How to be Unwell

brene brown, talk to yourself as you would someone you love, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, so that we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of.

Jennifer Louden

When I re-launched this blog a while back, I wanted to focus on wellness (alongside my fiction). It has been interesting to see where this wellness journey has taken me. I thought I’d figured some things out. But I learn the hard way. Oh how I learn the hard way. God made me a fighter. I don’t give up easily. Lordy, I do not give up.

This is a beautiful thing – to be so dedicated, to love so much, to care so much – that I fight until there’s a win. I don’t hate that about me. I’m proud of it. It’s also the bane of my existence. Hahaha. This penchant to stick to it until there’s change – until I’ve exhausted all resources – also sometimes means it is hard to learn lessons I desperately need to learn. I am a smart woman. But apparently, I’m sort of thick headed too. I was learning about wellness and what that means. I was working on it. But it hadn’t settled deep down into my bones.

I wrote in August about my health deteriorating. It is actually worse than I expected. I saw it coming. It’s like watching a hurricane, off our coast, in the Atlantic hurricane season. You watch that thing turn and turn as it gets closer to you, when you live in a hurricane zone. You know it’s coming. You do your best to brace for impact, but even still you can be caught unaware.

I have, even recently, feared what I wrote here. Even after promising myself I wouldn’t. But that’s pointless. If I can’t get a job because I’m a person who lives authentically and shares that, it’s not the place for me. If I write openly and if people somehow view me as less than or weak – because I write what I’m compelled to write, so be it.

It’s like a mother, when the baby is crying, she picks up the baby and she holds the baby tenderly in her arms. Your pain, your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, to recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get a relief.

Thich Nhat Hanh


I’ve just finished Danielle Walker‘s new memoir, Food Saved Me. What I didn’t expect as I read this book, was to feel seen, hopeful, and also terribly fearful that it will take me longer than I can stand to think about – to find the solution to what’s happening with my health. But one thing the book convinced me of, was that I felt instant community with someone (Danielle) that I haven’t met. She wrote things about God, that I could have written. I felt less alone in this crazy mess, as I read.

As I finished the book the other night, I felt compelled to walk through this journey here – when I can. I’m working through the potential that I have new diagnoses that may come my way, or perhaps an incorrect diagnosis, leading me to be treated for the wrong thing for five or more years. I have three specialist appointments coming up at Duke – as I search for answers. I have things I’m changing in my “diet” and in how I manage the day to day at work and home. Thankfully, at work, I have some new help which is creating some space to reset.

But I believe we are whole persons. To treat one part of us when we’re sick (our bodies alone), I think we will ultimately fail. We are complex beings and I believe, spiritual beings, first and foremost.

I found a modicum of physical wellness in years past. But it didn’t seep into other places. I didn’t care for myself as I could have or should have. This last year and a half, on the heels of losing my son, was too much. The avalanche was too much – without caring for myself as a whole person – that is. There are some of you that know exactly what I mean. Right? You care for everything and everyone – except yourself.

Talk to yourself as you would someone you love.

Brene Brown


What does it mean to care for yourself? Self-care has come to mean bubble baths, dark chocolate, and a pedicure. It could be that. But that often grazes the surface, at least for me. Self- care means strong, deep boundaries. It means being protective of our time, our life, our home, and our hearts. It means leaving work at work. While my job requires interruptions at home, it cannot be as bad as it has for eleven years. I’ve allowed too much seepage. I care too much. More specifically, I care too much what people think. When I should watch and guard my time and well-being, I place others above myself to my detriment. Why? Good question. Why do you do it? Answering that question for ourselves is healing. For me, I’ve also allowed abusive behavior of individuals – one of whom even defined himself as a “snake” – to deeply impact my responses to things and to cloud my view of myself, my calling, and what I know to be true about myself, my expertise, and God’s call on my life.

Friend, I have shit to do. I have a calling. I have books to write, people to love, and hopefully a family waiting in the wings. I can’t get any sicker than I am in this moment. This is the end of the road on that front. But we are whole persons. So it can’t just be about physical healing. If you’re in a similar boat – whether you’re just starting out on a wellness journey, or you’re well on your way – the one thing I hope for you is that you will work on your heart and soul as you work toward physical healing.

I’ve learned in a painful way how great the fall is – when we fail that part of our lives. So where do we begin? Here are a few areas I failed in. Hahaha. These failures are where there’s goodness in our journey to wellness (if we do the opposite) though.

