Journal Prompts for #CancelEverything Feelings

Things got cancelled this week that I didn’t even know COULD be cancelled (looking at you, Catholic Masses even in Rome??). A lot of these frankly don’t impact me at all (I haven’t watched live sports in YEARS because I didn’t want to pay like 5$ a month…sorry Dad), but some of them really, personally do. Events I’ve been looking forward to for months or weeks or dreaming of for a long time are either cancelled or postponed indefinitely, and I know I’m not alone in that. A lot of really important events are either outright cancelled or up in the air right now, from graduations to weddings to first time, saved-for dream-trips to the spring of your last year of college or high school.

I’m in healthcare (like, I’m physically there. Not helpful yet.), and it really does look like isolation and cancellations are the right move here—for all of us, and especially for those who are vulnerable and deserving of thought and care at this time. This is a fact, end sentence.

In talking to some of my friends—medical and not—the current state of affairs and disappointments have left a lot of people confused, anxious, sad, isolated, and—well, basically, this:

Oh, and also in fear of running out of toilet paper and frantically ordering a bidet online?

All this to say, it seems a lot of us have many conflicting emotions right now and may be at a loss at how to hold of them at once, or allow all of them to exist in the same moment in time (i.e. “I can’t be upset about this because other people are sick/overworked and in danger/ have it worse than I do.”). I feel that way, and I’m sure many of you do, too.

It has been my experience that we’re all better people when we own up to our more *ahem* difficult to process emotions, including the seemingly mundane grief over things that have been lost in the next few months.

Below, I’ve attached some prompts to think/journal/reflect/pray/yell at your best friend about as we all deal with the things that we will have to give up for the good of our communities. I may be the only one with 1000 emotions at any given time, but I get the feeling (that’s 1001, huh) that I’m not. A lot of the prompts are also based in certain therapeutic principles I’ve read up on (i.e. guided by that learning these are NOT therapy…obviously. If you want prompts from a legitimate therapist please visit the lovely @lisaolivera’s instagram page.)

When we let ourselves experience our multitude of emotions, we’re more able to show up to others and be in community, instead of being all sensitive and prickly and curmudgeonly in our separate spaces. If you do reflect through these questions, maybe try talking about them with someone who’s going through the same thing. We’re all in this—hopefully we can make efforts to all be in it together.

Reminder—I am not in any way a currently qualified mental health professional nor are any of the above suggestions anything other than from personal learning, reading, studying and sharing. Take these posts with the same medical authority you would give a pinterest post—i.e. none. If you feel like you or a loved one are in a situation of harm to yourself or others, please reach out to a professional or mental health hotline found here.

See ya soon friends,


Homemade baby sprinkly donuts & diet culture

There is a really particular ritual that accompanies each road trip my two best friends and I embark on, and the center of that ritual is donuts.

  1. The night before, make emphatic promises to arrive to pick-up by 6 am.
  2. Send a series of texts the next morning pushing the deadline back by 10 minute increments until we actually meet at 7:10 am.
  3. Go to dunkin’ donuts for coffee. One person always gets blueberry flavored coffee, for which she gets absolutely roasted because, seriously, who the hell gets blueberry coffee?
  4. We order a large box of munchkin donut holes, predominantly featuring 40 cake donut holes and 10 assorted others.
  5. Hit the road.

Maybe because of this ritual, or maybe because I just don’t have them that often, but donuts are a super special and almost always really fun food for me. They’re luxurious and spur of the moment and eaten inappropriately early compared to other desserts, and it’s lovely. It’s truly socially approved cake at 7 am.

Around this time last year, when we could actually travel, I finished my Step 1 Exam for medical school and went on a trip to Portland, Maine. While there, I was introduced to the Holy Donut, and I fell in love.

The frizz being unimaginable even in Maine’s summer.

I loved the place and the story so much that I bought the book the owner of the store wrote about how this place came to life, and why donuts mattered so much to her.

