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Archive for the ‘Getting It Together’ Category

Friday Five3

Since our last Friday Five, I have been intrigued by people doing things right. Some of them are serious and some less so, but either way, we don’t always hear these stories, so I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

  1. The geniuses at Girlxoxo are my heroes. Here is a master list of reading challenges for the year. Click on that, and come back. Are you back? Did you see?!?!?! I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! This is the best.
  2. I imagine that there are several issues on which Sarah Silverman and I would disagree, but this is absolutely the nicest way I’ve ever heard of handling someone who called you something terrible.
  3. A compilation of writing advice from 27 successful writers.  I particularly enjoy James Altucher’s advice to drink coffee + read and read and read + write and John Avlon’s description of writing for the ear.
  4. Danielle Henderson via Shondaland teaches us how to gym for non-gym people. *raises hand*
  5. How to apologize, the master class. The podcast linked within the article is long-ish (well, not for a podcast, I guess, but I’m having attention span issues today) but worth the listen.
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Core

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Making my dream board/goals collage/etc. was oddly invigorating.

As I briefly mentioned in my 2017 review, I’m not quite done with wild, my one word for 2017.  Experiences of the last two years have left me bruised and skittish, and I think that impeded my courage to step out more than I imagined it would. I had visions of going on hikes and long walks in unfamiliar places by myself, but that didn’t happen. I had plans to be more spontaneous with my time, and what will surprise absolutely no one is that I really don’t like doing that. I’m more cautious than I’ve ever been before, and wild has just barely started to rear its head. I want another year with it.

Being more physically active helped. Running is exhilarating and also exhausting and omg I feel old. But it’s part of my wildness. I can’t be wild in the way I am wild without running, just like I can’t be my kind of wild without dancing. My wild is inherently embodied.

Running isn’t just important in the literal, physical sense, though. I want to run my life better. I don’t rest the way I talk about resting. I don’t eat the way I talk about eating. I don’t give the way I talk about giving. I don’t move the way I talk about moving. I am not as responsible, hopeful, well-read, and about 10,000 other adjectives as I want to be.

Before you jump to my defense, let me assure you that I am not lacking in confidence. I don’t feel bad about these things or about myself (for the most part – everyone has those days). I just see where I want to be, and I know I’m not there yet. I am also rational enough to realize that I won’t magically be there at the end of the year.

But I can get closer to it.

The way I’m doing that this year is by focusing on the traits that are most important to me. I was just going to sail through the year, clinging to wild, and then this post on Chookooloonks’s blog punched me in the gut.

Or, if you will, in the core.

Core is my word for 2018. I will examine what my core values are, and listing what I plan to do to better exhibit those values. Periodically, when I gather enough to say about one of them, I’ll outline it in a post. By the end of the year, I hope to have a list and, if not a whole post, at least brief descriptions of each.

I may end up with three core values. I may end up with twenty (and let’s be real – twenty is more befitting my personality than three). Most likely, I will end up somewhere in the middle.

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TW: eating disorders

I read a book tonight called Binary Star by Sarah Gerard. The main character was anorexic and bulimic, so it had the potential to be a little triggery for me. It wasn’t. I didn’t come away with a need to binge or starve. I ate dinner. I finished my water. I did a couple of loads of laundry. And now here we are.

I was prepared to put it down, though. It would have triggered something earlier in my life. I’m glad I didn’t have to, not only because I like to finish books when I start them but also because not getting triggered was an amazing experience. It’s one I’d like to have again.

I haven’t dabbled with consistent disordered eating or lied about my eating habits in a long time (like, the kind of long you can measure in decades). But I’ve wanted to. At some times more than others. It’s always been there, that unstable feeling like I’m standing at the edge of a canyon and need to concentrate very hard on not toppling right on in.

For a moment, it wasn’t there tonight. I saw the character’s behavior for the downward spiral it was.

Tonight I feel like I’m in my right mind, which is a new feeling for me regarding food issues.

I had a post scheduled to write today about being judged for my weight, both when I was thin and now. More accurately, I had planned to write the first of my nostalgia posts where I take old blog posts and reorganize them slightly to shed new light on the subject. I am going to take rampant liberties with this one.

The original post was about external messages that people (women, specifically) receive about weight and its ties to their perceived worth. That is a conversation I have often, and it is a conversation worth having. These messages are a plague. They’re dangerous. Particularly when they come directly from people we love. And the people who bear the heaviest burden of the effects of these messages are hardly ever the people actually responsible for them.

