Round 2, Day 9

For anyone who is a recent reader of the Chronicle, you may not know that back in April, I completed my first Whole30 (read about it here, I’m not going into it). It was challenging and wonderful all at the same time, but at the end of the 30 days, as I went to bed, dreaming about the nice bottle of wine waiting for me when I got home from work the next day, I remember thinking that sure, I felt great and had energy and I’d even lost a few pounds – but I didn’t think I’d ever want to do another. In fact, I think those were my exact words, when I went into the office the next day and my coworkers all stopped by my desk to ask me what my final thoughts were: “Honestly, I feel amazing, but I don’t think I’d ever do it again.”

So why is the title of this post Round 2, Day 9?

I could list a million reasons why I wanted to do another Whole30 after saying very insistently that I never would – I miss the mental focus! I like having solid nights of sleep and a steady mood! I love how much I can eat without the mental restrictions I’d imposed for years as an anorexic! – but I don’t actually care to justify my reasons for doing another round. Truth be told, I’ve been met with a lot of side-eye over this, from friends and family alike, and it all comes back to one thing: “but can’t you just do a Whole30 and still drink?”

To be clear: wine is my favorite food group. If anyone ever told me to stop drinking wine forever, unless it was imperative to my staying alive, I would laugh in their face as I popped another cork. I love the social aspect of going out with friends for a quick drink, and there is no better feeling after a long week at work than changing into sweats on a Friday night and pouring a big glass of wine. But it started to become abundantly clear to me just after finishing my last Whole30 that excessive drinking and I don’t really get along all that well. In all the other changes I’ve made in the past two years, I’ve neglected to learn my limits with alcohol in public settings. Since just May 1 of this year, that’s led to such lovely half-memories as: falling asleep in the middle of M and N’s engagement party that I technically hosted, losing my wallet in a cab, losing my phone in an Uber after an embarrassing display at R and H’s rehearsal dinner, and most recently, loudly fighting with an Irishman outside of the bar at H’s birthday (though to be fair, that last one ended pretty alright for me).

And also since May 1 of this year, I’ve: watched two wonderful friends get married, turned 27, made a decision for next year that will change my entire life, watched my twin sister marry her soul mate, said goodbye to a beautiful creature that helped me through some of my darkest days, and permanently altered my right forearm. In the two months to come, my best friends say forever under the Spanish moss in Savannah and I tick off a second year on my own, before we go into 2016, the year of yoga training and saying YES to moving on. There is so much love coming our way in the next few months and years, and the last thing I want to remember when I look back at the end of 2015 is how I did something else fucking stupid and ended the night in a blackout shame spiral, not learning from the past, yet again.

Whole30 means something different to every person, and it means something different to people at each round. I went into this round not so concerned with the food aspect, but hoping to reset my mind in the excessive drinking part of things. I want to take 30 days off from numbing emotions I need to feel about all of these insane changes in the past few months, and feel them. I want to remember that girl at 22, 23, 24 with crazy anxiety that drank first to loosen up and then because she didn’t know how to stop; and I want to remember how much I’ve grown from that girl, so the next time I go out with my friends I’m not a complete disaster, something that’s felt too familiar since finishing Whole30 the first time. Maybe the biggest surprise I’ve noticed in just this past nine days is that I don’t really miss drinking the way I thought I would, even a little bit. I don’t miss the social aspect because I’ve been out twice now in the past week where I’m drinking seltzer and no one blinks an eye; when we got the sad news last week, my instinct was not to reach for a liquid escape, preferring instead to cry and look at old photos, reliving memories rather than suppressing them. This round has felt like the very small introduction step to a new life that I’m chasing going into 2016, and while I know that myriad challenges lie ahead, I also know I’m ready, willing and able to take them on.

But I tell you this: come Day 31 on November 25, the VERY first thing I’m doing when I leave the office is buying myself a nice bottle of wine and enjoying as much of it, or all of it, as I damn well please.

Chasing Hummingbirds

A memory came to me recently while finishing up a few tasks at the office one late night. It was a day over the summer at my last job, when one of my bosses took me out for lunch at this adorable cupcake and wine bar on Carmine. Over veggie burgers and iced tea, we caught up on our lives, personal, professional, everything. This was just before everything around me in the fall started imploding, so I remember giving her a smile and saying that I was fine; internally I was running through everything happening in that confusing time, residual anger at The Child, ongoing struggles to keep up at work, and the then-impending one-year anniversary of single LB. I remember my boss nodding as I gave her the typical “I’m going to step it up” speech, and she let me ramble on about goals and such until gently interrupting me to say two things: first, she believed in me and knew that I could do it; and second, she had a question for me: “Are you happy here?