Women Who Need Donuts - Holy Donut

This book and this experience changed my views on really important things…like donuts. Mostly, it taught me about making something that honors desire, and allowing my baking self to bake something festive even if it’s just for my own enjoyment.

As a baker, I’ve always leaned towards baking desserts for others, or to share, or specifically for a celebration of someone else. That aspect of baking—the sharing, the putting loving time into it, and the creativity of making it exciting and delicious for someone else—is actually my favorite part. And I love to do it, or when others bake for me. But sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to bake something just for me, just for the pure joy of making something lush and filled with love for the hell of it.

Food is fuel for us, but it’s also a lot more, and I think that is an incredible thing. Food IS socializing, and celebrating, and comforting, and something that is novel or full of nostalgia. When we cut off any of these aspects, I think we lose a bit of our humanness that food reminds us of and connects us through. There’s a balance in this. Yet, everyday I’m reminded from places like Kylie’s blog and others that food can be a really flexible, joyful, and connective part of our lives, in addition to being something that fuels and nourishes our bodily needs.

So I’m a woman who needs donuts, and these little babies were just the thing tonight in the midst of a pandemic and the stresses of medical school. Maybe they might hit the spot for you, too.

Donut Recipe from here with substitution with sour milk (lemon juice and milk), butter instead of shortening, and no cinnamon. Glaze recipes from this cake recipe here.

The god of breakfast

Sometimes, I find God in the sunny-side-up eggs I make on a warm, overcast morning. 

The bright yellow yolks jiggling, despite the desperate heat already at work blackening the edges. The lacey and delicate whites of the egg promising the perfect crisp, should I be willing to sacrifice the center. I prod and scrape, prod and scrape, attempting to even things out for a perfect breakfast in this small, black skillet. 

It will never be perfect, thankfully. It’s the reason I return every morning, in this encounter with God. We laugh about it. 

I read before breakfast. In every book I read, it becomes more and more clear that we animals aren’t made to multitask—at least, not yet. I attempt to hurry this whole evolution process along each morning at 7 a.m., cracking an egg and allowing it to blister away while I pull down the spring to start the two minutes on the four slice toaster. I promise to remember everything that is happening. 

I always burn both, thankfully. It’s the reason I return every morning, in this encounter with God. We laugh about it. 

Let me be clear: I have already had the morning coffee. It’s the first step of this liturgy, the incense as I walk down the hall to the kitchen table. I was taught to like coffee by the sweet bribe of too much cream. I thought it was a cup of milk That was ten years ago, and I suppose I was to have growm into black coffee by now. I try black coffee every six months, and end up drinking white coffee for the next six weeks after it.

God and I laugh about it. 

Sometimes, if I can remember it, I flick granules of kosher salt into the yolks as they finally cook up. I watch the grains soften and melt into my small, burning suns. If I can find it, I twist and twist pepper onto the eggs, too.  I do not like pepper. I do like the feeling of using a pepper grinder, whatever that means. 

God laughs the most at this.  

Maybe the holiest part, like always, is the oil and the fat: the butter. I spread the soft yellow onto the browned toast, anointing it, in all its ashiness. 

A wisp of smoke prods my brain back into what I’m doing, back into the process of feeding this human and wanting, forgetting and remembering body of mine. God gently reminds me that breakfast is for eating, not philosophizing.

God does pipe up at the end, the whisper barely audible over my angry smoke alarm. You did manage to keep some of the lace. The butter looks marvelous this morning, dear. 

I know, I say. I know, God. 

And We laugh. 

Reclaiming rest

Everyday for the past two years of medical school, I have made a to-do list, and I have failed that to-do list. I made these lists from the energy that pours out of me after a 6 am cup of coffee, and morning me certainly believes the sky is the limit, and that time is a construct. Any empty space and then some was filled with studying, clinic, socializing, or working on other things pre-determined. A busy life is the good life, right?

