being all things, to everyone, all the time.

Recently, I came across an article about loving yourself while you’re losing weight. I shared it with some friends and found that it resonated with several of them.

In a society that’s obsessed with beauty and youth, even just the attempt to lose weight can stir up all kinds of emotions relating to vulnerability, self-worth, and fear.

For me, this has been especially true because my weight gain started during a period of time when my life essentially felt like it was imploding. It seemed like I was experiencing all of the major life changes at once, from moving to changes in my career, friendships, priorities. My relationship was becoming increasingly miserable and on top of that I was running into difficulties with several family members.

I was depressed and not coping in the most positive or healthy ways.

Of course, I’m not exactly the type to just lie down and give up. It’s been a hard, long road, but as I started facing a lot of those issues, I was able to pick up healthier ways to deal with life’s hardships which, in turn, allowed me the time, resources and emotional fortitude to start taking care of myself again.

Dropping the extra weight (20 pounds down, another 20 to go) has been nothing short of an exercise in letting go of whatever no longer suits me. Which turns out, is a lot of things.

There’s the obvious things, like stress-eating every carbohydrate on the planet when I’ve had a hard day. That’s out the window now. Alcohol is gone. As is candy (I will miss you, gummy bears) and any processed food I bought out of either convenience or comfort.

Those things have been replaced with morning runs in the park, yoga, spa water, relaxing with friends, crafts and meditation. I’m an exciting person, I know.

The biggest thing I had to give up, however, is people-pleasing. That addiction, that need to be all things, to everyone, all the time. I have damn near depleted myself trying to be there for everyone else whilst essentially ignoring all of my own needs. Not a habit that’s exactly conducive to mental or physical well-being.

Now, instead of putting myself last, I am committed to being the best friend, the best girlfriend, the best daughter, sister, dog-mom, what-have-you…while still walking in my truth, going after what I want in life and putting myself first.

I don’t know if it’s normal to be this reflective while losing a few pounds, but I’m glad that I’m working through this. As I continue this healthy journey, what else do I need to let go of? What might I pick up in it’s place? What else do I need to become my happiest, healthiest self? Considering the fact that I woke up in the middle of the night and ending up writing this post, I’m guessing there’s a lot more work to be done.

Stay tuned.

Take care of yourself,

-C

on suicide.

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When I first started this blog, I very distinctly remember sharing my reservations about this project with my friend D.C.  On the one hand, I yearned to express myself through this medium, openly and honestly.  On the other, I had this nagging feeling that such expression was somehow “wrong” or in poor taste.  What if I upset someone? What if I offended someone?  What if I over-shared and thus tarnish my reputation?

Honestly, as of today, I no longer care.

This week has been an odd one for news.  Other than the ongoing calamity that is now the norm in politics in this country, we saw two celebrity death, both suicides. First, fashion designer Kate Spade and then, earlier today, chef Anthony Bourdain.

As I peruse the social media comments and attain a general sense of the public’s reaction to these events, I see something hopeful.  When Robin Williams died of suicide just shy of four years ago, I noticed the conversation circled around questions like “How could he be so selfish?” and “What does he have to be depressed about?”.  As if someone funny and successful people can’t have struggles or mental illness.  This week, and especially today, I have seen a multitude of questions like “How do we stop this?” and “What is happening?”.

People are starting to wake up, albeit, slowly.

Story time.

I’ve referenced on here, a few times, the importance of taking time for yourself, self-care and cutting negative people/situations out of your life (i.e. “protecting your energy” as we hippie folk say).  This isn’t something I just decided to do one day.  This came from a series of very key moments in my life.  Moments that left an indelible mark on my soul.

Not so very long ago, I found myself in an incredibly dark place.  A place so dark it was kind of scary.  I was at this place in my life where on the outside, things probably looked alright, but inside I was slowly disappearing.  No area of my life seemed to be going right.  I was hitting road blocks.  I felt like a failure.  Even worse than that, I was starting to feel worthless.  I was not okay.

And yet, even in the midst of that, I did the thing they say you’re supposed to do.  Reach out to someone.  So I did.

I called someone who I thought would be there for me.  At the very least to listen.  Maybe offer some advice. Something.

Instead, I got an earful about how I was selfish, spoiled, a cry-baby, weak, whining, and ungrateful.  I was sobbing over the phone.  They didn’t care.

Needless to say, that person is no longer a major player in my life and will be kept at an arm’s length in perpetuity.

