Weight Loss Presents #1 and #2

I’ve been thinking about it a bit today, and have decided what I’ll be giving myself for reaching my 5 lbs. and 10 lbs. goals. First off, a little background. I started concentrating on losing these stubborn pounds on Sunday, June 30th, at which point I was 179.4 lbs. I’m working to lose 2 lbs. a week, which means that I should (hopefully) reach my first 5 lbs. goal (174.4 lbs.) around July 15th if everything goes right. That’s 13 days from now, slightly less than two weeks. Who knows, maybe I’ll do what I’ve done historically and drop that initial weight quicker – typically I end up losing the first 10 lbs. super quickly, then my body slows down and goes back to the normal 2 lbs. a week thing. Sometimes it will be as much as 10 to 15 lbs. in a week, which would be fun but is definitely not necessary. I just want to keep this gradual and ongoing for the next four and a half months. Anyway, so if everything runs on schedule and I lose 5 lbs. by 7/15, I should lose the next 5 lbs. (putting me at 169.4 lbs.) by the beginning of August. I know, I know, this is all very boring and full of numbers. I’m not too fond of numbers, either, but it’s kind of how this thing works. Just wait until I start taking and posting body measurements – now that’s gonna get super irritating, right? :-)

Anyway, on to the more exciting stuff – my presents!!!

I’ve decided that Present #1, on or around July 15th if all goes well, will be a day at the spa, with a facial, massage, and mani/pedi! Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m setting the bar pretty high, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a member at Massage Envy, and I’ve got 6 months’ worth of services waiting for me to redeem them. Plus, my favorite nail place is right next door and it’s a bit of a hike to get there, so I might as well make a day of it, right? So I’ll get the massage and facial for free, and just have to pay for the mani/pedi. Totally worth it, since I’ve been doing my own nails for a couple of months now and it’s really just sad – I should not be allowed to dabble in nail polish. I think that this time around, I’ll treat myself to a fancier nail design than I typically get. Maybe rhinestones in my pedicure, or chevron nails, or something cool and different. I’ve always been scared to ask for a special design, so maybe this is the time to get bold with it.

As for Present #2, I’ve been jonesing for a seaweed body wrap ever since my last one back in January of 2013 (so sad that it’s been that long – ack!). For those of you who’ve never had a body wrap, they come in slightly different formats, but in general the process includes getting coated in a mud or paste infused with essential oils and other goodness, then getting wrapped up in saran wrap and covered with a blanket. It’s kind of like getting a mud mask, but on your entire body, and it generally is cold and weird and awesome. Afterwards, you shower and get a short massage, and you leave feeling like a million and one dollars. They’re supposed to help you detox, have tighter skin, and shed excess water weight, but really I just love being pampered. Plus, when you get out of that seaweed treatment your skin is unbelievably soft, like baby smooth. It’s amazing. I have a gift certificate to the spa that I’ve been waiting to use, so as soon as I lose that 10 lbs., I’m allowed to head on over to get the royal treatment. I might even put a little extra down and get a second treatment that day, like a short massage, or maybe a salt scrub to make me even more buttery soft. We’ll see.

So what do you think? Have you ever offered yourself incentives when it’s time to undertake an onerous task like weight loss? How’d it work out?

Walletless Weekdays

Along with losing weight, my other biggest goal at the moment is to quit wasting money. Since I seem to be leaking funds like a sieve due to having absolutely no self control when it comes to spending money on food, and since I crave food most when I’m bored or stressed, I’ve decided not to bring my wallet to work anymore. No more boredom or anxiety-induced sandwich feasts, or late afternoon happy hour tacos. I’m only eating what I bring for lunch, which means that today I ate yogurt, hummus and carrots, and some amazing wasabi/soy almonds. It’s making me sad – I really miss self-medicating with bread, and I’d kill for a cup of coffee right about now – but it’s working. Typically by Wednesday I would have wasted $12 a day on lunch, coffee and a pastry, plus sometimes an additional $20 or so after work on cocktails, a bottle of wine, or some snacks to take home.

