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.