PLD Montage: Vol. 2.2 (Whole30 Edition)

30 days is not a long time, all things considered. Breaking it down, it’s four weeks at work and four weekends, it’s two paychecks, and maybe four trips to the grocery store. But when you’re on Whole30, those days break out a little differently. That’s 90 meals that need to be planned, prepped and consumed all on my own. That’s four weekends of no wine, four weeks of no chocolate, and two paychecks largely sacrificed to food-related purchases. It’s 30 days where you feel sick, and bloated, and depressed, and over it for a large portion of the time; it’s four weeks of your brain taunting you with all the things you “can’t” have and maybe a night or two where you dream about swimming in a pool filled with pinot noir.

But it’s only 30 days. And in those 30 days, there are a lot of things you can learn. SO without further ado, I give you:

PLD Montage: Whole30 Edition:

  • After some back-and-forth on the exact start date, my lovely friend M, who was joining me in this round, and I decided we’d start on Monday, March 30. The way I saw it at the time, I had two big “tests” during the month – dinner with a client, and my grandmother’s 90th birthday party – and the rest of the time would be smooth sailing. Work was supposed to calm down after the insanity of March (March Madness, if you will), I had zero plans on the weekends aside from the aforementioned birthday party… what could possibly go wrong, right?
    Lesson learned: Always expect the unexpected.
  • In preparation for the 30 days ahead, I spent a lot of time reading about what to expect throughout the process. I read the Whole30 timeline, read people’s reviews online, asked M and G more about their experiences, and generally thought that I’d done a bang-up job preparing for the month ahead. The more I prepped, admittedly the more I thought I’d “probably just skip” some of the early unpleasantness, like carb flu and any gastrointestinal weirdness. I mean, my diet was pretty aligned to the lifestyle anyway. Was I really eating that much sugar, in the form of work chocolate and wine, to affect me in any noticeable way?
    Lesson learned: You are not the exception to the rule, snowflake. Also CARB FLU IS A REAL AND TERRIBLE THING.
  • On Day 13, I just felt crappy. I’d been dealing with the stress of my grandmother in the hospital/nursing center and trying to help my mother through that time, plus a stressful time at work. I hadn’t seen a single improvement in 13 days of eating foods that were starting to bore me – my skin didn’t look better, my energy was steady but not great, I was still sleeping poorly and if anything, I felt like my yoga performance was getting worse, not better. I was in Connecticut at the time, surrounded by my parent’s incredible wine collection and take-out pizza from my favorite place in the world, and all I had to eat were chicken sausages, sweet potatoes and kale. If there was a single moment this month where I wanted to quit, dear god, it was that one.
    Lesson learned: Putting seltzer in a wine glass and going to the wine cellar to stare at all the bottles actually helped get me through that moment. I swear one of the bottles of Three Sticks was telling me “it’s only two more weeks…”
  • On Day 30, I woke up at 5:45 with a ton of energy, checked Instagram (duh) and hopped out of bed. I made myself a delicious breakfast, packed a big lunch, and checked the fridge to confirm I had enough leftovers from Sunday for dinner. I practiced a little yoga, opening up my shoulders and back for the long day ahead at a desk, and then went into a forearm stand, a pose that I’ve been working on for months, and one I set as a goal to master during Whole30. I smiled as I eased out of the pose, got dressed and quickly checked my schedule to confirm when I’d be able to pop out to Chelsea Market for a bottle of wine to open in celebration tomorrow night.
    Lesson learned: It’s about the journey, for sure, but the destination is pretty sweet too.

It’s been a whirlwind experience, to say the least, and it’s crazy to think it’s just because I tweaked my eating habits for 30 days. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this Whole30, in ways I never expected. I’ve learned that I can and should eat a lot more food than I was eating before, because even doubling my portions hasn’t caused any weight gain that I can tell. I’ve learned that I am mentally stronger than I’d imagined, passing on my favorite foods free in the office kitchen, passing up the best bottles of wine from my parent’s cellar, and passing the candy drawer at work multiple times daily. I pushed myself to try new things and found so much happiness in the little victories, like falling under the spell of Bikram yoga after managing not to pass out in the standing postures, and buying unusual produce to challenge myself, like golden beets and funny-colored squash. I learned that I love foods like olives and beef bone marrow, and most of all, I learned that I can cope with some heavy things on my own, not buoyed by the comfort of a drink or a brownie.

