreciate the reminder that SMART goals aren’t always appropriate — say, when one is recovering from surgery and isn’t on top form, cough cough — and that moving forward with “DUMB” goals is still moving forward.

And a few more general links:

Well! There’s a bunch of good reading for you all, if you haven’t already seen those posts, or at least a reminder of the content if you have (I certainly need reminders of these things!). And I think that’s all for me for a bit — we shall see! Maybe in a week or two I can post an update on language study while on painkillers, exhausted, generally out of it. And if not, well, maybe something when I’m past that fuzzy stage.

Having this surgery sooner rather than later is better healthwise, of course, but I admit I’m also relieved because it might mean (depending on how recovery goes) that I won’t have to miss any German classes this fall! And also, one of my longest-running Skype conversation exchange partners is coming to London in a few months. His visit was timed exactly with my old surgery date, so I was bummed that I probably wouldn’t get to hang out, but now it should be fine. Hooray!

Anyway! Be well, everyone. Take care of yourselves, be kind to yourself, and drop me any links you think might be interesting or useful to read from my convalescent bed!

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Sign up for language buddies! And why things are a little hectic around here

This is rather a long, personal post (ha, haven’t had one of those in a while!) — the most important thing is in the first two paragraphs below, about language buddies. Props to anyone who makes it through all the rest of it!

I’m really excited that so many other people are interested in my language buddy idea! Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and linkdropping and retweeting. There’s a really great post with some more thoughts about this idea — do check it out!

I’ve put together a really basic Google Form. If you’re interested in getting a language buddy, please sign up! And please share the link! How about people can sign up through the end of July? This would give people time to think about it (and to even find out about it!), especially as this is a time of year when lots of people might be traveling. After that, people can keep signing up if they want, and I’ll match them as I can, but it would be much easier (for me/you) to sign up before August.

OK, here’s the personal bit. This is where I have to ask you for patience in getting this up and running. I’m moving house in a little over a week (oh the heaving of panic in my chest just writing that!), and then shortly after that I’m going on holiday (which should be relaxing but I suspect won’t be, partly because I’m going with some of my family…). I’d kind of hoped this wouldn’t matter, in terms of at least getting this started: how many spoons does it take to throw together a quick Google Form, post the link, and ask people to sign up, right? And then I could worry about matching people later…

My optimism also stems from the past few months, where I’ve had an uptick in mental health. There have been days (weeks, even) where I’ve been pretty excited to get up in the morning and see what the day brings. Seeing spring and now summer unfold over London has really lifted my spirits. The flowers, the trees blooming — magnolias especially — everything coming alive again, the farmer’s markets transforming from withered apples and the same root vegetables to green and fresh things, the days getting longer: I’m really loving it, this year. (Maybe because last year I genuinely didn’t think I’d see these seasons again?)

A few other things going on have also helped me move forward in terms of depression and anxiety. So this year has felt a lot brighter. I started dreaming again, you know? Things I wanted to do with this blog, places I wanted to travel, projects I wanted to start.

With this stronger mindset, I’ve been handling the stress of moving relatively well. But this morning I was sharply reminded that, yes, I’m still ill, yes, I still do have depression and anxiety and it can still fell me. As soon as I woke up, I was hit by a wave of fear and ache and sadness; I jolted awake super-early because that’s what my body does when I’m not doing well. And I knew I needed more sleep but I was too freaked out to relax enough to get it, and too freaked out to get up and do anything that might distract me enough to calm down a little. So I just huddled in bed, miserable, for a few hours.

Screw anybody who gets sniffy about people using their smartphones in bed, by the way: I broadcast my distress on social media (and got support from my friends), I looked at distracting photos on Instagram, and I did about three times as much meditation as I do daily, in an effort to chill even a little.

(I struggled with meditation for a long time, and I still do, I absolutely still do, but having the app Headspace to guide me once I’ve selected a specific program — for anxiety, creativity, stress, etc. — helps with the resistance and the paralysis induced by trying to decide what meditation to do. Headspace isn’t free, but you get a short free trial; I periodically get some vouchers too — some of them might be expired by now, but if someone wants one, let me know.

