Surviving the #VOWbreak

I do well with days that need double what it takes (credit to Ryan Adams for that lyric). Downtime has historically been the source of my vices.

I feel like it’s the reverse for a majority of the population. But for me, endless to-do lists and tight deadlines are where I thrive. Where I perform well. Where I take the best care of my self.

I think I’m better at balance than I give myself credit for.
In times like those anyway.

A couple weeks ago, in the midst of fleas and the flu, a dear friend of mine and I had a conversation over a bottle of wine (the task of giving my cat a bath earlier that evening necessitated it). He talked about how he’d seen me, over the past couple of years, take on the world. Or several worlds at a time. And I would always emerge victorious, but in the aftermath, when I had a chance to take a break, I’d stop breathing, which I’m so good at in the midst of things (I think it’s the yogi in me). I’d start stressing about stopping.

About feeling lazy.
About not doing enough.
About not being enough.

Him and I have had a lot of conversations about how we affect each other. About how I challenge him to grow and how he gives me the space to. But after that night, I think the dynamic is starting to shift a bit.

He pointed out the pattern I have. Of cultivating and creating and then crashing…and then beating myself up for not being able to cultivate and create. And instead of suggesting that I do this or that (a pattern of his), he simply encouraged me to notice it. To understand how I function. To embrace (what’s up, Sister’s #oneword2017?) it.

Yoga Teacher Training started this past weekend, and I can already feel it kicking in again. As I start making homework lists, paying more attention to my planner, and organizing group outings (all with very sore muscles I might add), I can feel the thrive starting to bubble. But after that conversation, I know that at the end of February, when it’s over, there’s going to be a lull.

And I’m going to feel like somehow, I am less, despite the more I have just spent 200 hours working for.

But now that I realize I do it, I can expect it. I can make my own damn space to take up as I need to during that break. And I can give myself some fucking grace (to never do yoga again—kidding!).

Sister picked such a good quote to post on our homepage this week. From Pharrell Williams: “Don’t wait for the stars to align, reach up and rearrange them the way you want. Create your own constellation.”

And with that, the light breaks and I stop, and this week, we

ARRANGE.


Steph’s Song of the Week: Craving by James Bay

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWbreak post (coming soon).

Freeze Frame: Reflecting on SUSPEND

Last week was a reflection of the basics that my life has become recently: AM workouts (which I really, really despise); interviews and report writing at work — with the occasional interview for a new coworker tossed in for good measure; studying and academic paper writing at night; maybe a half hour of TV like Veep or The Good Place to reward my diligence. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I’m tuckered.

And it is interesting because I’ve felt like I’m in a sort of limbo even though I’m doing so damn much. It doesn’t feel overwhelming. It doesn’t even feel particularly negative. It’s just the schedule for my days and the routine makes me feel as though time isn’t moving as fast as it is.

But here we are, middle of October.
Already!
Gah!
I just need a minute for things to slow down! Or hurry up. Ideally one or the other.

Midterms have passed. I’m closing out investigations at work. There are things on my need-to-do-soon list that are way past expiration. This all comes as a surprise each week as I fill out another week spread in my planner. How is so much happening when nothing is going on?

This isn’t a particularly insightful post, I suppose. This time of year always catches up to me. The impasse between how are the leaves falling off the trees already and oh my god, how much longer until winter break?

This week we’ll see what continues to amplify and what will inevitably BREAK


Lin’s SOW (Song of the Week):  Caught by St Beauty (which has nothing to do with this week’s verb but is simply too amazing to stop listening to)


& check out Steph’s joint #VOWehance and #VOWsuspend post

#VOWenhance, #VOWsuspend, & Parting Clouds

For a couple weeks now, since #VOWenhance (yes, this my very late post), I’ve been thinking a lot about the various things and people in my life. Doing a bit of a mental inventory. Taking stock. Trying to figure out who and what I may need a bit of a break (this coming week’s VOW) from. Or what I need to add to days that may make them a bit better.

But last week, amidst this inner work and as life sometimes has it, I had to pause (or, more fitting, #VOWsuspend–yes, I am doing a combination post).