“Are you happy?” is such an interesting and loaded question. In the context above with a boss involved, there is no other answer but “of course!,” whether that’s actually true or not, but in typical context, that’s a question I hear more from Mama B, or my lovely friend M, where I can tell them “maybe” or “I’m not sure.” On the one hand, happiness is the easiest thing in the world. It’s as simple as a smile from the Starbucks barista who is rapidly becoming your best morning friend, or snuggles from a pitbull and a pug before leaving for work in the morning. It’s the steady calm from regular yoga and looking at this life I’ve created for myself, a job I finally love, an apartment that’s all mine, and the understanding of Self that comes with being single for a long time. But on that same token, happiness is fleeting, it’s fickle and scary and it’s hard to hold on to; chasing happiness is like chasing hummingbirds, you see it for a moment and in the three seconds it takes you to run with an outstretched hand, it’s moved on. Asking someone “Are you happy?” is almost a dangerous question, because the answer depends on what’s happened in the past five weeks, four days, three hours, two minutes or even a second before.

I was riding such a high for most of 2015, reaching these yoga goals, recharging my professional life and making the decision to stay away from dating this year in favor of personal improvement. And truly, I think I’m still up there, but my entire routine has been disrupted in three short weeks, and I still haven’t found a time to settle in. This all culminated last week on Friday, leaving the office just before 10, where the rest of my night involved packing to be away from home for 9 days, first staying at D&D’s place to watch their pups while they’re in El Salvador (casual) for the week, and then leaving from there on Saturday for the annual Boston weekend with Mama B and Twinster. It hit me last Saturday night, just before leaving for my fashionista C’s golden birthday celebration, how tired I am and how things aren’t slowing down. Rather than taking this information like an adult, however, I proceeded to drink too much too quickly at the bar, forsaking all memories after about 11pm to the evil clutches of whiskey, and waking up on Sunday with a pounding headache and two dogs looking for breakfast by licking my face. I spent most of the day on the couch feeling terrible: how am I 26 years old and still blacking out like I’m back in college? Have I learned nothing? Why am I doing this to myself? Am I happy?

Last night I was leaving the office on the earlier side from what’s become the norm in the past few weeks, rushing to the Upper East Side in a sleet-storm, pushing through the 6 train crowds like a crazy person. A boss that I’ve worked with before was leaving at the same time, so we walked the short distance to the subway together and took a few minutes to catch up. He’s newer than I am at the new company, so we traded stories from our first few weeks and laughed together at how it’s been so crazy so quickly. We reached the subway, and just before parting ways, he asked me how I was doing with everything. “I know it’s been crazy,” he said, shaking sleet from his coat, “but be honest, LB: are you happy?”

In the two seconds before I answered him, my mind raced to 60 hour weeks, late nights every night, how I haven’t been able to update the blog nearly as often as I’d like and how I’m already so tired and it’s only Wednesday. I thought of so many changes, new responsibilities, new commute, disrupted schedules and everything else from the past month. It’s been crazy, for sure, but I smiled after those two seconds, looked him right in the eye and simply said “Absolutely.”

Breathe.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was frantically packing up my desk, trying to rush off to a client meeting across town while simultaneously navigating a document that came in last-minute that morning, I got a text from my partner-in-crime R. At this point in the day, I was exhausted, stressed, nervous about this meeting, trying desperately to remember what I’d probably forgotten, and pretty hungry, despite snacking on more than one of the “emergency” Almond Joys my work friend keeps at her desk since about 10 a.m. The final content of the text is irrelevant, a silly conversation between friends, but the way she started the message made me smile. After a crazy morning, I checked my phone to read “I’m texting you this because anyone else might judge me.”

I will never pretend that I’m not a judgmental person, to the same extent we all are. I do like to think of myself as more tolerant to quirks though, given that I inundate people with my own. Examples: I have a tendency to speak very quickly and interrupt others, I lose my own train of thought way too easily and as Kristen Bell once put so eloquently, if I’m not “between a three and a seven on the emotional scale,” I’m crying. And let’s not overlook that I post questionable life decisions on a public forum, so I’m obviously fine with a certain level of scrutiny and judgment. I like to think that the level of judgement I exude in situations where say, someone pushes past me on a crowded subway, despite both of us getting off at the next stop, will come back to me, like when I order a bacon cheeseburger with a Diet Coke for Sunday brunch. But lately it’s felt like things are off-balance, teetering too far in one direction instead of a happy medium, professionally speaking more than anything.

