Sunday Meditation

I am single again, after 11 years. What does one do?

Well, to begin with, you toss all of the ex’s belongings in a box (carefully, as they are mostly books, and we adore books here). After that, you decide there’s no more reason to have any free hours, so accept any and all offers for extra shifts. You now have no time to consider heartbreak, as you will be way too tired. Despite the extra work hours, though, it is important to not neglect daily conversations with the online therapist. Therapy is doubly important when attempting to recover from the sadness and confusion of being dumped, and also hoping to not make any of the mistakes of the last two relationships ever again.

Next up, we consider the rest of life. What are we doing with ourselves? Is one happy and/or fulfilled now? How long has it been since one was happy and/or fulfilled? What can one do to be happy and/or fulfilled? Figure out the best extra-curriculars, where they can be found, and how to incorporate them into your life. Spanish lessons? Yoga? Kirtan? Flamenco? Long walks? Textile art? Starting a new writing project?

Don’t forget to call up any and all close friends. Everyone needs to know what’s going on with you, even if you’re a solitary witch and don’t much like talking about your problems with anyone other than the online therapist. Be honest. Tell them you can’t talk now, but want them to know you love them and you want them to feel included. Some of your friends will offer advice and love and make you feel like a superstar. Others are like you, and will be relieved to not have to talk to you too much about gooey life bullshit, while still being able to offer you moral support from afar. Members from both teams will offer you chances to get out, try new things, and buddy up in new ways that will boost your ego and keep you from eating your weight in Talenti.

Make a plan! Make two! Make a ton of plans to do all of the things that strike your fancy. Life is not over. It’s actually about to get a lot more fun, because you know what you can do when you’re not dating a prospective life partner? I’m just going to leave you hanging on this one. I’m sure you can guess some alternatives.

Travel. Travel is sexy. (Plus, travel is the only thing you really adore, so why not do more of it?)

Reassess your underwear collection. If you’ve let it slide over the past few years, drop some serious cash into an underwear drawer renovation. You deserve every inch of it, and how amazing it makes you feel. I mean the drawer renovation, you perv.

Don’t throw yourself out there immediately. There is time. But don’t remain on the shelf, either. There’s no use punishing yourself any longer than you’ve already been punished. Remember what you’ve seen thus far – your breakups have historically been a reflection on the people who didn’t love themselves enough to have anything left over for you. Don’t follow in their footsteps. You are full of love – be greedy with it for awhile, and spend it on yourself.

Have an amazing life, beloved.

PS. This is dedicated to my squad of badass bitches. I’m a lucky, lucky girl to have a world full of amazing friends. ❤

Beloved

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They say that the heart is the seat of love, but what do they know? These days, it’s my gut and my brain that take turns churning. I thought that I understood, that there was no more to learn, but I was wrong.

The summer when I was eleven, I fell into a deep melancholy. My parents and I lived alone in the woods, and though I had many animal friends, friends of the human variety were much harder to come by. Kids just didn’t like me much. I was segregated from the pack, naturally and also against my will. The loneliness was profound, and it grew by the year. Eventually, I made some friends and began to find my way into a world of my own making, where I didn’t have to feel so alone. But if I pay attention, sometimes I can still feel it, pulsating, a raw wound, bundles of exposed nerves, screaming into the wind. I just don’t pay attention.

As I grew older, I found comfort in the idea that I might find a soulmate some day. A person who wouldn’t need to be sold on my positives (the ones I couldn’t even sell myself on, most days). A person for whom I wouldn’t need to shuck and jive. A person who would accept me, because he already knew me, before and outside of time. A person whom I could love deeply, without fear. Plato’s description of soulmates soothed that ragged part of me, and gave me hope. I found a weird comfort in the thought that each human was once part of a greater whole, rent asunder by the gods and forced to walk on alone, seeking our other halves, that physical embodiment of hope. I longed for that other half.

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Eventually, as I watched my friends pair off and move away, as I started my life over again and again, each time losing a little hope that I could ever excel the way I’d once imagined, the thought of a soulmate began to fill me with bitterness. I came to the conclusion that it was just one more lie that I’d have to learn to rise above. The term has become twisted and abused, overused until its potency has diminished in our cultural lexicon. Nowadays, every set of young lovers thinks they’re each others’ soulmates. It’s simply not true. Plenty of people have wonderful, lifelong relationships without finding a soulmate.

Soulmates are rare. They’re not available at every five and dime, and they’re also not a requirement for a happy life. Not even for me. I am no more special than any other lost soul. This is important to accept, now more than ever. Though I still longed to find the person who could help me complete the circle, I also loathed myself for ever believing that I could truly belong to someone else out there. What made my life any more special or valid than anyone else’s? What gave me the right to feel entitled to anything more than I already had?

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But then I met you, and I knew that you were my other half. Just like that. No question, just calm certainty. They also say: “When you know, you know.” That one they got right.

