Friday, May 18, 2018

Now You Just Get To Dance

Coolidge Corner, Brookline
I take class at North End Yoga several mornings a week. I love it. I love it so so much. In fact, last week the owner alerted me to the fact that I've taken 246 classes there. I'll hit 250 on Wednesday  next week. This thrills me. I love North End Yoga because the quality of instruction is TOP of the line and because I feel very comfortable there. This week I decided to push myself out of my North End Yoga comfort zone and try something new.

I noticed the studio excitedly promoting the fact that Saraswathi Jois was going to be in Boston as part of her US tour. I had no idea who she was to be honest, but they seemed PUMPED. She was going to be teaching Mysore Style Ashtanga classes there in the morning this week and some of them were open to all, not just the superstar regular Mysore people. (I take vinyasa yoga classes. Mysore classes are offered every morning in the big beautiful front studio at North End Yoga by Boston Ashtanga Shala and they are a totally different ballgame and one I've never felt totally confident I could play.) I looked into it. Turns out Saraswathi Jois is a big damn deal. She is THE damn deal.

"The 'Mysore Style' Ashtanga method is named after the city where Shri K. Pattabhi Jois lived and taught, and now his grandson R. Sharath and daughter Saraswathi continue his teachings at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute." 

Well, okay then. I registered and showed up. It was pretty exciting. When I got there the vibe in the lobby was totally different. It felt like something was about to HAPPEN. It smelled different. There were REAL yoga people walking around. A little less Lululemon and a lot more billowy linen. I felt totally totally clueless and it was refreshing. I chose a spot way off to the side in the back because I truthfully had no idea what I was doing or what to expect and that felt refreshing too. When the class began I noticed that, unlike me, everyone else knew exactly what they were doing and what to expect. They all knew the opening chant. They knew what everything Saraswathi was saying in Sanskrit meant. They knew when to face the back of the room (slightly jarring since that was my hiding spot) and the front of the room, and I knew nothing. I recognized some things from my vinyasa classes, but the class itself was totally different from anything I'd done before, two hours long, and really really challenging.

I left the studio feeling two things: first, I was a special kind of sore. They don't call it Mysore for nothing. (Sorry if that was offensive, I couldn't resist.) Second, I felt peaceful and genuinely happy and had a strong desire to bust out of my comfort zone more often, both on AND off the mat. Here's why:

About three quarters of the way through the class I realized things were moving to a very advanced level, one that was way beyond what I'm capable of physically doing at this point in my yoga journey. Maybe someday. Anyway, I knew that Led Mysore was taught as a series of postures and that once you hit the point where you couldn't really do something, you were to stop. So I stopped and tried to look respectful and calm and like I was meditating or gazing peacefully ahead at nothingness. But I wasn't. I was watching the rest of the class do these really challenging upside down twisty magic trick poses and I was totally blown away. I felt a little jealous and a little bummed that I couldn't join them, but then I realized that there was a strong possibility that some of them might be freaking out. These are serious yoga people who probably have far greater control of their thoughts and emotions than I do, but come on, this was the world's top Mysore teacher watching them do this, they had to be feeling a tiny bit of nervousness. 

My mind wandered. I realized that when you're a "regular" somewhere - a fitness class, a running group, a writing class, a community or religious group, a coffee shop, a commuter rail train, whatever - there's a comfort and a familiarity, but there's also a certain level of internal and sometimes external expectation. You do this all the time, you know the drill, and you should do it correctly. When you're new, you just kind of show up and do your best. There's a kind of freedom in that. Sometimes when I'm in class in the morning we'll hit a point where, to be honest, I'm just tired or my legs aren't having it or my back feels weird. I know the option exists for me to take a break, grab a sip of water and hang out in child's pose, but a little voice in my head always says, "Come on, Ann. You do this almost everyday, you're in the front row, stop whining and make it happen."

On one hand, I LIVE for those moments. I love movement and exercise and yoga because I get a strong sense of personal empowerment from meeting a physical challenge. Anytime I start to think I can't do something, I push back really hard, I do it full out, and when the instructor says it's time to come out of the pose? I hold it just a second longer. I like knowing that I'm strong because there were a number of years where I really really really wasn't.

