Friday, January 31, 2020

Balance: This is 2020



Feeling unbalanced
How is it already the last day in January? 2020 has been a whirlwind with starting a new full-time job and part-time freelance work, revising my novel, moving my son back to college, trying to keep up with my dating and social life...the list goes on. Happy New Year ! I hope yours hasn't roared in quite as fiercely as mine.

I've been trying to define my goals for the year. I even sat down and wrote myself a letter of the things I wish to accomplish in love, career, and health this year. But I've been searching for a word to use as an overall theme. A word that I can say to remind myself to stay on track if I go astray. I've struggled all month to think of this word...as you can see above, I've been a bit busy.

Then three seemingly ordinary but actually significant events happened.

I never get postcards in the mail. Cards, yes. Letters, occasionally. But never postcards. I got two in one week from two of my illustrator friends wishing me a Happy New Year—both hand designed. The first postcard had the word "HOPE" incorporated into the art (check out @beautifullworldshop artwork on Instagram; Kerrita's designs make my heart happy!) The second postcard had an illustration of my friend, her husband, and children (check out @larissadrawsstuff on Instagram; Larissa's designs make my young self shine). Larissa addressed the postcard to the pseudonym she jokingly created for my writer persona. The words "FAMILY" and "WRITER" popped into my head.
Pondering, pondering

I mulled these words around in my head as I continued to struggle with MY word that would encompass 2020. Then yesterday, I had lunch with a colleague of mine that I hadn't seen in over five years when she left the publishing house we worked at to work at the college I started working at this month. As we updated each other on the past years of our lives, she said something like: "You're still as busy as ever. I've always envied how much you do in life." I laughed and swore I wasn't as busy as I used to be.

But as I walked through campus back to my office, the word "BUSY" bounced around my head. And then my mind quieted just before the word "BALANCE" whispered to me.

"Balance," I said out loud to absolutely no one. My word for 2020 is "BALANCE."

Diving all-in
I have always struggled with balance. When I do something, I dive all in...if I'm writing, I'm writing a novel AND a short piece of fiction on the side. If I'm running, I'm training for a marathon or an ultra marathon AND trying to strengthen my climbing ability or speed. If I'm reading a book, I read the WHOLE book in one sitting OR read multiple books at a time. If I'm watching a new show, I binge the entire Season AND have a second show I can watch on the side when I need a distraction.

Hell, I actually have trouble with my physical balance as well. You do NOT want to see me in a hot yoga class! I'm falling over with every single pose, even the seated poses.

Balance. How am I going to achieve balance in 2020? We're only 31 days in, and I'm already struggling. Deep breaths. Focus on the positive, Sera. Positives, right. I have been making small changes in my life, and although they are minor, these changes have been helping me find balance.

At a standstill brings
a different perspective
Some of these changes started last year when I lost my job. No money means saying "No" to so many things that I was involved in. No to races. No to lunches, dinners, or drinks with friends. No to driving long distances to visit people. No to everything whatsoever that cost money. Before I knew it, saying "No" became easier than ever. Having more downtime helped me rest and recover from the burnout I hadn't realized my go-go-go lifestyle had fueled.

Stopping everything for the last four months of 2019 really helped me reset in January with a clean slate. Yes, as above mentions, it's been a whirlwind of a month, but with change comes initial chaos sometimes. I'm settling into a new routine while I figure out what I want to fill my time with and how to allocate that time so I don't tilt the scales in just one direction.

I do not have all the answers about how to achieve said balance. But here are my priorities and where I want to focus my time:

  1. My Novel Revision—After being stuck for on how to fix this book for the last two years, it's all become clear! I am so happy my Muse is back.
  2. Trail Running, Mountain Climbing, and Strength Training—Being immersed in the thick of nature makes me my most happiest and truest self (yes, I know that's not grammatically correct, but in Sera World, there is "happiest" and "most happiest" haha).
  3. Clean Eating—I want to maintain eating whole foods, eating out less, and finding creative ways to make cooking fun (Whole30 blew my mind, but that's a future post).
  4. Downtime—Rest and relaxation with loved ones as well as alone-time are just as important as any other goal. I must remember that just as Rome wasn't built in a day, I do not need to finish everything at once. 
Finding balance
I've discovered that a strict routine is already helping me fit in writing time, downtime (yes, I schedule that in), and clean eating. But I still need to find a way to incorporate trail running and hiking into my weekly activities. But I'm not beating myself up about it. I'm trying to be more kind to myself (really helps with finding balance, I think), and realistically, I know that I am slightly less active during the winter. So I am taking small measures, like walking the 3/4 trek uphill to the dining hall on campus, going to the gym a couple days a week, and scheduling a hike when I can. I did sign up for Loon Mountain Race, and I can't wait to start training for it!

