Why I’m Obsessed with Metacognition

Last summer, I was listening to a podcast that was discussing metacognition – the notion of thinking about what you’re thinking about. Here’s the formal definition for my fellow Webster nerds:

Not sure yet how I feel to admit this, but I haven’t been able to stop analyzing my thoughts since. Not every single thought, of course, just the big ones that make me stop and say: “Wait. Is that really true for me?”. I was probably doing it subconsciously before, but now I have a word for it: metacognition. It helps me shift my perspective when I need a fresh look at a tough or undesirable situation.

Here are a few recent examples of what’s rattled my brain…

First thought: “Holy crap. I can’t believe I have to leave the house for work every day in the middle of a pandemic.”

Next thought: “Wow. I love the quiet time I get in the car driving to work every day. The traffic is manageable, and thank God I haven’t gotten sick this whole time.”

First thought: “I left my blog alone for a month. How on earth will I get back into the groove of writing.”

Next thought: “I left my blog alone for a month because my day job got a lot more interesting, and I’m up for a promotion. I have so many new stories to tell about faith, women in engineering, and self-worth.”

First thought: “Ugh. I only worked out twice this week. I’m behind on my goals and feel exhausted.”

Next thought: “It’s time to reassess my goals this week and back off where I need to. On the plus side, finishing The Glass Castle and a couple Grey’s Anatomy episodes felt AWESOME.”

This week, I also finished the book The Dance of Anger by Harriett Lerner. It has completely changed my perspective on anger. It is going to take a LOT of unlearning, but I am amazed at how differently I see anger already. It’s always felt like such a charged, negative emotion for me. But I learned that anger can be a tool to help tell you what you need to do to take care of yourself. It is possible to look at anger as a neutral emotion, instead of an emotion that beats up my self-worth and makes me feel “wrong” for feeling upset.

The book reminded me that I’m entitled to all my feelings, especially anger. It’s just what I do with it once I feel it that makes all the difference. And after this book, I have so many more options to deal with my anger than my standard go-to’s of over functioning, blaming, and defending. I highly, highly recommend it for women, since it’s written for us specifically. I plan to read it again this year (and, nerd alert, take some notes this time).

Metacognition helps me mind the endless “what if” scenarios that can plague me and overwhelm me. Metacognition is an antidote any time I have self-imposed feelings of self-doubt. Metacognition, guided by two of my favorite allies—grace and gratitude—powerfully tames my coronacoaster thinking, so I can hold onto a realistic yet positive perspective throughout life’s daily curveballs.

Stay Hopeful, My Friends

Life’s little moments

Give us hope when all else seems

Fraught with fear, despair

NAVIGATING COVID

Gratitude for my

Shelter, food, health, it’s all here

Hope in quarantine

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We leave a short note

To say thanks for your service

Hope from frontliners

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Hilarious prints

Germs contained, and coffee breath

Hope from wearing masks

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Universal Yums

Snacks to learn of great countries

Hope without travel

MY CIRCLE

She asks with concern

How are you really doing

Hope from a girl friend

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We have a spa night

Just like old times as a kid

Hope with my Madre

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We send pics, music

Share our creative outlets

Hope from my cousin

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He embraces my

Wild ambition, big dreams

Hope with my husband

WORK

We laugh at meetings

Instead of arguing, mad

Hope from contractors

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They give water to

The homeless on the corner

Hope from laborers

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We wave at workers

No matter background, job type

Hope with a smile

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We discuss kindness

While watching traffic fly by

Hope from a flagger

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He brings me coffee

When we have a busy day

Hope from a colleague

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GRATITUDE

Warm hands, giant hugs

I’ll have these again one day

Hope is before me

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Lifelong memories

Of full concerts, planes, gyms, church

Hope is behind me

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Laughter over Zoom

Strong internet, still have wine

Hope is beside me

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Sun in December

Bluebird skies, warmed skin, breezes

Hope is around me

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He promises us

He will overcome the world

Hope is within me

Life’s little moments

Make a difference each day

Stay hopeful, my friends

This message of hope is brought to you by my women’s writing group, Illuminate Writing. You can find more of our work on Instagram @illuminatewriting and @thekindredvoice.

