Going boldly…

Something good is in the works. There’s reason for me to feel optimistic, even excited. But at the moment I’m apprehensive and don’t really want to share too much information, lest I be disappointed again. If you have any time/love/energy to spare tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2pm CST, though, please send it my way.

I’ve also had a really good idea that I’m working on setting up between now and November 1st. A new blog, a new plan. It needs more detail, but the basic gist is this:

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to turn my energy inward for awhile, focus just on loving myself, and all that entailed. Somewhere along the line, I found this really cool TED talk on marrying yourself, and I started reading up on that concept from people who have done it. Really liked it, so I’m doing it, too. I’m giving myself a timeline, at first, so it will be a little more like a handfasting than a traditional marriage. But I expect that it will end in forever 🙂

For the next year and a day (starting November 1st), I’m going to focus on my relationship with me. I don’t know if that means that I’ll stay single or not, just that I will dedicate myself to listening and loving my mind/body/life. I’ve still got some work to do on building a plan that I can stick to, but I do know that one thing I’m going to plan for is to do one thing that scares me every month. An adventure, something WAY out of my comfort zone (many things scare me, so I have to make a rule that I can’t just, say, go out to a bar by myself and call myself done for the month).

I’m also going to work at defining myself, and figuring out how to show the world who I am. My physical form does little to explain my true passions and personality, and it’s off-putting, even to me.

But first, I need to finish up this night shift, work tomorrow, then go home and get a good night’s sleep. Then there’s Wednesday afternoon, and after that, the world. Welcome to my new, bold life.

 

Home/Body

TV

My apartment is pretty small – just a little over 400 sq. ft. It’s still the perfect size for me, even though having the three cats makes me fidget a bit. They have plenty of surface area to explore, though, which gives them considerably more “floor space” than I have. They can climb anywhere they’d like, and they take turns sitting on the fridge and looking out the window, or sleeping on top of the kitchen cabinets, or exploring the shelves in the closet. I don’t mind, and let them go where they will. The only reason I’d ever want to move into a bigger apartment would be to give them more room to roam, so to me, allowing them free reign to explore every level in the apartment is completely worth their mental and physical health. One day we’ll move into a place where I can build them all sorts of tunnels and trees and hopefully an enclosed porch where they can watch the birds of a morning.

But this post wasn’t meant to be about their health, though it is entwined with mine, for better or worse. I came here thinking about interior design and modern living. I came here to talk about turning my living room into a home gym.

When I moved in a little over three years ago, the apartment was partially furnished. Straight away, I got rid of anything that looked cheap or was a space-waster (with the landlord’s permission, of course). The only things that I kept, out of necessity, were the mattress in the bedroom and the couch in the living room. The mattress is its own post – I dream of completely revamping my bedding and turning my bed into something akin to a spa experience – but today we’re going to talk about that damned couch.

The living room is minuscule, and the couch is HUGE. It’s a three-seater, deep and overstuffed, and takes up most of the only full wall in the room (the other three walls all have doors – the front door, French doors to the bedroom, and the walkway into the kitchen). With the doors being where they are, the layout of the room is rather forced. The couch takes up a wall, and I set up the television and media center just under the lip of the kitchen counter. That means that I don’t get to add seating to the kitchen counter, which is OK, but not ideal. There’s very little floorspace still available, which is pretty annoying.

When I had a boyfriend, this setup seemed necessary, though I often dreamed of selling the television and having a TV-free home. I never felt comfortable telling him that, though, because as a writer, for him TV was life. This is not to say that I don’t also enjoy watching television – I get caught up in binge-watching shows the same as the next person. And I love my horror movies, and my BBC, and documentaries, and movies about food and traveling. It’s just that I’ve started to realize how much of my real life is being stolen by screens. I am hooked up to a computer for 8 to 16 hours a day at work, and I write this blog on a computer, and when I don’t have a computer open, I’m on my phone or a Kindle or watching Netflix on my television. It’s just daunting. I want out.

And what’s funny is that I’ve turned on the television twice in the last two weeks, or however long its been since we broke up (three weeks? I’d be a shit annal-keeper, though I guess that’s what I am, in a way, the Annals of Anna, as predictable and bland as they might be). I’ve been reading, working, sleeping, and hanging out with my cats. I’ve been thinking. I’ve been planning. Now it’s time for action.

Bottom line is that the couch has to go. I don’t have the strength of will yet to toss the television to the curb, but I can very swiftly turn my living room from a TV-watching station into a gym and craft room – a place to inspire me to be myself, rather than to cater to the whims of others. I want to imbue it with feminine energy, and intensity befitting of my true personality, the one I seem to keep constantly tamped down.

