Dumbbells & donuts & Doritos – oh my!

On January 19th of last year I started an Instagram page as a place to compile the thoughts, feelings, trials & tribulations of what life is like trying to lose weight. Ironically, this was after I had already lost 60 lbs. and found myself on the other end of gaining some of that back following a pretty traumatic 2 years.

I can’t remember exactly how much I weighed at the start of that account, but when I posted the first photo of myself, I remember believing that one year down the road I knew I wasn’t going to see the same person.

Well, here I am.

To be fair, I see some parts of myself much clearer. And there are certain ways that I have seen growth and strength and courage. And others in which I have retreated.

I thought I knew why I started the account. Ultimately I think I believed that posting on that account (and also seeing other people’s content) would inspire me, motivate me, and hold me accountable. It didn’t exactly do that.

You see, I’ve been binge eating for years. I remember staying home from school while I was in the 3rd grade and literally cleaning out the pantry over the course of the entire day. Bags of marshmallows – gone. Crackers – gone. Raisins (which, PS – I didn’t even like) – gone. Things that normal people find disgusting, I probably ate. I was eating just to eat, not because I was hungry or needed fuel. I was bored, I was sad, I was happy, I was feeling left out, I was feeling lots of things — and so I ate. Eating was my solution to any emotion or problem – it was my celebration, and my condolence. It was like that book called “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” except way less adorable.

There have been mentions of this binging on my part over the course of the last year via that account. Purposefully, I have been as subtle about it as possible. Admitting to “struggling” with food prep, celebrating NOT stopping by the grocery for a late night Ben & Jerry’s fix, etc. But I have wrestled with the name of it, and its implications. Saying it means I have to do something about it.

For the last year I have seen binge eating become “a thing” socially. The two images below speak to this precisely.

 

I cannot speak for others who wrestle with binge eating, I can only speak for myself — but it bothers me to see these images. My truth regarding these two culture statements, is that it normalizes binge eating — makes it funny, makes it seem like everyone else is doing it (which is probably more true than not, but I digress), and even makes it somewhat okay. These images ignore the core issues that people who find themselves binging year after year truly face. We are in an age of over-indulgence, numbing, and dismissing the core issue while arguing about things that don’t actually matter.

Being raised to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” doesn’t exactly help. In many ways it’s taught me to do what I need to do in the moment to fix the immediate issue. This GOOD intention has stunted me from seeing how my current decisions have a serious and long-term impact.

The word “binge” has also taken on new identity over the last few years with pastimes like “Netflix binging.” Society says “everyone binges” but in reality – those who really binge are self-isolating, sore, and in need of help.

Enter: me.

In the last year, I’ve turned 27. I wasn’t angry or upset about it at all. It was a very welcome thing. But since I’ve turned 27 and every time I’ve gotten the slightest bit sick or experienced even a small health issue, I have had an internal panic where I flash forward to being 55 and 25 more years into binge eating. Assuming I have no choice but to keep It feels helpless and isolating. Every little thing makes me more and more aware of how unhealthily I have cared for myself over these last 27 years.

One of the biggest issues I have with this label of “binge eater” is talking about this with people. My closest friends & family included. It’s a sore subject for me. Both strangers & friends who have stumbled onto my journey may think that because I’ve started some page and post about things like weight loss, clean eating, building muscle, and “finding healthy” that I’m an open book about it. But I haven’t been. I cannot discuss it. There is an emotional wall. Constructed by…yours truly.

When I started going to counseling for the first time (voluntarily) in 2012, my therapist actually gave me a book on binge eating after a few months, even though we never spoke those words out loud. I think I had mentioned something about “stress eating” and wishing I was more consistent with my physical activity.

That book is still on my bookshelf, and I’ve been *this close* to throwing it away several times. I haven’t had the strength to read even one chapter. It hasn’t been something I have been open to or willing to discuss internally with myself. So I didn’t.

A couple years after I started therapy, I still hadn’t talked about it but I was seeing a new therapist since the first moved to Germany. Again, I was silent and dismissive of anything related to my relationship with food.

But binge eating has became a real thing to me when I realized I gained every pound back after working to lose over 60 lbs. in the first place. The issue is within me.