Plato made this all seem so easy. You go looking for your other half, and once you find them, you are no longer lost or lonely. You were broken apart, but now you fit together and make a whole. All should be right with the world, yes?

But Plato didn’t explain what to do when you find your other half, and the wait time was too long. He didn’t give any instructions on how to mend your other half if they got broken again while they were waiting for you to show up. He didn’t mention how it would feel to know with every fiber of your being that you’ve found the one, but not be able to do a thing about it. There was no passage on how it feels to choke on your heart every time you realize your only choices are to give up and leave, or to stay and wait for change that might never come. He made it sound like the hard part was being broken apart in the first place.

I have to think that Plato never found a soulmate, and this is why he never gave us a proper warning. Or, maybe that’s just it. By the time you’ve gotten to soulmate territory, you’re so experienced in loneliness and heartache that you don’t NEED a warning. You know as soon as your eyes meet that this will be difficult, but ultimately worth it, even if your paths are meant to diverge once more in the future.

For me, the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz pick up where Plato’s story ends. Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” I am capable of understanding and selfless love precisely because of my pain. Hafiz said: “And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.” The pain allowed light in, and now my light will help you. Maybe my light will be the thing that gets through.

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So I’ll wait awhile more. If this entire journey has served to turn me into your Sun, I’ll bear the pain, and shine on. Because I want you to go with me, but more importantly, I want you to be free to go without me if you choose. Free of the pain that floods you, and the indecision that binds you, and the memories that drag you down. I will never tell you what to do, or insist you follow my lead. It’s become more and more evident that my lesson is to let go, and yours is to decide your own path. If I’m lucky, when I finally find the strength to turn away, I’ll hear your steps right behind me. And if not, at least I’ll still have the comfort of seeing that you’ve made your own choice. Soulmates aren’t happily-ever-after. They’re happily-ever-life-after-this-one. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

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Lent (Terms & Conditions)

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This is just how it is. That’s important for me to note. I am an optimist, and I believe that we are constantly evolving, changing, shifting our perspectives and thus, our realities. However, it’s key for me, at this junction, to realize that I have been fighting a losing battle against an immovable foe, and have finally tired out enough to realize that I haven’t budged an inch in all the struggle. I have been fighting for the wrong thing(s), yet again. And in coming to this realization, I also find that I’m not new to this knowledge, or rather, that the knowledge is not new to me. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results, go ahead and ship me out to the bin. I am not coming back from myself.

The other day, I was reading this comment on an online forum for ex-Fundamentalist Christians in various stages of deconstruction. The original poster was discussing how problematic it was for white, middle class, Christians to tell people from different backgrounds to stop expressing their fears, because “God loves you and all you need is to go to church more.” I don’t want to make this a political post, so I won’t explain more than this, just that the comments under the original post broke the sentiment down and explained it in various ways, some people agreeing that it was at best short-sighted, and at most classist and racist, while other people tried to explain that with God at your back, fear is pointless, blah, blah, blah. I refrained from sharing my perspective, because I intuited from the overall tone of the comments section that I wouldn’t be understood properly.

But here’s what I think about it: we are all going to die, fear or not. This is not a dark thing, or a pessimistic thing, or a sad thing. It’s just the truth. You are going to die. There’s no way around it. Repeat after me: I am dying right now, and will be dead soon. (Whether by bus tomorrow afternoon, or in sleep 50 years from now, the individual human timeline is a minuscule thing.) With nothingness on the imminent horizon, why waste any time on fear? Physically speaking, after that first jolt that gets you moving, fear is pretty pointless. Overall, it’s an impediment. Long term exposure can be quite harmful – just ask anyone with an anxiety disorder. If you want to fight, fight. If you want to seek pleasure, seek it. Your life is your own, your death is inevitable, and it is not my place to tell you that you’re an asshole. Why would you believe it, if you can’t see it already? When we die, we are gone. There’s no heaven, or hell, or great beyond. At best we are energy that gets recycled. We are worm motels, and if we’re lucky, there will still be trees left to nourish when we’re done making a terrible mess of this beautiful place.

So with my impending death and the pointlessness of fear laid out before me, I am changing my tactics. I have come to terms with the fact that I’ve been going about this all wrong, and I’m not too proud to admit that it’s time to change.

I am sick. A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Like an idiot, once I started feeling better, I stopped taking medication. For awhile it was OK, but now it’s not. And it’s been “not” for far too long now. My thoughts are scattered. I have trouble finishing projects (which is nothing new, but worse now). I work myself into a knot just thinking about the wording I will eventually use to write about specific things, then eventually just avoid writing about them, altogether. I am nearly incapable of holding down a conversation in person, and my fear of public gatherings manifests in such a way that I appear aloof, annoyed, and impatient. On the good days, when I can force myself to go out in the first place, I end up just having a panic attack and shaking in silence in the darkest corner I can find. At least then I just look like someone who’s having a bad day, rather than someone who wants to burn down the building with everyone inside it. While I was scared of not fitting in as a younger person, now that I’m in my 30s, it’s come to pass that I never did find a way to fit in, and now I’m sick, so the awkwardness is also wearing a layer of anxious, bad-tempered energy anytime I’m put into a position where I have to interact with people I don’t know that well. I eat and drink to tamp down some of the fear and unease, and frequently find myself eating pure junk in large quantities, knowing that I don’t want it, but doing it anyway as a form of self-punishment.