And for language-learning, I’ve recently been poking at the 7Mind German meditation app. I find the voice incredibly soothing even when I can’t understand every single word…)

Anyway: all that to say, hello, universe, I have received your message! I understand! I was foolish to imagine that I could move forward with a lot of stuff now when I’m moving house, which is incredibly stressful for people even without depression.

And I want to be clear: I’m not moving because I want to. I love my flat (despite a few quirks). I love how much light it gets, how I can hear foxes screaming in winter and often encounter them on walks back from the tube (London has tons of foxes! I’m worried that I won’t see any near my new flat though), the trees nearby, the location, how cozy and safe it often feels for me, how it’s enough space for me, how it’s sheltered me and helped keep me alive for the past few years.

So why am I moving, then? Because London rents are skyrocketing, and in my neighborhood in particular; it’s become incredibly trendy and gentrified. The estate agent is raising the rent £150 a month. That’s not something I can manage.

So yes, apart from the ordinary stress of finding someplace new to live and decluttering and packing and doing tons of change of address forms, there’s the plain fact that I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave this neighborhood and my flat. Eventually, sure, but I’ve long said that I didn’t want to move from this flat until I was ready to actually move out of London (which I’m not).

Anyway: blah blah sob story, I’m far from the only person this has happened to, poor me, tiny violins, whatever.

At the same time I guess it’s time to acknowledge to myself that, despite a lot of progress in stabilizing my mental health this year, I’m still pretty vulnerable at high-stress times like this. It’s humbling to be brought down so quickly from “stressed and anxious but functioning” to “why does it even matter anyway, if I make it through this, my stupid little life” and “I can’t bear this, I don’t want to be alive anymore.” It’s so tiresome and scarily familiar. I’m fighting, but, you know, I didn’t think I’d be here again so easily.

So: please please be patient with me. I do want to set up this language buddy thing! Please stand by, and I’ll do my best. But it might not be until late August or even later. I’m sorry for those of you waiting! Let’s hope that me saying things will be slow somehow miraculously results in the opposite happening…

And please wish me luck with my move!

Do you have a blog I should be reading? Do you want to be my language buddy?

In which I’m looking for more blogs to read

Can anyone recommend blogs by people learning languages, perhaps who’ve never learned any to fluency (however you want to define it) previously? Maybe they’ve dabbled in languages, even learned some to various levels of proficiency, but they wouldn’t say they’re fluent or call themselves a polyglot. I guess I just want a community of people who are fumbling along as I am. I value the advice from polyglot blogs, but sometimes I just want to talk about all this with people who aren’t completely sure about what they’re doing, not people who seem so confident that they have the answer for whatever stumbling block I’m working on. Lately it feels like every polyglot blog is trying to sell me something: their ebook! Their magic method! Something else they’re convinced I need to pay for in order to succeed! It’s really tiring.

I do talk about language-learning with my friends who are doing it as well, sporadically, but I want to fill my feed reader (I like Feedly, by the way) with the thoughts of other language learners on a more regular basis. Does anyone have any recommendations?

In which I want a language buddy or three; do you?

Another idea I had was finding some language-learning buddies. It’s relatively easy to find tutors or even coaches (for example, Fluentli is now doing language coaching). But what I’m looking for right now, what feels missing to me, is an arrangement with someone where we could both check in daily on how we’re doing on our languages. I do check in on coach.me daily with a brief note on what I’m doing, but most people there that I connect with aren’t studying languages, or perhaps the platform just isn’t built for the kind of more detailed, one-on-one checkins I’d like to have.

Especially with someone else who’s learning a language: someone who’ll understand how frustrating it feels to yet again have a day slide by without so much as opening up Anki, or someone who conversely can be excited for you when you want to gush about the great conversation exchange you just had. Do other people routinely have that kind of interaction?