Long ago, I worked for an interior designer who explained to me that the living room used to be centered around the hearth, for warmth, for community. Now it is centered around the television, which provides no warmth, and essentially allows us to pretend we’re part of a community without having to engage in any of the messiness of actually talking to one another. I’m tired of having the television be the center of my home – so I’m going to move the idiot box over to the corner. I’ll get a futon that takes up less space and allows for guests to stay with me more comfortably. I’ll install bar stools, and use the kitchen counter as a craft station. I’ll use the floor space for a new elliptical (I’ve been dreaming of a replacement for my old Tony Little Gazelle for years now), and a yoga mat. I’ll still be a homebody, but I’ll be bringing magic and intention back to my sphere.

Wish Me Luck

I’ve been interviewing for a new job, and tomorrow is the second in-person interview (following up an informal phone interview, a formal phone interview, and an initial in-person interview). If all goes well, I’m hoping to walk out of that office with a job offer tomorrow. That would mean that I can stop working two jobs after this month, and I’ll have free time to pursue some passions…like finishing up the first draft of my Camino story, planning my next big hike, starting to learn Spanish, and getting in some serious kirtan and meditation time.

So, good folks of the interwebz, any and all good thoughts are appreciated tomorrow around 3pm CST. (Or anytime, really. Don’t feel constrained by time limits. The world needs all the good energy it can get right now.)

XO!

 

 

Shallow Roots

RumiOcean

I was born and raised in a small town on the eastern shore of North Carolina. My family has lived in the same 100-mile radius since the 1700’s, and we’ve always been water folk – sailors and fishermen. Though I’m not from the beach, exactly, I am from – and of – the water. My town is situated on the banks of one of the many small waterways that snake in off of the Pamlico Sound, the largish body of water that separates mainland North Carolina from the fabled Outer Banks, the barrier islands that are our connection to the Atlantic Ocean. I am also a Scorpio, a water sign (though you’d think we’d be fire, or maybe earth). While that is more of a commentary on my emotional state and my potentially deadly passions, I also feel a certain kinship with water. The spirit of it reaches out to comfort me. I am home on the waves, even though I can’t swim.

I grew up surrounded by water of all kinds – the wide drainage ditches that separated my father’s property from that of our neighbors, where I fished for minnows as a child; the pond in the back yard that housed my prized catfish, Claude, and a bevy of trained geese; the swamp beyond our yard that occasionally filled the air with its own particular earthy smell; and of course Pantego Creek and the Pungo River, wider here than parts of the mighty Mississippi, home to jellyfish and crabs, sailboats and yachts, tubing and wake boarding, and in my case, several rounds of failed swimming lessons. The smell of salt water will always mean “home,” and I am filled with acute, gut-clenching nostalgia when I imagine a quiet night, only the sound of river waves lapping to keep me company. I try not to think of the ocean. It hurts too much. But maybe it’s all that water that keeps my roots so shallow, makes it so easy for me to get up and move when the mood hits.

It seems to me that I feel about the ocean the way many people talk about feeling for their families. I often hear people talk about how bereft they would feel if separated by a great distance from their family, meaning the parents who gave them life, the brothers and sisters who tormented them as children, but later became the most trusted and loyal of companions. This is not my experience. My loved ones are not my roots. Mental and emotional distance can far outpace physical separation. There are many things that I miss about my childhood in Eastern NC, but not even one thing that I can think of to make me want to move back, save for a few precious evenings spent staring out over the Atlantic.

I wonder if it’s because I love the ocean so much that I cannot bear to think of moving closer to it. Isn’t that a strange thought? But it’s true that I daydream in equal parts about moving to Maine and moving to Arizona. I want great expanses of sky and land, and not too many people. Also, it strikes me that in places with too much water, and in places with just enough, a certain power dwells. It is the great equaling out, personified. And in both places my roots would be shallow, but happy.

Along with being a water sign, Scorpio is only the only sign of the zodiac that has three symbols, showing our possible maturation (not everyone progresses beyond the scorpion, our base sign). If we work hard at it, we tiny scorpions can eventually become eagles. After that, we are reborn again as the phoenix. Perhaps I have trouble taking root because I know it is my destiny to take wing. But still, I imagine I’ll sleep tonight with the sound of the ocean crashing in my heart.