While most of the symptoms of this have been disagreeable, there are some small positives. The largest of these is that while I have lost the things that used to tether me (music, sensuality, costumes, fantasy stories), I have traded out my appreciation for these things for a new appreciation in being completely untethered. I am wandering. I don’t know who I am or what I am doing here. I have a feeling like I’m walking between rain drops, like I can see more of the world because the world has forgotten how to see me. It does hurt a little, but it is more like a memory of pain than the pain itself. Though my connection with humans is tenuous, at best, I have learned that I feel a deep, energetic connection to animals and the earth. I have also begun to see how very few people actually matter to me, which gives me the ability to wonder why it is that humans feel a need to be loved by many, when they can actually only reciprocate appropriately for relatively few. Why, for instance, pretend that I care about the people with whom I went to high school? We don’t share any of the same goals, other than continuing to breathe. Which reminds me that I need to find someone else to take over the 20-year reunion. Let them eat Rotary Club meatloaf and share photos of their children on someone else’s time. I think I’ll go to Italy that weekend.

Anyway, as you can see by now, I’m stuck. I can’t really see a way out of this particular cycle, so instead of treating the symptoms, it’s time to go to the root. It’s time to take out the anxiety, itself. After that, we’ll rebuild.

Step one is to go on a break from social media for Lent. I really only use Facebook and Instagram, but I use them both to get that dose of dopamine when someone likes, shares, comments, or reposts. I took Facebook off of my phone today, and will deactivate my account on March 1st. I’m still thinking about Instagram, but I’ll probably remove it from my phone in the end, as well. I never actually look at my Twitter accounts, but this is a great excuse to deactivate all but the Compass & Quill account (which I only use to repost blog posts, so I’ll just continue not checking it).

Step two is to get serious about finding a new psychiatrist and therapist, and getting back into treatment. I’ve looked around on my new health insurance page a few times, but they make it so convoluted that I always end up getting confused and giving up. I think I’ll just call customer service and ask for help during a lunch break next week.

Step three is to get physical and get sleep. Those are two things, but they work together. Physical activity is proven to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and they will also help address my weight issues, which will also, in turn, help the anxiety. I have been having a lot of trouble getting in my 8 hours of sleep a night, but I think if I’m properly worn out from working out, it will help me climb into bed earlier every night.

Step four is to cut out sugar, dairy, and caffeine. They’re all highly addictive, and are all playing an unhealthy part in my life. I always reach for one of the three when I’m uncomfortable – and I’m always uncomfortable. So I’ll just take a break, even if it’s only for 40 days.

Step five is to finish something. So I’m aiming to finish writing all of my Camino posts by Thursday, April 13th.

What am I looking for? So many things. That’s a whole new post, at some later date. For now it’s time to get out of the coffee shop and home to my cats. Isabel’s going to be very happy about her favorite heating pad’s resolution to spend more time in bed.

QOTD: “It’s Got Nothing to Do with You”

It's got nothing to do with you if one can grasp it.

Here’s a confession for you: I’ve never been huge David Bowie fan. Shocking, right? Of course, he was my first sex symbol. I remember watching him (and those leather pants) in Labyrinth at around 5 years old, turning to my mother, and asking “Is that what sexy means?” Don’t remember her reaction, but if she was anything like she is now, I’m sure she blushed furiously and wished she could melt into the carpet. Seriously, though, how does anyone not fall in love with Jareth at first site?

Other than that, though, my only real exposure to Bowie was through the radio hits, which, for the most part, I could take or leave. Sounded good, had great lyrics, just missed whatever that certain something is that reaches out and snags your heart strings. Yeah, I’m a heathen, I know. Don’t write me off entirely, though, because I’m about to tell you something important: I’ve recently discovered a Bowie song that means something to me. One that I play over and over, and listen to when I need an emotional boost (which is all the time, lately, it seems).

The song is “Up the Hill Backwards,” from the 1980 Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album (which also features “Ashes to Ashes” and “Fashion”). The song was released as the 4th and final single from the album, hitting the radio in March of 1981. The song did not receive critical success, only reaching 32 on the chart in the UK, and not making a splash at all in the US.

At late bloomer, as always, I first heard the song about a month ago, at the end of the movie Adult Beginners, which tells the story of a 35-ish guy who loses a tech fortune and moves in with his sister’s family, acting as a nanny while he gets his life figured out. The movie rang some bells for me, but it really hit home when music started playing over the last scene, and Bowie’s voice told me, “It’s got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it.” To be honest, it felt like a home-based Camino moment. I instantly started crying, and then spent the next hour listening to the song on repeat.