A dollar here and there adds up, friends. As of today, I’m $36 richer (just counting money saved on lunch/snacks alone) and 1.2 lbs. lighter. Not too shabby, and definitely on track to be at my next goal weight of 177.4 lbs. by Sunday, as long as I don’t screw up too badly on the 4th of July (which counts as a special occasion, and thus = drinking & yummy eats). I’m partially inclined to stay home, but that would be crazy. I’m going to have to learn how to control this at some point in my life, so it might as well be now, right?

Shifting Priorities…and Pounds

Since going off of birth control a year ago, I’ve gained 25 lbs. Add that to the original 20 lbs. that I needed to lose to be at my optimum weight, and you can see that I’m kind of in a bind. (Literally – my jeans are cutting off my circulation.) So as of yesterday, I’m back in diet & exercise mode. Which, let’s be honest here, has failed every single time I’ve tried for the last 15 years, as I’ve swollen from 135 lbs. to 180 lbs. Argh.

My biggest two problems are being lazy and having an emotional attachment to eating. My favorite activities are all sedentary: watching TV, reading, sleeping, playing around on the computer. On top of that, my moods demand to be accompanied/assuaged/otherwise treated with food. Do I know it’s wrong? Yes. Do I care, and want to change? Definitely. When it comes down to it, am I able to resist swinging by Popeye’s for some fried chicken, or getting that late night burger after an evening with my friends? Not really. Every time I’ve tried to focus my energy on eating healthy food, working out daily, and quitting that horrible cycle of treating my emotions with a prescription of baked goods and fried meat products, I’ve ended up failing spectacularly. Each time I fall even deeper into the hole, and end up cycling through patches of intense guilt and sandwich eating.

But all we can do is try. And maybe this time I might have a little more to try for. I’m turning 33 in November, and it just so happens that LoseIt tells me that I have exactly enough time between yesterday and mid-November to get pretty damn close to my goal weight. If I lose 2 lbs. a week, it’s realistic that I could be really close to 140 lbs. by my birthday. Also important is that I’ll be seeing two of my oldest friends that month, something that NEVER happens since they both live across the country and none of us ever get to travel that far. One friend recently experienced some amazing life changes and is looking quite svelte, so I can use her as my friendly competition. After all, I’d hate to be the chubby girl in her vacation photos. The other friend has always been super-competitive and a tad bit mean to me, so I can use her as my less-than-friendly competition. It will be immensely satisfying to look good in all of her vacation photos. Plus, the odds are high that if she sees I’ve gained weight since we last saw each other, she’ll make sure to mention it, and I will lose my everloving shit if that happens.

To get started, I’m taking small-ish steps to add activity to my day-to-day existence, as well as to cut back on needless calories:

  • Tracking every bite I eat at LoseIt.com
  • No more drinking (except for special occasions) – in other words, no more margarita nights with the girls or glasses of wine at home with sexy awesome boyfriend. Boo.
  • Walking to and from work every day – at a little over 2 miles each way, that’s 400 calories right there.
  • Wearing my VivoFit to track my steps walked, calories burned, and activity levels throughout the day.
  • Joining up at DietBet.com and making my bid to lose 40 lbs. a little more exciting of a challenge.
  • Drinking lots of water. This time of year I tend to eat even more because I hate going out in the sun and love sitting on my ass in front of the TV, but also because I’m constantly sweating and mistake dehydration/thirst for hunger.
  • Eating more veggies, less processed foods, little dairy, and no wheat.
  • Most importantly, talking about this here on my blog.

The worst part of sharing this on my blog is that since I’ve failed every time I’ve tried to lose weight over the past few years, I’m embarrassed to even let people know that I’m trying again. But eventually this is going to work out, and I really do need to be held accountable for my actions. So I’m going to keep sharing my weight, my struggles with eating, and my daily activities here.

