issue #190 - on living instead of doing life

(and other lessons I learned in August)

I went into August with no expectations and few plans.

Aside from the Fall Out Boy concert and our long Vancouver trip, my calendar was fairly empty and my mindset was to “go with the flow” instead of ruthlessly planning and scheduling the days and weeks. That mindset seems to have stuck with me into Labor Day weekend, as I type this letter to you without an outline or specific message and let the words spill out on the screen.

It’s not to say that August was uneventful, but it redefined what an event meant. Plans were made the morning of and sometimes changed as we walked through the neighborhoods of Vancouver. Our phones stayed in our pockets or purses when we reached our destination (with the exception of capturing a quick moment). Dinners were joyful, crowded affairs with three generations of Palepus gathered around our dining table. I took my calls sitting on my bed with my AirPods AND Bose headphones to drown out my kids, and emails and writing was done from the bar in the Italian restaurant in our building (usually accompanied by an Aperol spritz and their homemade chips). And when an unexpected speaking opportunity fell in my lap, my husband and parents told me to seize it and held down the fort while I zipped to Boston and back.

“No expectations August” taught me some important lessons that I’m taking into a busy September (and beyond) that I’d love to share with you:

  • There’s a difference between doing life and living. Doing life is how I view our normal days - a full day at my desk, starting and ending my days cajoling my kids to eat and do the things I need them to do, fitting in the things I’m supposed to do in the margins left between meetings and appointments. Living is savoring a mug of coffee in the mornings or your favorite drink in the evenings (and giving yourself grace if Netflix occupies your kids while you take that moment for yourself). It’s letting the day unfold without a plan, and getting lost on purpose and stumbling across an amazing playground or a cozy coffee shop. It’s taking a backseat and letting someone else handle the plan, and letting yourself be taken care of. While my weekdays are for doing life, I’m prioritizing living on the weekends (with a skeleton of a plan, just because that works well for our family).

  • There’s something freeing about wearing the same thing every day. I lived in workout clothes and my Nesara kaftans (to the point that my dad asked if I packed anything else). While I’m not about to aggressively streamline my entire wardrobe into a capsule (I am a mood dresser and a moody person), I do plan on keeping my go-to fall outfits hanging right next to my dresser for ease - and I’ll keep wearing my Nesaras until the temperatures begin to drop.

  • Your mood and your contentment is inversely correlated to how much time you spend on your phone or computer. I know how social media and email and these devices are designed to spike and crash your dopamine so you spend more time on them. But it wasn’t until I actually spent significant time away from them that I gave my brain a chance to recalibrate its dopamine levels and feel so good that I was able to build some healthy boundaries around them. As I write this, my phone is in my desk drawer and my window is maximized to this document. These are obvious solutions we’ve all heard time and time again, but this is the first time I’ve practiced them over a longer stretch and I really don’t want to go back to the way I used to be. I’m swapping my phone for my needlepoint project or a game to play with my kids, and getting back to putting it away by 8 pm in the evenings.

  • Date yourself. My work blocks from the wine bar and sanity walks on the Seawall were my Vancouver version of my work and fitness routines at home, but the change of scenery or mindset (or both) had them feeling like I was hitting reset on the day versus checking off a box of something I needed to do. I want to be more intentional with my Gentle Wednesday practices here on out, and took myself to a matinee this past week as a way to bring this feeling home with me. Working from different spots in my neighborhood or wandering through Riverside Park are some more attainable ways to hit that reset button that I’ll be doing.

  • #5SmartHabits is my way to being consistent with my broccoli habits (the ones that are good for you but require some motivation to get going). Whether they happened in the evening, after a long flight, or when I was feeling on top of everything, this practice helped me stay grounded and made sure I took care of myself.

Most of all, I’m entering the fall with a renewed sense of gratitude of the privilege I have to be able to take a long trip such as this and for the memories we created. And while I have my fair share of professional and family goals this fall, keeping this energy and practicing these lessons is the biggest goal I have for myself.

It feels really good to be back after our 5SR summer break. I’m very excited to see what fall has in store for all of us.

What I Read Last Month

  • The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi - hands down, one of the best thrillers I’ve read in recent memory. I did not see that twist or that ending coming. It’s an excellent, smart, twisted thriller that I’m still thinking about.