Tonight, however, I’m thinking more about how people in general and I in particular absorb(ed) messages about body image, process(ed) these messages, and turn(ed) that processing into behavior that’s not always healthy.

I have always suspected that problems can be alleviated but never really go away. I assumed that my history of disordered eating and all the messages that helped to lead me there would mean I’d always be stuck in doing the work of the cycle:

  1. A message is sent. It could be one of the abominable judgy messages, or it could be a message like a book with a character who has some serious eating disorders. It might even be a great message, like body positivity statements.
  2. The message sticks because I absorb it as a trigger.
  3. I reframe my internal reaction to the message. To me, reframing is different from adapting a positive attitude. For starters, the term reframing doesn’t make me want to punch the person who suggests it in the throat. To me, reframing is about getting to the truth of a situation rather than just throwing a blanket of sunshine over it, blindly hoping it will smother anything untoward that lies beneath. I filter through the message’s layers, attempting to separate them into piles of true and false, healthy and unhealthy, helpful and destructive. For the record, this doesn’t always go the way it ought to go, despite very good intentions.
  4. I react/respond with external behavior. Sometimes, I process, and the truth does set me free, and I behave with sanity and reason. More often, there’s no time for that, and the chances of making a good vs. bad choice are about 50/50. Sometimes I think it out and still make bad choices, such as eating more than my body is comfortable holding just because it’s there and I can.

Whew. Are you exhausted? I’m exhausted. If you’ve ever wondered why a person with an addiction or mental health issue can’t just get over it, this is why. Getting over it is hard work. If it weren’t, it never would have been a problem in the first place.

Tonight I caught a glimpse of what it was like to arrest the cycle at stage two. I received a message, and my gut reaction was to see the truth of it. No trigger. No exhausting process just to get through the night intact.

This must be what people with a healthy relationship with food and good body image feel like all the time. It’s incredible. I highly recommend it.

And I have no idea how it happened. I mean, I suspect it has something to do with the years and years (omg the years) of working through that cycle (with and without qualified professionals) with varying degrees of success. But even the thought of that is exhausting, so if you are reading this and it hurts you more than it helps, let me just carry that to the unhelpful pile for you.

Nor am I done. I’m not saying that I’m cured and that I’ll never struggle with food issues or the temptation to engage in disordered eating again. I have no way of knowing that for sure. I kind of doubt it, actually, although that would be really nice. I learned tonight, though, that moments of right-mind, true, gut-reaction, health are possible. And that I want a whole lot more of that.

For all of us.

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My Instagram is cute. My house is not always cute. Sometimes, parts of my house look like this. It’s okay…ish. It could be better. I like it when it’s better.

My schedule has changed recently, so things are falling through the cracks. Things that I’m usually pretty good at, like keeping up with my meal planning calendar and laundry. It’s been a long time since the table beside the couch looked like the picture above. I can’t say that I’ve missed that.

I recently lamented to friends that I was disappointed with how my year of wild is going. As someone who is mostly organized but is also a little fond of and prone to chaos, I was looking forward to wild really shaking my year up. A still life of cups and glasses was not the chaos I had in mind. On the surface, wild hasn’t stirred around much. My life is just as un-wild as it ever has been.

Or so it would seem.

One facet of wild that I am particularly interested in cultivating is freedom. Freedom from shoulds. Freedom from lifeless traditions. Freedom from good advice that doesn’t particularly work for me in practice.

In this way, this year has been super wild, and my progress on my resolutions shows it. I am farther along toward my goals this year than I was at this time last year. Who knew that, instead of just saying, “I do what I want!” while still bending over backwards to fulfill obligations that aren’t really mine to fulfill, intentionally embracing saying no in order to cling to what fulfills me would result in getting what I want done?

Everyone, you say? Literally everyone knew that? Okay. That’s fair.

Anyway, I apologize to wild for being disappointed. Although…don’t go anywhere, wild. We’re not done here.

Perhaps it doesn’t look wild to me because I use structure, but I think this is a misunderstanding of the term. Sometimes I expect wild to be loose and flowy, but then I watch an animal stalk its prey (and by animal, I do mean my mom’s barn cats). Wild definitely requires a certain measure of focus for survival.

So this week, I begin testing a new time management structure. I was inspired by Sarah Bessey’s best practices post. The ones that really stick out to me are actually writing when I have made time to write, setting boundaries but writing them in pencil, and fill your well (because if I’m not reading or eating right or staying active, everything else goes awry). I have added a second job writing SEO content, so it makes sense that my schedule could not continue as it was without something important taking the hit. I imagine it will take a few weeks of tweaking, but I’m confident that it will work.

