Slide forward, jump back

I’ve come to learn I shouldn’t be left to my own devices in other people’s apartments. I don’t mean that I steal things, or that I look for embarrassing things under the beds and in the medicine cabinets. Those things don’t really interest me (though a certain Chanel purse had me rethinking the “don’t steal” thing), and between the Nickname Posse I would be SHOCKED if we had any secrets that would lurk under the bed or in the medicine cabinet; or at least any secrets that we don’t all already know/text/talk about in detail. But when left alone this weekend in my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H’s apartment to watch their pup while they went off somewhere beautiful and relaxing, I did *perhaps* go a little wild… on the wealth of non-Whole30 approved food in their cabinets and fridge.

Actually, even before arriving to their place down in the Financial District, the end of last week turned into a mini free-for-all for my diet, starting with indulging in free pizza for lunch at the office and ending with me ordering from my favorite Dominican restaurant in the Heights for dinner; I told myself it was because I had barely any groceries in the apartment to make a decent meal, but in reality I’d had a glass or two of wine and tipsy me figured “well, I already ate grains and dairy today so SCREW IT!” After settling in with the pup early Saturday afternoon, I went looking for a cup for water (because despite having watched the dog multiple times and having spent countless days and nights in this apartment, I still forget where everything is), and happened first upon a cabinet that contained, among other things, a jar of Nutella and something called “Cookie Chips.” I’d brought some leftover groceries with me and could have stuck closer to my normal diet if I wanted, but for Friday and Saturday I’d decided not to, which led to an interesting revelation on Sunday.

Sunday morning I woke up with what can only be described as a food hangover. My head hurt from all the sugar from a Nutella binge and an impulsive cupcake purchase, my skin was starting to break out from the dairy, and I was experiencing some gnarly stomach cramps due to I’m not even sure what. I wandered out of the guest room (aka my bedroom) in search of an essential oil or antacid or something to help, and found myself in R/H’s bathroom staring at a scale. Now, given my sordid history with anorexia, I do not own a scale and never will – but more often than not, I will still weigh myself if I see one. I know the number doesn’t matter. I know that. But Sunday morning after a delicious night of treats from R and H’s cabinets, their scale said that I was up 10 pounds from the end of Whole30, and seeing that number put me in a mental tailspin. Truly, I haven’t indulged in the Eating Disorder part of my brain in probably a year, but for whatever reason, this time, I did.

Life after an eating disorder is an endless struggle to think a certain way, constantly fighting to remember no, you’re not fat, and food is not scary. Before Whole30 I was really good at disassociating which voice was the eating disorder and which voice was rational thought, because okay, maybe I didn’t need to eat six KitKats from the work candy drawer that day but I won’t feel bad that I indulged in chocolate. During Whole30 I was really conscious about which voice could have been the eating disorder versus which was my body adapting to new meal patterns and eating schedules and the lack of sugar. It’s post-Whole30 where things have blurred; there’s this pull now to stay as close to that diet as possible because it makes a tangible difference in everything from my sleep, to my anxiety, to my work and to yoga, but once I’ve had something non-compliant for the day it turns into an awful cycle of “MIGHT AS WELL EAT EVERYTHING” followed by crippling anxiety about whether that will be the meal that finally makes me fat. Sunday night I sat on the couch for a while staring at a photo I’d put on Instagram earlier, a post-Bikram yoga sweaty shot where I’m in a sports bra, mentally bouncing between Rational Thought and Eating Disorder, and as I felt the panic start to rise, I immediately shut down Instagram and texted my soul sister E, the only person who could calm me down when anorexia rears its ugly head.

“It never really goes away, does it” I told E after we’d talked me down from my Nutella-induced food panic. “No,” she agreed. We talked a little more about how annoying it can be dealing with life post-ED, how one day I’m totally fine letting myself enjoy that third slice of pizza or a KitKat from the candy drawer, and then a week later I’m fighting back tears over a number on a scale. I hadn’t had a food-driven breakdown like this in months, maybe even over a year, and I’m lucky that E was available to help me step back and realize that everything is fine. I’m actually kind of grateful that I went a little crazy on R/H’s cabinets (*with full intentions to replace the Nutella I PROMISE), because I think I was starting to give in to the old rigid food rules that precede a relapse, hiding the anxieties connected to “bad foods” behind Whole30, instead of realizing what was happening and nipping it in the bud.