I know there are tons of language-learning fora online, but to be honest, I haven’t clicked with any of the ones I’ve seen: they seem too impersonal, too large, too competitive or snide or just plain rude. And even if I did find a home forum, per se, it still might feel nice to have a language-learning buddy and get that mutual support and encouragement.

s having a language buddy something people would find useful? Is there an untapped need for this kind of thing? Should I start some kind of language buddy matchmaking service?! I thought of this randomly last night, after reading Chris Winfield‘s thoughts on why it’s worthwhile to come up with ten ideas every day. And lo, suddenly I had this idea! I realize by posting it here, someone more motivated than I may come along and steal it. To be honest, I’d be pretty okay with that, because it’d mean I could get a buddy without having to set up a system to find one!

But I’m serious, if people think that would be something they’d like to do, please comment or get in touch some other way! Because if there’s a bit of interest, maybe I could just do an informal, small kind of matching: get people to fill out a Google Doc and then pair them up manually. What kind of criteria would be useful in pairing people together? I don’t think people need to match on languages that they’re studying, but it’d probably be good to match vaguely on what kind of support or interaction they’re looking for.

For me, I’d like someone to email daily (maybe using a set list of prompts, at least to start with?), to say, hey, this is how my day felt for French, and German, this is what I did, this is what I struggled with, this is what I’m hoping to do tomorrow, and what do you think about all this? And how was your language day? And we could both encourage each other or possibly offer suggestions or blahblahblah. That sounds really comforting and useful and cozy to me.

… of course, I am pretty good at coming up with ideas sometimes and then just letting them… drop. But we’ll see. Do tell me if you think this is something you’d like to try though!

Edit: I should note that I do NOT think that people need to be studying the same language for them to be good language buddies! After all, we’re still doing the same process: trying to learn a language, and the encouragement and listening is more important — at least the way I’m envisioning it — than being able to offer specific tips related to a language. Someone who uses Anki, but for a different language, can still talk to me about ways to get over slacking off with my flashcards, you know?

italki June Challenge update — halfway through!

So we’re about halfway through the June italki Challenge! Mine is going pretty well so far (knock on wood). I thought I’d note a few things, for my own reference and in case it helps others in thinking about what use they might make of online tutoring sessions.

One: at the risk of sounding super obvious, I really need to be careful about how much sleep I get. I’m generally pretty good about this — it’s a habit I’ve developed over the last few years, to go to bed at the same time during the week (unless I’m at a gig or something), and which has served me well (no longer nodding off at my desk at work, hooray!).

But I’ve been unusually busy lately, what with trying to find a new place to live and all the decluttering that entails, as well as keeping up with my usual socializing and studying and oh yes, the italki Challenge. I found myself spacing out and on the verge of nodding off during an italki lesson on Friday! That happened to me last year, during a high-stress time when I had a lot of insomnia but was also trying to book myself a lot of activities — including italki lessons — as distraction. It’s disconcerting that it happened to me now, and a good sign that I need to step up the self-care and get my sleep schedule back in order. Not only is it embarrassing if the other person notices that I’m dropping off (I don’t think this has happened to me yet…), I’m not learning most effectively if I’m that tired!

Two: there really is a limit to how much studying I can do in a day, certainly in terms of interaction-intensive stuff like italki sessions and conversation exchange, and while it was an interesting exercise in trying to find my limits, I think I’ve found them!

My challenge month has so far been structured with a heavy first two weeks. I wanted to rack up time while I could, in case I needed to reschedule things later in the month. I had a really important medical appointment last week, and if it didn’t go well, I anticipated a catastrophic effect on my mental health and potentially cancelling not only lessons but basically everything (spoiler: the appointment went well, phew!). So I wanted to make the start of June italki-heavy. I did also just want to experiment and see how much was too much.

This philosophy meant that last Sunday I had three italki lessons and three Skype conversation exchanges scheduled. The last appointment of the day, the final conversation exchange, ended up being cancelled by the other person. Which was a relief! Because by then, yes… my brain was a little tired. I started off really strong — I was lucky and had two good, engaging, interesting teachers to work with. And the conversation exchanges were with two people I really like speaking with. But during the second lesson, I had a few moments where what the teacher was saying just didn’t sink in — I just couldn’t focus immediately. That was all right, and I still think that lesson was helpful.