Eventually, I’m going to start building on more activities. I already do a little bit of weight lifting every day, plus some yoga and basic stretching, and I’ve been jogging one or two days a week, too. But for now, I’m just going to concentrate on watching what I eat and walking to and from work every day. I think that’s going to have a drastic effect right off the bat, and I don’t want to push it so hard that I end up giving up as soon as I start, like every other time. Eventually I’ll work up to daily yoga or dance classes or trips to the gym, and longer runs every day, that kind of thing. But it might not be for a month, who knows?

The other thing I’m going to do is pledge myself a present for every 5 lbs. lost. That’s EIGHT PRESENTS, y’all. EIGHT things that I covet, that will be mine as long as I stop eating crappy food and start making slightly more intelligent choices each day. I’m not quite sure what my presents are going to be yet, but I’ll probably start shopping around online tonight and plan them out so that I have something to obsess over. It’ll probably be all clothes, books, and jewelry, though I do definitely want some things for my house. Hmmm…

The other thing I should probably note is that even though I’ve taken one set of blood tests that confirms I have a thyroid imbalance, and one set where the levels were all normal, I haven’t had enough money to get any other tests taken or go to the doctor for an official diagnosis and drugs. So this weight gain could possibly be because of my thyroid. But first, since I’m not losing my hair, my cycle is normal, and my brain fog is largely gone now that I’ve drastically cut back on wheat products, I’m going to try the diet and exercise route to see if it’s possible to make a dent in my weight. Eventually I’ll be able to afford health insurance. One day. Maybe. Probably not. But I’m seriously not going to worry about that today because it will just send me back to the refrigerator. For now, let’s just do some walking and eat some veggies. The rest can wait.

 

 

(The Return of) Photography Friday! Murder Mystery Dinner Edition

It’s been awhile since my last installment of Photography Friday! – sorry about the delay. Since moving to my new neighborhood, I’ve been getting back into taking snapshots of my day, so I’m planning to get back into the habit of sharing my week in photos again on a regular basis.

First up, though, here are some fun snapshots from last night. As I’ve been mentioning here and there (OK, you’ve got me – everywhere) on the blog lately, I’ve gone through some pretty major life shifts in the past few months. One of those shifts involves making new friends. After a few years back in NOLA, feeling generally lonely and rather bored with most of my best girls scattered around the globe, I’m finally starting to get out and live a little. Weirdly enough, it turns out that once you leave your house, you tend to meet new people. Crazy, right? Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the new person in your life happens to have a ton of lovely friends who’re willing to adopt you as part of their pack. :-)

Last night, accompanied by boyfriend and friends, I got to mark a longstanding goal off of my bucket list: attending a murder mystery dinner! The event was tons of fun, made even more so by the fact that our team ended up schooling everyone, solving two murders, and winning the Detective of the Night award. Not too shabby!

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One of our party, Glenn, was chosen to be a character in the murder mystery game – Sleezy McQueen, talent scout and all-around bad boy from the Bronx.

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Happier than I’ve been in a long time. <3

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Alex and Fish make a great team when it comes to crime solving…as well as extortion.

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Looks like old Sleezy finally met his match in Angie…

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Brains and beauty…the guys really lucked out.

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Champions! That’s what happens when you get a group of geeks together on a Thursday night :-)

A big thank you to Angie for letting me use all of her photos for this post, since I was too busy having fun to remember to take snapshots at dinner.