My body’s always been pretty sensitive to the seasonal changes, and this fall is no different. Last week had me sequestered in my bed for most of it, and by the time I was feeling better, Tadpole (my little black fur baby) was not. A few very long days and sleepless nights (plus at least 30 loads of laundry, 20 trash bags, and hours and hours of vacuuming) later, he and my apartment are seemingly flea free (though I am certain I feel them crawling all over me).

I can’t even tell you how ready I am for a #VOWbreak. From cleaning. From combing. From washing. From this city. From its nearly 90-degree weather. From work. From wine. From feeling alone. From being alone in my apartment. From feeling like not enough and all too much all at once.

And the thing is, over the last couple weeks, the answers to the questions I’ve been asking have shown up, and, for the first time in a couple months, I see the clouds parting, not completely, but the clearing is starting.

And I need the sun to

Break.


Steph’s Song of the Week: Need the Sun to Break by James Bay

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWsuspend post (coming soon).

Level Up: Reflecting on ENHANCE

This week both Steph and I had the good fortune to attend lectures by HRH Brene Brown. I have a sneaking suspension that the lessons we learned from Brene and her new book Braving the Wilderness (buy it, buy it, buy it!) will fuel both our posts this week.

It’s not a surprise that we’re all struggling right now. Everything in our world seems divided because, let’s face it, everything is divided — especially in the US. Today I got into a social media tiff with a relative because I posted a moderately divisive post about #actionoverprayer. But the thing is, I didn’t mean to ostracize someone I care about, to cause inflammation amongst public discourse. I just wanted to encourage people in my network to be move involved in the problems of our world. I didn’t even think that it could incite mild controversy on my page.

But incite it did. And rather than firing back with what my bleeding-liberal-heart wanted to say about innocent lives over shooting hobbies and if someone doesn’t agree with me then they can just defriend me, I decided to consider the lessons I learned this past week. About how we are forming these isolated factions — us versus them.

And that mentality isn’t making our country any less sick. It isn’t making us any more connected. In fact, Brene’s data shows the opposite. That we feel more lonely and isolated than ever because we forgot to recognize the humanity between us. We have depleted our interconnectedness to such an extent that we refuse to challenge our own perspectives. To acknowledge a middle ground.

None of us are good at this.

But Brene asks us to be better. To address disagreements in an open-hearted way. To agree that our social issues exist on a continuum rather than separated pillars.

Brene’s call to action weighed heavily on my heart all week. She asks us to ENHANCE our relationships by improving our conversations. To recognizing that it isn’t all-or-nothing. That you can be against us while still being with us.

So rather than lecture my cousin, rather than call to arms my liberal brethren to teach this guy a lesson, I decided to message him separately. Acknowledge that we disagree on a lot of things but at the heart of the matter, we can hopefully agree that there is a problem we want to fix. We need to fix. And it doesn’t matter if it is done exactly my way (or my party’s way) or his. That our egotistical sense of righteousness isn’t what the world needs right now.

We owe it to ourselves (in the plural sense) to find our way back to each other.

This week we take it a step further and SUSPEND judgement, harsh words, and possibly some disbelief…


Lin’s VOW mantra: Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit. Edward Abbey

Lin’s SOW (Song Of the Week): More Today Than Yesterday (Carmen McRae or Goldfinger versions)


& Be sure to catch Steph’s #VOWenhance and #VOWsuspend join post (coming soon!)

Teeter: Reflecting on #BALANCE

Grad school assignments. My first cases of the school year. OCR revelations (and what it means for my field). Prioritizing 5:00 workouts. Quality time with my fella. Catching up with my long-distance people.

Last week I felt the strain of keeping all my balls in the air. Obviously some dropped (i.e. my #VOWprotect post, sorry…). Life felt like an unrelenting personal game of Jenga. I managed to lightly knock a brick out of a precarious position and rest it on top, but everything is swiveling around that it is only a matter of time before everything clatters. It took concentration and energy but goddamn if it doesn’t cause for a mini celebration after each successful turn.

There have been other times when I’ve struggled with keeping my BALANCE. Those were days before I fell in love with Brene Brown and she taught me the dangers of perfectionism. I can gratefully now say that despite the bustle of almost too many tasks, I managed to keep things aligned. Similar to standing bow, you tend to topple when you focus too much on the act of balancing itself. Overthink things and you’ll wobble. But determinedly fixate on one spot ahead of you in the distance and things will seem to fall into place. That was my week — not set in stone but not too wavering, either.

