Three Questions

My morning commute lately has changed slightly lately. Not in the actual commute itself, but in how I’ve been passing the time. Normally I throw on one of my many well-curated Spotify playlists and space out while playing Solitaire, or staring out the window making awkward eye contact with strangers on the platform, but lately I’ve been into podcasts, and specifically, the TED Radio Hour from NPR. It’s been a nice burst of inspiration in the mornings and after work, hearing from these powerful visionaries on everything from how humans and technology will merge in the near future, to how there’s no such thing as original anymore.

There was one episode I played recently that was about listening, and how something so powerful is taken for granted in so many ways. The point of the show wasn’t to make us appreciative for the general ability to hear, but to point out how inactive listening really has become. The man behind StoryCorps (click the link, I’ll wait) was interviewed at one point, and he mentioned the three questions that he suggests people use to start their StoryCorps interviews with each other. The questions are so simple, and yet as he continued talking about them, I found myself really listening to some of the answers, and starting to listen internally to my own answers to these questions.

I ended up grabbing a pen and scribbling down my thoughts to these simple questions as my train rolled into my station, still writing as I climbed the stairs to the outside world. It’s not quite a StoryCorps, but I felt like sharing my own answers, my own piece of mini-history immortalized in this blog. I don’t even know if anyone is listening to this space anymore, but in the event that there’s anyone there paying attention, I’d encourage you to write down or speak aloud your own answers to these questions, and really, really listen:

Who are you?

I’m LB. I’m almost 27 and I live in New York City (for now). I like tattoos and red wine and my cat more than most people. I live alone and my neighbors have definitely seen me naked like, many times.

I’ve been so many people since moving here in 2010 – the one in a relationship and the crazy single friend, the one who lives on the east side and the one on the far upper west, the blonde chick who doesn’t work out and starves herself to feel something, and the strong redhead who’s entire life has been shaped by a steady yoga practice. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which one is the real one. Maybe when I grow up that will start to make more sense.

What have you learned in life?

Don’t drink vodka or you will absolutely cry and lose something.
Sidewalk puddles are almost always pee.
It takes way too much energy to be negative, even just for a minute.
The kindness of strangers will surprise you when you least expect it and most need it.
Life has a funny way of working itself out.

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who lived and loved really well.

Advertisements

How a Firefly taught me patience.

Serious question: if I’ve achieved my sole New Year’s resolution by mid-August, does that mean I can coast for the rest of the year?

This week has been… interesting, to say the very least. I suppose I’m not surprised – it’s a new moon today – but on that same token, it’s been a really trying week, mentally, physically, emotionally. Sometimes in weeks like this I have a tendency to neglect my yoga practice, using excuses like ‘I’m too tired’ and ‘I just don’t have the time’ to justify sitting on my chair feeling sorry for myself or drinking wine alone with the cat. This week, though, I made a point to stay on the mat, and in all my frustrations at everything outside of yoga, I somehow found the patience and focus to manage a huge breakthrough. Back on December 31, 2014, I told myself if I could hold a handstand for at least five seconds in 2015 that would be a goal accomplished; and on August 12, 2015, I did exactly that, and then a little more.

There’s something empowering, invigorating about setting and reaching a goal. Whether it’s as simple as “I will not forget to wash the dishes before going to bed tonight,” or as complex as “I will get into a crazy yoga pose,”  having something to work towards, pushing you, motivating you to get better, is absolutely a wonderful things. But I am admittedly terrible at following through on long-term goals. My first few years in NYC were so tumultuous between moves and new jobs and relationships that trying to think in the long-term was way too overwhelming, when it was all I could do just to budget so I’d have enough for groceries that week. The longest I’ve stayed in a job is just under 30 months and that place was fucking nuts, so I always knew that wasn’t a place to look at in my long-term, and while I love my apartment and I see myself there for the foreseeable future, I know it’s not somewhere I’m going to be for many more years.