And I think that’s the hardest part (actually). As the oldest child, I am stereotypically all of the following:

High-achieving

Take-charge attitude

Responsible (generally speaking…)

These characteristics plus many more make it difficult for me to admit to myself (and to others) that I am deeply faulted, imperfect, and really wrestling. I can’t save myself from this one.

The mantra of “admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery” is almost so true for me that it feels uncomfortable. For the first time, I am more empowered to speak about my issue & getting to the heart of the matter.

The reality of admitting to these issues is that finding the perfect balance between input an output isn’t the issue at hand, it’s much deeper. Remember when I said I lost 60 lbs. before? Well, it’s true. But losing it again isn’t as simple. I obviously know how to eat less and put in more work. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. What I haven’t done before is opened up my heart and mind to the painful and underlying issues that are below the surface. It’s the things you can’t see that I so desperately need help with.

I want to face the reality of this head on so that I can live fuller. Eventually I want to have little babes of my own that I can love on and show them self-love in the most earnest and real way. I want them to see it lived out. But until then, I want to face this for myself. There are ways in which I’m sure I have no clue that this is holding me back, too. That’s pretty scary.

So in order to get there, I know I face a long road. But it’s kind of a big deal. The issues I face have layers. Kind of like an onion. I know I wrestle with the way weight loss and weight and body image are perceived and the way they are felt and experienced. I know I have strong feelings about the way men and women experience being overweight in very different ways. I know that there are sore subjects and triggers for me that make it different and make my experience harder than some, but easier than others. I know that this recovery is not about comparison.

So, these are my goals.

  • Purposeful, open, and gut-wrenching therapy (frequency TBD, hopefully bi-weekly), specifically for binge eating.
  • Seek out & establish an accountability partner(s).
  • Join a support group where I talk with real people (face to face) about binge eating (scary).
  • Run a half marathon in 2017.
  • Try a new form of exercise: barre classes, kickboxing, for example.
  • Ultimately & safely lose 125 lbs. in the next 18 months.

Other goals I have that are totally unrelated to binge eating and have everything to do with who I am and what I like and what inspires me (it’s good to care about things outside of yourself!).

  • Get a DSLR camera and learn how to use it
  • Take a class in graphic design / marketing
  • Buy a new car.
  • Read one book per month (I’m starting with Anne Lamott’s Stitches).
  • Find a church.

There’s not much to be said to conclude this kind of post. To write it all down feels like a relieving and revolting at the same time. But here it is, plain and simple.

So forgive me while I take some time to focus on me. Meanwhile I’ll be taking really pretty photos of donuts instead of eating them.

xoxo,

Kaia

F*** Love Give Me Diamonds

I’m a believer in love, so don’t let the title fool you. It’s a mere lyric. Kudos if you can name the artist without Googling.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Well, these are my arms. For strangers who ask, these tats offer an easy response. I can either:

A. Start singing that Iggy Azalea song

B. Start belting that Rihanna song

C. Remind them that “a diamond is a girl’s best friend.”

While all three of these would be a great social experiment, I wanted to share the truer, clearer reason for the ink here.

Before I considered a diamond tattoo of my own, I had this preconceived notion that diamond tattoos were a little bit trashy, overdone, and not really all that deep in their meaning. Well. All of my thoughts and beliefs were turned on their head.

The greek word for diamond is adámas, which means unbreakable. Now before you get too far down the rabbit trail of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt  (a show which I could never really get into — that Jaycee Dugard memoir made captivity and kidnapping all too real for me), I’ll have you know that the word unbreakable has the tendency to evoke very strong emotions for me.

In high school I remember having a tough yet critical conversation with my father (yes, he was reprimanding me) in which he reminded me that we, the Moore family, are strong. We are unbreakable. It’s amazing and weird to me that that I even remember that conversation, since my memory is less than impressive when it comes to events, people, and conversations prior to 2013 (currently).

Anyway, that conversation was pivotal and is something I revisited on my own time and time again in this last year. I think that all people have the choice to let horrible things break them. Or they can lean in to the grief, the ugly, the pain. That is not meant at all to minimize the horrible things that happen. I am also not suggesting that I have seen it all, done it all, felt it all. There are so many things that I have been spared from, and I am thankful for that truth.

