A lot can happen in six weeks

Some good, some bad, and plenty in between

Hello, friends! It’s been a long time — six weeks, to be exact. While I won’t bore you with all the details of the past month and a half, there are some notable highs and lows worth sharing:

  • I turned 34, and was surprised with with an amazing Sweet Dumb Brain cake.

  • I traveled to three states: Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

  • I celebrated one year of dating my partner.

  • I spent a couple days in a North Georgia mountain cabin — just me and my dog, Henry. It was 10% lonely and 90% rewarding.

  • I read several books. Jayson Greene’s memoir “Once More We Saw Stars” was my favorite. It’s heart-wrenching, but also incredibly beautiful and hopeful.

  • I also watched a lot of TV and movies. I especially enjoyed the Dr. Ruth documentary on Hulu. She packs a lot of charm, power, and inspiration into a tiny body!

  • I hosted three friends at home in St. Pete for a long weekend of fun, and my mom for a long weekend of healing.

  • I lined up some new exciting freelance projects, and got a handful of article pitches accepted. I can’t wait to share those pieces with you when they publish!

  • I went through a bout of depression and insecurity. It’s a rut I feel like I’m just starting to climb out of.

  • I had ear surgery to remove an abnormal growth. The surgery was more intense than anticipated (I am now the proud owner of a prosthetic ear bone!), which meant that recovery took a lot longer than I expected.

  • I had to face some uncomfortable truths about where I gain my self worth.

You’ve probably noticed some newsletter changes, too. I’m excited about them, and the new start they represent:

  • I’m now on Substack! I’ve heard good things about this platform, and so far I like it a lot. It’s clean and easy to navigate.

  • I have a new banner and logo! Way to bury the lede, right?! My wonderfully talented brother, Rory, aka Catlanta, designed this logo. I love them both, and am super grateful for Rory’s endless artistic skills!

  • I’m retiring the monthly themes. The structure was starting to feel a little confining, and this will allow me to write about topics that are especially timely.

It feels good to be back writing this newsletter. It honestly feels a little weird to be back, too.

I’m rusty, and am questioning many of the things I thought I previously had figured out. How do I hit the right tone between vulnerable and helpful? When do I find time to write? What’s worth sharing, and what’s worth keeping to myself? Is this even good?

Overall, though, I’m glad I took time off from My Sweet Dumb Brain. There are plenty of benefits that can come from self-imposed breaks: an increase in creativity, an opportunity to refresh modes of thinking, and protection against burnout, to name a few. But in a society where slowing down is frowned upon, one where only 28% of people plan to take all their vacation days, it can feel odd to hit pause.

I struggled with that. While I felt the perks of allowing my mind to wander during my self-imposed sabbatical, I was still annoyingly preoccupied. I found myself feeling guilty about what I was missing by taking a break from this newsletter. I worried that I was falling behind (of what? I’m not sure) or being judged by my peers (on what? also not sure).

In the end, it didn’t feel like a true break, but I’m not going to beat myself up for that. I’m simply taking note of it — a non-judgmental action that I’m trying to do more often.

Many of the things that came up for me in the past six weeks are topics that I plan to explore in future newsletters: how, and why, to take time off from work; how to define self worth; how to rely less on external validation; how to separate loneliness from being alone; how to determine what’s nourishing versus depleting; and how to rest — or, at least, how I made a lot of mistakes when I was forced to rest post-surgery.

This sweet brain of mine is still pretty dumb a lot of times, and the past six weeks were no exception. I’m looking forward to diving back into things with you all.



Good job, brain

I'm currently reading: “Mostly Dead Things” by Kristen Arnett. I just started this novel, so no commentary from me yet, but I’ve heard good reviews!

I’m currently inspired by: Poet Maggie Smith’s daily goals. Nearly every single one resonates.

I'm currently aiming to: See the bad and the good. I have a tendency to only focus on the things that need improving, especially when it comes to myself. I’m trying to take a more measured approach and look at the bigger picture. I can always improve, but that doesn’t mean I’m failing!

Additional resources

  • Reading this was a breath of fresh air: “Most days, I feel good in my skin. That said, I am probably never going to love my body, and that’s O.K. I think loving our bodies is not only an unrealistic goal in our appearance-obsessed society but also a limiting one.”

  • This question kept me occupied me as I was healing from surgery: Who am I without the doing?

  • I’m late to this, but will gladly join the chorus of people vouching for how ridiculously easy and delicious this pasta and chickpeas recipe is. It should have made my bulleted list above; I’ve made this three times during the past six weeks.

For your sweet dumb brain

What were your highs and lows of the past month? How can they inform the month ahead? I find that it’s helpful to do a monthly inventory of my accomplishments, struggles, and dominating feelings — not unlike the bulleted list above. I try to observe these things without judgment and learn from them. Making a list of highs and lows allows you to look at things from a relatively detached and objective mindset, which is a good approach for gleaning personal insights.

This newsletter is written by Katie Hawkins-Gaar. It’s edited by Rebecca Coates, whom I really missed — turns out this weekly newsletter is a good way for us to stay in touch! The banner and logo were designed by Catlanta.