Confusion & Clarity

“There must be something strangely sacred in salt. It is in our tears and in the sea.”

Khalil Gibran


I am restless. Restless with passion. Restless with questions. Restless with dreams and plans that are left in a state of waiting. I’m restless with longing and with the confusion that comes from letting go, when I don’t want to let go.

There are so many decisions to be made and I as reach a bit of peace, the questions return and I’m back where I started. As I usually do when I’m in this state of mind, I feel pulled toward the ocean. The vastness of it, calms. And the greatness of a God I don’t understand, seems to clarify things – when I need it most.

So though it’s not practical, I’m driving over to North Topsail Beach, which is one of our North Carolina barrier islands. It’s not practical to watch the sunset on Sunday evening – not when I have a list of things to do before going back to work on Tuesday. It’s not practical when I have more editing and writing to do. I have more laundry to tackle. And there’s chicken in the crockpot that will be waiting on me.

But I need the clarity the ocean brings me. So I’ll go. And trust clarity is coming.

What Self-Care Is Not

elaina m. avalos, self-care sunday, elaina avalos, live well be well

At one time in my life, I thought I defined self-care fairly well. I thought I knew what I needed to ensure I was taking care of myself – first. Recently, my therapist (yes, I go to therapy and yes I’m proud to say this) asked me what I did for self-care. I couldn’t answer her question. I found this annoying. Her question wasn’t annoying – the fact that I couldn’t answer the question is what annoyed me. It has been a few weeks since the last time she asked me that. It took me several weeks and a few major realizations to figure out some of those things on my self-care list.

I think we can tend to have rote answers when it comes to defining self-care. But we’re all freaking different as individuals. What works for me, may not work for you. Self-care is not defined for you. You define what that means and what that looks like. You may learn through the experiences of others, but at the end of the day, you have to take the time to sift through the craziness of life, to figure out what it is that works for you.


Before I moved to the town I live in now, my self-care routine was much easier to define. I hiked at least once a week on a nearby trail. I went to the beach about once a week. I cooked awesome meals for myself on the weekend because I adore cooking. I sat on my patio or back deck and enjoyed hours of being outside soaking in the warm or cool air, breezes, and the beauty of my tree-filled yard. I grilled. I walked along the river. I took bubble baths with lights low and candles burning. When I lived in the super quaint downtown – that was the colonial capital of North Carolina, I didn’t have a yard and my condo complex didn’t have grass. So twice a day, I walked the dog along the Neuse River, enjoying the fresh air, spring flowers or the white-capped river during nor-easters. I slowed down enough, that I found delight and joy in the dumbest things. But that was self-care too.

Another way I incorporated a little self-care into my weekly routine was to buy flowers – for myself. This was a weekly ritual. It’s not as easy to do here. This might sound weird, but it’s hard to find fresh flowers here. Unless it’s roses and carnations. Even at our farmer’s markets, they’re few and far between. If I’m lucky, I can get a hold of some sunflowers or zinnias. Last year, I found one farmer that had a ton of wild flowers and I spent a ridiculous amount of money buying up as much as I could. When I lived at home in California, Trader Joe’s and Vons sold daffodil bundles in the spring for $1.50-ish. I bought them every week. At my Joshua Tree farmer’s market, which I walked to from my house, an old hippy sold beautiful bunches of wildflowers. I never left the market without flowers. In the fall, I bought “pumpkin trees” from him. I’ve longed for those every autumn since. The flowers I bought were next to my bed, in my office, and around my home. They brought pops of color and joy to my window sill while I washed dishes. In my cave-like offices in large aircraft hangars where I worked, they were a little bit of the outside (I love being outdoors) brightening my day.

But I can’t get a hold of fresh flowers like the ones I used to. And yesterday I’d decided I had enough. So I drove almost 1.5 hours south, to get what I wanted from Trader Joe’s. Is driving 1.5 hours for fresh flowers weird? Probably, but I’m a happy camper. I bought up a bunch! I will take some time today to put them in bud vases and set them out around my apartment. I’ll take one vase to work with me, tomorrow.

I can tell you what self-care is not. Self-care is not a fill-in-the-blank answer that works for everyone. Self-care may look like manicures and bubble baths. Or it could be weeding in your garden, reading your favorite book again for the millionth time, or not getting out of bed on Sunday and watching your favorite movies all day. I can also tell you that self-care is not always easy to define. But it’s worth the time exploring. We are no good to others and we can’t fully live out our calling in life, in my opinion, if we’re not taking care of ourselves first.

So while it might sound crazy to you, yesterday I drove a total of three hours for flowers. And today, their sweet sent and bright colors are giving me constant joy. That is self-care, to me.

How do you define self-care? Do you do anything random (like drive 1.5 for flowers), that might sound weird to others?

Get to the Good Part

I haven’t shared a lot about my faith on this site or anywhere, in a long time. Mostly because I didn’t want to sound preachy when I’m not really some paragon of faith. I’m still figuring it out. But I watched this sermon earlier {While cleaning the kitchen by the way. I like this online church deal.} and I felt really compelled to share.