But really. Every day you can choose to see your circumstances as these things that are unmovable, bigger than you, or that they have more power over you. Or, you can be that powerhouse. You can be the source, you can be the decision-maker. This isn’t meant in a self-worship way. I just mean it in the sense that you can either be a complainer or a doer.

As someone who is pretty amazing at making my complaining appear on the surface as “telling a funny story,” this has been hard for me. I think all people are probably entitled to the same amount of complaining over the whole course of their lives. The people who use up their complaints faster in life will also run out of friends faster in life. You’ve got to tether your expectations. You cannot and should not allow circumstances or other people to dictate how you see yourself and see your future. You’ve got to be unbreakable.

That doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to get upset, throw tantrums in the grocery store (maybe even in your twenties), or that you can’t grieve the loss of friendships, life, jobs, and much more. Life is tough. You can be tougher. I genuinely believe that humans have the capacity to be tougher than the things that happen to them because I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

I chose these diamond tattoos (two to be exact) because I wanted a reminder of both the before and after process. The left inverse diamond symbolizes the diamond that has not yet been put under extreme pressure, and has yet to become beautiful. It’s kind of ugly in it’s own way. And the diamond on the right serves as a reminder of the fruits of the refiner’s fire. The two images are close in my line of vision, but represent the two very different stages. And yet, it’s the same diamond. The two have the same core or connecting materials.

And I’ve needed this reminder. Whether I feel like the before or after product on any given day, the opposite is always still a part of who I am. And you can’t have one without the other.

So I guess you could say I got these tattoos because I am forgetful. And I choose the daily reminder that I was not made to be destroyed by any one or any thing. It’s just like our philosopher friend K. Clarkson once said: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

“It’s not even that I want to go back, it’s that I don’t feel like I can really move forward.”

Some say that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. A healthier habit. Others have speculated that it takes much longer. Over 254 days actually. Spend less, consume less, worry less. Trust more, love more, hope for more. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to do less or do more (or do the MOST), but I am in the camp that says it takes well beyond 21 days for lasting habits and true change to become real. To be more than just the motions of outward positivity, to be more than just the “no” to excessive bingeing on Girl Scout Cookies – but also “no” to excessive bingeing on Netflix, anxiety, and gossip.

There have been so many things in this last year that I have felt inundated with. Change this. Do this. Don’t do this. At the end of some days I wondered if there was anything I actually did that was okay.

Exactly 365 days later, I’m reflecting on the biggest decision and change I ever had to make.

For anyone who has ever fought against themselves and thought the worst things about themselves – this is for you. These things I’ve collected are excerpts from my actual journal because I believe that the habit I’m most proud of this year is the habit of being bold and brave with my emotions. I’m learning how to take ownership, how to rely on others with my emotions when that makes sense – and how to deal with them on my own because you just have to know how to do that.

I’m sharing this because I used to value people’s perceptions of me than my own perceptions of me. I’m not about that life. I can’t be. I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve got it all together. If anything, this year has taught me the opposite. Believe me, I’ll tell you when I’ve got it all figured out. Ha. But I’m sharing all of this to show you that finding new habits can sometimes feel like a part of you is dying. And sometimes that’s true. A really horrible part of you might be dying. A part of you that you thought was good and healthy can be realized, and the truth will always make itself known.

This is for anyone who is fighting. This is for anyone who wants to believe in change. This is for you. Know that whoever you are, I love you and there are others who care for you deeply. You’re a rockstar. Don’t ever forget it.

>>>>

DAY 9 | “I am tired, unsteady, and easily emotional. I know that saying ‘this week has been the hardest’ seems silly because there are many other weeks that lie ahead and will be filled with their own terrors…the feeling of fear and danger surround me but I don’t know how to quantify them. I don’t now whether that is better or worse not to know.”

DAY 17 | “So much of me feels alone…my heart longs for resolution and a reconciliation that I know is not earthly feasible…in a very odd way I feel like God is chasing me. Every time and every moment that I feel my spirit being crushed, I feel God saying ‘I’m not going to let you forget that I am here.'”

DAY 19 | “Another day, another night. Things started out okay and didn’t really ever get sour except that things have been in that perpetual state of dishevelment, discomfort, and uncertainty. ”

DAY 31 | “This is my Father’s world/O let me ne’er forget/that though the wrong seems oft so strong/He is the ruler yet.”

