Month: August 2013

The Peace Of Letting Go

Lady Bug

Lady Bug

This post has been quite some time in the making. First, it was about what my new dog had taught, and was teaching, me. Then, it was about love and loss and the pain that it caused when I was forced to return her. It has gone through so many transformations, that I’ve decided to do my best to chronicle the situation and include the span of my emotions, reactions, and lessons I’ve learned over the course of the last two weeks.

Instead of forcing it into completion when I didn’t have the mental energy, time or inclination, I have let it grow organically. At the beginning, there was too much sadness and too much emotion to write anything other than melodramatic renditions about how confusing and unfair life seemed to be. That was at my worst. I don’t censor myself here– or ever in my writing– but I also want to provide people with a somewhat enlightened point of view of a difficult situation, not play into their victim-mindedness (as I am sure to do when that’s where I find myself at that particular point in time).

I will not post the entirety of my original musings; not because I wish to elevate an image of myself as being above deep sadness or utter emptiness and expression of melancholy; but simply because that was not the message I ultimately wished to receive from this experience; and that was not the message I wanted to leave with you, the reader.

We all know how to be sad and depressed. We all know how to wallow and indulge our pain in our own special ways. I did that for two days, on and off, until finally I broke through and surrendered to it. This post is about sadness and loss, to the extent which I have most recently experienced. But more than that, it’s about going beyond pain and using it to learn from and grow beyond.

Life has showed me, wherever I have given it chance to, that it is ultimately good, and the worst enemy to our happiness is trying to decide what is best for ourselves– especially in the face of what is. Resistance is depression, anxiety, stress. Acceptance is peace, space, freedom, happiness.

My emotions on the subject have continued to grow, but I’ve found sufficient space and the ability to write from an optimistic and more conscious place. I have recently taken to beginning posts in one frame of mind, working in another, then completing them in a different one altogether. Because of the length of this post and my erratic schedule of the last two weeks (including a literal change of state– from New York to South Carolina), this is perhaps the best example of such piecemeal collaborations with varying versions of myself. Any break in emotional continuity is due to this span of time and various states of awareness.

At the time of this writing*, two days after giving Lady back to the shelter and saying goodbye to Leo (*and now, quite a few days later) I feel very little by way of sadness. It is nearly indiscernible, although I’m wary of making the claim that I feel nothing at all by way of emotion. However, I do feel at peace.

Therefore, explanations of depressed or resistant states are simply to explain how I was feeling at the time, and not an attempt to dramatize the event. At this point, I have very little interest in rehashing any of it– except for the derivation of any small bit of benefit of the reader, in order to place the entire lesson into its proper contextual form.

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I understand death. Death makes sense. Death is not at fault and death cannot be fought against by mortals. There is no arguing the cycle of death within life. However, I sometimes find the ambiguous things rather difficult to navigate. Like saying goodbye to the one you love, man or animal. I have just, in the last two months, said goodbye to perhaps the two greatest loves of my life, while I still was very much in love with each, and both were seemingly out of my control.

Six days ago I had to return my dog to the shelter. Between breaking up with my boyfriend of five and a half years, and returning the closest thing to a kid I’ve ever had, I’m not sure which was more difficult. All I know is, in that short period of time I came closer to my own humanity (fragility, fallibility) than I have perhaps ever in my life.

I don’t write this as a plea for sympathy, or an attempt at elevating my experience to that of a parent losing a child (hopefully that is obvious). But I will say from everything I have heard and witnessed about what it means to be a parent, I finally had that veil lifted in my relationship with that dog. Whether it’s a person or animal, caring for something that’s entirely dependent upon you brings out another side of you; another angle of fullness to life. It was an entirely new realm for me– the uncharted territory of total responsibility and caregiving for something whose entire well being depended upon my daily actions.

Her name was Lady. (Later, I would call her Adelaide and decided it was Lady for short.)

This was the dog who had immediately jumped out to me (figuratively speaking) the moment I saw her the day of orientation at the shelter. We hadn’t been allowed to walk any dogs that day, and when I asked about her, they wouldn’t even tell me whether she was male or female. Apparently she had just come in, so they had no information to give. I hadn’t been able to walk her just then, but I looked forward to the day when I would finally get the chance to meet her.

That night over dinner I told my family about my first emotional day at the shelter (also the day my ex-boyfriend officially moved out) and the dog that had captured my heart through the bars of the cage. She reminded me of a four-times-as-large version of my family’s much-loved (adored, idolized) dog, Katie. She had the same white blaze down her face, with the same tan and white coloring.

That dog at the shelter, however brief our encounter, seemed so beautiful and sweet. I felt strongly that she was everything I’d ever wanted in a pet– especially considering my plan to take a road trip, in which I felt it would be best having a dog for both safety and companionship.

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On my first day of volunteering about a week later, I tried walking her first. Remembering which cage she’d been in, I asked if I could walk the dog in cage two. “Sure! That’s Louie,” replied the lady named Jane, an experienced volunteer there.

I thought that was great, the name Louie. I was glad it was something I would keep if I decided to take the dog home. Excited, I walked to cage two– and stopped. That was definitely not the dog I wanted to meet. Without wanting to seem to ungracious (I was there to help the dogs, after all) I looked around. The dog I loved was to his right, in cage number three.

“What about the one in number three?” I asked, tentatively. “Oh, that’s a new one,” she checked the clip board, “…Lady. She’s head strong. You don’t want to start with her. I’ll take her, and you can take Louie.”

So for my first walk, I got the annoying beagle named Louie (who, for the record, was way more difficult to walk than Lady ever was). I waited until I had walked everyone else and I saved her for last. She’d been left in an open air cage outdoors. I went into her cage, and forgot about the rest of the world as she let me pet and hug and kiss and cry all over her.

(I would learn later that basically every single interaction we had– in which I hugged and pet and kissed and cried all over her– was like the definition of poor dogmanship. If you want a poorly-behaved, maladapted pet who thinks he’s your boss, do all of those things.)

She was the kind of dog that looked into your eyes, pushed herself all over you, and demanded to be loved. It was impossible to deny her. She was both cute and annoying in a monkey-like way. I took her for a test-walk, and it seemed that her energy level and height were perfect for us to go running together. She was everything I wanted in a dog. I put her away and said goodbye, crying as I drove home at the desperation of the situation, and all the dogs who needed homes, but especially her.

When I got home I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted my sister Camilla meet her and see if there was any way she would be willing to help out with her the next week when I would be at Kiawah Island. If she was on board with the plan, I knew there was a chance I could make it work by jury-rigging a system of family and friends to pinch-hit for me while I was away. The timing would be awful, but that’s the kind of thing you did for love.

Besides, didn’t people always say how there’s never a perfect time to have kids? I was borrowing a page from their book. At least I wouldn’t have to save for her college.

The next morning, I annoyed Camilla by rushing her through her shower and make up and off to the mall. I didn’t even let her hang her laundry on the line– a true sign of my single-mindedness on the dog. (I will usually stop heaven and earth to get someone to hang their clothes on the line.) Not to mention that I hadn’t been to the mall of my own accord in probably a good six months. I usually avoid it unless I’m getting paid to take a kid there. And the traffic on a Saturday morning during tourist season was enough to remind me exactly why that was.

But the mall was where the shelter, which I’d called at 10:01 AM (they opened at 10:00) had told me Lady would be. I had asked a little girl Grace, who I’d babysat for the night before, if she wanted to come with me to see a dog (she was an animal lover and someone who was turning into a friend after sitting for her since basically she was born). I was going to pick her up and the mall was close to her house, so I felt it was another sign that maybe things were lining up as they were meant to be.

The fact that I was rushing my sister through her morning routine (if you know Camilla, you know this is like playing with fire), stressing when Grace was a few minutes late getting out the door, and my overall anxiety were portentous.

I knew better, knew enough of life to know that this wasn’t the way to get what you needed, or ultimately even wanted. Normally, I try to live as much as possible in the surfer-dude mentality that “whatever, man” is fine, and you get what you need in the end.

Usually, that’s what works. But for this, I had tricked myself into thinking that all that stress was just necessary in order to get what I really needed. I couldn’t leave something this important up to the universe! That was for petty things that didn’t really matter.

I kept saying to myself, “I’m not usually in the habit of forcing things… but I just knew I loved her from the moment I saw her.” That was my go-to philosophic-spin on the situation; that love would conquer all and that we were going to make it work, in the down-on-our luck rom-com-dram sort of way.

She was too perfect for me to leave the chance to fate. Besides, everyone has a pet; it’s not like rocket-science. I could totally do it. I could prove it to myself and my parents how great of a pet-parent I was and it would all turn out like a Disney movie in the end. I’d have a Dalmatian Plantation!

(Often, my worst enemy in life is my eternally-jaded pessimism laced with an infinitely flowing optimism. In other words, my complete personality juxtaposition that probably gives a schizophrenic a run for their money. I’m overly practical and pragmatic one day, and throwing my carefully-laid plans to the wind on a whim the next.)

We made it to the mall, all three of us piled in the car, and I jogged around trying to find which direction the shelter would have set up their temporary shop.

Finally I spotted her, dragging my sister and Grace behind me. A moment later I was reunited with my girl, asking Camilla what she thought through yet another release of waterworks (the 11:30 AM showing)– and not accepting anything other than compliments on my fantastic choice of canine. I called my mom and asked her to come meet her, but she was at lunch with her friends. I tried calling my dad, but he was away at a music festival for the weekend.

I wanted to talk to my parents about it, since I was living on one of their properties. And even beyond that, I sincerely wanted their input (as long as that it was supportive of me getting her/congratulatory re: finding such a cute dog at a shelter). But I felt like it was a do-or-die decision to be made on the spot; if I didn’t take her today, I felt certain someone else would.

This wasn’t the time to mellow out and think it over– my usual method of choice (or, at least what I usually force myself to do).

Anxious at each person who came to look at her, and more stressed with each time the shelter volunteers declared her “very adoptable”, I knew someone would take her. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to have a home; I truly did. I just wanted it to be with me (and no one else, god forbid).

After half an hour of mental debate in which nothing actually happened, and then another thirty minutes of having a near-nervous break down whenever someone fawned over, or eventually even came within a few feet of her (I was physically positioning myself to jump in front of anyone who showed any serious sign of interest) I finally realized there wasn’t going to be a thunderbolt come down from the sky telling me one way or another what to do. So I screwed up my courage and said, “I’ll take her.”

How quickly she went from being a homeless pound puppy up for grabs (and $33– heartbreakingly cheap) in the mall to someone with a home and people who loved her was unreal. I signed my name one time on a poignantly brief sheet of paper, and without any pomp–or circumstance–they handed me her leash. It was like the nurse handing me my new baby. I cried just as much as any new mother– maybe more (but certainly more embarrassingly, since it was in the concourse of the Wilton Mall).

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I love freedom and independence. While I love children, and sometimes taking care of things (when it suits my fancy), I’ve never taken for granted my ability to roam the earth as a free agent. This, especially in the last year of breaking free from my jobs and starting to really live life. Almost every day I wake up and am consciously grateful for the fact that I have no dependents, no one to think of or care for but myself.

Incidentally, this may have been a bonus of the break up; after putting the needs of another either before or at least equal to my own, it felt like breaking free for the first time in over nine years (the course of two different boyfriends, one after another). While I’m very much a relationship person; never one to lament missing out on the single life, just the sheer change of pace of not having to live my life around someone else’s wants and needs was a bit refreshing.

But I never knew this about myself; that I actually like having something to take care of, 24/7. While I’ve taken care of kids for more than half my life, there is something entirely different about never being able to clock out of your duties, even if you’re not physically there. Suddenly, there is a sense of everything you do having a cumulative effect on the one you love. You are fully faced with the concept that nothing happens in a vacuum– your entire life revolves around the well-being of another.

There is no satisfaction in life greater than loving devotion to someone else (it helps if they’re cute) whose most general need in life is for you to take care of them. The helplessness of an animal, combined with the do-gooder feeling of adopting from a shelter, was pure joy for me, despite the peppering of annoyances, like a mad-dash at attempted dog training in the face of going out of town in six days, and sudden loss of total and utter freedom, there were other areas of freedom to be had. For example, freedom to meet more people, have a constant yet (usually) not annoying friend, freedom to spend lots of time outside every day, and the freedom to travel with the benefit of an always-willing partner.

Okay, maybe some of these weren’t freedoms– maybe they were more like natural and sudden inclinations towards a different lifestyle. But they were still benefits Lady brought to my life. So she took my freedom away, and offered me something else: companionship, expansiveness, fulfillment, and love.

Lady taught me what it was like to wake up in the morning and not have the first thought be about me. She taught me what it was like to wake up in the morning and have the first thought be about someone else, what I could do to make their day better. My life became about love of something else. It wasn’t fun– but it was satisfying. My life took on new weight, a new importance in that no matter what I did, I had the power to benefit another being.

That’s what true meaning in life is. It’s not making ourselves happy; it’s loving things outside of ourselves and experiencing love through that, even though sacrifice. The kind of happy I was before was empty in comparison to the life I had with Lady. I understood what parents said how nothing could prepare you for how differently you would feel the moment someone handed you that little helpless thing and told you it was yours. It was like a dream  that suddenly, in the course of a few morning hours, I’d become a sort of parent.

I took her on walks, long walks, every day. I got more exercise in that week than I had in the entire last two months. I wouldn’t pre-plan, wouldn’t lock the door or take my phone, I’d just put on her leash and go.

Totally free and at one with nature, I felt in touch with the original men and their wolf companions, untethered by technology, free to roam together as one. We would just go, her and I, around town, through trails, into fields. It was freedom– yet with a companion. A companion who didn’t interrupt my ability to feel quiet and introspective, yet not lonely. A feeling I haven’t known heretofore.

I met more people than I’ve met in the last three months, in six days. My home was wherever she was; she made me want to be around people again. She anchored me. As long as I was with her, my whole world came with me. As long as she had water, I was fine. As long as she was fed, my hunger took on less importance.

It was the first time, during those six days, that I stopped caring what my diet was. How I looked wasn’t important. I just wanted to give her the best I could. I gave her what I was eating as long as it was healthy for her.

I’ve never experienced the selflessness required of full responsibility of something else. In thirteen years of babysitting and pet sitting, nothing could compare to the six days I had with that dog.

It was hard though; I didn’t sleep much that entire week. I was stressed about my parent’s reaction, her training, and the fact that I was leaving town in less than a week.

My life looked nothing as it had days before as a carefree non-pet owner. I went back and forth to the mall more times than I can count (that’s where the best pet store was). I was suddenly glad I hadn’t sold my car, as there were more car trips than I’d taken all summer.

We had to go to the vet (and then back again for more medicine I’d not realized was routine for dogs, being a total newbie at the whole pet-owner thing). There was a new grocery list of things I had to buy (I hadn’t bought anything but food and gas for months). I spent hours researching, poring over reviews for the best grain-free food, the best harness, the best crate, the best of everything. I didn’t want to spoil her, but I wanted her to have the best of whatever it was she absolutely needed. I became like the mother I never knew I had in me for sure– the mother my natural self-centeredness usually covered up, or perhaps circumstance had simply not provided me with occasion to express.

I loved my new life and my new dog. I was stressed about my upcoming trip away from her, and how I would have enough people to cover enough shifts taking care of her while I was gone, but I was full and happy. I loved the new direction my life had suddenly taken.

Then, two days before my trip, my dad unexpectedly stopped over at the house to say hello. She reacted in what can best be described as trying to attack my dad through the door (kind of viscously). He left without coming inside. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how badly things were about to change. I was embarrassed and taken aback by her sudden change in demeanor. I immediately went the computer to google search answers on how to remedy the apparent human-at-screen-door aggression she’d just displayed. I was stressing hard.

Half an hour later, he called and told me I had to bring her back to the shelter. I won’t go into details of the desperation and pain of that afternoon, but suffice to say my first inclination was that I would sooner find another place for both of us to stay than give her up. I wanted to make it work. But after a few rounds of calls with people who knew dogs better than I, ranging from her vet, to a professional trainer, to a friend who’d rescued a shelter dog themselves, I eventually came to believe it would be a much harder battle than I’d originally thought.

I’m not saying it would have been impossible, and given a different situation, I would have kept her and fought it out. But given the circumstances, I felt I had to give in. I knew I would have to give her up.

A few hours later, she did the same apparent attempt at attack through the front door thing to my sister. This was especially disturbing, since she’d lived with, and loved her. We didn’t know what was going on. Where was our sweet Lady girl?

I know no dogs are perfect. I don’t and didn’t expect her to be, and I knew when getting her that we would have intensive training for the first part of our lives together.  I think she was a sweet, sweet dog and had the potential to become an amazing pet. But given my mad dash of the day, searching in every possible direction to avoid doing what I eventually did, and coming up empty handed, I surrendered to the fight and planned to bring her in the next day.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I know that literally speaking, I could have done it on my own. But I asked my mom to come with me. It was one of the most gut-wrenching days of my life, and I’m glad I had her to lean on. She helped me through it. It was one of the worst days of my life. I wasn’t just failing myself, I was failing Lady more than anything else, and that’s what caused me the most distinct pain.

Later that day Leo came to say goodbye. He would be leaving for Colorado while I was on my South Carolina trip for work.

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So I gave up my dog and said goodbye to my ex-boyfriend in the same afternoon. I didn’t plan for these things to coincide in one rather emotionally-laden day. Most people didn’t even know I had a dog.

I know it may sound melodramatic (first because it’s a dog, and the power of their connection with us is not always universally acknowledged or understood, and second because of the short time I was her owner), but those six days I was Lady’s adopted mom changed my life. I was heartbroken in a way I’ve never experienced before. She simultaneously showed me what I had been lacking, and filled that space. Almost as soon as I learned where it lay, I had to give her up, and I felt the vacuum of her impending absence weighing my heart and pulling out my emotion in the form of tears and heavy sobs.

Her scent, her warmth, the nicknames and jokes for her Camilla and I had created, and the heavy weight of a soft fur body lying on my lap as my mom drove us to return her to a place I am sure she never wanted to return weighed heavily on my conscience and my heart.

At the time, it felt harder for me than the break up. Partly because I felt completely out of control in the decision making that led to her return; partly because it was a blindside, and partly because I felt responsible for her total happiness and well being in a way I had never felt for Leo. I loved Leo, and was devoted to him, and tried to nurture him maybe more often than was healthy, but he could live without me. He didn’t need me to come rescue him from a shelter. He could feed himself without me. He could even let himself go to the bathroom in an appropriate spot without my putting him on a leash and leading him outdoors.

One of the hardest parts of the break up for me was not questioning how right it was, or even regret. It was feeling as if I’d abandoned him– not only in life and the path we were going down together, but in his worst time of need. It is hard to be there for someone emotionally when you’re the one causing their pain. I felt as if I’d failed my boyfriend, my best friend and the person I’d lived with day in and day out since college. That was hard enough, but I’d come to terms with it as part of life and a great experience to learn more about myself and the dynamic of relationships in general. There were two equal, mature, and self-sufficient parties in that break up. I was confident it was what we both needed.

Now, on the heels of that, I felt as if I’d failed the animal equivalent of my child. My sister could reiterate that it wasn’t my decision, how I’d done all that I could do, over and over again.

But in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but feel as if I should have known, I should not have been so selfish; I should have taken my time in choosing just the right dog and not going off emotion and imagining it was fate. I should have asked all the questions about her socialization and asked for an aggression test (I still don’t know what that is, but I learned of its existence after getting myself into this tangle). I should have gotten her a trainer right away. I should have kept her on leash on in the house, not let her sleep in my bed (a habit I broke as soon as I realized the implication in dog psychology), made sure she always walked next to, or behind me. There were a million things I could have done. I could have not been so naive to think that doing the “right thing” always resulted in a fairy tale ending.

With the break up, there was still hope for happiness, a happy ending. I could still imagine us meeting each other’s kids, maybe attending each other’s weddings (hopefully not in that order). It was sad, and it was a big change, but I knew it was the right thing for me, and therefore, the right thing for him. I could talk to him, explain what was going on in my head, gauge his reaction, ask him how he was feeling. We can still text and I can still tell him I love him. In fact that’s just what I did, through more tears, before he left.

With a dog you can’t tell them that. I had no way of telling her how much she meant to me, even though it seemed so silly to say, having known her for less than a week and having just dropped her back off in a cold clinical room in a shelter with a woman she didn’t know. I didn’t understand a world that type of thing could happen in– where you have the best intentions and things don’t work out. I had learned that with break ups, you may love someone and still have to let them go. But breaking up with a dog, you cannot explain to them. They are truly an innocent party.

I don’t know what she thinks, or if she even remembers me a few hours after I was with her. I just know the love I felt for her from the moment I saw her, and how I’m doing the best I can to comprehend the fact that that love didn’t mean it was meant to last.

I think what I’m learning about pain is that you must surrender to it. That nothing is for certain in life, and you must accept that if you want to be happy. I bought her with forever in mind. I choose Leo with forever in mind. Neither was forever, but both brought joy and taught me an immeasurable amount of about life and love and loss. I choose those as gifts from them, and nothing less. The last two days before my trip, I cried myself out. The next day, I felt new.

That was my first flight in seven years. It felt fitting to start off the first day without my dog and without my boyfriend exploring a new place, with new travel companions.

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When families would tell me that they felt as if I was one of their own, it used to make me feel claustrophobic. Not only didn’t I want to acknowledge that having a family meant relying on other people, I was quick to point out (not to their faces) that I had my own family; I had Leo and my mom and dad and sister and I was perfectly happy with them.

I had shut myself off, and compartmentalized the people in my life: business, and love. I wanted not to mix the two. I never wanted anyone to rely too heavily on me, because I had no intention on relying on them in return. My attitude was that I was doing them a favor, and they had little else to offer me, besides the money I earned, which was my ultimate goal, and the reason I did mostly everything I did back then.

I have finally come to realize that in life, if you are ever doing anything pragmatically–simply for getting from A to B, you are bound to fail– at least emotionally. You may get all the money or success you are after, but it is hard to feel happy or satisfied when you are only working toward extrinsic goals. Having Lady made me vulnerable; it made me dependent upon others for their good will and time. But mostly, it gave me a goal that was the happiness of another; there was no outer measure of success beyond my ability to care for another living thing. That was inherently valuable in the realm of love; and there was nothing practical or pragmatic about it.

It made me realize, for the first time perhaps in my life, just how much I did actually have to rely on other people. People outside of my family. I couldn’t brush them off anymore. I felt willing to do just about anything for them, because I realized finally, how it felt to need help. Instead of looking down on people for asking for my help, I felt a deep empathy for them in understanding the humility it took to ask for and accept it. I had to ask them to care for Lady when I was gone, I had to ask my mom to come with me to bring her back.

I needed people more than I’d ever wanted to admit. More than I’d ever even realized to be able to admit.

Asking for help isn’t weakness. It’s accepting your limits as a human being. It’s accepting the fact that we are put on this planet together, to help each other, and to share our talents and love. I cannot withhold from the world, nor can the world withhold from me, if I am giving the best I can to the world itself.

Being vulnerable and being in pain, two things that came from my experience with Lady, softened me and my ego. I realized the ultimate meaning of the saying “No man is an island.” Before I had taken that to mean that everything we do affects someone else. And I still do believe that. But even more than that, I realized it is only an illusion– and the only person you are hurting is yourself, when you shut off from the help or assistance of others.

I thought giving my dog away was one of the worst things that had ever happened to me. And before giving her away, all I had wanted to do was cancel the trip and stay home with her so my life could really begin. The Kiawah trip felt like the vacation equivalent of purgatory, a treacherous path to blaze before I was allowed to finally live my life with my dog-daughter, and all I wanted to do was nullify its existence.

But then, as soon as I was made to give Lady up, that same trip I’d so fully regretted having planned became my savior. It got me out of an empty home, a home with only memories of my boyfriend and my dog. It gave me a distraction and a reason to get up in the morning and keep going throughout the day. I got to see a beautiful island and be around people I loved (who weren’t my “real” family). That trip was the silver lining to it all. What had once been my prison was now my peace. It was all simply a matter of changing my perspective.