How to be unwell:
– Eat food-like substances, instead of actual food
– Move your body less & less
– Let other people’s opinions of you deeply impact how you view yourself
– Work late into the evening
– Work on the weekends
– Let abusive individuals impact you so deeply that you literally wither away into a person you don’t recognize
– Stop advocating for yourself
– If you’re a woman, letting men disrespect you without calling them out (not kidding – this is soul-crushing – terribly soul-crushing)
– Sleep less & less
– Don’t drink enough water
– Drink more alcohol
– Let the world cloud your vision of a God that loves you
– Don’t listen to your mama when she tells you to take better care of yourself
– Tell other people how to take care of themselves & then absolutely do not practice what you preach

That’s a pretty good list. But I’m sure we could add to it. What would you add? Next time I’ll share some of the steps I’m taking on the food front. But before I got to that, I felt the need to share this. If you’re reading along and you feel like sharing a few “things not to do,” I’d love to hear from you.

Take care of yourself this weekend. Outside of two errands tomorrow, it’s a weekend in bed for me. If your life won’t allow for that, I hope you will find some small way to invest in yourself – as you seek wellness.

Just Around the Bend

robert frost, the best way out is always through, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

When I woke up from a nap yesterday evening, the world looked a little different. I’ve been closer and closer to that moment for a while now. I woke up this morning and that sense had settled in even deeper – though I’d had a weird {weird-bad, not weird-entertaining} dream that could have been unsettling. In the place of some of the hard stuff that I’ve walked through the last couple of years, is a quiet peace.

Perseverance is something that many of us probably feel we’re well acquainted with. I have often been told that I’m strong. But being told that got old a long time ago. I don’t particularly care for being strong. I have a similar relationship with the word perseverance. Obviously, you don’t learn to persevere or persevere well, unless you face your fair share of challenging circumstances.

Life isn’t ever going to be free of challenges, conflict, or pain. It ebbs and flows, right? So while I can’t really call this an end, it certainly feels like rounding a corner to see the most beautiful sunrise or sunset you’ve ever seen. I live near-ish to the coast. We have high rise bridges that take you over the Intracoastal Waterway. As you reach the top, the Atlantic Ocean comes in sight. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, my heart always catches in my throat. That’s a little of how I feel right now.

Here’s the truth about God, healing, hope, and working your way through hard things or difficult circumstances – sometimes it’s the littlest things you need to admit, confess, forgive, fully feel, or maybe even say out loud – that help you round that corner. If I can encourage anyone who comes across this, to keep pressing forward, I wanted to share. Life is weird and wonderful and I know when stuff is a mess, it’s hard to imagine it being any other way.

The thing is, your moment of clarity, peace, forgiveness, or healing – is just around the bend. Keep moving forward.

Eucharisteo

Eucharisteo, one thousand gifts, ann voskamp, elaina avalos,

If I told you what last night and today have been like, it wouldn’t be useful. I’ve cried many tears today and I’ve prayed with words I don’t have. Here’s the truth I had to dig for – but found- this evening, on a day when nothing makes sense and I’m worn out. Eucharisteo. In Greek, this word means, to thank, give thanks, or to be made a matter of thankfulness.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus broke bread with His disciples and thanked God the Father for the bread – which would come to symbolize his own body – broken (Luke 22:19). The word used in the Greek was eucharisteo. As He moved steadily toward his purpose – painful though it would be, and though He knew one in the room would betray Him, He thanked God for the bread. There at the so called “Last Supper,” when He knew death and suffering awaited Him – He thanked God for the bread.

It has taken me a while today to wrap my brain around where my head needs to be right now. I already knew, deep in my heart, it was eucharisteo, though. I prefer to operate from a place of joy and gratitude. It’s the sweet spot where I feel most in tune with my purpose. But sometimes I lose sight and I get bogged down in the stuff that happens (or doesn’t happen) around me. It’s easier, most certainly, to see what is and is not happening around you.

Joy is a habit: wear it.

~ Ann Voskamp

The thing is, thinking on the negativity begets more negativity. I know this to be true. So…thinking on what is true, right, good, and pure and being grateful and thankful would do the opposite, no? In the moment, though we may be in the midst of or walking into difficult circumstances, this thankfulness is absolutely where our hearts need to focus.