DAY 39 | “Today was hard. I felt this low grade anger and sadness and irritation for most of the day. Happy Easter.”

DAY 40 | “I feel distant and detached. On the verge of emotional breakdown.”

DAY 40 | “Whoever said something about being in control over your own fate and for happiness clearly never had to make any hard decisions. The book “Best Advice I Ever Got” by Katie Couric is one I started on the plane ride back to Chattanooga and I’m glad I did but tonight as I sit in this sadness I’m trying to recall — what actually is the best advice I ever got?”

DAY 60 | “Honestly I am depressed. I don’t process it much because I feel like it would just annoy someone for me to keep saying the same things over and over again. Plus I don’t want to dwell…There are weird moments where I am very much more aware of the gravity of this an it makes me want to isolate myself. I feel like there are so many people who have offered to help or listen but I am fighting the voice that says I’m a burden. That I am doing the wrong thing.”

DAY 136 | “I don’t feel well. I’ve gained weight. I’m making weird decisions. I’m a bit of a mess. It’s not even that I want to go back, it’s that I don’t feel like I can really move forward.”

DAY 181 | “While I feel that anger is okay to feel in these circumstances, I feel the ugly emotions often take up residence in me and my body is still learning how to respond and either explore these new neighbors, these visitors – how to usher them swiftly out the door. Through this I am learning that the Lord has equipped me with a lot. I hope that down the road I can use these things to help and support others. These is an incredible need for it.”

DAY 284 | “My hope is not in the resolution of any circumstance, but in Christ who is good.”

DAY 311 | “I want to express my thanks much more this year. Being a person who acts out gratitude is a worthwhile pursuit. I do not want to be entitled or impatient with what others have done for me.”

DAY 365 | Today was nothing and everything. A year ago I made the biggest decision for myself. And one year later, it was just another day. In a weird way, it was perfect. A day of no consequence. I think that it’s okay to be sad when you miss what could have been. Sadness, to me, in an indicator that you are human and that you are real. Healing doesn’t mean that you ditch the sadness altogether. There are other indicators for that. Like seeing other people’s hurts, being able to empathize, being able to show up for others instead of being the one that everyone else is showing up for. Having the headspace and confidence that you’ll make it through full days without a breakdown. Having the headspace and confidence you’ll make it through full days without being so detached, cold to the outside world. I’m liking the world now. I feel like for a while my senses were dull – or like it was winter when everything is grey and nothing seems as alive as it does in the spring. This is my emotional spring, I guess. I am budding. And I am alive.

 

 

 

“Let Me Get That For You” and other lies I told people

High school Kaia was a rockstar at public speaking. For some reason, it never phased me to be in front of a crowd and speak up. This was likely due to being the eldest child, being 100% comfortable with labels like “bossy” and “know it all.” Those are, after all, terms of endearment – right? Well, for some reason, all of this changed in college. Every time I had to speak in front of a crowd, I would get so nervous that the thought of it all would make me sweat. Beads of sweat. Dropping to the ground. Puddles. Wear your rainboots kind of puddles. To this day, I don’t know what that was all about, but it made my Public Speaking requirement that much more challenging. PTL that college is dead and gone — at least that part of it.

But a dear friend of mine who feels more like family than anything else recently asked me to speak at an event of his for people in the service industry. The purpose of this event was going to be a “tell all” of sorts for people who have had to deal with some serious bullshit customers, employers, etc. People who were asked to speak were to share stories of how they made the best of their circumstances in the service industry. Basically, it was going to be a night of stories and laughter and public speaking. Lots of it. Most everyone there was going to be a 10 year bartender vet, and I have only tended bar for about 6 months. Still, I knew I could (and would need to) draw from my yesteryear stories from high school where I most definitely, without a doubt, was working in the worlds most under-appreciated industry.

Of course I worried more than I should have about this — I was a nag about how much I was dreading it, too. Matthew would reassure me, calm me, remind me “you is kind, you is intelligent –” wait. No. Nevermind. He was more patient with me than I would have been with me. He basically just told me to show up, tell a couple funny stories and oh, yeah, be sure to cuss a little.

As I mentally prepared for this night of possible humiliation, or total exhilaration – I thought of all the funny people I loved and what makes their stories so good. All I wanted was to make people laugh. Jerry Seinfeld. Amy Schumer. My dad. My dad is the kind of guy who can tell a story. He can tell ALL the stories. He wouldn’t even have had to LIVE through something to tell the best story about it. If you had a story, you’d pull him to the side and ask him to tell it before you’d tell it on your own. That’s how good his delivery is. He’s so consistent. This wasn’t ever an explicit lesson that he sat down to teach me, but I learned over time that story telling is 50% being over-dramatic, and 50% believable and strategic lies. Don’t even act like this is wrong. Think of the best story-teller you know and say it isn’t so. The thing that made his stories that much better was how it always seemed so spontaneous, like the funniest thing he just said wasn’t something he thought about and mulled over for hours, trying to decide how big of a laugh or response he would get from bystanders.

I am no pro like him, so I had to map my words out in order to hope for any kind of success. And the one area in which I have undoubtably grown is in my writing. I can almost always express how I think or feel about something through written word. It’s a gift and a curse. Really.  So I started writing out my stories and observations about what it was like for me.

In case you missed the event, here’s the bit I wrote out initially and based my (yes) three-indentation deep outline off of. I’m a freak, I know.

All you need to know and learn in life can come from working in the service industry. In fact, it is arguable that working in the service industry is like the right of passage into just being human, and being a productive, respected person in society. You know you’ve reached the other side, when you can say you successfully made 20 Strawberries ‘n’ Creme Frappuccinos for a group of angsty 14-year-olds on band camp tour in under 8 minutes. Respect. Gold medal. You know you earned another gem in your crown when you were able to smile, nod, and just walk away when that nasty man asked you if your boobs were real, or silicone. Just for your information, they are real. And no, I did not let him in on that privileged information.

The service industry is not for the faint of heart. There are a few life lessons that I have learned in working various service-industry jobs.