I’m working the morning shift at the hotel today, and on my walk to work, I was thinking over some current life issues – work, relationship, self-worth, future adventures, that kind of thing. It occurred to me that there’s so much that’s out of my hands. I can’t control how others feel about me, or if they care about my ideas or feelings. I can’t control how others live their lives. I can’t control the weather, or housing prices, or the stock market. The world goes round. Shit happens – but beauty happens, too. Pushing back against the Universe causes undue stress. It’s time to realize that, while I can be a force of good in the world, and that I can effect change by doing my best, the things that I worry about, that my vanity and pride hone in on and stress over for far too long – these are the things that have nothing to do with me.

In life, as on the Camino, it is my job to breathe deeply, think kindly, and keep moving forward. In this way, and only this way, will I truly be at peace with myself, and an example to others.

 

Every Encounter

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Just one of the many animal friends I met along the Camino de Santiago. He was so soft!

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us to share a quote that we return to again and again. Mine is “Every encounter is an encounter with yourself.” To me, that means that every creature you meet in life is a reflection of you. How you see them is a direct result of how you see yourself, and how you treat them says a lot about you.

I left to walk the Camino last October right after I’d been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I’d known for some time that things weren’t “right” with me, but I’d had trouble expressing it to others. I was locked inside myself in a way that I’d never been before. Walking in Spain was not a luxury – it was a necessity. I needed those long days in nature to help untangle my thoughts, and to start finding a way to love myself again. I needed the exercise to learn how strong I could be, and had always been. I needed the people that I met to learn how small the world really is, and how much love is available if we just open our hearts and minds to it.

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I met this sweet dog after a particularly sad encounter earlier that morning with a litter of sick kittens. We hung out for about a half an hour, and he kissed me the entire time. Definitely made my day better.

But I didn’t figure this out while I was walking. In fact, my mind was strangely blank for most of 30+ days I spent hoofing it through Spain. At times I despaired, in fear that I wasn’t “figuring IT out” – whatever IT was supposed to be. No matter what, though, every day on the trail I met at least one animal (sometimes more), and every time that happened I felt compelled to slow down, take a break, and shower that cat, dog, horse, etc. with love. I was lucky to be walking with people who understood that I needed this, and that they shouldn’t try to hurry me along when my animal encounter of the day happened along. It was moments like this that I most felt in tune with my favorite saint, St. Francis of Assisi. It started to dawn on me that his deep love for all creatures wasn’t just a symbol of his faith, but of mental health, and an understanding of our interconnectedness with all beings.

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There were so many starving and abused animals on the Camino, and it broke my heart. I saw this sweet lady looking in the window of a cafe, so my friend Jakob and I stopped to feed her our lunch rations. She was scared of Jakob, so we surmised she’d not been treated kindly by men. However, she let me pet her after a bit, and I made sure she ate until she was full. I worry about her still.

It was only after I’d gotten to Santiago de Compostela that I read the quote “Every encounter is an encounter with yourself” and it suddenly hit me that I’d been showering animals with the love I needed to feel. I needed that kind of unconditional caring, and I’d shown myself that I was capable of giving it to to my fellow creatures – so what was stopping me from doing the same for myself? It was a huge moment in my life, for many reasons. I suddenly felt such deep respect and love for my walking buddies who had intuitively known that I was in deep need of these love lessons, and helping me nurture that time each day. I felt an even greater love for the animals that I met along The Way, and for the lessons in acceptance that they’d taught me. Most of all, I could finally connect my ability to love others with what it should feel like to love myself. It’s a really big life lesson, and I’ll be working on it for the rest of my time here on the planet, but I’m so happy that it finally got through.

My current endeavor, The Hobbit Walk, is an extension of the lessons I learned on the Camino. Click through to find out how you can help.

Camino Cat

Pablo was one of the last Camino cats I met. He ran right up to us on the trail, so I sat down and cuddled him for awhile.

A Weekend’s Worth Of Thoughts

See? I do get a little sun now and then.

See? I do get a little sun now and then.

It’s Sunday night, and all is quiet in my little apartment. The cats are sleeping at my feet, the lights are low (mostly due to the fact that my lamp lightbulbs have both burned out, and they’ve also run out of lightbulbs at my neighborhood store), and I’ve got a million and one little thoughts running around in my brain.

This weekend I went on a short holiday to Crystal Beach, TX, on the Bolivar Peninsula. At just 5 hours’ drive from New Orleans, it’s a great little spot to get away for a few days. The mother of one of my best friends owns a beach house there, and each summer a few of us get together there to catch up. It’s the only time we see each other each year, and it’s always such a pleasant trip. It’s not a gorgeous tropical beach, but there’s water and sand, nice people, lots of local wildlife, and it’s quiet, a great place to think. Plus, there’s an added bonus for a girl who’s pinching pennies in preparation for a month-long trip through Spain: free room and board. We all pitch in for groceries, obviously, but it’s an extremely economical way to get together with friends at the beach.