And amazingly, I’m starting to reap some rewards of my efforts — such as an offer to possibly instruct a class next autumn. Or maybe moonlighting as a research assistant for a respectable study. More things to juggle for sure, but definitely well worth the effort. All it takes is practice.

 

This week we not only keep the status quo but we level up as we ENHANCE


Lin’s VOW mantra: 

Lin’s SOW (Song of the Week): Mercy by Katy Flower


Be sure to check out Steph’s lovely #VOWbalance post here

Reflections on #VOWbalance: Ask & You Shall Receive

I’ve been saying for nearly two months that something feels off.
Out of alignment.
Off balance.

I haven’t known what it was, despite my efforts to find out.
To be honest, I am not sure that I know now.

What I am sure of, at the core of my being, is that what Paulo Coehlo wrote in The Alchemist is true:

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I know what I want.
And I am ready for it.
Or nearly.

And walking home on Friday night, I told a friend as much.
I told her what, or rather, who, needed to leave my life,
despite the fact that I also didn’t want him to.
Upon waking up on Saturday and one phone call later, he was gone.

Someone who has been a constant in my life for the past two months, isn’t any longer, and somehow, despite the sadness, I wonder if it wasn’t the very thing causing my lack of homeostasis.

Because I know, more now than ever, how much power our minds have.
How accurate those soul-deep inclinations are.
How much power our minds have to change our lives.

And this week, I aim to

ENHANCE

my life.


Steph’s BALANCE mantra: Sell the goat.

Steph’s Song of the Week: I Almost Do by Taylor Swift

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWbalance post

Pendulum Swings + Disconnect = #VOWprotect

I’ve been struggling for weeks to find balance (Ironic that it’s this week’s VOW right?). Months actually. All I seem to be able to do is pendulum swing. Physically. Emotionally. Professionally. Artistically.

I spent all of last week thinking about why I am doing what I am doing (or not doing). Why I feel so disconnected from myself.  From my life. I hypothesized to Sister that it had something to do with #VOWprotect. That I’ve been trying to shield myself from something. I just didn’t know what or why.

Enter Brené Brown and her new book, Braving the Wilderness:

We all agreed that we get the lonely feeling in places that don’t feel alive with connection….I think places themselves, not just people, can hold those feelings of disconnection too. Sometimes a place can feel lonely because of some sense of a lack of closeness in the relationships that happen in that space. Other times, I think the inability to visualize yourself in connection with people you care about in a particular place that makes a space feel lonely on its own….When we feel isolated, disconnected, and lonely, we try to protect ourselves. In that mode, we want to connect, but our brain is attempting to override connection with self-protection. That means less empathy, more defensiveness, more numbing, and less sleeping.

Disconnection leading to self-protection? Yep. That’s it. That’s what I’d been trying to articulate.

I spend a lot of time alone these days simply due to the fact that I am single and live in my own apartment. That doesn’t bother me. I need more alone time than I used to. I’m  a little more introverted now. But lately, something’s different. I feel less at home in my space. It feels emptier than it used to, despite the fact that it’s more full than it’s ever been. I’m feeling disconnected from my body. Like I don’t know how to move it. How to feed it. Like it’s not quite mine. I feel like I’m not where I’m supposed to be at the moment but closer than I’ve ever been to what I want. Like I’m just in a holding pattern. Circling.

It’s like I know where I need to go. Where I want to go. What I want to do. But I can’t get there or do those things right now. Maybe the timing isn’t quite right or I’m not quite ready. And instead of striving towards them anyway, manifesting them by assuming they are a given, I’m headed the other direction. Trying to make peace with and adjust to a life that I don’t want and truly don’t believe is meant for me. Because maybe, if I can adjust to it, I won’t be as disappointed if the one I want doesn’t come through.

And all this self-protection is just disconnecting me.
It feels inauthentic.

So this week, I seek

BALANCE.


Steph’s PROTECT mantra: There’s nothing negative about running away to save my life. (Joseph Heller)

Steph’s Song of the Week: Spirit of a Storm by Kenny Chesney

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWprotect post (coming soon).