On the other hand, it was so lovely to feel like I could move and breathe and just BE in the class yesterday simply because it interested me and I wanted to try it. I felt pure enjoyment the whole time I was moving and trying to do the poses and follow along, and then I got to just sit there and marvel at what my fellow classmates could do and observe as a master teacher did her thing. There was no pressure to prove anything to myself or anyone else and no pressure to do anything perfectly. It was just fun.

Sometimes I tell people who are new to the BodyJam classes I teach that all you have to do to succeed in class is show up. Once you show up, you've done it. Now you just get to dance. It felt wonderful to adopt that mentality for myself yesterday. I don't make it easy on me. I can be a real bully. I've been talking about this a lot lately with my nearest and dearest. I frequently feel that in order to feel happy things have to be perfect and that all the "shoulds" need to be met. I should eat this. I should wear that. I should get this much sleep. I should have a nicer apartment. I should travel somewhere this summer. I should hit this yoga pose. I should lift this weight. I should be rid of my debt by this date. I try REALLY hard all of the time. It felt so nice yesterday to just enjoy and see what happened. I felt happier than I'd felt in a long time. I don't think I did anything all that well technically, but I did the absolute hardest thing for me perfectly: I didn't worry. I didn't push. I just showed up. And it was great.

Happy Friday, you guys. I hope you all give your internal bully a couple days off and show up and try less and have lots of fun this weekend.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Five @ 5

Public Garden, earlier this week
I guess spring isn't THAT bad
1. Hi. I missed you. Yes, you. I've been a deer in the headlights for a few weeks. Anxiety going full throttle. Schedule WAY too full. Very minor (but annoying) health crap to deal with. And hay fever. SO MUCH SNEEZING. How have you all been? This time of year is always a little tough for me. I know I'm supposed to be thrilled that winter is ending, but I tend to feel a little "meh" during this transition to spring. I can't breathe through my nose and I can't figure out what to wear. Is it too soon for sandals and everyone will be in boots today? Or will I look like the angel of darkness if I wear boots? Is it okay to wear pantyhose because Kate Middleton wears them and my legs are terrifyingly white? Are my toes ready for primetime or are we not showing our toes because it's before Memorial Day but we should wear a less wintry shoe? I woke up a couple weeks ago and it was cold and gray and rainy. I put on a sweater and jeans. I went for a walk at lunch and it was sunny and warm and I saw a woman walk by me in a floral dress and nude pumps. Did we wake up in the same city? Does she have a crystal ball? I enjoy a more decisive season. It's cold. It's hot. Clarity. Spring is too much of a drama queen.

2. Have you seen Amy Schumer's I Feel Pretty? I took myself to see it last week because I really needed to sit in the dark by myself and eat salty snacks and not talk to anyone for two hours. I figured this movie would be entertaining enough. It's not going to win any awards, but it was very amusing. I know that half the internet is screaming about this movie because they think the message is that a woman would have to be delusional to have self-confidence. I can sort of see it? But I really don't think that was what the movie was saying. To me it was about self-perception. I don't think the other characters were shocked by her temporary confidence in the movie because a woman who looks like Amy Schumer should not be confident. I think they were shocked because (a) it came out of nowhere and (b) when was the last time you met a woman who was unabashedly confident? Every time someone pays me a compliment I immediately try to talk them out of it. Them: "You have nice hair." Me: "It so needs to be cut, I have so many split ends." JUST SAY THANK YOU. But I can't. Earlier this week I was walking home from a Pilates class carrying my mat. I had the obvious look of a person who had recently exercised. In my head I was thinking that everyone on the street was probably looking at me and feeling sorry for me. "Oh look at that awkward creature carrying her mat. Too bad she was probably the worst in the class. It's so sweet that she tries."  I shouldn't have felt that way. I was in the front row in class, I did all the high options, and the teacher told me directly that I was doing a good job more than once. I'd also taught two classes the night before. I think I can walk around feeling like a person who legitimately exercises. But that's where my self-perception is. I know I'm not alone here. How do we change this without bumping our heads? 