Never mind the feeling of overwhelm and panic that accompanied the morning bolt of energy. Never mind the disappointment at the end of each day that everything did not, in fact, get done, what with the whole being a time and body-bound creature. Days went by quickly, but I felt exhausted and like the real things were never getting done.

Then the quarantine happened, and the way I thought my days in the hospital would look for the coming months to years was suddenly thrown into question. For 6 weeks, I’ve been working from home on classes, trying to figure out what would happen next, or what my next steps are. There has been space in my days.

During the first few weeks of quarantine, an odd and urgent feeling lingered. A sense of alarm grew in my chest when I realized how little there was to do. In fact, I felt overwhelmed at how underwhelmed I was.

The next thing that came was the comparisons. That friend was spending this time bonding with a large family. This classmate might have invented a way to cure COVID???? (Just kidding. But it sometimes felt like that). Was I using my “break” from the pandemic in the right way? Would residencies like it? Was I doing enough or taking advantage of the opportunity of free weeks?

As a person stuck at home, I have been fortunate to have a lot of time on my hands, and at first, not so many to-dos. In the first few weeks, seemingly opposing feelings took root: a sense of groundlessness, alternating with a feeling of relief that I was not obliged to anything at all.

Recently, I did do something that I found useful: I read, and reflected on what I read while I went on my safe and sanctioned nature walks in my local park. The books I read had a common theme: space, undoing, rest. Both spoke about the value of resting, of allowing ourselves to be off: off schedule, off our phones, off the clock. Off. While I read these books, words like rest, restore, allow, permission hit me in the chest, and helped something unlock.

We know we live in an attention-grabbing and productivity-obsessed culture. We have seen the tweets during quarantine lamenting that our generation doesn’t have hobbies. I think we—or, at least, I—don’t have rest either, or a space for nothingness. If we want to have that, we’ll have to do it intentionally, and against the current of what is the water we swim in.

This week, the word I’m reflecting on is Rest, as it continues to call to me again and again during these quiet weeks. Over the next five days, I’m going to incorporate this value into my life to notice how it feels, how it looks, and how it goes wrong.

Tomorrow, you’ll find a simple piece here on how I plan to dwell in this idea over the coming week, with concrete actions you can try, too. Doing something by ourselves is great, but doing it together is even better.

Before that, I’d ask you to reflect on some of the questions below, and let me know how rest figures into your life now and outside of quarantine.


Five Sprinkles.

Let’s assume one thing: you like birthday cake. Okay, we’re together on this one? Right. 

How do you eat a piece of birthday cake? You know the kind—the fresh-from-a-bakery, vanilla and buttercream, with a flurry of rainbow sprinkles thrown on every square centimeter of it kind. 

If you’re an adultish type of person, then you probably eat it with a fork or a spoon and take big bites and maybe, on a good day, remember to savor it a little bit. That’s the way I do it, and it’s probably the way you do too if you go around living like a usual human in society. 

I swear this has a point. 

My niece taught me a new way to eat cake when she was just one year old. She, like you and I (and maybe even more than us) loves cake. With her whole being maybe, even, she loves cake. Even though she’s older now, that was just as true when she had only had one trip around the sun. At her party, there was a lovingly-prepared, tiny triple layer cake just for her, and it was absolutely covered in sprinkles. As we lit the singular candle on the cake and brought the sugary, colorful bomb closer, my niece became equal parts confused and excited. After the group singing and fire was gone, she was excited for the cake to be hers, and we were excited for her to do the cute baby thing and either grab two fistfuls of it or, better yet, to simply attempt to eat the thing whole by smushing her face into it. 

But that was not her plan. 

The cake sat on her highchair tray, ready for it’s not-gentle doom, and we watched with our phones at the ready. The little girl took one long look at the cake in front of her and with her newly developed pincer grasp slowly, one by one, plucked one rainbow sprinkle at a time from the cake and then stuck it in her mouth. And, let me say, she was pumped about it. 