However, with the final lesson, I found myself in trouble. The teacher just didn’t seem to know how to get a student talking. Usually language teachers will coax a shy student, or an uncertain one, to speak, and will work to keep the conversation flowing. I’m neither shy nor uncertain, but even I was struggling to keep us talking, because the teacher would give really brief answers to anything I asked and then wouldn’t ask me anything. Bad enough on its own, but at the end of my long day of talking seemingly to the whole world in German, it was exhausting and felt like the longest hour of the entire day (in fact, I’m sure it actually lasted three or four hours instead!).

That kind of intense schedule last Sunday was actually kind of fun, but I wouldn’t want to do that every weekend! Now and again, though, why not?

One last point: it really has been useful to write down all my current problems with German and assign each one to a different teacher. I did a whole package of sessions with one particular teacher last year, and I’ve got a few lessons booked with her again, but I’m also using this challenge as a way to find new teachers that I click with.

I’m less interested in a long-term commitment; what’s helpful right now is dedicating an hour here and there to specific questions I have. That works well as a supplement to my weekly German class here, my own study, and my conversation exchanges. It also helps me maximize the benefit of these hours on italki, since these things are clearly not points I’ve been able to get a handle on otherwise! And of course giving a steer to the teachers helps them prepare more effectively: a kindness to them, yes, but obviously also of benefit to me.

Anyway — I’m looking forward to completing the challenge! I should be on track to do just that (I scheduled a couple of sessions that will be over the 12-hour requirement, for insurance but also because I’m having fun — and I’m sure italki has counted on other people doing the same). I know we’re all winners as long as we feel like we’ve improved our languages over the month, which I definitely have, but c’mon, I’m looking forward to an official win and some credits towards more italki sessions.

Are you doing the challenge? How’s it going? If you’re not doing the challenge, does it sound like something you might be interested in at some point? Or does it not appeal?

Tiny steps and trusting ourselves after a habit break

Jesse Smith on Twitter asked me recently about how to get back into language-learning after a break. We talked a bit about shame and how it can make restarting a habit even more difficult. He suggested I might write a post about this topic (thank you! People, I love getting suggestions for posts: I might not write all of them, and it might not be for a long time even when I do, but I do like it!).

I am much, much better at keeping habits going than starting them again when they falter. For example, I used to have nearly a two-year streak on 750 Words. Then (I think I’ve talked about this here before) I had a bad weekend where my cat had just died and I had a cold and fell asleep on the couch and woke up having missed a day. It was years before I could get back into writing on the site regularly again.

When this sort of thing happens, I need to forgive myself for being human (even though the chorus in my head may be screaming about how weak or stupid I am, and how predictable it is that I screwed up again). The most important thing about stopping a habit is starting it up again — and believing that you can do so. Again and again and again.

That’s all well and good to say, but then it can be paralyzing to think about what I should do to get started once more. I try to remember that it’s better to do something good enough rather than agonize about what the “best” thing to do is.

And then I try to start small. Very small. Leo Babauta, James Clear, and many others have said to make a habit so small you can’t fail. I remember this from the self-help author SARK (whom I used to love as a teenager, but now I mostly find really twee). She had a concept of micromovements (PDF). Break things down to the smallest step and start with that. Just that.

Are you cringing thinking about how behind you are with Anki? Maybe your goal could be to open up Anki on your computer one day. Later on, you might feel like poking at the cards on there. But if not, hey, you’ve met your goal! Maybe tomorrow your goal could be to do one flashcard. Just one. You can do just one, right? And maybe then, having done that, you’ll feel like doing more. Maybe you won’t feel like it. But you’ll have done one card. Which is something. And infinitely better than nothing. One thing can lead to another; one flashcard can lead to another and to another and to another.