3. A few weeks ago I stumbled on this blog post from Follain about switching to natural deodorant. In the post they say natural deodorant is one of the "gateway products for people looking to make the shift to clean beauty." I made the switch to this one from Meow Meow Tweet and I really love it. It smells great, it's very gentle. That said, I don't think this is for everyone. You DO sweat and initially I wasn't used to that. But now I'm used to it, and I like the idea of letting my body do it's thing and no longer slathering a bunch of toxic chemicals under my arms every morning. Follain was right that natural deodorant is a "gateway product" because now I'm on a mission to make the switch to non-toxic products across the board. I never realized how much crap was in every single thing I was using. So far I've changed my shampoo, soap, cleanser, day and night moisturizers, and some of my makeup. My skin is a lot less irritated, and investing in some high-quality self care products has felt really nice. I look forward to my morning and evening routines in a way I didn't before. It feels good to take care of my physical self and that feeling is starting to spill over into other areas of my life. Follain is a beautiful store and you Bostonians should check it out. It's a woman-owned small business with locations in Beacon Hill and the South End. Their owner Tara really knows what she's doing. So far my favorite products are this shampoo, this cleanser, and this eye pencil.

4. As I mentioned above in #1, my anxiety has been booming lately. Naturally, I shared this very personal struggle on Facebook last week and heard from several people who feel the same way. Many of those people recommended I read Dan Harris's 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works. I want to do all of those things, so I went to the Brookline Booksmith and bought it. I'm hoping to read it in the next week.

5. What are you up to this weekend? I'm looking forward to dinner at Crudo with Prom Date on Saturday night and celebrating Mother's Day with my family at Monica's on Sunday morning. Happy Friday, you guys.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Five @ 5

1. I love Bon Appétit and the sassy, casual tone they use in their recipes. I tried this recipe for cuban-style chicken last night and it was SO DAMN GOOD. And easy. I had something similar to this at Guantanamera in New York City five or six years ago and I literally think about it on a weekly basis.  Always wanted to try and replicate it. This came close.

2. When I quit drinking last summer it changed so many things about my life almost immediately. I felt physically stronger. I lost a few pounds. I had more money. I was less of an asshole. I figured that was it. Done. Onto the next thing. Not so fast. What I'm learning is that when you get control of or eliminate something that is bad for you and that pretty much has complete control your life - whether it's alcohol, cigarettes, a toxic relationship or friendship, a toxic relationship with food, gambling, whatever - there is a whole other phase after you "quit the thing" where you look at the aftermath and the space you've created by eliminating it and realize you get to decide what to do next. You get to decide what to do everyday. Forever. Oh boy. Didn't see this coming. My days and decisions are no longer shaped and driven by this terrible vice or person, they are shaped by me. This makes me feel like Little Orphan Annie when she first arrives at Oliver Warbucks' mansion. They ask her what she'd like to do next and her mind is sort of blown. I feel like this a lot lately. I'm figuring myself and my life out with a clarity I don't think I've ever had as an adult. It's cool. It's a lot. But it's cool. Am I a morning person? Am I a night owl? Do I actually like this person? Do I actually like this apartment? Why don't I know how to drive? Why can't I maintain a relationship with a dentist? Do I like tea? I hope I'm not a tea person. When you're driven by something that zaps your clarity and presence and removes you from reality for years and years and years, you kind of stumble through life. Sure, I'll wear that. Sure, this person is my friend. Yeah I'll live here, whatever. When you get to the other side of it, you realize you get to choose. I have a lot of decisions to make. I'm excited. I think I'm gonna like it here.

3. I mentioned this yesterday: Hunger by Roxane Gay. Have you read it? I'm always late to the party so most of you probably read it already. I'm about 20 pages from the end. This is a book like no other. I can't say "I love it!" It's just not that kind of book. I can say that it's incredibly powerful and in the week I've been reading it, it's shifted the way I look at other people and how I feel about some of the less-than-wonderful things I've gone through in my life. Roxane is a complete badass of a writer and a person. You should read her books and follow her on Twitter.

