Ten Pounds

Something interesting I’ve learned on this little break from real life is that in 2016 I’ve gained 10 pounds. That’s not terribly interesting, I know, but when you’ve spent most of your adolescent and adult life freaking out about your weight, then finally making it to a point where you’re comfortable, seeing a number creep up like that puts you in an interesting mindset.

Funemployment this week has been more needed than I realized. It’s so rare to have time where I can completely power down and do nothing. I’m not worried about work emergencies or emails because I don’t have any; I’m not worried about making it somewhere on time because I don’t have a place to be. I had every intention last week of being so productive, blogging ahead of schedule, cleaning my apartment, doing all of the yoga, prepping for the classes I’m teaching in the next few months, but most of my free time I spent sitting. Relaxing. Meditating. Lots and lots of Netflix. I needed to power down completely from the past six years of steady working and just enjoy a few days to myself. I found out as a pleasant surprise last week that my time off between jobs has now been extended for another week, which means I’ll be more productive this week, since I can’t keep doing nothing. But the week of nothing was something I desperately, desperately needed to get the ten pounds of baggage off of my back that I’ve been carrying around for so long.

When you have nothing but time on your hands, you have nothing to stop a wave of thoughts, memories, emotions, everything that’s easy to suppress when there are emails to send and meetings to attend and other responsibilities to cater to, from surfacing. Think back to a time where an embarrassing memory from years ago popped into your head out of nowhere and you find yourself overwhelmed with the same shame as if it had happened again in that moment. I had a lot of moments like that this week, mostly because I had nothing else to think about. I had moments where I berated myself for not doing “more,” and I had lots of “holy shit what am I doing” moments about the job and about my life in general. I also had a lot of time to reflect on 2016, now that it’s halfway over, and my word it’s crazy how much has happened and how many things have changed. I wanted to dwell on all of those for a while but then I went back to Connecticut for a few days and learned that I put on ten pounds and for a little while that’s all I could think about.

At first those ten pounds were really negative. It’s weight on me I don’t want or need, it’s a reminder that I haven’t been as active in my  yoga practice as I should be and physical proof I’ve been neglecting the healthy foods that I love. It’s a reminder that my birthday is coming up soon and I’m getting older, and the days of endless beers and chicken wings may already be behind me. Ten pounds seems and feels and maybe even looks like a lot, especially when you’re someone who puts a lot of stock into some silly numbers on a crude metal square.

And then I started thinking about where those ten pounds came from. Those ten pounds are muscles in my arms that allow me to hold myself upside down with a semblance of ease. They’re trips to Austin to eat too many tacos with G, and they’re beers after a long Memorial Day hike with T and our persons. The ten pounds are handfuls of chocolate to survive a meeting with some of the best coworkers and enjoying the last few free lunches with them even if the food isn’t “Whole30 approved.” The ten pounds are new memories making their way into me as I let old ones that dragged me down go, replacing the illusion of a “perfect” body with real memories, like laughing with new friends that are some of the best people I’ve ever met. And those ten pounds are maybe skipping a yoga class or a healthy meal for date nights with someone who’s changed my whole life since he’s been in it.

So next week I’m starting a new job ten pounds heavier. New responsibilities, people, emails, meetings to weigh me down even more, especially after this much-needed mental vacation. Reflecting back though, I can take a little extra weight on me now and again. I may be ten pounds heavier, but for all the good, bad and in-between changes in 2016, ten pounds is a small price to pay.

Panic Cord

There’s this thing that happens to me sometimes that I’ve long since learned I can’t control. It’s something I can ignore usually, or at least after a few years of recognizing it I’ve learned to ignore it, but when things in different areas of my life start imploding all at the same time, I find myself wrestling with this burning desire to do something destructive. The definition of “destructive” has changed over the years, but I can recognize that feeling coming from a mile away. It’s like an old addiction to self-destruction that yoga and clean eating and new attitudes and a new life can’t hide forever; the moment I can feel things start to slip, slip from my control, there’s a sort of cloud that covers my vision in this hazy need to do something impulsive, and big, and maybe a little dangerous to boot.