Please check out more messages of hope from these amazing writers below!

hope in the time of 2020. by Eunice Brownlee
Shifting Sands of Hope by Mia Sutton
In It Together by Laci Olivia
Who is your Only Hope? by Amy Rich
The 2020 Storm by Adeola Sheehy
Hope Over Survival by Sarah Hartley
Optimist on Purpose by Megan Dellecese
A Story About a Dog by Jenn Norrell
Both Fragile and Enduring by Danni Brigante

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Simple Traditions, Solid Ground

Thanksgiving traditions remind me, like a recurring dream that suddenly reappears

Through patience in prepping and roasting the turkey

Through cheerful pops of cranberries bursting

Through softening of vegetables in the skillet

Through warmth of a freshly baked pumpkin pie

Through those peaceful seconds just after we say grace

That simple traditions ground me when I feel my grip on life slipping

Helping release my sadness at the losses and turmoil that this year brought

Their familiarity keeps me up, gives me hope, that better days are ahead

Final Verdict: I Love My Products

Oh, beauty products. How we love to loathe you. Or is it loathe to love you? I’ve had my fair share of these moments, vacillating between appreciating and despising the beauty industry and what I perceive it stands for.

But after some “beauty”-ful soul searching on where I stand with it all, I’ve decided: I love having the choice to buy and experiment with so many different hair, skin, and makeup products. As I often do, allow me to share my whys…

My products do just “feel good”—when I keep it in balance. The scents, the colors, the silkiness when applied. The sheer level of creativity one can appreciate from entrepreneurs who risk it all to create products they believe in wholeheartedly. But I’m responsible for that balance. I’ve fallen for plenty of labels promising that my life will in fact be changed by a certain blend of coconut oil and shea butter. I’ve thrown out expired products, which feels regrettably like a jangle of coins hitting the trash can, never to be seen again. But I’ve also bonded with my girlfriends over just the right dry shampoo, or reminisced over a favorite vacation when I brought back a lotion or soap to help me remember.

Wandering the beauty aisles in Target is one of my favorite forms of self-care. In the pandemic, it gets me out and walking around, especially on these colder fall days. The colorful, brightly lit aisles lift me up while I browse and make new discoveries. The Soap & Glory labels tell me it can still be summer, even if only in my mind. And I can splurge or go cheap, whether it’s a $2 face mask or a $20 scrub.

Since March, I’ve painted my nails a different color every two weeks. It started out as a simple routine to keep me entertained in quarantine, but I came to enjoy the femininity of it. It keeps me from biting my nails (and keeps those hands clean) and forces me to sit still for a few minutes. I invested $60 in the Dazzle Dry system that is hands-down the best—no major chips for over a week. With about 15 manicures down by now, and only halfway through my system, the price per use continues to drop as I keep enjoying my DIY mani time (bonus!).

Lastly, products help me look older. Call it “blessed by good genes”, but naturally looking 10 years younger doesn’t always have its benefits. Especially since I work with mostly men who can, subconsciously or not, find other reasons not to take me seriously. A little eyeliner, mascara, and multi-tasking tinted moisturizer go a long way to help me look as confident as I feel, when I know I know what I’m talking about at work.

Sometimes I use two products, sometimes ten. A Tahitian vanilla body scrub or lavender clay mask on the weekend can make a long shower feel like a sweet escape. I will never get through my Birchbox samples, even though I quit a year ago. Hair smoothing oil is a game changer that gives me an extra day or two between washes. I love practicing this flexibility to decide what works for me and when.

We each have our own ways of feeling beautiful. With the sh*t show of a year it’s been, and no signs of that slowing down, my products give me space to stop and enjoy. I hope you are finding little ways to feel beautiful. Each of these moments is significant and matters—letting beauty infiltrate from the outside, reminding us to keep believing in our beauty on the inside.

Time, Mystical Time… Healin’ Me Fine

Cue one of my favorite songs on Taylor Swift’s Folklore album, “invisible string”…

These days, I’ve grown more aware of how obsessed I am with time. I’ve known for a while that me and FOMO are good friends. Still, I find myself subconsciously trying to strike a balance among learning from my past, living in the moment, and pondering the future. It’s precarious. It used to feel life-giving, where I’d tenuously balance on the edge of control and freedom. Right now, it feels pretty lifeless to be so consumed by time, when it draws out and stretches out for miles that used to feel like feet due to the pandemic.

This year, I often joke that it’s just another day that ends in Y (and thank one of my clients for giving me such a fitting phrase). If I weren’t chronicling my inner thoughts and daily activities so well with a solid journaling habit and this blog, time may feel even blurrier than it already does.

