Oregon, Roundups, Washington

Month in Review: October 2016

Before writing this, I had to take a peek back at last October for comparison’s sake.  I had an amazing month last year, and it was fun to look back fondly on such a happy time in my life.

Not that this October has been terrible, it was just very different.  I’m in Washington, for one, where I have very few friends and no real social life to speak of (instead of Chiang Mai, an exciting city that will always feel like home to me).  That said, it’s probably exactly what I need right now, but I’ve needed constant reminders of all the good things I’ve got going for me to bring me out of the occasional slump.

The positive things that came out of this month belonged mostly to the growth and self-improvement arenas.  But I won’t blather on about that here, I’ll let you read for yourself.

In October 2016…

I limited my alcohol consumption to zero.

This may not seem like a big deal or a real accomplishment to some, but it was for me for a lot of reasons.  While my binge drinking days are long since behind me (for the most part), I’d inadvertently wound up in the habit of drinking every single day.  Rarely to the point of true drunkenness–late-20s hangovers are a real bitch–but still with unshakeable consistency.  After several years of travel, it just started to feel normal and natural; and I like wine, so why not?

But it also worried me a great deal, as it should have.  Even if it was just one drink, the fact that I couldn’t seem to take a day off started to bother me, and not only that, but I’d grown weary of waking up in the morning feeling groggy, or being unproductive at night–when my creativity often tends to peak–just because I’d had a drink or two.  And so I decided to hang up my wine glass, just for a month, just to see how I’d feel.La Cite du Vin, Bordeaux, France

I knew it had to be all or nothing–give it up entirely, or I’d be on a slippery slope right back to where I started.  As a very wise man once said, “99 percent is a b*tch. 100 percent is a breeze.”  I read a great article last month that helped explain this concept, why it’s so hard to stick to a commitment level of 99% as opposed to 100%. I’ve heard the same idea many times since, and this month only proved to me how true it was.  The “100% rule” I mandated from the beginning helped me immensely to navigate social situations during which I’d normally have chosen to indulge.

All in all, the monthlong experiment was a great success.  I loved feeling energetic for so many more hours of the day and waking up earlier (still groggy, but not as groggy as before).  I feel like I’ve been freed of the shackles of a heavy and unhealthy habit and feel much more comfortable saying “no thanks” and meaning it.  I plan to keep my alcohol consumption at a much lower baseline than before as well, which is far and away the best thing to come out of all of this.

I have a lot more to say about this topic as it is of deeply personal importance to me, so it’ll become its own post eventually.  Until then, just know that I’m proud of myself for making such a big change and that I am already better for having done it.

I spent a lot of time in cars.

There wasn’t much traveling happening this month, with a few exceptions.  An unfortunate incident at home led to the long-overdue demise of my Macbook charging cable, which is how I wound up taking my first day trip to Seattle (or thereabouts) to pay a visit to the Apple store.  I made a little day of it and stopped off at a touristy waterfall viewpoint and was back home after a grand total of 6 hours.  Woop-dee-doo.Snoqualmie Falls, Washington

Then, my mom and I piled into the car together to make the much longer trek down to central Oregon, where my brother has recently purchased his first home (congrats, bro!).  It was the first time either of us had seen his new hometown, a place not unlike the town in which we were raised–surrounded by mountains with a distinctly small town vibe and not much to do unless you really love the outdoors.  Luckily, my brother is the outdoorsy type so little ol’ John Day is a natural fit.

He works for the US Forest Service as a rappeller; in other words, he’s a badass who drops from a helicopter into the middle of raging forest fires.  My own personal hero.  Our weekend trip was short-lived and the weather was gross, but we had just enough time to play with his new pup, buy him some housewarming wares, and explore the helibase before heading home.John Day, Oregon John Day, Oregon

Finally, I took one more trip to Seattle for a geeky meetup hosted by ConvertKit (my new email service that I love!).  I got to hang out with a handful of Seattle-based bloggers and entrepreneurs for a few hours while exchanging ideas and learning from one another.  It’s always fun to talk blogging with people who really get it, which doesn’t happen very often for me in Washington!  A friend of mine was generous enough to let me crash at her Ballard apartment for the night where we chowed down on takeaway ramen and curled up in bed watching movies.