One of the earliest memories I have of the first time this happened is standing in the bathroom outside my bedroom at around 15 years old. I was angry with my mother yet again because she “couldn’t understand” why I so badly wanted the top of my ear pierced. We’d had the arguments many times, and she never gave me a reason more than “because I said so” as to why she wouldn’t allow me to have that put in my ear. Hormonal and filled with angst, I had this overwhelming impulse to do something, everything, anything. I went into one of the bathroom drawers and grabbed an earring, the one that had been used to pierce my ears a few years back, marked a spot on my left ear with a pen, took a deep breath and stuck it through. As I exhaled, I thought three things in quick succession: That didn’t hurt as much as I thought it might! Mama B is gonna be so fucking pissed off at me. Huh, I actually feel way better.

This draw to impulsive sorts of self-destruction has led to a lot of interesting decisions over the years, from bad third dates to at least one of my tattoos. I’ve had piercings all up and down my ears and face and abdomen, and many years ago this impulse may have led to an interesting afternoon in the office following a sangria-fueled lunch on a weekday with my lovely friend M. When things in my life start to feel like they’re slipping, not quite out of my control yet but on the way, I use that helpless feeling as an excuse to do something impulsive or crazy without thinking, as though I feel like things are already bad so let’s just keep rolling with it and see where we land. It’s not always a bad thing – following that impulse has led to some awesome nights (/mornings…) out and of course, at least one of my tattoos – but as I’ve gotten older, catering to such an impulse is starting to get exhausting.

That particular feeling started to bubble up yesterday while I sat in the office and watched the clock move slowly, knowing it was the first of yet another series of very late nights. It’s like all of the lucky, wonderful, something-big-is-happening feelings I’ve had in the past month finally came crashing back down, with so many things out of my control and so many things about to happen. And by early evening, I found myself contemplating a few things: Where else could I get a piercing at almost-27 years old that isn’t weird? Maybe I’ll go get that tiny script tattoo that popped into my head yesterday when I leave the office tomorrow. I wonder if anyone is around for a Sunday Funday this weekend?  I had to halt at that last one (Sunday Funday is dangerous and may or may not lead to lost wallets), take a step back, and figure out what was really going on, because I knew if I didn’t, one of those things would happen and really none of those things are good ideas.

I sighed deeply from the conference room where I’d camped out for the day, and calmly rationalized that I already have one facial piercing and I’m waiting till after T’s wedding for my next tattoo. And while I can’t say for sure what’s going to happen this weekend (aside: N.Posse – I would be super down for a Sunday Funday #justsaying), I decided instead to forget a budget for a minute and ordered a yoga prop I’ve been eyeing for months. Maybe saying “fuck it” to budgeting and spending money on a workout toy isn’t the craziest thing I’ve done to find a little more control in the wild things in my life these days. I’m okay with that, though. It’s worth it to have these little self-teaching moments that make it very apparent when you’ve grown up, if only a little bit.

She Cray.

Yesterday one of my coworkers came into the office a few minutes late looking miserable. She has a pretty intense commute in every morning from New Jersey, so I assumed it was one of those mornings where traffic was crazy through the Lincoln Tunnel, or a stranger was rude to her on the subway on the way in. She sat at her desk across from me, and within a few minutes I heard a ping as she sent me a chat through our in-office AIM of sorts. “I’m dying,” it said. “Do you have any oils for nausea?”

My coworkers think I’m crazy. That’s neither a bad thing on either their part or mine, nor is it an exaggeration – but in the four months that I’ve been working here, they’ve come to know me as a yoga fanatic who does things like Whole30 and carries around a bag of essential oils that I claim can help with just about anything. At my last job, the dynamic between myself and my team members didn’t lend well to this part of my personality, and in an effort to fit in during my short stint there, I tried to hide the things that I was most proud of, like the yoga Instagram account and even the blog, and downplayed how I feel about healthy eating and natural living. It feels really raw sometimes, sharing those pieces of me with the people I work with, like it could be too personal or too much. I mean, the blog is frequently filled with mishaps related to excessive drinking. The Instagram account mostly features me in sports bras and healthy eating is important to me because I eat more food when I’m eating healthy, which is always something on my mind. I hesitated for a few days in adjusting to this job before slowly starting to tell more people about these pieces of me.

My life has undergone a radical shift in the past 18 months. The way I dress, the way I speak and act, the way I think and the way I treat myself and my body are so completely different now from who I was before 2014, and though there have been some major learning experiences and growing pains along the way, I can absolutely say with confidence I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Part of me wants to attribute this happiness to yoga-brain, to the foods I eat/don’t eat, maybe to the new job or to any other lifestyle changes I’ve made; but the more I think about it, I think it’s because I’m not trying so hard to hide the things in my life that make me happy. I spent a lot of my early 20s trying to make other people happy, between my job, my friends, my relationship at the time, but I never really had something for myself that made me happy. I didn’t really work out, I didn’t have any specific hobbies or ways to occupy my time. I was learning to navigate New York, and learning to navigate real life and relationships and money and oh god my head is spinning just remembering how hard it was to adjust to everything. I didn’t have time for a hobby or a passion until my entire life blew up in November 2013 and I was forced to focus on myself for the first time, maybe ever.

Having a passion in life is a scary and wonderful thing. I don’t mean having passion for things in life, like how I feel about Taylor Swift (QUEEN) or the serious importance of red wine after a long week at work. I mean A Passion, something that pushes you and makes you work harder, constantly working to excel, always understanding there is room for growth. It’s the thing that hones your ability to focus, that fuels your drive in all areas of life to do more and to do better; it doesn’t matter if it’s fashion or volunteer work or running or food, it could be all of those or none of those, but it’s just something that gives you that push. Yoga and healthy living has been that for me. Yoga gave my life a new direction and made it easy to set a plan for my life for the next few years; healthy living has given me focus and an appreciation for a body that I abused for too long. For a while I thought I had to hide these parts of me, keeping them sacred and close to home. Getting messages like the one above from my nauseated coworker reinforce just how much happier I’ve been since removing the wall around those parts of me so everyone around me can enjoy the new me too.

I gave my coworker some peppermint to dab behind her ears and ginger to rub on her stomach; she laughed and said she felt weird rubbing oils all over herself. I laughed with her and went back to my desk, and within a few minutes she sent me another chat that just said “holy shit that stuff works.” Another coworker has been one of the most supportive and wonderful followers on my Instagram page, asking me constantly to do some yoga with her in the office when we’re stressed, and wanting to take classes with me so she can grow her practice as well. I know they all think I’m this crazy, curly-haired hippie chick stereotype with her natural remedies and yoga exercises for stress, and frankly I think I’m pretty crazy as well. But I’m also crazy happy on a deeper level than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Turns out in the end, embracing the crazy Passionate side of me that I suppressed for years is the sanest thing I’ve ever done.

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!!

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.

On Vinyasa, Backbends and My Eating Disorder

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There are a few things I’ve been debating whether to share here or not for a very long time. While I’ve never actually censored myself from sharing a story, there are certain stories, certain parts of my history, that deserve to be told correctly, and I haven’t figured out how to tell all of them quite yet. There’s a story in particular I’ve been working on, but for a long time, I couldn’t find the right words to say everything, couldn’t find the best way to put the story out there in such a way that made me feel comfortable. Up until last week, when my anchor G and I were texting and the above words were exchanged. I read that part of the conversation over and over later that night, smiling at the truth to the words, and immediately got to work, finally inspired to tell the story now and tell it right. Before we start, however, there are a few things you need to know:

  • I have an Instagram account dedicated to yoga. Yes, I am one of *those* people. No, I will not tell you what it is. (Edit, 8/27/15: just reread this. Eventually I caved – follow me at @lbdoesyoga)
  • But OKAY SO GUYS, since I practice at home a lot, I need to film myself to check my alignment and posture. And sometimes I manage a really badass pose or I look really cute in those videos so I need a place to screenshot and share with the world. Duh.
  • The reason I have the account is to ensure I’m accountable to my goal of yoga every damn day. I can be harsh with myself very easily after a stressful or frustrating day, and I don’t want to use that as an excuse to get off the mat.
  • My goal is to do at least a little yoga every day so it becomes even more a part of my routine than it already is, no matter what. I don’t ever want the words “I used to do yoga” to come out of my mouth. Yoga has completely transformed me, mind, body, everything, and it’s the only thing that finally helped me escape the clutches of my true longest relationship.
  • Contrary to what I’ve said here in the past, my longest relationship was with my eating disorder.

