Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good.
Today: a non-profit senior advisor spends time with her partner, hangs out with new friends, and sets out on a road trip.
Editor's Note: This diary was written in May 2021.
Location: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Senior advisor at a nonprofit
Location: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Senior advisor at a nonprofit
6:30 a.m. — My partner and I both are up early today, but for different reasons: He’s stressed about work, and I’m excited for the day ahead. I get out of bed around 7 a.m. and do my full skin care routine. I've had pretty bad melasma for the last few years, which looks like dark sun spots in patches on my face. I’ve been working on this seriously for the last year with my skin care. I use the First Aid Facial Radiance Pads, First Aid Niacinamide, and the Elta MD sunscreen. It’s not perfect, but I see progress.
After my skin care routine, I go for an early walk around our new-ish neighborhood with my dog, who stops to sniff everything. My partner and I just relocated to Chicago from Washington, D.C. We’re both working from home anyway, and my partner owns a two-bedroom in Chicago that he had been renting out. He bought it right after he graduated from college since he knew he eventually wanted to end up in Chicago, where he was born and raised. Even with the extra space, though, I feel extremely cooped up working from home. I’m very extroverted and have really struggled with not going into an office and being with people. I feel more connected to people by just walking around outside and seeing people. I stop in a Starbucks to pick up a venti, unsweetened black iced tea, which I do almost every morning. I budget $50 a month for Starbucks so that I don’t feel bad buying it. ($3.60)
1:15 p.m. — I have a meeting that ends early, and even though I hear two of my coworkers say they’ll stay on to talk about some project, I hop off. They started at the same time a few months ago and they exclude me from a lot of their conversations, even though we’re all peers. It used to really bother me, but I’ve let it go.
With my extra free time, I walk my dog over to Petsmart to buy him a nice dog bone. I need to leave the house in the afternoons, and I don’t want him to bark while I’m gone. My partner is on the phone often for work, and his bosses said there can’t be dogs barking in the background of the calls. I find that super annoying because it’s a global pandemic and everyone is home, but hopefully the bones will help! I splurge and buy a big package of nice bones so I have back up. Since moving to Chicago, my dog has been more anxious. But he also has more windows to look out of and bark at people walking by. ($35)
2 p.m. — After getting home from Petsmart, I head back out the door to meet my massage therapist in the park. I see her usually once a month for a craniosacral massage, where she massages my spinal fluid to work out any issues in my body — physical and emotional. I was hit by a car while walking two years ago and craniosacral has really helped with the pain in my body, as well as the energy and emotions. But today, my massage therapist is providing a reading of my Akashic records.
The Akashic records is like a library that holds all of the information from the past, present, and future. She did a little prayer, asked my full legal name, and then spoke to my “guides,” who are around me all the time, as I asked questions about different things. I left feeling lighter. I’ve been very worried about my relationship’s future, and if it’s getting too late for me to have children. Hearing her say we have time to have children made me feel better. I know there’s a chance it may not work out that way, but I feel like some pressure was taken off of me today. ($90)
Daily Total: $128.60
8:45 a.m. — I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and my partner, B., is already downstairs working. He usually comes back up for an hour to lay in bed with me, so I fall in and out of sleep until he comes back. We talk a little bit and then I fall back asleep until around 8 a.m. I get up around 8:45 — but I live in Central Time and work in Eastern Time, so it’s technically 9:45 in my work day. My boss told me it was okay for me to adjust my schedule more to Central Time, and I don’t have a meeting until 10 a.m here, which is why I’m sleeping in.
During my reading yesterday, my guides said I should try to get dressed nicely for work, even though I work from home. Today, I try it. I put on one of my favorite bright pink tops, a black skirt, and gold sandals. It’s a jarring reminder of what I used to do pre-pandemic, and it’s kind of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s the first time I’ve felt cute in a long time. On the other hand, it’s a reminder of how my weight has changed during the pandemic. My clothes fit, but not the way that they used to, and I've really been struggling with this. When the bad body image thoughts are around, I try to think, Your body is getting you through a deadly pandemic or Your body has been through so many life changes in the last few months, it makes sense that it would change, and it can change again, too or even just, I'm doing the best I can to take care of my body. That usually resets the negative thoughts I'm having.