People keep asking me now that the Whole30 is over whether I’d ever do another one. That answer changed daily throughout the past month, one day a resounding “DUH I FEEL LIKE SUPERWOMAN” and the next a loud “HELL to the no.” The answer today is “Definitely, but not for a while.” Because the most important lesson I learned? I could live without dairy, grains, legumes and sugar for the rest of my life. But god dammit, I love a good glass of wine.

Quick Thoughts: Day 29

Today I woke up like every morning, rolling around for a few minutes before managing to roll myself out of bed, eyes heavily lidded with an interrupted dream and a fervent desire for five more minutes under the thick comforter. Once my feet hit the floor though, I was as awake as I am now, four hours later, working my way through emails before the day really gets going. Like every morning, I made my way to the kitchen where I cleaned a few straggling dishes from food prep all afternoon yesterday and made breakfast, a three-egg blueberry fritatta, half a cucumber sliced and a sweet potato, all while packing a salad with chicken sausage, roasted mushrooms, kale, cucumbers, guacamole and homemade dressing for lunch. I scanned the fridge quickly and decided I’d cook a turkey burger with leftover beet greens and butternut squash for dinner later, something that should only take me 20 minutes since most of the prep is done. After breakfast it was time for a little yoga, then rummaging through my closet to get ready for work, allowing myself a few extra minutes to savor the cool spring breeze drifting through the open windows in the apartment, hinting ever-so-slightly at the warm weather to come, calling memories of picnics in Fort Tryon with a cool glass of wine in a sweating plastic cup.

Today is Day 29 of my very first Whole30. I’ve made it through all the uncomfortable physical milestones, like carb flu and food boredom. I’ve pushed through some personal hurdles, like non-stop working hours and a family emergency. I have prepped every single meal that has gone into my body for 29 days, aside from one client dinner and one lunch at Hu Kitchen with my lovely friend M. I’ve pushed past thoughts like “you shouldn’t eat that much” and “it’s not working for you,” pushed through moments where all I needed was the comfort of a little bit of sugar or just a sip of wine. I haven’t radically altered things in my diet, but even so I’ve learned so much about myself in the past 29 days, and picked up habits I’ll carry with me as long as I can.

Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and everything will be exactly the same, except by the time I go to sleep, I’ll have accomplished something I never thought I could. It’s kind of crazy, that it’s already been 30 days, and kind of wild to think that this is the longest I’ve gone without sugar and alcohol since who even knows how long. Probably at least ten years. Maybe even more. It’s just 30 days in the grand scheme of things, but through all my planning and research, all my mental preparation, all the difficult times in the past month and all the difficult times I’m facing with a new perspective moving forward, there are things I hated and things I loved, and one huge lesson that I’ve learned: this program can change your life. It’s changed my lovely friend M’s. It’s changed my anchor G’s. And now I can say with absolutely certainty, it’s also changed mine.

Stay tuned for a round-up of lessons learned later this week. In the meantime, starting on Wednesday, I have some wine to drink.

Tangible, Real, and Entirely Mine

I ambitiously set my alarm a few minutes earlier than usual on Tuesday morning, hoping that was the motivation I needed to get out of bed and go straight to the mat for an early-morning yoga flow. I’ve been slacking lately on morning yoga, not because I’m not awake, but because I’ve been taking my time around meals during Whole30, using the precious few extra minutes from excluding yoga to prepare and enjoy breakfast instead of hastily shoving it in my mouth while running out the door. Tuesday morning was different, though, marking a day that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Much as I wanted to throw my phone when it started the early morning ritual of vibrating violently until it wakes up the cat, who then claws my face until I make it stop, I managed to shut off the alarm with just a hint of a sigh, roll out of bed, grab one of my yoga mats and unravel it on to the floor, smiling at the routine that felt so foreign just one year ago.

Something I really appreciated in my previous relationship is that we didn’t celebrate anniversaries. It’s not to say that I didn’t know the day we started “dating” (it was college, exact terminology is muddy), because I’m a girl and obviously I knew, but we never made a big deal about another year passing. The date itself was fairly close to Valentine’s Day, so we sort of rolled the two together: every year he bought me lilies, my favorite, and we went to the same restaurant for the seafood tower and the amazing hazelnut-banana ice cream monstrosity. It was clichéd, but cute, and I appreciated that we never made a big deal out of the anniversary itself. I think anniversaries are sweet of course; it’s lovely to celebrate something that makes you happy, or remember something you hope never to forget, but outside of the anniversary of my birth (which is basically a national holiday*), I’ve never been terribly preoccupied with exact anniversary dates, preferring instead the general time frame as a casual acknowledgment that yet another year has gone by.