I got out of the habit of naming “one thousand gifts” as a practice. I started doing that after reading Ann Voskamp‘s book by the same title. I’ve said I should get back to it – I even start. But it’s in fits and stops as the hard days settle in. Today, I was ready to give up – call it quits. Donesky. I was done. I want a different story. He isn’t budging. At least not yet. And in the despair of unchanged circumstances, I grasped on things that are fleeting, that steal time & joy and which will never lead to a peaceful mind or spirit.

What will? Eucharisteo. I pulled out my extra journal and forced myself to write down a few of the moments in recent days and weeks that have given me joy, caused me to take a deep breath at the beauty, or that I got a real kick out of. I’ll take it in my purse to work every day until it is habit again. I’ll keep it there as a reminder. I’ll write Eucharisteo on my monitor at work – which I stare at all day – if I have to.

We’ve long heard the phase, “You are what you eat.” I think we are what we think. So when it doesn’t make sense and I can’t see what lies ahead, I’m focusing on what’s good. I will thank Him for every little thing I see – that reminds me of His grace & beauty. I will see the grace in the million little things around me, that are His calling card – reminders of His goodness when the weight of the world settles in and answers are few and far between.

Eucharisteo.

Coffee In Bed

When I was a little girl, my Grandpa Avalos doted on my Grandma. It hadn’t always been that way. He’d admitted to many mistakes in the type of husband & father he was when he was younger. At some point in his life, he made many changes. His faith became his foundation. He made up for lost time. He was so sweet to her. Even though he still had his Mexican way of being rough – he was a man that loved God, his church, and his wife and family.

While he did things for her before he retired, after he retired – every weekend, he went to mass on Saturday and Sunday – early – long before anyone was awake. Ever the social butterfly, he’d talk to friends after mass and then go to McDonald’s. Why? Because my Grandma had a thing for McDonald’s pancakes and coffee. He would bring in the food as we were waking. He’d get out her coffee, doctor it just right, get her food (pancakes with butter – no syrup), and the Orange County Register, and take it to her. Only after she was situated, did he get us up and settled with breakfast (when we were little and needed more help). She always came first.

She was a night owl. I take after her in that and in many other ways. She didn’t like getting up early. But she really milked it (as she should have – haha) after Grandpa retired. He did this, without fail – over and over and over again. It was decades of his life that he kept this tradition. It’s not the only sweet thing he did for her. He did other things – chocolates and flowers and trips to her favorite places (like Borrego Springs in the desert). He would cut gardenias (and sometimes roses) from their garden and make tiny bouquets for me. He was a special man.

I’ve known love. I have loved. But I’ve never quite found the man who would bring me my form of coffee in bed. I guessed those relationships lacked in many ways – including maturity. It doesn’t matter anymore. I do know that I will always hope this is possible, even if I end up alone. Every woman has her things. We all have our love languages. For me, as a words person, words of affirmation are my numero uno. A letter – a note that I find before my day begins – are a gift that would follow me all day. These, like thoughtful things my grandpa did for my grandma, are little gifts that fill you up – giving you confidence in your love as you also seek to love him in the way he best receives and understands love.

I was thinking about my grandparents recently while I re-read my novel, A Thousand Years. Though very different than my grandparents, there are personality traits of Birdie’s grandparents that are similar to mine. My grandma could be a real stinker. And even though she worried and stressed and did crazy things*, he adored her. And she knew it. Everyone knew it. What a gift it was to witness this as a child.

I may still end up alone. Who really knows what the future holds? But I do know that because of men like my grandpa and a couple other special people to come across my path, I know what I’m looking for. And if I’m so blessed to have this man show up on my doorstep, I can’t wait to spoil him. But no matter what lies ahead, I treasure the gift that seeing this kind of love, in my grandparents, was to me.

*like flipping off her grandchildren when we pissed her off & teaching us how to cuss without our parent/aunt knowing we were cussing (our own words).

If you’re the one she lets in…

“Kiss her with passion
As much as you can
Run your hands through her hair
Whenever she’s sad
And when she doesn’t notice
How pretty she is
Tell her over and over
So she never forgets

Take it
If she gives you her heart
Don’t you break it
Let your arms be a place
She feels safe in
She’s the best thing that you’ll ever have”

Written by: Meghan Trainor / Steven Solomon / Forest Blakk