Visible: Reflecting on BARE

BARE is one of the few words that I’ve given thought to prior to the week it occurred. I had plans for BARE. But as the date approached, I chickened out.

You see, a couple years ago I came across an art project consisting exclusively of beautifully lit, black-and-white photographs of women’s thighs. Not in a sexual way. I hesitate to say even in an particularly artistic way. But in a completely, undoubtedly, beautifully real way. There were thin thighs, thick thighs, cellulitey thighs, stretch marked thighs, thighs gaps, thighs that didn’t even separate near the knees. No thighs looked just like mine. Because none of them looked the same. And much to my surprise, for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel ashamed of my legs.

If you were to ask me what part of my body I’m most insecure about, it’s my thighs. Always has been. Even as a small child I tended to sit with my feet pointed so only the balls rested on the ground. I thought it was weird and gross that my legs spread so much when I sat down. I assumed if I could tell this flaw from my own vantage point, surely others could, too. My peers never let me forget that I was heavier than most, so I routinely posed at school to disguise my girth as much as a seven year old can.

When I hit puberty, my thighs grew so quickly that they were striped with deep purple stretch marks. They chafed against each other when I wore skirts. Pants that fit my waist couldn’t accommodate my legs and often I’d have to buy a size or two up (which is particularly traumatic for a girl suffering with anorexia). I don’t know if my ex-husband ever saw the back of my legs in the full light of day during our eight years together. That’s how deep the disdain runs.

So after seeing that art project and becoming so deeply riveted by my lack of insecurity — I wanted to take and post a picture of my bare thighs for this post.

But y’all… I couldn’t do it.

As evident by my other recent posts, I’m struggling with my body right now.  And while an aspect of my head thinks it’d be partially healing to dive in and just do it anyway, my heart is begging for respite. For a small break in the trial.

And as HRH Brene Brown preaches, you should never share a source of shame until you’ve owned it. If I shared such a picture now, I suspect I’d hear lots of love about my bravery, my vulnerability, my beauty. But if one person made the slightest of negative observation, I’d be ruined. And my hair can only be a life preserver so many times before it drowns with me.

So this is my BARE post. This is me telling you that I’m not strong enough yet. That I’m damaged and scared and insecure. That despite the body positivity accounts I share on social media, the beauty myths I deconstruct, and the small steps of allowing my current boyfriend to watch me walk past him naked… I’m still not ready to be quite so bold.

In the meantime, please enjoy these amazing individuals who did what I couldn’t. It isn’t the same project I discovered so long ago, but it has the same heart. Cheers.

This week Steph and I devour Brene’s new book and PROTECT what’s ours…

Check out Steph’s wonderful #VOWbare post here

#VOWbare Reflections

I don’t remember the first time I was naked with a man. I know who it was with, but I don’t remember the moment. What I remember is a time I was naked with you. I’m not sure how far into things we were by that point, but I was in deep enough to have given you everything. You knew it, which is why you must have felt powerful enough to do what you did. We were lying in bed after what I thought was making love—looking back, I realize you have absolutely no idea what that is—and you told me I had a “weird labia.” I am obviously still scarred enough to point out to you, readers, that I do not; I know this because I spent a decent amount of time in gynecologists’ offices objectively making sure. I realize now I should have told you right then and there to fuck off, climbed out of your bed, and never gone back—you were an asshole. You chose something on my body, which I was already insecure about then, that I have absolutely no power to change. I cannot eat less or exercise more to change or tone that shape. You picked that to pick apart, and that is a cruelty I had never known and never will again.

I remember the first time I knew what it meant to love my body. Truly. It didn’t make it out of that Bikram yoga class intact, but at least I knew what if felt like. To appreciate the curve of a hip that is strong enough to run half marathons now and will eventually carry a child. To understand the strength of my spine and all that it can carry. To know I would rather be strong than skinny, healthy despite the size.

At 28, I am finally learning how to feed myself. Recognizing that I like to graze—on small and, whenever possible, shared plates. Accepting that eating mindfully, for this body, doesn’t have to be Whole 30-approved, paleo, or limited to three times a day. Appreciating simple, nearly naked food over complicated meals with used-once-a-year spices.