Anyhoo. Remember when email forwards were a thing (a fun, eventually annoying thing), and someone listed all the ways that fractions of time can change our course and give our entire lives new meaning? Like the difference of 0.01 seconds for Olympic competitors who earn a silver medal. I came up with my own list as sort of a therapeutic process, since time has virtually no meaning for me right now.

1 second: The time it took for my dad’s car and an oncoming car to collide, sending him to the hospital where he passed away two days later when I was 16.

1 minute: The time it took to get dunked underwater and reemerge in a roomful of people, where I shared that Jesus was my source of comfort, strength, and hope. Life has been brighter, richer, and more purposeful for me ever since.

1 hour: The time of a single car ride with my favorite mentor who was kind enough to unexpectedly show me how, when I thought I was hiding what I was feeling, I was actually being very obvious about it. This completely changed my interactions with friends, family, and colleagues for me from that point on.

1 day: Time spent strolling the Freedom Trail in Boston with my then-friend from college, having lunch at the Union Oyster House, and visiting Paul Revere’s house. A few years later, I call this smart, funny, generous man my husband.

1 month: The time I needed to start a consistent journaling habit, which has now bloomed into joining a women’s writing group, starting a blog, and seriously exploring and sharing my creative side.

1 year: The length of time I spent getting my Master’s degree in Civil Engineering, only to find myself with little to no job prospects when the markets tanked and the Great Recession started.

Sigh. OK, time has meaning. I needed that reminder. And yet, I wonder. When will I get to plan a get together larger than 8 people again – in person, inside, without masks? When will we go on our next international getaway, something we enjoy doing with friends to immerse ourselves in and learn from a totally different way of life? What is my next big thing going to be IRL, that’s a far cry from the online worlds of Instagram, Medium, and Google?

These are the questions I ask myself, as I enjoy lazy Saturdays sleeping in, reading, binge watching Nashville, writing, cooking fancy meals with my husband, and walking my dog to my heart’s content. All the things I ever wanted to do but never for this long.

Photo location: Fussen, Germany

Thoughts on Craving More from My Life

When I read the word “hunger” (a prompt from my women’s writing group, Illuminate), it dawned on me. I am perpetually in a state of hunger. Hunger to succeed in anything I pursue. Hunger to improve as much as I can. Hunger to love better – myself and others – every day. It’s insatiable. While I’m enjoying the ride, I often want finality to this hunger, to arrive at some sort of destination of fulfillment (that’s the engineer in me, but I digress).

But, it’s a catch-22. If I have less hunger, will that make me complacent? If I have more hunger, will that make me greedy? If I maintain my appetite, have I simply arrived at acceptance… or just the illusion of it?

Hunger encapsulates so many things for me. Physical hunger (craving). Financial hunger (success). Emotional hunger (love). Spiritual hunger (soul). Mental hunger (education). Relational hunger (community). An endless menu of desires to satisfy.

Taking them in all at once, with the pandemic as the cherry on top, I can honestly say my hunger in all states has intensified, subsided, ratcheted WAY up, crashed WAY down, and everything in between. When I originally considered this word, it was 8:30am on a Saturday, and I was uncharacteristically starving for a big breakfast (I calmed down and settled for yogurt and berries). Finances seem somewhat stable for once, since many big purchases have simplified–a wedding gift, clothing splurge, or airplane ticket feel far away from my current reality. Emotionally, I’m begrudgingly getting to spend lots of time with all of my #coronacoaster feelings (feelings aren’t my favorite, but I’m less and less resistant). Spiritual hunger is always there–what did Jesus say again: show love to everyone, especially (not except) those who are different, difficult, and/or despondent? Chasing new things that expand my mind is second nature to me, and this season, I’ve become a lifelong anti-racism student.

My reflection on relational hunger surprised me. Intermittently in the pandemic, I’ve had vivid dreams with faceless people where I’m searching for some sort of undefinable connection that won’t manifest. It feels barely within reach before I wake up. I would be remiss if I didn’t attribute at least some of that to the lack of human connection due to social distancing and face masks. Where hugs feel slightly dangerous. Where handshakes feel inappropriate. Where happy hours feel unclean.

Will I ever not have hunger? I hope not. I can control my appetite, but only for so long. And I know I won’t ever “arrive” at an even-keeled state of maintenance, as much as my achiever side wants to. An internal and/or external force can whack that out of balance at any moment.

We are evolving creatures meant to hunger. For to hunger means to be alive, still wanting, still searching. Destination or not, I absolutely want in on craving more, so I can keep soaking up all that I can in this one glorious life.

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