It’s hard at times to see progress in life in the short time span of a year; progress is fickle and subjective, working in your favor at times and working against you in others. You could take a look at my life on the one hand and think that nothing has really happened in the past year: I’m still in the same apartment, I’m technically still working in the same position, and I’m still very single. But when you start peeling back the layers, it gets trickier. My apartment has been painted and I’ve finally put in the first order for grown-up furniture, starting with the most important upgrade from a full-sized bed to a queen. I’ve moved jobs, and while I’ve dated here and there in the past year, 2015 is the year of LB, no distractions, no empty promises from boys masquerading as men, just me. So is that tangible growth, noticeable progress, something I can feel proud of? Maybe. Or maybe not. It depends on who you ask.

When I woke up on April 21, 2014, I remember running my hand through my freshly-dyed red hair, still getting used to no longer seeing a blonde in the mirror as I had my entire life. I remember grabbing a hair tie and making my way into the living room, where I unrolled my as-then never-been-used yoga mat, releasing a faint hint of new rubber into the cool spring air, and searched “Yoga Challenge” on YouTube, hoping to find something that would keep me motivated for the next month to work out. I remember feeling so awkward in all the poses at first, holding my breath when things were difficult and trying to keep up with the instructor, who seemed so impossibly flexible that I almost quit halfway through the twenty-minute workout. I didn’t pick up yoga because I wanted to learn how to do splits and backbends and headstands; I didn’t have any ambitions to use the practice as a way to calm the anxiety that’s plagued me for years, never imagined that yoga would be an integral tool in finally kicking anorexia to the curb. On April 21, 2014, after I made it through the first video (barely), the only thing I really wanted from yoga was to be able to touch my toes.

When I woke up on April 21, 2015, I ran my hair through my desperately-in-need-of-a-touch-up red hair that fades to pink, and pulled it into the familiar top bun, laughing at the emerging blonde roots, a memory that feels both so recent and so long ago. I picked my favorite mat from the now four that I own, and turned on one of my many yoga playlists, letting the music run through me while I breathed through a flow that I made up as I went along, finishing with a backbend sequence and practicing forearm stands, which I’m finally getting the hang of after months of serious practice. I lay in savasana on my mat, taking a few minutes to enjoy the quiet of the low music and the calm of my mind, ignoring the chirp of my phone with my daily bank account summary update, reminding me to put money away this week for yoga teacher training next year. When I stood up from that final rest, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle anything, I smiled a little and added one extra stretch: resting my hands flat on the floor behind me, grabbing my toes on the way down, just for fun.

This isn’t the first big “milestone” anniversary that I’ve talked about on this blog – one year in Washington Heights in March 2014, one year single this past November – but it’s the first one where I feel like I can look back and there is real, tangible progress. I can get into splits, and backbends, and headstands. I can see the change in my body, always slim but infinitely more powerful, now that it’s been nurtured in the past year with good food and positive energy. My life looks similar but is so radically different from where I was a year ago due entirely to yoga. Yoga has given me an ambition I never knew I had, it’s given me a positive goal and a continuous path towards improvement. Yoga has made me simultaneously more confident and more humble, it’s taught me to celebrate the little victories instead of dwelling on the “if only” that can shadow any accomplishment. In the past year, I’ve had my heart broken by a Child and let myself fall in a low kind of love with a weekend and the idea of What If. I’ve struggled professionally and I’ve struggled personally, I’ve had days where I feel like I’m flying and days where it takes every piece of me just to get out of bed without falling apart. But I’ve had yoga through all of this encouraging me, waiting for me on the days I just couldn’t bring myself to get on the mat, and cheering me on from the first day I touched my toes, through this morning, where I held a forearm stand with almost a semblance of ease.