Life works in mysterious ways. Just because something feels meant to be, doesn’t mean it’s required to have a fairy tale ending. I believe Leo and I were “meant to be” but only for a relatively short period of time together. I have come to believe the same with Lady.

Sitting there on the island, surrounded by the most amazing wildlife and natural greenery I had ever seen, I was so content. Just a few days prior, I could never have imagined feeling so happy and at peace after parting with my dog and my boyfriend that fateful afternoon. Hey, fate doesn’t have to be bad.

Maybe something being necessary, as fate implies, simply has higher meaning in your life than you are able to discern at that time.

So in the aftermath of this all, I am learning to sit back and trust in life; to live in the moment and not worry about what’s to come. I keep reminding myself that all the best things in my life were given to me through fate, or destiny or the universe or god, or whatever you want to call it. My family, Leo, my friends, my talents, my experiences. None of them were forced by my individual will. They were naturally-occurring in the great scheme of life, and things I am ever grateful for having filled my time on this earth.

I don’t think this means I won’t ever try at anything risky again, but I do think it means I now strive to act consciously and from inspiration, as opposed to an imagined imperative or a sudden urge to rebel. Knowing the difference is true wisdom.

Sometimes when we get too much into our minds, we lose sight of what is truly best for us. When we want, it’s the ego talking. And the ego doesn’t know what’s best for us. If you live life with your ego at the helm, you are bound to have an unhappy one.

I think I need to start enjoying things in my life within their context and not automatically try to place them in larger roles that perhaps they don’t belong in. All I can do is enjoy the moment, instead of immediately searching out repeats in hopes of recreating the experience. For instance, just because I love dogs, doesn’t mean I should have one right now.  There are so many things this applies to in life. My wisdom is to be able to know the difference between what I could want or attempt to get and what I need, what is truly right for me.

Maybe it’s not the time for me to have a pet. Maybe I need freedom to travel and roam or simply learn about myself in the context of various experiences, apart from caring for a single being. I’m opening myself up to the idea of things I want so badly in the moment, still perhaps not being the best for me in the long term.

I’m allowing myself to just be. I enjoyed my time on the island and now I’m settled down back at home and just letting life to come to me in its own way. I’m allowing myself to be receptive of what comes and just go with the flow. I’m taking my own advice, and not chasing happiness or trying so hard. I’m waiting to act out of intuition and inspiration–and only then–when I’m fully aligned inside with what I’m doing out here.

Ultimately I just want to be at one with life. That’s my only true goal. Anything more specific is like playing god, and I’m certainly learning better than to keep up at that any more. All of the most beautiful things have not been pre-planned or promised, have taken me by surprise, and have not been of my own conscious effort. I know whatever I get by going against my inner voice is not what I want or need– no matter how attractive it may seem in the moment. Deep down, I know that to be true.

Yes, I miss her, and yes I think of her every day. My biggest wish right now is that Lady finds a family worth her beautiful little spirit. I try not to think of anything else less than that perfect scenario. And I hope to eventually find a dog that’s a fit for me, too. But I’m laying off the forcing of things into a particular time frame, or filling a void I should probably learn to make peace with instead.

If I don’t know the answer, I’m just going to let it be for a little while. You can’t fill the space from your long-term boyfriend by rushing to get a dog. Well, technically you can… but I’m learning it may not be the most productive route.

So for now, I’m back to my old carefree, non-to-do-list self. And I feel at peace knowing I made the right decision for us both. I’m going to take a little time before rushing into anything else, and re evaluate where I am and where I’m going. All that timing-is-everything-wisdomy-stuff.

(But I still want a dog.)

Giving Up The To Do List

I've got my priorities straight

I’ve got my priorities straight

 

I used to be obsessed with to do lists. I never realized how bad they were until I stopped. Sometimes you don’t realize the hold something has on you until the veil of its power is lifted from your life, and you experience a miraculous increase in freedom and happiness (to me, those two are inextricably linked).

The to do list is one of the best examples in my life of something seemingly innocuous that turned out to be quite counter-productive to my flow of happiness. Then again, most things “everyone else” does, aren’t actually that good for you. I am starting to know better, but it’s a bit of a process.

We are used to talking about breaking addictions in terms of chemicals, like nicotine, and alcohol and caffeine. But what about some of the small daily habits that add up to either not helping, or hindering our lives? I would argue if you do it on a daily basis and it isn’t counting toward your happiness, then there’s no neutrality: it’s a hindrance.

The to do list seems innocent enough; you write what you want to get done on a sheet of paper, or in my case, the Notes app on your iPhone. This should help increase productivity and help you better organize your life. Sometimes writing things down just gets it off your mind.

I would say this is the proper use of a to do list. You use it so you can forget about what you have to do at some future moment and to move on to being with your task at hand. You use it so your brain doesn’t become a garbled mess of errands and groceries free floating in space while sapping your mental energy and taking you away from the present. Maybe you need to write a few things down before you’re able to fall asleep and truly let go of the day. You toss a few key words on the list and never look back–until it’s time to consult it at the appropriate place and time.

The inappropriate* use of a to do list, however, was aptly illustrated by me for the past five or six years. (I’m sorry, I can no longer offer live tutorials on how to fuck up your life with a to do list).

*Yes, I know, I’m a hypocrite: this is one of my least favorite words, but I think it’s “appropriate” to use in this case.

And what’s the worst way to use a to do list? Well, you write one for every single day of the week (preferably a week in advance) including daily tasks you don’t need to be reminded of, such as making coffee, exercising and going to work. Then you map out your day to the letter, meticulously crossing things off as you go along, all while garnering a false sense of accomplishment because you– wait for it– took a shower. Bonus points if you don’t make a move without either checking it off, or consulting the list before you take any action, no matter how small.

My focus and intensity on the to do list waxed and waned, certainly. But since starting college, and especially as my schedule became more and more hectic, and never the same from day to day or week to week, it became increasingly common for me to consult my to do list before doing anything else. “Oh, I ate lunch. Check!”

I used the Notes app on my phone more than any other app, many times per day.

Sometimes I would get stuck in the middle of my day, not know what I should do next, and check my yellow digital note pad. My boyfriend would make fun of me, “Oh, wait, you gotta check: is this on the to do list?” before we’d go out. I’m glad I can laugh at myself, but sometimes I think I laughed too much without stopping to see that what he was saying was perhaps a legitimate observation.

Now it’s one thing if you can’t remember to grab milk at the store and you want to write it down. I think lists are great to help yourself stay organized and save yourself time and hassle. But it’s another thing altogether if you’re using your to do list as a travel guide through life because you can’t stand to allow anything unplanned happen in the moment.

I used to plague myself by feeding into the pervading sense of anxiety that said if I didn’t read the book or make the yoga class or do the laundry– even meditate– on that specific day as planned, my life would cease to exist in any meaningful way (now that’s true irony). It was definitely a neurosis– funny, for someone who always prided themselves on being laid back.

The other thing I noticed about the to do list was that they never, and I mean, never, in all my years of doing them, got shorter. As soon as I’d cross one thing off the list, two more would pop up. I had this continuous feeling of never staying on top of what I had to do. It was like my life was a treadmill of tasks, a never-ending game of Pacman. I wondered when in my life I would ever finally be allowed to just relax and enjoy it. And not have so many damn things to do!

The funny thing is, now I see it was me who wasn’t allowing myself to relax. It was there all along, if I was only willing to let go. When we think we want something so badly, be it relaxation, or peace, or happiness or love, it is only what we are withholding from ourselves.

If you think you need to lose ten pounds until you’re worthy of love, you’re the one who made that decision that you were un-lovable until then. If you want more peace in your life, choose peace over confrontation and let things go. If you want more happiness, you have to choose to be happy and not choose to see your life as a sweeping melodramatic saga of one fault after the next.

Stop adding things to your to do list that must be completed before you are happy, or worthy, or beautiful, or a success. If you are in the habit of withholding love from yourself based on the exterior being perfect, you are in the habit of withholding love from yourself indefinitely. Nothing will ever be good enough; there will always be something more to do and there will always be something worth calling a problem, if that’s what you’re determined to find.

I have stayed happy through a break up with someone I truly loved (and still do) and felt luckier and happier in my life than ever before. That was a decision I made. I made this choice because I accepted what life had presented to me, and didn’t fight it. I chose to see the beauty of the situation, of loving and loss and the fact that what appeared to be loss, wasn’t in fact that at all. It was the opening of space in my life for what needed to be. There have been some tears, and I let them come when they need, but there’s been very little sadness or depression because I surrendered and choose not to see myself as a victim, but to see life as a learning experience and to know that ultimately the best thing always happens. (Also because I learned the secret of funny Youtube videos to cheer you up in less than three minutes. I’m not joking.)

Making the decision about how you are going to view your life, and sticking to it, is the single best thing you can do if you want to be happy. If you want to see yourself as a beautiful tragedy whom life is out to get, you will. If you want to see yourself as an embodied spirit whose on a journey to grow and love, you will. Don’t ever let yourself believe the lies your mind, or anyone else, tells you. What does that have to do with to do lists?

Well, if you want to see yourself as someone whose life is on the brink of falling apart because you’re late for a doctor’s appointment or your car breaks down, that’s how your life will feel. If you’re one cancelled massage appointment away from misery, I’m truly sorry for you. Not because you won’t get a massage, but because you’re living your life a few degrees away from the point. I don’t mean that judgmentally, all I mean is… How’s that working out for you?

To do lists can give you a sense of control over your life, but it’s not over any of the truly important things. It’s over the kinds of things people claim “Type A Personality” over. The kinds of things that if you spend your entire life just trying to get over and on to the next ten things, your life won’t be fun and you won’t be happy.

So how did I break my shackles to the Notes app?

Well it was actually kind of by accident. It wasn’t that I set out to do away with the to do. It was just that when I finally prioritized my happiness, I started living in the moment. That made me realize that half the things I was writing down, were the kinds of things I would remember to do naturally anyway, and I didn’t need to check a screen to do it.

This also freed me up to do things purely on a whim, which I find is the absolute best way to live, and leaves space for the coolest things to happen. Another quarter of the things didn’t really need to get done at all. About a fifth of the things actually were important, but those I remembered to do without writing them down because I just acted on them as they came up. And the last five percent are the things I still write down.

Part of it was simplifying my schedule.

I mean, I still keep busy. I am never without someone to visit, something to do, a chore or a task that needs doing, or something to write about. I love my life and it is very full. But I’ve re-prioritized my time so that my schedule and my flexibility suit me and allow me to get the most done, while enjoying it as I go. So I think that has helped remove the constant need to feel in control.

Feeling this happy and free has caused me to be able to relinquish that death-grip I had on trying to control my life from every which way. If I lose something, stub my toe (hard), or something doesn’t go my way, I don’t get nearly as flustered as I used to. I know that part of this huge life change, is linked with letting go of my to do lists.

You might not believe this, but I have actually increased my productivity by getting rid of the to do. By going with the flow of life, I am no longer forcing my will upon everything in my path. It has in fact freed up my stress of needing things to go a certain way, and this has allowed me to move with the power of the moment. It’s like floating down a river instead of paddling upstream. I enjoy life, get more done, don’t waste time doing things that don’t need to be done but that I added to a list just to increase the concept of my daily achievement.

I’ve lost attachment to things going my own way all the time, to getting everything done in the day that I think I need to. And in doing so, I’ve realized I need a lot less to get by, both in terms of things going my way, and getting things done.

Turns out, I don’t really have to do anything in a day besides what I feel like doing, in order to have a good day. That sounds obvious, but almost no one follows it.

One somewhat surprising thing is that I don’t forget things I need to do. I thought that this might happen, but I think not writing every last thing down has only increased my ability to focus and remember what I need to do. Instead of consulting a screen or a sheet of paper, I let my instincts guide me into my next activity. If I’m not in the mood to do something, I don’t force it. I know that tomorrow, or next week, I will be in the mood, and that will be the perfect time to take action.

This isn’t just some superstitious bunk. This is tried and tested; I get the best results in my life when I’m not forcing things and doing them just because I said I would on some imaginary list of importance. When I listen to my inner guide and make my moves from within, my life goes better, and I don’t want for anything.

I am not against to do lists as a whole. But I am against their abuse (free the to do list!), and the way I suspect many other people abuse them– by attempting to control their lives to the most minute details that ultimately aren’t time-sensitive and perhaps don’t even need to be completed at all.

Getting rid of the to do may seem like a small thing. But it has changed the emphasis of my life from doing to being. It also sends a message of trust to the universe. I used to feel acute anxiety whenever I couldn’t accomplish everything on my list. Sometimes I would get so overwhelmed with all of the things on it, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’d feel like a deer in the headlights. Now, I only do the thing I’m most in the mood for. Even if it’s a close call, there’s always one thing I would most like to be doing, and I do it. That’s how I flow through my day.

If you think this makes me sound like I never get anything done, or that I’m lazy, I’m actually only happy when I’m living with purpose. I don’t watch TV or movies, I rarely surf the internet. This isn’t like “I eat junk food whenever I feel like it”. This is like, I write when I’m inspired and I don’t force it when I don’t. I work out when I have the energy and if I need to nap instead, I do that. I do the dishes when I am in the mood instead of forcing myself to do them. Same with all other chores.

The idea is to still do everything in your life that you would like to, or need to do, but allow yourself the flexibility to do it on your own time. And to not micro-manage yourself with petty time constraints and tasks that perhaps can go un-done indefinitely (like buying that new outfit you just have to have).

I used to think that running out and buying things I thought I needed counted in some way as getting something done. I truly think deep down I was looking for a sense of accomplishment in my shopping trips. Something to cross off my list. Hint: not every single action you take is a step forward.

Breaking free of to do made me realize how very few of the things I was basing my life upon doing were actually important to my continued happiness and survival. Now, when I write down that I need to buy something, instead of running out and buying it and crossing it off my list with a sense of great achievement, I let it sit for a few days. I no longer take myself seriously when I assume I need to have something. Like they say to do with food cravings, I wait it out. More often than not, I realize I either don’t need it, I don’t need it right now, or if I am able to wait patiently, it comes to me in a much easier, usually less expensive and serendipitous way.

I realize this sounds like such a small change, but our lives are comprised of an ongoing series of these small actions. No change in your life is too small to net a positive effect. Especially those things you do over and over again.

The sooner you realize your life doesn’t start and stop with tasks, completions, and events, the sooner you will feel happy.

Your life is quietly waiting while you scurry around for meaningless goals. When will you finally live your life? When you get too old to work? That isn’t to say don’t get things done. It’s to say, don’t take action for the sake of movement. When you’re doing something, take the time to be present and enjoy it. Don’t look at life as a series of weighty chores that must get done– and then you can be happy. Instead, be happy while you’re washing the dishes, and let some things slide until you feel inspired to partake.

I used to always look forward to being an old lady with cute mono-chrome outfits and grandkids. I think perhaps I was subconsciously just looking forward to the days when I could live my life surrounded with love and relationships and not this futile movement to and fro that ultimately amounts to nothing.

In the end, we go back from whence we came and all the things in our lives dissolve upon the wave of our last breath. Live every summer as if it’s your first. Live every day as if it’s your last. And give up the goddamn to do lists. They’re not making you any happier and they’re sapping your creativity, as well as your ability to move freely through life. How can life ever be reduced to bullet points on paper? Don’t make that mistake.

To do lists are simply an emphasis on doing over being. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if I don’t do one more thing from my to do list for the rest of my life. My life cannot be brought down to a to do list (literally: thank god). To do lists are illusions of industry and control; neither of which exists in anything meaningful to our lives. If you are focused on doing for the sake of doing, you are missing out on true life. It’s available to us all, but only by choice.

You can’t be, do, touch, taste, hear, and see everything. Accept that. Now be happy with all that you are able to. Your life is always full, just waiting for you to realize it, if you can just be present. It may sound cliche or too simple to be of value, but being with your breath, with life as it is right now, is the only way you will ever be able to experience the truth that you have enough, you are enough, and your life just as it is right now, is enough.

So be happy. Just be.

No if, to’s or do’s about it.

Transitions

I'm now a better person. I floss.

Figured I might fill you in, for those of you wondering why I haven’t been writing as much as I normally do (I know, I flatter myself– there is no one wondering why I haven’t been writing as much, but for posterity, this will serve to fill in some gaps in time and continuity 😉 ). I haven’t forgotten about you.

However, I’ve recently undergone some transitions; all of which are healthy and ultimately positive, but are also time, attention, and energy-consuming. By necessity, since there are only so many hours in the day and I am unable to forgo sleep, for a short transitional period, writing is the thing that has fallen by the wayside as I focus my energy on some time-sensitive external events which have required it.

As I’ve alluded to in a few posts, and will most likely expound upon in the future, I have recently gone through the dissolution of a long-term relationship. My ex boyfriend (actually, today is his birthday– Happy Birthday Leo!) is a beautiful, amazing human being and I feel blessed and grateful for all the time we have shared together over the last five and a half years.

He’s been my best friend and life partner for quite some time now, and this is the beginning on a new chapter for us both. He’s heading to Colorado in a couple of weeks to go live with a few of his good friends who I know will take the best care of him out there. I wish him safe travels and if you happen to live in Colorado, I happen to think you’ll be pretty lucky to cross paths with him. 🙂

Kind of a funny story… We broke up for the first time a year ago today, on his birthday, got back together three months later, and are now broken up again. I am hoping this birthday is slightly better, since at least the break up didn’t happen on the actual day. So this morning I texted him happy birthday and reminded him how last year I said at “Hey, at least your birthday will be a lot better next year”. Well, I’m calling it now: next year, it’ll be better, Boot. Seriously. (Maybe it’ll even be fun… But I don’t wanna jinx it.)

And P.S. I know you’re working tonight– So I’m assuming you didn’t read this.

Anyway, I’ve been helping him move out of our place, as well as navigating us both through the end of a good relationship where there was still a lot of love and like, but which ultimately came down to the question of long-term compatibility and similar goals; things like family and career. I’ll probably go into more detail at a later time. But suffice it to say, it was breaking up with the love of my life, and that was a transition.

I have also been back to my part-time gig of babysitting here and there. After taking a six week hiatus from work (which I kind of consider my side-job), I decided to start accepting sitting shifts again as a way to stay in touch with the people I love, go to random cool places (I got to spend the day at a gorgeous lake house recently), and pick up a little extra cash.

I wrote about quitting these jobs as I was going through a refashioning of life where the break up was fresh and I knew I needed to establish myself in something other than the job that I wanted as more of a garnish than an entree. After taking some time and doing just that, I felt ready to go back to a few hours a week, while maintaining my flexibility and independence– two factors which have become some of the main motivations behind every move I make. So far, it has definitely felt like a good decision.

I have the type of job where I show up and get to hang out with a cool teenager I’ve known forever (literally since she was born), and her parents will hand me cash for us to go out to dinner and shopping downtown. Or a family will pay me to drive out to their vacation home and spend the day with them and their awesome, very nice friends. For instance, last week I met a woman who wrote a popular book and had a movie made about her.

Sometimes it feels more like making guest appearances than babysitting (though sometimes it’s actual work). Anyway, that’s added ever so slightly to my time away from my desk (I mean, bed), although I will only do it as long as I can keep my normal, independent flow.

Because although some people might ask themselves “What does she do all day?” And I don’t aways know myself, every single day there is always something to be done, or explored, or read or watched or researched. I’m very rarely bored or lacking for something to direct my attention or energy to. I’m good at keeping myself entertained and busy in life, whether I always mean to do it or not.

Even now, I find myself scaling back on social and frivolous things* and just trying to focus on the few things that truly matter. I’ve let myself go a little astray from the norm (although I’m beginning to think I haven’t had any real “norm” in a very long time) these last couple weeks because that’s just the way I’ve been drawn, but I know it will move back to more solitary pursuits. Life is always cycling in and out, off and on.

*Like this morning for instance, I was feeling a bit uncertain of how I was going to get all the things I had to do done for the day. Then I realized that it was only because I assumed that just because my watch battery had died, I had to replace it. And that just because the seat on my second bike was semi-broken, I had to get a new one. I suddenly understood that neither of those things actually matters right now (I could run sprints without checking my seconds to a T and I could use my first bike instead), maybe ever, and that I could go on with my day as planned and not try to fit a trip to the jeweler or bike shop in unless I actually wanted to do them; which I didn’t.

This week I met up with a friend who happened to be in town from Tennessee while touring with Alice in Chains and a bunch of other bands I don’t tend to listen to. I haven’t seen him in about ten years, so that was a cool little blast from the past. We walked around and found a cemetery just a mile or two away from my house that I never even knew existed (I also live a corn field away from one of the largest ones in town, so I guess this place is pretty much cemetery-central. Can you put that on a real estate listing?). It had some of the most beautiful headstones– the epic, twenty-foot kind–I have ever seen.

And then yesterday I went kayaking over a choppy, wavy lake with one of my good friends who’s about to leave town. She’s preparing to head off to grad school a few hours away, so I wanted to see her before she left. We usually use kayaking as a way to get a little exercise, but mostly just to talk and be out on the water. But yesterday, the lake just wasn’t having it. It was like one of those theme-park water rides where all of a sudden a huge wave comes up and splashes you head-on. We got soaked.

We made it to one side of the lake fairly easily, with a few bumps and swells where we clashed together and tipped from side to side, which was fun. But coming back, against the wind and the waves, I felt like Bear Grylls (minus the male anatomy… and the accent).

Jen kept looking back and asking “Have we even gone anywhere?!” And I screamed, “Just don’t look back!”

She had to work at four, so we were on a time crunch. Eventually, we made it back. Sometimes when I looked at how far it was until we reached our side of the lake, I almost got a bit anxious that it could take us hours to get there (I have no sense of distance). But when I just took it wave by wave, it was actually quite nice.

I know how important it is to stay present, both in terms of choosing the right action, and enjoying life in general, but trying to get back to shore yesterday illustrated that point so well. It was only enjoyable when I stayed in the moment and didn’t let my thoughts get the best of me. (Turns out my brain is a big old worry wort, so I just can’t let it have too much of my attention.)

I think we both thought the other was hating it, actually, but when we compared notes on the drive home, we found we’d both loved how extreme it was. There were points when we were out on the water that I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it was that we’d gone out for a gentle, mindless little kayak trip and instead ended up like white-water-rafters. It was just so stupid! In a good way, like the type of thing that happens when you’re a kid.

I also recently volunteered to help walk dogs at my local animal shelter. The orientation was last weekend and it was an emotional day, first because of Leo’s moving out the night before, which already had my emotions a bit frayed. And then, because of seeing all of the animals who need homes and are living in cages. Don’t get me wrong, they are lucky to have a nice new, clean facility and the people who work and volunteer there. But it was overwhelming to see, and at times it was all I could do to hold back tears. I didn’t want to be that person who cried, so I kept it together.

Not to mention, I had a feeling if I started, it wouldn’t be brief– or subtle.

I am looking forward to helping the dogs become more adoptable by working with them on leash-walking and perhaps just getting out some excess energy that might otherwise present itself in terms of behavioral issues. I hope I am able to help in a way that makes an actual difference.

I’m also in the process of going through all of my stuff and listing just about everything I own in the world for sale. I’m downsizing and getting ready for the next chapter of my life, the one where I don’t buy things I don’t need, and where I get rid of as many things as I possibly can. I have considered having an estate sale, but I’m not dead, and I probably don’t have quite enough stuff. People would be walking around going, where’s all the junk?! Oh yeah, I’m selling my car, too.

I’ve got a few plans up my sleeve, and research on that has taken up probably the greatest amount of time for me lately. It’s something I’m excited about, and I’ll share with you as I gather more information and figure out how I’m going to do it.

Life is crazy. You never know what the future holds. This is starting to feel like a time of compelling change in my life. I’m gaining freedom and feeling less tethered to the world, in a wonderful way.

Oh yeah, and I started flossing!

(Sorry that wasn’t sooner, Leo).

Sugar Free, Week 2 Through Now And Blood Type

I keep this handy... in case of a post-apocalyptic vampire invasion.

I like to keep a few of these handy in case of a post-apocalyptic vampire invasion.

I realize I haven’t followed up with my Sugar-Free beyond Week 1. That seemed to be a rather popular post, and although I’m currently not focusing on sugar consumption (I’m just eating whole foods, and the only sugar I eat comes in the form of whatever fruit I have), I’d like not to leave you hanging if this is something you’ve been struggling with.