I know how to be soft, brutally so sometimes, and how to sit with it. To wait out the vulnerability hangover without curling up into the fetal position. To lose what needs to be lost, knowing that ruin is transformation. To love, understanding it’s always, best-case scenario, going to result in eventual heartbreak.

This week, fitting and ironic on so many levels, we try to

protect.


Steph’s BARE mantra: Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. (Brené Brown)

Steph’s Song of the Week: Organs by Of Monsters and Men

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWbare post 

1100: Reflecting on FEAST

You know that doctor’s appointment I was so excited about last week? Well, I went and I got… well, you can’t really call them answers. But I was given a directive.

Before we test this ol’ body of mine for thyroid imbalances or food sensitivities or wonky hormones, I must first adhere to a very strict diet of 1100 calories per day. To be issued this ultimatum on the week I had hoped to cook a large meal of comfort foods (green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, red wine, and sous vide steak) was a pretty devastating blow. And not just because I would be missing a night of calorie laden delicacies.

You see, when that number was presented from the registered dietitian I had spoken with immediately following the weight-specialist MD I’d provided my history to, my heart sort of collapsed. A large portion of my adolescence was spent battling undiagnosed anorexia. And once I’d overcome not eating anything, I succumbed twice in my 20’s to orthorexia and exercise-induced bulimia.

Memories came flooding in — obsessively comparing my seated waist circumference with the stuffed monkey that lived on my bed throughout high school. Daily gym sessions where I wouldn’t allow myself to go home until I had burned off at least as many calories as I’d eaten that day. Compulsive food journaling, body measurements, scale notations, scouring cookbooks for the most nutrient dense, calorie light recipes I could find. Dreaming of food I could no longer eat. Pervasive hunger pains in which I’d guzzle two or three glasses of lukewarm water to curb, cursing my thin tooth enamel for not tolerating anything colder because I heard once it helps burn calories. Anxiety and brain fuzziness. Counting calories. And counting calories. And counting calories counting calories counting calories.

I explained to the doctors this history, of course. And I also explained my challenges around working out presents since my heart disease is exacerbated by exercise. I wanted a change but I felt stuck between the rock of my mental illness and the hard place of my physical disability.

And the MD’s in turn explained that if my body was resistant to weight loss at these measures then there’s a strong indication that something else is at play. Then the tests will come. And despite my assurances that I ate a rather healthy diet (with added proof of the food journal I had kept for two weeks prior to my appointment) and that I had a strong foundational knowledge of nutrition (ironically I once dreamed of being a dietitian a few years ago),  I was told that I needed more protein and less booze and that integrating those changes is the first step.

So tear-filled and anger-fueled, I drove my ass home and flat-out wallowed for a couple hours. I sobbed into Josh’s shoulder. I texted Steph with updates. I marveled at how I finally, finally, attained freedom from food obsession. I have been so happy and it appears that happiness made me fat. Really fat. Like, obese fat.

I fluctuated between fear, despair, frustration, indigence,  panic, fury, and disappointment. In short, I was a fucking mess and work was not a possibility. And after a few hours of feeling all the feelings, I collected myself enough to do some research between my still-leaky eyes. I distanced myself from the helplessness with the order of a well-drafted spreadsheet. Calorie counts of my favorite foods for quick reference, protein-rich snack ideas, calendar dates of potential booze cheat days  during the month (a ZZ Ward concert and trip to Nashville to see Brene Brown speak). I broke down my meals into regimented eating times and calorie amounts and assigned snack and meal ideas to each. Josh surprised me throughout the weekend by conducting some research on his own and purging our kitchen of temptations.

With that order and control I regained some of my faculties. Mind you, I’m still an emotional wreck at times. Especially since I’ve maintained a constant state of hunger aside from two shockingly filling 300-calorie dinners. I don’t miss booze as much as I did and food is certainly at the forefront of my mind almost every hour (sadly even when I’m sleeping). I read that it takes about two weeks for your body to adjust to a smaller stomach so the stomach pains should subside. And I meet again with my team of docs on October 3 to reevaluate.

And possibly for a prescription for appetite suppressants.

It’s hard to imagine how, but this week we strip down for BARE.

And check out Steph’s delicious post on #VOWfeast here