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.

Trusting Unsafe People

art Bless the Messy, Bless the Messy, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons in my life. In recent years, I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons about who I can trust. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a while – after the fog lifts – to realize that you should not have trusted someone (with your time, heart, support, or even your most carefully held secrets or thoughts).

The worst part of trusting unsafe people is that they often present themselves as the only one/ones you can trust. When you’re in the so-called fog of war, it’s hard to know for sure. So how do you know who to trust and who not to trust? So hard. It’s so hard. I have no degrees. I’m not an expert in any field of use (haha) here. What I do have is experience – hard core experience.

Experience that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.

– William Nicholson – from The Shadowlands

Here’s what it boils down to:

TRUST. YOUR. GUT.

What if your gut is telling you that you can’t trust anyone in a specific environment (professional, personal, your neighborhood, whatever), or situation? That probably means you might want to be very careful and trust your gut until you see otherwise. I have been there. I trusted when I should not have. The charming one may catch your eye. But he or she isn’t always untrustworthy. Except when your gut tells you not to trust him. When everyone else has a bad opinion of someone – but your gut tells you something else – you might just be right. Conversely, there are people who are well-liked who are absolutely, 100% rotten people, who shouldn’t be trusted under any circumstances. Your gut is telling you

If you’ve been through trauma, could your people picker be off? Could your gut be wrong? It’s possible. It could also be super aware, as a result of your trauma, of who to avoid. What should you do in these moments? Trust yourself. If you’re in an environment that isn’t healthy, this need to protect yourself, set strong boundaries, and know your worth – is absolutely tied to your ability to trust yourself, too.

Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.

– Dr. Joyce Brothers

Listen, this is a hard thing to figure out – especially in the murky, grey areas of life. But when you make a decision to trust yourself and your gut – when you come to a moment of acceptance that you actually know what the hell you’re talking about/feeling/knowing – things that once seemed so confusing, suddenly become clear.

If you’re on a wellness journey, or learning to set better boundaries, this is going to take some work. You may even make a mistake or two along the way. I have made more than I care to admit. And recently. When you get to one of those moments when you realize you probably shouldn’t have trusted someone with a part of your heart, life, etc., accept it for the lesson it is and keep moving. It’s hard, dude. But if you take the lesson with you, it becomes easier the next time around to invest your efforts, heart, etc., in people and places that are trustworthy. The first step is to trust that this is true and that your gut knows what the hell it’s talking about.



Wooden Saints & Pluff Mud

beaufort south carolina, elaina m. avalos, parris island, lowcountry,
Marsh sunsets

I drove south, about 250 miles, this afternoon. Though I’ve lived near the coast of North Carolina (aka Eastern North Carolina) for most of the last 20 years (with a few detours along the way), I saw country this afternoon I’ve never seen before. No matter how many times I encounter these backroads swamps, corn fields, or sweet potatoes – stretching out forever – nestled between thick pine forest, it still catches this city girl by surprise. It’s always a delight.

I’m in South Carolina’s Lowcountry now, staying at a sweet little Airbnb. My room – with a view of the marsh, is nothing compared to the gift of sitting on this quiet front porch this evening. Blessed quiet. I can’t tell you the joy of not being in an apartment today. The fan is whirring, I have a glass of wine, and I’m currently listening to Ray LaMontagne’s “Such a Simple Thing,” from this playlist:




I don’t know what the days ahead hold for me. I mean, who does, really? But sometimes we have these sweet breaks. Moments of pure joy & delight in the midst of the unknown. And today/tomorrow is one of those breaks for me.

I write about the places I know (California, D.C., and the lovely North Carolina coast). They are featured heavily in my fiction. But outside of Nicholas Sparks, there aren’t many traditionally published writers based in and writing about North Carolina – the coast in particular. There are books set in places such as the Outer Banks. But they’re not “North Carolina writers” and place isn’t something they’re truly intimately connected to. There are exceptions. They are out there. But, those writing about the Lowcountry of South Carolina are a whole other story, however. There are so many. Some of my favorites write about the Lowcountry. I crossed the Edisto River this afternoon, and though I’ve never been here, it’s a name I know well – as if it was an old friend.

For blog readers that aren’t familiar with the area, I’m about an hour and twenty minutes from Charleston, SC and about 50-ish minutes from Savannah, Georgia. The thing about Lowcountry writers is that they write these marshes, pluff mud creeks, palmetto tree, low-tide, and high-tide rivers and creeks, and sea turtle – places, as if the place itself is an actual being. The place is a character in the book. No one else, except maybe North Carolina’s Sarah Addison Allen (who writes magical realism – set mostly in western NC), does this. I can be corrected. Feel free to prove me wrong. But Sparks, though he writes of roads and places and events (New Bern’s Ghost Walk for instance) I know well – his novels don’t make the place a character. The places are written well. But they’re not living and breathing beings. The closest he gets to this is a A Bend in the Road (set in my beloved downtown New Bern – where I once lived).

beaufort south carolina, beaufort, parris island

Low County writers write this place as if it is a living and breathing being – as if the creeks, rivers, and marshes will rise up and chat with you – if only you would sit still long enough. My favorite book (one of my favorite of all-time) that does this is Sweetwater Creek by Ann Rivers Siddons. It may not be the most critically acclaimed novel I’ve ever read (though a bestseller), but I will tell you this right now, Ms. Siddons writes these marshes and creeks in a way that made me long for them as a home, though I’d never been here before.