Balance. How did I not think of this word sooner? I've been crying about finding life balance for years. It's been in front of me all along.

Do you have any tips that help you find work-life balance? I could really use some advice! And also tell me: What's your word for 2020? Leave a comment below.

IllumiNITE Photographs by Matt Francis Photos
I'm wearing: 
Halo Unisex Knit Hat in Flo Lime
Reflective Neck Scruff in Flo Lime
Piper W Long Sleeve Reflective Tee in Flo Lime/Graphite
Comet Reflective W Running Tight in Black/Flo Lime
Use discount code Sera15 for 15% Off you entire IlumiNITE order



Friday, January 17, 2020

Unstuffed: Digesting 2019

Goodbye 2019! New Year's Eve 2019
2019 was a very full year. Full of promise. Full of recovery. Full of hard work. Full of loss and sorrow. Full of love and joy. It took me all of December to fully process all I had gone through, to fully digest the year. Reset myself for a new year—a new decade.

So I took a hiatus from the virtual social media world to live in the here and now, spend time with my most cherished people, truly reflect on the roller coaster of twelve months, and prepare myself for some major changes. Looking back, I am amazed. Despite numerous setbacks and losses, I've achieved a lot.


RUNNING

I am still in shock at the steady progression of my running. In just one year, I ran two ultramarathons and two marathons in three different countries (USA, Scotland, Greece)! Whoa! Never in a million years would past Sera have believed that she would be an international runner.

Running Seth's Fat Ass 50k in December
Congrats on your 50k, Rich!
IllumiNITE Cold Weather Hood & Tahoe Performance Jacket
 I've run close to 1,000 miles for the year. I could have hit that 1,000-mile milestone, but in December I decided to cut back. Running two marathons two weeks apart in two different countries kind of did me in. So even though I signed up for Seth's Fat Ass 50k—a race where you run 10 loops of 3.1 miles—I only ran half of it. It was bitter cold, and even though my IllumiNITE clothing plus a bathrobe kept me toasty, I was so over winter running. Plus, there were sheets of ice over a large portion of the 3-mile loop, and I just didn't didn't have it in me to teeter across it for all ten loops. At mile 6, my hip was on fire and I was ready to quit. But I never give up just because something gets tough. So I made a deal with myself. I had to run at least half the course—25k. That felt like a reasonable distance to finish out my year of running. I completed 16 miles. I'm happy with that.

Sometimes taking a step back is the right thing to do. I found out a week later, my sciatic nerve was inflamed—hence the fire in my hip. I'm proud of myself for showing up, despite the 10 degree starting temperature, for pushing myself through it, and for listening to my body. So, ALMOST 1,000 miles for the year is fine by me, especially since I got to see miles and miles of Scotland and Greece by foot. Wow, what a year for running!

WRITING

Avenue A Books, the imprint I managed, launched in the Spring with three picture books and one middle grade graphic novel. All in all, I worked on 12 projects before my colleagues and I were let go. I feel blessed to have worked with so many talented children's authors and illustrators. And I learned so much in my role as acquiring editor! I am ever so grateful to the kidlit world for teaching me everything about children's publishing along the way. I'm so proud of all the books I worked on, and I'm beyond proud that the middle grade novel I fought for—the very first project I acquired—was nominated for a Cybils Award. If you haven't read Alexis Vs. Summer Vacation by Sarah Jamila Stevenson and Veronica Agarwal, go read it now!

Love my handmade, black sheep wool
writing gloves from Tarbert, Scotland
It was the best career I ever had—so far. I'm still mourning this loss, but being unemployed gave me the freedom to find my own creativity again. As much as I loved, loved, loved working with authors and illustrators on their projects, I didn't realize how much it zapped my own creativity. I got swept up in the glamour of being on the other side of publishing—the side that makes dreams come true—that I forgot my own dreams.