For those who want to put a little structure in their schedule, it’s pretty simple. I started by making a list of priorities. For me, I thought about what I would need in order to consider myself as having my life together. Keep in mind that I am single and childless and that, for the most part, I operate on a pretty low supply of give-a-damns when it comes to other people telling me what my life should be. If this does not describe you, you’re going to have to concentrate a little more to get past the voices that want to shout over you. When you are listing your priorities, your opinion is the one that matters the most.

[Aside – this is not advice to shut out other people altogether. If you are in a committed relationship and you want to remain in it, you might want to list it as a priority. Please don’t ever use “I’m focusing on me right now” as an excuse to be an inattentive asshole. If you want to break up, just break up. Don’t be passive and shady about it. /psa]

After I had my list of priorities, I divided them into daily, weekly, and monthly lists. I listed each one as specific tasks to complete. For example, for my body weight, I need to drink 100 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated, so that’s what I listed as one of my daily health goals. Decide what you can reasonably do, and quantify each goal on your list. Once you have these lists, document them. I keep a goals calendar, but you can keep up with them in whatever way works for you. It helps you chart your progress.

What process do you use to meet goals?

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This shirt has not made an appearance in public yet. But soon.

I joined a gym last week. I’ve been meaning to join for a while. I should have joined back in November or December.

I have been once since I joined. It was super crowded. This is a deterrent for me. I’m just not interested in spending an hour inhaling 200 people’s sweat or awkwardly waiting in line for the adducter machine. I am going to try to go at different times to see if it’s better. I keep telling myself it will be better once the “we’re getting healthy!” resolution bunch decides they like going to the wine bar more than the gym on Monday nights.

[Not that I condone such choices. Okay, I totally condone such choices. Exercise is good. So is the wine at my wine bar, though.]

There are actually quite a few deterrents for me. I don’t have great track record with food and exercise and healthy balance. It’s sometimes difficult for me to recognize if I’m overdoing it (or under-doing it) in the moment. Those realizations usually come after the fact. I’m getting better, but it’s still a struggle.

I am comforted (and also saddened…it’s complicated) to know that I am not alone. In our training last week (interpersonal violence intervention training – more on this later this month), we ate lunch together every day. And every day – with different tables and different people – I had some version of the same conversation:

Person 1: I’m eating this delicious pasta/pizza/bread.

Person 2: It’s sooo good. But sooo bad. *eats hungrily*

Person 1: I know. But it’s okay. I’m going to do an extra hour at the gym/skip dinner/jog to my car/walk my cat.

Person 2: *nods with understanding*

We are grown, highly educated, professional people, and we still felt the need to voice a justification of our food choices and what extremes we’re planning to take to overcome them to our coworkers. We walk into meal situations assuming that people will be judging us for what we are or aren’t eating.

On the one hand, I’m not sure those assumptions are always accurate. I mean, I can’t remember the last time I looked at someone’s plate and thought to myself, “Self, they really shouldn’t be eating that,” or “Self, they should be eating more.” So maybe other people don’t have these thoughts either. If I’m thinking about their food at all, it’s more along the lines of, “Self, that looks delicious. Where can we get some of that?” Or “Gross. Pot pie.” [Which I recognize is a little judgey, but that’s what you get for eating disgusting things. My judgmental thoughts. Which I probably won’t actually voice. Probably.].

On the other hand, we probably feel the need to make these justifications because somewhere – maybe many somewheres – in our experience, judgments have been voiced. Or stared. Most people don’t need any words at all to get those messages across.

I don’t have an answer. I know that I need to make better food choices sometimes, but I also know how much better my food choices in general are now than they were even six months ago. So…progress. I know that I have more energy when I exercise regularly, but I also know that how often I exercise (and really even whether or not I exercise at all) has no factual bearing on my worth and value as a human. I know that what other people think shouldn’t matter and that often they aren’t really thinking about me at all anyway, but I also know that my feelings don’t always sync with that knowledge.

Maybe there’s some balance in there after all.

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Friday Five2

I love structure. I am comfortable with making vague goals, because I know that as soon as I voice them, I already have structures in mind for achieving them that don’t necessarily come through in words. But if, like me, you are interested in improving your reading diversity, choosing products that are both better quality and produced by better business practices, and ridding yourself of all the clutter/debris/extraneous mess that you have stashed in your home, here are a few more structured ways to do that.

