issue #200 - the lost one

I’ve been sharing #5SmartReads steadily for the past 5 years, and writing this newsletter for nearly as long. I had grand plans to do something special for the 200th issue, which is a milestone I’m incredibly proud of.

But I barely feel that pride. Instead, I feel this sense of loss, grief, and unease of what to do (both at a personal level and in terms of our collective humanity):

The word “community” is used so much in the digital world that it feels increasingly meaningless. But the comments of support, of empathy, and of wise advice in the post above reaffirmed my why for showing up here nearly every week and nearly every weekday on Instagram and the daily newsletter.

The past few weeks had me doing worst case scenario planning for work, getting over a nasty cold, a tough parenting phase, getting through Diwali and Thanksgiving events, and feeling emotionally impacted by what’s happening in Israel and Gaza. I’m grateful for some well-timed positive work news, Theraflu, a very low key Thanksgiving at home with lots of quality time, and your support via Instagram comments and DMs.

If there’s something I’ve learned from this particular hard phase, it’s two slightly contradictory lessons:

  1. never underestimate the power of being consistent

  2. take an intentional break when you’re running on empty

Solid consistency will outweigh flashes of brilliance or perfection every single day, and it’s often the not-so-great moments in our habits (for me, it’s an issue of #5SmartReads, a workout, or a distracted-by-my-phone reading break) that teach us more than the ones that went perfectly.

Consistency begets consistency, for sure. But you cannot be consistent on an empty tank, and I let my mental, physical, and emotional ones go bone dry earlier this month. My #5SmartHabits flew right out of the window, I lived on coffee and snacks instead of drinking enough water and eating balanced meals, and I barely slept. I used to fight my way back to my habits without properly filling up my tanks, only to burn out again. This time, I took it tank by tank, and flipped the order I usually focused on. I focused on my emotional tank first with increasing my therapy sessions to twice a week, adjusted my Lamictal dosage, and set app timers on social media on my desktop and phone. I refilled my mental tank with cozy books and catching up on The Crown, asking for deadline extensions, and winnowing down my to-do list to the necessary and urgent. I took the tiniest steps physically (a full blood test to check my health, signing up for health coaching to rebuild my physical foundation from sloth mode).

I recognize the immense privilege I have to approach this burnout cycle this way and grateful is too weak a word to describe how I feel about it. I also am heeding Rahaf’s beautiful words to let myself feel and to let my feelings (and not other’s expectations of me) take the lead during this time:

“We have been so used to expecting ourselves to show up with the same intensity every day, year after year. Reread what you just wrote: your body is recovering after a surgery. You’re witnessing horrific things online that break your heart. You feel guilt. Grief. Sorrow. Of course you’re not going to be thinking about work.

What if you’re not lost? What if you’re in a pause? What is there isn’t a next step visible right now because you’re just supposed to stay still and heal? And feel? And sleep? And rest?

What if you just started with simple needs: are you thirsty? Hungry? Cold? Tired?

We make our own peace step by step. But you are never alone. You are very loved.”

If you are in this boat, I want to echo Rahaf’s words and assure you that you are never alone and are loved. That the only thing you need to do is to ask yourself what you need and to take that single step.

Without care, we cannot be consistent. And we need each other to care for ourselves, each other, and humanity at large.

So take exquisite care of yourself, my friend.

A Trip Down Memory Lane (sponsored by Expedia)

What’s your favorite travel memory (or memories)?

Many of my (photograph-worthy) ones are documented on my old blog or on Instagram, but I thought I would share some of the ones that I haven’t really talked about.

There was the impromptu trip to Iceland that Sri and I took a few months after our wedding. We trekked glaciers, rode ATVs, went whale watching, ate incredible meal after incredible meal, and wandered around a still-bright Reykjavik well into the night. I remember feeling so at peace - in Iceland, in my marriage, in my own skin - on that trip.

There were the two conferences in New Orleans that my dad and I attended together. When we weren’t attending sessions, we wandered through the Warehouse and Garden Districts, avoided Bourbon Street as best as we could, and ate constantly (and even met Emeril and his family at one of our meals). When I was in New Orleans last month, I couldn’t help but constantly text my father pictures and little messages of what I was doing.

There was the long weekend I spent in Northern Italy with both of my parents after a conference in Germany. We took the most incredible cooking class, tasted the best prosecco in Veneto, and relished the time together in the most incredible villa outside of Venice. It’s a trip I’m dying to repeat - this time, with Sri and the boys in tow.

Travel is transformative. It’s often the only time we’re able to step away from work and our regular life at longer stretches, where we prioritize new experiences and adventures instead of our routines, and when we can connect with ourselves and each other. Every trip I’ve taken - for work, for pleasure, to celebrate and mourn loved ones - has contributed to the person I am today.