Tuesday celebrated the day where I finally found something I didn’t even know was missing, a piece of me that’s as essential as my nose or my red hair. It’s no seafood tower and hazelnut dessert, and I didn’t come home to lilies after a long day at work on Tuesday, just little miss sleeping under my yoga mat. But it’s the most powerful anniversary of any that I’ve celebrated, exact, approximate or otherwise, because it’s the first time I’m celebrating growth in my life which comes solely from decisions, choices and actions that are entirely personal. So happy anniversary, yoga. Thank you for changing my life so completely, thank you for taking the parts of me I disliked for so long and giving me confidence, focus, ambition, direction and so much more. Thank you for finding me when I so desperately needed something to give me something to feel good about in a life that felt like it wouldn’t stop dealing punches like playing cards. Here’s to the first year together, and to every year to come.

The light in me recognizes and honors the light in you. Namaste.

*And actually, my birthday does fall on a National Holiday this year, so thanks Obama!!

Ctrl + Alt + Reboot

I spent more time complaining last week than probably anything else (except working). I complained because I was sore from a tough yoga class last Sunday, and then I complained because I wasn’t doing yoga. I complained because I was stressed out at the office, and then complained even more because I couldn’t soothe the stress with a glass of wine. I complained because I’m trying to figure out my budget for the next six months and don’t know that I can reconcile another plane ticket for something I absolutely don’t want to miss. I tried to stay on the good side of positive, holding on to the Weather Channel’s promise of a beautiful weekend and a chance to catch up on sleep as the hallmark of my complaining streak to end, but by Friday night I was in no mood for anything that wasn’t sitting on my couch after a late night in the office, coconut water in a wine glass pretending it was the same (it wasn’t), hoping that my neighbors would turn down the music so I could sleep away the week and wake up on Saturday in a new attitude.

This weekend was exactly what I needed after a full week of seemingly non-stop complaining. I had long-standing plans with my partner-in-crime R to test out a Bikram yoga class (that’s the hot one), and my lovely friend M had been looking forward to Saturday, where she hosted two classes about the wonder of essential oils. Both things were massive successes in such minor ways. The Bikram studio R attends was so welcoming and enthusiastic, and despite sweating through everything I wore for the rest of the day, I felt amazing: stretched out more thoroughly than ever before, and proud, because I tried the class, made it through, and even saw some crazy improvements in backbends by the end. The oils class was even more interesting, because even though I’ve been using essential oils for years, I didn’t know a quarter of what M and her cohost share with us, like how oregano oil is as powerful as penicillin as an antibiotic, or how lemon oil on the side of your nose can help with congestion. After all the classes were over, M and I sat on her couch and just chilled for an hour, talking about the day and drinking seltzer until it was far past my bedtime, and I walked the two blocks home with the kind of smile that comes from a really satisfying day.

There’s something really nice about having plans to look forward to on Whole30, since it’s totally different from the “typical” weekend plans. I mean don’t get me wrong, when R and my fashionista C started putting up Insta-photos of their Saturday night I had the WORST pang of FOMO flood my brain, desperately missing the nights where we all go out for dinner and see what happens, never knowing if I’ll end up home by midnight, tired and a little buzzed, or if I’ll wake up on R and H the Scot’s floor, still in my party clothes with contacts in shot glasses next to my head. But in this case, after a full week of complaining and crankiness, it was really nice to know I had fun activities to look forward to that were more than “buy more vegetables and eggs and prep enough food to feed a hungry girl for the week.” Maybe it’s a sign of growing up that I can plan things for weekends that don’t involve terrible decisions. Although on that same token, I can always just plan on the healthy things and have a drink after to celebrate.

For whatever reason, there are a lot of milestones coming up in the next week, including a super major massive one tomorrow for me. I’ve actually been looking forward to this week for a while: it’s the home stretch for Whole30, the weather is finally turning around from cold and dreary to lukewarm, though still dreary today. We’re about to start a six-month period of big things, as tomorrow marks an anniversary of when everything started happening, and the new beginnings coming up soon are too numerous to try and mention. A little reboot of my life and my attitude was a good prescription for a crappy attitude, complaining about everything instead of celebrating everything that’s just around the corner. Of course, I’m still going to complain when I’m stuck in the office without snacks again, or when I see someone eating a Twix in front of me (“ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME.”), but I’ll do my best to keep it to myself for a little while. If almost passing out in a Bikram class or spending two hours covered in potent oils taught me anything on my long Saturday, it’s that staying in the present moment, with a deep breath and a smile, will come back to you threefold over complaining about the same thing, one more time and again.