We’ve been doing this girls’ weekend at the beach for three years now. The cast of characters changes a little each time – last year my friend’s mother couldn’t make it down, and this year the other friend’s little boy wasn’t able to attend – but it’s basically the same. Since we live all over the world, and have drastically different lives, the trip ends up being a miniature Big Chill (sans funeral) each time.

We talk about changes, catch up on who the others are becoming/have become in the interim, and it’s also a great way to mark our personal advances. This year was a particularly big year for change, with new babies on the way, a college graduation, several exciting new jobs, and lots of soul searching to be discussed.

When I get around my two best friends from college, I tend to fall back into old habits – lots of introversion and introspection. It’s difficult to vocalize what’s going on in my head much of the time, but somehow a little more so when I get around a bunch of vivacious, exciting women. I’m intelligent enough to realize that I have things to add to the conversation, but that’s always in retrospect. When I’m there I struggle to find words, and end up mostly observing, collecting conversation and images, and piecing them together later for further study. This weekend, I seemed to fall even deeper into my thoughts than normal. I’m just now climbing out, really.

Several things happened during the course of the few days that I was away, however:

#1 – Some really great news! More loved ones donated to my Camino fund, and now I’m up to $770 – just $1,230 away from my goal. How amazing is that?!? Thanks to everyone who’s donated, shared, commented, and most of all, to all of you who’ve paid attention and taken the time to talk to me about this major undertaking. Overall, I’m pretty confident and excited, but there’s still a lot of fear hiding under the surface, and it feels great to be able to get out of my head for awhile and talk about this with all of you. So thanks again. I really appreciate your support in all of its many forms.

#2 – Also decided that my blog needed a revamp. I’m going to be working on it more over the coming weeks, but I was tired of the old theme. I’m going to concentrate on getting back to taking photos and spicing the visuals on here up a bit, and I’m also going to shut down my other Camino-related blog and move all of the old posts back here. One other big change is that there’s a new link in the navigation above (“Support Anna’s Camino“) that goes directly to my GoFundMe page – thank you for sharing it with your friends!

#3 – I also had some time to sit on the beach and read this great book that I picked up in Assisi called We Were With Francis. It’s a collection of little stories told by St. Francis’ best friends after he died. I ruminated quite a bit on charity, humility, gratitude, and being humble enough to ask for the things that I need. Seeing as how typing those last few words gives me chest pains, I’m obviously not quite as open as I need to be, lol! While reading, I made a new goal: to memorize the Peace Prayer.

#4 – While I was thinking about the above, I also couldn’t help but return to that stupid Facebook post from the pilgrimage FB group. I need to let it go, as it’s weighing on me for no good reason. I haven’t participated on the page since that post went awry, but I won’t let my pride keep me away much longer from the many, many good people there. However, I have been thinking strongly about how to counteract the kind of negativity that I experienced, and give a chance to other would-be pilgrims who are having trouble funding their trip. To that end, I think I’d like to start a scholarship fund. There are some grants out there for very specific uses (like the American Pilgrims on the Camino scholarships and grants to help train people to become volunteers on the Camino, something I intend to do eventually), but I’d like to target pagans and other non-religious but spiritual people who are searching for something they don’t yet have the words to describe. So I’m going to be putting some brain power towards that while on The Way. Maybe from the proceeds of my book? Or maybe there’s another group out there that would like to participate (or that already has an effort I can help)? Right now there’s way too much going on to think too hard about it, but this is just to put my intentions out there. If you’re listening, Universe, I’m open to suggestions.

#5 – I was also lucky to be spending the weekend with another pilgrim. My friend’s mother walked the Camino a few years ago, and shared her advice with me. First up, after reading what I had to say about the great food and wine opportunities in my Q&A post, she warned me that she’d had a very different experience. She ran into lots of the same options over and over, and was not impressed by the food, in general. So I’m tempering my expectations. But that’s OK since I’m planning to eat lots of basic, healthy things anyway – eggs, cured meat, fruit. One of her suggestions was to pick up almonds dusted in cocoa, for a delicious treat that also gives quick energy. Definitely going to look for those once I get to Spain. She also advised that the Camino always takes something from you, but also provides what you need. She illustrated this with a story about having her toothbrush taken (accidentally) by a pilgrim who picked up the wrong toiletry bag in a dark alburgue. She was so irritated to have no toothbrush or toothpaste that morning, but started walking anyway. After setting out, she went into a cafe to get a coffee and use the restroom, and what should she find there but a toothbrush vending machine?

It’s time to clean my apartment and get some much-needed shuteye. Any thoughts/questions/comments on MY thoughts/questions/comments? I’d love to hear from you 😀

Have a great week!