I walk my dog to Starbucks, grab the venti unsweetened black iced tea, and go home to start working. ($3.60)
1 p.m. — B. and I were just at a lake house in Wisconsin for the past week and don’t have anything in the fridge. I run to Target for groceries since I don’t have anything to eat for lunch. I just grab some basics because our meal kit from GreenChef is coming today. We get GreenChef delivered weekly for $80.93 and split the cost (so $40.47 each). At Target I get yogurt, frozen cherries, cheese sticks, avocados, yogurt, milk, zucchini, and bobby pins ($55). I really want to try those space buns everyone has been wearing, but my hair is on the shorter side, so I need more bobby pins. I run home and make a smoothie for lunch, spraying some whipped cream on top to make it more fun. ($95.47)
3 p.m. — I drive up to Lake Michigan to take a long walk with the dog and catch up with my friend, A., on the phone. Work is on the slower side and my boss is out of town, so I’m enjoying the extra free time. The thing I love most about Chicago is Lake Michigan. It’s such a beautiful color and I feel so calm next to it. I walk around five miles while talking on the phone and try to avoid the geese.
Walking is my favorite way to move my body. I feel like it helps me get out of my head, see more of the city, and I usually do my best thinking when I walk. Pre-pandemic, I took a lot of long walks with my dog on hard days to help myself feel better and it almost always worked. Perhaps understandably though, since the pandemic started, I've started to enjoy walking less and less. Once walking became the only way I could move my body without having to mask up or be close to people, I stopped getting the same joy from it that I used to. I still do it a lot because I want to be active. Now, I try to talk on the phone a lot while I walk. I usually call my mom, or my grandmother, or my friends in Texas, and now friends in D.C. I love to have long conversations with them and be moving my body at the same time.
I’m driving to D.C. this weekend because I still have my apartment there. I wasn’t sure how long work from home was going to last, but I knew I wanted to move in with B., who was going to Chicago, so I just kept the apartment. But now that I’m working from home until 2022, I’m letting go of my lease. I’m driving there for about 10 days to clean up, move furniture out, and take anything else I need back to Chicago. I’m really excited to go back to D.C. because it still feels like home to me, and I know it will be hard to “officially” say goodbye. My friend A. and I make plans for my trip, since she’s taking most of my furniture.
Daily Total: $99.07
9:15 a.m. — At the start of the pandemic, I was struggling to establish a routine and get out of bed. Someone suggested choosing one day a week to sleep in and not feel guilty about it, so I chose Wednesdays and it’s stuck ever since. I lay in bed until about 9:15 before I finally get up. It feels like it takes me forever to get ready. I want to wear bright colors, so I put on a pair of lilac shorts and a mint green sweater. I once read a Norah Ephron book where she said, “Most everyone wears black — except, of course, for anchorwomen, United States senators, and residents of Texas, and I feel really bad for them.” As a native Texan, this stuck with me because I hate wearing all black.
I take the dog out in the rain and see two women walking for their morning exercise. I feel a pang of sadness, because what I want more than anything is a walking friend (or friends). It’s hard to move to a new place during the pandemic; making friends is that much harder. I let the women pass and see a license plate with the numbers 444. A few years ago, I asked the universe (or my guides, or God, or anyone really) to show me the numbers 111 or 444 when I’m on the right track. Seeing the numbers instantly makes me feel better because I know someone is watching out for me and helping me feel a little better when I feel down. I walk back home in the rain and make a chocolate cherry cauliflower smoothie and get to work for the day.
3 p.m. — I’m having the worst body image day. I just feel terrible about myself. When these thoughts come around, I try to rest and put my mind on other things, like a TV show. I’ve also been trying to cull my Instagram following and keep it to under 100 people, and not follow anyone who makes me feel bad about myself. My favorite account for this is WaffleNugget. It's an account for a dog, but the human who runs it is very real and honest.