4. As part of my "I'm sober now, who the hell am I and what do I like" phase, I started to realize that I don't particularly love or need Internet access at home. I'm not home all that much. I teach four out of five weeknights and my weekends I'm usually with Prom Date doing something fun. I don't have a television. When my ex moved out several years ago he took the TV and I never replaced it and haven't missed it. I access television shows via the Internet. But I don't really have time for a Netflix binge and, I'm sorry, I haven't super loved anything I've watched lately. I didn't finish Stranger Things. Can we still be friends? I got bored. I'm sorry. I watched three minutes of Game of Thrones and knew it wasn't my jam. I watched one season of Grace & Frankie and that was enough. Meh. It's just not my scene. I decided I'd do a 30-day no Wifi at home experiment. I lasted 24 hours. The second a new Law & Order: SVU was available I threw in the towel. I cannot live without Olivia Benson and she is absolutely worth the $1K/year I pay to have Wifi at home. You guys should watch the latest episode. VERY good.

5. What are you doing this weekend? I am hoping to go see Chappaquiddick and going out for sushi at this glorious place with Prom Date's family and friends-who-are-like-family for his birthday which was last week. Happy Birthday, Prom Date. And Happy Friday, you guys.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Snow Day Nine @ Noon

1. I really didn't expect to have a snow day today, but I'm thankful for it. I really really really needed a day where I didn't set an alarm. It's been a while since I've had one. I stayed in bed until 9am and then got up and got caught up on my This Is Us watching and my breakfast potato eating. Is everyone caught up on This Is Us? I just watched the Deja episode. I love that it included Goodnight Moon. Something about Goodnight Moon calms me down right away. All the memories of my mom reading it to me. All the "sh" words. I just love it. I might read it this afternoon. Why not?

2. Saturday night I made grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner. "Made" is a strong word here. I heated up tomato soup and put some cheap white American cheese together with bread and butter in a pan. I cannot speak for Prom Date, but I was totally swooning over this meal and haven't stopped thinking about it. It's happening again for lunch today. Similar to Goodnight Moon, it's comforting and takes me back to childhood. I might add it into my regular weeknight dinner rotation. 

3. All of the gyms and studios are closed today or at least have modified hours. I was looking forward to my yoga class this morning, but my studio was rightfully closed so I'm going to throw my mat down in the living room and try Yoga With Adriene in a little bit. After my grilled cheese settles.

4. I'm obsessing over being nicer to my skin (and myself) lately. I'm not using foundation for a little while so my skin can breathe, and I'm trying this new Micellar Cleansing Water to keep it clean. So far I really love it. It's gentle, does the job, and doesn't make my skin feel tight or dry or irritated at all. So far, so good.

5. Here's a great song from the forthcoming BodyJam 84 for you to dance to in your living room this afternoon if you start to get stir crazy.

6. I remember being in the waiting room at the dentist when I was in middle school and reading in a wrinkled old Glamour magazine that Cheryl Tiegs drank hot water with lemon in it first thing every morning to get rid of cellulite. I always thought that was interesting. Since then I've heard other people talk about doing this and I've tried it here and there, but I've been doing it regularly for two weeks now. I don't think it's getting rid of cellulite or changing my health or appearance in any drastic way, but I like that it's something I do as soon as I wake up and it's 100% focused on taking care of me. I read this post from the Fitness Alchemists a couple weeks ago that talked about how to be better at mornings. A big part of it was taking care of yourself first thing in the morning and how that can help you be better prepared and more clearheaded for your day, especially if your day revolves around caring for other people. Lemon water takes no time at all. I squeeze half a lemon into a mug, heat up 2 cups of water in the microwave, and dump it into the mug on top of the lemon juice and drink it. (Note, half a lemon is probably kind of aggressive, you might not need quite as much, I like things that taste like a punch in the face.)

