Saturday, March 30, 2013

Aging and eating and playing, oh my.

I'm turning 40 this year, and I keep waiting for the panic to set in.  I don't know why, but I always assumed that " Age 40" would cause all kinds of panic -- you know the kind: it starts at your feet and creeps slowly up through your body, fanning out through your arms, tripping over that ever-growing lump that has taken up residence dead center in your throat.  It's the kind of panic that unfolds like a fresh sheet of pie dough, it's just not as pleasant or as tasty.  In fact, it's downright nauseating.  And I should know -- I've lived inside that panic for decades, only recently finding some relief, after a lot of work and a lot of faith in my own ability to change.  So maybe the fact that I already suffer from raging generalized anxiety has something to do with my inability to get all bent out of shape over a number.  After all, I assume I will be the same bundle of nerves on October 22, 2013 that I will be when I awake the next day, on October 23. The 40th anniversary of my birth.  Or, to reframe it: the 20th anniversary of my 20th birthday. Incidentally, I'm a huge fan of reframing (now that I know the technical term for what I have been trying to do for many years).  It's all about finding silver linings and turning lemons into lemonade.  Plus, I fully support stretching the truth, or bending it just slightly to the left, if it leads to a better, more bearable state of mind.

So, tomorrow is Easter and I bought too much candy for the people I love.  I don't know why a basket full of fat and calories and toxic sugar still seems to be my default gift when it comes to this holiday.  I tell myself that it's ok because I did small baskets and added little non-edible gifts this year.  But that's just a smokescreen -- I love candy, and I miss it.  So I do believe that I am indulging in it vicariously, from the ability to toss those crinkly, pastel colored bags into my cart to the ability to smell the chocolate and feel the softness of the peeps through the cellophane packages.  Yes, it appears that I am compromising the health of the people I love most just so I can get a few candy thrills without having to hurt my own body.  That's messed up, I think.

On a somewhat related, though incredibly ironic note: I went to see a nutritionist last week, because I realzie that attempting to survive on the five or six foods I actually enjoy and currently tolerate will not lead to a long, healthy life. And I would actually like to experience a long, healthy life, as opposed to a too-short existence filled with pain and exhaustion and osteoperosis. Laurie the nutritionist was wonderful. More than just talking about what I "should" and "shouldn't" be eating, she actually asked questions like: "How do you feel about dairy?" and "Do legumes feel like a comfortable addition?" Wow. People don't often ask questions like that. Well, they don't ask ME questions like that, anyway. It was nice to able to tell Laurie that I am vegan, but am actually more of an accidental vegan, since a lot of the foods I eliminated a few years ago just happened to be dairy and poultry-based. My one non-negotiable is red meat. I have been a vegetarian for most of my life and will not entertain the possibility changing that, but veganism is freakin hard for me. It's not hard overall, I don't think. It's just hard for me. I have lots of food hangups and limited culinary and food-prep skills (and energy), and I think veganism requires planning, intention, and a willingess and ability to explore lots of food alternatives and possibilities. 

So, after all that, I am considering allowing some Greek yogurt back into my life. Just a little. My luck I will find out - the hard and painful way - that I am now lactose intolerant, but that'll be good information to have, too. I also agreed, at Laurie's urging, to try salmon. I hate fish, but salmon seems the least "fishy" of all the fish, and I figure, with fish, you get a lotta bang for your buck. Healthy omegas, boat loads of protein, and you don't have to eat it every day. I'm thinking that with a little of the healthy olive oil I'm supposed to be eating and perhaps the teeniest squirt of lemon, I could actually do this for my health. Just know that I am avoiding looking at pictures of innocent fish swimming and finning and loving life in order to be able to cook them and cut into them and ultimately force them into my gut. Instead, I am practicing gratitude (or I will, if I ever actually get myself to take that first bite) toward the salmon world for helping me get healthy again.  Still, I will never again be able to watch Nemo, and that makes me kind of sad.