Finding My Way

I'll be traveling the Camino Frances.

I’ll be traveling the Camino Frances.

A few days ago, I bought an expensive plane ticket.

Wait, let me back up a bit.

A few weeks ago, my credit card limit was raised. I’ve been good about paying it off, so I guess they decided I was good for it. Ha! Anyway it was completely out of the blue. I hemmed and hawed, but eventually came to the decision that it was the Universe telling me to get off my ass and commit to my pilgrimage, already. So now we’re back at the beginning of the story – I bought an expensive plane ticket. The credit card gods laughed with glee.

I thought that after a day or two, I would have processed this information to the point where I could sit down and write a few words about it in my blog. What it means to me, what I’m scared about, what I’m happy about, how I plan to go about making the room in my life for this giant step, etc. Instead, there’s this big blank space in my mind where the worry/joy/excitement/trepidation should be. It kinda feels like I might be in shock, to tell you the truth. Except would I realize it if I were in shock? I don’t know.

Here’s a somewhat related “aside” for you: I realized today that when my brain thinks I’ll probably freak out about a fact, it just skims over it. For instance, every morning I wake up and look up the workout of the day on my gym’s website. Every class that day does the exact same workout, so it’s handy to take a look, get prepared, then go into class at some point and knock out those exercises. The WOD info is also written on a white board at the front of the gym, and the coaches give us a mini lecture before the workout begins, outlining exactly what the workout will entail. Easy, right? Last week, despite reading the website, listening to the instructors, and reading the whiteboard, I completely screwed up the workout. I missed three whole rounds of exercises (which I might have said was literally impossible, except now I know it’s definitely not).

This is what a WOD (workout of the day) looks like at my gym.

This is what a WOD (workout of the day) looks like at my gym.

I wrote it off as a strange day, and moved on…but then today I almost did it again. I read the workout online, talked about it with my coworker, read the whiteboard, listened to the coaches explain it, and then right before the workout started I realized that I’d somehow been thinking that we had 80 reps to do, when in fact we had about four times that amount of reps. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s be clear that this is REALLY weird. It occurred to me during my coaches assessment today that I must be just letting my brain slide right over any unpleasantness, for fear of freaking myself out. Not exactly what I’d prefer, but interesting to note for the time being.

Anyway, so here I am, less than ten months til blastoff, proud holder of a round trip to Paris and a lot of random information about the pilgrimage. I feel prepared, intellectually, to choose the correct items for my pack (including said pack). I feel prepared, physically, to start training for the really, really long walk. But spiritually? And emotionally? And financially? Not so much.

That’s OK. I’ve got time. There’s also this great community of American pilgrims on Facebook who talk about stuff like this every day, and talking with them has been helpful. I even met someone who’s going to loan me her SPOT GPS so I can have a way of telling my friends and family where I am on the journey – pretty cool. I feel ready for the challenge, and ready for the change. I deserve it. My soul is hungry for it. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Maybe that’s what has me so scared.

You know that part in Interstellar where Matthew Mcconaughey’s character is trying to dock his little landing craft with a wildly spinning spacecraft, and you’re just watching, holding your breath, thinking “holy shit, dude!”? I feel like maybe that’s what my spirit and my body are doing right now. Like I’ve been so out of whack for so long, and everything’s finally getting aligned. So yeah, I’m in shock. It’s a shock. It’s completely necessary.

This is good.

 

The Transformation Challenge

I'm so excited - my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one :-D

I’m so excited – my gym is actually getting special Mardi Gras shirts made. Totally geeking out over this one 😀

It’s 10 days into the Transformation Challenge at my gym, Iron Tribe, and quite unexpectedly, I’m loving it. The challenge is, well, challenging, but also pretty simply laid out, in my opinion. From January 5th to February 13th, participants eat a strict paleo diet and work out up to 5 times a week at the gym. There are two competitions that are running concurrently: a weight loss division, and a performance division. I’m in the weight loss division, obviously.

There’s a point system for determining the winner. It’s a little complicated, so I won’t break it down entirely, but it includes points for working out in certain amounts, points for keeping a detailed food/water/sleep/exercise journal, points for completing a goal setting course, and points for each .2% of fat lost over the course of the challenge. The prizes are HUGE. First place winner gets a $200 gift certificate to Whole Foods (some of you might recognize it as Whole Paycheck), a free month at the gym, a free week of paleo food from Inner Fire Grill (yum), an entire free outfit from Lululemon, and a free 80 minute massage. Second place gets $150 at Whole Foods, $50 at a nearby restaurant, and a free month at the gym. Third gets $100 at Whole Foods and a great supplements package. I’m in it to win it, so I’m visualizing myself in a brand new Lululemon getup 😀

I'm coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

I’m coveting these awesome Lululemon pants.