In order to be fully present in the trip, I put a ton of preparation in the planning phase. You’re likely familiar with how I pack, but the same level of detail goes into my planning. And Expedia, Vrbo, and have been key factors in helping me plan these trips and countless others I’ve taken during my adult life.

When I started Hitha On The Go back in 2009, partnering with a brand like Expedia was a far-fetched dream that didn’t seem possible. It’s a huge honor to be an #EGAmbassador and share my recent adventures and upcoming travels with you all. We’re talking huge family reunions, the best destinations for multigenerational vacations, and quick solo trips that’ll leave you feeling refreshed and reconnected with yourself and how to earn those OneKeyCash and One Key status to make your next trip even better.

Speaking of One Key - you’re going to want to sign up ASAP. It’s one of the best travel loyalty programs out there.

I’ll be sharing an exclusive travel diary here once a month for the next few months, and am always here to help answer any travel or trip planning questions you may have.

Thank you, as always, for being a supporter of my work and helping make dream partnerships like this happen.

Keep calm, always carry on, and plan better.

Smart Snacks

a 5-minute yoga flow you can do anywhere (along with an important lesson about yoga in general) - these bow claw clips are the easiest way to dress up any look - I need to try Claire’s sleepy time mocktail - I’ve started carrying two sets of this game with me to keep the kids entertained at restaurants (it’s a great stocking stuffer) - cozy fantasy is all I can handle reading right now, and I highly recommend it - if you love all things chocolate-peppermint, you need to get yourself these snacks before I order them all - I have a soft spot for Jonathan Frakes (on and off-screen) and can’t wait to watch his Hallmark Christmas movie - my go-to Diwali accessories work just as well for non-Indian holiday outfits - I aspire to be a Turkey Trot-er (I’m more a mellow pre-and-post-dinner walk kind of girl) - the best holiday candles (aptly named Holiday and Chalet) are back! I stock up on a bunch for hostess gifts every year.

What We Read This Week

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros - this is one of the books I’ve been most excited to read this year. And while it didn’t disappoint, I will confess that the pacing (very erratic) and introduction and centering of side characters (giving Zodiac Academy) and the near identical vibes of the Throne of Glass series (eerie) did not have me loving it as much as Fourth Wing. I was entirely satisfied and looking forward to seeing how this series unfolds.

Unroyal by Sarah Lyall - Lyall pulls no punches in her critical analysis of 3 women who shook up - and shaped - the British monarchy over the past century. If you’re partial to Wallis, Diana, and Meghan (like I am), you need this disclaimer before you dive in, as Lyall’s reporting and research is predominantly sourced from the British press and their bias against these women, but it also provided a thoughtfully critical look that I seek out in my own news reading. It’s a quick listen, and a solid one if you’re into the British royal family like I am.

A Fellowship of Bakers and Magic by J. Penner - billed as Great British Bake-Off meets Lord of the Rings (just the cozy vibes, not the war), this sweet cozy fantasy was the salve to my soul that I desperately needed. It will leave you absolutely ravenous and visiting your nearby bakeries for all the treats (I polished off most of our pumpkin pie while reading this), and it just felt like a hug.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver - I just finished Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, and my god, what a journey. I loved David Copperfield when I read it in high school, and this loose retelling is so absolutely gripping, brutal, and evocative.

First Four Books of Poems by Louise Gluck - Since Louise Glück's death in October, I've continuously revisited her older works. These are the poems I grew up on during undergrad; the ones that helped me decide what voice I want to come through in my writing. Her work is accessible for any average reader, and also incredibly insightful. I recommend all of her work, but this book is a great consolidation of many of her earlier collections.

How We Might For Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones - When I'm too overwhelmed to follow a brand new story, I find myself returning to nonfiction works that I've read previously. Like turning to a friend in a challenging time, and deep diving into their individualized, nuanced experiences. Saeed Jones' voice continues to be one of the greatest in the 21st century. This memoir exists at an intersection of coming-of-age and understanding the wider, imperfect world.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - I read this phenomenal book several years ago, but it was called back to my attention when I was invited to a live screening of the new Netflix limited series adaptation, which is an absolute much-watch. This was the first time I have ever watched a film or TV show where the blind characters are actually played by blind actors. I attended the screening at the Library of Congress surrounded by the DC blind community, and seeing our history, culture, and experiences reflected through this story of a young blind French girl living through the German occupation of France during World War II brought tears to my eyes. Not to mention the incredible care that the director and producers took to honor the input and lived experiences of the lead actress, Aria Mia Loberti, in the making of this series. This is inclusive storytelling at its best. Pick up the book first, but definitely watch the series as well!

Top Reads From The Past Two Weeks:

The Last Two Weeks’ Reads:

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Things I Shared These Past 3 Weeks

May we fill our own cups and take a rest now, and continue to be gentle with ourselves well into the future.


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