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 woman takes a ballet class for the first time in years, helps a friend break their Ramadan fast, and spends time with her family.
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Occupation: Freelance social media manager and graphic designer
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Occupation: Freelance social media manager and graphic designer
Editor’s Note: This diary was written in April 2022.
7:30 a.m. — My week is off to a rocky start. I’ve neglected to schedule content for a brand I manage. They’re in a different time zone — two hours ahead — so I wake up early to post a series of stories and posts across channels. I stay in bed as comments and likes roll in, waiting for someone to point out an error in my posts. Thankfully, nothing comes.
Months back I decided to start therapy, and later, medication. I take my 225mg of Effexor ER, an anti-depressant of the SNRI class. This is my new morning routine: water, pills, 20 more minutes of rest. I pay $50 for the prescription each month.
12 p.m. — The early rise has shown its effects: I wake up suddenly from one of those naps you don’t realize you were having. Putting my things together, I head out to buy something nutritious, as my hunger sets in. The extra sleep serves me well. I feel energized. The drive to my favorite juice place in town is roughly 20 minutes. It’s worth every minute. I order my usual, a smoothie made with banana, mango, ginger, turmeric, peanut butter, and cinnamon. I pay extra for hemp milk and chia seeds.
Today I try their Tahini Caesar Salad. For some reason, it’s made with just spinach. I take the gamble. And I lose. The salad ends up being a mismatched set of ingredients. It’s also missing a protein. Remorse sets in after only a few bites. But I take the lesson as motivation to do some things I’ve been neglecting: I sit in the car for a while, texting friends back and scheduling appointments with my healthcare providers. My insurance from my former full-time job is set to run out soon. I spend 15 minutes on hold at the dentist hoping to schedule an appointment for the end of this week. Nobody answers. $30
1:15 p.m. — My nephew, L., and I head out for a walk. He’s a pandemic baby, born in March 2020. He’ll only go along with half a cookie in his hand. These walks have saved me. They show me the way he looks at the world. The way his senses change, the way he grows. It’s only 85 degrees. We’re relishing in the great weather, knowing the Las Vegas heat will come soon.
By the time L. wants to return home, I still have energy. He sits with my mother and chomps away at some fruit. I head back out and finish the walk. Part of me is hoping to add more activity into my days, particularly this week as I’ve cut back on exercising due to slight back pain after my last weightlifting session. This walk ends up being only two miles, but it’s something. Athletes pass me by: a very experienced cycler, a runner. We’re all rallying against the heat.
3:40 p.m. — I raid the pantry for my safe food: a bowl of off-brand Frosted Flakes with oat milk. The light hits just right through my bedroom wall. I snack on an orange as I do some stretches. Part of me hopes the back pain will subside, the other hopes to hold onto this as an excuse to not work out for as long as I can.
8:38 p.m. — After not getting much work done, I go downstairs and grab what was left over from this morning’s salad. At this point, it’s just some soggy mixed greens and a slice or two of tomato. I warm up a piece of milanesa my father had made recently along with some rice. I combine all the ingredients into a make-shift version of a grain bowl. Then I hit the floor again, this time to do a short but sweet arm and core workout courtesy of TikTok creator @lcgirard.
Daily Total: $30
1 p.m. — To cut the full day of screen time, I go grocery shopping nearby. This has become a new ritual. I plan to get a short list of ingredients for a new baking experiment and look for them while listening to some of my favorite podcasts. I pass by the happy hour happening at the bar inside the store while catching up on episodes of The Best Advice Show.
One episode has great advice about setting a couple of alarms throughout a busy day in order to stop for a second and listen to your body about the care and nourishment it needs. I set an alarm for 4 p.m. labeled “Listen.”
Three episodes of The Best Advice Show later, I finish getting all the ingredients to make two vegan chocolate pies. $37.52
6:30 p.m. — I take my first ballet class in 10 years. Looking at myself in a dance mirror for the first time in so long shocks me. I used to stand in front of mirrors like these for hours on end when I took dance lessons as a teen. I had every detail of my body memorized. At first, I don’t recognize myself. Slowly the memory fades, changes. I reach home hours later and devour a slice of the chocolate pie. $15
Daily Total: $52.52
10 a.m. — Had I not been keeping this diary — keeping a close record of the things I love and cherish — maybe I’d have missed out on so much. I tend to move at a hundred miles per hour, never stopping to wonder and recapitulate and truly take in what’s going on. It is why everything catches up to me this morning: work stress, the future ahead, my looming unemployment, friendships beginning and ending.
I choose to stop going in circles for a while and I indulge myself in making a full breakfast, taking all the time in the world. I make waffles and a fresh berry compote, fry up some bacon that’s been sitting in the deli drawer for a while, and blend some fruit and herbs together for a fresh green juice. I sit in awe looking at my breakfast plate as work notifications roll in.
1 p.m. — The day offers me a short break. I go on a walk around the neighborhood and cool off with a half-assed swim in the pool. The feeling reminds me of a recent therapy session centered around mindfulness. The blazing sun relents for a moment, giving me time to lay still. I take stock of the last few months and realize this is the first time I have let go in a long time.