Redesigning My Typical Day

In a perfect world, my day would look something like this:

  • 6am – Wake up and go running (5 miles, because it’s a perfect world and that’s the kind of distance one jogs daily in such a world)
  • 7:30am – Come home & do 90 minutes of yoga and/or strength training.
  • 9am – Breakfast. Something disgustingly healthy like yogurt or oatmeal.
  • 9:30am – Shower, get dressed (everything in my closet would fit perfectly, because, you know, 5 miles and 90 minutes of yoga), put on makeup, feel excited to leave my house because I’m fucking gorgeous.
  • 10:30am – Catch the bus to work.
  • 11am – Snack. Something disgustingly healthy like hummus and carrots, or an apple, or some shit like that.
  • 2pm – Lunch. Something disgustingly healthy like a salad full of fresh green veggies, or steamed fish, or whatever it is that skinny people love to eat.
  • 6pm – Walk home.
  • 6:50pm – Ingest some other kind of food. By this point I’ll be so tired of eating healthy things that I’ll just eat a nice, savory piece of cardboard for a little bit of variation in my diet.
  • 7pm to 12am – Write next great American novel. OK, that’s a lie. Write shitty Harlequin romance novels and/or horror/murder mysteries that will translate into vacation money. At some point, sexy awesome boyfriend shows up and we write and/or read together for awhile before, well, you can guess…
  • 12am – Go to sleep and dream of how amazing it’s going to be to drink all of the wine and eat all of the cheese on my next vacation, all the while looking amazing in the bikini it took me all year to eat my way into.

What my typical day REALLY looks like…

  • 10:17am – Wake up and freak out that I’ve been apparently hitting my snooze button since 6am this morning. Realize that I haven’t washed my hair in days because I keep planning to do it “tomorrow, after I run 5 miles”. Laugh at myself hysterically, since the last time I ran 5 miles was sometime in 2010. Check the bus tracker and realize that the bus is about 20 minutes away from my stop.
  • 10:17 to 10:25am – Stumble around in my underwear, thinking that I should probably either a) feed the cats, b) put on some pants, or c) brush my teeth, but knowing full well that only two of those options are happening before I have to sprint to the bus stop.
  • 10:30am – Pants on, cats fed (Did I feed the cats this morning? I think I fed the cats. OhgodIhopeIfedthecats…), bag packed with all sorts of things I may or may not need for a day at work, I run out of the house. But really, am I wearing pants? Or did I brush my teeth, instead? Meh. No one cares about either thing.
  • 10:35am – Arrive at bus stop. Bus is a block away. Realize that I’m short a nickel. Prepare my speech for begging the bus driver for forgiveness.
  • 10:37am – Board bus, promptly stumble and drop change everywhere. Bus driver tells me to “sit the hell down before I hurt someone” and not to worry about paying. Guess that solved that problem, though is a busted toe only worth five cents? Wonder on this for the rest of the bus ride.
  • 10:50am – Arrive at work. The walk from the bus stop takes about ten minutes. My greasy, who-knows-when-I-washed-it-last hair is sticking up at all angles. I smell sweaty, but it doesn’t matter. No one will see or talk to me all day, anyway.
  • 11am – Settle down in my windowless warehouse office to check emails and peruse FB for the next six hours.
  • 12pm – Think about having a healthy lunch. Tick off options in my mind: salad from grocery store, salad from restaurant next door, salad from store down the street, super huge coffee and pastry from store around the corner. Ding ding, we have a winner. On the way, I stop to pick up a sandwich and a Diet Coke at another store, so I’ll be stocked up for the rest of the day.
  • 1pm – Finish last bite of sandwich. Start on pastry.
  • 1:02pm – Hate myself.
  • 1:02pm to 6pm – Hate everything about everyone.
  • 6pm – Walk home while listening to Welcome to Night Vale. Laugh, smile, forget the fact that the rest of the day has been the worst day ever. Plan to put on running clothes as soon as I get home. Tonight’s the night I start building up my mileage again!
  • 6:50pm – Home. God, it’s hot. My jeans are chafing my thighs. My feet hurt. I could really use a glass of wine. And a hug. I really, really want a hug. A hug would be the best. And maybe to bitch in my blog, and to watch an episode of House. Seven at night is too late to go running, anyway. It’s going to be dark out soon. I could be mugged, or raped, or killed…or a mixture of any of these. Yep, running is best done in the morning, when imaginary attackers are still abed.
  • 6:55pm – Text sexy awesome boyfriend, take shower, wash hair, check wine supply.
  • 7:30pm – Sexy awesome boyfriend arrives. Cuddles, wine, and conversation commence.
  • 3am – Where did the night go? I need to run at 6am! I must go to sleep immediately! Tomorrow’s the day I start getting in shape. I just know it’s going to work this time.