Something isn’t clicking with me the way it’s supposed to at work these days; things are making sense and then all of a sudden something is apocalypse-level urgent and very wrong. I internalize a lot of professional issues, trying to be the team member with the positive attitude and the one who can handle anything, but that’s just not been me lately. I’m struggling with things that should come easily by now, making mistakes I shouldn’t be making, and my confidence is wobbly at best, completely fucking shot at worst. I feel like everything I do is wrong, just wrong, and at times on one side and then on the other, there are words thrown around like missed arrows, enough to brush past your cheek and leave a mark, but not enough to pierce the skin. I’m letting the bad parts of work affect the other parts of my day, not doing yoga in the mornings, saying “fuck it” to buying coffee instead of making some at home, inhaling a pumpkin muffin despite having already eaten a full breakfast. I’m focusing on what other people are thinking about me and my work, rather than focusing on my job, working to please a judgment rather than rising above it and delivering great work.

It’s in these moments I feel like I’m drowning, unable to surface for a welcome break, a breath of fresh air while sitting stubbornly in the stale confines of my own head. I forget to breathe at times, holding in all of the frustration, the feelings of failure, the despondent haze that’s too comfortable in my life these days; I find myself literally holding my breath when things are really bad, like I’m afraid one quick exhale will put all of this frustration, the feelings of failure, the despondence, out there for everyone else. I can feel the judgement scales tipping in one direction and then another, teetering at one extreme until flipping to the opposite, and my reaction is to hold as much in as possible, afraid to sway things yet again.

Reading that silly intro from R yesterday put a smile back on my face, and I took a deep breath, calming down for just a minute as we traded some TMI. I put my judgments about my situation aside, stepped back from the imagined (or not) judgment from people around me and tried to get back to the grounded place I know is in me somewhere. A deep breath in, a deep breath out, yoga in real life, repeating again and again that I can and will get through this and come out better. I’m frustrated with myself, for certain, and angry that I’ve let things go so far down this rabbit hole. I just need to remember to breathe in times like this, to pull confidence from somewhere deep within and breathe through it all.

A love letter to heels.

OMIGOD. Shoes.

OMIGOD. Shoes.

“Oh you’re in flats today! Are you sick?”

There’s a running joke in my office that something is wrong if I’m not in heels. My collection of shoes topping 5 inches is almost alarming, as is the comfort with which I can walk around in them. Bragging? Yup. It’s taken me four years not only to be comfortable wearing shoes that have a tendency to squish your toes into numb blobs while simultaneously restricting blood flow to your arch like a straitjacket, but to be comfortable with myself while wearing them. At 5’7″, I’m not a short person necessarily, but strap on a slingback and suddenly I feel like an Amazon, towering over everyone around me as they look up in wonder at this strange creature rumbling the halls.

Heels were a NOPE in college, where I regularly went out in sweatpants, and in my first few months in the city, I couldn’t imagine teetering around the rocky sidewalks in pumps. Even going out, my ex and I were about the same height and I was horribly self-conscious about being taller than him. To his enormous credit, he really didn’t care (and actually in some instances, preferred the heels), but I would become so self-aware that I’d end up in a bad mood, try to “drink the foot pain away” (PLD alert) and then pick a fight with him over something stupid – all because I couldn’t just relax over something as arbitrary as height.

My most important files.

My most important files.

A few months in to city life, I started packing heels with me to wear around the office only, testing the waters of heels without fully committing. A few impulse buys that had been buried in my closet for years started to make their way into the open, and lo and behold, I found myself inadvertently feeling more and more confident. I started wearing heels daily, amassing an impressive collection in what was supposed to be my file cabinet and rotating new shoes daily. As I began moving up professionally, the heels became somewhat like a confidence coach, forcing me to stand up straighter, look people in the eyes and generally assert myself as a tall-ass force to be reckoned with. My feet adjusted to the now constant, dull ache that accompanies essentially standing on tip-toes all day, and I started wearing them outside the office, whether running errands in Bucco booties or dancing on the bar in some killer purple wedges.

One of the first nights I really went out with my girlfriends since entering single life a few months back, I slapped on a pair of my tippy-tall boots, despite knowing I’d be drinking, dancing and likely falling within a few hours of that decision. And yet clomping around the city, even as the bars started to blur, felt great. I felt confident, tall, in-charge and hell yes, I felt sexy. Inevitably we heard Beyonce at one point that night, and I couldn’t help myself for grabbing my girlfriends into screeching along,”BOW DOWN BITCHES,” dancing like everyone was watching. I’ll always hold that moment in those tippy-tall boots, lost in ourselves and the moment of feeling alive.

As I look towards an exciting future, starting a new job and finishing the adjustment to the single life, there’s a lot of uncertainties running on repeat in my mind – will I do well in this new position? Am I really about to start dating? What other changes are in store for me? If nothing else, I know I can hold on to the absolute certainty that wherever this future takes me, I’ll be following that path standing straight in my stilettos, walking confident and very, very tall.