  • WTF Is Human Design? by Elli Richter and Helen Leland - Human Design is a bit woo (but so am I), and it’s really helped me understand why I am the way I am and to adjust things about my communication, work, and life that feels like finishing a tricky jigsaw puzzle. I recommend you get your Human Design Chart here before jumping into this book, and you can quickly jump to the archetypes and profiles that match your chart.

  • Magnolia Parks & Daisy Haites by Jessa Hastings - if Gossip Girl was set in London (and in the case of Daisy Haites, had a dash of The Godfather), it would be Jessa Hastings addictive series that I just can’t get enough of. There are some content warnings to heed (toxic relationships, addiction, gun violence), but if you can handle those, you are in for an insane ride.

  • Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess - politically-themed books often lack nuance. This one isn’t centered on politics, but it is a key factor in the relationship that unfolds in this book (it’s also a searing work on race, wealth, and respectability politics) and it’s just brilliant. Definitely in my top 10 books of 2023, and I want everyone to read this.

  • The Way of the Goddess by Ananta Ripa Ajmera - it’s been a longtime goal of mine to learn more about Hinduism (so when my kids ask questions, I have an actual answer instead of “well, because that’s how it’s always been). This book was the perfect entry point, both in the clearly written stories of our goddess but also how the parables can be connected to our everyday life to help us live more intentionally. I really liked it, and will likely return to it often.

  • The Stars Turned Inside Out by Nova Jacobs - An excellent mystery leaves me wondering why I don’t read more of them, and it’s exactly how I felt after reading Nova Jacobs’ forthcoming book (out March 19, 2024). Set at CERN with a mysterious death of one of their leading scientists, it’s got twists and compelling characters and unfolds beautifully. My dad also loved this one - highly recommend preordering it.

I’m sharing more book recommendations regularly on my IG feed - follow #ReadWithHitha to get them first (and revisit older ones)

Top #5SmartReads Of The Past Two Weeks:

The Rest Of The Week’s Reads Are Below:

Your Questions, Answered:

What does you fall look like? Kids start school soon?
Quite a bit of work travel this fall, Which I’m excited for! We also have visitors (Usha, can’t wait to squeeze you).

We are spending the holidays (both Thanksgiving and Christmas) at home and I’m really excited about it, and I’ll be shuttling to PA quite a bit as our house there finishes construction and design work with Design Manifest.

It’s a joyfully full plate.

Throwing a dinner party to celebrate professional accomplishments. What would you serve?
Ooooooooh! Congratulations!

I’d start with a gorgeous cheese and vegetable platter to start, with lots of dips.

Fish en papillote is easy and flavorful, along with a bright salad and a grain & veggie dish (probably one from Serena Wolf), and some meatballs with The Chutney Life’s creamy jalapeño sauce.

Dessert- s’mores.

Drinks- Naidu Wines, De Soi, and Pelligrino bottles and a water dispenser for still water.

How are you really doing?
I’m good. And I can’t remember the last time I said that and actually meant it.

I’m nearly 4 weeks on my new medications, and starting it while I was taking some time off was probably the best thing for me- I could deal with the side effects and prioritize rest without being massively stressed with work.

I’ve had an amazing, restful August (with its chaotic moments)- and I’m also excited to get back home and jump into the swing of things.

Favorite “confident” wardrobe pieces for work… love your work outfit inspiration!
Honestly, it’s MM.LaFleur (and we may be partnering up on a project to showcase this!). I’ve been wearing MM for the past 10 years:

Another brand I adore is Argent. I wore them (blazer, trousers, and blouse) is what I wore for a closing bell ceremony at Nasdaq and school pickup, and it’s truly the best.

My outfits for my project with Taco Bell last year are definitely more creative professional, but they’re wonderful and all rented through Armoire.

The tag #WhatHithaWore has all my outfits and the latest ones have the outfits linked on LTK. 

What age does it get easier with 2 kids close in age? Age 2 + 4 here and it’s HARD.
When the younger is 4 is quite easy when we’re home in our routine, but it has challenged me this past month while traveling!

A friend has an 8 & 12 year old and she said it was the sweet spot.

Perfect gift for someone about to have major surgery.

Any recommendations for a parent coach specializing in helping parents with daughters?
Sue Groner, The Parenting Mentor, is the literal best - and having met her amazing daughter, you’re in excellent hands!

Here’s to living instead of doing life - and to a wonderful fall ahead.


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