I read more books than I have in years (and bought way too many).

Guys, I have a problem, and it’s called bibliophilia.  I bought no fewer than twelve books this month, and at one point I was reading four at one time.  What definitely DIDN’T help is that the local bookstore is going out of business, and when I drove by a guy wielding a sign that screamed 10 USED BOOKS FOR $1 I nearly slammed on the brakes right then and there.

It’s not like this voracious appetite for books is typical for me, either.  While I’ve always loved reading, I’ve had a hard time justifying it in the last year or two because I’ve always been able to convince myself that there were better uses of my time.  Perhaps I’ve just discovered a better work-life balance recently.  Either that, or I’m suddenly buying books like How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul and The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding (<–not linked for a reason…don’t buy it, not useful).Too many books.

There are some books in the mix that are purely for pleasure, of course, and I’ve shared some of my recent favorites down below.  I actually hope this newfound fervor for reading continues; I’ve really enjoyed plopping into bed early to spend a few hours reading before hitting the hay, not to mention the heightened creativity that seems to materialize as a consequence of constantly being exposed to new ideas.

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Learning to Love Myself – The reaction to this very personal journey of mine was absolutely tremendous, and I’m so grateful to each and every one of you who read, commented, or shared it.  Thank you.

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What I Read This Month

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – I was pretty excited to read this bad boy, and it definitely delivered some hard-hitting messages in unexpected ways.  I found a few typos which was disappointing, but overall I’d still recommend it.  The vivid imagery of the final chapter, which is all about accepting the inevitability of death, sent chills down my spine.  This book is some of Mark Manson’s best writing, in my opinion.

“The Stoics of ancient Greece and Rome implored people to keep death in mind at all times, in order to appreciate life more and remain humble in the face of its adversities.  In various forms of Buddhism, the practice of meditation is often taught as a means of preparing oneself for death while still remaining alive.  Dissolving one’s ego into an expansive nothingness–achieving the enlightened state of nirvana–is seen as a trial run of letting oneself cross to the other side.”

Ego is the Enemy – This book by Ryan Holiday was the first audiobook I’d ever listened to.  While I don’t think Ryan was the best choice for narrator (his voice is rather monotonous and put me to sleep on more than one occasion), the ideas in this book and the historical stories used to illustrate them were brilliant.  I would have preferred a print copy simply for taking better notes and referring back to my favorite parts more easily, because there really were so many ideas and quotes I wanted to remember.

“You can’t learn if you think you already know.  You will not find the answers if you are too conceited and selfish to ask the questions.  You cannot get better if you are convinced you are the best.  The art of taking feedback is such a crucial skill in life, particularly harsh and critical feedback.  We not only need to take this harsh feedback but actively solicit it, a labor to seek out the negative precisely when our friends and family and brain are telling us we’re doing great.  The ego avoids such feedback at all costs.”

Big Magic – This light and refreshingly optimistic book by Elizabeth Gilbert is all about living a creative life.  Creative living beyond fear is the tagline, and Liz strings together a series of stories and personal experiences to delightfully illustrate each concept she touches on, such as courage, permission, and trust.  I just adore her writing and can already tell this book will be a game changer for me.  A favorite line from the chapter titled Courage:

“…you have treasures hidden within you–extraordinary treasures–and so do I, and so does everyone around us.  And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

#GIRLBOSS – I didn’t quite know what to expect from Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS, and despite the fact that it oscillated between memoir, self-help, and business advice, it still managed to be a fun and interesting read.  Sophia’s personal story is a true-life rags-to-riches tale in which she reworks every terrible life mistake into a meaningful lesson until she eventually finds herself as the CEO of a million dollar company and one of the richest female entrepreneurs in America (as the founder of the online store Nasty Gal).  The book is peppered with golden nuggets for anyone hoping to become a great entrepreneur in their own right.