Thoughts on 2017 Resolutions

I haven’t thought my resolutions all the way through yet, but didn’t want to not say something on the first of the year. I’m just going to use this blog post to jot down a few things that I know I’m going to focus on doing, and then come back and do a more formal post in a couple of days.

My biggest goal of the year is to be kind to my body. Not indulgent to my body, or easy on my body – to shower it with love, and take care of it in such a way that it will last me for the long haul. I want to spend the year doing what’s best to bring health and wholeness to this bag of skin and bones that carries my brain around. I want to take off the extra weight, make sure my organs are working efficiently, and heal the few reoccurring issues (blemishes, itchy patches, all the little weird tics that that I have, but never pay attention to with diligence).

I want to sleep at least 8 hours a night. I used to think that I was oversleeping, but since I got my Fitbit and started paying attention to my sleep patterns, it turns out that I’ve been drastically overestimating how much I slept each day. On average, I’m getting about 6 hours of sleep a night, when I know that I work best at between 9 and 10 hours of sleep. This has to change.

Working out is a must, and I just joined a new gym about a block from my work, so I can go there after work at least five days a week from now on, starting tomorrow.

I want to read 50+ books this year, and I should be able to do that by cutting back on Facebook and TV, reading before bed, plus bringing my Kindle to work to read during lunch.

I’d also like to find a way to not just survive, but thrive, with only one full time job. I honestly don’t know if that’s a possibility, but it would be great to get to work less. Who knows, I might even get more time to sleep, work out, and read!

That’s all I’ve got for the moment, but I’ll be thinking this over for the next few days, to create something a bit more formal…

 

What I Read in 2016

You might have noticed that I have a tab at the top of the page called “Reading List 2017.” Last year I had “Reading List 2016,” and so forth and so on. What’s weird is that I could swear I used to have an additional link somewhere to all of my old reading lists…need to get that added back on. No use recording what I read if I’m just going to chuck the list at the end of the year.

Anyway, my yearly goal is to read one book a week, and this year was NOT a great success. But I just won a Kindle at my office Christmas party, so maybe I’ll have a good excuse to read some lighter fare off of the 99 cent list on Amazon this year. Plus, for every book that I finished this year, there’s at least one book that I started and have yet to finish, so if I can get my act together, hopefully those will pad my 2017 list. Let’s cross our fingers!

Either way, what is done is done, and what was done in 2016 was a grand total of 15 books read. Holy crap, that’s sad. But let’s turn it into something fun by charting out what types of things I was interested in this year, and comparing it to last year’s numbers! Here’s my blog post recounting what I read in 2015, along with a handy little pie chart of the genres I devoured in 2015. I read 35 books, but for the purpose of this chart, where the genres overlapped, I counted them again:

2015ReadingList

And here’s the list of what I read in 2016:

  1. Birthright, Vol. 1: Homecoming, by Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan & Adriano Lucas (1/9/16)
  2. Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine, by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro (1/9/16)
  3. Pulpatoon Pilgrimage, by Joel Priddy (1/9/16)
  4. Tales of the Cairds, by Anne Cameron (1/12/16)
  5. The Story of My Tits, by Jennifer Hayden (2/14/16)
  6. Mystic, Vol. 1: Rite of Passage, by Ron Marz, Brandon Peterson, John Dell, Andrew Crossley & Dave Lanphear (3/5/16)
  7. Mystic, Vol. 2: The Demon Queen, by Ron Marz, Brandon Peterson, John Dell & Andrew Crossley (3/5/16)
  8. Harbinger, by Joshua Dyshart, Arturo Lozzi, Khari Evans, Lewis LaRosa & Matthew Clark (3/23/16)
  9. Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson (3/29/16)
  10. Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands, by May Cravath Horton (7/6/16)
  11. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (7/28/16)
  12. Blue Nights, by Joan Didion (8/14/16)
  13. Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, by Ian Morgan Cron (9/18/16)
  14. Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman’s Work, by Mari Graña (11/12/16)
  15. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky (11/12/16)

Ctrl+Z

A little over a year ago, I took a break from my increasingly unhappy life and went on a long walk. I didn’t know what I was looking for, exactly, but I had a good idea that I’d know it when I saw it. As I walked across Spain, falling in love with nature again, learning to trust my body, and meeting new friends from all over the world, the depression and anxiety I’d been suffering for years started to lift away.

It wasn’t a gradual change. It was almost immediate. Within a week of being away from the constant stress of my life as a freelance marketer traveling between Chicago and New Orleans, I started to wake up and spend each day feeling happy, relaxed, and renewed. The walks got longer, my body got stronger, and the stories I allowed myself to share with my new friends on the Camino started to get deeper and more painful. But there was a song in my heart, and I knew down at the core of things that everything was going to be OK, if I could just allow the melody to follow me back to my “real” life.