The awful thing: I had my body fat measured (by caliper) at the beginning of the challenge, and it came in at 43.1%. Meaning that at 5’7″ and 194.8 lbs, I was/am obese. I don’t look it – I mean, I know I’ve put on a little weight in my butt and thighs, and my boobs are bigger (how can that be a bad thing, you ask) but overall I don’t look like I weigh what I weigh. I’ve only gone up one pants size, even with all the additional weight I’ve put on over the last year or so – but “obese” put the fear of god in me. So I’ve been taking this thing seriously. And it hasn’t been hard. That’s the part that’s blowing my mind.

I’m at the gym daily, lifting weights or doing whatever the WOD is that day. I walk to and from work/the gym from my house, and then anywhere else I have to go, so I’m typically walking between 5 and 9 miles a day. I ran a 5k on Saturday morning, and went to my first yoga class in ages on Monday night. And I’ve been eating clean – all organic, no processed food, sugar, wheat, dairy, legumes, alcohol or sodas. You’d think I’d be losing my shit by now, not having a single slice of pizza or sip of wine, but overall I just feel…good. Just good. Not great. Not more focused. Not suddenly insightful or whatever it is that people always proclaim when they’ve found the diet to end all diets. Maybe that’s because it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that will sustain me for the long term, and the longer I go, the better I’ll feel. I’m pretty certain I’ve still got some thyroid stuff going on, especially with the recent struggle with depression, and that’s definitely going to take some of the “high” out of whatever impact this change is having on me. But overall, “good” is much, much better than what I’d been living with prior to starting this new lifestyle. And it’s easy. For the first time in my life, I’ve found a way to eat that doesn’t have me sad and craving constantly. I think I’ll keep doing it.

It’s having other effects, too. As of today, 10 days in, I’ve lost 7.2 lbs. I’m still too heavy, and I have a LONG way to go to get to my goal weight of 145 lbs, but that’s nothing new. But suddenly I feel like it’s not farfetched to picture myself finally wearing a bikini this summer, or trying out a miniskirt before I get too old to wear one (I’ve been dying to try out a TOS Star Trek uniform – yes, I’m a geek).

That's one nearly non-existent skirt you've got there, Uhura.

That’s one nearly non-existent skirt you’ve got there, Uhura.

I think that maybe part of feeling so relaxed about this is from the work I’ve been doing with that book, Beautiful You. Once I get home tonight, I’ll tackle the next chapter.

So what are you doing lately that makes you proud of yourself, internet friends? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment, or direct me to your latest blog post about your achievements. I’d be more than happy to help you celebrate!

Dissatisfaction

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?”

– Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Today’s prompt (gee, I’m going slowly – just on Day 12) in Beautiful You is to realize that my dissatisfaction is not about my body, but rather other things in my life. I’m supposed to consider that fact, and see what my mind is really trying to tell me. What else should I be addressing?

I don’t necessarily believe that being unhappy with the way I look is to be blamed entirely on other life problems. That being said, of course there are a ton of things that all of us need to work on to create better lives for ourselves. I could write a thousand page dissertation on all of the things that I’m dissatisfied in this world, starting with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, easing into the destruction of the rainforest, and rounding out nicely with bigoted, low-IQ’d fundamentalists and their conservative buddies in Congress who are trying to shove their ideals down our throats at every twist and turn these days.

But given today’s reading, I feel like I’m supposed to be talking about what in my life is so dissatisfying that that I’d turn it all inward and focus on being ashamed of my body. Let’s see.

I’m terribly smart, so it’s not that. I’m witty, and I make people laugh. Not uproariously, of course, but I’m not devoid of humor, so that’s a good thing. I’m mildly successful, and creative, and I try very hard to be very nice. So none of those. I’m not really that talented at anything though. I’m a good writer, and a good singer, and I make origami, and I put together great outfits when I try. I’m also a good cook, though I hate cooking and try to avoid it as much as possible.

OK, I’ve figured it out. Kinda. I procrastinate a lot. When I’m anxious, I freeze up (if it’s the good kind of anxious, because otherwise I have a panic attack or something similar). When I freeze up, the only way I can calm myself down is by ignoring the thing that made me anxious. Since almost everything makes me anxious these days – phone calls, emails, talking to people, social engagements of any kind, social media, trying to write long form, trying to be creative, you name it, it’s stressing me the fuck out – this process of ignoring things turns into procrastination. Procrastination begets its own kind of stress. Now, I’m not stupid, I can honestly look at this situation and go, “well, if it stresses you out to procrastinate, wouldn’t it be better to break down the things you have to do into small, manageable chunks and accomplish them that way?” No shit. It’s how I end up making it through every day without boiling over into panic attack mode. But every single day is a repeat of the scenario. It’s driving me crazy. It’s definitely driven me to depression.

But now I’m reading back through this, and I don’t know if I’ve answered the question at all. Maybe these are two different issues that happen to be going on at the same time. Hmmm.