And before you know it, I’m 65. My knees are blown out, I’m pushing 230 lbs, and I’ve never published. This is where my mind is today. 

Living Alone

Female Rage, New Orleans Graffiti (photo by Anna Harris)

Female Rage – New Orleans Graffiti (photo by Anna Harris)

Lately I dwell
On who I will become.
How will I live
When I am old and gray?

I am scared -
So much on my shoulders.
Where will I settle
To wait until I die?

Once I thought
Things had been mapped.
I wasn’t happy
But at least I’d be taken care of.

Then I gambled;
Still gambling, I guess.
My life is now my own -
The path a mystery.

Where will I go?
Who am I alone?
Will this struggle consume me?
Is mine the sidewalk, the unmarked grave?

 

(NB: Today’s post is a response to today’s Daily Post prompt, Rare Medium.)

Over My Head

It’s night. Gravel crunches under the tires of the old Dodge Ram as it rattles, just a few mph too fast, down the two lane track leading to our house. It’s years before the streetlights will be installed on Old County Road, and the truck’s headlights fan out, casting a milky glow over the chest-high weeds that grow along the ditch banks bordering the lane.

The truck’s air conditioner hasn’t worked in years, which would be a problem during the day, but the cool night air mixes sweetly with the gravel dust as it floods in the open windows. As we roll past our neighbor’s expansive back yard, the scent of freshly-cut grass and wild onions layers over the dust smell, almost canceling out the danker smells of the truck – work boots, old chip bags, spilled soda, sweat, wood shavings…the things that make up my father at 33. He shifts at the wheel, a slight rise and tilt of his tailbone, giving a second of relief to his bad left hip. The pain always gets worse when he’s irritated about something. Right now he’s irritated about something my mother has just said.

My mother sits on the passenger side, elbow on the window ledge, fingers tapping the top of the cab. She is 28, with silky brown hair and a long, straight nose that, to my five-year-old mind, just begs to be grasped between thumb and forefinger with a giggly “honk”. She is quick to smile and hug and race, and I’ve already done my fair share of trying her patience, but she’s also monumentally slow to anger. It’s no surprise that her voice bears all the marks of true patience, floating demurely alongside my father’s gruffly barked opinion, right over my head. I find myself sandwiched between the points in their argument.

“But if he loves her…”, she says.

“What does it matter if he loves her? It’s still wrong.”

“But, Butch, if she loves him and he loves her, and if he can take care of her…isn’t that all we could – ”

“How, Pat? How’s he going to take care of her? And what if they have babies, what then? They’ll be outcasts!”

“Babe, all I’m saying is that if she’s in love, and he’s good to her, I don’t care what color he is – brown, green, purple with polka dots. And it’s not going to be up to us, anyway, so you’d better get used to it.”

“If she marries a black guy, she’s out of the family, Patricia. That’s final.”

“Well, not my family.”

The truck whips into our driveway, nearly taking out the mailbox. It slows to a crawl, weaving its way down the rutted path, lined by two acres of woodland that threatens to reclaim the road, the house, and us one day. Ahead, the front porch light flickers into view. My mother grabs her purse and the bags of groceries sitting at her feet in the floorboard. She gets out of the cab before the truck’s engine sputters off, stalking towards the front porch without a backwards glance.