I go on a long walk and call my grandmother. Ever since I moved to Chicago with B., my grandmother has been relentless with questions about our future. I don’t really enjoy talking to her anymore because of these questions, but at the same time I feel terrible not calling her. My grandfather has had some cognitive decline, and I know she doesn’t feel like she can talk to him as much, but she can’t leave him alone at home for long. I know she feels very lonely. She asks me a bunch of questions about work and B., and it’s not terrible. The worst is when she says, “It sounds like you and B. are very committed long-term now and can’t be separated.” I wish I could tell her we will 100% get married and it will work out, but I just can’t say that. I ask my grandmother if she sees any signs from heaven from my uncle who passed away five years ago. She seems totally baffled by this question, which surprises me. I end up getting lost on the walk and go much further than planned. I don't feel any better after this walk or phone call.
6 p.m. — I go meet my friend E. for dinner at a new Vietnamese place. E. and I met through a mutual friend in D.C. We both moved to Chicago within a month of each other and we both moved for our boyfriends. It’s been amazing to have one friend here, and we’re in almost identical life situations. It’s so nice to talk to someone who really gets it, and I look forward to seeing her every week.
We talk about the house they just put in an offer for, and my boyfriend’s upcoming July 4th reunion with his college friends and how much I’m dreading it. E. points out that no one is their best self in group situations like that, and I really appreciate that. I eat a crab fried rice that’s delicious, and then E. and I walk around some. I go home and watch television in bed because I just want to zone out. ($27)
Daily Total: $27
7:30 a.m. — I wake up early to a text about a job interview being moved up three hours early today. It’s not a big deal, and it helps me get out of bed quicker. I get up, get dressed, and do my hair and makeup, then go for a walk with my dog. I stop at Starbucks and get an iced tea, but with guava juice in for some extra sweetness. I walk home and eat turkey bacon and a bowl of raspberries before the interview. ($4.15)
4 p.m. — My IT band is killing me and causing a lot of outer knee pain. I normally take the dog on a long walk in the afternoon, but decide to just stretch my leg out instead. While I stretch, I receive an email about a beginner’s running group starting up in a few weeks. When I first moved to D.C., I joined a running group and got in great shape, trained for two half-marathons and found it was a great way to be social with people. I pull the trigger and sign up, hoping it will help me meet more people in Chicago and see the city more. The group costs $180 for three months. ($180)
I was supposed to go to B.’s nephew’s tee ball practice, but just found out it’s canceled. One thing I like most about Chicago is that we’re a 10-minute walk from B.’s sister, her husband, and two kids. During the winter we ate dinner together once a week. I love B.’s entire family, and they’ve been so welcoming to me. Since I won’t get to see her today, I decide to still try to be social and text my neighbor for happy hour. She’s been very friendly, although she’s not really someone I would typically choose as a friend. She makes strong drinks for happy hour on her patio and I go home totally drunk.
Daily Total: $184.15
8 a.m. — I feel terrible when I wake up. My head is killing me and it feels like a million degrees in our bedroom. B. bought the condo in Chicago six years before we even met — it’s older and it has three stories. It’s great to have that much space, but the third floor is boiling during the summer. I get out of bed and chug a bunch of water. I take the dog out and think I may still be drunk. I also feel embarrassed and anxious because I spent like 30 minutes talking to our other neighbors and am worried I said something stupid.
I stop at the corner market to grab a bagel and my usual Starbucks drink. I go home and make a massive egg sandwich with turkey bacon and attempt to answer some emails. ($7)
1 p.m. — The neighbor I had happy hour with drops off some Liquid IV packets to help with my hangover. I’ve never had it before and it’s super sweet, but good. I drink it and decide it’s time for a nap. I turn on Bravo and end up falling asleep for three hours. I wake up feeling so much better and go on a short walk with the dog before dinner.
7 p.m. — After dinner, B. and I walk to Dairy Queen because he lost a bet and owes me a Blizzard. I spend a lot of the walk thinking about my weight. I hate this, and wish my weight gain didn’t consume my mind. A long time ago, I vowed to not be the person to talk about weight or dieting, because I think it’s a pretty boring topic that women always focus on. But even if I don’t talk about it with anyone, it’s still taking up a lot of my brain space right now. When I go to D.C. next week, I have a doctor's appointment scheduled, and I’m considering talking to my doctor about my weight. But I also find my doctor to be kind of rude, and I’m afraid she’s going to say insensitive things.