Or maybe put a video on in your target language. Don’t make yourself any promises about watching it. Just put it on. Maybe you’ll spend most of the time in the kitchen making a cup of tea, with the video just barely audible from there. Maybe you’ll come in and watch the whole thing. Maybe you’ll just watch two minutes. As long as you put a video on, though, you’ve met your goal. Hooray!

After a habit break, we need to warm up our muscles, so to speak. We also need to learn to trust ourselves again, to believe that we can do things, that it’s okay to not do things and then go back to doing them again. Starting with a tiny habit, and then gradually increasing from there, is one way to do this.

What do you do when you’ve not studied for weeks? How do you step back into the swing of things (give us your best tips!)? How does it feel for you? Do you struggle most with shame, or fear, or doubt? What’s the tiniest step you could take today in order to get back into a language project you’ve let lie for a while? How do you give yourself permission to try things again?

Starting over, habits, and the futility of depression

So it’s the time of year where productivity bloggers (and language bloggers!) write ambitious, encouraging posts advising all of us who are thinking about grand projects, habits, processes, and systems. It can all be pretty exciting. I often love things like this guidebook on New Year’s resolutions. I’m thinking about what I want to do for 2015, too, though I’m not sure if I’m going to state any goals here (I know that public accountability is supposed to be very effective, but I castigate myself enough for failure without adding a public shame factor into the mix).

One thing I do know from experience is that habits and systems will falter sometimes: because we are human, because sometimes life just gets in the way. And what happens then is crucial to whatever project you’re working on. Are you able to put your lapse behind you and dive back into your daily routine when needed? For me, starting things can be difficult, but starting again is even worse, despite knowing intellectually it doesn’t mean I’m a failure.

Still, as a person with depression, the whole mantra about starting over (and over and over) sometimes can trigger me into a real panic. There have been so many times I’ve had to restart a project, a commitment, seemingly my whole life because depression has sidelined me. There just isn’t anything else to do. I can’t just stop breathing, so… I have to pick myself back up again and step forward, even if everything inside me is screaming against it. Even when I’m so afraid that I can’t think straight.

But you know what? That doesn’t feel triumphant to me, or some evidence of how dogged and strong I must be. It plunges me into despair: that no matter how hard I try, I keep ending up at this point that feels like, well, very close to the end. That I’m so bad at living, and at making my brain hate me less, that I even have to be in the position where I have to keep starting over and over. This is not being upset over ruining a streak on Duolingo. This is feeling like my fundamental status as a human being is irredeemably impossibly broken.

Lots of people are putting up “2014 year in review” posts, and the idea of reading any of them, much less trying to do one of my own, just… trips some switch in my brain that makes me feel like all I did this past year was fuck things up, repeatedly. I know there are concrete achievements I could list, like getting up somewhere between a solid B1 and the start of the long road to B2 in German, reading three Harry Potter books in French, doing however many Anki reviews/lessons in Duolingo (… not to mention starting this blog, for whatever that’s worth).

But that feels so horrifyingly insignificant when compared with how much failure I had in my life in general this year. I mean, if nothing else, if I hadn’t lost so many hours to depression and anxiety, who knows, I might’ve been able to get up to B2, right? Not to mention everything else that wouldn’t have suffered — I would trade in all those accomplishments in a second to avoid all that really hard stuff, the things I regret spending my energy and heart on, the health problems, etc.

I don’t know how to reconcile what I can intellectually understand as the soundness of starting over (as well as the inevitability of it, for anyone) with how it can also make me feel like I’m beyond hope and stuck in a failure loop. Hope in itself can be dangerous when I’m super-depressed: hope that maybe I’ve moved a little bit forward, that maybe things have changed, feels so bitterly foolish when I have another crash.

I can’t be the only person who feels this way. Tell me how you try to deal with it, please?

Study habits when I’m too depressed to get up

I wrote earlier about some of the things I do to make language-learning part of my day, a habit that clicks into place ideally several times a day.