My father sighs deeply, turns off the headlights, then takes the keys out of the ignition. Then he just sits there for a moment. It’s just me and him. I know that something big just happened, but it doesn’t make much sense. I’m little, but they sometimes talk about me like I’m a grownup. I have a sneaking suspicion that my mother won the fight, but it doesn’t matter. There are much bigger problems on my horizon. For instance, right now, tying my shoes is looking to be an insurmountable obstacle. I squirm. I’m old enough to unbuckle my own seatbelt, but this one sticks and needs an adult to push the button. I’m waiting for him to push the button so I can go inside, too. There was Neapolitan ice cream in one of those shopping bags.

He opens the truck door and steps out. “Come on, Boo Bear.”

I make a show of kicking my legs and trying to squeeze out of the safety belt, and we both laugh. He reaches in and unbuckles it, then helps me climb out of the driver’s side, letting me hold his index finger as we walk to the house.

I love strawberry ice cream. One day I’m going to change my name to Strawberry. Wouldn’t it be funny to be named Strawberry and get married to a purple polka-dotted man? What color would our babies be, I wonder?

Coming Clean

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Lately it’s occurred to me that there are a lot of topics that I’d like to be talking about, and am currently just avoiding because I’m afraid I’m not smart enough to add to the conversation. But today it hit me that if I don’t at least take a stab at expressing myself, I’ll never get better at doing it. So from now on, I’m going to try to sit down and share a thought with you whenever something juicy arises.

Tonight, I’m thinking about my career, and how stuck I’m feeling right now. But I’m also thinking about my weight, and how I’m currently at my heaviest ever – about 178 lbs. My frame is meant to hold about 140 lbs, and it’s starting to take its toll. My knees are hurting, and my back, which has been pretty much constantly in pain since I threw it out about four years ago, is not looking to let up any time soon. Tonight, I binged at dinner again. I wanted to eat some cookies, but instead I had clam chowder, two and a half helpings (a full container) of pizza bites, cheese and crackers, a pint of coconut ice cream, and two diet cokes. In that order. I was uncomfortably full after the clam chowder, but the rest just found its way in.

That being said, I think I should get some help. I keep trying to make changes, to exercise daily, to cut down on my food, to log every bite, to drink more water, to “think thin”, to love myself. But that last bit throws me every time. I just don’t. I like myself, in a general way. I have more self-confidence than a lot of people I know seem to. I believe that I can accomplish a great many things, and in general I’ve been pretty good at following through with those accomplishments, at least until the last few years of frustrating career standstill and looming poverty. But the food issue has been here for my whole life. It’s just that my metabolism was helping me out with covering it up before. Now I’m getting old, and my dirty little secret is slowly becoming noticeable, tacked onto my hips. If only Hawthorne had written about the Scarlet Letter NOM.

My boyfriend told me about this exercise that therapists sometimes have their clients do. You’re supposed to look at yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself out loud, “I love you.” I tried it. I looked into my eyes, I smiled, I said it…but I knew I was lying. I hated that woman in the mirror. I was disgusted that she’d be so duplicitous. I tried it a few different times, thinking that one day I’d catch myself unawares and the love would finally start to sink in. Utter failure. I can’t do it. Some days I can’t even talk. I catch sight of myself in the mirror and wish for a cigarette. I don’t smoke – never have. It seems like the right thing. I want my lungs to burn so I have an excuse for my stomach to be churning whenever the L word tries to come out.

So, to the therapist it is. With what money? I don’t know. Family Services offers counseling on a sliding scale, so I guess that’s where I’ll go. If I put $10 in a jar every time I’m thinking about going to get a sandwich when I’m not even hungry, I’ll have the first two sessions paid up within a couple of days.

It’s important to note that the difference here, maybe the reason that I’m finally able to admit that this is a serious issue that’s not going away, is that I’m finally not feeling crippling shame about it. Not like before, anyway. Before, my weight was connected to my sense of self worth, specifically where my beauty (or conception of said beauty) was concerned. The bigger I got, the uglier I felt, and the uglier I was, the more I wanted to eat, and the more I ate…you get it. If I felt fat, I couldn’t bear to be touched. It made me push people away, to be less loving in an attempt to have them stop pretending I was worthy of being loved…a killer cycle.