“A friend and I once stuck our thumbs out in a half-serious attempt to hitchhike on a Greyhound bus.  Lo and behold, the bus stopped, the door opened, and we climbed on.  Wet with rain, we were met with faces of equal disbelief among our fellow passengers.  You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” 

A Few Things I’m Loving

Yoga with Adriene – This is my go-to YouTube channel for yoga videos.  This chick Adriene is so cute and sweet and relatable.  I did her 30-day yoga challenge this summer and have been hooked ever since.

Asana – Sadly, this isn’t another yoga reference, but my new favorite productivity tool.  I create task lists here now instead of on pen and paper, and actually give myself real deadlines!  It’s kind of fun in a totally geeky way.

Religion for the Nonreligious – The best thing I’ve read on the internet, ever.  It spoke to the deepest depths of my soul.  Read it if you have the time.  If you don’t have the time, make the time.

That’s it for October, what a month!  Onward and upward!

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  • Reply Laura October 31, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    I just finished reading Big Magic as well. I found it really inspiring! Also LOVE yoga with adriene. I swap between her a Sean Vigue Fitness (amazing pilates and core workouts!). Sounds like a nice month with family!
    Laura recently posted…How I Make Money as a Digital Nomad: Month 4My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis November 5, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      I’m really enjoying Big Magic so far. And thanks for the other fitness tip! It could be fun to switch things up once in awhile 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…A week in Ibiza, because why not?My Profile

  • Reply Mani @ A New Life Wandering October 31, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Good for you on the zero alcohol achievement! I’ve never heard that 99%-100% thing, but it makes SO much sense.
    Also, I don’t think your book addiction is a bad thing at all. I’ve been meaning to increase my reading time for years, because I’ve always loved it.
    Have a great November, Leah.
    Mani @ A New Life Wandering recently posted…Monthly Best Of: October 2016My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis November 5, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      I was the same, I hadn’t heard the 99% thing either but once I did it was like a lightbulb moment! Have a great November yourself, Mani!

  • Reply Katelyn October 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I read “Big Magic” this month too! While I don’t think it was life changing, I do think it was beautifully written and provided some valuable reminders and tips for writing. Something I desparately need lately. Enjoy Washington! I visited Seattle this summer while I was home in the States for a few weeks and loved it!

    • Reply Leah Davis November 5, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Yes the writing is absolutely beautiful! I just love Liz Gilbert. I’m trying my best to enjoy Washington haha. It’s not exactly my favorite place to be these days, but it’s got its perks 🙂

  • Reply Anne November 1, 2016 at 4:25 am

    Sounds like a good month. Congrats on shaking off the alcohol! I’ve started a similar journey with sweets a couple of weeks ago and I can totally relate to your “99% is harder than 100%”.

    Oh and your brother’s dog is adorable!
    Anne recently posted…The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta: A Quick Practical GuideMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis November 5, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Thanks Anne! It was a pretty good month overall, if a little low-key. I’m still feeling pretty proud that I did all of October with no alcohol! The 100% rule really helped. Good luck reducing your sweets consumption!! That must be tough as well!

  • Reply Sarah November 4, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Impressed with a month free of alcohol! I totally understand the habit – I too got very used to coming home from work and drinking a few glasses of wine every day. I realised I was working hard in the gym but seeing few results due to the calories from this. As the person in my social circles who has a tendency to put peer pressure on friends to drink with me, a month without alcohol has always seemed impossible but I’ve adopted a ‘not on a school night’ stance limiting the days I drink that way.

    • Reply Leah Davis November 5, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Hey, “not on a school night” is a great place to start! I think I’ll eventually settle on something similar–“not when I have shit to do the next day” or something haha. Weekdays and weekends are kind of the same for me.

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