  1. My first service industry job was babysitting. You may laugh at this and may not even think I’m being serious — but trying to have a non-awkward relationship with the father of the children you were underpaid to watch in the first place was like a full-time job because you have to be careful to never cross “the line.” All the girls in this room know exactly what line I am referring to. Thankfully I have always been chubby chic my whole life so I’ve never posed an immediate threat at least as far as I can tell. I was always a safe bet. Plus I was pretty responsible. Again, you probably think I’m joking. But babysitting was the worst of all service-industry jobs because you were stuck with the same goddamn customer for at minimum, 2 hours. Sometimes you were there for 8 hours. Better yet, overnight. At least nurses who wipe other human’s asses are paid well. Bless them for their service.
  1. If you actually work your ass off people won’t think you’re getting preferential treatment, even if you are. For a summer I worked under my uncle at his kickass pizza joint in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was secretly his favorite niece (sorry to any of my cousins who are reading this, but it was probably true since I came first). It was my ACTUAL first service industry job and I think that it made working in such a degrading work environment a little more palatable. The thing about this place was that it was a pizza buffet all the time but you didn’t have to buy the buffet. Buffets in general tend to draw in a very specific type of crowd. PIZZA buffets even moreso. The kinds of people who are attracted to pizza buffets don’t believe in tipping because they are basically DIY-ing their whole meal. Honey, if this was DIY you shouldn’t have left your house to begin with. Pizza Buffet Folk also have the idea in their mind that if they get stuck with a slice of pizza from the buffet that didn’t taste like it just came out of the oven, they are entitled to free shit. And lots of it. Honey, if it’s on the pizza buffet, you need to lower your standards. Or higher your standards overall and just never come to pizza buffets.
  1. For those of you who haven’t already heard me talk about how great it was to grow up in Wisconsin and how much of a Packers fan I am, for a while I worked for this 24-hour bakery/diner up there called Perkins. I was a hostess. I worked there ONLY because I wanted to go to Europe over spring break and ALL of my pay checks went directly to that. For months it was the least rewarding work ever because I didn’t get to spend any of the money I was making. No shopping sprees, no shared Cinnabon with your BFF. Anyway, what I learned there is that you can tell people what they want pretty easily. Maybe I just have the gift of persuasion, but I whole-heartedly believe that even if people think they know what they want, they could be wrong. As a hostess, I was in charge of selling our bakery items as people were waddling out and paying their bills. Cookies, cakes, pies. I was the top Boston Creme Pie seller and it wasn’t because of my sex appeal. Believe me. It’s all that sweet talking. I would say things like “I bet your girlfriend could go for that stuffed eclair right now!” And “lemon meringue pie is the ugly duckling of this display case!” And guess what. People actually bought that shit. I told women that the checkout was a “judgement free zone” in order to get them to add-on that extra slice or two of Reese’s Peanut Butter Pie to go. Too bad the calories still counted when they got home and ate both alone in the comfort of their own bed. All it took was making them think we were in it together. “We deserve this slice!,” I would say.
  1. You have got to get extremely comfortable with your sexuality and fast when you’re working in the service industry. I think the first time I ever felt noticed in a sexual sense was when I was 14 at that bakery/diner and the boy doing dishes kept making eyes at me. And I think he proposed, but I can’t be sure because we spoke different languages. I would go on to receive multiple marriage proposals, and it only took a couple for me to catch on and also realize I didn’t have to feel guilty for saying no to these men who didn’t even know my name. For a while I worked at this bar here in Chattanooga my friends and I affectionately call “Secret Bar.” Secret Bar, at the risk of giving away too many details and disclosing the actual name and location of said bar– was in a hotel and so we had a lot of businessmen come through. No offense to men in the room and especially no offense if you’re a BUSINESSMAN in the room who travels but you are basically all pigs. One night a guy told me “if you don’t quit doing that I’m going to fall in love.” I was literally polishing glasses, and the only eye contact he was making was not with my eyes. When a group of men is in for business they are even more dangerous because they only want to talk about sex with you as if you’d been waiting all night or your whole life to have this discussion. They would open with things like “now I know you’re probably a good girl but…” And go on to tell me really inappropriate stories about their lives as total sex maniacs and jackasses. If any of them really thought I was a “good girl” (and I’m not saying that I’m not), they should have demonstrated a little more self-restraint. But alas. I think businessmen confuse bars and strip clubs sometimes or at least assume that as a woman I would know where all the “best strip clubs in Chattanooga” are. Like “OMG my BFF Becky yes, she works at Diamonds and Dusk and she’s totally working tonight. Tell her I say hi!!” Spoiler alert: I don’t know, and if I don’t secretly give you the address to a place where you will get murdered in an alley, you are lucky. I am admittedly a feminist. And I believe that strip clubs are degrading to women AND men alike. I lost track of the amount of times I had to hold my tongue as one man asked which strip club I would personally recommend to him. Some businessmen believe that just because they were willing to make horrible life decisions while out of town and away from the fam meant that I, as their bartender, was also down for this. No, no thank you I am not interested in hating myself with you. I’m not even flattered but I’m saying “no thank you” so that you still leave me a tip on your credit card before you head to the strip club. Please dear god do not leave me cash.
  1. Don’t do anything you don’t want to. And especially don’t do anything someone is forcing you to do that would be publicly embarrassing. I worked at a beloved Texas Roadhouse for about a year and a half while I was in high school and if you’re not familiar with how it works at Texas Roadhouse, they play the song Cotton Eye Joe once every hour, on the hour — and the entire staff corrals around the main bar area to do the choreographed line dance. In my entire year and a half there – not once did I do this dance. Every single time I heard those faint fiddles, I booked it. No way in HELL I was going to do a little jig for minimum wage and a bunch of awkward sexual glances from MORE busboys I never even shared a word with. On a semi-related note, if you work in the service industry it helps to know multiple languages. Just FYI. Unless if you lack a thick skin, just stick to English.
  1. Sometimes people cannot handle your greatness. Haters gonna hate. Amirite?! Once I was hired to work for a nail salon slash tanning bed and worked only one day before the owner called to just say “never mind” about coming in ever again. According to her, she mailed my check for that one day of work but I swear I never saw it. What a little devil. There are just some people that are never worth it to work for, and I thank God every day she made that decision for me before the situation ever escalated.

All in all, working in the service industry is the best and worst. Despite all of the weird people I have come across and all of the disrespectful things that were said and done — I love it all and wouldn’t trade any moment of it for the world.