Suddenly, I’m able to separate weight and beauty in a way that I couldn’t before. It’s not OK, by any means, but it’s significantly different. I think that some of this is because I’m with someone I’m finding that I love unconditionally, and I’m feeling worthy of that same kind of regard. He makes me feel beautiful and somehow treasured, like a tiny thing, protected and loved in a way I’ve never allowed myself to feel before. It’s helping me work out a lot of the kinks in my thought patterns. There’s a long way to go, but he’s helping more than he could know.

A Fight for Survival in the Straits of Finance

It feels like I’m running out of options. Something is going to have to happen soon if I’m going to survive this impending bank account ice age. I’m behind on my taxes for last year, and owe a substantial chunk of cash to the government. I’m also behind on my taxes for this year, with no idea how to make that money up. My credit cards are maxed out. My student loan debt is over $100k, but I can’t find a job that even has “benefits” like health insurance (which should be a right, not a benefit, but let’s not even get into that argument here), not to mention a pay rate that’s even close to what someone with my education and skill set should be getting per hour. I’m working well over 50 hours a week, and still sinking deeper into debt with every moment. My nerves are shot. I can’t sleep. I can’t seem to even catch a breath.

All I want is a job that pays what I was making seven years ago – $45k + health insurance and paid vacation. That shouldn’t be so hard for a woman with multiple master’s degrees and a solid – sterling, even – history of outstanding service to her employers. But no one is hiring, and those who are are offering ridiculous hourly wages because they know they can get away with it.

Recently, I started freelancing via a well-known website that posts opportunities for freelancers. So far, I’ve found one position at my desired pay rate. It’s a fair wage for the level of complexity the project entails. Since finding that position, I’ve applied for gig after gig, only to find that employers – even the ones who’re supposedly looking for “Advanced” employees and offer to pay “$$$” – end up interviewing freelancers who’re working for $2 or $3 dollars an hour. It’s daunting.

A few days ago, I applied for a freelance position with an agency that connects prospective employers with the freelancers who can best complete their jobs. The agency advertises that the employers will pay a set fee of $26 per hour for their freelancers’ work, and on the employee portal, freelancers are told that they’ll make between $11 and $15 per hour for their services. I applied, thinking that perhaps these rates were in some way negotiable. If only I could make at least $18 an hour, I thought, I’d try it during my off hours. I submitted the required paperwork, went through a second round of interviews, and then was offered a position…at $11 an hour, flat. No negotiation, no possibility for anything higher than $11. For those who’re interested, even the CEO of McDonald’s is in support of raising minimum wage to just over $10 (even though advocates are fighting for a $15 minimum wage, which makes sense given today’s rising costs). For someone with my education, anything less than $25/hour for a job that requires years of training and experience, not to mention natural creative aptitude and a pretty broad set of capabilities, is an insult. An insult I was actually willing to deal with, until they came back with the $11/hour thing.

It was disappointing, but I turned them down. They’re making at least $15 an hour for every freelancer they employ, which I guess is low compared to how much my agency is making on me per hour, but still. It’s so disheartening to see that freelancers everywhere are selling themselves and the rest of us short by accepting such subpar pay rates. This is exactly what’s happening in the worlds of professional photography and graphic design, where the market is flooded with desperate new graduates, the unemployed, and hobbyists who’re more than willing to churn out work for free.

So now what? I still have my day job, which is paying me too little and not affording me the kind of office environment I’d prefer to be in, but as they say, them’s the breaks. At least they’re paying me at all. I’m also freelancing with a few different clients, which brings in a bit of extra money each month, and I’ve been slowly but surely selling off every possession that’s worth anything. Next up: the television. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, because I really like having a TV around. You know, since I’m a fat, lazy American and all.