5 p.m. — My new friend E. has planned an Ethiopian dinner with friends and neighbors. E. and I head out on a journey across town to find all the right ingredients. The first Ethiopian store has run out of injera, but the store owner directs us to another place down the road that may have some. We talk to the clerk and some of the customers. None of them believe we are about to cook the dishes E. has planned. They wish us luck in the kindest way. We split the cost.
We pick up E.’s tiffin full of spices and cook for hours at her neighbors’ house. Four pans are constantly sizzling, their aroma coloring the entire space. E. sets out each dish directly over pieces of injera, which we will all eventually break apart to savor each bite.
We eat outside as night settles. The house cat, Bucky, makes a few appearances. The wind brings in new bugs and pieces of plastic across the yard. Some fall near us, as we slice up the pie I made the night before. $11.75
Daily Total: $11.75
11 a.m. — L., my nephew, arrives late in the morning to have breakfast. I scrape some oatmeal and berries together. We sit by the TV as he shouts and giggles along to his favorite shows between each bite. When he’s done, I eat the leftovers in one spoonful. Some of the oatmeal falls on the couch. L. finds it deeply funny. He picks up the remains with his tiny fingers, holding the whole oats close to his eye like precious gems.
12 p.m. — During our walk, L. says his first imperative sentence in Spanish. Dame la mano. Give me your hand. He pushes me out into a street he’s never walked on before. He seems energized by the passing cars. He waves goodbye to the Amazon truck, the motorcycle rolling by. We giggle together as he plays with a fire hydrant. He tells me about the wind, whispering secrets in baby babble I may never understand.
4 p.m. — L. and I venture out to a park, where my mother visits and lends a hand. An Uber Eats driver drops off a Shake Shack order: burgers for the adults, one bag of fries for baby L. He devours them, muttering chip, chip, chip with each bite. $30
Daily Total: $30
9 a.m. — To mitigate my indecisiveness, I scheduled a workout through ClassPass three days ahead. This new gym welcomes me with open arms, but throughout the workout I can’t help but feel like the new kid in school. There’s six of us present, all using different machines as music plays loudly and a timer on the wall counts our reps. I’ve learned to repeat each movement fifteen times over a minute, rest for thirty seconds, and do it all again. We move around the space a couple times, cycling through cardio and weightlifting stations for 45 minutes. When the workout ends, we’re directed to clean our last stations. As I wipe the dumbbells down, a dull ache develops in my arms and shoulders. It tells me the time was worth it, so I go on with the day. I pay $35 for a monthly subscription and this session was $2. $2
1 p.m. — On the way home I stop by Trader Joe’s to pick up a couple frozen meals. The day is slightly overcast, calling for something different in the Vegas kind of way. I pop a Vegan Tikka Masala into the microwave as directed by the box and wait.
With a cup of tea, I devour the entire plate. By the end, the portion feels rather small. Over a group text, my closest friends share their favorite things to pair with this meal to feel complete: a cup of extra rice, the naan, a pan of grilled veggies. I jot them all down for the next time. $7.99
Daily Total: $9.99
1 p.m. — My friends L., S., and I catch up at a coffee shop following a TV interview for an upcoming project. We sit and talk about what’s on the news, what we’ve been doing since the last time we saw each other. We all have new jobs, new beginnings. I pay for everyone’s drinks. $20
3 p.m. — My partner J. and I pick up food at a restaurant with a take on my favorite Mexican dishes that reminds me of home. Some days we have the energy to walk there and back, but today our bodies crave a quick drive and some nourishment. We get our usual: bowls of grilled vegetables with a poblano sauce, a portion of tinga, and two orders of esquites. We eat in bed, watching the latest Marvel show on Disney+. $45.22
7 p.m. — S., an old friend, has planned a family-style Iftar meal to break her Ramadan fast with close friends. My partner and I get there just in time to help with the last few steps. S. chops over some vegetables as someone else mixes up a secret sauce for pounds and pounds of chicken wings. I place fruit and dates on a plate and bring the rest of the dishes together. The doorbell rings. S. has surprised us with three giant pizzas to add to the spread. At this point there are 15 people in the room waiting for 7:31 p.m. to hit. When her alarm sounds, S. has a few sips of water. She eats a date, little by little.
The rest of the night feels like a blur. We all sit around different areas of the living room for hours, moving every so often to pick up a new dish from the main spread.
Daily Total: $65.22
10:30 a.m. — My partner J. and I make our way to my favorite juice place in town — the same one I’d just visited a few days prior. I order the same smoothie with all the extra fixings, and he does too. We each pay for our own. The cashier tells us this is the last time the store will be open because they’re going out of business. Before we leave, I stand at the threshold, taking all the sounds and smells in for one last time. $7.52
Daily Total: $7.52
Weekly Total: $207
Reflection: After much trial and error, I've settled for a routine that centers around ample space and grace. I do not set restrictive schedules or impossible goals. I give my body and mind the time and care when I need it and how I need it.