The first few nights off the Camino were especially tough. I had thought it would be nice to get a nice hotel room all to myself. I hated it. It was hard to sleep, knowing that the guys I now considered family weren’t an arm’s reach away, the next bunk over. I took a side trip to Barcelona to see the Sagrada Familia, and though I fell in love with the town, I spent most of my time there sleeping in my room, mourning the loss of my friends, my trekking poles, and the joy of knowing your simple purpose – to walk – and fulfilling that goal every day. A few days later, I flew back to the states, and was hit with a new wave of regret and sadness, and something I’d later realize is called “reverse culture shock.” After weeks of feeling very little fear or unease, the stress of walking down a street in New Orleans, constantly watching my back, was breathtaking. I realized that a generous amount of the general anxiety I’d been dealing with was directly related to living in New Orleans. I didn’t know what to do with that information, and still don’t, but I am on a reduced timeline here. I never intended to live here for the rest of my life, and now I’m coming to terms with the thought of leaving in the next year or two.

Over the past year, I’ve readjusted to living in this city that I’ve called home for the last 17 years, and tried to understand what it is that makes it so difficult to leave. At the same time, I’ve resisted writing about my time on the Camino. I thought that I didn’t have the words for it, but in reality, I didn’t have the strength. The two situations are deeply entwined, whether I want to acknowledge that or not. Because the Camino woke me up (or maybe was a direct result of being awoken, but not consciously able to grasp all that I knew?). I’m not sure when I realized this, but the life that I’ve been living off Camino is not the life I want. It’s not just career stuff, or body stuff, or city stuff. I’ve been expressing bits and pieces of this here and in real life conversation for a long time, but always with this concept that there was something wrong with me for not just being able to suck it up and deal. But that’s not it at all, is it? The real lesson, the thing I’m just now starting to soak in and understand as true, is that I can have any life I want. I am allowed to want more, and I am allowed to ask for more. It is OK to dislike things that other people love, and to confess my frustrations with things that other people enjoy. This is MY walk, and I can shape it however I damn well please.

When I got back to New Orleans from Spain, I was tempted to just sink into myself again. It didn’t get back to pre-Camino levels of self-hatred, but there were plenty of days when I just slept all day since there wasn’t anything worth waking up for. Eventually, my finances became dire, and I needed to find another job to supplement my unpredictable freelance earnings. While sorting through job posts on an online employment site, one ad caught my eye, with the phrase: “Join our crew of misfits.” I read through the requirements, thought it sounded fun, and applied for the job as a front desk person at a local boutique hotel. The manager and I clicked immediately, and the job was mine. It only took a few shifts for me to realize that I was meant for hospitality. I love it. It’s like being back on the Camino again. And a glimmer of hope appeared, because not only did I realize I’d found something that I truly loved doing. I realized that I had already known this about myself YEARS ago, back when I was waiting tables to work my way through college. Back then, I truly adored what I did, but people kept telling me that service wasn’t a “real job.” There was this concept that I needed a 9-to-5 job, with a suit and a desk, to be a successful human being. I wish that someone back then had taken a look at what made me tick and showed me that there were other options to crafting a meaningful career. Oh well. That’s what Ctrl+Z is for. Time to start all over.

I’ve been working as a front desk person/concierge since February, and really enjoy the job. If you’re a service-minded individual, it’s the kind of job that just comes second nature. My main duty is being really nice to people, which can sometimes be difficult if they’ve had a tough day, but I generally win them over. There are other things – logistics, maintenance, reservations, database coordination, and, being me, a ton of free marketing advice. I love my coworkers, and adore the guest house property. Every now and then I meet a guest who’s so awesome, we end up becoming friends (at least on Facebook), and I’ve had some truly lovely experiences. But it doesn’t pay well at all. To be able to “afford” to do a job that makes me happy, I’ve also been doing some freelance marketing, which does pay well and doesn’t make me unhappy, but leaves me feeling like I’m missing something important. I love my coworkers at the agency, and am happy to be able to work on my own schedule, but it’s not my passion, and it’s wearing me thin, especially when I can’t count on a specific amount or timeline for any paycheck. I was reading this article the other day about the high rate of depression and anxiety in millennials, and how it ties in to many of us working 60 to 80-hour weeks just to be able to pay rent and get by, and I was struck with how I’ve just been constantly plugging away for years, with little to show except for a bad back, a nervous eyelid tic, and the magical ability to go into a full-blown panic attack just from hearing my cell phone ring. Which is why, if you’ve ever tried calling me, you know I don’t answer, but will call you back later. I haven’t had the ringer on for years. Too risky.