7. OH MY GOD. April 25. Season Two.

8. When I officially, finally quit drinking I felt pretty confident in my ability to resist the urge to fall back into my old pattern regardless of how stressed, sad, angry, or happy I became. The one thing that made me nervous was the idea of a sober snow day. Sounds odd, but I was really worried about this. I wasn't all that concerned that I'd slip up, but I was dreading the moment where I realized I didn't love snow days as much as I used to because I couldn't drink 900 bottles of red wine during them. I'd see everyone posting on Facebook about how much wine they were going to drink and I'd feel left out and disappointed. My tomato sauce wouldn't be as delicious. I'd be grumpy and bitchy and miserable. Thank goodness, this ended up not being the case. This is my third sober snow day, and I really like it. I might even be enjoying it more. Just like the rest of my recovery journey, I'm realizing that what I thought was relaxing and rewarding was actually pretty destructive. The day after most snow days I always felt like shit. I'd drink too much and eat too much and feel like I needed a second snow day to recover. If I got a second snow day, I'd just drink more and feel even worse. (To be brutally honest, I am a little jealous of those of you who are planning to have some cozy red wine at home today and I sincerely hope you enjoy it. I'm not judging you, trust me, I wasn't having a glass of cozy red wine. I was having multiple bottles of cozy red wine.) I'm thankful for my sobriety and all the space its created in my life for real rest and clarity and self-care and I'm SO relieved that my tomato sauce tastes just as delicious as it did when I was half in the bag. Maybe even more delicious. 

9. It's hard to believe it today, but spring is coming. I have fallen in love with this tiny store in the North End called Ensemble. I got a lot of my fall/winter clothes there. They have maybe five racks of clothing, but everything on the racks is great. It's a small, woman-owned business and she sells a lot of clothes by female designers. One of my favorites is Luna Luz. As you start looking for spring clothes, I highly recommend you check this place out. And when you're done, meet me for a coffee in the neighborhood. Ensemble is tucked away at 2 Baldwin Place in the North End.

Happy Snow Day, you guys.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Five @ 5

Revere Beach Two weeks ago.
1. Trader Joe's is a gift to us all. That store. I just... it's too good. Anyway, I tried two new-to-me Trader Joe's products this week and loved them both. First, their Citrus Medley Greek Whole Milk Yogurt. DELICIOUS. Tangy. Creamy. Amazing. Was recommended to me by a co-worker who said it tasted like a creamsicle. She was right, it does. A creamsicle that keeps you full all afternoon. It might have too much sugar in it for you healthy people, but I'll be buying more of it because it has less sugar in it than the Milky Way Simply Caramel I usually eat. Second, their Shea Butter & Coconut Oil Hair Mask. I was feeling a little cranky and tired last night and needed a treat. I saw this and loved the packaging. It was only $3.99, and I was sold. Tried it when I washed my hair before bed and really liked it. Makes your hair conditioning experience feel a bit more luxurious and your hair smell like a trip to the beach. Good stuff. Love Trader Joe's.

2. I am in the middle of literally six different books right now and it's stressing me out. I don't know why. I watch more than one TV show, why can't I be reading more than one book? Anyway, my favorite out of the six right now is Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness. Have you guys read it? It's really really really good. You should also watch her TED Talk. 

3. A truly wonderful recipe for Macaroni & Cheese from Smitten Kitchen. Usually Smitten recipes take hours and hours and every single pan in your kitchen. This was a snap. I think we all need some comfort food after this week, yes? Yes.   

4. I decided to stop wearing foundation for a little while. Not all makeup. I'm not Alicia Keys. Just foundation. I'm two days in, so far no one has screamed and run away from me. I have no idea why I started to really dislike foundation this week, but I did. I was washing my face Tuesday night and did my usual cleanse and splash. I looked in the mirror and all the gunk was still there. I grabbed a face cloth and gave my face a scrub, looked at the face cloth all covered in makeup and decided I just couldn't do it anymore. Something about covering my clean skin in a tinted mask everyday suddenly just seems really weird to me. Also, I've never been able to find a foundation that looks right on me. I don't think it makes me look any better than I look without it, it just makes me look a bit more pale. And yet I've used it for YEARS. I've never loved my skin. It's not the best. It's super sensitive. It gets red really easily. It is what it is. I've been working really hard lately to sort myself out and love myself a lot more than I have in the past. Part of that has been the idea of embracing my flaws and showing myself compassion. I've been focused on my internal flaws. I think I'll try and do this with my external flaws for a little while as well. 