  1. Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge. I like that she has reading for fun and reading for growth challenges. I also love her highly organized tips (including printables) for tracking your reading and that she offers the chance to join an online book club for those who want social support.
  2. Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge is my favorite challenge for finding things to read that I never would have read before. They, too, offer social support via their Facebook group and give you the opportunity to meet in person with people you’ve met via the challenge. Bonus – discount on an order if you finish the challenge!
  3. Inc.com praises ThirdLove bras. I NEED ONE. Also Thinx, which has great ramifications for women in countries where feminine hygiene products aren’t readily available. A lot of people have tried them and sing their praises (even though the HuffPo article says “total disaster,” indicating that the chooser of that title doesn’t understand what the words total and disaster mean), so I’ll spare you my personal recap when I try them. Unless they’re terrible, which I don’t anticipate.
  4. Peter Walsh is doing a 31-day decluttering challenge this month. Each day takes about 10 minutes, so it’s not too late! Go! Go! This is not a drill!
  5. And bonus – for those hoping to up your donations to charities this year, here are some tips from Consumer Reports on how to choose a charity that uses the money in the way they claim to use it.

If you were looking for structure to some of your goals, hope this helps!

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“How do you feel?”

I feel raw enough to want to lash out at the question. But self-awareness holds me back. So I will answer it as if it were a real question.

I feel…not surprised. This is the America all your loud, troublesome, badass activist friends have been telling you we still have. A nation that rewards racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, ableist rhetoric because said nation stubbornly believes that the privileges one enjoys are the privileges that one has earned (and ignores that if that were true, we wouldn’t call them privileges but a paycheck because that’s what those words mean) instead of the privileges one was simply born into. This is privilege in statistical form, and still our country will refuse to see it because it wants to believe the dreamworld its myths have created so much that it will elect a president who has no qualification to do the job because he panders to their delusions of entitlement and calls them truth.

I feel annoyed by people telling me how to feel. Specifically, I feel annoyed by the do-not-despair, God-is-in-control group. Unless I’m unclear on what omnipotence means (that’s false modesty – I’m not unclear), God has been in control since the dawn of time. God has been in control throughout every terrible thing that has ever come to pass and every terrible leader that has made it happen. Every awful and life-altering thing that has ever happened to you or your loved ones? The same God was in control then, and that did not stop those things from happening. Do you see, therefore, how this statement might not be a comfort to those who are afraid or grieving? I hope you do. Anyway, I’m gonna go ahead and have some moments of despair.

[Aside: Jesus and I are fine. He, too, would like you to cut it out with the impotent platitudes. He thinks perhaps this is more of a show up and bring on the wine sort of situation. Maybe we’ll even toss some tables around for good measure.]

I feel like a sore loser, which might be an unfair assessment because this is not a game of spades. This is our lives. We have just told women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA people, people of any religion outside mainstream Christianity, people outside any mainstream constructed by the privileged elite – “Those cards that we stacked against you? We’re just going to keep them stacked. In fact, we’re going to build a wall of cards.” So yeah. I feel sore about that, and I lost a little more hope, so I guess technically the term applies. I don’t want to hear any backlash from Trump supporters on this point, because when Trump bragged he would be a sore loser if he didn’t win, you voted for him anyway, so this is behavior you have already supported, and I am not in the mood to entertain your inconsistency. To the rest of you – I know. This is not my finest hour. I’ll do better. In fact, I’ll work to do a hundred times better, because the ten-times-better-than that I’ve averaged throughout my life so far isn’t enough when you have a vagina. Apparently.

I feel sad that a HRC victory would have only left me feeling relief instead of the joy I would have wanted to feel with the election of our first female president. It would have been a lukewarm victory for me. But I am not lukewarm in my mourning of her loss this morning. My prayers are with the person with her resume who just lost to the person with his resume.

[My prayers will be with him later, but I’m not ready yet. I imagine they will be different, at least at first. God still accepts lamentations, right?]

I feel like less has changed than it feels like has changed. We woke up with the same work left to do this morning that we would have had otherwise; we woke up with the same nation. Progress meets backlash, and that’s how my anxiety is having to frame this right now.

You can pledge to continue the work. Start with this open letter to our nation by 100 women of color leaders. Read and listen voraciously, particularly to people whose background, upbringing, and lives do not look like your own. Particularly to people who have had to work harder than you do to get to the same place.

And more importantly, let’s do better.

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