So why am I writing all of this? Well, I had a Camino moment a couple of weeks ago, and it gave me some new insights that completely changed my course. The owner of my hotel has always confounded me. He’s a lovely man, but I wouldn’t say that we see eye to eye on hotel best practices. A couple of weeks ago, he sent an email to everyone threatening to fire the entire staff if we couldn’t make certain specific property improvements. Improvements that we’d noted long ago, and had been asking for the money to fix for months. The email didn’t mean anything in the whole scheme of things; he didn’t really want to fire anyone, he’s just from the school of thought that you should terrify your employees to get positive results. I knew this, but it had a strong effect on me. The manager and I were sitting together at the time, and I had to excuse myself to go and have a cry in the bathroom. I was so fed up and frustrated with the situation, and felt hobbled by the lack of change, innovation, and structure. A coworker had warned me months ago that there was a high turnover with people who came in and expected anything to change, but I had thought that maybe I could make a difference. This was the first day that I realized I didn’t have what it took to enforce meaningful solutions in an unhealthy environment.

That night, I went home, and started writing down what it was that I liked about my job, what it is that I was searching for in an ideal workplace, and what it is that I’d like my employer and job to do for me. It wasn’t easy, but I started with things that I have consistently disliked, things that always make me anxious and leave me drained. Then I turned those things around and looked for what would fix them. I ended up with what became a mantra in the job search. In the past, I’d always gone into looking for a job with this idea that I needed to prove myself to my employer. But I’m over that. I am a fantastic employee. My bosses have always loved me; I’ve got a full page of folks who will give me glowing referrals. I’m a good person, I’m honest, I’m kind, I see people for who they are (which can be good and bad), I always give my best, and am always looking for ways to improve. I don’t always have to prove my worth. It’s time to start holding employers accountable, asking, “Why should I work for you? How can you help me be a better person?” The things I realized I needed were as follows:

  1. hospitality
  2. an international company that would offer me chances to travel and relocate
  3. structure
  4. accountability between all levels of coworkers/managers
  5. educational opportunities
  6. guaranteed advancement
  7. great workplace culture, with the ability to be radically kind every single day

I realized that it was time to go corporate. Twenty-year-old me was not pleased. Thirty-four-year-old me breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a plan! Now it was time to make the list mean something.

Two weeks ago, I sat down and applied to about 20 different jobs over the course of two days. This is nothing new; I’ve been sending out resumes to jobs all over the country for so long that it just seemed to be one of those common tasks like washing dishes or sweeping the floor. What was new was that I focused in on making sure that the companies I applied for fit my criteria for what I wanted in a workplace. And of those 20 applications, three called me back. One response was so poorly written that I disregarded it immediately. One response was for a great position with a hotel that I wasn’t sure of. The final response was a phone call from a very friendly-sounding guy from a hotel that I didn’t know much about, but was owned by a company that seemed to fit my criteria: Marriott.

Last Thursday, I went to an interview for a marketing position at a luxury hotel that is technically part of a chain but doesn’t seem to have much of a connection to the rest of the brand. It was a bad interview. I knew right away that it wasn’t for me. The person interviewing me would have been my boss, and she seemed unhappy. As we talked, I checked things off of my mental checklist – will this place allow me the ability to relocate? Doesn’t seem likely. Is there structure? Meh. What about educational opportunities? The interviewer seemed confused about what I was asking. Could I advance within the company from here? There wasn’t anywhere else to go. The interviewer was kind, but at the end of the day, I walked out feeling like I’d dislike working there. It would be one more place without defined needs or goals in place, that would stress me out and make me hate going to work. So no.

On Friday, I suited back up to head to the Marriott interview. The interview the day before had been rather demoralizing, and I had to dig deep to paste on a smile. It didn’t help that this interview was for an entry level position, also not ideal, but sometimes you have to take a step down to get in the door. Once I got into the hotel, I felt right away that this place was different. It was comfy and modern, with a great color scheme. The interviewer was really pleasant, and easy to talk to. The interview was mostly scripted, but the non-scripted parts were entertaining, so I was immediately at ease. One of the first things the interviewer said to me after finding out that I’d walked the Camino was, “We’ve got hotels in Spain, too, if you want to go work there some day.” (Will this place allow me to relocate? Check!) He took his time and answered all of my questions, and every answer reinforced that this was the right choice. Then I headed to my second interview, meeting the woman that I’d be replacing. We had a coffee and a nice, long chat about what we were looking for in life. She explained advancement opportunities (ample), educational opportunities (tons), and the basics of the job (fun). I walked out of there knowing that I REALLY wanted this job…but there were more interviews to go.