I’m not going to change my diet or lifestyle following this revelation – I still feel immensely better physically when I’m not eating things like grains and dairy, and frankly I prefer salads and smoothies to pretty much all foods – but this week my goal is to indulge in something every day, and to let myself enjoy it. Maybe it’s more Nutella on a spoon, a soy latte, or a warm croissant from the bakery in Chelsea Market; maybe it’s just an extra piece of fruit in the afternoon and a bigger portion for lunch. If I’ve learned anything else from yoga, aside from how to really shut down the anorexia part of my brain in such a way that dealing with this felt foreign, it’s that everything in life takes constant practice. Growth, after all, only comes after you slide back, fall down hard and still pick yourself up, always working so hard to move forward.

Snip Snip

On Friday night I was sitting in Connecticut, glass of wine in one hand and a piece of chocolate in the other, savoring the little joy of vices while watching silly television with my parents. My mother was excitedly staring at me, trying not to push too hard, but I’d casually mentioned an idea I’d had that week to her, and she was bouncing with anticipation, hoping I’d follow through on the semi-impulsive thought. It was a quiet, simple night, much like many of my nights in the past five weeks, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I felt compelled to do something to mix everything up; I needed a story, something I could tell people before they stopped asking me what I did all weekend, since my response has been the same for so long. And don’t get me wrong: I love a little boring in my life, especially when New York City loves to throw day in, day out wildness at you like confetti, but things finally reached the point where I felt suffocated by the same old, same old, and it was time to do something big.

I have a feeling that the writer’s block for the past month is less because I didn’t want to write, or I was getting bored with blogging, but because I’ve just been boring. My life is a round robin of work, yoga, eat, sleep, repeat. I work all the time, then go home and have just enough time to practice a little and make dinner before collapsing into bed for seven blissful hours before it all starts over again. Weekends have been back and forth to Connecticut, trying to help my family as much as possible as we navigate the unfamiliar waters of the matriarch in pain, and obviously Whole30 in April meant I wasn’t drinking or going out to my old haunts that inspired many a post in the past. And none of that is going anywhere. Work is getting busier (is that possible?), I’m really ramping up yoga after the “NO MORE WHOLE30” wine bender of the past week, But there’s this shift that I can feel in the air; it’s the shift into summer, led by the strong breeze through the blooming trees, trailing pollen through the air in a thick, yellow haze. Summertime means sleeveless shirts and sunglasses till 8pm, it means sunshine and vitamin D, a cool drink sweating down your hand, your arm, it means weekends dedicated to celebrating the new beginnings that come with the season.

For me, it’s a shift away from the hibernation mode of the past few months into what’s shaping up to be the busiest summer I’ve ever had. There are rooftop parties last-minute on the weekend, hoping to find the balance between tanning and burning on my fair Irish skin, and outdoor concerts and movies begging for a picnic blanket and a cool bottle of rose. There’s my college reunion in a few short weeks, a chance to see people I haven’t in five years and one of the final chances I’ll have to act like I’m 19 again, before a summer of events and activities that remind me I’m an adult, like the bridal shower for my sister and my partner-in-crime’s wedding. The next few months are the lead up to my 27th birthday, the point in life where I’m officially in my late twenties and the first time I feel like I might actually have a few pieces of my life figured out. It’s not a lot of pieces or even a big chunk, seeing as I still ate chocolate for dinner last night and told myself the third margarita in the afternoon wouldn’t make a difference (as it turns out my limit is probably two). But it’s the first time that I’ve budgeted appropriately, having had summer plans since last fall, and it’s the first time I feel settled into all areas of my life: my apartment, my job, my routine and the constant awareness that things can change as quickly as I’ve settled into them.