5. What are you all doing this weekend? I'm spending a couple much-needed hours in the yoga studio, starting to learn the new BodyJam and BodyPump releases, reading a few pages from each of my six books, making a cozy-to-the-max tomato soup & grilled cheese dinner with Prom Date, and going to a birthday party.

Happy Friday, you guys. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Five @ 5

I really want to bring these little posts back. I took a couple months off from the blog because I was recalibrating as a human, but I think I'm fully calibrated now. Ish. You know how it goes. So, hi. I missed you, you five people who read these. I love writing on Friday. I love Friday in general. It's always my most productive day at work, I get to teach for two hours after work, every other Friday is payday, and the following day is Saturday - my favorite day. I am going to keep these shorter, though. Here are 5 things that are in my head:

1. I go back and forth with my feelings on Elizabeth Gilbert. I have phases where I love her and think she's a brilliant, soulful, real AF genius. Then I have phases where I read her words and think, "Sure, lady. If I had a pile of money and a book deal I'd pack it all up and go find myself in Italy, too. Ugh." I'm in a good phase with her right now, and I'm about three-quarters of the way through her book Big Magic. I started to underline and highlight things in the book while reading it the other day. Then I started to realize I wanted to highlight nearly every single sentence, so I stopped entirely and just decided I'd read it twice. It's described as being about "creative living" but really it's just about being a person, being alive. It's focused on creativity, but it's not all about the arts. It's about going after whatever it is you're passionate about whether that be ice skating or raising goats or really anything at all. The thing I love most about it is that it talks about pursuing your passions vigorously but not necessarily quitting your day job to do so, and definitely not considering yourself a failure if you never become famous for whatever you want to pursue. It gives you permission to do your thing and just be happy you're doing your thing. It convinces you that the world needs you to do your thing. I recommend you read the first few pages and see how you feel. If it bugs you, put it down and try again in six months. If you love it, devour it.

2. Tried this recipe and hated it. Tried this recipe and loved it.

3. I pretty firmly believe that anyone who would want to own an assault rifle shouldn't own an assault rifle. Does that sentence make sense? It's early. I think if you want to own an assault rifle and you're not going off to actual war, then you have a problem and should not be trusted with things like, say, assault rifles. Can we ban assault rifles now?

4. Spring is coming and I'm searching for the perfect white t-shirt. I used to love the Banana Republic V-neck. They changed it and made it into something so thin you could pretty much see my veins through it. Then I was into the Old Navy v-neck, but they changed THAT and made it super boxy and gross. I want a trim, fitted, polished, crisp, white v-neck t-shirt that isn't as thin as tissue paper. Help me, internet. Seen any good white Ts lately? Let me know. I'll order five of them immediately. Love a white t-shirt. 

5. What are you all doing this weekend? Tomorrow morning I'm having a playdate with my fantastic friend, Erica. We are going to take two classes at North End Yoga and then eat large breakfasts to balance things out. I adore Erica. We met in a class in college we both found kind of dull, and have stayed in touch over the years through the magic of Facebook and a mutual love of a good manicure. We also both love words and animals, and we both ended up becoming group fitness instructors in our 30s. She teaches at the Energy Barre. You North Shore people should go take her classes. Tomorrow night Prom Date and I are going to have dinner at Grotto in Beacon Hill. Their beef tenderloin is one of my all-time favorite Boston meals, their service is solid, and their space is subterranean and super dark and I'm PUMPED.

Happy Friday, you guys.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Today is Valentine's Day and I want to talk about self-love. Several years ago I was having a very bad day. I'd been dumped. I was on Cape Cod with three other women for a "girls weekend" and I really didn't want to be there but they'd talked me into going. As predicted being on the Cape made me feel like shit. One moment stuck out to me as being the shittiest, though. One of the women told me from her perch on the couch as I sat on the floor in tears that all I needed to do was love myself and then all the other pieces would fall into place and I'd be happy and find the right man and everything would be great. Hair flip. Wine sip. She said it like it was nothing, like it was easy. Just love yourself. Oh okay. Thanks. I'll go do that. BRB. Was she wrong? Not entirely. But loving myself was proving to be really difficult for me and continued to be difficult until very, very, very recently.