On Monday, I met the GM and the sales manager, this time for two very relaxed interviews. I got a little teary-eyed while speaking with the GM; I just dug him as a human being. He was efficient and eagle-eyed, and obviously cares about his employees. That visit ended with a job offer, conditional upon passing a drug test and background check. I’ve spent the last week on pins and needles about the background check, hoping they wouldn’t fault me for my insane student loan debt, or find something in my past that didn’t fit the brand. Of course, this is ridiculous, since I’m a terribly lame human being with minimal adventures or wild stories, and no criminal past. But I do so love to invent things to worry about! My poor boyfriend has spent the last few days reassuring me that I’d probably know if I was a criminal, and I’d definitely be getting the job. Luckily, I was wrong and he was right – this morning I got the call that I passed the final hurdles, and can start next week. I’m going to be working as an Event Specialist, handling the needs of large groups who reserve blocks of hotel rooms in conjunction with an event (weddings, trade shows, reunions, that kind of thing). It’s going to be challenging, but rewarding, and there are multiple route options for advancing to the next rung on the ladder, when the time comes.

So I’m backtracking a little bit, career-wise, but it won’t be for long. I’m still going to have to work some crazy hours, probably at both hotels and the marketing agency, to stay afloat for awhile as I stock up on office apparel, get some medical and dental treatments that I’ve been putting off, and pay off debts that I couldn’t put much of a dent in over the last year. It’s going to be hard for awhile, but much easier in the long run. In a sense, I’m hitting “undo” on a big chunk of my professional life, but I’ve learned a lot of things that will still come in handy. I know what kind of boss I respect, and what I’d never do to a coworker or employee. I know how much I adore being helpful and kind, and that I can enrich my personal life by way of my professional life if I so choose (I do). I know that I am nimble, a problem solver, a fixer, a “can do”-er. I know that I’ve finally started a real career, and that I’m joining a company with which I’ll be able to continue on until I retire, if all works out. And if I play my cards right, at the end of that career I’ll have traveled the world, and be getting ready to start a new adventure with my own B&B somewhere. Who knows? I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Whole30 Round 1 Results

finished-the-w30-fb-cover.jpg

July was a pretty busy month for me, emotionally. I made the decision in late June to put 100% of my energy into changing the way I eat, for good, using Whole30 as my template for kicking things off. This isn’t a post about how awesome the Whole30 is, how it works, or what it can do for you. There’s already a ton of information online about the program, including a great website with all the information you need to undertake the challenge for yourselves. I bought the cookbook, as well, but honestly found that the Whole30 website gave me everything I required to make some serious life changes, and all for free.

The program is 30 days long, and I’ve found that the easiest way to explain it to folks is that it’s paleo’s badass older sister. For 30 days, you make a deal with yourself to kick everything out of your diet that could cause inflammation, encourage overeating, or just not be all that good for helping your body work at its top capacity. This includes alcohol, all sweeteners of any kind (yes, even honey and stevia), grains, dairy, corn, soy, and a host of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives – basically, if it comes in a package and the label has more than a couple of ingredients, you probably can’t eat it. In fact, it’s easiest to just avoid processed and packaged food altogether. The program also advises against snacking and replacing “bad” items with “good” versions – you know how you went paleo and quickly figured out how to make those “healthy” paleo pancakes and muffins? Yup, none of that allowed.

I have a long, sordid history of eating my feelings. If I get bored, angry, happy, sad, pensive, (insert emotion here), I will treat myself to food. If I’m with others, I’ll treat myself to a regularly-sized meal. If I’m alone, I’m prone to eating whole pizzas, buckets of wings, two Big Mac meals, whatever it takes to drown out the feelings for a little while. It’s been an issue since I was a child, but I was pretty good at keeping it under wraps for most of my life. I’m just now getting to the point where I’m willing to take ownership, talk with a therapist, and start making active changes to the way I process what’s happening to me in order to eat what I’d like, but in moderation.

