a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Nov, 2016

Inside outside

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Clean sweep

Life has a tendency to kind of pile up sometimes, doesn’t it? There’s one thing, and then another. These things can pile up like a game of Jenga. It only takes one extra block to make it all collapse. Then, game over. You’re left with a jumble of blocks and possibly a sliver.

Here’s the interesting thing about stress. The block that causes the big Jenga tumble can be tiniest event or hiccup: an issue at work, a fender bender, meet the teacher night, leaves that need raking. Suddenly, everything becomes overwhelming and all you want to do is huddle under the covers. And stay there.

I practically emptied the hot water tank as I steamed up the shower today, cataloging recent events and to-do lists. I won’t get into the nitty gritty but I will say that things have been weighing on me and there have been One Too Many Things and my internal Jenga is at a tipping point.

I will say this, I know myself and I know what helps me cope: my Litebook (interesting how I posted about using it almost exactly this time of year two years ago), my vitamins, a good breakfast, my treadmill time, my daily dog walk. Also, I am having trouble sleeping, so I’m hoping to get into a better rhythm sooner than later.

In response to wobbly Jenga, I have upped my efforts and my focus. For example, I made myself a treat for lunch today; a salad with some of my favourite fixin’s…

November 3 #dailylunches - super salad

There’s argula, Farm Boy apple cider dressing, goat cheese, diced apple, and candied pecans that I whipped up, just because I could.

Staving off Jenga collapse is not just about eating well and getting quality ZZZs and making to do lists. Fitness is key. I know this. We have a family YMCA membership but I’m just waiting for it to be confirmed through work at the moment.

Related: I have been thinking about something lately, and I wanted to run it by you Fishies. This may sound odd but here goes… does your inner self match what you project to the world?

What first got me thinking about this was an article I read awhile back about living with teenagers. The author wrote that teens have a tendency to rant and unload on their parents. This is a good thing. If they’re doing this it means they trust you. Here’s the thing: it’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of thinking that their kid’s venting/complaining is the essence of who they are. e.g. How could we have raised someone that’s so negative and ranty all of the time? So the best thing to do, apparently, is listen and offer support and not call them out on being complainers because it’s likely they aren’t. Complaining, ranting and unloading is just something they do at the dinner table because they know you’re listening.

When Mark and I take the dog for a walk I tend to unload as well. I haven’t seen him all day so I run through recent events and unpack all of my feelings. If I’m perfectly honest with myself, some of what I’m saying out load is negative stuff – complaints and grievances – yet at the same time, I know I am a happy person overall. If all I talk about are bad things – things that went wrong or that are annoying – that person will conclude that’s all I think about. But it’s not. I know I am content. Grateful. Optimistic. Satisfied with my lot. I see good, even when the Jenga blocks are wobbling.

There has to be a balance. You want to be honest with your loved ones and be yourself, but it’s important to share the good things that happened during the day and not just a list of annoyances that float to the top of the pile and push the other stuff down. Maybe the next time we walk the dog or sit down to dinner I will start with the best thing that happened to me today. What do you think?

6 Responses to "Inside outside"

1 | Misty Pratt

November 3rd, 2016 at 3:12 pm


I was feeling this way about 5-6 months ago, and have tried to make some big changes. I just confirmed I’ll be going down to 4 days/week at the office in January (yipee!!!) I’ve hired out help for some dog walking and house cleaning. And I’m also trying to squeeze in the fitness, vitamins and relaxation exercises. It’s working, but it’s a work in progress.

In terms of our inner selves vs. outer selves. I also participate in a lot of complaining. It’s my way of unloading too, but I DO feel like a negative nelly at times. What we do as a family at the dinner table is this – what was one good thing about your day, one bad thing and one exciting thing (for little kids you can do rainbows, clouds and lightening bolts, or something…) It’s really helped me to choose 1 thing to talk about on a bad day, and for my good days, it’s fun to see that I don’t have any bad things to report!

2 | Claudette

November 4th, 2016 at 9:25 am


I find myself going through the same thing, and because I keep track of my emotions or symptoms (itchy skin) I see a pattern that relates to my cycles. Certain times of the month some things are way worse (insomnia lasts for about a week with very high anxiety over every little thing that is completely beyond my control at 2 am), and over the many months I’ve been keeping track, I can see it happens around the same time of my cycle.

Knowing WHEN these things hit, I can plan ahead. It’s not perfect, but when it does happen, I can look back on the moment (say, excessive complaining to someone) and say to myself “don’t be too hard on yourself, you know it’ll pass within a few days” and try to find another way to deal with whatever hits me at the moment. In the meantime I know that during that week of the month, I must:
-cut all sugar (refined mostly)
-reduce wine (say only on Fri and Sat instead of several times a week)
-get to bed earlier, i.e. more sleep
-more protein, less carbs, more veg, and
-more water, especially lemon water (to improve my ph from acid to alkaline)

Certainly feeling overwhelmed while all this stuff is going on in life, it’s exhausting. We’re all in a similar boat, aren’t we. :)

3 | andrea tomkins

November 5th, 2016 at 10:02 am


Thanks guys.
I think being mindful is half the battle. Once we know what/when, we can take some steps to remedy. The other half, is getting up and doing it. And yes, we need to remind ourselves not to be too hard on ourselves and that every rough patch will end!

4 | Lynn

November 7th, 2016 at 9:38 am


Agreed on this. Since I work from home, there’s many days where my husband is the only other adult I talk to, and he gets the full dump of all my issues. He finally had to ask me to stop – it was too negative for him at the end of the day. Now I try to be more mindful of the positive, and to find other ways to vent!

5 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Choppy waters, clear skies - a peek inside the fishbowl

November 11th, 2016 at 11:24 am


[…] this recent post, I wrote about recent efforts to find that elusive “life balance.” Let me be clear, I […]

6 | dougcandelaria8

November 11th, 2016 at 7:21 pm


This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!

comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter