Monday, May 8, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... A Girl With Tattoos

Tattoo Number 4 is official! I kept saying it was going to happen, and after over a year of talking about getting it I finally did.

Psalm 46:5 "God is within her, she will not fall;
God will bring her help at break of day."
I asked one of my sisters to draw/write this tattoo for me since she doesn't want to get a tattoo with me, and my handwriting is terrible so I wasn't about to write it. I wanted something unique and special for this one, so just picking a font wasn't going to cut it. This verse became one of my mantras over the last 3/4 years (other mantras include, "Not my circus, not my monkeys", "I am enough", and "Everything is ahead"). The last 3 or so years have been particularly rough for me, especially emotionally as I worked through some things, and I started repeating this verse to myself as a reminder that I just had to get through one day, and that I wasn't as on my own as I felt.

I've struggled with how to put into words what this tattoo means to me. This tattoo was a culmination of a journey in away, and it means so much that I've finally had it inked on my skin.

Failure is one of my biggest fears (right up there with heights and deep water). I found this verse particularly helpful as I faced feelings of failure in my personal life, professional life, and worked though some personal things that weren't the easiest to emotionally process. This verse was especially helpful as I attempted to recover from an eating disorder (ED) for what felt like the hundredth time (and probably was at least the hundredth time). The fear of failure plagued me in school, and it's followed me every day of my career. This fear of failing has kept me from trying things I probably could have done well. The thoughts of "what if I fail, what if I can't, what if it doesn't work out?" followed me. I'm constantly worried that I won't succeed at something, though I'm not sure why since I haven't actually failed that often. Repeating this verse to myself is a reminder that I'm not going to fail/fall, there is always something to learn if I don't succeed how I wanted to.

It also reminds me that each day is a new opportunity to try again. Today may have been super crappy, but maybe tomorrow won't be. I'll feel better/stronger in the morning, and maybe it will be a better day. It gives me hope knowing whatever it is I didn't do so well today I can work on doing better tomorrow. All I can do each day is give it 100%, and if I can say I did my best then I did enough.

It always amazes me how quickly I adjust to a new tattoo. The first few days I'm very aware of it as the healing process begins (especially with number four), but after that it just becomes a part of me, like it's always been there. In a way it has always been there, just not a permanent visible reminder to me and broadcasting to the world that I'm one of those people who has tattoos. My tattoos show my journey, my story, and they're a way to bring myself back to my center when I start to drift.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... A Single Woman

"I wish I'd enjoyed my single days more and spent my free time reading or becoming a better photographer or something, and not worried so much about the meaning of golf balls.  Because here's the thing, I was fine on my own and so are you. But it can be hard when you feel ready for Happy Couplehood and you seem to have missed the train. As my friend Oliver Platt used to say to me about hopes and dreams I'd share with him 'It's coming, just not on your timeframe.' I find this a helpful reminder in any number of ways: not only when you're hoping to meet someone, but also when you're waiting for a better job or for some relief during a bleak time."
-Lauren Graham, "Talking As Fast As I Can"

I've loved Lauren Graham since the first time I watched "Gilmore Girls", I loved her even more after watching "Parenthood", so obviously I got a copy of her book "Talking As Fast As I Can". I anticipated enjoying the book, but I did not expect to be hit with that tidbit about single life on page 100.

She gets this whole single life thing.

I reread those sentences four or five times because they were everything to me; finally someone who actually gets it and put it into words perfectly. I don't want to look back on this time in my life and wish that I had enjoyed these days more, I don't want to wish that I hadn't wasted my time analyzing things that didn't need to be analyzed, and I don't want to look back and regret dating decisions made because I was lonely or I dated because it was expected of me. I am perfectly ok being single right now, and I'm enjoying it while I'm in this stage of life. There's a freedom in being single that isn't the same in "happy couplehood", the independence isn't the same, the free time isn't spent the same way. Those things all change, and not in a bad way, but they still change. So until the right man comes along, I'm going to enjoy the freedom, independence, and my free time the way it is right now. I won't stop living my life and become a shut in just because I'm single. Living my life means I occasionally go on a date when I feel like it, or there's someone who interests me enough. I'm not waiting to do things until I have a special someone to do them with, I'm doing the things I want to do either on my own or with friends. I can always do them again when I make it to "happy couplehood."