Someday.

I slowly climbed out of my tip-tall nude heels I’d never worn before, toes aching from being cramped in a stiletto for eighteen hours, and sat on the couch with my nose buried into the cat’s fur. She squirmed out of my arms, stared at me for a minute, and then snuggled into the crook of my neck, barely moving as my tears from exhaustion, frustration, and aforementioned toe pain landed on her tiny forehead, drip, drip, drip. The clock said 1 a.m., but it felt more 4, like the weekends after a full night at the bar, where you’re so tired that the only thing left to do is hang out on the fire escape and watch the sun come up, cigarette smoke streaming like a wisp of a memory and a song. With a sigh that spoke of late nights since February and the general frustration of being an adult, I mustered just enough energy to pick myself up off the couch, brush my teeth, and leave a trail of clothes towards my bedroom, one shoe, dress, jacket, before climbing into bed and staring at the ceiling, waiting for sleep that would be rudely interrupted in less than five hours.

Someday. Someday is a word I tell myself a lot lately. “Someday, work won’t be this busy” and “Someday, I’ll be able to hold that yoga pose,” “Someday I’ll get back on a regular blogging schedule” and “Maybe I’ll find someone who can handle my crazy, someday.” Someday is one of those words that implicitly comes with hope and a promise; it’s like the big unknowable, be-all and end-all date where all the little frustrations resolve themselves, and everything finally feels like it fits. Someday can be every day and it can be a day that doesn’t exist at all, or it can be a series of maybe-days that come to fruition when you least expect. I try not to think in maybes, preferring instead the cool promise of a deadline I can see, but when deadlines are pushed, or they’re ignored, I’m just back to playing Russian Roulette with my sanity; one word and a follow-up email and the loaded chamber of stress and anxiety explodes. Someday is a promise that I’ve been making to myself for the past year or so, and yet Someday keeps running away from me, further, further, taunting me that I’ll get to it, some day.

This week I’ve been feeling like there’s something missing, or something that I miss, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. I’ll feel a sharp pang of nostalgia right across my stomach but it’s not directed at anything, as though I’m longing to find a time where things were different, but then again, I don’t know what in my life now I’d want to change. Maybe I miss the mornings where my body would sleep in an extra 20 minutes, but I love to start my day with a few stretches on the mat, breathing deeply and finding clarity in a few moments of uninterrupted peace. Maybe I miss the job where I was out by 6 every night, but I’ll take a few late nights in the office in exchange for like-minded people and projects I actually enjoy. Maybe I miss the days where I didn’t worry all the time about everything, did I pay that bill? how am I supposed to afford a flight this summer when I can barely afford my rent? will I even have time to plan T’s shower if I keep working like this? But then I look at my beautiful little apartment and this life I’ve built for myself in the city, and I know for a fact I wouldn’t change a damn thing. So maybe it’s not nostalgia that’s keeping me in the realm of the Someday, but if that’s not it, then there’s still something gnawing at me like a rabid animal, tearing into my subconscious with a sing-song promise that there are better days ahead, Someday.

Sometimes I think my life has figured itself out, a solved 1000-piece frame I can hang on the wall of Adulthood with pride, but sometimes it feels as kinked as my curls, falling in waves over my shoulders, down my back. I can fix a running toilet or a clogged sink, kill a bug with only minimal screeching and cook healthy food like a boss, but I can’t bring myself to tackle the pile of clothes that’s rapidly growing in the corner of my living room, just sheltered enough from view that I can pretend it doesn’t exist. I can lead a call with a client, and hold down the fort while my bosses are in meetings with important people, but I still can’t figure out how to eat lunch at my desk without spilling food all over myself. This weird period in my life, the past three months really, have been a series of these moments, where I’m a grown-up one minute and I need an adult the next. I don’t really know how to end this post; I haven’t learned any lessons and frankly I’m sure you’re all as sick of reading my “woe is me and my life” stories as I am of writing them. So maybe the only way to end is with a promise: things are going to get better, and everything will fall into place. I can’t tell you when, of course, but I promise it’ll happen Someday.