Everyone around me is making these huge decisions that affect the long term, like moving around and getting married. It’s easy to feel left behind in these situations, which I know because around this time last year that’s exactly how I felt; I had this clear view of everyone in my life moving forward and I was still blacking out on weeknights after an office happy hour. Then earlier this week I had a little freak out about the future, because all of a sudden I’ve realized I have a plan. I have a long-term plan about my life here in New York, and how I want to grow as a person, and where I might be in the next five years, and it’s absolutely not at all what I thought it would be when I moved to New York five years ago. Maybe to some people that sounds like growing up or maturity or whatever, but it just makes me fucking terrified because honestly, I don’t know if I can do it.

After reaching my resolution on Wednesday, I paused for a minute after a long flow yesterday and decided to try a pose that first piqued my interest in yoga, and a pose that I swear to grilled cheezus I have been working for the better part of a year and still couldn’t get into it. In frustration a few months ago, I stopped practicing the pose, telling myself maybe it would be more of a possibility down the line. So yesterday, on my handstand high, I gave tittibhasana, or Firefly pose, a try. And just like the handstand, all of a sudden I was in the pose. No frills, nothing fancy, and miles from perfect, but in that moment I couldn’t have cared less about perfect. I was flying in tittibhasana and that is something I never thought would happen in 2015, never in a million years. Patience is a lesson that kept coming up this week in work and in practice – patience with others, patience with myself. Getting into that pose was a revelation in patience that I needed before tonight’s new moon: sometimes there are things I can do on the first try, or after a week or two of concentration. But sometimes it’s going to take more time – maybe eight months, or maybe over a year. But if I remember to focus on love, practice and patience, truly – all is coming.

Quick Thoughts: Just Me

I saw a friend last night for the first time in probably six months, and we had so many things to catch up on – my no-longer new job, no-longer new haircut, and to his biggest surprise, my commitment at not dating in 2015. “What do you mean not dating though,” he remarked after I told him that the plan was still in effect. “Like you’ve only been on a few dates and don’t want anything serious?” Nope, I told him. I haven’t been on a date since January and it was so terrible that I just decided I’m not going to deal with them anymore, or at least not till I start contemplating getting more cats even more seriously than I already am. He sat back with a smile on his face, and stared for a moment, like he was trying to find something in me, maybe a sadness, a longing, or a trace of the “left behind” feeling so many people are convinced I’m experiencing now that everyone around me is engaged. The words he said next really stuck with me, and haven’t left my head all day:

“So this is what LB is like without a man. I gotta say lady, she was great to begin with but this is a whole new level.”

Much as I profess to being “single” for a year and a half now, he really has a good point. Last year was a flurry of dates and almost-relationships, of big promises and me wanting, trying, needing to find someone to fill this void that I thought would never go away on its own. If we’re talking single life as in no dates, no relationships, no promises, no crushes even, I’ve made it six full months and I’m on my seventh. It’s as though last year I was trying so hard to get to know other people that I forgot to take a few months to get to know myself.

So this is what LB is like without a man. I gotta say readers, I’ve been pretty okay with her for a number of years, but the past six months really are on a whole new level.

Nineteen

“It’s the last chance I have to act like 19 year-old LB again!”

The scene: joking around with my lovely friend M in her apartment after work on a Monday. Since she and her N live on top of our subway stop, I’ll usually stop by a few times a week for a quick visit on my way home from work, a chance to catch up on our days as though we’re not in constant contact via text and Instagram anyway. M and I were joking about our fast-approaching college reunion, and how we both ambitiously signed up for the 9am yoga class on Saturday; I made the point that the class is free to attend, so while it will be nice to make it, I’m certainly not going to hold back on Friday night, being around old friends for the first time together in half a decade, just so I can wake up early and stretch. I don’t know why I keep saying I’m going to regress to 19-year old LB, instead of 18, 20 or 21. I was 19 during my sophomore year at school, and that was EASILY the worst year of my college life – the year I was most entrenched in my eating disorder, the year my grades fell like they hadn’t my entire life, and the year I had my first panic attack, I don’t look back with fondness on sophomore year for a minute, and yet I keep saying I’m going to regress to that person come May 29.