I am perfectly fine as a single woman.

I know who I am, I'm figuring out some of the things I want to do, defining the things I know I want, I know my strengths and my short comings, I know that I can be a lot sometimes, and I know that I could also be the best thing to happen to the right person. My time is valuable, I am valuable, and I'm not going to waste my time on someone who doesn't appreciate who I am. I've already wasted too much time on those types of guys. I also know what baggage I'm bringing with me (there's not a lot, but there is stuff), and I'm not afraid to talk about it because I want someone who can handle it. Some of it I may talk about earlier than people think you should, but I have an eating disordered brain that I have to do battle with some days. I'd rather know sooner rather than later if that's something that someone thinks they can handle or not, and it's ok if they can't, I understand that. There are days I feel like I can barely handle it and I've lived with it for 16 years. I'm not even sure how to have that conversation to be honest, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I expect the same conversation in return when this someone is ready to share his stuff. I want to know what I'm in for, I want to know how to be there, how to be supportive and when. Life gets ugly sometimes, and you have to be able to lean on other people.

Somedays the loneliness kicks in and I do start to feel like I missed the train to Happy Couplehood, but when I really think about it I am 100% certain that I didn't miss the train at all. I just don't have the ticket for that train yet, and I'm ok with that. Sometimes I feel like people expect me to not be fine with being single, which is just confusing to me. Why wouldn't I be ok, what's wrong with where I am especially if I'm ok with it? Yes, at times it's lonely and frustrating, but just because I'm 28 doesn't mean I'm desperate to find someone because 30 is just around the corner. I'd rather wait and have it be right than jump into something for the sake of not being alone because I am perfectly fine as a single woman.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... Making A Home

From the age of 20 to the age of 26 (and just over a half) I averaged about one move a year. I became a very efficient packer, came to loathe packing with every fiber of my being, I didn't get attached to the places I lived, most of my belongings remained boxed up in my parents basement waiting for the day I could unpack for good, and I felt like I didn't have a home. My parents house was familiar and comfortable, but it just wasn't home to me any more. The closest thing I felt to home was crawling into my pillow top bed (with Kate shaped dent), pulling the covers up, and escaping into a book or my journal for a bit. I would do this sometimes when my bed wasn't moving with me and it was still at my parents house. I would just crawl in for a few minutes, breathe, and find my center again.

I bought my house about a year and half ago, and it still feels weird sometimes to have my all my books out on shelves rather than packed in boxes, to have all my kitchen gadgets and toys accessible to me without having to remember which box I packed my offset spatula in, and to be adding things to my house to make it my home. I still don't think it's really sunk in that this place is mine, that I don't have to pick up and move in the next month, and I think I'm just now starting to let it be home.

It's been so strange not packing everything back up after about a year, not having to find and move to a new space. In fact not packing has become almost foreign to me. I'm getting to choose colors for the walls, learning how to paint said walls, choosing furniture and decor, I get to fix things/learn how to fix what I can, I'm planning future projects, I get to do yard work, and I get to make this house home. I haven't been able to do that in 8+ years, I haven't gotten to fully express myself and put out the things that mean something to me. Every item that hangs on a wall in my house has a story, in fact there are very few knick knacks and decor items that don't have a story behind them. I've collected things that are authentic to me and who I am, so that my home reflects my story as much as the tattoos on my body do.