Truth be told, I am glad I went off sugar, but the high protein/fat diet I was using when I was going through sugar withdrawal that was not something I wanted to continue. Based on my body odor alone (I know, seriously gross, but this is in full disclosure) I knew this wasn’t entirely healthy or long-term. My body seemed a bit toxic, if that was the scent it was producing. I was not eating enough vegetables and I did miss the fruit. I don’t miss the sugary foods, though, and I’m glad I made the concerted effort to take them out of my life for that specific period of time.

I have been free of refined sugar (except for a few exceptions which occurred during that time of the month/my break up) since going sugar-free. I’m now following the general guidelines of the blood type diet. I happen to be blood type O, which counts bananas and prunes as beneficial, so I have been eating those in moderation and feeling good.

As I mentioned above, there were a couple of days before Leo moved out in which I was craving sweets. I think this was totally emotional/menstrual and based on the stress of the break up and him moving out. The last night he was here, we went out at like two a.m. and got ice cream together. So yes, I ate sugar that night. And yes, it was worth it.

I can also say that going sugar-free caused me to realize a few prior dietary mistakes I had been making, one of the largest being Spirutein shakes with banana. Spirutein has 8 grams of sugar per serving, and although it has other healthy off-sets, that’s still a considerable amount of sugar. Now if I use Spirutein mix (which isn’t very often) I will just blend it with ice and water. I don’t add the banana; now I’ll use either or.

Another main reason I went off the no-sugar-at-all-including-fruit diet is because when I was eating all that protein and fat, what I started craving was green smoothies (as you may have noticed from my recent green-smoothie-posting influx). They are one of my favorite foods ever, if not for their taste, for how they make me feel. However, it’s hard to down a green smoothie without having added some sort of fruit. So having no fruit, ever, was not something that was realistic for me, or even desirable. Fruit is probably my favorite food.

As for why I’m suddenly springing the Eat Right For Your Type upon you without warning, is only because that’s what I stumbled back upon once more, as I was getting into my green smoothies and trying to figure out how I was going to eat in a way that truly worked best for my body. The totally high protein, high fat and lack of fresh produce thing wasn’t working out (I know, can you believe it?). And that’s when I came back to an old favorite of mine: Dr. D’Adamo’s blood type-based dietary recommendations.

I have always played around with the blood type diet, which I originally got into assuming I was blood type A, since that’s what the rest of my family members are. This was about four years ago.

Well, I had just settled down for a blood type A-friendly meal (a glass of wine and some rice cakes) and my sister called me. She’d gotten the results in the mail about my blood type. Open it up, I told her. She opened the envelope (sans drumroll, I’m sorry to say) and told me I was O. I cried (literally). I didn’t want to be a meat-eater, and ideally, I would have preferred to be type A like the rest of my kin (vegetarian, grains, fruits, red wine) but the truth is, a high protein (beef, fish), vegetable and fruit diet is how I tend to feel my best.

While I haven’t always followed the blood type ideal, I have liked my results whenever I stuck with it. I love, love, love the idea of eating no animal products and have been vegan and vegetarian on and off basically my entire life, especially since high school. The problem is, I always feel better eating protein than anything else.

I also gain weight somewhat easily and eating too many carbohydrates doesn’t seem to produce the right type of energy for my body– they make me feel soporific and lethargic, and tend to add to water retention and weight gain.

I’m not someone who thrives on boasting about eating a steak, but I do thrive on eating it, it seems. The things I am not supposed to eat based on blood type, are the things I find to cause weight gain, lack of energy, and other problems for me, physically and mentally. Wheat is one of the biggest culprits for type O, and avoiding wheat is the most long-term change I have made to my diet since reading that book several years ago.

A note: a few years back, I saw a holistic health care practitioner who was herself a type O, as well as vegetarian for years. When I mentioned ER4YT, she was quite supportive. I was a little surprised, after finding out she was a long-time vegetarian, and I had assumed she’d brush it off as a fad diet. She didn’t seem to think that was the case.

She told me she’d witnessed positive results firsthand during her time in nutrition school. For each class, they would pick a diet, study it and practice it themselves (I’m not sure if this was mandatory). Apparently, they studied the blood type diet the week before a vacation. One of her classmates followed the diet strictly over the interim of their break. At their first class back, when he walked through the door, she said she and her classmates could hardly recognize him. Apparently, he looked great. While she was set on being a vegetarian (“I just couldn’t do it”, she said, of eating meat), she acknowledged that she had witnessed the results for herself and they were impressive.

I truly don’t know if this works for everyone. I can tell you that when I “eat right for my type”, the foods that are recommended seem to give me a much better feeling in my stomach, and an over-all feeling of lightness and well being that I don’t experience from all foods.

The best way to describe it is “assimilation”. It feels as if they are more naturally assimilated into my system. I know that sounds vague, but it’s a bit difficult to discern the specific feelings as digestion takes place. For now, this is working for me, both based on research and what I’ve read on other people’s long-term results, and the ones I am currently experiencing.

So that’s where I am diet and sugar-consumption wise. I will be sure to keep you apprised as it changes, as it is likely to do. 🙂

Sprints, Day 2

He forgot his sports bra in the Mystery Machine.

He forgot his sports bra in the Mystery Machine.

And I’m back in the game.

This time I really enjoyed sprinting, even though I waited until the very end of the day to do it. This is my first check-in since I started the sprints. The first was actually two days ago– I had a bit of an unforeseen circumstance that made my rest/sleep schedule a little screwy, plus an all-around very busy weekend. No excuses, but at least I’m here now.

The first sprint routine I did was the 12 minute pattern, with a 2 minute warm up, 1 minute sprint/1 minute rest for a total of 4 each, and then a 2 minute cool down.

But I found a variation online while searching sprints, which I tried tonight, I think I prefer this one. It just seems a bit more intuitive.

So the one I tried tonight was: warm up for however long it takes until you feel warmed up– for me that was a jog for about 2-3 minutes. Sprint for 30 seconds, full out max. Then recover (I walked) until your breath goes back to normal. Then sprint again, for 30 seconds. Do this for a total of 6-10 sprints. Then I cooled down with a jog for 2-3 minutes.

This one took about the same amount of time, but I found it more pleasant because it meant listening to my body and running again when I felt ready. That made me able to enjoy myself and not keep an eye on the clock the entire time.

Also, I did this one without music, which meant my iPhone wasn’t slipping out of my sports bra every few seconds during my sprints– I think that’s a change I’ll probably adhere to, as well. 🙂

I felt the sprints themselves were more productive than the 60 second ones required in the first, because I can only sprint all out for about 30 seconds, anyway. I tended to lag after about 24 seconds, actually. This was surprisingly consistent. I would do 2 runs down my long driveway, and then I’d have that last leg of six seconds or so that seemed tough.

I also think the fact that I have to stop at the end, turn around, and restart, takes a lot of juice. I’m on a roll until I have to start and stop again. Perhaps I’d be better off just heading to the high school track down the road. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for next time.

During this practice, I got that nice runner’s high very quickly into the routine, which was a nice bonus. Although I waited until the end of the day and I was a bit tired, this time I definitely felt stronger than last, although that could be due to switching my routine. I think this is the one I’ll stick with, and perhaps eventually I’ll make it up to 10 repetitions of sprints. Truth be told, I’m sure I could have done it tonight; they would have probably just gotten progressively slower. But it was getting dark and I just wanted to get it done, so I kept it at 6.

After sprinting the first time, I felt a bit sore in my core muscles the next day, which was a nice feeling. Tonight my legs feel a slight bit sore, which is welcome for me, as it means I’m actually using them!

As I said, today’s run was much more enjoyable. I am sitting here sweating slightly, so that’s a good sign. I noticed that although my instinct is to go for a long, drawn out run, these sprints actually seem to get me to the runner’s high much more rapidly, and the cool downs are quite enjoyable. Even working all out maximum, which I haven’t done in many years, feels very good and out of my comfort zone. Tonight while I was cooling down after a sprint, I even caught myself thinking perhaps I’d try to make this part of my daily routine. Then I just told myself to see how well I do with every other day…

I will also note it’s 8:40 pm and I feel ready for bed, which is an amazing feeling, coming from struggling to get to sleep by 3 AM last week. I have known for quite a few weeks that exercise was the key missing from the greatness of my life, and I’m glad I’m finally getting back there.

And now, I’m going to go hit the shower!

How Gift Cards Got Off My Shit List (Kind Of)

It's a Brad, Brad world.

It’s a Brad, Brad world.

I just got back from a beautiful Sunday night dinner with my family, including a visit to my favorite puppy (a puppy who’s two and a half– it’s a biological phenomenon). I’m still a little high from smooching her up, to borrow a page from my mom’s vocab book. We had a great night, with lots of laughs and my dad’s amazing (gluten free!) fried fish.

As my sister and I were driving home, she told me a story that inspired me, although it was so simple. I just had to share. But first, a preface, because it had to do with a gift card.

And… I’ve actually never liked gift cards very much.

You see, I think they take perfectly good money and ruin it. I’m not a fan of them for two other reasons:

A. Giving: They seem kind of impersonal, which to me, is the antithesis of what gift giving is actually about– not the number of dollars spent; and

B. Receiving: As I said before, it seems someone has just de-valued money they worked hard to earn and insisted I go shopping at a store there’s very little chance I would have visited otherwise. I realize I sound like a monger, but I’m not. I’m just practical. To me, gift cards actually are less practical than gifts. At least with gifts, there’s a translation that occurs between money and thoughtfulness, resulting in a product. Even if the product is no to your liking, it’s doing what a gift is meant to do: show thought. Not add another to-do-list in your card holder.

And sure, you may not like what they picked for you, but at least they thought you would. You’ve got to give them credit for trying. With gift cards, you get the impracticality of a gift, with the same amount of thoughtfulness as cash.

It’s not gauche to give cash. Or, if it is, then it’s got to be even gauche-er to give an impotent version of theretofore perfectly good legal tender, also known as a gift card. The recipient still knows how much you spent. Actually, they know it was either that amount, or less, because you got a promotional deal. So if you’re going for the whole cross-the-price-off-with-Sharpie-so-they-don’t-know-how-much-I-spent idea, that’s a moot point as well.

For our culture as a whole, I think we have gone way off the mark as far as gift-giving. It’s not just gift cards and I’m not singling out people who give them; this is a culture-wide thing and I have been guilty of buying into it, too (though with this post I officially relinquish any ability to buy a gift card for anyone here on out). But the ubiquity of gift cards in particular is indicative of a materialistic philosophy that has basically ruined gift-giving and holidays that should be centered around something other than consumerism and spending.

You know, those other fringe things in life, like feelings of love and connections with family and friends, time spent together and slowing things down, traditions, memories, and great food (that we are so lucky to have), service to the less fortunate while feeling grateful and blessed with all you have, as well as time off of work, vacation and traveling… The list goes on, but on the list does not go: gift cards.

I think giving and getting things is way over-emphasized, and that gift cards are probably the best illustration of our singular focus on giving and getting– even when we aren’t sure what we even want to be giving or getting anymore. It’s certainly not that we need it.

I understand it’s a boon for businesses, who probably enjoy all the pre-paid funds that go unclaimed every year, as well as the forced patronage and accidental over-spending beyond pre-gifted amounts. It seems to me it’s the individual, with their now hampered ability to vote with their dollars, is losing out on the deal.

The fact that buying gifts for people, especially at the holiday season, often takes on the connotation of a dreadful chore, is the best example I can conjure as to why this isn’t working for us anymore. Yet, to my continued bafflement, we keep it going.

And as for romantic partners giving each other gift certificates, that’s cool. For me and the couples I’ve observed, that may be a small red flag in a relationship with someone who should theoretically know you best in the world (unless you’re Gayle and Oprah), but I won’t go too deeply into that, since this isn’t actually about gift cards or reading your tea leaves with them and I’ve gone slightly off topic already.

So I’m sure you would be surprised to hear, based on that little schtick above, that I still believe it is incredibly sweet whenever someone does give me a gift, even a gift card–and  even a card I don’t think I’d ever use and plan on handing off as a freebie to my sister or friend, or acquaintance as soon as I can find one who’s first name I can recall.

Besides all the reasons I think gift cards are a whack way we get taken for a ride by big business, I still think it’s immensely thoughtful for anyone to think of me enough to want to give me something. I am always humbled by gifts. I certainly don’t need anything (in fact, I’m currently in the process of letting go of as many of my possessions as possible– and it’s awesome), but I recognize the sweet vulnerability of giving someone a gift and hoping they will like it, and that melts my heart. I’m always a huge softie when someone gives me a gift, not because I want it or need it or even like it, but because apparently they thought of me and wanted to show it and that’s the best way they knew how.

I also know the excitement of finding just the right thing (though usually not at a specified “gift giving time” if you’re like me) and being able to give it to someone with true joy and lightness of heart. When you are able to give someone something freely, without expectation, because you want to and you know they will love and appreciate it, there is not a better feeling in the world. So I can understand why gift giving is a tradition that’s stuck around. And I think it can be a beautiful part of human existence. I’m not arguing that we do away with it. I just believe, like everything else in America, we have bastardized it and super-sized it and pumped a bunch of growth hormone into it, and basically, ruined what can, in moderation, be a nice part of life.

So now that I’ve gone off, on with my inspirational story. Or rather, my sister’s. The reason I loved it is that it gave me a new outlook on the gift card and reminded me why they’re not so bad, as well as another little trick I can use in the future to make the world a little bit brighter. If you have gotten this far, you will then surely understand why that was so valuable for me tonight.

So my sister, who I’ll call Camilla for the sake of this blog (and also because I find giving her that pseudonym to be absolutely hilarious), took her friend out to Starbucks the other day and used her gift card to pay for their coffees. There was some odd amount, like $1.79, left over on the card. She asked the guy at the counter– barista, sorry– what she would even be able to get for that. He offered her a cake lollipop. She declined (Camilla’s the one who gets a fat foot if she eats wheat). Then he suggested that she could give it to the person behind her.

At this point, Camilla said she felt a little embarrassed for not thinking of that in the first place. She turned and asked the lady standing there if she wanted it for her coffee, and she was thrilled! $1.79 off a Starbucks is like getting half off the price of your straw, so it’s really not a bad deal!

She felt so good to be able to do that small favor, that it even meant more to her than getting a cake lollipop she didn’t even want. (I can’t take them seriously, by the way, or the people who eat them. You know the guys, nibbling on a rainbow colored piece of cake on a stick, while trying to look serious drinking their coffee and reading about the Middle East… Okay, fine. I’ve never seen that, but I really hope to some day. It would be the Starbucks’ equivalent of a unicorn.)

It was a win-win. Camilla didn’t have to carry around a stupid Starbucks card worth $1.79 and wait for the next time she wanted a coffee (actually, come to think of it, she doesn’t even drink coffee…Was this whole story a lie?! Camilla, you got some ‘splaining to do!). And the lady behind her only had to add in another $8 for her cup of black coffee to get paid for.

Once she told me that story, about her little way of paying it forward, it made me feel so nice, because I now knew what to do with the rest of that pesky balance on a gift card I know I’ll never use. (Victoria’s Secret, I’m lookin at you…) It gave me a new way of looking at gift cards. I was able to see that the true gift of them is in their uselessness, which maybe isn’t so useless after all.

But in the spirit of honesty, I’d known this little secret of gift cards all along. Yes, I, too, have experienced the magic of gift cards. Although I still think they are the red-headed-step-child of gift giving, I have found a silver lining that is perhaps closer to golden: being able to give to others freely, without it affecting my carefully-planned budget. I’ve probably given away about 85% funds I’ve received in gift cards over the last few years. This isn’t because I’m the next Mother Theresa (although that’s certainly a factor), it’s just because I’m really too practical to buy some thing I don’t actually want. And besides, I spent plenty of years doing that as a selfish teenager. I may be a slow learner, but I’m not totally inept.

With cash, I tend to be pragmatic with how I spend, because for me, money is closely linked to freedom, and I don’t spend more than I earn. I also do not spend my money (a useful tool) on things that don’t further my happiness (which would be squandering its usefulness). The more I buy beyond what I need, the less happy I am, so I have need for very little.

If I have money, I know I have a use for it (save for the future, keep my freedom alive). But if I’m given a gift card to a store with clothes for example, I know I do not need one more item of clothing, and it is very easy for me to pass the card along to someone who does. My ex boyfriend Leo, for instance, was forever in need of new pairs of designer socks. He was very poor in that way, so I was always happy to oblige. I shudder to think of him leaving the house without socks that would make Brad Goreski from Rachel Zoe proud. (Fun note: Leo and Brad share the same birthday. It is a Brad, Brad World. See image above to remove any doubts of that from your mind.)

Same with restaurants or coffee shops or anything that’s nice of someone to consider I’d want, but I find rather frivolous and not part of my daily routine. Unless I’m really in the mood for something, it’s a much better deal for me to see someone else happy, than try to force myself to want something that I actually don’t. That’s how you end up with a pile of shit for sale on Craigslist. I’m not naming any names, but please don’t check my account…

One of the most recent examples is that last year I gave a $25 gift certificate for a local restaurant as a gift in our family Christmas card game/grab bag. Some people thought it was so extravagant (we usually keep the gifts to around $10) and I was almost embarrassed to admit it was mine. But it had been given to me a few days before, and although it was nice of the person who gifted it, I had no interest in using it. For me, that was actually a much better deal than using $10 of my unadulterated money to buy a silly gift that was going to end up in someone’s closet (at the very top, in the very back). I was happy to do it and was glad it would be enjoyed by someone who cared.

Money is a tool, and I use it as such. Gift cards are frivolous, and I use them as such, as well. The fun thing about gift cards for me is that they have always been like a total break from the norm because I could lose them, buy someone a gift, take my boyfriend out, or just give them away and feel good about it, and it was totally free. I loved it (and still do, if I ever get a gift card after this airs). So that is one gift of gift cards– the gift of abandon.

I’m not telling you that you should give up your gift cards. (But a word of warning: it does feel good– if you haven’t tried it, you just might like it and get hooked.) But I think we just might all love the idea of brightening a stranger’s day with a little extra cash that’s left over after you check out at the register. It doesn’t really cost you a thing, and it can totally make someone’s day. Just think, all that for under two dollars!

Not to mention, if there’s ever a thing I’ve learned about good karma, it’s that you’re never really giving anything up when you help someone else. The universe provides you with more than you could have imagined, if you simply allow yourself to feel and believe that you have everything you already need (because you do!). Optimism and faith, even when they may seem naive given the circumstance, will carry you through when nothing else will. When you give to someone else, you are really giving to yourself. And that, my friends, is how gift cards got off my shit list.

(Kind of)

#Peanutbutterjellytime

Don Draper's hangry for a PB and J

Don Draper’s hangry for a PB and J

Peanut butter and jelly is to the culinary world what Mad Men is to cable television: a modern classic. It’s one of my favorite flavors in the world. I don’t mean to surprise you, what with my sophisticated palate and all. But pb&j is actually totally hip. I think I saw @lordemusic eating one the other day…

I love peanut butter more than is healthy. I knew I had a problem with peanut butter, but had no intention of doing anything about it.

But now I have reason to edit my tune just a bit. I currently follow the blood type diet by Dr. D’Adamo– not really a diet, more of a personalized lifestyle and set of dietary recommendations (should I do PR for this guy?). And according to my blood type O, peanut butter is a no-no. Damn you, D’Adamo! Damn you and your studies about my main food group! I’d throw the book at the wall if I hadn’t purchased it via app. Just kidding.

Let me be clear: I don’t think peanut butter, when comprised of peanuts (and maybe salt) is bad for you. But, since I have felt so good following D’Adamo’s other recommendations, scientifically founded or not, I’m going to take his word on the peanut butter. If you love it, who can blame you? It’s fucking great. (And I believe it’s actually a beneficial food for blood type A, if you’re curious.)

I also don’t eat wheat (I just sound like a boat load of dietary fun today, eh?). That’s for my blood type, as well as the fact that I’ve simply noticed along the years that wheat isn’t a beauty food for me, inside or out. So I avoid it, and I really don’t have a problem doing so 95% of the time.

So, what’s a peanut butter and jelly loving girl like me to do?

Oh, it’s actually really simple.

1. Switch out peanut butter for almond or any other nut butter you prefer. I usually go with almond. If you have peanut allergies, any other health reason to avoid peanut butter, or you simply prefer other versions of the nut in butter form, this is a no-brainer. You can make your own, as a matter of fact, which I fully intend to try– though not today.

If you like peanut butter (I’m with ya, kid) then there’s no reason for you not to stick with the good old classic.

2. Forgo the bread. This may sound like blasphemy, but wheat really isn’t the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t care if you think you have a gluten intolerance, or not… You probably do.

Wheat is becoming more and more a target by doctors and people who know nutrition (nutritionists, perhaps?) who say it just really isn’t good for you, for a myriad of reasons I will not list here. (I’m sure they say it in much more scientific terms than me, but comme ci comme ca). However, when super-mainstream Dr. Oz gets on the bandwagon of no wheat, I’d say you might want to take note. And no, I don’t watch his show, but my dad does, and takes notes, and reads them off to me whenever I stop by to visit the papillon.

Anyway, I’m not here to convince you of gluten’s alternate agenda. I don’t think wheat is actually going to kill you. But if you already are on the gluten-free bandwagon, this next part is for you.

3. Make one of these instead:

-A peanut butter and jelly spoon (Sans bread, or peanut butter– don’t eat the spoon)

One of my favorite not-so-balanced-and-yet-I-don’t-care snacks is a nut butter and jelly spoon. Or a nut butter and honey spoon, or just a spoon of nut butter. If you are hungry, this will fill you up and it’s really quite satisfying.

-A nut butter and jelly dip. I mix the two in a small carafe or tiny dish like I would toss any normal dip into. Dip with carrots or celery, cucumber or any other vegetable you favor.

You wouldn’t believe how good peanut butter and jelly tastes on a carrot stick. If you like ants on a log (celery, nut butter, and raisins) this is basically just another version of that.

-Nut butter on your banana (a classic, never gets old). And… please, no dirty jokes. Actually, who am I kidding? Go ahead.

-Spread it on a romaine lettuce leaf and make a nut butter and jelly wrap. Again, sounds weird, but it’s so refreshing and good.

-Spread nut butter and jelly on a rice cake, corn tortilla, or sprouted wheat bread. Open faced-sandwiches are a nice compromise, without seeming too starchy.

(I don’t usually do this myself, only because I find the nut butter filling enough, and I’d rather use it to get myself to eat more vegetables, but this is a really portable and easy meal or snack).

Notes: 

Nut butter with vegetables is one of my favorite things– the water content of the veggies pairs perfectly with the salty, dry consistency of the nut butter. This is one substitute that I think is by far superior to the original (that being a sandwich made with bread). I have found so many ways to still enjoy my peanut butter and jelly habit, I don’t miss bread (or peanut butter) at all.

While there are definitely healthier foods out there for you than jelly, there are also a lot worse things you could be splurging on! Try to use an all-natural brand, no high fructose corn syrup, and as low sugar content as possible. If you are using jelly, try to make sure your nut butter has no added sugar. The salty/sweet mix will taste better, and you won’t need any more sweetness, to enjoy these, anyway!

The nut butter is full of healthy fat and protein, and the vegetables don’t need any explanation. Also, I love the way the celery balances out the sweetness of the jelly, and the freshness of the vegetables counteracts the earthiness of the butter.

So, with all the culture surrounding peanut butter and jelly, I still don’t understand why people stare when I try to detect its bouquet…

Oh My Cod (A Recipe Regarding Fish)

This fish can't believe how easy he is to cook! (Is that mean?)

This fish can’t believe how easy he is to cook! (Is that taking it too far?)

Oh My Cod.

(I had to…I’m sorry.)

I love fish. I love seafood, and I love fish. It just tastes so fresh! And I do really well with proteins, personally. They really feel like burning clean fuel in my body. Fish might be the best of them all.

I know cod isn’t expensive, but I actually prefer to it to most other fish, even fish that costs quite a bit more per pound (please note: lobster does not equal fish).