Though I did hope to lose weight on the Whole30 program, my biggest hope was to give my body a break, time to cut out the cravings so I could hear my emotions more clearly and find ways to soothe myself without food or alcohol. My second biggest desire with this program was to kickstart a health change that will snowball as I get closer to my 35th birthday in November. I’ve got some crazy big birthday plans to hike the Grand Canyon and go horseback riding in Monument Valley, and I didn’t want my weight to get in the way of either of those things (especially didn’t want to end up hurting a horse – what kind of jerk wants to do that?). I’m aiming to be back at college weight AND feeling strong and vital come November. Thanks to this program, I think I’m on track for all of my goals.

The biggest surprise to me on this program was that it really wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t have any strong cravings for junk food until around Day 28, and I was able to easily overcome them. I did have some crazy weird food dreams around halfway through (one dream that I was eating garbage bags full of gooey, delicious chocolate croissants, and another dream that I owned a 24-hour brunch spot and had to taste test all the new dishes).

I did start cooking more, and doing meal prep, and though I’ve kept a pretty simple diet on rotation, I’ve gotten a lot better at the things I make, and am ready to start expanding my repertoire a bit. So far I make a pretty mean batch of slow cooker cabbage rolls, and though I hated the last carnitas recipe I tried, I’m ready to give it another go. I also found out that my “allergy” to garlic, something that had plagued me for years any time I had a drop of the stuff anywhere near my food, has suddenly disappeared. I can only think that I don’t do well with garlic when it’s combined with grains or dairy in my meal. Since I can eat it now (and really like it), I’m learning how to cook with it, finally. Made some simple and delicious baked green beans and garlic the other night, in fact.

Many people report that chronic aches and pains tend to go away during the Whole30, since ditching inflammatory foods gives your body time to heal. I’ve suffered from Achilles tendonitis in my right leg for a couple of years now, and it went away by the second week. I also went off of birth control medication about four months ago, and was just starting to see some acne show up just before I went on the Whole30, which is the biggest issue for me in not being on the pill. I generally get really nasty hormonal acne on my neck, chin, and chest, and the only thing that can make it go away again is taking the pill again, which really sucks since the medication makes me feel terrible, otherwise (but I’m so vain, and I do love my clear skin). I’d just gotten my first painful zit, and was steeling myself for more, but it’s been a month now and my skin looks great. I’m chalking that up to my hormones not dealing well with something I was eating. We’ll figure that out at a later date; for now, I will gladly accept the clear skin.

Many people do a program like this and combine it with exercise for best results. For me, this has always been about making a permanent change in my relationship to food, so I didn’t want to make too many changes at once. I wanted to get this to stick, then eventually work into getting more physical again. So no heavy exercise, just biking and walking to work, like usual.

The end result is that I lost almost 11 pounds and quite a few inches (see below), didn’t drink for a month and didn’t miss it, and was able to start rationalizing my way through any occasion where I’d feel like bingeing on unhealthy food. I took the day off on July 31st to eat pizza and ice cream (definitely not part of the plan, but I’m not going to down myself over it), and started Round 2 on August 1st, with a plan to wrap up on August 30th. I’m not completely sure of what I’ll do after this month is up. Since I’ve been eating very well and feeling good this entire time, and not feeling too put out, I’m guessing I’m going to stay Whole30/paleo 99% of the time, and then have a treat every now and then if I feel like it. I might also do what I did this month, and be really strict for 30 days, have one day to eat whatever I please, then back on the wagon again. We’ll see what feels right when I get there. I’m not gonna get too worked up over it just yet.

Here’s what I lost this month. I’ll keep you up to date once Round 2 is over; hoping that with added exercise, I can do as well as I did on the first round.

Start – July 1st, 2016

  • Weight – 193.6 lbs.
  • Waist – 35″
  • Lower Stomach – 44″
  • Hips – 47″
  • Chest – 39″
  • Arm – 16″
  • Thigh – 29″

End – July 30th, 2016

  • Weight – 182.8 lbs. (Loss = 10.8 lbs.)
  • Waist – 33″ (Loss = 2″)
  • Lower Stomach – 42″ (Loss = 2″)
  • Hips – 44.5″ (Loss = 2.5″)
  • Chest – 35″ (Loss = 4″)
  • Arm – 14.5″ (Loss = 1.5″)
  • Thigh – 27.5″ (Loss = 1.5″)

Total Weight Lost – 10.8 lbs.

Total Inches Lost – 13.5″

What’s Going On?