Wring it Out

The past seven days have been trying, to say the very least. Between anticipated Whole30 crankiness, a family member in the hospital, then a nursing/rehab facility, plus the general drama that comes with extended time with my family, as well as a slowly-exploding workload, I haven’t had a ton of downtime for anything. Sunday was the first day I had a few hours to myself, waking up leisurely around 7:30, and spending the morning cleaning and warming up for a yoga class at noon. I knew the instructor, and knew to prepare because his classes are a little intense, but the one on Sunday was beyond what I was expecting – and not just from an asana perspective. Like, we started out by singing a mantra while he played along on a weird instrument? I’m sure it was supposed to be moving and spiritual and all that, and don’t get me wrong, I like some hippie granola with my yoga, but this was a little out there, even for me. My thoughts were racing through the whole song: this is dumb, my arms are sore (they were lifted the whole time), why won’t the hungover Australians behind me stop talking, until we started the actual sequences for the class, and all thoughts shut down so I could focus on breathing and praying I would make it through. The class was IN-TENSE – twists on twists on lunges, balancing one two limbs, one limb, planks to handstand prep to planks to backbends. When we made it to the final rest, I could feel my whole body sigh with relief at a few moments to reflect and steady my breath. As I lay there, listening to my slowing heartbeat and counting, four beats inhale, four beats exhale, I could feel all the negativity float out of my body back into the funny limbo where that energy stays,

Something people don’t think about in yoga is that the movements go way beyond… well, the movements. The poses, sequences, flows are all wonderful for toning the body and all, but each movement also has a very specific intention that helps you physically and mentally: negative emotions are stored in the hips, twists detoxify everything, standing postures keep you balanced, i could go on. I’d been focusing on more strength postures in daily practice the past week, still tirelessly working towards a free-standing forearm stand, but in that class on Sunday, my first one since before all the Easter mayhem, the instructor had us focusing on twists: seated, standing, balanced, on our backs, on our stomachs. We twisted in Chair Pose, we twisted in Cow Face, we twisted in headstands and everyone twisted in lunges, massaging the internal organs and sweating profusely as we worked through some emotional and physical build-up in the body. “Wring it out!” the instructor kept telling us, as we went left on the inhale, right on the exhale. “Wring out the negativity and the bad thoughts. Don’t focus on when this will be over. Focus on what’s happening to you right now – the burning, the twisting, the squeezing of toxins out of your body and mind.”

Yoga has this way of getting into my head and helping me realize other moments in life where I may be holding on to needless bad energy. The past week, it’s been difficult to focus on anything with everything happening around me, and it was enough just to try and keep all the Whole30 planning, family time, and work tasks straight. Everything combined meant I was holding on to a lot of crappy emotions, and it started coming out in nasty ways: snapping at my mother after a long day in the nursing center, yelling at the cat for trying to snuggle with me by kneading her claws into my neck, and finally beating myself up over not being “far enough along” in yoga practice, as though there’s a magical endpoint where I should be right now. Much as I can take deep breaths and apologize to the people on the receiving end of my snippy remarks, yoga isn’t so forgiving. If I’m angry, or annoyed, or frustrated, and I focus on that anger and frustration instead of the positive progress I’ve made, I won’t get into things that usually come easily to me, and I won’t move forward, a lesson I’ve carried into many aspects of my life.

I’ve been beating myself up quite a lot lately that I haven’t had as much time to write as I’d like. And even now, this post has taken me four days to put together, and I’m throwing the end of this together in a rare five minutes of peace before back-to-back meetings till five. I can also go into how I’ll probably beat myself up about taking the time to write this now, instead of handling one of the many, many outstanding tasks that need to get done this week, both professionally and personally. But I’m doing my best to stay on the positive side of things for now. I’ll get back to blogging like normal; I’ll get to the level I want to be in yoga. I’ll get to a place where it doesn’t feel like I’m drowning every time I open my eyes, and hey, there’s only two more weeks till I can drink wine again. Everything will happen, and things will feel better. And until that all comes into place, I’ll be twisting left and right and sideways, staying on the right side of a positive energy and wringing out what is keeping me back.