Daily Total: $7
7:45 a.m. — B. wakes me up at 7:45 to make sure I’ll be ready to start driving to D.C. by 9. We want to order bagels from the Jewish deli down the street, so I grab my phone to order online. My mom had texted me super early to tell me Master of None’s season 3 is starting on Sunday. I gasp and freak out and B. gets worried. He’s not amused when I tell him it’s just Master of None. We just finished watching it a few months ago, so I’m glad we can watch this new season together.
The deli doesn’t have bagels ready for pick up until 8:45, so we nix that plan. We walk the dog down to Starbucks and then grab bagels at the little market on the corner. We go home and make fried eggs using a cool new trick I learned. I heat the oven to 325 degrees, cook the eggs in a hot skillet for two minutes, then transfer them to the oven for three minutes. It makes the perfect eggs. We throw those on the bagels with spinach and hot sauce, and put raspberries with a chocolate smoothie into a bowl. We eat breakfast together and talk about how weird it is that we’re going to be apart. Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been apart for this long since December 2019. It’s crazy. We’re both looking forward to the space, but we’re just not used to it.
I hop in the car with the dog and start the drive. I’m looking forward to a long drive in the car by myself where I can listen to all the Taylor Swift songs I want. ($12)
12 p.m. — I finally stop at a service station after three hours of driving. I go to the bathroom, walk the dog, fill up with gas, and then grab a water. After the big breakfast, I’m not really hungry. I’m making good time.
5 p.m. — Not eating food totally backfired. I’m starving as I pull up to my parents RV. Our dogs haven’t seen each other in several years and they weren’t exactly best friends the last time we met. We take them over to the dog park and they get along okay. There’s a little dog jump area and we get the dogs to do that for a while. My dog seems to like it, and he’s just so cute. We walk back to my parents RV and my mom gives me goat cheese and pimento cheese with crackers and some carrots. My dog eats a lot of carrots, too. After that, we all get ready to head over to my aunt’s house.
In the car, I ride with my mom and tell her about my Akashic reading. She seems a little weirded out but she always tries to be interested in my interests. We make it to my aunt’s and eat dinner with her and her husband. She has been married to him for 11 years, but this is only the second time we’ve met. He talks a lot and I’d like to talk to my aunt more. After dinner, my parents leave and I talk to my aunt and her husband more. It’s nice.
1:00 a.m. — I go up to bed around 9 p.m. but it’s so hot and I can’t sleep. There’s a fan on but it’s so loud. I struggle for a while and watch YouTube videos, listen to a sleep podcast, and also read my book but nothing seems to work. Finally, I try the trick B. taught me: Go through the alphabet and for each letter think of 3 unrelated words that start with that letter. It works pretty well and I’m asleep around letter K.
Daily Total: $12
7:40 a.m. — B. texts me asking me about a plane ticket I booked for two weeks from now, so that wakes me up. B. is always an earlier riser and I like to sleep in. We joke about it because B. goes to bed late and wakes up early, and I go to bed early and sleep late. Our sleep schedules do not match up. I go back to sleep for 30 minutes and get up with my second alarm. I take a quick shower and go downstairs to have breakfast with my aunt and her husband before they go to church. When I get downstairs, there’s food laid out but no sign of them. I eat by myself until my aunt appears from the basement to eat with me. She prays over me before I leave, which is something that would have freaked me out in the past, but I thought it was really nice to have someone who wanted to find a way to help protect me.
9:30 a.m. — The dog and I are on the road again. I stop at Starbucks and get a tea, and they give my dog a little cup of whipped cream. It’s messy, but he loves it. I go just one mile further to get gas before getting on the highway, and the gas station feels super unsafe. There’s a lot of people there and I just feel more on edge. I get gas as quickly as I can, and wipe off the windshield and am on the road. There is a black pick-up truck with NY plates that cuts me off, and I watch them cut three more people off in a dangerous way. I feel even more on edge and unsafe driving near him. I stop at a service plaza because I need something salty. I get some Cheese-Its and Goldfish and they really hit the spot. ($45)
Daily Total: $45
Weekly Total: $502.82
Reflection: My overall wellness is really important to me, but I think I lost all sense of a routine with the pandemic. I have little motivation to work out at home or by myself. It's really challenging to prioritize wellness during such a stressful time. The best part of the week was getting the Akashic records reading. I felt really skeptical going in, but afterwards, I felt lighter and happier, and just like my life was on the right track. I think it was actually life-changing.