In my family and among his friends, my dad is known for his fish fries. Sometimes he’ll head to the local seafood market to pick up some fish, and other times he’ll just grab it at Price Chopper while he’s there. I’m always a fan of supporting local businesses, but I have to say: my family and I have all noticed, we simply can’t notice any discernible difference between the fresh market fish, and that of our local grocery chain.

(And I’m extremely picky when it comes to my proteins– I won’t eat any meat or fish that doesn’t seem extremely fresh and taste really good. I won’t eat re-heated meat of any sort. It’s not food snobbery, I’m just too sensitive to how it tastes.)

In fact, last time he went to one of the newer fish markets cropping up around town he’d spent a lot more on haddock, and it wasn’t properly de-boned. Fish never goes to waste in our house, but I’m pretty sure we threw some away, because most of us aren’t willing to choke it down with the little bones scraping down our throats and poking into the sides of our cheeks. I know I’m weird about it, but bones in fish are like… rain on your wedding day. (And no redeeming value of the whole good luck part, either).

So I’m happy to stick to my grocery store fish (fresh, not frozen). This cod was on sale for $4.99 per pound, which seemed like a really good deal, especially once I tried it. It was so good, it could have come from any restaurant downtown. When I made this yesterday, it took such little effort, I was sure its taste would give it away… But it didn’t!

I wasn’t planning on doing a recipe for this, but because it turned out so well, I know it must be fool-proof, and therefore I am happy to share it with you today. Not that you’re a fool…

So I bought one pound of cod fish. I used about 1/3 to 1/4 of it for this dish, and it was totally filling. I still have the rest, which I will probably cook tonight.

Ingredients:

Cod or your other favorite fish

Olive oil

Balsamic or a citrus like lemon or orange juice

Salt, pepper to taste

Any seasonings you prefer

Instructions:

1. Cut your fish into pieces about six inches in length (this is arbitrary, it’s just what I did last night)

2. Rinse with cold water.

3. Put in a pyrex or other oven-safe baking dish (I just wanted to name-drop pyrex like I’m Alton Brown)

4. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice

5. Top with seasonings or just salt and pepper

6. Optional: let sit overnight, or you can cook right away

7. Pre-heat oven to somewhere between 350 and 400 degrees (I wasn’t paying attention, I was blogging away on here)

8. Put fish in oven when you think it’s hot enough (or I guess when it’s preheated…)

9. Check on fish periodically until it looks done. You can also test it with a fork. Mine was cooked in 15-20 minutes.

10. Voila!

Notes:

I couldn’t believe the texture of this fish. It was like real fish you’d get from an actual chef! More likely, I couldn’t believe that had actually come out of my oven! This was a really haphazard dish that apparently is just hard to mess up, which is exactly the kind of dish I like.

It was so simple, I could see myself doing it every night. I’m not sure if sitting overnight in the marinade did much (that was by accident; I thought I wanted it the day before and realized I didn’t) and I’m never adverse to adding spices upon completion of the dish, anyway.

If you try this, I can almost guarantee you won’t mess it up. If you do, please contact me and let me know how. I always love a good laugh.

Enjoy!

Jojoba Oil- One Week Later

Ho-Ho-Ho-ba!

If you were waiting on the fence for me to get back to you on whether or not jojoba oil is great for your skin (specifically, clearing your acne)– wait no longer.

I’m back with an after-the-final rose post from a week ago, and I have to say, this stuff is like magic. My skin is completely clear. I think in that last week, I got one new blemish, and that’s now almost faded away entirely. My skin looks so good and the process is nearly effortless. It’s so simple I don’t think twice about doing it, and when I was doing a five-piece routine, that wasn’t the case.

I can’t emphasize enough how un-willing I am to spend my days and nights maintaining a look. Besides the results, and the fact that it’s entirely natural, that’s why I love it.

The routine:

I wash my face with a gentle cleanser. I like Cetaphil.

Then, when my face is still wet (sometimes I’ll gently pull off the excess water with my hands first), put two drops of this jojoba oil onto my hand, and spread it over my face.

Then I let it air dry.

That’s it.

I do this twice a day. And my skin looks better than ever, in less than two weeks.

Please note: I realized one of the reasons I broke out a few weeks ago was that I had worn make up one night, and I don’t think the gentle formula of Cetaphil actually got it all off (the mineral make up I used may be more resistant to good old soap and water). Anyway, if I happen to have make up on, which is less often these days, I hit it with a dash of a slightly stronger Burt’s Bee’s cleanser, too. Just make sure whatever you do, you get your make up off before your face hits the pillow. Whenever my face is make up free, the Cetaphil works just fine.

*I use Now jojoba oil, which can be purchased on Amazon. My bottle, pictured above, cost just slightly over $10 and by the looks of it, will last me for a good six months, perhaps even a year… (no, I never won that jelly bean number-guessing contest).

If you have any doubt, try it. If you are struggling with your skin, please do this. In the words of a wise man, Thank Me Later.

Thank You: How I Faced My Fear Of Public Writing

I used to have a fear of people reading my work. When I say real, I mean it was like full-on anxiety attack, as if I was about to get mauled. At least the fear was logical by design: the closer you were to me, the less I wanted you to read it, and the more intense my fear. It was just too personal. It was like spilling my guts, and probably just as uncomfortable.

So when I was first announcing my blog to my family and friends, I didn’t care if everyone in the world read it– except for them. I didn’t want anyone I knew to read it (it’s just a lot of hassle, anyway…). What would they think now that they were getting to actually know the real me? After years of thinking they knew me, they were going to have their minds blown (and not in a good way). I wasn’t sure I’d still be loved once the grammatical dust had settled. I certainly wouldn’t be understood, or agreed with.

These were the types of limiting thinking and fear running through my head. In fact, I briefly considered not telling anyone about it. I felt there was a good chance that even if I some how managed to get a strong readership, no one I knew personally would stumble upon it. So maybe it was worth it to just keep it on the down low. I’d always done things kind of independently anyway, and then just told them after the fact.

But one night at a party, I half-way by accident told a distant family member about the blog… and then I told them the address of the site as well. I immediately regretted it. Like, cringe-worthy type of regret. Like, I thought I would die every time I imagined this family member whom I barely even knew, reading about why I don’t wash my hands after I pee (I pee a thousand times a day, my hands get dried out and I think it’s unnecessary, okay?).

After years of being weird about people reading my writing, when that happened, it finally made me wonder what was going on internally to make me feel so extremely divided about writing and readership. After all, I loved writing and it certainly wasn’t like I’d slipped and made a blog (you can use that for why you had kids, but not for the creation of your website).

I was having this battle internale as I was trying to deal with the anxiety of putting myself out there. It seemed pretty un-enlightened, especially since I’m always espousing the non-importance of what other people think. Plus it was really killing my buzz from all the fun I was having doing the writing itself. My life was feeling great, except for that one strange black mark that felt so silly, but I just couldn’t shake.

A day or so later, I realized the third post I had written about coffee (go figure) got some attention in the Word Press community. The feedback was amazing and I realized that if I was going to do this, I had to do this all out. Not because I was such a great writer, or because of my great analytical mind 😉 but because that was the very message I was preaching. How could I be worried about what someone else thought, if I was doing my very best and believed in what I was doing?

There could be no question of holding back. It would be the antithesis of what I was trying to do. The whole point of my life (and, in fact, all life) is authenticity and honesty. Yet here I was, worried my dad would read this and hate me. That’s when I decided I had to get real, and any fears that came up, I would look calmly in the face and dismiss.

The other thing I realized was that if I was going to do this, I had to develop a thick skin. How to do that? Stick to my guns. And how to do that? Don’t write from the ego. This was one of the first lessons I learned and it’s probably the most important one. The only things that really made me nervous about other people reading, were written from the point of ego. They were the things that, viewed objectively and perhaps in the light of true understanding, I would not always be able to stand behind.

Anything written from my ego would usually be gratuitous or pointing a finger at others. It wasn’t for the greater good, and it wasn’t something I would be able to defend myself on having written, if push came to shove. It was the kind of thing with a quick turn-around, one minute you think it’s the only true thing, the next, you’re not so sure, and after that you totally disagree with it. Yes, the ego stuff would have to go. As would my protection of any ego associated with writing and the sense of myself attached to that.

I’d been raised to believe it’s impossible for everyone to like you. Great in theory, difficult in application for a recovering people-pleaser like myself. Yet, I realized, if I was to remain true to myself (which often means going against the norm) I would have to set any ego aside. This had to come from my truth, not some vision of myself as being right or knowing more than anyone else.

Now, I don’t edit myself for perfection or being politically-correct. As I said, the entire point of my articles is to look at life through a lens of authenticity. I want as little fabric between myself and life as possible.

But the one thing I try to make sure of is that my writing comes from a place of only adding creativity, and love to the world. And that it at least has the potential to help someone– even if it’s just to make them laugh. And my job isn’t to make an example of anyone but me, in terms of mistakes I’ve made or things I’ve noticed myself doing that are perhaps counter-productive to my own peace and happiness. I’m the only one who messes up around here. I don’t want to shine a light on anyone else’s inadequacy. Chances are if I see it in them, I’ve got plenty of examples where I’ve done that exact same thing, if I’m only willing to think back to that afternoon.

So I realized I’m just going to do my thing, with blinders on to whatever chatter exists around me. That isn’t mutually exclusive to reader loyalty, by the way. I have a strong loyalty to my readers. But to me, that makes it even more imperative that I put those blinders on each and every day and write the most elemental truth I can possibly grasp in that moment. In fact, that’s the only way I see myself as being of service to anyone.

When I’m writing, I feel like the most real version of myself. I try to do this in real life as much as possible, too, but it’s significantly more difficult when there’s a living, breathing person is sitting in front of you. When you’re with someone face to face, there are the variables of their gestures and energy, what they might be thinking in response to each thing you say, as well as what they’re saying in reply.

And when I’m writing, I’m not distracted (or okay, maybe I am, but at least you can’t tell how many times I got up to make myself tea during the writing of this article). I just get in there, make my point, edit the shit out of it, and hope for the best. Although writing might seem more like premeditated murder, and speaking, a crime of passion, for me it’s the other way around. In conversation, I can be really haphazard and I often have trouble getting across my real meaning. Listening, making eye contact, and all those other things are often the antithesis of the ability to access succinct logic. You might think I have ADD… although I hope you’d think I was nice. I really do enjoy being nice.

On that note, I don’t want to hurt of offend someone. But I realize that’s always a possibility. At least with writing, you can take it or leave it. I don’t mind as much if I offend someone here because first of all, I’m being honest. I don’t seek to actively offend anyone (that would be lame), but if I do, at least it’s because I was being myself and it’s something I stand behind, not because of some wayward comment I made or joke that fell flat (well, there are probably a bunch of those here, too).

At least if anything I write is offensive, it is consciously so. Many times I’m just trying to get you to see the world a bit differently than you did a moment ago. I believe people need to evaluate their lives, the world, and each other based on their own personal observations, and not what you’ve been hypnotized to believe. So if I offend, that’s probably why. There may be a few exceptions, but I generally try to be as clear as I can on what I mean and why I’m saying it. That’s the only kind of offensive I stand behind.

Also, reading is a friend of free will; you don’t have to read it if you don’t like what I’m saying, or you’re bored, or your partner wants to have sex. You can walk away, rant to your neighbor or curse my stupidity. But you don’t have to read it*.

*This way, no one has to save face awkwardly the minute a conversation gets weird and you both want to crawl under the table– except, preferably different tables, which are very far away from each other.

One of the coolest things about making something public, besides actively squashing any fears you have over what other people think, is that it keeps you honest. I don’t know if I’ve ever said this, but I have a true love for you.

Part of the reason is that you’re human, so I love you for that, and we’re on this journey together. Me loving you is how I fully love myself. So I guess that’s kind of selfish 🙂 And the other reason for all the love is that you help keep me true to my word in my life. If I write a post about something, I’m following it up on this end in material land. I’m either doing what I said, or there will be another piece explaining why not. If someone is going to take the time to read me, they sure as hell deserve the best truth I can possibly offer. (All in the hope that it ultimately points them to their own inner truth and they some day don’t even need to visit this site anymore or lean on anyone but themselves for inspiration!)

I may not have met you, but the connection we have goes beyond time and space and materiality. It’s a meeting of the minds. I’ve not met a more powerful force to date. This force keeps me honest day to day, when I know that I must face my actions in life as well as on paper, and I want them to be inspiring for others. Just as I want to read inspiring things, I want to print inspiring things to the world. I want my life to help people, in whatever small way that it possibly can. And this realization, and public accountability, has ultimately forced me to make small changes to my life that I will continue to detail here. But suffice to say, I greatly appreciate them, and they’re in large part, because of you.

I have a theory. In fact, I kind of take it for granted as more than just a theory, because it’s what I base my life upon today: as people, we recognize truth when we see it. When we see something outside ourselves that mirrors our truest part within, we feel good. We feel recognized and even for a moment, we feel as if we belong to this crazy world, with and among all these people whom we often feel so separated from.

The more conscious a person is, the less resistance they will have to the truth and their witnessing of it. But either way, because we are all truth underneath it all, that spark of truth will recognize the other spark of truth, and that’s where, when, and why any true connection occurs. My job is to find those sparks of truth in my own life and bring them to light for you, and in so doing, for myself, as well.

None of the things I write about are as an expert or above you. It’s all just things I’ve learned myself, or am in the process of learning. Even though I’m the one behind the keyboard at this particular site, I have just as much to learn from you as you might from reading it.

As much as I love to write, there is no point in talking to an empty room. Yes, I would still write if no one read it. Because I love doing it (it might sound a little different though). But I believe my writing only has true value in the context of how it serves you.

I hope that it does, not because of the fact that it’s my writing (which is nothing I worked for or earned the ability to do), but because I want to help better your life, just as I want to better my own. There is no point in making gains in a vacuum– in fact, those aren’t actual gains. That would be impossible. Anything of value you or I could possibly create is only of value if it helps other people in some way.

If it doesn’t, it’s ego-based junk written by someone who isn’t really me (but is a really good pretender) and it’s not helping me any more than it’s helping you. In that case, I’m detracting from the world instead of adding to it. Even if I was to get rich and famous from doing that, it’s not going to make me happy. So, that’s not my goal. My first, second, and last goals are happiness. For me, and for you.

Whether it’s your first or last time reading my work, or somewhere in between, the reason I write is for you, and I take that with a personal heap of responsibility to be as honest and true with you as I possibly can.

I’ve been humbled with the response to some of my articles that I had absolutely no idea would become a catalyst for change in other people’s lives, mainly the coffee one so far, which I was lucky enough to get Freshly Pressed before I even knew what that was or that it even existed. And by the way, that’s a lesson for me about not going after a goal and just following your heart.

If we are focused on trying to win, we will be more focused on the outcome than on the quality of action it takes to get there. I have done this, and I will continue to do it, writing what’s in my heart and having faith you and I will get what we need from this journey together.

If my writing ever stops effecting change, or helping you, I will know it’s time to move on to greener pastures. So, I mean it when I say, there is nowhere else I would rather be than here, sharing life with you (actually, that’s what got me to require this exercise trial in the first place!)

What I really started this post out to say is thank you. Thank you for reading, but much more importantly, thank you for giving my words heart. Words need breath from two ends: the writer, and the reader. And without you, the thing I love doing most, falls flat.

I wrote this post initially to preface a thirty day trial I was about to begin. My gratitude is to you for reading, and for keeping me accountable in a way I never have been before. When you have someone waiting for a post on what it’s like giving up sugar, or how a skin care regimen is working, the meaning you derive from writing, and life itself, becomes so much greater than just going it alone. The pleasure of helping people, because of and based upon our equality and the fact we are all part of this human condition, is what has breathed new meaning into my own life, beyond what I would have imagined.

That feeling has taught me that no matter what I can do for myself in this world, if it can help one other person, it’s exponentially more worth it than my own individual gain. This sense of responsibility has already made me a better person. This is true growth in my eyes, and I trust that I will find a way to repay that back to you.

So I truly mean this, to each and every one of you reading, whether it is two or twenty nine, twenty nine hundred or more, thank you so much for reading and valuing your life enough to learn and to grow here with me. It is appreciated beyond what words can convey. If you think I’m giving you anything at all, I promise you’re giving me a hundred times more.

Thank you.

Sprints- 30 Day Trial

My goal is for this to not make total sense to me.

My goal is for this to not make total sense to me.

One of my current problems as a writer (there aren’t many, but this is probably the biggest), is that I love what I do so much… that I don’t want to do anything else. I mean, I really don’t want to do anything else, but sit and write.

(And sleep. When I’m tired I can’t string two intelligible words together… And some might argue I can’t do that, even fully rested. Intelligible being the key word.)

You see, I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this in your own life, but writing requires you to sit. And sit. And sit. Sometimes, I’ll go for a walk and get some writing done via iPhone legal pad, but I usually try to take the “be here now” approach, which means when I’m walking, I walk. Sans phone (which almost got me lost in the woods at dark the other night– that’s when I started missing my map/helicopter rescue service app). And when I’m writing, I’m write.

There have been days I haven’t left the kitchen table (that’s where I write– although I’m currently experimenting with the bed, you know, because it’s more professional) except to pee or make food. I’ve had parts of my body fall asleep you never even knew could do that. I’m just that hood at sitting.

I’m by nature a rather sedentary person who loves to relax and lounge about (also known as a Taurus). However when I get myself up and out, I’m fairly athletically inclined. I’ve always dabbled in some type of sport my entire life (and if you think ballet doesn’t count, you’ve clearly never tried it). I value sports and physical activity, but too often just in theory. Like looking at pictures of Kelly Ripa in workout clothes leaving a gym, while wondering whether or not I should get out of bed and go for a run… (Nah, but does drinking green tea count towards one’s fitness?)

I truly am a huge lover of the work out. I know the benefits of working out (I could edit that statement, but I’ll leave it for posterity/comedic value). Every time I do it, it’s without a doubt the best thing I’ve done with my day. And every time I start working out again, I simply can’t imagine how I let myself go without it, after being reminded each and every time just how amazing it feels. Being physical gives me access to a part of me that I only have through movement. Somehow, by moving my body, I am able to transcend it. It is otherworldly in that way.

Exercise also offers immediate gratification on your investment. Not to mention, there’s no better investment than your physical and spiritual health. I adore the advantages I receive from vigorous daily exercise; and they’re more than just physical. They’re mental and emotional, as well. I’m more balanced and an all-around better human being on the days I’ve made it a priority and worked myself the heck out.

Funny thing: although I sit for marathon sessions at a time as a writer, I tend to get up every twenty minutes or so and do something random and most often unnecessary– a trait I gleaned from my dad (who’s convinced he would have been given a shit ton of ADD meds as a kid; a theory I fully endorse, and a practice I do not).

So I’ve kind of got this weird oxymoronic tug of war going on between movement and inertia. I’ve always been this way.

But especially since I started writing for this site, my physical fitness has been going down the drain. For real. I can feel it, and I believe that my work, too, would benefit from the mental stimulation of regular exercise. I’ve finally come to realize that if I truly love this, and I want to be able to keep doing it and keep my good health as well, I’ve got to find a balance between the all-or-nothing approach and… well, I think I’ve just got to sod the all-or-nothing approach altogether.

It’s time to get back on the wagon of workouts.

This is where my public accountability really pays off! 😉

I’ve adopted the 30 day trial from Steve Pavlina, whose site I highly recommend. I could try to get crafty and change the name to something like “30 day sprinting challenge” but I wouldn’t want to make it any more challenging for myself.

So, long story short (wink) tomorrow begins my first-ever 30 day trial… of sprints. Although this particular trial will actually only be 15 days of performance, because I will be doing the sprint routine every other day. According to what I’ve read, this is the upper limit for how often you should perform this particular activity.

On the days off, I’ll do something like walking, yoga, or trampolining, but my plan is for one concerted effort of physical activity for at least thirty minutes, each day (so I guess in that way, it is in fact, a 30 day trial of exercise, but a 15 day trial of sprints. Ya with me?). I will be traveling later in the month, and I realize that might make it slightly more difficult, but part of the beauty of sprints is that you can get a full workout in twenty minutes or less. And if I waited until there was never anything coming up, well, I’d be waiting quite a while. (I’m just too popular!)

There are many benefits to sprinting and apparently, this type of exercise is like the holy grail. Funny, I used to be a quick sprinter when I was in the best shape of my life. Unfortunately, that was back when I was ten.

Sprinting wasn’t on my radar until just recently, and now all of a sudden it’s like, blown up my spot. I’ve had sprinting recommended to me (via reading, not personally) by an Ayurvedic doctor, professional body builder, and everyone in between who knows a thing or two about fitness. In fact, once I started researching it, I was amazed I had never seriously considered it before.

I was no stranger to long-distance running or chugging away on the elliptical for forty-five minutes at a time, and yet here was a wealth of information with nearly everyone in agreement that sprinting was the fastest, most effective, and healthiest form of aerobic exercise. I’m also no stranger to exercise and nutritional research, and this stood out to me simply because everyone seemed to be in such harmonious agreement of the benefits and superiority of sprinting. I couldn’t get that many people to agree about the virtues of apples!

Here are some of the reported (and generally agreed upon) benefits of sprinting:

-Decreased body fat

-Increased muscle mass

-Better heart and lung health

-Visible results in a short period of time

-Increased energy levels

-Better insulin sensitivity

-Increased circulation

-Increased endurance

-For women, an increase in HGH* production

(*Human Growth Hormone, which is beneficial to aging, as well as burning fat and building muscle. HGH production declines as we age.)

-For men, increased testosterone and decreased cortisol levels

As far as the actual routine, I’ve recently become familiar with a simple 12 minute workout, recommended by Dr. John Douillard, and I’ve practiced it a few times. It consists of a two minute warm up, followed by a series of sprints/rests at one minute each, for a total of four, followed by a two minute cool down. At least I’ll have a use for that cool digital watch I bought a few years ago.

So I’ll be starting this tomorrow, and continuing the sprints every other day for a month. I will keep you updated as to how it goes. I think I can spare twelve minutes a day away from my desk… which is actually a bed.

…On second thought, tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

Why You Shouldn’t Work On Your Birthday

Am I the only one who takes pictures of cards instead of buying them?

First of all, I’d like to take this moment to wish my good friend Jer a very happy birthday today, as well as thank him for becoming the inspiration for this post. So happy thirtieth, Jer, you are not old, I swear (you’re just older than me, but so are the Olsen twins, and they’ll never seem old).

So earlier today, I wished my friend happy birthday, and he replied he wished he’d taken the day off from work. That immediately resonated with me as I recalled having one of the “worst birthdays ever” the year before last.

That year, I was turning 24. I was in a phase of working a lot and I figured oh what the hell, I’ll go to work (two jobs), and sure, after that I’ll take my sister to a meeting with one of my old death and dying professors. What else are birthdays for?

But by the time I got home from that day’s mess of jobs, errands, and tasks, my boyfriend had fallen asleep and I was left to drink the luxury beer he’d bought me alone, while watching something really unmemorable on TV (we didn’t even have cable, so that’s how I know it was bad).

The gifts he’d bought me were sweet, but the only thing I’d actually wanted was to spend the day with the person I loved. Instead I’d spent it every other possible way (and Kels, I love you, but yeah… no more meetings on my birthday). And sure, I could try to make it up that weekend by going out, but try as I might have to deny it, there is just something special in the air on your birthday. You just can’t get that shit back– at least, not for the next three hundred and sixty four days.

This could be a really superfluous post, you know, about whether or not to work on your birthday. Sounds kind of like I’m reaching, right? Most people would shrug it off as just an excuse to hear myself think on paper, or extrapolate on an idea that doesn’t beg of it.

But while a pessimistic someone might say, “Everybody has a birthday, so what? Now get back to work!” To me, that’s kind of the point. Not everyone has a wedding anniversary, or a love for Valentine’s day or a child for mother and father’s day. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and I don’t get to celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanza or take all those Jewish observance days off (I knew I should have converted).

But everyone has their own birthday; it’s one of the only things that we all have in common. So to me, that’s what makes it so cool. It’s the great equalizer of man: we were all born, and it happened on a day. That day is our birthday.