I'm grateful for the four-month unemployment stint that allowed me to reconnect with my writing. I'm even grateful for the two weeks I holed myself up in my apartment, staring at the walls, racking my brain, trying not to rip out my hair, as I delved back into the fictionalization of my memoir. I may have gotten a few more grey hairs from the process, but this precious time allowed me to fully actualize my characters, plot, and timeline. It's not easy fictionalizing a life lived. It took a while for my brain to wrap itself around an altered timeline with altered people and events. But now these people and their journeys live inside me, and I couldn't be more excited to get them onto the page to share with the world.

See, I've been trying to fictionalize my memoir for two years now, but nothing I tried gave me that epiphany moment where everything clicks until now. I'm a firm believer that with loss brings opportunity, so I cherished that beautiful, temporary break from work. And although it was often tough to keep my faith that all would work out career wise, I treasured the abundance of creativity that flooded through me. I found my Muse again, and I'm so happy she's back. I've missed her so much, and we've been nonstop talking since. Thank you, Universe! Sera is back! 


ILLUMINITE

Night run with my girls!
IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance Jacket
& Cold Weather Hood
A very exciting happening in 2019 was my partnership with IllumiNITE, a Massachusetts-based, family-owned apparel company. This partnership allows me to combine two of my greatest loves: running and writing! And now I can do both in style! I've had way too much fun trying out their different designs! I feel so much safer running in the woods and on the road at night knowing that I am lit up as brightly as a neon sign. I have so much fun talking with other runners (and hikers and walkers) about IllumiNITE's apparel. And if we're being totally honest, I love being so fashionable at races without losing comfort or performance! Thank you, IllumiNITE, for believing in me, and for all your support in my running efforts! I'm so excited to see what's to come for 2020!

LOVE

We found these two hearts on the same
hiking path in Santorini
They say, whoever "They" is, that you find love when you least expect it. I've always rolled my eyes at that statement. It feels like an excuse you tell people for why love is unattainable. But I now see this phrase in a different light. I've been slowly hoping for love, working on myself—what I want, what I don't want, what my own issues around love are, and how to change negative patterns—but I never expected to actually find a healthy, loving relationship. I thought it just wasn't out there, not for me. I thought I had to accept that I would always be single—or settle for something less than.

But then I found love, or perhaps it found me, or perhaps it was just waiting until I was ready and he was ready—truly ready—for love. And I realized least expect it doesn't mean going about my business and bam! Love hits me out of the blue. Rather, I just didn't expect it to happen. I didn't even realize love had happened, not at first, until I went to visit my friend Mary in California. I told her I had met someone, and after talking for a while, she gasped. "Sera, are you in love?" I was so caught off guard by her question. We were sitting on the beach, and I stared out at the ocean waves for a few minutes pondering. "Yes," I said. "Oh my god. Yes, I am in love." I hadn't said such words in two decades. But I knew it to be true.

One of my all-time favorite books/movies is Perks of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky). The line that kills me every time: "We accept the love we think we deserve." It wasn't until I I searched deep down inside to figure out what love meant to me, what type of love I wanted, and to convince myself I was worthy of such love that I found true love. It's a love I never experienced with anyone. It's a love I've been searching for my entire life and never quite knew it because I didn't know it actually existed. Hence, I least expected it—especially now that I am in my 40s. But here love is, FINALLY. I feel so blessed. 

A New Focus

A symbol of our love
All of these changes in 2019, both good and bad, have helped me shift my perspective on what is
important to me. The career path I was on, the romantic path I was on, the go-go-go-too-busy-to-think path I was on took me away from the life I always dreamed of. It took a FULL STOP to help me reset my priorities, remember the life goals I've always wanted but somehow forgot about. I feel blessed to be starting off this new decade with a new career that enhances my creativity, a supportive life partner by my side, and a closer bond with my family. It might take some time to adjust to this new focus in life. But I'm ready for it.

Sometimes our dreams get sidetracked by shiny distractions along the way. Every now and then, the Universe tarnishes these shiny things so we can better see what's right in front of us—the path we're meant to travel. Time to take that next step back to the Sera I've somehow lost.


What did you learn in 2019? And what are you hoping to change in 2020? Please share your comments below! Happy New Year!

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