Not having to move every year or so means I've had to learn how to stay in one place, and how to have roots. I don't think there are any self-help books out there for learning how to stay somewhere. Learning how to stay and put down roots means finding out how it feels to stay in once place, figuring out how to invest in a community I'll be in for at least a few more years, and finding the time to do things I always wanted to do. I've actually found working in my backyard has me feeling the most rooted as I rake up leaves, dig weeds out of the "grass", debate ripping out the two planters back there, debate what plants to add for color, what veggies and herbs to get planters for on my deck, and take care of a space I've never had a chance to care for before. Sure I've done yard work and mowed lawns of the places I've stayed, but never mine. There's something about having my hands in the dirt of MY backyard that makes me feel rooted and connected to where I am right now.

At heart I'm a wanderer. I love traveling, experiencing the new things a place has to offer and exploring a city. I also love having something familiar and comforting to come back to, somewhere to call home. I was worried that having roots would make me feel trapped, like I wouldn't be able to wander anymore. Roots have actually made the trip back home easier than it used to be. I used to come back from a trip and wonder what on earth was coming next, where I was going to be in 6 months, etc. As I've settled in and started to put down roots, I don't worry about that as much.

I have a place to be.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... A Working Woman

The real title of this post should probably be "Why I Stopped Working A Ridiculous Number of Hours Even Though I'm Behind In My Work."

I read an article in December about work/life balance, at least I think that's what it was about. I've been reading quite a few articles on that subject lately trying to find balance in a way that works for me and my life, so I don't have a link to the article or remember who wrote it. I do remember one phrase that stuck with me from that article,

"The work will always be there."

That hit me, hard; all of a sudden things became clear about how I was going to balance my life better.

My current job is frustrating to me on a daily basis for many reasons. The one at the top of my list right now is that I'm constantly behind, and probably will be for the rest of my time there due to decisions being made about how things are being done and staffed. Constantly being behind was majorly getting to me, and it still does some days more than I'd like it to. I hate not being on top of things, and I highly value being able to be proactive in my work so we're not scrambling at the last minute stressing about if we'll be able to get something done on time or not. I knew I couldn't work crazy hours to try and get everything done because it affects every aspect of my health, and I like having some semblance of a personal/social life. The one line completely changed how I approach my work day, and in turn my personal life

"The work will always be there."- There will always be another agreement that needs to be taken care of, a training that needs to be done, a meeting with legal about a consultant, an email with explicit directions on our procedures, a coworker who's spreadsheet doesn't like a perfectly good formula, a file that needs to be put together, etc. It will never stop coming, it will always be there. The work isn't going to magically disappear as I complete my tasks. As soon as I complete one task, 1-2 more will inevitably take the place of the completed task. My To Do list will be never ending and everything is supposed to be considered the highest priority.

I'm learning the importance of important v. urgent when working on prioritizing my tasks. It's not that I don't have time for something, it just may not be a priority at that moment. Everyone believes they are important and their item should be my priority. Well I've got news folks, you're important and you're not important all at the same time. I've found the trick is to make them feel like they're important and have my attention even if they don't at that moment. So I send updates and estimated completion times to let them know I haven't forgotten about them, I'm just not there yet. (I am responsible for multiple aspects in our department, and there may be another item that has more of a priority status that they don't know about). I've stopped giving excuses too, or long winded answers. I made my answer short and simple, I don't stress over them misunderstanding my meaning, and I educate when needed. I put that item on my to do in the next 24-48 hours list and I keep working on the day's priority.

I started leaving at a specific time every day too. I get in right before 7am most days, I work through lunch almost every day, so I leave at 3:30 (except on Fridays when I leave at 3). I wrap up what I'm doing, and I go home.
I do not bring my lap top with me unless there's a threat of snow or I'm working from home the next day.
I do not let work invade my thoughts when I am not working.
I do not give out my cell phone number to anyone who has no reason to have it.
Doing this enables me to actually have a life outside of work. I have time to see family/friends, I get to yoga, I can get another workout or two in each week, I have time to walk and play with my dog, I have time to tackle my To Do list during the week so I enjoy my weekend all the more.

I may not always have this luxury since I want to own a small business someday. For now though this works, and I'll find a way to adapt it as I go and transition into new positions in the future. I haven't had a tension migraine in about 2 weeks since I started really practicing this. My stress level feels lower for the most part, and I'm practicing my focus for the year ("slow down and chill out"). I stopped emotionally investing myself in my work too (not normal for me, but very necessary), it was causing additional stress and the job doesn't emotionally care about me. Work won't be there for me when I get sick or life gets rough, but my people will be if I invest time in them. I give it 100% when I'm working, but when I'm done working it no longer gets my attention. I'm finding I have free time, real free time where I'm not sure what to do with myself. I actually have time for a hobby that isn't orchid growing or reading which I had time to do in my occasional spare time, and I don't know what to do with myself. It's a wonderful feeling, not knowing what to do with my time and deciding where to invest it.
"Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... Struggling With Beauty

I've waffled on posting this one. It's been ready for at least a month, but for some reason I could never hit publish. I'm not really sure what's been holding me back, but it's confession time on few things...

Confession #1: I am not as confident as you think I am. I fake at least 90% of my confidence most days. Sometimes I knowingly fake it to get by and to convince myself I can do whatever it is I'm facing, but I've been faking confidence for so long that I think it has just became second nature. Faking confidence was the easiest way to get through high school, and I think it was also a way of keeping people from asking about my weight. I used it as a shield and kept most people at arms length. I only told one or two people in high school about my struggle with bulimia, I didn't want people to know and think I was messed up or different. I just wanted to fit in and be pretty, and faking my confidence level kept anyone from asking too many questions.

Confession # 2: I have stretch marks and I HATE them. I see posts on social media about stretch marks and how proud of them the women posting are, how you should be proud of them, and show your stripes and embrace them. I'm so very happy to see people embracing their stretch marks, but I do not embrace mine. Mine come from puberty not from a life accomplishment (ex. birth of a child or weight loss), and I do not have fond memories of that time in my life, so forgive me if I don't embrace mine since they remind me of hellish years where I hated and wrecked havoc on my body. I finally got smart last year and started trying stretch mark creams to see if I can heal those scars. It's going to take awhile to heal a dozen plus years of scaring but it seems to be helping a little bit.

Confession # 3: I'm 27, but my skin seems to think I'm still a teenager and breaks out whenever it wants to for no reason. Even as an adult if I have a pimple I am very self conscious. I'll avoid going out if I don't have to, and I am definitely not going anywhere but the gym without cover up. (If cover up was sweat proof, I would wear it to the gym).

Confession #4: I have spider veins on my left leg, had them since I was about 16 most likely because I have a hyper-mobility syndrome that makes me more flexible than I should be for my age. It's one of the only indicators of it. I don't hate them, they're just an annoyance that I'm working on healing with an essential oils blend.

Confession #5: 3 years ago I got Invisalign, and I religiously wear my retainer. My teeth were not horribly crooked, enough that I was self conscious of it but not bad enough for the dreaded high school braces. I looked into Invisalign when I started college, but it was too expensive and insurance wouldn't cover it. So when I got dental insurance that covered almost the whole cost, I went for it and I do not regret it one bit.

I struggle so much with feeling pretty/beautiful, and my confidence can so easily be shattered by the smallest thing (i.e. a pimple). Some days it takes a lot of effort to hide it when my confidence is shattered. The older I get the less I've worried about being pretty, but it still hits me how rarely I feel that way. I've been more focused on finding what makes me happy, standing up for myself, working on being more bold, voicing my opinion, listening better, asking for help, and being present in my own life. I tell myself that those things are more important, but it creeps back in at times because there is this focus on fitting the standard for beauty imbedded in our culture.

I bought a new dress a few months ago that ended up being too formal for the purpose I purchased it for. I just felt so pretty in it that I kept it rather than returning it. That was a few months ago, I couldn't tell you the last time I felt pretty before trying on that dress, and I haven't felt that way since.

I'm almost 28 and I feel this way, I can't imagine how much worse my teen years would have been if social media had been as prevalent then as it is now. I worry about teen girls, and it breaks my heart when conversations about their fears and concerns about their beauty come up. I just want to shelter them from the cruel world and tell them everything about them that makes them beautiful and is so much more important that their looks. They're so smart, they're so passionate, they're so full of ideas, and they can do anything they put their minds to. Culture is shifting, thank goodness, but not enough and I worry it's too late for so many women. I worry that the kids and teenagers I interact with are going to grow up and have some of the same thoughts that undermine their confidence just like I do. Those voices don't ever fully go away, looks are the first thing we are judged on, and women are particularly brutal to each other. There will be doubts and worry, but I know they can be overcome and we can help raise each other up.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... Staring Down 28

2017 is going to be a culmination of changes I started towards the end of 2016. In the last months of 2016 I worked harder on taking care of myself, I got better at saying no when I needed to, and just slowing down in general. Each year I set a few goals (not resolutions), and I set a focus for the year. In 2015 I focused on becoming more vulnerable, 2016 ended up being a year I just focused on surviving the chaos a major audit at work created for most of the year. The chaos of 2016 helped me decide that my focus in 2017 will be "slow down and chill out." I've been going full steam ahead for the last few years, putting way too much pressure on myself, just rolling with whatever came my way, and in that I lost focus on what I want, what my dreams are, and I stopped fighting for myself. From the outside 2017 is going to look like a selfish year as I do some soul searching and decide on a career for the next 5-10 years, figure out if marriage is truly something I want, if kids are something I want, if living in Maryland is a short term or long term plan, and decide on a long term career.

Though my focus is shifting inward, I will still be there for my people. That's not going to change. This does mean I need to be reaching out more as I sort through my thoughts my feelings, and need to talk them out. This is not going to be easy on my independent streak, but it's something I need to learn to do (it all goes back to being vulnerable). I've realized I have to take some control back in my life too. I became ok with coasting a few years ago, just going with the flow of life and seeing what happened. I needed to take that time to do some wandering and stop planning every minute of my life, and I learned a lot in that time. I also became ok with coasting, I wandered too much, and I ended up feeling lost and confused. The planner in me is ready to take back some control now and set some goals for the next few years. I've been doing some more structured journaling as I start to set some goals, and it feels so good to be making some plans again.

I'm deciding what I want, seeing if the things I thought I wanted are things I still want, and focusing on the things I know love doing. I found the 5 year plan I made in 2011 as a college senior, and I had a good laugh. At 22 I didn't see the point in one, and at 27 I still don't see the point in a 5 year plan. Life is fluid in so many ways, and I was so young an na├»ve at 22. I'm still changing, my desires and dreams have changed, my career goals have altered as I experienced "the real world", but I do see the good in setting goals to help me achieve my dreams.

I'll be turning 28 this year, and I'm no where near where I thought I'd be at 28 in many ways.  I hadn't had the experiences to accurately predict where I would be now. At 22 I never would have thought about taking the risk of opening a small business in the future and being my own boss, I never contemplated moving out of Maryland, or thought that I would second guess marriage and kids a couple times.

I'm staring down 28, only a couple years away from the big 3-0. My life isn't what I thought it would be, and I'm ok with that. I'm ok with being single until the right guy comes along, I'm perfectly ok with the thought of never getting pregnant (by choice) and growing a family through adoption, I want to own my own business and run it how I believe a business should be run (people focused rather than focusing on the bottom line), or maybe go back to school and study child psychology and pursue that as a long term career. I've changed, I'm getting to know myself again in some ways, and my dreams may continue to change as I work through these questions. I'm not the biggest fan of change, but I've gotten a lot better at changing and accepting changes that come. (Yet another thing yoga has helped me with). Maybe slowing down and chilling out will help me get better with change too.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Day In The Life Of... Getting Fit

We all start as a beginner.
We start with what we can do and build on it, we push ourselves mentally and physically, and we try new things.