It’s not just some garbage a card company created (and yes, I do think those Hallmark days are bunk). It’s actually a legitimate real-life, and yet otherworldly event. It’s the anniversary of day in which you came into physical existence. If that doesn’t call for a celebration, I don’t know what does.

So I don’t think it’s as nonessential a topic of consideration as it may sound. I think that finally, after years of making the mistake of working on my birthday, or scheduling any other number of random assorted tasks that could easily wait until another day, I have finally learned the lesson: don’t work on my birthday! (And therefore, because I love you: Don’t work on your birthday!)

I don’t care if it sounds childish; I don’t have time for name calling. This is about living your life and loving it. This is about the fact that this is the only birthday you’ve got for sure, right here, right now. So love yourself enough to take a break from your job (unless, of course, you love your job so much that you actually prefer to work on your birthday– which, I believe, is the best option of all).

Use your birthday as an excuse to do whatever it is you want to do. The best gift you can give yourself is getting to know yourself a little bit better. Why not spend the entire day asking, “What is it I want to do?” Have you ever actually done that before? Now’s the time. A year older, a year wiser. But no man was wise without first knowing himself. I often doubt  whether there is any wisdom beyond that.

Now, this may sound like I’m a huge birthday freak who looks for any excuse to break out the trick candles and party hats. But that’s actually not so (and party hats just aren’t flattering on me, no clue why). As much as I’m into astrology, and therefore knowing birthdays, I’ve never been hugely motivated to actually celebrate them.

I love to think of people and surprise them by remembering their birthdays, but the cake and balloons and going out and getting sloshed just seem kind of beside the point once you reach a certain age (like, the age in which you can legally get sloshed). Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my style. Besides, I never make a big deal of my own birthday… At least not outwardly.

But the one thing I have always loved about my birthday is simply people remembering me and saying “happy birthday”. It’s just about the connection, to other people, and the universe as well. Your birthday is the day when you can kind of revisit the world as it was (planetarily) to the day you were born. It always warms my heart disproportionately when someone says happy birthday (although, it must be on my actual birthday, to get that reaction). It’s like you just declared your undying love for me or something… I don’t know, I’m weird. But it really means a lot, it’s just so nice!

A close second to my favorite thing about birthdays is the really thoughtful, totally random and small gifts people give you. The kind that don’t have any great external value, but that mean so much just because of the thought put into them and the person who gave them. Those are the kind of gifts that make me re-think the value of going over the top materialistically.

Like this year, one of my friends brought me a gluten-free, vegan brownie and a kombucha tea, plus she wrote me a really sweet card. Nothing crazy, but I still remember it and think she’s the best, just because it was so thoughtful. Then I had an awesome birthday just kayaking with her out on the lake. The weather was insanely gorgeous, so after that I had a beautiful afternoon in the park with Leo and my sister came home from college and surprised me. Then Leo and I got sushi (emphasis on seaweed salad, which to me is like blood to a vampire). It was so simple, but it was a really great day.

My whole point is this: celebrate your birthday. Don’t let it pass you by. I like to think every day is special, but your birth-day is just a little more special than the rest. Use it as a reason to sleep in, spend the day with your kids, your papillon, or whatever else is truly the most important thing to you in the world. Presents and big nights out and all the other trappings are fine, but real-life things, like nature, love, and relationships are the parts you’re going to remember a year or ten, from now.

It’s one day. You can afford it. In fact, you can’t afford not to. It’s not being a diva to take the day off. It’s simply called not being a work-a-holic– which, contrary to popular belief, is not commendable. It’s unhealthy, adds negativity to the world (and obviously you), and pragmatically-speaking, it’s counter-productive to the work you do, anyway. So stop acting like the world will stop if you take the day for a “mental health/birth day” and have chocolate cake and soda for breakfast at noon. It’s the only responsible thing to do.

I promise, if you take the time out to celebrate your life and start your personal new year off right, your work will still be there tomorrow. This is the one day of the year that is yours to do with as you please. If you’re not willing to pause and smell the coffee along the way in life, I don’t know what you’re living for.

Not to mention, I don’t take it for granted that I will certainly have a birthday next year. I don’t mean that in a morbid way; the fragility and uncertainty of life is what makes it so sweet. I’m totally okay with it. I may not be here tomorrow, next year, or five years from now.

That’s the reason we must appreciate each day as it comes. And ironically enough, once you start living your life for today, rather than tomorrow or five years from now, death won’t look so scary anymore (seriously, strange but true). You’re enjoying yourself here and now, and you’ll get done what you get done. The rest just wasn’t that important.

Maybe you find it hard to live every day like it’s your last, as the saying goes, but at least on your birthday, it’s a reminder that you can, and should be doing just that. So call in sick to work or take a vacation day to celebrate your life and the people you love. Maybe start a new healthy habit that will keep giving as the year progresses, or take that trip you’ve always wanted. Even if you just catch up on sleep, it’s not a waste if that’s what you most want to be doing.

So, it’s your birthday. You can work (and cry) if you want to (and I take full advantage of that right most years– emotional surge, not sure the cause but it’s like clockwork) but I strongly believe there’s value to starting your own personal new year off on just the right note, whatever that means for you.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday…  (I’m so original)

(Jer, I swear this card isn’t about you)

Ode To The Mason Jar

Pretty sure expiration date is for salsa. (Not smoothie).

Pretty sure expiration date is for salsa. (Not smoothie).

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. They’re free! Salsa, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, whenever you buy something in a mason jar, you’re getting more than you bargained for– in a good way.

2. Who cares if they break*? You didn’t buy it, at least not on purpose. (You know, because they matched the tiny specks of gold in the tiles on your countertop and you just HAD to have them).

*Just don’t cut yourself. Stitches + ten hours in the ER= actually not worth the free cup.

3. This is the best– they store your green smoothies for you (!!). Or your banana daiquiris. Either way, having a lid that fits your cup can be priceless when you want to save it for later. Hell, you can use them to store chopped up fruit, vegetables, oatmeal…I mean, the list is endless. (Kind of like my love for mason jars.)

4. Super portable, because of the lid. Both my LLBean Klean Kanteen and my Camelback are extremely lame about dripping water all over my bags. As opposed to those $20-30 dollar containers, these actually hold your liquid. Especially handy if you don’t want to show up to church with a scotch stain and have to explain to your grandma it’s actually Chanel’s new fragrance. Just sayin’

5. They’re glass! Forget plastic and BPA’s and all that other garbage that is probably worse for you than cigarettes (say what you want about Kurt, I bet his lips never touched a Nalgene). Glass is where it’s at. There’s no health risk to using glass (except if it breaks, see #2) and it’s so much easier to clean. Actually, my dad doesn’t think plastic can even fully get clean, but I’ll save that for his conspiracy theory guest post (I don’t want to steal his limelight).

Plus, glass just feels better to drink from, and it’s just an all-around more people and earth-friendly material.

6. Re-using anything is better than buying new. I never have to buy cups, but I’m always acquiring new ones from my salsa addiction, I mean, habit. Better for your wallet, better for the planet.

7. Oh and did I mention they’re shabby chic and totally a la mode? Great for hosting a mint julep party in your backyard before the Kentucky Derby. Plus, Blake Lively had them at her wedding (along with a $10,000 cake), so you know they’ve got to be good.

To be honest, this last one is the only real reason anyone should be using a mason jar. Ever.

Emily’s Basic Green Smoothie

Not this kind of green... But you're on the right track. Sort of.

Not this kind of green… But you’re on the right track. Sort of.

Ingredients:

*1-2 Bananas

*2-4 Handfuls of spinach, kale, swiss chard, romaine or collard greens

(Any mixture thereof will do just fine, but apparently it’s good for you health-wise to rotate your greens. Makes sense to me.)

*Water (Start with about a cup. You can always add more as you go.)

Add in’s:

*Seeds of choice. I use sesame, flax and chia on the reg

*You can also add a pinch of sea salt and/or stevia, for instance if your bananas aren’t very ripe, like mine were not today

Blend the greens and fruit. Then add the seeds and any seasoning and blend once more.

Funny note: if you like eggnog, adding nutmeg to this thing will make it taste very, very similar. Trust me. It’s weird! (And good)

It’s not life or death (like a souffle), but I say to pour the seeds in after you’ve already blended the greens and fruit because otherwise they fly up when you start to blend, and you lose a lot of them on the top and sides of the blender. If you add them after, or during a blend cycle, they all end up where you want them.

Annnnd enjoy!

*A Note on Seeds

Seeds are awesome for you (or so I hear) and a smoothie is probably the easiest way to get them down. Especially because with seeds like flax, eating them whole doesn’t do you any good– you’ve got to get them ground up to get the benefits.

But if you’ve ever deal with seeds, you may have noticed that they can be a little bit tricky to handle. They can fly all over and they have static cling if you store them in plastic containers. You’re supposed to keep them in a cool space, and mine are stored away under other things (my freezer isn’t very large).

So to make it easier to use them (and so I don’t make excuses for not adding them to my shakes) I throw a mixture of the three seeds I use into one easy-pour container (an old stevia cup). I leave that in the refrigerator and it’s really easy to grab and drop some seeds in as I’m making the smoothie. That way, I don’t have to re-open and re-close three separate seed containers after searching them out in my freezer each time. With this method, I know I get a little bit of a different ratio to seeds every day. Mixes it up! And no, I don’t measure how many seeds I eat each day. I just toss them in and hope for the best. So far, I’m still here.

Anyway, the seed mixture method works for me. Maybe you’ll find it excuse-proofs your seeds, too. 😉

Just don't excuse-proof these seeds...

Speaking of excuses and seeds…

The Mysterious Power Of Green Smoothies

When it comes to green smoothies, don’t not believe the hype.

And I’m not a hyped-up person. I know most of the best things in life are so old and common-sense, they don’t need any hype to know they’re a good thing.

But the green smoothie is just one of those things I keep coming back to. They just feel so right. Once you get your body used to them, you won’t want to go without. It just may feel like deprivation…

The green smoothie is the only one of my “kicks” that anyone in my family has ever taken on for themselves. My family is so used to me sleeping on the floor, not eating wheat/dairy/sugar/meat (depending on the week), making face masks in the kitchen, using strange shampoos and crystal deodorants (I know I’m forgetting a few, but it’s best to leave some things unsaid), they just roll their eyes (when I’m not looking) whenever I come up with something new I’m going to try.

But green smoothies are special, like I said. I got my dad to try them once, and he got hooked. (“This isn’t just a phase, Em.”) Now he brings one to work every day in a huge mason jar and makes people sample it. Their reaction? “It’s not bad!” (Those are the words, verbatim, out of the mouth of every single person sweetly naive enough to ask him what that green shit in the cup is.) So the most consistent thing I can say about green smoothies is, “they’re not bad!”

Funny story: my parents just got back from a two week trip to Alaska, and besides this thing, the one thing he missed the most was green smoothies (he was too busy filling up on salmon to ask where the blender was). So yeah, that’s the power of green (smoothies).

You know how when you used to play a sport and you see someone doing it, you get all sentimental and wish you were back doing it, too? Like you’re almost jealous because what they’re doing looks so fresh and awesome? That’s how I am with green smoothies (and sometimes running). If I’m not drinking them on the reg and I come across an article or something about how great green smoothies are for you, I want to kick myself/pound a green smoothie. They’re one of the only foods I know that are for sure healthy for me.

Meat, no meat, grains, no grains, dairy yes, dairy no. The debates go back and forth– there’s even some debate about how much fruit is healthy to eat, which I’m just finally beginning to wrap my mind around…but eating a bunch of green vegetables is finally a dietary no-brainer.

But really, they’re more than just “not bad!” They’re like salads on steroids, as far as your health is concerned.

Here’s why: when you blend the greens, the micronutrients they contain can be more easily digested by your body. This makes it easier for you to absorb the nutrients. It’s like mainlining heroin, but the healthy kind. I’m all about that. (Kurt, I wish you’d found green smoothies instead…)

Why green?

The green is important because it comes from chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is extremely beneficial to the human body. That’s why you always hear people talking about eating your vegetables– and especially the green ones– unfortunately, they are not ever referring to french fries (trust me, I checked). In fact, it is almost identical in biological composition to human blood.

What’s it taste like?

Mainly, it tastes like whatever fruit you add. That’s the absolute beauty of these things. You will be amazed at how great they taste. It’s not like one of those medicinal things you do because it’s good for you, all the while holding your nose as you chug it down (like I do with whiskey). There are infinite possibilities of what you can add to find something you like.

I’m convinced people respond so positively to them and seem to have this strange, innate draw to the bright green color, simply because their bodies are dying for something this healthy. It’s on another level.

[And to be honest regarding health food: I want to cringe when I see people eating something with a wrapper that told them it’s healthy, so they think they’re doing themselves a favor. I say this with love: if it has a wrapper telling you it’s healthy, there’s a really good chance that you just got served by the likes of Don Draper. True “healthy” is whatever is closest to nature, not whatever a factory/corporation decides to advertise as such.

The most healthful products are the ones that don’t need advertising, because they don’t contain some special blend of ingredients created by man. Even if all the ingredients are natural, they’ve probably been more processed than your body wants to know.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my diet is perfect. Far from. But my one saving grace is that I at least know when I’m eating junk food. And I don’t think a lot of people do.

For example, I know when I eat a granola bar that tries to tell me it’s good for me because it’s organic and made with “whole grains” it’s still just a granola bar, probably with too much sugar. And it’s not counting toward my healthy food intake for the day, that’s for sure. Same with “fat free”, “sugar free”, or any of those other free’s. Go back to as natural food as you possibly can. I don’t even visit the inner isles of the grocery store anymore, except for rare occasions. You don’t need that crap to survive, and you won’t have it if you want to thrive. Okay, I’m off my soap box on that for now. Back to cramming veggies down your throat…]

How many days do you go without vegetables? Do you know what a real serving size is? It’s a lot! Check your bag of spinach and you’ll see it’s two–maybe three– servings in there. And you know how people are always focusing on the importance of greens…Well, here’s your chance to shake– I mean– eat what your momma told ya!

I really adore a salad, but since I discovered these last year, it’s always tempting to just throw in a bunch of greens and give them a spin. It makes it easier to pack more vegetables in than you would normally want to eat in any one sitting, and I can really mow a salad.

As much as I’m all about slowing down, and focusing on a single thing in the moment, these fit right in with an active (too busy?) lifestyle. You can drink them on the go, and they’re obviously quite portable. You can also make a large batch and store it in your fridge for later. It takes less time than cooking eggs and toast, for goodness sake! Not that I’d spend that much time cooking breakfast, but I know a few people who would.

Some awesome things about green smoothies are as follows:

1) They’re one of the healthiest foods you could possibly consume

2) Literally could not be easier. You just throw shit in a blender. (That’s my kind of cooking)

3) It fills you up and makes your cravings disappear

4) They get you “moving” down there. They really clean you out– which is like a daily detox for your digestive tract. Or so I’ve heard. I’ll leave it at that, because I’ve already gone too far…

Because of the hit of bio-available nutrients and fiber, you might actually have to remind yourself to eat. Whenever I’m faithful to my smoothies, I just don’t want other food the way I normally would. They are a great way to start your day, in terms of nutrients and energy. You might even find that coffee isn’t quite as necessary as it was a few days ago…

They really nourish you in a way that is hard to find elsewhere. Your cravings will lessen, possibly even go away.

I’m not a trendy-diet sort of person; I just want to do what’s healthy for me. I’m also extremely lazy in the kitchen, in fact I think that’s the ancestral meaning of my name. But really, these things are fool-proof, so simple to make, and so healthy. There’s no way to go wrong.

I’m just glad I’m finally using my Vitamix for these instead of margaritas…

I’ll be adding green smoothie recipes as I go along, but usually I make it different every time with whatever I have on hand. I’m gross with salt, so sometimes I add a pinch (or six) of sea salt… That’s not a recommendation, just a full-disclosure. If you’re nasty like me, you may want to use it too. I’ll wean myself off eventually but for now I don’t think it’s doing much harm and it makes me enjoy it even more. (By the way, if you think salt with sweet things is gross, try making chocolate chip cookies and omitting the NaCL, so don’t even get me started).

Oh, by the way one of my favorite green smoothies is super simple (and I don’t measure anything, but you’ll get the hang of it as you go along).

-a banana or two

-a few large handfuls of spinach or kale– as much as you can add is good. I actually find the greens make it creamier.

-spring water to taste — depending on your preference for consistency, but I prefer mine like juice so I add more

-blend

-voila!

No dressing required.

Be forewarned: if you walk around with one of these, you’re going to get questioned (not by the cops, relax). People are naturally drawn to them, like a long-lost friend. I even had some really tough-looking motorcycle tattooed guy ask me to write the recipe down for him (unfortunately for him, you’ve seen what my recipe-writing skills amount to). He was a real sweetheart.

*Note on smoothies versus juicing:

Juicing is great. I bought a Green Star Juicer last summer that I used the heck out of. The one thing I’ll say about juicing is that it has a lower product/yield ratio, meaning you have to use more fruit to get the same amount of product (juice versus smoothie).

Fresh juice is hands-down the best thing I’ve ever tasted on earth. You literally get a buzz from drinking it on an empty stomach. I loved it. You know, I love anything with a buzz. Sometimes I even mixed it with vodka… But I’m pretty sure that’s not what juicing is really for.

But for every day, in my life, these green smoothies are less expensive, have way more fiber (versus basically none) and much quicker and easier to make. Clean up with a juicer is usually quite an effort. I also prefer to stock my kitchen solely with multi-use appliances, which, happily for me means I’m not that stocked, but I have everything I need (except for this gosh damn soy/almond/rice milk maker I bought in a fit of strange homemaking…)

Anything that doesn’t have more than one use is usually taking up more space than it’s worth. It’s also probably getting used about once a year. So I sold my Green Star and got a Vitamix, and I’ve been happy with the decision ever since.

What prompted me to write this aside was that I made a spinach/banana smoothie today and without meaning to, added a little more spring water than usual. The result was siiiiick. It looked and tasted like my good old juice! Really refreshing.

So if you prefer juice over a thicker smoothie, I recommend adding more water (patent pending). It will really balance out the thickness and it’s definitely comparable, with all the benefits of not having to juice. I’m pretty sure I can continue popping out fresh juice with just a simple Vitamix, versus the hassle of juicing.

Now go make yourself a smoothie.

I’m gonna go trampoline!

34 Reasons Why Living With Your Ex Is Handy

feed this to your ex

Feed this to your ex

34. It’s like kind of like Dawson and Joey… I think.

33. They’ll remind you how embarrassing your garden is.

32. You can continue your ongoing photography project of taking pictures of them while they sleep. (Not creepy at all)

31. They never let you sleep past five AM (because that’s what time they come home from carousing) so you’ll never be late for work, even if you don’t have a real job.

30. If you see a wildlife calendar that you know they’d love, you just can take it home and hand it to them (saves on shipping).

29. You can still buy matching rings, they just can’t mean anything. (This helps if they’re wire-wrapped and purchased outside of a Grateful Dead cover band show).

28. Dramatic fake break-up scenes at outside cafes. (“I can’t believe you cheated on me with my mother!”)

27. They’ll offer to cook you veggie burgers (even if you’re not in the mood, it’s still a nice gesture).

26. You can continue to use their expensive toothpaste.

25. You’d never buy chips or ice cream…But you can eat theirs.

24. If you don’t know who to give all your extra liquor to (you know how that stuff goes bad), they’re happy to finish it off for you.

23. You get to hear a recap of their drunken hijinx… every. single. night.

22. They’ll keep your washer in great working order by doing one pair of pants and one tee shirt at a time.

21. Your dog won’t hold the break up against you as long as she still gets to see them.

20. You sometimes forget and sleep with them (whoops). Wait, that’s actually not very handy…Sorry.

19. When they take their shirt off, their trim waistline reminds you why you’re eating that salad.

18. They’ll fall asleep while eating magenta sherbet on your Persian rug. It might fuck up your Iranian conversation piece, but it sure makes for some great pics (see #32).

17. They can walk in on you while you pee and it is all good.

16. They’ll hang out in your sister’s room and talk about you while you’re downstairs writing about them.

15. You get to answer the question, “Isn’t it awkward??” probably a thousand times. (It never gets dull)

14. You now have someone to pass off all the annoying-flavored granola bars to. (Exes just love granola bars. Trust me.)

13. They’ll have their friends over and generously let them sleep on your couch until three p.m. (Which I know is really handy, I just can’t remember why…)

12. They’ll still buy you sneakers. (Even if they’re the same Reeboks your grandma wore twenty years ago, and they bought matching ones for themselves…)

11. Your friends of the opposite sex will feel strange around them at all times.

10. They’ll start going out for drinks with your sister on the reg. Bonus points if a drunken man mistakes them for a couple.

9. They’ll share their champagne with you before a Lil Wayne show you aren’t even going to.

8. You’re nearly guaranteed no rebound relationships while this set up is in place.

7. You can still share jewelry. (This works for lesbian/gay relationships or apparently mine, as well).

6. You get the honor of letting them in whenever they get locked out after a night of drinking and have lost their key. This ensures you don’t get too much quality sleep, which is probably bad for your health.

5. Also, if you accidentally sleep through them being locked out, they will definitely wake you up to let you know how you just missed the honor of waking up to let them in. (They let you learn from your mistakes.)

4. You don’t have to delete all their information off your computer because they’re still using it just as much as you.

3. You’ll finally get your money’s worth out of the Persian rug (it’s your new bed).

2. If they bring a girl home you get to pretend you’re just cousins. Works every time.

And finally, the number one reason why living with your ex is handy:

1. Because you used to love them enough to want to live with them, and if you’re super lucky like me, you can say that you still do.

And alright, and maybe your garden is a little embarrassing after all…

Squash

My squash looked slightly different, but I know squash can come in all shapes and sizes.

My squash looked slightly different, but I know squash comes in all shapes and sizes.

Squash

Make this if you want to die of happiness. It’s so simple, I cooked beans the next day–I wasn’t even burnt out!

Ingredients:

squash (any kind– or zucchini)

water

pot or pan

olive or coconut oil 

balsamic vinegar

salt, pepper to taste 

1. Slice the squash. I got a little annoyed with how hard it was part way through, so I just threw large chunks into the pot. You just need to make sure they can fit in the pot with some water, that’s your main objective.

The shapes and sizes really do not matter, and if your squash is as hard as mine was last night (or maybe if you’ve just never invested in a nice knife set, which I have not) then that’s good news for you.

I’ve just realized this may be a mistake, since if anyone tried to kill me using my own haphazard set of knives, I would die a slow/painful death, all the while wishing I’d at least sprung for some Chicago Cutlery. Oh well, die and learn…

2. Add water in with the squash. Make sure it’s all submerged, or at least able to be in contact with the water (I’m not sure how obvious I have to be for you to not mess this fool-proof recipe up).

3. Boil the squash in the water until tender. You can check with a fork, a spoon, or a knife.

4. Drain the water out against the lid– I refuse to use a strainer, even with pasta. Just use the lid. It saves you a dish and it’s already there.

5. Plate the squash and add salt, pepper, your oil of choice, and balsamic vinegar. I used butternut squash, and it was out of this world (I might say delicious if that wasn’t my most-hated word, ever). I had this for breakfast and I literally wanted to die for how good it was.

_______________________________________________________________

Post-recipe game plan:

6. Try to prevent yourself from throwing up over how good it tastes. It may help to have a paramedic on hand who specializes in squash deaths/illness.

7. Go learn a second language with all the extra time you just saved by making this simple dish instead of a compote.

___________________________________________

Notes:

*By the way, I don’t think squash can go bad. Or, it takes a really long time for it to happen. This is a squash that was sitting on my counter for so long, it had become a running joke/kitchen ornament. Now my counter is bare and I’m not sure if I should go get another squash to replace it. Maybe I shouldn’t have made this recipe…

*Also, there was no need for me to peel the squash. The rind on this particular type (butternut) boiled right down to where it was hardly discernible from the meat of the squash itself. So maybe it was a little more fiber for me in the end, and it was a lot less work in the beginning. I’m all about that!

Losing My Religion

Yeah, kind of like losing these...