One of my favorite dudes in the Bible, even though his story is also super annoying {because God just does whatever He wants – against what we think should happen}, is that of Joseph. This guy. Man, did he ever go through some crap. Unlike other well-known stories, Joseph didn’t make tons of bad choices. Moses did stuff he shouldn’t have done. So did Jacob. Jonah literally ran away from what God told him to do. I could go down a long list. Joseph, as a teenager, immaturely told his brothers about his prophetic dream {that they would one day bow down to him}. Now, that was a pretty big problem for them (haha) and they literally sold him into slavery because of how they viewed this. But he was a dumb kid. He was immature. But unlike David, he didn’t murder the husband of his mistress. I mean, Joseph kind of suffered for more than two decades from an immature decision. But the truth is, it was all part of this huge plan. We want to get to the good part. And we usually don’t like the wait. We definitely don’t like going through dark, bad things to get to the good part.

Joseph’s story was dark. He was accused of rape, wrongly imprisoned, ignored by men he helped save and wasn’t paid back for his excellent work ethic and service. He was left to rot in a prison for heaven’s sake. But at the end of the day, the good part was coming. It just took way longer than what we think it should have been. Ultimately, it took two decades before his dream became a reality. When it did, it saved his family and he lived a long, prosperous life with children and grandchildren, after that.

I have been following some of Steven Furtick’s sermons {Elevation Church}, recently. There’s been a common theme for me in what he’s been teaching – that also fits into other things I seem to reading and seeing come across my path. I think God is trying to tell me something. Today’s message was good and as I mentioned above, I felt compelled to share. If you are going through a dark time – particularly if you are delayed in seeing those good things coming your way, consider watching. My words for the year are hope & faith. This was a little reminder not to give up – to press forward with hope and faith. The good part is coming.

Self-Care Sunday

self care sunday, elaina m. avalos, elaina avalos, self compassion

I’m not sure how often I’ll make time for these posts on Sundays, but I’m working on some new aspects of self-care right now. And when I discover something that’s useful, I will share. First, I am in therapy. I think there’s goodness in therapy for many. For some reason, many of us are uncomfortable with admitting or talking about this, however. But what could be better than talking to someone about things in our lives we want to change, learn, or heal from? Both of the things I’m sharing today were suggested by my therapist. Second, when I first tried the mediation practice below, a number of months ago, I wasn’t into it. In fact, I could barely go a minute without being totally distracted. I don’t think I truly heard enough to really know whether it was a useful tool or not. So, all that to say that if you’ve wondered how meditation could help you with anxiety or anything else for that matter – give it a shot and if it doesn’t quite feel right, give it time and try again. Or maybe search for a different one.

Self-Compassion:
The concept of self-compassion honestly felt weird to me. I didn’t really get it. And the first time I tried this, I don’t think I was at a place where I understood it or even would have accepted it. But in recent weeks, some things have changed for me and for the first time, this concept of self-compassion makes sense. It doesn’t just make sense though, I feel it in my heart. I’ve seen where in my life I have been “at war” with myself and have allowed messages of unworthiness to be reiterated over and over again – but in my own thought processes – which then in turn repeats in circumstances in my life. If you find yourself noticing in your thought life that you’re super hard on yourself, expecting perfection or warring with yourself over things you can and can’t control, you may feel some release from this practice of self-compassion.

A quick note – if you are someone that is uncomfortable with meditation because your Christian worldview has led you to believe it’s not okay – I get it. But, I would say that what I’ve come to over the years is that God does use many things around us to teach, heal, and open our eyes. Where meditation or yoga or whatever, feels uncomfortable, it’s very easy to replace terms or foundations with Biblical truth. This idea of self-compassion should truly be seen from the perspective of how God views us as His children. This meditation allows us to connect with the person we truly are, absent of the constantly repeating messages of our own unworthiness. Which also means that we are seeing ourselves in our identity in Him. If you find that you’re repeating negative thought patterns that are impacting you in the day to day, give this a shot. I am honestly blown away by not only the emotion I felt through this practice, but in how at peace I felt as I acknowledged how I’m feeling about myself and then practiced a little of the compassion and grace I need (that, oh by the way, God offers me so freely).

Podcasts:

I’ve been adding podcasts to my weekly lists of to-dos. I love learning, experiencing life through other’s views, and finding ways to grow as a person. But honestly, for a long time, I’ve kind of shut off this curiosity in me. National Public Radio has always met this need for me and as I’ve been listening again to some of my favorites, it has gotten me into the habit of seeking out podcasts that meet this curiosity and desire for growth. Below are a few of the podcasts I’m listening to on a rotating basis. But for today, I wanted to share Untangle. I subscribe through my Apple podcast app – but you can find it at the link, too.

If you’re looking for some understanding about relationships, I highly recommend the February 16th episode, called “Navigating Love and Relationships Anytime” with Daphne Rose Kingma (see link for one of her many books on relationships – this one called Coming Apart: How to Heal Your Broken Heart). While I could see myself listening to this again, one of the things I took from this was being at peace with what a relationship brings to your life – even when it doesn’t last. Additionally, I learned a little about accepting a man’s ability or inability to be expressive of emotion. Good stuff.

Here are a few others I am listening to:
This American Life
The Bible Recap
Being Well
The Moth

Do you have any favorite podcasts {in the self-care or self-help genre}? What is something you have to do each week {or every day} for your own self-care?