What followed was several more months of darkness for me, eventually subsiding as I tackled issues, one by one.  It was hard, but I am truly happy and proud to be on the other side.

While I didn’t get the help I needed in that moment, I’m learning that more and more people are willing to be that listening ear.

As suicide continues to skyrocket in our country, and more people battle mental illness, I truly believe the old attitudes (“We don’t speak of such things”, “Mental illness is a sign of weakness”, “What would the neighbors think?”) is being replaced with something that is not only more compassionate but also actionable (“How do I help a friend who is struggling?”, “How do we improve mental health care?”, “What resources are available?”).

As we grapple with these issues, my hope is that more of us lean into the hard conversations.  Difficult topics like this bring up all kinds of uncomfortable emotions, but we have to find healthy ways to navigate that if we’re going to start healing each other.

1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

-C

Last night’s weird dream: ancient tea.

I have a proclivity for very unusual dreams.  Extremely vivid, surreal scenarios, often with multiple complex storylines.

Last night, I woke up abruptly in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep after experiencing a dream that was rather odd:

***

I walk into a very plain, white, unadorned kitchen and start pulling various ingredients out of the cabinets.  Before long, the counter is full of various herbs, containers and appliances.

Suddenly, a man, dressed in a long white tunic walks in and asks me “What are you making?”

Even though I had no idea who this man was, I was not disturbed by his presence and responded “Oh, I’m making this ancient tea I keep hearing about”.

“I know how to make that, I’ll show you”, he responds.

The strange man starts grabbing certain ingredients and a white electric kettle from the cabinet, and brews the tea.

After a few moments, he takes a sip.

“Can I try it?”, I ask.

“No, it’s not ready yet”, he replies. He adds a few more ingredients and brews it again.

“Now?”, I ask again.

“No”.

This goes on for several rounds. My impatience grows as he tweaks the tea, brewing it again and again.

Eventually, my frustration boils over.

“I want to try the tea now!”, I yell at the strange man.

“Your hard work and love and care will pay off. But you have to be patient. You have to wait”.

He sips the tea. And I wake up.

-C

dropping baggage & welcoming 2018.

For years, I’ve sworn off the entire idea of New Year’s resolutions.  They often feel so trite, futile even.  Perhaps you’ve witnessed how packed the gym is the first two weeks of the new year, only to eventually return back to normal.  Or maybe you’ve noticed a new musical instrument, leaning inconspicuously in the corner of your friend’s apartment, unused, unlearned, slowly collecting dust.  Another casualty of unfocused, New Year excitement.

The unfortunate, unspoken truth is, if you had to wait until the stroke of midnight to start your goal, you probably didn’t want it.

I know this personally as I have been that New Year’s resolution fanatic, guilty of walking past that pile of brand new unused workout gear day after day, letting perfectly good bundles of kale rot in the refrigerator and…what did I ever do with that mandolin I just knew I was going to master?

***

If you’ve visited my blog in the past, you’ve read about this introspective journey I’ve been on the past few years.  It’s involved a lot of reflecting on past events, some of them exciting, some of them unpleasant.  It’s also involved me taking a hard, uncomfortable look at my habits, thought patterns and emotional reactions.  Purging resentments, validating past hurts and disappointments, but also gradually letting them go.  The whole process has been a little messy, even painful at times.

But ultimately, I feel a better, stronger, more resilient self emerging in the process.

***

This past month, instead of picking goals to start on January 1, I decided that I should start focusing on what I really want out of life.  The experiences, careers, friendships and general energy I want to surround me.  I became devoted to cleansing negativity from my life, but also being grateful for all of the positive things I already have and looking forward to all the exciting things emerging for me in the future.

In essence, I had to drop a lot of old baggage before I even got close to the New Year.

So, dear friends, instead of your New Year’s resolutions, what did you leave behind in 2017?  And what are you looking forward to in 2018?

Now to go look for that damn mandolin…

-C

Night terrors.

Night terrors.

For a lot of people, this phrase means absolutely nothing. For me, it’s been a plague to my well-being and health for several years.

For the first time in a long time, I had the unfortunate experience of waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of intense dread – sweating, crying, fearing that I was in peril and thinking that I was in danger of dying.

This routine is so familiar to me.  Checking every door and window, ensuring that my domicile is secure.  Making sure that I am safe.

My last horrible dream prompted me to go to the gun range to learn how to defend myself.  I considered buying a rifle.  These nightmares are no joke, I promise you.

I sat up last night, listening for the attacker that wasn’t there, trying, in vain, to coddle myself, reminding myself that he doesn’t know where I live.  Telling myself that he can’t find me.

Thank the Universe.

Safety is an often forgotten luxury.  In these moments of intense anxiety, trying desperately to remember that I now have a family of loved ones who will work to protect me, I have to tell myself that these nightmares are fleeting.  Strength comes from overcoming this darkness and fighting the fear that sometimes plagues my mind.

One day, I hope these nightmares will go away.  I didn’t ask to be on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, but I know that every time I share my story, I weaken his hold over my life.  I strengthen a woman who is experiencing something similar. I know that my words have power and meaning, and that I can bring positive change, even in my darkest moments.

This morning, I am thankful for this night terror.  I am thankful for this opportunity to share my darkest secret with you all.  If I can rise from the most horrible and haunting experience of my life, I know you can too.

Your eternal friend,
-c

survivor’s guilt.

Sophomore year of college, I had the pleasure of living with one of the sweetest, brightest people I have ever met.   Christine was a force to be reckoned with.  A phenomenal singer with a bubbling personality and a lust for life.

Christine and I were basically the Odd Couple. I would encourage her to go to class, eat vegetables and study for exams.  She would encourage me to party more, stay out later and enjoy life.  Neither of us took the other’s advice.

Christine ended up dropping out of school, later that year, due to medical issues.  Around that time, we ended up having a falling out – a situation too lengthy to recant here.

And then a few years ago, Christine died of a heroin overdose.  I didn’t know she was using heroin.  I didn’t know she was struggling.  I hadn’t seen her in a long time, so I wasn’t sure what she had been up to.  But for whatever reason, I felt nothing but guilt when I found out.  Somehow, I was responsible.  This voice in the back of my head would say “If you were a better friend, she wouldn’t be dead”.

Life milestones would come and go.  A promotion here.  An apartment there.  A new beau.  A trip to a new city.  And the guilt would set in.  I’m getting to enjoy things she never got to.  “You could have saved her.  You failed”.

It took years for me to finally realize that her death wasn’t my fault.

Thankfully, that survivor’s guilt that has been weighing on my neck like a millstone, has started to fall away.  Instead of guilt, I have decided to live a life of love.  Spreading joy, positivity, baked goods and happiness whenever and wherever I can.  While I hope and pray that my friends know they can come to me anytime, day or night, 24/7 if they need help, I know now that is also their right not to.

The one thing Christine taught me while she was alive was to live in the moment and not dwell on the past.  While this is certainly a struggle for me, I view every day as an opportunity to live a good life, in her memory.

For you, Christine,
-C

an ode to worrying.

My brain is weird.

At any given moment, even if I’m already performing a task during the day, I’m always thinking ahead to something else.  Usually, this means I have a perpetually running checklist of things that need to be done that day and a strategy to complete them in the most time-effective way possible.  Efficiency is kind of my thing.

On top of the normal checklist, I also have a steady background noise in my head that is dedicated to looking into the near and distant future.  “If I make career move A versus career move B, how will that affect my earning potential in 20 years?”.  “If I start saving now, I can probably take a trip to Japan next year”.  That sort of thing.

As you might imagine, this kind of thinking is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, this trait has served me well in certain areas of my life.  Being able to think ahead and predict how a project could get derailed and then be able to come up with a litany of contingency plans to resolve those potential issues has, oddly enough, proven helpful in my career as a project manager.  Additionally, worrying about potential danger has most likely kept me safe in a variety of situations, especially on the days and nights I was by myself, working in New York City.

However, in my younger, more anxious days (mainly high school), this kind of thinking caused a great deal of distress.  Looking back, I realize that it was my mother, the World Champion of Worrying, who set the example for me.  As I got a little older and a little more independent, I started to realize that not everything is a crisis.  Some things simply don’t need or deserve the same expenditure of emotional energy.  Many times it’s necessary to not give even one single fuck about certain things.

As bad as worrying can be, and it can definitely be very, very bad, I’m still thankful for this little defect.  If I wasn’t prone to worrying, I probably would have never discovered meditation, yoga or even the simple joy of walking through the woods to clear my mind.  Essentially, worrying has taught me to how to relax.  And while I’m still not always the best at it (many thanks to my loved ones who remind me to live in the moment), I now see Worrying, not as an enemy, but as a somewhat annoying, lifelong friend.

Chill,
-C