Yeah, kind of like losing these.

Jesus is great. I’m a huge fan of Jesus. How could you not be? What a nice guy! Seriously, I’d love to have had him as a pal.

But the problem is, a lot of people don’t know he was just a nice guy who came to help people and teach them a better way of life. A lot of people hear the word Jesus, and kind of want to throw up in their mouth. They’re holding their breaths, just waiting for a rant about homosexuals or something you saw on FOX News.

I used to be one of those people. Religion had put a bad taste in my mouth, and any talk of the words God or Jesus or any other religious figure or words made me shut down. The problem with religion and “god” and all the other jargon associated with people who are sure they’ve got the direct-line to god and everyone else be damned, is that it’s filled with condemnation and hate for people who believe otherwise or see the world any differently than they.

It turns many good and open-minded people away from the idea that they could ever, or would even want to be, “spiritual” or “religious”. They just haven’t saved up enough judgment yet!

Religion has scared people away from god. Hell, now the word god scares people away from god. And I think that’s really sad. Because for me, there was no way I could ever be truly happy until I found my sense of faith. It wasn’t in a religion. It was in a higher power, some sort of greater measure to my life than I was currently able to find on my own. You know, the thing that makes me greater than the sum of my biological components.

Religion is specific. I think religion is kind of like the ego’s way of taking you on what appears to be a spiritual sight-seeing trip. You think you’re getting a better deal because when you buy into a religion, you get all the cool perks, like a priest, or a church and a Sunday dinner made by old ladies. You get holidays (okay, I have to admit, I admire the way you use your belief in god and a saint as a way to take a day off and go drinking), a menorah or you get to light a bunch of candles and stick pins into cute little dolls. And who doesn’t love confessing their sins to a salivating priest in a makeshift phone booth?

Your personality picks your religion, because you want a way of viewing the world that is compatible with you, and some people prefer gelt to fruitcake. Madonna loves coconut water and wearing a little red string. Some people like to get hooked up to electrodes until they tell the truth, which is why Tom Cruise is so cool.

There is nothing really wrong with that. I’m all about choosing how you view the world, since that gives you maximum power to control your happiness. Choosing how I viewed the world was one of the coolest things I ever did. It’s why I’m writing this to you tonight. (So you know it must be awesome)

The problem with most religions, however, is that they are usually more divisive than inclusive. I mean, what’s the point of a club that everyone’s a part of? You’ve got to have a system to keep the riffraff out. What once could have started as a war between eating bacon on your McMuffin or not eating bacon on your McMuffin, turned into my god versus your god (no matter we all seem to have been made by the same god), turned into my life versus yours. Massacres and genocide are the most extreme examples of the every day division that most religions (through the ego of man) create.

I know you don’t need me to enumerate all the different ways in which religion has acted as a cohesive device for small groups of people who the in turn their togetherness against everyone else. But what’s amazing to me is that after all these years, of people screwing themselves over by limiting themselves with religion, people still can’t comprehend the fact that we’re all in this lifetime and on this earth, together.

If god actually wanted to put people on the earth to battle it out to the death, well then, what a masochistic jerk. Why would you devote your life to following the wishes of someone like that, anyway?

And why, pray tell ( 😉 ) would he give some select group the secret to his existence (which can be found by praying in multiple directions or only on Sunday after drinking some wine–shit, I forgot which!) to one group of people, and leave all the others out?

And why would he create people who weren’t worthy of living or love? As target practice for the rest? Jesus, forgive me for using your name like that, but there’s got to be another way!

I’m not saying you can’t be religious or keep your religion (obviously that would be presumptuous). It’s just that to me, most religion implies that I’m right, and you’re wrong. For the life of me, they all look the same. Take out a priest, insert a rabbi. You say Islam, I say tomato. It seems they’re all talking about the same god, who by their definition, is really good at hating and judging the very people he made in his image.

But the coolest thing is that their god is great at hating the very same people they personally can’t stand. (How convenient is that?!!)

The only people who I can possibly imagine being right, are the people who are looking beyond any labels and simply loving people because they are. You know, the kind of people whose job it is to be good is every day of the week that ends with y, and not just on the one that’s a homophone for an ice cream dessert.

So what’s my answer to religion?

I don’t identify myself as anything. I’m not just talking religion. I mean, I don’t really identify myself at all. That’s kind of why I don’t have a bio on this site and why I get sick of talking about myself at parties. It all seems so irrelevant! Yes I have a past and a history, but so does everyone else on this earth. That certainly doesn’t make me unique.

I don’t identify with my story and I don’t identify with the details that make people think they know someone. No one really knows me, no one really understands me, because I’m unknowable. So are you. And I don’t care, because I don’t need to know your rap sheet to know whether or not you’re deserving of my love and respect. If you’re reading this, you are. If you’re not reading it, you still are. And if you really hate what I’m writing… Yep, you still are. I’m really sorry there’s no getting out of it… Even if your god just told you to hate me.

I don’t feel the need to identify with a religion because I’d rather identify with humanity, and the love that I experience every day in the smallest things. Like my dog (really, she’s like eight pounds) or a bug that lands on my leg which is so beautiful I can’t imagine ever being able to match the paint on my wall to the color of his wings. When I see a person, I don’t think of what religion they are and whether or not their god gets along with mine. Their god always gets along with my god, because we’ve got the same god and it’s called the soul behind our eyes.

My god defies definition, so an attempt to do so would kind of be an injustice to whatever the force I experience in my life on a moment to moment basis. I don’t pretend to know my god. I just know that it has something to do with the difference between my body and what I can do now, and my body and what I can’t do once whatever keeps me so animated leaves it at the time of my death.

Henry David Thoreau has a goddamn monopoly on all my favorite quotes, and I find that mildly annoying because it makes me so damn predictable. (I hate being predictable! Was that predictable of me to say?) But one of the great things he said was this:

“We shall see but a little way if we require to understand what we see.”

I don’t base my faith on that alone which I can comprehend. If I limited my life to the things I could understand…Well, how could I even allow myself to breathe? Or to digest the mini carrot I just ate?

The truth is, when it comes to life, where we come from and where we go after*, we just don’t know.

We just don’t fucking know.

*If you’re right, and it’s a place in the sky with a guy with a white beard and golden gates and you can eat as much ice cream as you want for eternity without ever getting fat (that’s how I imagined heaven as a Catholic kid, at least) for real, I owe you a drink. And if you know how often I go out to bars, that’s me really putting it out there.

The fact that I’m even here without ever meaning to be, is something I can’t comprehend, yet I know that I exist. I’ve seen a power at work in my life that, whatever you want to call it, defies my ability to understand it in any capacity. I’m okay with that. I really don’t care what it is or why it is, as long as I know that if I keep following my gut feelings, or intuition, or natural inclination, that I’ll get to where I need to be. I’ve experienced that to be true, beyond a shadow of a doubt, because it’s at work in my life every day when the most random and awesome things happen in a way I could never have imagined.

Even when something apparently shitty happens, I know there’s a greater reason behind it, and I’ve never been left hanging to this day.

I believe that everyone’s path is different, but the one thing we all have in common is we are meant to be in alignment with a higher power. This power by nature causes us to know ourselves, understand our purpose, and feel a sense of abiding peace and happiness. I’m not there every moment of every day, but I am getting better at it daily. To me, knowing myself (knowing the god-power within) is the most important thing I can possibly undertake. This doesn’t make me a serious religious student who sits on a cushion all day or who thinks its my role in life to judge. This means I live my life like I always do, just with eyes wide open and a lot more love, both for me and everyone else.

This is my religious path, and it doesn’t stop when I’m not meditating or reading some kind of spiritual book. And it doesn’t require any leader or ritual between me and the greatness that is.

I’m a really religious person. I’m a really spiritual person. Or I’m not. And I’m not. I really don’t care how you’d like to put it. (You can call me satan worshipper. It doesn’t change a thing for me.)

But if you wanted to, you could say I’m religious about laughing and finding the really funny shit in life, because that’s just the best. I’m religious about loving people and I’m really aware when I’m not doing it as well as I should and know I could. I consider being a more loving person my biggest spiritual practice.

I’m pretty religious about trying to be the best person I can, for myself, and for the people around me and even for the people I don’t know or for whom I’m not their cup of tea. I’m religious about my dog (she’s religious about being ridiculous) and I feel connected to the spirit in things around me. You know, like Pocohontas. (Unfortunately, my religion has not also granted me those lips or that pet raccoon, so I may have to reformulate).

I’m religious about a lot of things, but my religion doesn’t divide me from anyone, it only connects me. My religion must serve to increase my happiness. If it’s not, then my religion is not doing its job for me and it’s time to work it at a different angle. And by the way, living your life to be happy isn’t hedonistic or selfish. As far as hedonism goes, I don’t do drugs, and my addictions are falling away. And for selfishness, I’m way less selfish the happier I am.

When I work on my happiness, I’m working on everyone’s happiness. I know that to be true because I’ve seen it work again and again right in front of my eyes. If you’re not increasing your own happiness, you’re just adding to the misery of the world. I don’t care if you follow the dogma of your religion to a T, if you’re miserable, that’s what you’re putting out there. And if you’re miserable and religious, well then I’m sorry to say, I don’t think you’re actually so religious at all.

So for me, happiness and love is the stuff of real religion. I think that we are much too spiritual of beings to ignore that natural inclination in ourselves; that need for belief in a higher power that we all, no matter how much we want to pretend like we don’t, hope is out there and has our backs. I’m not so arrogant as to believe that my god has my back because I’m white and born in America but that same god doesn’t have your back if you’re Muslim and were born in Iran, or Jewish and like bagels.

Religion to me is like hair color: totally irrelevant, you can change it at any time, and it’s not fooling anyone about who you really are. So you can keep coloring your hair, or you can just let yourself go au natural, and stop buying from someone else what you already have. Go back to your roots.

When you were born, you were both without the help of a saint or a dreidel or an arch with a zoo or a flat piece of bread (if I’m wrong, I really hope you have it on video). You became part of life without the need for any of these trinkets, so is it at all possible that the only thing you need lies within?

I say yes. But what say you?

Why I Do Drugs As Much As I Want

Or, use drugs to calm yourself down... Either/or.

Or, use drugs to keep calm… (Either/Or)

Drugs are fun! Of course they are. Why do you think people do them? Actually, let me specify: drugs are fun when you’re high. They kind of suck when you’re coming down. And obviously there are some side effects like making you sick or what not, that aren’t desirable either. There’s also the little matter of addiction.

But my life’s an open book, and I’m an honest girl. So I’m being honest when I say that I understand why people like them, do them, seek them out. There’s a reason everyone does anything they do. Drugs are popular despite their illegality and the fact you can’t grab them off the shelf at Walgreen’s. In fact they’re so good, people go out of their way to get them. Some people like them so much they devote the entire rest of their lives to them. Some people are willing to die for their drug of choice. So I think any discussion about drugs should be prefaced with a respect for them and the lengths at which people will go to procure and ingest them. To overlook that fact is like having a discussion about the best breakfast foods and failing to mention french toast.

You can’t just ignore drugs or act like they’re not pleasurable, especially if you want to make a point or convince someone about something, say, not to do them. Kids see right through it, and “war on drug campaigns” don’t work. I think that’s come to be almost common sense, or at least common knowledge. Our current system of handling drugs is an amazing success at being a failure. So we’ve got that going for us.

Besides, I have no problem with drugs personally. As I said in the title, I don’t discriminate between them and I do them whenever I want.

For me, that means I never do them. No drugs, none of the time. How do I know I don’t want to do drugs? Two things.

1) Experience. I came, I saw I conquered…and then I crashed. Like all other things on earth, what goes up must come down. I loved being high on some drugs, but the come down was never fun. I’m only interested in the kind of high that has lasting-results. If it’s only for a moment, it’s just not worth it. And it’s also not true happiness– there’s no come down from that.

2) I’m happy. I prefer my natural state of happiness to that of a harsh chemical-induced one that I will almost always pay for after (see #1). Happy people really don’t need to do drugs. I’m not the kind of happy that’s on ecstasy one hundred percent of the time, no. But I’m content and at peace a great deal of the time. I love my life and that’s good enough for me.

So no, I don’t personally choose to drugs. I’ve exited the “experimental” phase of my younger years. My experiment was a success because I found a way to feel good without. I’m drug free and it’s the best I’ve felt in years.

But I’m anything but anti-drug. Drugs are not the problem. Broken people are.

The irony about drugs to me, is that most parents wait until their kids hit a certain age when they think they’ve finally become “at risk”. Unless your kid was born without a pleasure mechanism in their brain, they’ve been at risk to try drugs at some point in their life since the day they were born.

Here’s another problem you parents have going for you:

Kids aren’t stupid (I know, I’m sorry. It would be so much easier if they were). They know that you don’t die from taking a hit of pot, and you don’t automatically start craving crack just because you smoked one cigarette. No one minds losing a few brain cells for a good high, so that argument is stupid. I’m really baffled why parents are fine telling their children there are no monsters under the bed, but that the real green monster is smoked from a pipe. C’mon. If they see Pineapple Express, they’re gonna know it’s just not true!

If people were one hundred percent honest about drugs with their kids, the world would be a better place. (But far be it for me to prescribe honesty work both ways in the parent-child relationship. I wouldn’t want to start a riot.)

Here’s why honesty is bomb-ass-shit if you don’t want your kids smoking that bomb-ass-shit: if someone is honest with you, you trust that they’re telling you the entire story. For you to just say how bad drugs are, and not explain why people do them in the first place, leaves kids to figure the rest out for themselves.

Additionally, I’ve never understood the whole “I don’t want my kids to think I did drugs” thing. Newsflash: your kid never wants to think of you getting a blow job, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t want one at some point. But I don’t think that’s the real reason parents skirt the question. It’s not because they’re afraid their kids are more likely to try them because they did, it’s because they’re afraid of losing esteem in their child’s eyes. They want to remain in “boss position”. In other words, to put it not-so-gently, an ego trip.

If you did drugs, be honest with your kids about it. Have you ever considered letting your kids in on the fact that you are actually just human, like them? I know, that might take some time to wrap your mind around. I’ll wait.

You back with me? Alright, let’s continue.

If you still do them, you’re probably a living example of why doing drugs isn’t a good choice and the lasting effects it can have. You are a great resource because you can talk to your children about the pain drugs have caused. You may feel that it’s obvious and you don’t have to spell it out, but kids like to hear their parents speak honestly with them, even if you think your life speaks for itself. Your kids will appreciate and respond to the courage and honesty it took for you to have such a difficult conversation. They will love and respect you for it. They’ll also learn. Coincidentally, that’s why we’re all here in the first place.

Conversely, if you did drugs back in your hey-day and no longer do it, you can explain to them why you have chosen not to continue the habit. That, instead of shoving your past under a rug and trying to maintain some air of superiority. I don’t know, the first one just has a much better flow…

By the time your child is at the age where doing drugs possibly comes into play, you are no longer your child’s first role model. They’ve reached the developmental state to where they’re attempting to create a family outside the nuclear one; a socially-based clan. Their friends and peers have way more pull than you do– even their enemies are ahead of you on the totem pole. This is the age where parents somehow all, at the very same time, start acting way embarrassing.

Your years of being cool in your kids eyes have a 99% chance of disappearing (temporarily, most likely) between the ages of 13-19. You can only shorten that time span by being honest with them. If parents were one hundred percent real with their kids, this time span would decrease exponentially, and maybe need not happen at all. Kids need to feel like real people in their parents’ eyes. (It also helps having plural parents after which to put the ‘, but I know that’s not always possible).

I had a friend in high school whose mom was an alcoholic. She lived with her dad and had been raised by him. She would drink socially with everyone and was great fun at parties, but she never seemed to over do it. She and her father were so close she could tell him anything. Literally. They always had a great relationship and they never lost touch with what was going on in the other’s life. He knew the first time she was having sex, and was able to help her get birth control and stay protected. He knew where she was, when she drank, what she was doing.

She’d always give him the run-down, so he always had an in that none of the other parents did. You know why? Because he was real with her, so she was real with him. There was no run-around. And the truth flowed between them. Because of that, she always stayed on the relatively straight and narrow. He told her when she was being a shit-head* and vice versa). There was a love and respect between them that most other parent-child relationships lost during those years. And as a result, she had a composure that most of us (certainly I) lacked.

*Probably, that exact term was used

As for me, I listened to what my parents said just enough so I knew how much I’d have to lie to get out to the party that night. If I was honest with them about what I was doing, it would have ended in more restrictions placed on my already-precarious freedom. How’s that for a rate of exchange?

I think my parents are some of the best in the world and I don’t mean this to sound anything other than a simply honest assessment of what happened. They were great and no one is perfect. I could have had it much worse; I could have had parents that didn’t give a damn. Still, when you’re fifteen and trying to spread your wings and assert your independence, it can be a little hard to deal with parents that don’t want you at a party.

(And yes, I get that there are different “levels” of drugs and how bad they can be for your body, and how addicting, and so on. And no, I don’t think it makes sense that pot is not legal but alcohol is. I will have to save that debate for another day. But if you look at any of the other ways in which our country is run, the fact we have it beautifully backwards with drug legality shouldn’t surprise you, so I’ll leave that one be for now.)

Don’t spend the most amount of time talking with your kids about what not to do. Just spend time with them (while they still want you to). Be a living example, and show them how to be actually cool people who care about others and take full responsibility for their actions. Which, by the way, is pretty hard when you continue to keep full responsibility for their actions. Don’t try to protect them from the world. Give them the skills to face it head on and with courage.

Foster their confidence and their compassion for others. Foster all the great things they already have going for them and stop it with these “heavy” talks that pale in comparison to peer pressure in the heat of the moment. Bring them up so that when they say no to drugs at a party, it’s just because that’s how they naturally are– a little independent kick-ass guy who does what he or she wants, and doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about it. At least, that’s how I’d want my kid to be. That’s the kind of kid who will grow up to rule the country and change the world.

You know those people who are excited about their lives and their future and enjoys every day to the max? Yeah, those aren’t the people doing drugs.

So if you don’t want your kids doing drugs, how bout you aim for that?

And by the way, how are you taking care of yourself? Are you loving life, do you treat people well? Do you take care of yourself and make the most out of this time here on earth? Are you showing your kids that life is great, sans drugs? Take a look at what type of role model your child has had in you for the last fifteen years or so. Are you showing them the world is a cool place to be explored and enjoyed without drugs, or are you showing them a hum-drum drug-free existence that would make anyone reach for the blow?

Spend time focusing on how to be an actual person, a whole person who doesn’t rely on the opinions of others (including you) to determine what they will or won’t do. Strengthen their independence, both from you and from others. If someone is dependent on approval, they’re dependent all-around. You make them dependent on you, and they’ll transfer that dependency to their friends when the time comes.

Help them develop their intuition and inner guidance. The people I know who didn’t do drugs or maybe tried it a few times and realized it wasn’t the greatest thing, were the ones who were too confident to feel like they needed a crutch; people who loved themselves too much to be dying to get away from their own minds and bodies.

And they were familiar with making decisions for themselves. When you hand someone the reins to their own lives they’re a lot more careful than they’d be trying to break out of shackles.

So why don’t I do drugs? I don’t do drugs because I don’t have to do them feel good. And I refuse to let anyone or anything be the gate keeper to my own happiness. I’m the same person who was fine using or trying drugs to make me feel good when I wasn’t happy, I’ve just learned how to feel good on my own instead of relying on external pleasures to do the same thing. It’s not a moral stance or a sophisticated position; it’s pragmatism, pure and simple. I’m no better than a heroin addict on the corner, except I think I’ve been lucky enough to make a few distinctions about life that apparently they haven’t yet.

Lastly, I don’t not do drugs because of any of the fairy tales people told me, or the mandates my parents, politicians, or the police made up and decided to call a law.

By the way, I don’t think people who do drugs are bad and I don’t think they’re criminals (unless they’re running around knocking down mailboxes after a Lil Wayne show like what happened to mine last night 😉 ). People who have problems with drugs are just as deserving of love and support as anyone else with an addiction, which is an illness that no one chooses to have. I’m not an enabler, but when the only person you’re hurting is yourself, you don’t deserve to be interfered with by the law. That’s like watering your flowers with a fire hose. (Try this once and you’ll understand what I mean).

We do drugs to feel good because we are created to want that, but we don’t always know how to do it for ourselves (you know, apart from grabbing the lube). It’s a worthy goal to want happiness, but drugs are a road that actually lead you in a complete u-turn from it.

So, yeah, get happy and don’t do drugs. And parents, if you know drugs to be bad, educate your kids to be intelligent and independent thinkers and let the truth speak for itself. Don’t cloud it with misleading information or half-truths. You’re doing more harm than good. (And who doesn’t need to smoke a joint after their parents just lit into them? Sheesh!)

Lastly, realize that drugs are ultimately a personal choice. People have their own lives and therefore, their own decisions to make. Some people require the hard kind of learning in order to finally get it, and sometimes it takes the most wisdom to learn to let go and let them make their own mistakes. Whether it’s your child, parent, sibling, best friend, or partner, you can only ultimately love them and be the best support you can be. Sometimes you may have to remove yourself from their lives and love them from afar.

You also have to take care of yourself, which should ultimately be your first priority, since it’s the only thing you have complete control over. Each person is born with free will and a lesson to learn. To try to tamper with that is not only foolhardy, but impossible.

And the only person who can do the impossible is her.

Stop Slamming The Door

Slammin'

That’s a slammin’ door collection, guy.

If you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance you too have wondered about the morality of slamming doors. I think it’s time we finally bring this pressing issue to light. I write this post to be of service to my fellow over-analytic, as well as to garner some shred of understanding on the matter myself.

I think it was Shakespeare who once pondered the age-old question: to slam, or not to slam. However, despite the fact that I’ve been poring over his work for days, it’s been impossible for me to ascertain whether or not he came to any definitive conclusion on the matter.

So, here’s my conclusion:

It’s just some bad feng shui!

So yeah, stop slamming the door. You might think it’s a moot point or that I’m being really nit-picky (and I am) but if you really think about it, it’s kind of a jerky thing to do.

Yeah, okay, you can slam the door and claim you’re not in a bad mood, but the truth of the matter is, you’re emitting a negative vibration into the environment by doing it. And I don’t buy the not in a bad mood thing. It’s either a bad mood or lack of consciousness, and I don’t know which is less preferable.

But I do know there’s a reason you always feel a little guilty about slamming things around. And it’s illustrative of a lack of respect for the people around you who have to listen to it. It does’t matter what kind of mood you’re in. Just show some respect for yourself and take responsibility for the way you handle things.

Same thing with blasting music, carelessly throwing something out of your way, and otherwise roughly handing the objects in your vicinity. No, there’s nothing “morally” wrong about it. Just know, Jesus (and Buddah/Krishna/The Dalai Lama, et al.) wouldn’t have done it. 😉 And I know it sounds like I’m joking, and I was at the beginning, but if you’ll notice, the quality of someone’s mind is evident in the way they do even the smallest things. I just heard a quote the other day that I really liked and it was,

“How you do anything, is how you do everything.” I think that applies here.

Go about your daily business with consciousness. That includes how you treat people as well as your environment. Make it a haven of peace, as opposed to a receptacle for your haphazard passive-aggressive tendencies. If you think it doesn’t affect those around you, you’re wrong. And it affects you, too, whether or not you care in the throes of your temper tantrum. Because that’s what it is. You think those kids in the restaurant are bad? Watch sports.

Another principle the door slam illustrates is just how much our inside creates our outside. If you feel helpless in your life, like a victim of some larger scheme, you have got to take a larger view. You created the world which you currently inhabit. If you don’t like the way your world looks, open your eyes for real and take a conscious look at all the doors you’ve been slamming, the things you’ve been treating carelessly around you. Then maybe you’ll be able to see why your life seems to be in such disarray. What have you been inviting in? Vampires?

I think this should be empowering. If you see all the crap you’ve been unnecessarily feeding into your life, it should become clear where you’ve got to start. Understanding just what an ass you’ve been is the first step toward happiness. This calls for a celebration!

Sometimes people think that in order to make a change in their lives they’ve got to be all or nothing: sell all your stuff and move to the grasslands or volunteer in Africa for a year. Sure, you can do those things.