Maybe one of the most famous Lowcountry writers is the Pat Conroy. Conroy had an ability to write just about anything in a way that made me want to read more. My favorite book of his, isn’t a novel, however. It’s My Reading Life – a sort of autobiography – only it’s through the lens of the impact of the most significant books he’d read in his lifetime. Though I wished to go to the Pat Conroy Literary Center while I was here, they’re not open until Thursday (insert sad face here). I will make it eventually.

“When I started out as a kid in Beaufort who wanted to be a writer I didn’t have the slightest notion how to become one…. My home state has given me a million stories and no writer who ever lived had such riches to choose from. What I owe South Carolina is not repayable.” ~Pat Conroy.

Eventually, I will make my way back up the coast, tomorrow. I may take the long route – but I’ll eventually find myself back in Eastern North Carolina. For how long, I’m not exactly sure. But I do know that this brief break in the pace of my every day life, is a kindhearted reminder, that I can’t lose sight of the main thing.

I’ve spent nearly twenty years of my life making my job the thing. It’s not that it’s not important. I would not trade these years. Maybe. I may not find myself outside of working for the federal government for quite some time. Who knows? I certainly do not. But I do know that I’m learning every dang day, to keep the main thing, the main thing. And the job just ain’t it. As I get ready to turn in for the night, I’m reminded of the pursuit of this thing that makes me who I am. The dream I laid down? It was for a worthy cause, surely. But sometimes comfort become a habit, one we’re meant to throw off.

Sometimes the place you’re used to, is not the place you belong. – Unknown


In the quiet of this cute little brick, ranch house – with its ticking clocks and wooden saints in the window – I’m reminded of the way I was formed and the way I grew. I remember the hard and rocky roads that brought me here. It’s all led to the words I was meant to write. There is redemption and restoration there in those hard places. There is restoration in the words I’m writing now.

elaina m. avalos, beaufort south carolina, beaufort, parris island


When you speak for a person (in your professional life), you can possibly (as I have) become uncomfortable with the push and pull between public vs. private. Even more so when your name is not easily lost in the Jennifer Smiths of the vast interwebs. When the vulnerability you know is required in your writing, exposes you to those you’d rather not be exposed to, you could (I did) shrink back, lessen your words, shrink what you once believed possible, and grow too comfortable with what was.

When I stood at the kitchen sink, in this quiet airbnb this evening, and looked into the yard, past the saint in the window, I remembered what it was like to learn from the artists I knew best (mostly my Grandmother) growing up. If I’m not writing “clear and hard about what hurts” (Ernest Hemingway), I will always miss the mark. I have been missing the mark for quite some time.

For friends still reading this far – here’s what I want you to do:

1. Keep writing (clear and hard) about what hurts (or gives you joy or sets you free or lights a fire in your heart).
2. Don’t hold back.
3. Chase (hard) after those things you know (in your soul) you’re meant to do and be. It may not happen over night – getting to this place you know you’re meant to be. But nothing meant for you will pass you by. Of this I am certain. So keep at it. Keep pressing. Keep waiting – but actively waiting with expectation and hope.
4. And then, keep waiting, hoping, & working.

I don’t know where the path is taking me, but I know what I’m called to do – wherever it leads. I think you know, too – friend.

I Wrote a Novel

elaina m avalos, chasing hope, beaufort nc

I wrote a novel. In June of 2017, my novel Chasing Hope was published. As I approach the four-year anniversary, I thought I would share a bit about the book. You can find it here in Kindle and print format. There is a preview available on Amazon. You can also sign up for my newsletter to read the first chapter for free! You can do that, by clicking here or here. You can also view what some of my readers have written about the book, here.

Here is the book blurb, from the back of the book:

Dr. Ava Cooper has it all. Scratch that – she had it all. The day she buried her daughter was the beginning of the end. With one fell swoop her ex-husband took what was left of the life they created together. All that is left is a demanding boxer, her worldly possessions, and the SUV she bought as a first year resident. With nothing left of the old life, Ava heads south to help out and old friend. In the small and quirky coastal town of Beaufort, North Carolina – a tiny hamlet situated on the Southern Outer Banks – Ava quickly learns that her plan to quietly fade into the background to find some semblance of normalcy is not on her new neighbor’s and staff’s agenda for her. As she settles into southern small-town living, she meets a family and a baby in the foster care system that threaten to break through her grief-stricken and heart. Will Ava be able to let hope in long enough to get back the life she desperately longs for?