Hey there, folks! If you’ve been waiting for the next installment of my Camino journal, never fear; I’ll have a new post up tomorrow. Things have been rather hectic as of late. There’s a lot going on in my life, and it’s mostly all very positive. Thought I’d drop by for a second to let you all in on the current goings on, as well as to humbly ask for some good vibes over the next week or so as I embark on some small changes that are going to lead to big rewards eventually. So what am I up to, you ask? Here you go:

a-school-letter-grade

You might not know this (and you’d probably never expect it, since I’m super sloppy here on the blog), but I’m currently enrolled in the University of California San Diego’s Extension program, and studying to obtain a Certificate in Copyediting. Just finished my second of four required courses, and found out yesterday that I got an A! It was a difficult class, so I’m pretty proud of myself. I’ve always loved copyediting, though, and as boring as it might seem to some people, I’ve been having a great time familiarizing myself with the minutiae of copyediting via The Chicago Manual of Style and The Copyeditor’s Handbook.

editor

My studies at UCSD aren’t my first foray into copyediting; I’ve actually been proofing and editing documents of all kinds for most of my 15-year career. When I decided to study copyediting to make my skill set a bit more “official,” I also had it in the back of my mind that one day I’d like to become a freelance copyeditor. Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking it over, and it feels like the right time to get going. I’m going to be putting together a new site in the coming weeks that highlights my skills as a copyeditor and marketing strategist. I’ve been working a lot on coming up with a name, budgeting for various fees, and creating a plan to get the business underway without costing an arm and a leg. You’ll see more on this soon.

image7

Via Wildland Trekking. Check out their amazing array of hiking and backpacking tours! There’s something for everyone, in amazing locations all over the world.

The reason I want to be a little economical with the business plan is because I’ve got another exciting adventure coming up. I’m turning 35 in November, and it’s a big deal for me. It’s time to move fully into my power, and make my intentions known to the Universe. The Camino kicked off this inner journey, and I want to make my 35th birthday very special, a physical manifestation of this great spiritual leap. That being said, I’ve decided to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim during my birthday week. I won’t be going alone, so don’t worry about my sanity. I’ve been talking with a tour group that does small group tours with an experienced guide. They provide all necessary equipment and safety measures, so my only responsibilities between then and now will be to get into fighting shape (those packs are heavy, and the days are long), buy clothing, and save up for the cost of the tour. It’s a bit more than I should be spending right now, but I’ve weighed the financial expenditure of going against the emotional cost of not going, and have realized that I’d rather fight my damnedest to get there than give up on a dream. I can’t imagine a better way to see the Grand Canyon OR a better way to spend my 35th birthday, so I’m just going to make it happen. Also, this will be a great excuse to make sure I’m stocked up on all of the clothing I’ll need for my next Camino (aiming for 2017).

slide-image-3

Via the Jazz Half Marathon site.

Talking about getting into fighting shape, I’m also training to run a half marathon in late October. I’d been talking about my pre-35 goals, and one of them was to get back into running, which I used to love. I even ran a marathon a few years back, but health issues and life have set me back a bit. I was so surprised and excited when my friends signed me up to run the Jazz Half Marathon in October, and even paid the entry fee! I’m going to run the race for charity, to raise money for oncology and hematology patients at the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans. Expect a fundraising link here on the blog pretty soon – you’re definitely going to want to help those adorable smiling faces!

On top of this, I started working as a hotel front desk agent in February, and I average 40 hours a week at the job. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do, and I genuinely love being here and helping people. That being said, there are a lot of other ways that I could be helping the hotel to achieve its goals and make guests even happier, so I’ve been talking with my manager about expanding my role here at the hotel to make use of my marketing skills. We have a meeting on Friday to talk things over a little more officially, and I’m hoping that it will lead to a raise. Your good thoughts appreciated as I move forward with all of these big new projects!

Getting Started

It all seems so easy, setting out. First, you set a goal. Then you define some small, easily-attainable steps to achieving that goal. After that, you make a plan on how you’re going to tackle said steps, and all you have left is to take flight and make those dreams a reality!

But.

Anxiety sets back in. You notice yourself overreacting, feeling slightly stabby when you see those happy photos your friends are sharing on Facebook. You notice your dreams getting darker, and your sleeping patterns start to shift. You are groggy and dizzy, inclined toward snark. You no longer lose weight – you gain it by the bushel. Your hair is a mess, you’ve got a huge zit, you hate every piece of clothing in your closet, your cats refuse to eat the super expensive cat food you’ve bought them, and bill collectors JUSTKEEPCALLING.

So.

You stop. You breathe. You think carefully about the goal you’ve set. Is it attainable? Is it rational? Why this particular goal? Why now? What is your subconscious trying to tell you about it? What could you be doing, instead? Should you be doing anything?

Then you get started, all over again.