But you can do anything with or without consciousness. It’s not what you do, but how you do it, that makes the real difference to your exterior conditions (and which shows what your true inner vibration is). You can do anything unconsciously, and with ego, and while it looks like you’re feeding the hungry, you’re really just feeding a grand illusion of yourself.

This is one of the most mundane yet illustrative examples of that saying a man is not an island. Everything you do affects those around you, so be mindful of how you sip your tea and how you wash the dishes. I promise, even if you’re in a bad mood and just can’t wait to spread it around, doing so will only come back to bite you.

Like increases like. All negativity we put out into the world comes back to us. Many of us are actually addicted to negativity, which explains a lot. You’ve got to actually want to be free of it, and stop feeding like you’re at a casting call for TrueBlood off all the pain your made-up drama it causes, in order to begin to make the shift.

And just because the universe really is “fair” (fair to us, balanced is probably more like it), all the positivity we spread comes back to us, too. If you can let a bad mood stop with yourself, you are a much more enlightened being than most people walking this earth right now. And trust me, I never said it was easy. It’s breaking an emotional addiction that’s been building up your entire life. Of course it’s hard.

Unless you’re enlightened, this is something you will likely be challenged by time and again. But the beauty is, with increased self-awareness, it does get easier with time.

Oh and by the way, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially late on a Friday afternoon (TGIF, Ya’ll!) but if you haven’t already noticed, drinking [alcohol, yes] tends to make us much more reactive. It actually gives us the wings with which to fly off the handle. All that drama after 2 AM isn’t coincidental. But it is Jersey Shore.

I find it mildly entertaining to witness people discussing their (soberly) unimaginable actions from the night before.  Of course you acted like a jerk, you intentionally drank something that would quiet your higher brain and allow for your million-year-old monkey one to take over. (Please note: I’m not sure if that’s technically an anatomically-correct analysis of the situation.)

Just try to remember, next time you’re walking around slamming doors, how you feel once the dust has settled. Were you proud of how you acted, or do you wish you’d stayed true to your inner peace? Maybe next time you won’t slam it so hard. And the time after that maybe you’ll stop before you let it fly out of your hands.

We are all on this path together, whether we are aware of it or not. The difference is that when you know the rules and accept them for yourself, it makes the game a lot more fun. You begin to take control of your life, and you realize the only pawn in the game is the one you’ve made yourself out to be all of this time.

The worst beer goggles in the world are the ones most people walk around with on a daily basis, often completely sober, yet completely ignorant to the laws of the universe. Hell, people know traffic laws more than they know the ones that dictate their very existence, and their ability to enjoy it. You think getting pulled over puts a damper on the festivities?

Try living your entire life just shy of getting the point. Actually, that’s just what most people do. Although I’m not a pessimist; we are making headway. We’re all doing it together. Like Ani DiFranco says:

“If you’re not/getting happier/as you get older/then you’re fuckin’ up”

Don’t spend your life slamming the same doors. And I can assure you, if you’re slammed one, you’ve slammed them all. No, this time isn’t different. Yes, tons of people have it worse than you, so you’ll never win at that game. Just stop trying.

Slamming doors and indulging your dark side was not actually why you were put here. And you’ll never know why you were, until you’re willing to move beyond anger and fear and blame.

Life is a progression, not a destiny. So be gentle with yourself as you learn. These are the kinds of things we don’t teach in school, so maybe you’re learning all over again at whatever advanced age you are now ( 🙂 ), how to actually live.

We’ve learned how to connect ourselves via electronic network with just about every single person in the world, but we’re still working on how not to slam doors. I just love the irony of this place, don’t you?

The Best Compliment Ever

Obama being grateful Marie didn't say I'd make a good president.

Barry’s grateful my friend didn’t say I’d make a good president.

The best compliment I ever got came to me when I was fifteen. It’s kind of a bummer when you get the best compliment you are ever bound to receive at such a young age, but it’s a cross I bare as gracefully as one can.

I can still recall where I was, walking in to one of my junior-year high school classrooms, and without any provocation, my friend Marie (one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, entirely apart from the very nice thing she said) told me I was the best person she knew, at being a person.

To this day, I have no idea what exactly she meant or why she thought to say it. But it sounded like the nicest thing I had ever heard. It was so vague as to be increasingly more flattering than if she’d commented for instance, on my ability to tie the best knots.

If she’d said I would make an awesome mother or a really effective POTUS I probably would have had the same reaction: awkward, self-deprecating bursts of laughter and probably some half-witty retort (she of all people brought out the funny bone in me– which, if you know me at all, is probably a little scary to imagine).

I’m one of the most awkward compliment-recipients on the face of this earth. If someone ever says something nice, I always feel a deep gratitude for the person for extending their love, and an immediate responsibility to return the warmth, but it makes me feel weird. Like tingly under a microscope. So, when she said that, I felt three things.

1) Confused

2) Comical*

3) Like a huge weight of responsibility and expectation had just landed squarely on my shoulders. Should I now try and go out and save the world? I didn’t even know how to drive.

*Is that really the best word we’ve got for being in a mood where you think everything is funny? I think I’ve got to invent one. It would be used by me constantly to describe the state in which I usually exist.

**A quick post-posting use of a handy thesaurus, which I easily could have used prior to posting, but for some reason failed to do, produced a much more appropriate word: amused. 😉

It struck me as incredible (literally, not at all credible) that someone would think that about me, let alone say it out loud, let alone-squared, express it verbally. (Didn’t she have some sort of filter where that kind of stuff is supposed to get quickly deleted from the system before it starts infecting other mental-files?) The fact that a thought like that had made it past all three of those stages, still left me wondering how it had ever originated in someone’s gray matter at all.

It actually made me self-conscious. I did a quick run down of the things in my life I’d ever achieved. Just the important things, like how good my outfit was that day, and what about my hair? Just anything to have justified receipt of what I felt to be perhaps the single greatest compliment any man could possibly receive. (Not that I’d ever considered the matter prior to this, but the whole concept of being the best person Marie knew, at being a person seemed so grand!)

Keep in mind, this was at a time when I thought the highest form of compliment was that I was pretty, I had cool jeans, or my best friend had started dressing better since we started hanging out (okay, that one still makes me blush ;)). I’d never actually gotten a compliment from a peer about something that was any more than skin deep. I’d never even known to want one! It was like Christmas in July, except sometime during the school year.

I’m writing this not to point out how wrong she was about me (that’s probably evident in every other one of my posts) but as a reminder of just how long the meaning of our kind words have the ability to live on in other’s memories.

HOWEVER–

Now for the rub.

I’m also always talking about the importance of not listening to what other people say and just listening to yourself. And how a compliment shouldn’t change you any more than a mean remark. And the importance of inner balance and non-reactivity to external events (which, unfortunately includes really nice things people might say). So, how do these two things effectively co-habit in the great sphere of reality?

The answer to that lies in what I’m about to say: I don’t believe in believing in compliments. Yes, you heard me right. When they happen to me, I do my best to be as gracious and un-awkward as possible, and then move on. I focus on the love and gratitude I have for the other person, and that’s it. If I catch myself mentally basing in the glow of their momentary admiration, adding extra pressure to myself to live up to what they said, or considering adding it to my Testimonial Page, I know I’ve gone astray of my own best advice.

Same with negativity, which I’ve found can be just as difficult to step aside from, due to, ironically enough, the same egoic mind structure. In either case, you are taking something that is only someone’s temporary perception of you, and using it to label yourself. This is investment in an inherent falsehood. Whether positive or a negative, the outcome is that you take a step away from being in true connection with your inner self by accepting this label.

So, if I have one thing to say on the subject of compliments it’s this: I do my best to graciously ignore compliments just like I do my best to graciously ignore crappy things. Both can be hazardous to your health.

If you allow yourself to believe the hype, it’s very limiting. It’s kind of like allowing yourself to be put inside a box. Even a very attractive box, is still a box in the end. It can freak you out and make you afraid to take risks (another word for living your life) when you’re suddenly trying to balance the delicate tea cup of someone’s good graces upon your clumsy back.

When someone says something really amazing to you, about you, you might immediately begin to feel pressure to uphold it (please see my #2 reaction when Marie said that to me). You also may begin to believe it (hello, big ego). It is my sincere hope you begin to do neither. That is also my hope for myself, and something which I work on every time the ability to practice arises. (If you’d like to help me out with this, feel free to send me lots of emails telling me how much you love me! 😉 )

The truth is, I don’t actually believe what she said. It definitely ruffled me back then, but first of all, I know myself a little too well to think I’m good at being a good person. Even ten years ago I knew somewhere in the back of my mind to be wary of taking to heart such a sweeping positive generalization of myself. However, I was and am still grateful for the love in which she said it.

So if you’re not going to believe in the bad things people say (which I heartily impel you not to do, if you have any designs toward happiness) then you shouldn’t believe the nice things people say, either.

What?! That was fine for you, but I think that’s a rip off! Besides, I love feeling good about myself when people talk me up. It’s a natural high!

No, say I; the rip off occurs when you begin to let what other people think of you–great, bad, or otherwise– trump the way you connect with yourself, which should always be just love, no matter what the critics are crying that day. Plus, what goes up, must come down. So don’t strap yourself in to the roller coaster of other people’s opinions and emotions. You would really lose your lunch.

Because whether she had said that or not, I still would have been the same person at the moment, one way or another. It wasn’t like by her saying that, my value as a human being actually increased. I didn’t actually become a better person. Just for a moment, I thought maybe I was, because I hadn’t yet learned enough to write an article like this.

Conversely, if she’d said I’m really good at eating shit, it’s not as if my value as a human being would have decreased. While I was lucky enough to be near a very loving and open human at that moment, what would have happened if I’d walked into the room with a real jerkhead (that’s a scientific term)? Would whatever they’d said to me have had the power to bring me down? Back then, I’m sure it would have. This is something I remain alert for in myself today, because I know it to be based on fear and falsehood.

So here’s what I say next time you get paid a compliment, take the love, leave the rest. That compliment will wax and wane in truth, but the love with which it was given is forever. Keep to that love to pass on and feel gratitude for the person who reached out in humility and grace with that love to you.

Give love freely, even in the form of compliments, and mean each one sincerely, or don’t say it at all. Sometimes words are the best or only way we have to express our love. I am in no way against giving compliments. But do it for the right reason; the only one being the expression of love from you to them.

Conversely, don’t accept the words of compliments for yourself, but accept the love with which they are given. It doesn’t matter what someone says, but the intent with which they say it. Marie’s intent was what ultimately came across to me and has stayed with me all of these years. It was an observation she made with love, and that’s what has made her compliment stand the test of time in my moth-eaten memory.

If you think you want to aim for greatness, and you think it’s important to be remembered, the best way to do it is leaving your legacy in the love you pass on to others. No one will ever forget you for the kind words you said. Even if they can’t remember as specifically as I do with Marie, they will remember it subconsciously, and you fondly for it thereafter.

And remember to never take seriously the best, the worst, or the in between, of what is said of you. Don’t even take what you say to yourself about yourself with any credibility. To put yourself down into thoughts, concepts, or words, is like trying to fit the sky into a bottle. Nothing is to be believed when it comes to defining that which is undefinable.

Finally, whatever is written or said about you isn’t actually about you; it’s about the person who’s said it. If they say beautiful things, appreciate them for their inner beauty, not their ability to make you feel flattered. If they say things that would otherwise upset you (had you not read this piece) understand it’s only their lack of love for themselves that’s speaking, and love them for that, because hard as it might be to imagine, that’s really what they’re reaching out for.

And know without a doubt you are above the words of men, but equal in truth, to the speaker of those words.

Going Sugar Free, Week 1

I do this with my cocaine to throw people off.

I do this with my cocaine to throw people off.

Week 1: Going Sugar-Free

First things first.

Why Go Sugar Free?

Well, if you have to ask, this article probably isn’t for you. Not that you shouldn’t read it. I’m just borderline the least-reputable person when it comes to reporting on scientific data. There are quite a few scientific and factual websites entirely dedicated to giving up sugar, and if you’re serious about finding out why you should cut it out of your diet and body, including all the health risks of continuing to eat it, and the benefits of giving it up, they’re a great resource.

This post isn’t to convince anyone to give up sugar. It’s to tell you about the last week or so of my life. And maybe…convince you to give up sugar. (Okay, I lied.) But not because I’m trying to be “right” or make you feel bad about yourself. The only reason I care at all whether or not you give up sugar is because giving it up feels sooo good, and I’m kind of all about that. But in the end, I’m not here to twizzler-twist anyone’s arm. I know you know what you need, and if sugar’s benefits outweigh the cons for you, there’s no reason for you to stop.

Okay, but assuming you’re still interested in how giving up sugar has gone for me thus far (at this point it’s actually Day 9), I will do my best to chronicle the last week plus two days in detail. I’m not always the best with details, so bear with me here.

My Goal For This Mission

My main goal for this, and for pretty much any of my dietary endeavors, is to achieve and maintain a healthy equilibrium in my body through the foods that I’m eating. I don’t really believe in weight loss goals per se, because I’m just not going to starve myself to get to number on the scale. It’s not that I haven’t sometimes wanted to, it’s just that I prefer comfort above all else. My approach to weight loss is like my approach to everything else: if you want to lose weight, don’t try to put yourself on some unnatural diet. Get to the root of the problem, and focus on fixing that. Figure out why you gained the weight in the first place. If you start from the foundation and work your way up, everything will fall in line. For me, that’s the only way you can achieve not only lasting, but relatively effortless results.

I believe our bodies naturally go to the weight they need to be when we are able to offer them the proper environment to re-calibrate. I have never been able to stick to a restrictive program in terms of diet or exercise, and the program is only as good as your ability to continue it. Hence, why it’s relatively easy to lose weight and really hard to keep it off long-term.

I wanted to re-set my extreme cravings and get my relationship with food back to a more natural and neutral state. Did I need to lose weight? No. I would have still been within the healthy range if I lost a few pounds, but my main goal was to get my body to its healthiest and most natural state. I knew that eating sugar was interfering with my ability to stop eating when I should have, and that sugary foods were taking up caloric space in my diet where others should have been.

Regardless of weight, I most wanted an emotional space from thinking about food in terms of mostly pleasure and what I was ‘in the mood for’. I wanted to eat for nutrition and only when I was actually hungry. For me, it appeared sugar had overrideen my natural eating instincts.

My Life With Sugar

Prior to quitting sugar, on a regular day–

Okay. I have to be honest, I have little to no idea what I’d eat on a “regular day” because 1) I just pay attention to what I’m eating in the moment and forget it two minutes later, 2) I’m pretty sure I’ve always eaten something different each day, and 3) I don’t eat at a set schedule (I know, maybe that’s bad, the jury’s out on that as far as I’m concerned).

If someone were to ask me what I normally eat, the only reason I know now is because I’ve been documenting it and paying so much attention to it for the last nine days. Plus, cutting out sugar (and grains, sorry) has greatly reduced the amount of variety I have available to me. There have been times in my life where I’ve been about to go to the grocery store, and I can’t remember what I’ve been eating for the last two weeks. So this is a feat for me to try to recall, but I’ll do my best attempt just for you.

So a very “general” day for me would involve quite a bit of fruit (How much is that? I don’t know, but I ate as much as I wanted, and I freakin love fruit), peanut butter, a Spirutein smoothie with a banana or two, maybe some nuts, probably not as many vegetables as I should have had. And I don’t know, like I said…No idea what I actually ate. I’m kind of stumped on how I wasn’t a lot skinner! 🙂 Oh and I’d gotten into raw honey, so I ate one to two tablespoons of that every day (apparently it stabilizes your blood sugar, but I’m not sure if that happened for me or not).

I’d have some dark chocolate here and again. I really just grazed a lot. Hummus and carrot sticks come to mind.

I ate pretty healthfully by most people’s terms, but I knew I could do better. I definitely wasn’t eating enough greens. Also, while I was at healthy weight and I looked good by probably most people’s estimation, that I had five to ten pounds of weight that I didn’t think served a purpose on my frame. It was totally unnecessary for me to lose for any health purpose, but for instance, it would feel nice to open up that space in my body for yoga, or to feel more light when I ran and walked. This was purely an estimate, a feeling. It seemed this weight was from a combination of the wrong foods and emotional eating. It may have appeared healthy weight to someone else, but for me, I felt I had been eating more than my body required.

Ultimately, however, my goal wasn’t about a number or a weight; it was that I wanted freedom with food, to clear off my over-eating or emotional-eating hard drive. I had a hunch that freeing myself from a life-long sugar entanglement would lead me to experiencing a bit more space in my body, as well.

In Going Off Sugar, What Did I Eat? 

On July 24, 2013 I stopped eating sugar.

I know that sounds extremely simple and obvious, but I’ll highlight a few of the details for you and what this meant for me in particular.

Instead of eating sugar, I just ate things without it. My game plan was to focus on vegetables, protein, and fat. I thought that would help curb my hunger and stabilize my blood sugar. Maybe it did, but it was still crazy strong. I went to the store and stocked up on kale, mushrooms, other vegetables, cheeses, and raw nuts.

While I was at it, I also cut out mostly all carbs. I apologize if this throws you off in the whole keeping a constant variable thing. Like I said, I’m not very scientific. My reasoning behind this was two-fold:

1) I’m no nutritionist, but it seems to me most carbs increase your blood sugar more than proteins or fats.

2) I just didn’t want to create another addiction. Sure, it would probably be easier to give up sugar if I was digging into french fries and corn chips. But I wanted to do this in a healthy way. My ultimate goal was to create positive long-term habits, and not just replace one bad thing with another. Not that there’s anything wrong with carbohydrates. But I’d always felt a little more energetic and alert when I’d limited them in the past, so this was my time to experiment without sugar in there to cog up the works.

The carbs I did consume came mostly from green vegetables and things like beans and lentils. So this was a low-carb, no sugar diet. By the way, certain foods I ate had small amounts of sugar, like peanut butter (the only ingredient was peanuts). I didn’t eat anything with added sugar, like ketchup, but whole foods that had a little naturally-occurring sugar were fine for me, as long as it was minimal, like the peanut butter, or the little bit of 2% organic milk I had in a smoothie one day (smoothies without sugar kind of suck, by the way).

The first three or four days were the hardest by far. My hunger was un-relentless. I gave into it and ate all the time, because it was literally a gnawing pit in the bottom of my stomach. It wasn’t the kind of thing you could just ignore and keep reading.

No matter how much I ate, I was still hungry every hour to three. But like I said, I kept at it because it just wasn’t worth it to have to be hungry all the time. I vaguely remembered this was what happened last time I went off sugar several years ago. In fact, I think this annoying hunger was probably the biggest reason I hadn’t tried going off again since.

I’m fine with being hungry here and there. This wasn’t the slight hunger that can make you feel a little more alert and energized. It was like a wombat was eating a hole in your stomach. Yeah, so you know what I mean.

While I was eating a ton of food, it wasn’t that fun. I was eating less for pleasure, and more to quell the gnarly beast within. I ate what seemed like copious amounts of things like broccoli with coconut oil, a ton of nuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese, mozzarella. I actually ate coconut oil by the spoonful, which only seemed to increase my hunger. But then again, it’s hard to say what was causing it, since my system was in such disarray.

I kept eating my salads, vegetables, quinoa and lentils. Scrambled eggs my dad orders from a local farm (Lisa’s farm fresh eggs!) were a huge godsend. Those really helped fill me up. I was adding olive oil, coconut oil, peanut butter, or butter to almost anything I ate. Nothing really helped, but I did the best I could.

Sometimes I noticed that from all the fat I was eating, I would get like some sort of nice, warm, high feeling coming from my stomach/gut area (I don’t have a “gut” but you know, the literal gut). I noticed, as I’ve noticed before, that eating a lot of fat really seemed to agree with me. The more I ate this way, the more I began to appreciate it. Fat seemed to really support my mood and energy. I kept catching myself talking to myself about how much I really loved fat.

[Side note: This may sound funny, but I’ve always thought I could feel when my body was burning the energy off or storing it as fat. If I eat only when I have that “fiery” feeling, like I’m ready to digest, I don’t seem to store fat. Additionally, when I eat mostly fats and proteins in my diet, I can literally feel my body metabolizing it better than when I eat a carbohydrate, which feels nice, certainly, but also sluggish in my system. Sometimes carbs seem to take away my energy, as opposed to giving me more. The only regular exception to this is fruit.

I don’t believe this is some placebo effect; these are actually sensations within my body that I’ve noticed over time. In fact, I used to ignore it until I realized how reliable the effects seemed to be. I’ve found that when I eat according to these feelings, it’s less about how much I eat and more about what and when. I’ve found I can eat a lot of something most people would cringe at (like peanut butter, raw nuts, or coconut oil) and not gain weight. From personal experience, I don’t believe it comes down to simple calories. I think it’s more the way certain micronutrients react with your particular body composition, but that may be just me… So If at the end of this I weigh one hundred pounds more, you’ll know why. 😉 ]

A Note on Going Low Carb:

If you decide to do no sugar, but still keep things like popcorn, bread, corn chips, and potatoes in your diet, the transition to no sugar may be a little easier for you. I wanted to make a clean sweep of things, and I think it has been easier for me, personally (an all or nothing kind of person) to just ditch it all together and start fresh. It eliminated the need for me to keep going through these cleansing periods in my diet. I was looking for a long-term menu I could learn and use, so for me this period of making meals that I intend to keep in rotation has added to the pleasure of my experiment.

Some Specific Notes:

By about the fifth day I was feeling better. On days four, five, and six, I added very small amounts of fruit; watermelon and one small green apple between the days. I ate the fruit on day six because it seemed I was going into ketosis, which wasn’t my goal necessarily– my basic goal was to stabilize my blood sugar– and I wanted to slow it down.

Night six was uncomfortable. Not because of giving up sugar, but because I had been eating too much protein and fat and not enough carbs. I couldn’t get my thirst quenched and my mouth was dry and gross-tasting. I probably shouldn’t have eaten smoked salmon right before bed, either. But my parents had just brought it home from Alaska, and I was being rash. That’s why I caved in and finally ate the watermelon, to get some water and carbohydrates in my system and hopefully slow what appeared to be ketosis. It was a real chain of events…

Although excessive thirst can also be a sign of sugar withdraw, which I experienced at the onset of my trial, now that I was no longer excessively hungry or experiencing intense desire for sugar or fruit, I felt this thirst was based on my drastically increased protein consumption instead of not having sugar.

Supplements:

Along with this I’ve also begun taking apple cider vinegar and Nutiva coconut oil in tablespoons throughout the day. I love the ACV, which tastes gross, but gives me a good boost of energy. Again, going off science and into experience, I feel somehow it balances the chemical composition of my body. It just feels right (but tastes so wrong).

I started taking the ACV two days after going no sugar. Therefore, another cog for the works. But as I said, I’m looking for a whole-health routine.

As for the coconut oil, I’m not sure where that fits in. It doesn’t seem to squash my hunger as I might have imagined, but I’ve always heard such great things, I will continue with it until I have reason not to. I purchased the large container from Amazon. I currently have a half-empty one in my shower, which I’ve been using for washing and shaving purposes. It makes your skin glow!

I’m not currently taking any vitamins or other supplements.

Pros So Far:

-I’ve always had a bit of trouble putting myself to sleep. But for a couple of nights I experienced a deeply relaxing soporific feeling before bed, which led me right into sleep. It was like a calm slumber mood, which was great.

-One amazing thing I noticed right away which was probably one of the biggest reason’s I’d wanted to quit sugar and go lower-carb in the first place, was that I didn’t need a nap after lunch anymore. I would almost always feel exhausted after eating, even after one of my protein shakes (which still probably had a ton of carbs with the bananas and the sugar in the Spirutein), I’d be zonked. Freeing up my energy with foods that seemed to agree more with my digestion had an almost immediate and pleasant effect.

-Stable mood

-Surprisingly, no chocolate cravings either. I guess they must have been tied to sugar cravings. (We’ll see what happens when that time of the month hits…)

-No more cravings for food at all, except when I’m actually physically hungry

-Feeling of being in control with food

-Able to stop eating when I’m full

-Thinking less about food when I’m not actually eating

-Much less likely to eat for entertainment, since most comfort foods are off the menu

-Fruit tastes much sweeter. I’m so happy with each piece I get now, that it’s like a real treat when I allow myself to have it. I’ve gained a  newfound love for it.