Okay, maybe I would trade the one sexual harassment complaint I filed against a co-worker at the bar who told me “I’m not really into rape.” Don’t worry. He was fired.

 

What’s real good.

I felt compelled tonight to take a million photos of mine and put some of my favorites of the last year into print. There have been many firsts for me this year, lots of seconds, thirds and fourths. But this has been a whole new year of independence. Milestones. Paying off debts. Cutting ties with things that bring me down and make me believe weird things about myself. Drawing in closer to people, places, and things that are life-giving. Believe me there were also lots of horrible things I took on – like the belief that pizza is a vegetable and wine is but an aged fruit.

These are just a few. Flowers from work events, cuttin’ pumpkins with roommates, many a jog on the Walnut Street walking bridge, Drake, Dad, confetti at a work event that I was NOT responsible to pick up at the end of the night.

 

These photos remind me that there is so much good that surrounds me. It reminds me of the good choices I made this year. It reminds me of the good that I know will still come. Like this collage across my bedspread — and like each of these moments reminds me — there were times between each of things where good was absolutely no where to be found. Blank space. Static.

These beautiful people and these beautiful sights remind me that there are glimpses of the good life from time to time, and be thankful for them. Not everything I do or that has happened in my life is worth sharing, worth crying over, worth remembering, or worth taking a photo of (though some of you would insist that I believe otherwise!). Between the highs, there are lows. Good cohabits with evil. Sweet n’ salty.

This urge to print out photos was triggered by a sweet yet unassuming email that I received from a very acquaintancey kind of acquaintance — the kind of “friend” who you must say hello to in public because you could be really good friends one day. At least you hope so. We had been firing back emails about this and that – all work-related, mind you. And out of the blue I get a response, albeit personal. She called me out for ignoring her at the Y two days ago when she yelled my name (guilty, though NOT intentional on my part, promise), and followed it up with a frank yet caring comment or dialogue of empathy. She was direct and to the point.

“I’m sorry to hear about your divorce.” Quite honestly, a lot of people are sad to “hear about it.” I took no offense to this, though, because this is what people say because there’s nothing else to say. It was quite refreshing to hear someone say the “D” word besides me without imagining that they probably went to vomit after they said/typed it. But she did follow it with this, which elated me:

“No matter what the circumstances, it is awful.”

A. Men. Amen. The reality of divorce, I am learning (at least for me), is that it doesn’t matter where the silver lining is or that there even may be one at all. Divorce is an indicator of death to some degree. It’s the death of a relationship, it’s a death of wishes and hopes, it’s the death of something that moments,  months, and many moons ago there were people crying happy tears over, not sad ones.

Anne Lamott once wrote that “forgiveness is giving up hope of having had a better past.” Forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others. Two needed things for my new year indeed.

#SquadGoals

I have a “squad” and I have goals, but I can’t say I know the actual definition of what has been affectionately named #squadgoals. Does this just mean that we aim to have a damn good time when we go out on the town? I did a quick search on Instagram under this tag to educate myself — and discovered that it usually relates to: (1) you and your besties devouring a larger-than-life-sized pizza (or this), tea parties with your biffle (plus a clown or two) at a street festival, or pictures of dogs – more dogs– and yes, more dogs. Maybe squad goals is something you can say when you grab brunch with the girls on a brisk, fall Sunday (pictured) . All that to say, this phrase is fluid and versatile – applicable in nearly any and every situation.

This trendy little phrase has me incredibly agitated and introspective all at the same time. Why are we the way that we are. It’s left me thinking about what actual goals I have for the coming year.

It makes me think about the purpose and beauty of goals. Like when I hear someone say that they set out to do something, and then they did it – I get to proud, so happy, so overjoyed for them because woooo-hooo they stuck with it.

It makes me think about how goals are hard to make, especially if you have big ones. God forbid you fall short.

It makes me think about how there is comfort and safety to accomplishing goals as a part of a team, and how it can be lonely yet empowering to make some of your own, for yourself, to do all by yourself.

It makes me think about how the people you surround yourself will effortlessly pull you away from or push you closer to accomplishing your set goals, and they’ll never know which way they’re swaying you if you’re never opening up about it to them.

It makes me think about how often I set goals for myself and keep them to myself out of fear.