Encouraged by Mama B’s giddy encouragement and the fact that I refuse to let myself be bored any longer, I walked into my hair salon on Saturday morning and laughed out loud as my stylist, a friend for over ten years, chopped off ten inches of my hair, my first real haircut since 2008. It has been a time of changes for me for so long, new people and new beginnings, new colors everywhere from my apartment to my hair to the many tattoos I’ve acquired in the past 12 months. And I wasn’t nervous when she put the scissors to my hair, didn’t close my eyes or flinch as she dangled the severed ponytail in front of me when the deed was good and done. I cant stop shaking my head back and forth now, the weightlessness of more than half my hair lifted from my shoulders; that hair had seen me through so many milestones and changes and new beginnings in the seven years I’d been growing it that now, as things feel as settled as they can be, it was time to let everything go. New seasons, new beginnings, new hair. Letting things get stale was what I needed for a little while, but now it’s time to cut the bullshit of a monotonous life and start pushing for the things that make me feel excited and alive.

To the rescue!

A few weeks back, a slightly panicked D, my brother’s wonderful girlfriend, called me to ask what I was doing the weekend of July 18. D&D were planning to join friends for a weekend in the Hamptons, leaving their two girls, a pug and a pit bull, alone for a few days. Fortunately for them, this past weekend was the only weekend in July that I was, in fact, available, so I readily accepted the chance to staycation in my old neighborhood and hang out with the dogs. Their pug is a funny little pooch with a big personality, and we always joke that she’s more like a cat: disinterested in humans to an extent, unless you’re making dinner, while the pit bull is a rescue. They found her while on vacation in Puerto Rico, fell in love and speedily brought her up to the States to foster upon their return.

All dogs have their little quirks and oddities, whether a full breed, a mutt, a show dog or a rescue. Some of them chew furniture, some are terrified by the vacuum, some sleep upside down and some turn circles when excited. That said, the quirks for rescue dogs are generally more pronounced and require more attention. Rescue dogs have dealt with anything from abandonment to abuse, and all are affected in different ways. For example, my parent’s dog, a half-golden retriever, half-Rottweiler rescue, has a “saving people” complex when it comes to our pool, constantly jumping in after us (read: on top of us), running around the edge of the pool barking in the meantime. D&D’s pitty is deaf, and as I learned this weekend, if she’s ready to be done with her walk, she just lays down where she is. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the bike lane in Central Park, two buildings away from her own or even in the middle of an intersection – if she is tired, she lays down. These little quirks can be funny, but also frustrating, when you’re just trying to go for a swim, or you’re also tired and just want the dog to stand for the 3 steps back home.

Fun story: she stayed like that for 20 minutes.

Fun story: she stayed like that for 20 minutes.

And then again, while all dogs love you unconditionally and in their own way, I think there’s a deeper level of understanding and love in rescue dogs and their humans. This isn’t to say I didn’t have a total blast with their pug – she is such a funny little munchkin, hamming it up at the dog park, nestling right between my legs every night and snoring loudly till morning. But sitting on D&D’s couch this weekend, with the pitty snuggled next to me, head in my lap, so content, I could almost feel her gratitude radiating, like she knew she’d been rescued by someone and wanted to make sure she earned your love. She may have separation anxiety and sit outside the shower door while you’re there, she may take a liking to your running shoes and try to chew one while waiting for a walk, but when she gives a big smile and flops next to you on the couch after a long walk, it’s almost as though she knows she could be somewhere worse right now, and she has you (well, your brother and his girlfriend) to thank for that.

I faced a fair bit of dog-discrimination this weekend walking around the Upper East Side with a pit bull  – one man’s fluffy little rat dog charged at her and he chastised me for “not paying attention” (bro, don’t blame your dog’s attitude on my dog’s breed), and a few times I noticed people crossed the street or picked up smaller dogs to avoid passing her on their walks. But more often people cooed over her, completely enamored with her eyes, one green, one blue, and the way she just loves everyone, so excited to receive any type of attention. The pug was such a good big sister, leading the pit bull around the neighborhood and making friends for both of them, most people so taken and amused by the site of the two of them together. It’s a lot of work taking care of two dogs, especially when one hates her new Gentle Lead leash and snorts at you when you try to put it on, and the other can’t hear you say “NO!” when she tries to run into a busy street. For those grateful snuggles at the end of the night though, I’ll take wonky rescue quirks any day of the week.