If I offered you five sprinkles for your birthday, I’m pretty sure you would be pissed. 

A lot of good things have been taken away in this time of global pandemic, and I do not want to minimize or invalidate that. Please grieve. Please cry. Please don’t feel bad about yourself because I took away your cake and just left you with five sprinkles and think I’m asking you to buck up, because I am not. I am not asking you to be that one Zesty Guy from friends. 

What I am asking for is for all of us to try to hold two things to be true at once.

We can hold grief in one hand and hold gratitude in the other: the load is surprisingly lighter to have both along for the ride.  

Gratitude has become a dead word since it became a common and trendy one, but it doesn’t need to be. I’m not going to tell you to write down three things you’re grateful for everyday ( least, not yet). I am going to tell you to think of gratitude as counting up from zero while you grieve the things lost. I am wondering in my own newly rearranged life how to encounter the good things that remain or emerged as gifts, despite the destruction that may also be ongoing.

Here’s where the cake comes in: gratitude is picking sprinkles off one by one from the whole cake and finding each one absolutely delightful, regardless of what other parts of the cake may have been dropped on the floor recently.

Take the wisdom of the one year old: small, joyful things deserve to be celebrated, and may become even more life-giving for having been celebrated. 

P.S. Speaking of cake, if you want to laugh so hard you cry around a story about cake, please see this

Stay home for love.

“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love – You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.

The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.”

-CS Lewis

We’re often asked, especially if you’re still in school or building your life, what we aspire to be, and how we are striving, at an individual level, to achieve those things. Even if what you aspire towards is part of a a larger, grander, and positive social project, to get there you probably have been taught to at least consider what honors and accolades will trace to you on your way there. It’s an imperfect system, but it’s what that we exist in, even if we don’t love the underlying ethics of it.

In times like this, though, there is no reward for us to do what is good and right for our communities, or at least according to an achieving mindset, there isn’t. There’s nothing enjoyable or seemingly important about me sitting at my desk instead of at my favorite coffee shop. Nothing besides sacrifice for an abstraction about how disease spreads is motivating people to stay home this St. Patrick’s Day Weekend. Seniors missing their last days together or missing their one and only high school prom or first trip abroad aren’t readily given a reason to feel good about these actions, because doing these things don’t fit with our cultures idea of what makes a good life. Our culture, at the moment, doesn’t have an expansive vocabulary or narrative to help us choose these things for the good of everyone, unless you count fear and shame (which can help people do the right thing, but not feel connected to others).

In our social media & perfectionism culture, it can seem that unless something is absolutely right or has an absolutely massive impact, it doesn’t seem to matter. This is the underlying narrative, and we know it couldn’t be further from the truth when we examine our own lives. The words of love that have been spoken at a time when we felt broken, the action of service when we were ill, the gratitude for something small that we were able to provide for others. These small, unknown strings that web us together in community are those which are played on in every emotional superbowl commercial—you know, the ones that make you weep from some deep place of what it is to be fully human even though you were only watching a Doritos commercial.

The world right now may seem too big, too out of control, too unpredictable.

What we are used to aiming for and doing in our everyday life seems odd and unreachable right now—the goals we used to believe would make us important and worthy not only are not feasible right now, but staggeringly insignificant.

What we are called to right now is something much larger, deeper, and much more beautiful than those trips, or bar crawls, or anything else that truly is and has felt hard to lose in our loss of normalcy over the last few days. In this moment in history, we are called to stand in love with our neighbors of all sorts, and to show the kind of human goodness and creativity in loving that is the true mark of our evolution as a species. Any animal can respond with stress, can respond with defense, can respond with running away. Humans have the opportunity to choose a different instinct. You’ve already witnessed this instinct come alive under these difficult circumstances. You have seen it when you’ve watched the videos of humans continue to be human in Italy. We have seen it in the people looking out for everyone who lives and works in their communities, and expanding in love instead of shrinking away and hoarding in fear. You have seen it in Spain, where from their quarantined homes, people reach out to express gratitude for those who are out on the front lines.