All the feels

I love the moments where I can put my phone aside and just enjoy the freedom of not being immediately accessible. Whether it’s the 75 minute yoga class where the phone is on airplane mode, or yoga in my apartment where the phone is on silent, the moments with friends where I leave my phone in another room on purpose or the times in my apartment I lose my phone by accident and don’t feel like searching for it, there is nothing like knowing you’re disconnected, if only for a brief period of time. Inevitably, after an hour or so away from the phone, I’ll have the same anxiety: much as it’s lovely to be off the grid, what if this is the moment that someone actually needs to reach me, and I’m too busy relaxing to text back? Not that this has ever happened to me, of course. And actually, up until Saturday, I’d never been on either end of that scenario: the person taking a technology break for a short period of time, or the one who knows the person isn’t with their phone but desperately, desperately needs to get in touch with them, and fast. Up until Saturday, I would have been happy not to be either of those people, ever. Sadly, my Saturday morning at home with my Twinster and her fiance turned very quickly from a lazy morning preparing for outlet shopping into the two of us frantically calling Mama B over, and over, and over, knowing she was on a walk with a friend and cursing that her one hour of relaxation fell on just barely the wrong side of an unexpected turn in the day’s events.

My default when I’m stressed out or dealing with an excess level of emotions is to grab a glass of wine or something sweet. It’s the emotional comfort of a chance to numb the scary emotions and soothe a running mind for a minute; there’s nothing nourishing mentally or physically about immediately turning to alcohol and sugar for support, but we all have psychological connections to food and drink that rule our emotions, I need a cupcake since I’m happy, I need a drink since I’m overwhelmed. In the few moments after finally getting Mama B on the phone and waiting for her to rush home so we could figure out the rest of the day, my immediate thought was “I am going to need a big glass of…. Oh.” Because I couldn’t turn to any of my coping mechanisms this weekend since I’m still on Whole30. There was no immediate relief in a piece of chocolate; I couldn’t hold on to the promise of a tall glass of California pinot from my parent’s collection later that night after the hospital visit to help numb the image of someone I love covered in tubes and in terrible pain. All of a sudden the weekend went from a series of happy occasions with family to a series of frantic phone calls and shuffling of plans, picking up a birthday cake I couldn’t eat anyway but now no one would enjoy in the way it was meant to be enjoyed, moving a wrapped present lest it make my mother start to cry.

I thought back this weekend a lot about how I’ve handled the many stressful and scary situations in the past few years: break-up #1, new job #1, break-up #2, my own health scare and new job #2. It’s crazy, looking back, to realize that in every single one of these situations, I numbed the emotions on the outset with a glass (or two) (… or fine bottle) of wine. It’s not to say that I can’t handle stress, or that I’m a raging alcoholic – but think back to the times in the past year that you’ve been really sad, really scared, really stressed or all three at once: didn’t a whiskey on the rocks or a fat glass of cabernet help you calm down a little bit? Did you maybe turn to a cold beer in the summer or a spiked hot chocolate in the winter? It’s part of our culture, practically: the first thing people tell you after you’re done complaining is to take a deep breath and pour a drink. We’re constantly living in these limbo-states where emotions exist but are dulled, a Stepford-level reality that leaves us in the emotional state of a frustrated toddler once you’re forced to deal with the real issue causing your emotions to percolate slowly, slowly and then spill over the edge. Hell, up until this weekend, I didn’t think I knew how to properly process anything without the thin veil of something to take the edge off.

I planned for a lot of things before this Whole30. I planned to bring my own food for Easter dinner and prepared to pass on the champagne toast and birthday cake for my grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration on Saturday night. I was prepared for my brother to tease me mercilessly about my “diet,” throwing Tate’s cookies in my face under the guise that “they’re all natural, right?” I was even prepared to pass on the wine that flows freely in the weekends we’re all home, bringing my own seltzer in the event plain water started to get boring. But I didn’t plan to learn how to cope when you’re forced to feel everything in a scary situation: I was scared, I was upset, I was emotional and I was relieved. And as much as it felt foreign, I survived. I survived sitting with my own thoughts, and I survived coping with a scary situation calmly, rationally (*mostly) and without numbing the emotions coursing through me like wildfire. Aside from improving energy and breaking my chocolate addiction at the office, I was pretty ambiguous about what I was hoping to get out of the Whole30: I don’t need to lose weight, I’m pretty cut thanks to yoga and aside from extra planning, it’s pretty close to my normal diet. And while my energy has been good, I’ve felt on the upside of “healthy” and I’m looking forward to the “turnaround” that everyone tells me to expect in the next few days, I’m really, really happy already for what the program has done for me. Because it may be foreign, having dealt with all of the feelings in such a short period of time, but it was empowering to know that I can handle them on my own: scary, stressful, and everything in between.