Objectively speaking, I have always been a slim person, from childhood and even now. For years, I never gave food a second thought, a typical happy child who was more concerned with climbing trees than counting calories. Until the year I turned 15, when I went from someone who never gave food a second thought, to someone whose first, second, third thoughts and beyond were all about food. I spent ten years of my life exhausted from thinking about food almost all the time. I thought about how much I was eating, how many calories were in it, what foods were safe to ingest and what foods I could never touch again. I can still tell you how many calories (plus/minus 25) are in nearly any food item, and I can calculate how many I’ve eaten that day in under a minute. I spent ten years of my life fighting, and fighting, and fighting the little voice in my head that told me I wasn’t enough, I would never be enough, and even as I tried to walk away from the noise for the first, tenth, hundredth time, it always found me and forced me to listen. Having an eating disorder is like having a dragon hibernate within you; he gets high on anxiety and fear and laughs when you try and fight him with a wooden sword, feebly fending off his snarling insistence that everything is your fault, and it’s your fault because you’re fat.

My eating disorder was the toxic best friend that I couldn’t get rid of, the one who was only around in moments of weakness to distract me from the real issues by picking on my insecurities. It was the only way I knew how to cope with problems for years; I couldn’t fix a fighting family, I couldn’t fix the stress of applying, and then adjusting, to college, and I couldn’t fix a broken relationship, but I could dare myself not to eat anything for two days and I could consider making it that long without food “a success.” At 25, I tried to break the cycle by making the gym part of my routine, but a crazy work schedule and the fact that the closest gym is a mile from my apartment meant I wasn’t getting there as often as I would have liked, and I was still turning against food in times of trouble. Starting yoga was supposed to be an interim step, a simple, “easy” thing I could do at home on the days that I couldn’t make it to the gym. After all, yoga was “just a lot of stretching,” right? Certainly not anything that would shape my body and calm my mind like lifting weights and running did.

For lack of a better word, this fall was an absolute mindfuck. Work, personal things, family things, it was like a wild spiral of waves, good, bad, manageable, unbearable. It was all stress and bad days, the kind of wild adventure that used to put me curled into myself like a child on my bed, face stuffed in a pillow, screaming until I forgot that I was hungry. It wasn’t until a few weeks after things started to calm down, while looking back on the circles and spirals, that I realized for the first time in 10 years, despite all of the craziness, I hadn’t stopped eating to cope with an issue. I had, however, gotten on the mat at least once per week, forced myself to focus on my breath in times of stress and remembered to appreciate my body for the strong, powerful and capable thing that it is. After all, I can’t get into a headstand or flow through Sun Salutations if I haven’t taken care of my body on the most basic of levels. Unconsciously telling myself I would eventually pull out of the hole helped me push myself to eat each meal every day, and somehow, slowly, I managed to keep the dragon at bay. I mean, even writing that now is such a surreal experience. For the first time in a DECADE, I had actually managed to shoot down all thoughts of “you don’t need that” in favor of staying healthy. And honestly? I wouldn’t wish the journey to that moment of mental clarity on my worst enemy, but realizing I hadn’t turned to my old friend ann-oh-recks-ee-yuh in the worst of times was a pretty fucking incredible feeling.IMG_0823

This is the photo in question in my conversation with G above. I could tell you how I’ve been working on backbends to deepen my entire practice, write for days about my journey to pincha mayurasana, but I’m going to leave the yoga-nerd jargon off for now. I will say that looking at this picture makes me feel a lot of things. I still think I look too skinny, and then I’m incredulous that those words are still coming out of my mouth. I also think I look strong, and flexible, moreso than I’ve ever been in my life. And I feel so accomplished, because if you told me back in April when I first rolled out the mat on my living room floor that I would be able to do this pose with a semblance of ease, that I’m just about down in a full split and that my journey to handstand is well underway, I never would have believed that I could have come this far.