It makes me wonder how much more I would accomplish if I made my true desires known to the world, and had the world to cheer me on if I wanted it to.

If you’re like me, you can’t even remember what your goals were for 2015, or you know you didn’t accomplish as much as you wish you had in retrospect.

Life for me this year moved quickly, and my objectives shifted drastically. On days when I felt like my horizons were not being broadened, my vocabulary was not blossoming, neither my self-confidence nor physical strength were growing very quickly  – I had to choose to say “no” to the internal shaming that likes to take up residence in my soul.

They say that you shouldn’t ever say something to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend. Sometimes I believe we have to be honest with ourselves even if the truth is ugly. But the truth – no matter how ugly, can always be communicated with love and tenderness.

So in 2016 let’s commit to being delicate with ourselves, regardless of our goals, regardless of the outcomes. Be kind and gentle to yourself for the sake of being kind and gentle. You deserve those things. The effects of this kind of self-talk and personal care can be real and life-giving if you let it be.

 

Pies and Turkey Thighs

I’m a proud participant in Friendsgiving, which I’ve actually written about before. It’s my fourth year orchestrating this – orchestrating is being generous. I make something, I bring it. Many hands make light work. I’ve hosted a couple years. And this is my second year doing the turkey. Over the years we have given and taken the best recipes that our families raised us on. That “corn dish” Melanie’s mom made, straight from heaven. Though it needs a new name because I am 100% positive there’s more cheese than corn in it. NO one’s angry about it, but it could be misleading.

This Friendsgiving tradition has made me feel a lot of things over the years, but here’s my heart as it stands right now.

  1. I am still grateful for my parents and family growing up who MADE all this food. This is a huge undertaking (ie. time, money, sacrifice of only catching snippets of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade).
  2. I am glad my folks let me play around in the kitchen so that once I’d be on my own I wouldn’t drown. My mom especially would ask me beforehand if there were special things I wanted to try for big dinners like this. To this day, she asks me when I go home if there are any new recipes I’d like to try (how sweet).
  3. Family doesn’t always have to equal “related by blood.” Holidays have a tendency to be all about blood relatives, but in many ways Friendsgiving has taught me to see these people as extended family — which is special. Inevitably every year there are a few people at the table I already know — and some that I don’t know so well at all. There’s always a part of me that misses being with my immediate family on Thanksgiving, but there’s a huge part of my heart now that beats harder and faster at the thought of sharing this special meal with pseudo-strangers. There is such beauty in sharing a Thanksgiving meal with a group of people who hail from different families, traditions, beliefs, and recipe books. There is power.
  4. Thankfulness is such an intimate thing. This season of Thanksgiving especially has been hard for me because I have felt the commercialism of it so much heavier. I have been shocked and mortified at it — the petty “thankful for Prada,” “thankful for this Skinny Mocha,” and “thankful I didn’t get her pregnant” ads that I’ve heard on the radio. YES. All are real examples. I’m annoyed with how quick we have been as a society to glaze over true thankfulness — giving our outward thanks and affections to whatever our tingles our tastebuds.
  5. Thankfulness is not just about what we have. The biggest thing I am thankful for this year has nothing to do with any one possession, one achievement, or one gift. I don’t have much on paper, and my achievements are relatively normal for being a twentysomething middle-class lady in the US right now. For goodness sake, I barely finished my undergrad degree (3 years late) and went through a divorce before the ripe age of 25, so in terms of thankfulness you’d link it’d be a year of “slim pickins” for sure. The thing is, the depth of my thankfulness seems to match the level of heartache and hardship that this year has brought about. What I am most thankful for this year is not even something I can put in a box or even name because it has been a series of events, circumstances, unlikely friendships, and decisions that I was presented with. In moments, my thankfulness has been simple: Lord, thank you for this bed to sleep in. For quiet. For the weekend. For evenings off. For waking up to my alarm the first time. This year has been a year of grief and transition, undoubtedly. I have been surrounded by countless friends and advocates and still felt very alone on my journey. If I were only looking for accomplishments and “things” in my possession, it would be easy to feel weighted down, disparaged. More than anything else I am thankful for my safety, the ability and freedom I have to make decisions for my future, for health, and hope.

Now, go eat pie and be thankful for real things.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Wanna make this pie on your own? You can.