I guess the other reason I might be dissatisfied and taking it out on my body is that I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out. But no, that’s not either. I’m dissatisfied with the way my life has turned out, so I overeat and drink, which in turn makes me gain weight (along with the thyroid issue), and then I’m dissatisfied with my body. But I guess that works. It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with my life and blaming it on my body, it’s that I’m dissatisfied with life and find a way to treat that dissatisfaction in an unhealthy way that allows me to turn my attention on my body. Woohoo! Great to know.

Well, I’m already treating part of the issue – I’ve been eating paleo (including no drinking) for a week now. I’ve lost over 6 lbs already, and aside from being tired from my workouts, I’m feeling pretty OK with my body right now. It feels strong, and that’s good. I deadlifted 105 lbs the other day!

I guess that being dissatisfied with the way I look could very well be related to being embarrassed and awkward when it comes to presenting myself physically. I hate being looked at, and any time I get in the spotlight, it makes me really uncomfortable. The same thing happens all the time at work and in social situations – I’ve just learned how to hide how I’m feeling and project a somewhat more confident exterior to my clients and colleagues. The constant doubt and fear does impact me on a personal level every day, and probably also has something to do with my procrastination and interpersonal relationship issues. This is something to think about.

Stop Wasting Your Time

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us to discuss the concept that “good things come to those that wait.” As I start to cobble together my thoughts on this subject, I can say for sure that the first thing happening in my mind is a general feeling of disgust and irritation. It’s not that I don’t like to wait, or that I don’t see the benefits of taking your time and thinking through your choices. I’ve been known to let people cut in front of me in traffic without batting an eyelash, and I often read hundreds of reviews before pulling the trigger on making an important purchase. OK, “often” is an understatement – I feel a compulsion to read all of the reviews I can get my hands on, to have a handle on positive and negative potential outcomes – but that’s not what we’re talking about.

Overall, I am completely certain that in the past, one of my largest and most outstanding personality flaws has been my weird mix of patience, cowardice, and stoicism when confronting personal changes. It’s a deadly cocktail that’s kept me in place for far too long, waiting for just the right conditions to strike so I can finally make my moves. While the last bout of waiting hasn’t caused my life irreparable damage (at least that I can see right now – who knows what cracks are hiding under the slightly-banged-up surface?), it hasn’t done me any favors, either.

Throughout my life, all of the best things that have ever happened to me did so when I just went with my gut and took that leap of faith.

People with kids often say that that if you’re waiting to have a baby until the time is “right,” you’ll keep waiting forever. There’s never a right time. I think that’s something that those of us who’re more cautious, planning types should keep in mind. There will never be a perfect time to end a long term relationship, or move to a new city, or blow all of your money on that vacation you’ve always wanted to go on. But you’ll know when the time is decent enough. Take that chance. You might never have it again. In fact, you won’t ever have that particular chance again. Sure, there might be another opening that’s just as good, but really, you should be utilizing them all. Why have just one adventure? Why do just one thing that excites you, and expands your horizons? Why not aim for them all (or as many as you can, anyway)?

I just spent almost a quarter of my life waiting for life to begin. I let someone else tell me what I should be planning for, and what dreams I should just tuck back into my imagination and let wither and die. I should be saving all of my money for a house and children. I should be working a regular 9 to 5 job, to have time to spend with my family after work. I should learn how to cook because it’s something that everyone loves. Trips to Europe without money for nice hotels every night of the stay were a ridiculous expenditure for only half of a vacation. Trips anywhere at all were a ridiculous expenditure when I should be concentrating on saving for weddings and kids and mortgages. Spending money on nice meals in restaurants was utter stupidity when the same money would cook a week’s worth of food. Going to the movies was a waste of time and money when a DVD was the price of one ticket. Working for a non-profit wouldn’t make enough money to pay for a house, so helping people was probably out of the question. Why stop at being a marketing coordinator when I could run a department one day and be respected and make money to pay for a house? A house. Kids. A mortgage. A car. All things that I could want one day, but didn’t want then and don’t really care about now. (Although I’m getting tired of walking everywhere, so maybe a car might be cool sometime soon, I don’t know yet.)

Bottom line: I like to travel. I like living light. I don’t really care about money. I like having it, but I only like having it because it’s fun to spend. Sure, paying off bills and saving for retirement is smart, but putting a hold on your travel plans for the next 30 YEARS because it’s expensive to have children????? I’d rather go to London every year and just not have babies, thanks.

Good things can come to those who wait, yeah. But it’s a big fucking chance you’re taking at sitting back and hoping for the best, while ignoring all of the beauty and opportunity laid out before you. TAKE A CHANCE! LIVE! STOP WAITING FOR THINGS TO GET BETTER AND GO MAKE THEM BETTER NOW.

Stop wasting your time. It’s finite, you know. We’re all dying. We’re in a race to the end, but the end point is invisible. Live a little before you hit the finish line.