Much as I wish that this journey is something I’d never had to experience, I don’t fault 15 year old LB for making the decisions that she did. Anorexia is my dragon, and it’s my toxic former best friend, but that part of my life, my longest relationship, is a part of me, as much as my blue eyes and the scar on my leg. There is 10 years of damage to my body and my mind that I’ll never be able to erase; there’s a history I’ve written by my own choices and I can’t rewrite the past. But to look back, to ten months ago or ten years ago, and see tangible, real progress in so many aspects of my life is a pretty wonderful, very proud, and dare I say enlightening experience.

AROO!

In the early part of 2014, I was about 2 months into a workout routine and starting to feel pretty good about myself. Despite a lack of a serious gym routine for the past year well,  two years FINE pretty much since I’d moved to the city, I was holding my own on the treadmill, slowly building endurance and kind of kicking ass on weight training, pushing myself harder and harder each day at the gym. While surfing Facebook after a particularly awesome workout, I saw my sister T had tagged myself and our brother in a post, announcing that the Spartan Race had finally scheduled a Connecticut event, and were we interested in doing it? Blame it on the gym endorphins or the fact that the date hadn’t even been scheduled so it seemed pretty far-fetched we’d actually go through with it, but I sent back a resounding HELL YES almost immediately, and thus LB does a Spartan Race begins.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Spartan Race is an OCR (obstacle course race), where obstacles, ranging from flipping a tire to trudging through waist-deep mud and jumping over a 6 foot wall, pepper a running course – in this case, about four-and-a-half miles. My partner-in-crime R had signed up with me back in March, because at the time it seemed like a great idea. Three months to train ourselves to run and jump and crawl through mostly dangerous obstacles? Totally do-able! I was great about keeping up with a solid workout routine until about mid-May, when work exploded and I had a lot of travel planned. I went from total humblebrag confidence that I’d be able to kick the course’s ass to absolutely terrified that the race was going to end me. The weeks leading up to the weekend are a blur of work and personal nonsense and all sorts of craziness that culminated with me exhausted, frustrated and disappointed with myself while traveling to CT with R and her pooch after a long day of work on Friday.

Early Saturday morning, T, R, twinster’s boyfriend and I piled into the car after quadruple checking we had our signed waivers and race bags packed and ready, and made the trek up to Mohegan Sun for our 12:30 p.m. heat. We arrived probably too early, giving ourselves about an hour and a half to register, hydrate, pee, re-hydrate, pee again (I may have overhydrated) and shake up the nervous adrenaline that coursed through our veins like a drug as the minutes inched closer to our race time. Finally it was 12:15, time to line up, and time to face the first of many obstacles to come: the 6-foot wall jump required just to get to the Start Line. If that was a preview of the whole race, I was already nervous.

After much “AROO-ing” and a pump-up speech that sounded cheesy when I heard it before but got me super hyped to run the fuck out of this race while at the start line, we heard “3… 2… 1… AROO!” and took off. In one hour and forty-five minutes, T, R and I stuck together and supported each other through every one of the obstacles, the mud run, lifting the concrete balls, scrambling under barbed wire and running, running in between. We spotted each other crossing the traverse wall, shouted encouragement after failing the spear throw (WHICH EVERYONE FAILS I’m just saying) to keep counting and keep going through 30 hellish burpees. I twisted my ankle on a tire jump at around mile 2 and they walked with me until I was ready to run again, T fell backwards a little harder than expected off the cargo net and we limped with her until she felt okay, and we all walked down the final hill so R’s knees, beat up from years of lacrosse, could take a break.