When you stay home to avoid spreading the disease because it would devastate someone else, it is love.

When you call or reach out to someone who you normally wouldn’t because you’re thinking of them, it is love.

When you act towards togetherness and towards being with each other in community, even while separated by walls and masks, it is love.

This is a fearful, uncertain moment in history, but it is an extraordinary time in which people are proving that love, not division, is the mark of what it means to be a human being who is fully alive.

by: @Beaheartdesign

Free Movement Resources

Exercise can be, depending on the many variables, associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. It for sure is not the end all-be-all for mental health, but if it is something that you find helpful, it can be really important to maintain as something you ~do~ during the current stressful climate. Additionally, we know that stress over the long term may have effects on suppressing our immune system when acute stress becomes chronic (months-years). Exercise may also have a link with boosting the immune system over a lifetime, but that is a tentative link. Let it be known here, though, exercise is NOT the thing that will protect you from a virus (neither will that gimmicky tea. WASH YOUR HANDS.).

Overall, what we know is this: movement, when done mindfully and with a sense of respect and kindness towards our bodies, can be helpful towards our physical and mental health. As someone who is in training to hopefully (some day!! In many years!!) be working in the mental health field and as someone who is currently certified in teaching group fitness, I recognize how important this part of life is to many people. Right now, there is a lot of talk about isolating and staying away from public-use places—theatres, sports, and yes, the sweaty and not-always-super-sanitary gym where everyone touches the same things. Right now, avoiding contact as much as possible seems to be the best course of action (this being said in concurrence with recent CDC recommendations and predictions of the disease course). With that on our minds, many of us are doing the good-civilian thing of protecting everyone in our communities (ourselves, our families, and those who have chronic conditions or are >65 years old) of avoiding these places, including the gym.

But you’re stressed. 

And something that helps that stress is a workout. 

But working out means going to the gym which you can’t, which makes you EVEN MORE STRESSED. 

I know. It’s a  l o t right now. 

Because as a medical student on clinical rotations I usually have an odd schedule, I’m familiar with the world of online resources/videos for workouts. Here, I’ve compiled a list of free online videos/workout instructions by type, equipment needed, and general mood/desires. I hope this is helpful for anyone who feels stuck.

Tomorrow, I will be posting about good resources for mental health and higher-anxiety times that can be accessed online, so we can take care of our brains AND our bodies these next few weeks. 

Take care, together. 

If you like Zumba in real life you’ll like…

If you like music but not dancing you can try:

  • Madfit: who does awesome workout challenges all the time to pop songs, in addition to full body strength. The individual song workouts don’t need any equipment—I really like this *Motivating* one. No equipment.
  • Blogilates: who has SO many good workouts, but was also one of the OG song challenge workout instructors. Try her original: Call Me Maybe Squat Challenge. No equipment.

If you just REALLY need to move and zen out:

  • Yoga with Adriene: Has such a wealth of both calming and power yoga videos. She does a series every January of a month of free classes online. Fittingly, this year’s series was Home.
  • Alo Yoga: Is an online subscription service, but has tons of full length free classes and in light of recent events, uploaded many more full, free classes from power yoga to barre to anything. *Updated*.

If you have a dumbbells/cans:

If you need someone who is kind & a spot of light to move with and you like barre classes:

  • @EmDeers on instagram has some movement and stretches for afterwork/when you’re tired. I follow her on Obé (great online workout classes but not free!), and she brings me joy each and EVERY time.

Hopefully, these resources can get you started on places to find good, nourishing movement to help you get out of worries and into a place that feels okay to be. Let me know if you know of any other good sources I can include here that you find to be particularly nourishing, so we can all know of them as a community!

With you through the internet,