What I Learned: Summer

June - August

One of the practices I have most enjoyed over the last few months has been keeping track of what I am learning. The idea came from this post by Emily P. Freeman, and I’ve found that the discipline of writing down the things I am learning as I learn them has encouraged me to pay closer attention to my life. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned this summer!

1. It's natural to distort memories

In June I listened to this podcast episode in which Dr. van der Kolk talked about the nature of trauma and how trauma is experienced bodily. This was something I thought was so incredibly profound - that the nature of trauma is that the brain doesn't allow for a story to be created. He said, "Memories are never precise recollections, but in general, as we move through the world, memories become integrated and transformed into stories that help us make sense. But in the case of traumatic memories, they’re not integrated, and they’re not even really remembered as much as they’re relived."

2. There were Girl Guide (similar to Girl Scout) troops in concentration camps in WWII

During WWII, when Japan occupied China, American and European children living in China (many were missionaries’ kids attending boarding school) spent years at a concentration camp guarded by Japanese soldiers. The Girl Guide troop leaders were able to use songs, games, and manners to help the kids feel a sense of normalcy during their internment. I learned about this incredible piece of history by listening to this podcast episode where you get to listen to the story from one of the Girl Guides who was there.

3. Succulents need two teaspoons of water per week

Turns out keeping a plant alive can be part science. My brown thumb and not-dead-yet succulents thank the internet for this tip.

4. Minorities often experience a type of double-fear when something terrible happens

This is an odd one to find a home on this list, but I think it bears mentioning. I read a book this summer titled A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. It was beautiful, stirring, and gave me the amazing gift of increased empathy. This book is about an Indian-American Muslim family, their joys and sorrows, and the intricacies of their family dynamics throughout the years. It is heartwrenching and beautiful and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

There is one moment in the book in which this family watches the news of the 9/11 attacks. The family stays home, paralyzed by fear like most of our country was. Then, one of the main characters expresses her fear and dread, praying that the terrorists were not muslims. The next day, the father will not allow his daughters to wear hijab out of fear for their safety. This is the double-fear I do not think I was ever consciously aware of, a fear for national security and a fear for familial safety following something like this. When I learned of the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, something that shocked and saddened me and millions of others around the country who had been praying for her safe return home, the headline ran that her murderer was an illegal immigrant. I felt a pain in my chest  then not just for her family, but for other families who will feel this fear on top of the fear we all feel.

5. Recipes always take twice as long to make as I think they will

This summer I cooked from scratch more than usual (which is to say I made approximately 5 food items from scratch and can count that as "more than usual" because my baseline was 0.) Here is what I learned. 1) Food is amazing and delicious and can be so calming to cook. 2) Recipes always take twice as long as I think. Always. It's science. Maybe it's because I'm not a fast vegetable chopper or because I double check the recipe five million times before committing to pouring my liquid ingredients into my solid ingredients because I *just need to be sure.* Whatever it is, I've learned to start doubling the time in my head so my expectations are met and I don't get too hangry.

6. Free trials are great if you put them on your calendar

Listen. I know that free trials exist because in 30 days, I'll forget about them and the company will be happily charging my card for the next 20 years. I had committed to not falling into that marketing trap for years until I realized something - I can put those trials on my calendar. With some trials, you can cancel immediately and the company will still let you enjoy your month of free bliss, BUT for those that don't allow me that option, Google Calendar is your friend. Now I have dates with "Cancel your ____ subscription!" on my calendar and it's been so wonderful trying all the new things. (Other tips: set up your subscription with an empty pre-paid card. Google "how to cancel my ______ subscription" when you can't quite find the right link. Set up your calendar alert on the day BEFORE your subscription will renew.)

7. I like dotted notebooks better than lined notebooks

When I filled up my lined moleskine, I opted for a dotted notebook instead of my usual lined go-to. It has been SO FUN. The dots are there as a guide, but I have all this freedom to doodle or keep my notes in a hierarchical format that is uniform and clean. I'm definitely a fan.

8. Kindle Cloud Reader exists

Did you know you can read Kindle books without owning a Kindle? You probably did because I am super late to this party, BUT GUYS. Kindle Cloud Reader is amazing. I can read books on my computer. I can score with those awesome Kindle book deals that Ann Bogel mentions on her site (check that out here.) I'm still a firm believer in paper books, but for those times when I have my phone or computer handy, but not a book, it's been a game changer.

9. People are uncomfortable with grief

Most of the posts on my blog mention grief in some form or another, and this summer an article I wrote about grief was published by Fathom Magazine. I’ve had so many people send me encouraging notes and messages on social media about my posts, but I’ve also had a few people lovingly (I think. I hope. I choose to believe.) say things like, “have you considered writing about something else, something happier?” or “I’m worried you’re going a little too deep into talking about your grief.” For each of these types of comments, I’ve received half a dozen people saying they had no idea someone else felt the same way or they felt like I had given them permission to grieve their own loss. *That* is why I choose to write about grief.  I’m hoping to write a full post about this soon, but I didn’t realize just how controversial a topic grief could be, and I think it’s controversial because it makes us feel so uncomfortable.

10. Most nail polishes contain formaldehyde

I am not one of those people who only bathes in essential oils and hasn’t washed her hair in 9 months. (If that’s you, that’s awesome! Go you! But it’s not me.) When I found out some of the ingredients in almost all nail polishes, I was shocked, but not quite shocked enough to swear off nail polish forever (because it’s cute guys.) The solution? Zoya nail polish from Amazon! I ordered this set of 4 nude colors. It’s free of the icky ingredients in most nail polishes, comes in cute colors, is not ridiculously expensive (amen), and arrives in 2 days with prime shipping. What’s not to love? (PS this is not an ad. I just really like this polish and I also like that it’s not poisoning me slowly through my overgrown cuticles.)

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