Cons So Far:

-Extreme hunger (which, by day nine, has drastically decreased/mostly subsided)

-*Arm pit stench. Like no matter what I did. This was really gross/annoying, so I finally looked it up and that’s when I realized I must be in a state of ketosis.

-*Kind of a gross taste in my mouth. This was during when I was really not doing any carbs. Only lasted a day. Has since subsided.

-Extreme thirst. At the beginning, I believe this was from giving up sugar and fruit. From what I’ve read this is common. By day nine, this has subsided, but I’m still drinking a lot. Urine is very light.

-Constant waking in the middle of the night to pee and eat. This lasted for the first four nights or so. Because I of my excessive thirst, I was constantly drinking. In fact, I now have to go to the park to get more water. I went through so many two liters of spring water, it’s unbelievable. I don’t know how many I was drinking a day, maybe three. I really don’t know. Anyway, because I couldn’t stop drinking, it was hard for me to sleep because I also couldn’t stop having to pee. Then once I was awake, hunger would strike. This wasn’t like some just-for-pleasure trip to the frig at two am. It was like, ugh man I would much prefer to sleep but that crazy wombat’s back. So I’d get up and mow on some nuts and then hit the sack.

*Probably not even from sugar withdrawal, but more likely from ketosis.

My Weight:

Once more going against any scientific-data-collection, I didn’t weigh myself throughout this. I don’t remember the last time I weighed myself, but I think it was within two weeks. To me, there wasn’t a point in watching my weight go up and down throughout this process. I knew I was going to be eating a lot and that I’d probably gain weight in the beginning. I’m not too attached to the number on the scale. I’m five foot four and a half inches and weigh on average between 123-127. I have a pretty muscular build, no matter what I do. I’m “solid”. My weight tends to fluctuate within this range, which is another reason I felt that stabilizing my blood sugar could be beneficial.

I did feel that my weight increased very slightly in the beginning. One day I felt particularly water logged. For the last two days, as well as today to a lesser degree (I slipped up and ate french friends at one am last night…) I have been feeling and looking lighter.

Once my appetite is totally stable and I feel like I’ve reached a kind of steady pace, I’ll check in with my weight and see how it’s doing. Again, this isn’t a huge area of importance for me. I’ve learned to tell what’s going on in my body more by how I look and feel. How I feel is more important to me than anything else.

Day Nine Conclusion:

This has been fairly easy. The worst part was the hunger, which I think I’m basically out of the woods on. Although I will say, when I do get hungry now, the hunger sensation is much stronger and more intense than it ever was before. But the great thing is I haven’t had any sweet cravings, the hunger was just for actual food!

Truthfully, I haven’t had any sugar cravings since going off sugar. I know that will sound weird. I mean, the hunger was a craving of sorts. But I’ve had a piece of dark chocolate in my cupboard for the last nine days and I never once considered eating it. I didn’t over-do it on the fruit. There’s been sugary things around me and my house that I simply haven’t wanted to have. I’m not sure why I didn’t experience any direct sugar cravings, but I certainly experienced some symptoms of going without.

By the way, I’ve always noticed this but it’s especially true when you’re in the midst of sugar withdrawal, it’s extremely important to get enough sleep. You may need more than normal, and you may have trouble sticking to a sleep routine. My sleep schedule has been pretty funny since I started this but then again, it’s always kind of all over the place. But for certain, I am much more likely to crave sugar (probably by a 1,000 percent increase) when I’m tired or exhausted. Maybe one of the best things you can do is to sleep as much as you can allow yourself to. If you don’t have to, definitely don’t push it through until you can hardly stand it, or you may find yourself headed to the cupboard to eat some baking chocolate or a thing of orange tick tacks. 😉

In Conclusion (For Now): 

Over all, I’m feeling really good. This feels like just what my body, and even my mind, needed. I feel like the hard part only lasted a few days. I always tend to gloss over things in hindsight, but I truthfully don’t think it was that bad. It certainly wasn’t fun, but it’s entirely worth it to be feeling like food doesn’t have a hold over me anymore. At this point, I can’t say for sure, but I feel like I’m probably out of the woods in terms of withdraw symptoms.

I’m also glad that I took out most of the carbs. I have mixed feelings about going back to grains, and how important they are to my diet. I know I’ll have rice and corn again, for instance, but I’m not planning on making them staples. Wheat I am definitely happy to be rid of, but I’d already been off that.

By default, I am eating what I personally consider to be much healthier than I was nine days ago. And I’m enjoying the flavor of simple dishes that I surprisingly don’t mind making, like broccoli with garlic and coconut oil. And lentils, quinoa, kale salads, and ginger tea. I’m really loving this back-to-basics move with my diet. The other night I baked a zucchini my neighbor had given me with coconut oil and a bunch of spices and it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Even Leo, who’s been known to complain about the ratio of jelly to peanut butter on a PB&J, complimented me on it.

I’ve also found that I like to grind up chia, flax, and sesame seeds (I just happen to have those but I’d use any of them) and toss that on to my salad, too.

The only thing I sometimes miss are my smoothies. I don’t right now, but I know the other day I actually had a craving for one. For me, they were like dessert! I will find a way to incorporate them back in at some point, but I’m not in a rush. I’m actually happy to have this little challenge, and I think this experience has shown me that perhaps they weren’t quite as healthy as I’d always thought. When and if I do go back, I will definitely use less fruit.

On Having Fruit For Dessert:

I used to think it was lame to have fruit for dessert, like it was some kind of rip-off. Whenever someone suggested fruit for dessert, I immediately suspected them of having the uncanny ability to suck the fun out of anything at all in life. They quickly went from being my friend, to the equivalent of an undercover cop at a Phish show parking lot. Well, now I’m thanking that cop who thinks he knows what people wear on lot (hint: not brand new sneakers and sunglasses with a tie for hanging around your neck) for busting my ass and getting me clean. Thank you to all the people who weren’t too ashamed to let their fruit-for-dessert freak flag fly. Today I salute you, apple in hand.

I can see an apple as dessert, I’m really getting away with something close to murder. What a great place to be. And I don’t care if I’m a less sophisticated diner because of it. (I never had a shot in hell at being a sophisticated diner in the first place).

Is Sugar Free Freedom For You?

Giving up sugar is not as difficult as you might imagine. At least, it wasn’t as difficult as I imagined.

If you’re willing to allow yourself some slack and eat things you might think of as “bad”, like nuts, cheeses, butters and oils, along with fish and other proteins, it makes it much, much more palatable.

As for no sugar long-term, don’t freak. It’s actually nothing you should even worry about because you can only ever live moment to moment anyway. Plus, you’re currently thinking with an addict’s mind. It’s only “giving something up” as long as you still want it. Sure, maybe you can’t imagine it now. That’s because you’re in the grips of an addiction that no one even seems to want to admit exists! What do they call that, stinkin’ thinkin’?

Once the hard part of a week or so is over, it is amazingly effortless. You’ll actually be able to enjoy eating again with full abandon because you won’t be scared about knowing when (or being able) to stop. For me so far, the effort versus the gain is like, no competition. And when you remember all the crap sugar caused for you in your last lifetime, it won’t be hard to continue to say no once the cravings are totally gone.

If you do decide to go sugar-free, I believe you’ll see it’s not the big scary deal it’s made out to be. That’s just hype from people’s twisted sugar thinking getting in the way of reality and all that you have to gain. The annoyance is only short-lived and the long-term rewards are great.

I’m obviously just getting started, but it’s as if I’ve gotten a long-lost piece of my life back. I think it can only get easier and better from here.

Just be good to yourself. And by the way, if you fancy yourself someone who likes to help others, just remember: you can only be as good to others as you are to you first.

If You’ve Got Skin and $10, Read On

Can you part with this guy in the name of clear skin?

Can you part with this guy in the name of clear skin?

Summary: Try jojoba oil

Full length version:

I wrote a post a few days ago in which I mentioned in passing how I was struggling with my skin. In truth, my skin was still consistently better than it had been in a long, long time. I didn’t get new pimples every day, but I still had hyper pigmentation from my past acne. Whenever I did get a new pimple the fact that it seemed so random and out of control felt frustrating.

You know how people say they’ve tried everything? I have too! It helps when you’ve had twelve years to experiment. I won’t list all the things that I’ve tried. I’m sure you’ve tried most, if not all of them, and maybe you’ve tried a few more.

Maybe you’re really lucky and have always had beautiful skin, in which case, I hope you are somehow being entertained by this post, but I’m totally confused as to why you’re reading it. 🙂

What had worked for me the best so far, was this routine I found from a guy named Bob on an acne.org board who took the time to chart his path to clear skin for all the world to see. He seems like just an all-around good guy who truly wants to help people get clear skin, as he has finally done. He’s got a lot of good information and I appreciate the time he took to compile it all. If you’re interested in the post, here it is. Bob’s path definitely got me on the right path to clear skin.

I did that routine for six months or so, and I loved the results. It was so exciting to finally see my skin clear up like that. My family was amazed, too. My sister even said she needed to get one of those brushes (and compared to me, she’s got model skin).

But even doing this didn’t keep the acne entirely at bay. It’s possible it was my human error of not being consistent enough. I went strong for quite a few months, and then eventually I fell off. This is partly because it was slightly annoying for me to do twice each day and if I travelled anywhere I had four separate pieces to carry, just for my face-washing routine alone. Oh, I’m forgetting the supplements. I started with them, and tapered off, as well. Once my skin got a little better, it seemed like a lot of upkeep and I wasn’t as motivated to continue.

Besides, my desire for freedom and simplicity made me want to see if I could simplify the routine. At that time, I was coming to know the glory of multi-use products, like using coconut oil in the shower as a soap, moisturizer and shaving gel. I liked the idea of using one natural product in many ways. It appealed to my sense of ease and economy.

Mainly, I wanted a more natural alternative to the benzoyl peroxide, which, according to the acne.org routine, would require using even more over time (not according to Bob’s specific post; this is from the generic acne.org routine from the website). That seemed like a bummer for a few reasons.

First of all, if you’re anything like me, you want to know your reliance on any substance is going to decrease with time, not increase. Another reason I wasn’t so thrilled was that I was buying a tiny $7 container of Neutrogena On The Spot cream as my BP source. If I were to use what they recommended with the acne.org regimen, I think I would be going through one of those each week. That’s $364 and a lot of chemicals to absorb.

If I’d experienced near-perfect results, I would have just paid the cost and been glad I had my skin back. $364 over the course of a year for clear skin is fine. Especially if you’ve struggled with your skin, you know how much money you’d pay to have it clear. Actually this was one of the cheapest solutions I’d found. In the past, I’d easily dropped hundreds of dollars on skincare products, and if I had kept them up, I’m sure they’d have been even more expensive long-term.

But I questioned the health of the BP for my face, and like I said it wasn’t keeping me one hundred percent clear. I’d also read in passing where someone mentioned that it may age your skin more quickly. I had no idea where that idea came from, or if it had any merit, but it did seem that chemically drying your skin would do more harm than good in terms of aging. In general, I was looking to decrease my dependence on the amount of money, products, and chemicals I used.

Also, this may sound silly, but I like to pack light, and traveling with the brush and the wash and the baking soda and the BP, plus the vitamins, was slightly cumbersome. Again, it was worth it for the results I achieved at first, but not necessarily for the results I experienced in the long-term (quite likely my fault and not the fault of the system itself).

The Cetaphil cleanser, though, seemed like one of the best things I’d ever found. It was gentle on my skin and after years of trying to beat my face into submission, I realized whatever was the gentlest was usually the best. And counterintuitively, more effective. As I said, I purchased a generic brand, which was extremely inexpensive. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I bought a large pump bottle that could probably last me a year (maybe more) for $6 to $8.

The scrub brush, which is still handy, was $1. My friend has the same one from Sephora. (I’m pretty sure hers wasn’t $1.)

*Tip: if you do buy Neutrogena On The Spot Treatment, you aren’t getting your money’s worth if you just throw the bottle away when all the cream seems to be gone. Try cutting off the bottom of the tube at the crimp, and you’ll see there’s quite a bit more inside. I kept the opened container in a mini zip lock bag until it was finally finished, and the BP stayed fresh until then.

In my quest for a natural product that would maybe clear my skin, I came across jojoba oil. The reviews on Amazon were nothing short of amazing. People used it for everything, but my only concern was what it could do for getting clear skin.

So I ordered this jojoba oil from Amazon with great hopes, and got it in the mail a few days later. As I opened the box, I was so excited my life was going to change. You know the feeling.

Without washing my face (hopefully I washed my hands?) I just slathered it like suntan oil while I was talking to my sister and her friend. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing, and I probably looked like a monkey doing it. (Are you cringing? You should be!)

A little while later, I went to bed.

And the next morning, my life had changed. Just not how I’d envisioned it as I was opening the box full of hope.

Surprise– my skin looked like crap!

I was hugely disappointed after the first night and I woke up and I actually had more pimples. That darn oil had broken me out!

While I’m usually pretty happy, I wasn’t in a great mood when I saw my skin that morning. I know it’s silly, but it put a damper on my day from the start. I felt my outbreak was directly related to the oil. And I was bummed I’d just done something to make it worse, not better. Now I really didn’t know what to do. Should I cut my loss, or keep going? And was my skin just going to continue getting worse?

(Total sidetrack: It’s so easy to sit here with clear skin and feel kind of like “That’s so silly, honestly it’s just skin, or how you look”, but if you’ve never had acne, it’s one of the most dispiriting things to befall a person. I don’t mean that like “Oh poor me”. I’m so lucky, and always have been, even on my worst skin day.

But I want to explain a little bit why it’s so easy to get down about your skin. There aren’t a lot of things I would get upset about anymore, but for some reason, having my skin not under control this many years beyond puberty, is one that occasionally would get me down. Skin is not who you are, but it’s the way in which you interact with the world. People who wear make up to cover their bad skin aren’t “less real” or “higher maintenance” than people with amazing skin who, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t choose to cover it up. That’s a misconception I think needs to be brought to light. If anyone who currently wears make up, felt that they had nice skin, I can guarantee 99% of them wouldn’t bother taking the time, money, and mental energy, to apply make up every day.

No one wants to feel like they need to put on make up to face the world. Yet, if you have really bad skin, that may be a choice you face every day.

I think this is a huge misperception–I’m going to get on my soap box her–that some people actually want to go around wearing make up all the time. I don’t care how much you think someone loves make up, I’ve never known a person who didn’t want to feel as if they had a choice whether they wore it or not. Of the people have nice skin, who truly do feel the have a choice, most of them don’t bother with it. That leads me to believe that if all of the people who currently wear make up daily, got clear skin and therefore felt that they also had a choice, the great majority of them would give up putting it on daily. Like, 99%.

No one in their right mind would choose make up over clear skin. I don’t think anyone does. And also, I’ve experienced the strange phenomenon of my skin getting worse without wearing makeup. While I can’t prove causation, or say that make up made my skin clear (it didn’t), I’ve not experienced either more break outs from wearing make up, or clearer skin by simply removing the make up altogether. So if you think that if someone simply “gave their skin a break” and “stopped adding to the problem”, it’s not that simple. Most people start wearing make up in response to bad skin, not the other way around.

I’m not arguing whether make up worsens the problem of acne, or whether it looks better or not, but what I am saying is not to judge someone for covering up their skin. It’s not about trying to be the most beautiful person in the room, it’s about not feeling embarrassed to look someone in the eye. They’re not doing it to be vain, they’re doing it because they simply want to feel like there’s an equal playing field between themselves and people who experience clear skin effortlessly.

Most people don’t think it looks good, and everyone knows it’s not better than having clear skin. They’re making the best out of a bad situation, and that’s their solution for the moment. If you have good skin, feel really grateful you can’t relate, but don’t be self-righteous about how you never wear makeup… That’s kind of an ignorant argument to be made.

Besides, I love makeup. I wear it much, much less than I used to, but I’m fully aware of the pleasure it can bring. I have an appreciation for its place in the world and I still think it’s fun to put it on every once in awhile. The difference is, now my skin is at least generally to the place of clarity where I feel I have a choice every day. This choice is worth inestimably more to me than all of the makeup at the Chanel counter (if you know what I mean, you know what I mean).

So, this whole clear skin/not clear skin/make up thing may seem petty to someone who doesn’t know how it feels to have your skin be such a source of worry and distraction, but getting halfway clear skin and not feeling like I have to cover it up every day just to interact with people, is one of the most freeing things I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s like a full layer of mental baggage unloaded.

I feel for people who feel like they can’t show their natural face to the world, and that’s in part why it’s so important for me to not only find what works for me to keep my skin clear, but even more important to share with others so they can experience the lightness that simply being able to not think about your skin and how it looks can bring).

Okay so back to jojoba!

Luckily, although my skin looked like poo, I was able to get some answers on what had perhaps gone wrong. I sat at my computer all morning, hoping to make some sense of what had not happened to my face (what, you’re not supposed to cake it on and hope for the best?).

First of all, some people did say they break out in the beginning before their skin got better. I also learned that some people have experienced breakouts from using too much oil at a time. So both scenarios potentially applied to what I was experiencing. I’d always heard the old “It gets worse before it gets better” saying, but I wondered if that’s just what people said about products that had always worked for them but for some reason weren’t working for others.

I have to admit, I was nervous to keep going with the oil. I really didn’t want to make my skin worse, especially since I’d basically stopped wearing make up. I really didn’t want to go back to that, with the feeling I had to cover my skin just to feel comfortable about my skin.

I just really wanted it to work. This jojoba oil seemed to have worked for so many other people and I just wanted to find something that worked for me, too.

My mind went back to all the other things I’d tried that had worked for other people, and for some reason hadn’t done it for me (giving up wheat, dairy, going raw/vegan, Proactiv, raw honey masks, Clinique skin system, coconut oil, emu oil, green smoothies, going without make up and letting my skin rest, hydrogen peroxide, Burt’s Bees Acne Wash, Burt’s Bees Willowbark Cleanser, salicylic acid, antibiotics, Retin A, birth control pills… this is not an exhaustive list). I know I said I wasn’t going to make a list. I couldn’t help it! I know, that’s so self-indulgent. I’m sorry. I’m a martyr for clear skin. (It’s my last vice!)

But really, it seemed I had spent my life searching for a cure to my skin problem. I felt like I was in the final stretch. I was so glad for the progress I’d made, especially with the help of the guy named Bob from acne.org and his regimen. But it was like so close but yet so far, since I was still breaking out without rhyme or reason (at least that I could discern).

Not to mention, it was amazing to contemplate all the crap some people could eat, and expose their skin to, while having the nicest complexions. My ex boyfriend smoked cigarettes, drank, ate junk food, never changed his pillowcase and rarely washed his long hair. And yet he had gorgeous skin (and an enviable waistline). Meanwhile, we people with acne change our diet, exercise, lifestyle, beauty products, you name it, in search of one holy grail product. It was like the eternal quest with no end! I had to laugh. It seemed like a universal joke.

I went back to Amazon and re-read all the positive reviews it had gotten from people who had used it for acne. I gathered up my courage and tried again. I have to take a moment and express my gratitude to all the people who took the time to share their experience, trade tips, and write positive reviews on this oil, both on Amazon, and the other sites I visited. You people gave me the courage to continue with this product. (Cue the exhilarating orchestra soundtrack).

I started on Saturday night and it is now early Thursday morning. I haven’t yet used the jojoba oil today. So really, this review is based on four full days of use.

As of this morning, my skin has done nearly a total turn-around since the first morning and it looks better than it has in awhile. Yes, it looks better than it did before I started using it. I feel very happy with this product and I have a feeling that this might just work for me. I know, I’m probably jinxing it. 😉

I haven’t gotten any new pimples since that first day and the older ones are essentially all clear. The hyper-pigmentation, which was for me, just as large a problem as the acne itself, seems to be fading. My skin is clear and smooth (it’s all relative, but for me, today is a good skin day). I would say this is the second solid day that my skin has been improving and that it has looked good. I don’t want to be over-confident too early on, but so far I’m impressed with the results enough to recommend it to others.

Please note: I currently promote this product solely on the results it has given me in just four full days of use. I want to be clear on that for both the awesomeness of fast results, and the fact that long-term benefits remain to be seen.

I’m happy to be able to write this review with the hope that you find just as much success as I have with this. I know it’s early days, so I will update this in another week or so and let you know how my skin is still faring. As for now, I’m giving it a thumbs up and worth a try. If you’re willing to take a gamble with your skin and $10, go for it. If there are good results to be gained, you’ll have them sooner. If you’d rather wait and see if I’m still singing its praises in another week or two, I’ll be back to check in.

If you’d like to take the plunge with jojoba oil (which, no one tells you, is pronounced “ho-ho-bah”), here’s what has worked for me thus far.

My routine for the last four days (morning and night):

Cetaphil (generic brand) to wash my face. Then I pat my skin gently with a towel just so the water isn’t dripping off my face. My face is still wet. I add two drops of the jojoba oil to my fingertips and spread it over my face, and then I let it air dry.

And by the way, try not to touch your face during the day. If you are getting a pimple, that’s not going to help, it will make it worse. And if you’re not getting a pimple, there’s nothing to see here, so keep movin’…

And yes, I’m fully aware of the fact that I may have jumped the gun after only four days and I may have to eat my words in a week or two. I’ll keep you posted.

What If…

The world would look like this...

The world would look like this…

Everyone

Recycled their own waste

Held the door for each other

Smiled

Were kind to themselves

Stopped looking for the bad and focused on the good

Expressed their love more than their hate

Said a kind word every time they thought it

Realized their dreams were there for a reason, not to be ignored

Took care of the animals around them, or let them be in peace

Had only the children for which they could care

Tipped more

Stopped using energy resources they didn’t need

Had more face-to-face than via-screen interactions per day

Started following themselves with as much fervor as the politics and news

Didn’t perpetuate personal pain by giving it back to those around them, especially their children

Ate more vegetables

Stopped littering

Understood the labor required of a small farmer to produce the food to support his family and theirs

Bought local

Stopped trying to control the bodies and freedoms of others and focused on bettering their own physical and mental health

Read instead of watched TV

Went for a walk instead of going for a drive

Looked at what others need instead of just buying more for themselves

Questioned the status quo

Took their own advice

Stopped asserting facts and thoughts and started asserting love

Learned to love themselves first, so as to know how to love others and not just what others give them

Recognized love and judgment cannot coexist

Allowed their bodies to experience the seasons

Coveted nature like they coveted things

Could sit with themselves and not be afraid of what they’d find

Slept and woke without chemical interjection

Spent less time perfecting their mask, more time removing it

Bought less than they could afford

Loved more than they thought possible

Stopped fretting over material things, transient by default, and focused on the timeless, the only stock worth investing

Realized that life is a gift to be enjoyed, not a burden to be bared, and lived so accordingly

Got to the root of their problems instead of swallowing a pill made by machine

Realized their greatness

And that of others

And realized that the greatness of a man doesn’t lie in anything that can be given, taken away, burned, lost, damaged or stolen

Empowered their children with the wisdom of knowing themselves, the only information whose value increases with time

Respected the wisdom of children, a valuable link between domesticated humans and the natural world from which they come

Were grateful for the money they had

Worked joyfully and appreciated the results

Were not slaves to their labor or the fruits thereof

Realized that what they disdain, more comes

Realized that what they appreciate, more of that comes, too

Understood they were only as important as the things about which they complain

Saw that acting on fear only strengthens it

Fed the hungry instead of their addictions

Realize it’s the person who makes the church, not the building or the priest

And that you don’t need a conduit to any god who would have made you

Weren’t afraid to laugh, even at themselves

Didn’t take themselves seriously

Realized that worrying about what others think is just worrying about what you think of yourself in disguise

Stopped blaming others for their shortcomings

And learned from them instead

Stopped trying to define others; an impossibility

Stopped trying to define themselves; another impossibility

Saw how lucky they truly were

And acted so if everyone did, the world would not only be a better place to live, it would be the best place one could want for a home.

What if even one person did just some of those things? What if that one person was you?