When I’m not feeling well, when I’m in a bad place with regards to my depression or anxiety, I have to scale back my routines. Sometimes a lot. Unfortunately, while depression often robs me of my ability to do things, then not having done anything makes me feel worse.

I’ve developed a few tricks to keep the learning going, even a tiny bit, when I’m so low that I can barely get off the couch over a weekend. Apart from how awful that is in its own right, it is terrible to feel like being ill chips away any progress I’m making (on languages or on life things in general…). So. Here’s how I manage to do something, even if just a little bit, rather than nothing.

(Oh, stigma. I started this blog to speak openly about being someone with mental illness learning a language. And yet I still cringe talking about it. You perhaps can see why I have very little identifying information on this blog…)

My most important tool at these times is my smartphone. I resisted getting one for a long time, but a few years ago I caved and I wouldn’t go back. For a lot of reasons, many of which relate to self-care when depressed (at least I can tweet at my friends from under a blanket while stuck on the couch), but also because it makes language-learning more portable and accessible. Yeah, a tablet would probably be even better for this, and I’d love to have one, but it’s not in the budget right now. So my phone it is!

Duolingo and Memrise on my phone are a blessing. I often find Duolingo a nice way to distract my anxiety anyway, and the fact that I can do this on the couch is even better. I like match-3 games on my phone for anxiety a lot too, but most of them limit how long you can play at a time. If I can redirect this gaming urge to languages, all the better! (Duolingo isn’t a miracle tool, but I have found it useful for vocabulary, and in getting myself to engage with languages when I don’t have enough focus for anything else.)

I can review my Anki cards while prone on the couch too, of course, but something about Duolingo or Memrise seems to work better for me at those times, maybe because silence is often frightening to me then, and the sounds/gamification works to fill it.

Also on the audio tip, I like talk radio (usually the news) in my target languages. I try to choose a station from TuneIn on my desktop computer before I sink down onto the couch, if I can. But if not, well, then I’ve got a TuneIn app on my phone! The news may not sound very relaxing or soothing, and it wouldn’t be in English. But even when it’s about something heavy, the act of having to focus in order to figure out the least bit of what’s going on distracts my mind a little. It’s soothing in its own way. Plus, news presenters tend to have comfortingly monotonous voices.

If that doesn’t work, another thing I like to do is put on the same song, in my target language, over and over. One of my current comfort songs is Boskomat‘s Idée Folle. Putting songs on repeat means both that it soothes me but also occasionally a lyric I hadn’t been able to parse before suddenly becomes clear and comprehensible. Repetition helps with this, of course!

So yes, silence is poisonous for super-depressed-me. I also crave color, pretty things, things that push back against the way the world feels (cliche alert!) gray gray gray. This is where I start refreshing my Instagram feed on my phone. As mentioned, I follow a lot of people posting food photos with commentary in German underneath, and clicking through tags to find more people to follow, and seeing more food, is a great thing to do when I’m too agitated or worn-out or sad to do anything more active. (I’ve also started looking up tags for other subjects, like dogs!)

I do also sometimes watch YouTube videos in my target languages on my phone — sound and color, hooray! — but they can require a sustained level of focus that I can’t always muster.

I really need to figure out even more things I can do along these lines. Any ideas? My phone is getting a bit worn-out and clunky (I’m hoping to make it until my contract runs out in the spring and I can get a new one), but there must be other things I can do.

What do you do when you’re limited by your energy due to mental or physical illness? What are your core study tools and resources? Are there things that are easier or more sustainable through the fog of depression/anxiety/etc.? Things you find impossible? Does it work better simply to let yourself rest and recover before you dive back in?

(I should note that this is all an ideal version of coping with severe brainweasels. All this doesn’t always happen, and sometimes almost none of it does. I had a really bad patch recently — actually, let’s be honest, self, I’m still struggling through it — and sometimes this stuff was just beyond me. There’s a balance — that I can’t always find — between pushing myself, in a good way, and being kind to myself and letting myself rest. And sometimes that doesn’t even feel like a choice.)