I promised my dog Beckett some time at the dog park today, so off we go, into the sun and the light breeze and the promise of spring.  He's currently sitting on my feet as if to say: "You were just doing the 'my thesis is done' happy dance yesterday.  Why are you still belllied up to that big screen with the clicky keys?"  I guess that's my cue to leash us both up and head out.

Til next time,

We don't do "grey areas" here: recommitting to committment

After a way-too-long hiatus, I've decided to start blogging again.  I don't know why I stopped, really.  I told myself that life got in the way, that leaving for work every morning at 8:30am and getting home most evenings around 7pm has drained what little energy I seem to have left on weekends.  And then there this little thing called my MFA (a Masters of Fine Arts) in creative writing, a great idea when I applied to the program almost three years ago, and a joy when I was accepted into the program almost three years ago, but a total brain (and money) drain every day of my life since then. Well, almost every day of my life since then.  (Note: I tend toward dramatic hyperbole quite often.) Still, aside from adopting my dog Beckett and moving into my lovely apartment, my MFA is one of few things in life I would do over, exactly the same way I did it the first time, if given the chance, or presented with the opportunity for a redo. 

Maybe I'm only saying that because I graduate in three months, and because my thesis is, for better or worse, is in its final stages and actually looking like a thesis.  And the beginnings of what may end up being a not-too-shabby book some day.  Either way, I feel like I'm breathing a little easier in that regard, which is perfect timing since the impending allergens of spring seem to be kicking my asthmatic ass lately.  Cue the inhaler and the liklihood that I will soon be joining the legions of sufferers who have succombed to weekly allergy shots.  "Immunotherapy," they call it, a fancy-shmancy medical term that I suspect is supposed to make allergy shots sound less awful.  To me, the reality of immunotherapy simply confirms my belief that every part of my being is in desperate need of therapeutic intervention, immune system included.

But I digress. As far as my reason for leaving/reason for returning to the blogosphere (because lately my life feels like nothing but a series of explanations and apologies): I think my hiatus was more about my challenge with committment and follow-through. I tend to have great ideas and amazing energy at the beginnings of things, but that energy quickly wanes, often thanks to my own pathological perfectionism that functions like a relentless, very loud voice buried somewhere deep in my brain (right near that spot where 80s songs lodge themselves and stay for days, playing themselves over and over and over again - think vintage Madonna, Wham, and how the hell did Depeche Mode get trapped in there?!.)   Anyway, this voice - the perfectionistic one - usually says things like "Hey, life is black or white. It's all or nothing.  Can't give it your all? Then nothing it is.  We don't do 'grey areas' here"  You get the picture.  After all, this is not unique to me - perfectionism is a universally self-defeating phenomenon.  I think, at least in my case, that it tends to be a function of nature (I'm a born people pleaser), nurture (will work for praise/will run from criticism), and fear (I'm not going to finish anything because, at the end of the perfect day, I'd rather assume I'll succeed than know I might fail).  Yeah, "failure" tends to be my f-word.

So anyway, here I am, with no real hopes for anything other than short, quick posts, musings, a release valve for the thoughts and experiences I have  - most of them awkward and bizarre, some of them meaningful for me (though maybe not for others), and all of them worth writing about, if for no other reason than becasue I just spent $40,000 on an MFA that says I should now be able to write, should want to write, should have to write like I have never written before.  I don't know that I feel any differrent as a writer (I'm certainly a much better one than I was two years ago, and I've developled some amazing and wonderful friendships that I never would have otherwise), but I think I've decided that I've just gotta start putting words out into the world again, if for no other reason than to free up space in my head, where the words tend to collect and take up space like unwanted houseguests.

I do hope you'll read, and I'd love it if you'd comment.  I understand if you don't.  Or won't.  Or can't.  Time is short.  Committment is hard.  So we do what we can.  And that is good enough.  And sometimes, good enough has to be good enough. I'm learning this slowly, but I think this time it's actually starting to stick like pasta flung against a paint-chipped wall.

Have a happy Easter, if you celebrate that sort of thing, and happy weekend, if you don't.

Til next time,