I wonder sometimes why certain memories stay with us longer than others. Years of my life are condensed to two or three vivid memories; sometimes it’s a snippet of a family vacation in Disney World, watching a show with my father on one side and my sister on the other, fireworks and the humid Florida air, dank and sweet with sounds of childhood, and other times it’s sledding one night down the ice path my parents carved into our driveway. College memories are at extremes, either vivid and still cringe-worthy, or faded but sweet, or missing altogether save for a few minutes at a pregame that start up again the next morning. My sophomore year of college has an interesting hue to the memories that remain, a shiny bronze of new friends from sorority rush, the elated high of being part of a We and the promise of a semester abroad; all tinged with a murky green from a year of firsts, first panic attack, first almost-failed class, first re-emergence of the eating disorder I pretended to grow past a year before. I was looking at old photos recently to get in the college spirit, and I can’t help but think that I look like such a child, and I feel like such a child in memories, yet I thought I was making adult choices at the time.

Looking at my life as a 26 year old compared to life at 19 is really interesting, both in the similarities and the differences. The last time I cut my hair significantly was at 19; at the time I let myself be pushed into it by Mama B, who has always thought my hair looked better shorter (her words). I wasn’t ready for the change, the perfectionist in me resisting change like an awkward brush by a subway stranger, and I hated the haircut almost instantly after my hairdresser dangled the severed ponytail in front of me like a prize bull tail from a fight. I got my first tattoo at 19; I brought a half-formed idea into the shop in Buenos Aires recommended to me by my favorite bartender from the only bar that streamed NFL games. The artist listened to my idea and drew something completely different and I took a look at it and really disliked it but was too nervous to say anything other than “okay.” And at 19 I didn’t care that I had someone who loved me, because even though he really did, I didn’t love myself, and I let that guide me through a confusing mess of a year where I relied on someone to make me feel better, and when he didn’t, or couldn’t, I would find someone else who did. At 19 I thought by 26 I would be engaged or married, maybe even to the boy who loved me, and I thought I would have long learned to live with my disordered eating, something I was convinced would never let me go.

Now at 26, I just cut the same 10 inches off of my hair after a similarly impulsive decision that was egged on by Mama B, only this time I wanted it, and I laughed as the scissors cut deep into the pink curls. I can’t stop staring at myself in the mirror, so in love with the almost-bob, debating going shorter next time, already used to the look yet still pleasantly surprised every time I pass a mirror. Now at 26, I have five tattoos, and I’m working with my artist on the sixth; he and I worked for four months on my last one to nail the design, and we have another five months for this one, though I trust him so much I would gladly give him a portion of blank skin and say “Go.” Now at 26, I don’t really care that there isn’t someone in my life to love me like the boy from 19, because I love myself, really love who I’ve become and who I’m becoming all at once. Now at 26, I don’t really care that my life went in a different direction than I thought it would by now, because at 19 I didn’t realize how fluid life is, how quickly things change, the ebbs and flows of adulthood, moving you forward and backward like a game.

Maybe it won’t be the worst thing, to revert to 19 year old LB for a few nights. Though memories from that time feel more unpleasant than pleasant, I know so many of my decisions were driven by a reckless abandon that I still have and that I still enjoy. Maybe at the time it was driven to find something that I thought I needed, constantly tapping into an emerging free spirit by searching for happiness, for validation, for everything in all the wrong places. It’s a different story now though, less manic pixie dream girl, more actions and expected or anticipated consequences, holding back at the last minute sometimes or thinking about things a split second too long for the jump into the unknown to be fun. I can’t revert back to 19 again for a number of reasons, and for even more reasons I wouldn’t want to. But maybe for a few days it’ll be fun to revert back to the good parts of 19, that Say Yes spirit and the voice that screams GO, a chance to show 19 year old LB there’s a way to do things like short hair, tattoos and a slow-burning love for change and the unknown, without losing yourself somewhere along the way.

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.

Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat

New Yorkers are an ambitious people. We push each other to do better all the time, because whether we’re talking about personal, professional, or secret lives, there is always someone ready to take your place at the first sign of weakness or a shaky resolve. This is true during the morning commute, when a coveted seat opens at a crowded spot; on the weekends, where you can’t waver on whether to talk to the hot boy or buy the pretty girl a drink because someone will beat you to it; and throughout the week, where we work like maniacs for however many hours per week, pushing ourselves to be the best. I think this constant rat race is what exhausts the people that claim they could “never live in NYC,” and I can totally understand that sentiment, but for the rest of us, there’s a pride and a hunger that comes with pushing yourself to work harder, be smarter, do more. The city is our Tiger Mom, making sure you know that you’re not a special snowflake unless, or until, you create a snowstorm for yourself.