I have a job interview tomorrow for a part-time gig working as an property & events assistant for a really lovely little wedding/special event venue. It’s honestly a dream job kind of scenario, so let’s cross our fingers that it works out. It’s only 10 hours a week, and probably doesn’t pay much at all, but I love event coordination more than anything else I’ve ever done, so it’ll be a learning experience. Other than that, I heard that an old employer has a position open for a kind of curatorial assistant / event coordinator kind of thing (it’s one of those jobs that has an ever-shifting set of duties), which sounds nice, but they tend to pay very little and work you six days a week, so I’m not sure if that would suit me at all. And the other option is to go back to waiting tables.

Waiting tables.

Waiting tables.

Yeah, no matter how many times I type that, it’s still probably the most depressing thing I’ve ever written. But I’m broke and in massive debt, and if I’m ever going to climb out of this hole, I have to double my income. No better way to do that than working a 16-hour day. Argh.

Flip The Switch

Paper Partners

So here I am, starting over at 32.

What’s weird is that I kind of always knew this would be the case. It’s not like I’m alone. Lately, in fact, I’ve experienced more true companionship than I’ve known in years. I guess I just always knew in my heart that as much as I wanted a happy ending, they don’t come cheap. Happiness also can’t be manufactured. It isn’t something that you decide you want and then force into existence. Yes, it’s somewhat controllable – I can decide, for instance, that today will be a good day, and try to remain positive and look at the bright side as much as possible – but when you’re talking about happiness in a relationship, you can’t take something that’s broken and still end up with sunshine and roses at the end. At best, I think you can end up with contented silences. Towards the end of my relationship with The Man, my silences were held at the bottom of my nightly bottle of red. Content was gradually merging with madness.

But that’s neither here nor there. I am out of that frying pan, and back into the fire. As a phoenix, the flames are where I belong, anyway. Right now I’m cooking up a new me. What will rise from my ashes? Will I be a writer? Will I be debt-free? Will I be more in control of my day-to-day existence? I don’t know, and for the moment I’m OK with that.

Things have changed substantially over the last couple of months. That’s part of why I’ve been staying away from Compass & Quill. I just haven’t had the ability to remain as fluid in writing as I’ve felt in person. The moment I start to write a new entry about how I’m feeling, I start feeling something new. My heart keeps expanding. I’m full of hope, and not just a little fear. But it’s a good fear. I feel like I’m on the brink of greatness, and I finally feel like I have it in me to meet the challenge with a steel spine.

I’ve been making changes in the way I talk to people, and the way I ask for things. There’s a new man in my life who’s had considerable effect on me in that realm, in fact. I’m learning not to dance around my wants and needs. For the first time, I’m finding that when I’m honest with others about what’s going on in my head, I start to understand myself more, too. I’m seeing how frightened I’ve been of everyone – including myself – for so long. It makes a great deal of difference in how I envision my work life growing and changing, and also in the relationship realm. It’s not safe to keep all of your wishes and wants to yourself, nor is it sane to constantly try to reign in your base reactions to the actions of others. True, it’s good to be tactful, but what good can it possibly do you to keep mum when other people are constantly disappointing you, or scaring you, or breaking you bit by bit? All you do is put up walls and box yourself in. It’s better to deal with the threat of tiny disagreements up front than to let everything build up to the point where it’s easier to end the affair than it is to sort through the years of built up issues.

So where do I go from here? I don’t know. Up ’til now, I’ve had a lot of trouble building my personal brand. I didn’t understand what the problem was, of course, but basically I’ve been hiding from myself and others for so long that I didn’t know how to write my story on a public page. This was the only place that I felt slightly comfortable, and even here I’ve just been half of the woman I’ve always wanted to be. It’s time to start figuring myself out, and creating a fuller image of myself in plain view. It’s time to be honest. It’s time to flip the switch, and turn on with the light I know I have. I’ve got a lot to offer. No more fear. No more doubt. Just magick. Just me.