Charmed, I’m sure

A few months back, I was rifling through an old jewelry box while at my parents’ in Connecticut one weekend, and found an old charm bracelet that my parents bought me in middle school. The bracelet itself is flooded with memories, the afternoon my family went down to New York City to shop in the jewelry district and stop at our favorite deli for lunch; how I felt so mature with a real gold bracelet on my wrist, the charms chiming softly as my wrist swayed during the brisk walks along the busy New York Streets. Since I never remember to pack jewelry when I travel, I put it on that afternoon before meeting an old friend for a drink, and eventually made my way back to the city with it dangling on my wrist. It’s worked its way into my everyday accessories slowly, I started wearing it once a week, then a few times, and I’ve noticed now I reach for it almost every day; it’s as integral to my daily routine as grabbing my watch and its now conspicuous in its absence on the days I don’t fasten it. I know the three little charms like the back of my hand – a silver apple, an elephant, and a guardian angel – but it wasn’t until this morning that I remembered why I’d chosen those charms nearly 15 years ago.

Our tastes in everything change constantly, from fashion to food to the people we date. Sometimes I’ll notice I’m in a pink phase, pink hair, pink shoes, pink necklace, and then just a week later looking at pink makes me cringe. For years I couldn’t stand the taste of olives, always trying one when offered but decidedly disliking everything about them until about a year ago, when all of a sudden they became one of my favorite snacks. It certainly applies to the dating pool as well. Now that I’m a few months into a year where I’ve sworn off dating, I’ve had a lot of time to figure out what I might want if I ever decide to date, and it’s almost funny the things that are important to me now that weren’t even on my radar a year ago, like “Must do yoga” and “Must be comfortable with multiple cats.” It’s normal and wonderful to have tastes change, evolve, go somewhere new, and it makes looking back on things, like a tiny elephant I had to have on my bracelet so long ago, really fun.

There’s something nice about the changing tide of likes, dislikes, wants, needs. It’s a part of growth and learning, adapting to new circumstances and all that good stuff. But then again, I’m a creature of habit in many areas, and change is a scary thing. It’s not to say I’m terrified because I’m a fan of olives now, but sometimes, when confronted with so many changes in a period of time, it’s almost difficult to recognize yourself. Last year at this point, I was in a still-new job, things had just faded with The Banker and I had noticed that a cute subway stranger seemed to be on the same train every morning. I didn’t know my ass from my asana, I was rocking some bright blonde hair and I was doing everything I could to wear short sleeves in early spring so I could show off my third tattoo, the newest in my collection. I had totally different ambitions for my life; I had a totally different perspective on what would make me happy, which at the time I thought was “someone else” and “more wine.” It can be panic inducing to realize things evolve without you noticing, and it can be scary to think what it could be like if you ever run into someone who knew what is now the “old” you, how they might react or what they might think.

As my five-year college reunion rapidly approaches, these are the thoughts running through my mind: good change, bad change, so many changes, so many things the same. Next month I’ll see people who I cried with and hugged at graduation and then haven’t seen since, people who don’t know anything aside from what pops up on Facebook. I was running around this morning, trying frantically to do yoga, pack for the weekend, make breakfast, prep lunch/dinner and check email in under an hour, when I stopped and looked at my bracelet quickly. The silver apple hit the light at the perfect angle to spark through my memory and remind me why on earth I thought an apple charm was something special enough to include on my grown-up bracelet. It’s because all those years ago, I shyly told our friend in the Jewelry District that when I grew up, I wanted to live in New York City. He gave me a big smile at this and handed me the charm. “Here’s something to remind you of the Big Apple,” he said, gently putting the bracelet on my wrist. “Now you’ll always remember where you want to be.”

I smiled this morning as I watched the charm dangle on the subway ride, a reminder of how many things change and yet how everything stays the same. I’ve been so looking forward to Reunion next month, a chance to show off all the new tattoos, the red hair, the yoga muscles I’ve worked so hard for this year; a chance to show off how much I’ve changed since the 21 year old who left campus in tears on a sunny Monday in May. Or maybe they’ll look at me and see the exact same person, the loud girl who talks too fast and smiles all the time (usually). Either way, I know for sure, they’ll see a girl with a little charm bracelet, the same bracelet that went from Connecticut in 2001, through Virginia till 2010, and is now back to where it came from in NYC.