This book holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons – mainly because it’s the first complete novel I’ve written. It’s also one that took me way too long to write. The process was daunting, to be honest. I let so many things distract me and get in the way (like my day job). Rather than be single-minded in my focus on accomplishing my dreams and using the gifts God has given me, I focused far too much on the job that paid the bills. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. However, I didn’t put enough emphasis on my dreams or writing what I believe I’m meant to write. I let work take over my life. I mean, take over.

I worried too much about what people would think. I shied away from writing content on my blog (I had a different blog that had a larger audience and community at one time). Overall, I just let my writing wither away under the weight of what other people would think. That’s just dumb. In years past, I was part of multiple writer communities online. Many of the people I have known in these circles over the years have gotten literary agents, publishing deals, and are cranking out books with traditional publishing houses.

It’s not arrogant to say I think that I could be in their shoes too. The only difference is, I didn’t work for it. Phew, what a sucky realization that was when I first woke up to it. It was all my fault and all of my own choosing. But one day I came to terms with this and decided I wouldn’t let my life go unlived. I wouldn’t let the books go unwritten. And I certainly wouldn’t ignore the dreams I’ve long held in my heart.

Today isn’t Monday Motivation – but we’ll call it Tuesday Truths. The only thing standing in the way of you accomplishing your dreams and goals? It’s you. It’s me. We can make all the excuses we want. But at the end of the day, we are own worst enemy when it comes to going after what we want. I just refuse to live that way anymore. So whatever it is . . . go get it, friends.

You can check out a few excerpts here, here, here, and here. To read a bit about Beaufort, North Carolina – the Southern Outer Banks town where the book is set, here are a few posts about my Beaufort adventures (I lived there for a bit, too!):
https://elaina-avalos.com/2017/08/17/beaufort-by-the-sea/
https://elaina-avalos.com/2016/04/28/beaufort-wine-food-weekend-wine-bread-and-cheese-seminar/
https://elaina-avalos.com/2017/09/03/more-from-beaufort-north-carolina/

Forty-Freaking-Five

north topsail island, north topsail beach, pink moon, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos
North Topsail Beach – One of NC’s Barrier Islands

It’s hodgepodge of random this evening.

– I have spent countless hours writing & editing my novel A Thousand Years, since October/November of 2020. I ran into some major plot issues and needed to re-work a ton of stuff in the novel (long story). It took me months to figure out how to make the edits work and how to still keep the soul of the story in place. I finally figured that out. What I have now – is a written and edited novel – that is waiting on just a few remaining things before I can call it done. I decided to put it on the back burner this week while I wait for my trip to Western NC. I’ll come back to it with fresh eyes after my trip and a little Graham Ford & Birdie Langston vacay.

– Obnoxiously, the moment I decided to take a little breather from these two characters, and as I walked the beach last night, I decided to start working on a novel I started ages ago. I cannot help myself. I shared the opening lines here on the blog a couple of years ago. But I started writing long before that. You can see it, here. It’s all new and fresh and I don’t 100% know where it’s going, yet. Well, sort of. But not really. #WriterGirlProblems

For instance, I’m still fighting over the protagonist’s name (that’s how new it is).

– I love the simple things in life and finding joy & delight wherever I can. These last couple of years, phew. It’s exhausting for someone that just wants to write, take care of the people she loves, and enjoy the little things in life. I’m so ready for what comes next. I would love to have someone join me on my next adventure. But, I’m ready to do it alone, too. Life is just too short to not chase down what you want. #BirthdayThoughts

– I turned 45 today & it’s a little ho-hum. Haha. I head out of town next weekend for my road trip to wine country & the mountains. Just three days until I leave! I can’t wait. But here’s what turning 45 looked like today (the photos uploaded catywampus):

– Music making me happy or inspiring me lately:

“Know you’re coming from a bad place
Honey, I was there just yesterday
So I know the time it’s gonna take
For you to feel like you again
Wonder if you’re seeing colours yet”

“There are no wrong roads
And no window stays closed
Love is always sad when it fades
The glass is better stained anyways
If never you find what you’re looking for
Come on back to the front porch
Say my name through the screen door”

Making a return . . .

How does anyone not love this man? Here’s an honorable mention: https://youtu.be/wGyh_53ecgg.

Now that I’m working on a new novel, I’m gonna need to start working on a new playlist. While I work through some details & it takes shape, I’m listening to this and this (from my OC pal Suz Moshenko). OC means Orange County, dudes (where I’m from).

I have big things ahead. Cheers to 45!