Something we say in my line of work is that this industry isn’t a 9-5. I mean yes, I work Monday through Friday and during the day, but my industry is one that runs on adrenaline and caffeine, constantly changing with the sunrise and a piece of news; one day you could roll into the office at 930 and roll out by 6, and other days you’re working 14 hours straight, chugging lattes until the words on the computer start to blur. I don’t mind the occasional late nights, really. There are perks to working late sometimes. Your company might pay for you to take a car home, or pay for dinner. Sometimes it’s a great time for bonding with coworkers, and if you’re really lucky the company will have a bottle of wine open in the kitchen to pass those last few minutes. My company has all of these things and more, and yet it’s tough to be sitting here, 9 p.m. on a Tuesday as I’m starting this draft, with no end of crazy in sight.

I feel badly complaining about a crazy work schedule. For starters, I’m so grateful to have a job, especially one that I really like, and I relish the chance to work on things that actually stimulate me and make me excited to learn more. I’m so fortunate that my office is directly across the street from Chelsea Market, that I get a stunning view of the sunset over the frozen Hudson, and that at the end of the day, if working late on a winter weeknight is the worst part of my week, then I’ve got a pretty damn good life. Plus, I think about friends with crazier schedules, like my ex, who routinely worked past midnight, and once stayed in the office for 36 hours straight the day before we left on our first vacation together (spoiler alert: he slept pretty much the whole time. We agreed I wouldn’t complain about his sleeping provided he did not comment on my 10:30 a.m. pina coladas). So in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really have a right to complain about being here, once again, this late; I can’t complain about my three weeks of nights past 7:30 when I know people that work these types of hours all the time.

But I am so tired. I’m so tired. I don’t have the time to do things that make me happy, and it’s starting to affect me: I’m barely managing an hour of yoga per day, I clearly have no time to blog, and frankly, I don’t have any time to unwind after work, because I get home with just enough time to cobble together a quick dinner (which at this point is usually just eggs or an apple) before it’s bedtime, and then I’m back to the same routine: early morning, late night. I miss having that extra hour at home to myself each night, one I can fill with whatever I want, whether it’s watching Netflix, doing more yoga, reading a magazine, or sitting on the couch with little miss, just hanging out and listening to The Heights. It’s small, this nightly debrief, but it’s something I look forward to, and losing that little extra time to myself has been a really tough adjustment.

Want to know the worst part of all this, though? I secretly love it. I love coming into the office and getting into work that’s challenging and still new. I know the soft swoosh of the white noise machines overhead that signal the end of a normal work day, bringing this still calm over the office, perfectly conducive for those last two hours of urgent things I’ve been trying to tackle all day. I like watching the sunset over the Hudson, frozen this week with the weather, and I love the way my head hits the pillow every night, the heavy thud of a tired LB followed by the deep sigh of a day well done. I’m starting to get that crazy-person mini-anxiety if I realize I haven’t checked my work phone before going to bed, and it’s part of my morning ritual now to read emails before I’m even out of pajamas. I feel accomplished, and successful, and look, the late nights to get there aren’t my favorite, but I’m proud of what I’ve done in such a short time, and I know I haven’t even really started to get going.

When I left the office after 9 last night, I had already worked 24 hours in just two days. That’s an entire day out of my life that was spent at my desk, in front of my computer. And in that time, I probably checked six things off my to-do list and added twelve. Yesterday was supposed to be my slow day, leading into a busy end of the week, and tonight promises to be a doozy. And sure, it sucks to think that I’ll be home too late again to enjoy that little ritual, those few moments to myself before jumping back into the grid, but on that same note, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to feel accomplished at the end of a long day, and a long week, and at this point, a long month. Will it feel awesome forever? Maybe not. But I don’t think it will be like this forever, the scrambling late nights and blurring words on a tired laptop. And even if it is, so be it. After all, this is the rat race of New York City. We’re all mad here.