When it comes to working out getting started can be super intimidating, it sure was for me. I choose to start working with a trainer, and I got a great one who walked me through the intimidating machines when the time came, but, most importantly, he met me where I was. 3 years ago I was a beginner who knew nothing about strength training and who couldn't do one good pushup (even the girl kind) when I started. 3 years later I can do about 10 really good push ups on my toes, and I've learned so much about strength training and fueling my body properly. Even with years of dance under my belt starting yoga was even more intimidating than strength training. I felt like I should have known what I was doing, like I should have been able to do more when I started, and I compared myself to others in class. Then I discovered what yoga was really about, why it was called practice, and my mindset changed. I was a beginner, sure I had a leg up on some poses because I was already flexible, but as a beginner I wasn't going to be able to do the harder modifications yet. I had to start as a beginner and put in the work to get better. One of the most beautiful things about yoga is that there is no comparison to anyone else or even yourself, you just have to do the best that you can at that practice, and the more you practice the more progress you will see. I've taken that into the rest of my fitness journey, doing the best I can and trying to do a little better each day.

I have some good news for anyone starting out, you don't need the fancy machines, weights, a fancy yoga studio, or an expensive gym membership to start. All you need is a water bottle, a fitness goal, a plan on how to get there, and to actually start. Starting can be the hardest part of starting a journey to fitness. I'm sharing a few of the places I got started that are still my go to places for when I feel the workout itch but am too lazy to head to the gym. (The best part is, they all cost absolutely nothing)!

I love this YouTube channel, she's so peppy and encouraging and her workouts are all bodyweight based. It's a fun mix of yoga and Pilates (mostly) that will kick your butt! She has some videos with recipe ideas for healthy eating as well (just a heads up, she does mostly vegan recipes, so plan on modifying them to fit your eating plan if you don't).

There is a plethora of workout/fitness/health ideas on Pinterest for you to try if Pinterest is your thing.
I recently discovered Laruen Gleisberg, she seems to have a mix of gym and home workouts with light weights or just bodyweight.

Fightmaster Yoga
I love her flows! I can always find one to suite my mood, how long I want to practice, or if I want to focus on a specific pose or flow. (I'm a huge fan of sun salutation/warrior pose heavy vinyasa flows)

iTunes (or Pandora or Spotify or however you listen to music)
Crank the tunes, and dance it out in the privacy of your home!

Take a walk
See how far you can go, and, if you want, try to beat your record each time. Take the dog, take a friend, take the kid(s), and see if you can extend the length of your walk every day/week/month (whatever feels right for you).

I've noticed there's a perception that getting fit is about getting 6 pack abs, super toned legs, and well defined arms. While that is the end goal for some, it's really about feeling better, having more energy, and seeing what you can do when you put your mind to it. I think the key is picking somewhere to start, and having someone to keep you accountable. If you don't know where to start, start with one small thing. If you can't do a push up, work on it until you get one. Once you have one, try for two, and so on. You do not have to jump right in and do 3 sets of 10 reps, and you should not feel bad about that as a beginner. If you want to change your diet, start with one small change, see how it goes, make it a habit, and make more if you want to. After a year those small changes will look like big ones when you look back on where you started.

NEVER feel bad about starting, you won't regret it in the long run. No matter where you start you will improve, and seeing what your body is capable of  doing is amazing (and addicting). It's a new year, a new beginning, 365 opportunities to try something new and to begin.

If you're looking for someone to keep you accountable with workouts, meal plans, some tips, or a community of people working on their fitness goals to help keep you accountable, check out Fit With Reib. She's super passionate about what she does, knowledgable, and she wants to see you succeed with your goals. I'm looking forward to doing more with this community this year as soon as I can kick this cold that is kicking my butt. (Being able to breathe when you workout is important).