Covered in mud, exhausted in the best possible way and grinning from ear to ear, the three of us finally reached the last hurdle – jumping over a fire pit before crossing the finish line. We took off and took some great action shots as we triumphantly kicked over the smoke and grabbed our medals, hugging and laughing and shrieking that we survived. A few more celebratory photos from papa B, who documented the event for us, and we walked to the beer tent to claim our free Shock Tops, which will forever live in my mind as the greatest beer I’ve ever earned. The rest of the night was spent reliving moments, retelling stories of funny spectators to moments we pushed each other a little harder to do a little more, shooting past our comfort zone in to Spartan glory.

I woke up sore in places I didn’t know existed on Sunday with a swollen ankle to boot, an injury that turned out to be HILARIOUS walking around the city and up-and-down the stairs from the subway to my building. Even this morning while getting dressed, putting on a bra (which let’s be honest, is already the worst part of the day) was like torture, my shoulder screaming at me to stop moving and get back to bed. Hobbling around the office with my wrapped foot, people keep asking what happened and if I’d ever do the race again.

Would I willingly subject myself to running in mud, under barbed wire, over fire and through wooden walls, lift tires, run up and down an 80 degree hill with 25 pounds of sand, climb a cargo net with questionable safety restraints, throw a spear into a hay barrel, climb up a rope wall, do burpees until I can’t feel any part of my body and more, all for a medal and a free beer?

Absofuckinglutely. AROO!

Humblebragging.

This past October, I was moping around my lovely friend M’s apartment, complaining about money and facing another 24-hour plus stretch of not hearing from the boyfriend, when she semi-slapped me across the face and said “Cheer up bitch! Want to go to the gym?” Now, all things considered, I’m more of a chocolate-and-whiskey girl than a “sweat-out-your-problems” girl, but M was really excited and I could tag along for free, so I ran (“ran”) home to put on my highly unattractive gym clothes and give it a go. It took me all of three minutes on the treadmill that first day to realize two very important things: I was DEFINITELY out of shape, and I hadn’t felt that good in weeks.

Seems legit

Seems legit

I’ve never been able to get a gym routine to stick in the past. I’ll work out for a few months and then stop, finding this excuse or that as a get-out-of-gym free card: I work really long hours! I’m exhausted from running around in heels all day! I just don’t want to! I’m not an out-of-shape person necessarily, I just have zero intention of taking $100+/session classes (unless there’s a champagne bar in Cardio Barre, I’m uninterested) and for a long time, I couldn’t find the motivation to join, let alone actually go to, a gym. I spent three years of sometimes-running a few miles in the summer, relying on juice cleanses and a fast metabolism in the meantime to keep me “in shape” on the outside, but perhaps not so much on the inside.

As I stopped sharing my time and attention and started to focus on myself, the gym became a steady part of my ever-changing life, something that I could focus on when things got really difficult or overwhelming. I can’t change my circumstances, but I can push a littler harder, run a little faster, lift a little more. It’s an hour a few days a week where I can stare straight ahead and stop thinking about anything but the dull ache in my legs and keeping my breath steady for just another few minutes, just another few reps. It’s not the most convenient part of my routine, and there are so many days where all I want is to sit on my couch with a bag of Sun Chips and Netflix, and yes, sometimes I’ll give in. But I’m focused this time: I want the routine, sweating like crazy, lost in my headphones and myself, surrounded by strangers, all taking an hour for themselves.

I’ve already changed so much in just five months, both physically and mentally. Physically, I’ve never felt stronger or more capable. The unfortunate side effect of this is that I humblebrag constantly (to the point N has actually had to ask me to stop), dying to share this new confidence I’ve found with everyone around me. Mentally, I feel stronger, more alert, like I know what I’m capable of doing if I just take a few minutes to focus and breathe. My sister T, herself a seasoned runner, hiker, skiier and all-around active person, has already convinced me to run a half-marathon with her this year, something I swore I’d never do and now I can’t wait. Having a goal set that’s entirely personal and up to me is a tangible reminder that I’m in charge of my life, I’m in charge of myself, and I can push a littler harder, run a little faster, and just be a little more.