Four Things I Stopped Doing This Summer

How evaluating some of my habitual practices is helping me live more authentically.

July 21, 2023

Sara Schroeder Watercolor Journal Entry Summer '23

This summer I stopped painting my nails.

”Painting” is a misleading term. The recipe my nail tech formulated for me is a super-strength, quadruple-layered concoction of acrylic dip and gel. A high gloss armor of fuchsia or banana crepe lacquer.

I’m tough on my nails, treating them like built-in, always-available multi-tools, and I’m not fussy about my appearance – surprising, since I’ve had manicures on the books with varying regularity for nearly three years now.

I kept them painted because the visual effect of the manicures kept me feeling just a little bit fancy. Those shiny fingertips gave me the appearance of being somewhat put together even if everything else felt decidedly NOT put together.

No matter how I was dressed, my nails sent subliminal messages: “I take care of myself!”, “I’m fashionable!”…. (maybe??)

From a practical standpoint, the ultra-durable quality of the thick layers kept my nails from breaking, even in the face of my unrelenting daily abuse.

Early last month though, I noticed that my true nail – the extension of my finger that is attached to my body, seemed extra thin and abnormally sensitive. When my tech was filing, I wanted to pull away because something that had never hurt before hurt now.

My true nail (the part of me that’s me) felt thin. Like it was wearing away under the polished pink veneer. So I quit.

I had her remove the last of the lacquer, clip the white down to the natural bed, and brush a coat of strengthener over the naked remains. I decided I’d continue this way until my nails regain their original strength.

Something deep in my core feels truly seen by this simple act of honoring what my body was telling me. This choice of genuine self-care over superficial self-care is authentic care of my being.

People talk about manicures being a form of self-care, but recognizing how this false armor was damaging the real me felt more honest. It’s a comically potent metaphor: the false exterior was actually harming the health of my natural self. The lesson of finding strength in living authentically wasn’t lost on me.

As I sat in my reading corner sizing up my regenerating nails this morning, I started thinking:

What else have I abandoned this summer in order to live into what I actually need right now?

Another Page From Sara Schroeder's Art Journal This Summer

A hardball, non-negotiable workout schedule

I’ll probably (I definitely will) be squishier by the end of the summer, but I will have gained hours of quality time with my family and friends that I won’t regret one bit. Right now, this restful, connected way of life is feeding parts of my soul that I’ve been neglecting. Bonus benefit: my physical body is recuperating. Parts of me were in pain when I was working out on a strict schedule. I never gave my body time to rest. After this summer of spontaneous bike rides, sporadic yoga, and low-key toning, my knees are finally getting recovery time.

Beating myself up about what I do or don’t eat

I’ve spent too much of my adult life obsessing about food. I can’t get those hours back, and I don’t want to go into further time debt. I’m trying to let go of the negative thoughts and unrealistic expectations that creep up countless times per day. It’s a near-constant struggle, and I know I’m not alone.* This is a whole other conversation, and this is not that kind of newsletter, so I’ll leave it at this: I’m choosing to enjoy and not keep track. I know from past experience that my body will send me signals if I’m tuned in. Shedding societal influence and social opinion makes for a weird experience of confusion + freedom but feels like another step toward identifying and reclaiming my own inner wisdom and strength.

*I am not a health professional and my thoughts are just my thoughts. If you are struggling with disordered eating, suspect you might be, or just want to learn more about it, this article is helpful and provides links to online therapy programs.

Structured Studio time and Projects

Ahhh. This…. Summer has forced me into a new kind of studio schedule called, “Take What You Can Get”.

It has been years since I’ve approached my studio time like this, and I’m finding it both disconcerting and appropriate for the phase in which I find myself.

One of the most fulfilling studio habits to have persisted through this time of chaos is my early morning hiatus to the studio with a cup of coffee. Sometimes there is music, like this playlist, sometimes not. Sometimes I light a candle, sometimes I don’t. It just depends on what I need to be able to “drop into myself” and paint intuitively.

journal pages by artist Sara Schroeder featuring her representation of the prompt "honor my boundaries"
Sara's journal pages created during a INSPIRED Studio Sesh

The result of this disruption – the stripping away of a strict structure – is that I’m forced to choose what I reallywant. What do I need? What am I craving? What speaks to how I’m feeling at this very moment?

Aren’t these studio-time queries just re-worded iterations of the ones that have been showing up for me in every example I’ve listed so far in this post?

Circumstances are cracking the thick shells that were put in place as protective guardrails. Maybe I don’t need the bowling bumpers anymore. Maybe I’ve learned enough about how to hit dead-center without superficial parameters.

It seems, for me, this summer is a season of shedding for the sake of self-actualization.

Have you noticed your own theme this summer? Are you experiencing similar revelations? I’m curious to hear what’s emerging for you.


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