For a long time I genuinely thought I loved myself. When I saw something I wanted I bought it, ate it, or drank it. I felt sorry for myself when people were mean to me. Wasn't that it? Wasn't that me loving myself? Why wasn't my life getting better like Hair Flip Wine Sip said it would? Why did I feel anxious and like shit all the time? 

This year I took a closer look and oh wow. No. I did not love myself. If I loved myself, I wouldn't have gone on that trip to the Cape. I knew I was going to have a lousy time. Out of the three women I went on that trip with two were okay, but one of them was really cruel and passive aggressive to me and I knew being around her was going to make me feel worse. So why did I go? Why did I remain friends with her for 8 years? Why did I exclusively date men who disliked me to my very core and were horrible to me? Why didn't I have a dentist? Why didn't I own winter gloves? It really hit me: all those times that people told me I was mean to myself, all those times that people told me I just needed to love myself? Yeah. They were right. I was a total asshole to myself and I needed to fix it.

I think a lot of the time when people want to focus on self-love and self-care they immediately book a massage or a vacation or take a personal day from work, I started my self-love project by booking a bunch of doctor’s appointments. I wanted a clean bill of health and I'd go from there. I went into my doctor’s appointments prepared to advocate for myself and it felt really good. I wanted my questions answered, I wanted good referrals to specialists who were actually going to call me back, I wanted more than a cursory glance and a "see you in a year." I got a physical and made sure it lasted a solid 30 minutes, I didn't rush through it sheepishly because I felt bad for taking up my doctor's time. I did a ton of research on birth control options and found the safest, most reliable one for a woman my age and set it up. I badgered my way into the dermatologist and had her look at all my weird moles and cut two of them off and biopsy them. I relentlessly called psychiatrists and finally found someone who would see me and got medicine for the anxiety I'd been struggling with for 15 years. I quit drinking alcohol and that blew the roof off of things. Then I got started on my apartment. I got a hamper. I moved my toaster to a part of the counter that made it easier to use and it made me love my kitchen again. I got rid of mugs I hated and books I never liked and pictures of assholes I'd dated. I got batteries for my alarm clock so I'd stop sleeping with my phone every single night. I moved my now-useless wine glasses out of the huge cabinet and filled that cabinet with food. Then, I dove into my finances. I sat down and spent a long time looking at my credit card statement online and for the first time in my adult life (sad, I know) I truly understood what I was doing to myself by carrying around that debt and I made a plan to pay it off as quickly as I could. 

Isn't this all so exciting? Nope. It's pretty boring. It's not a massage, it's not a vacation. It's better. It's so so so much better. I stopped taking care of myself years ago because I just didn't give a shit. I felt awful and I got used to it. I stayed down there. I gave up. I passively bought myself sweaters and Ubers to work and pedicures and bottles of wine and $28 hamburgers at the Four Seasons and called it self-love because self-love was trendy and those things sounded good on Facebook, but it was far far far away from loving myself. 

I am in a relationship now and I'm very happy. (I love you, Prom Date.) But I am equally happy that I'm FINALLY back in a relationship with myself and knowing and loving myself fully for the very first time. Happy Valentine’s Day, all.   

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

1. I did a shitty job of exercising this week. I have taken not a single yoga class. Not one. Sure I technically exercised, but that was work. I was required to be there, I was paid to be there. Getting motivated to do your own exercise can be so freaking hard. Even if you love it. I LOVE yoga. I feel better when I'm going regularly, I love the routine it creates in my morning, nothing about it isn't wonderful. And yet, every single morning this week? NOPE. Hard pass. I had every excuse. I was tired. It was cold out. I had a mountain of dirty dishes in the sink and I needed to get up and wash them instead of going to class. I didn't totally know what I was teaching that night and I should use the time I'd be in yoga class to make my playlist. Did I get up and wash my dishes? No. Did I get up and make my playlist? No. I stayed in my bed for a WHILE. I got up and threw myself together in 20 mins. I bought breakfast on the way to work. One day I even had two doughnuts. Two of them. That was the best I could do this week, and I'm fine with it. Maybe I'll do better next week. Onward.

2. I love Old Navy so much. I went yesterday and got this shirtthis dressthis hat, and two pairs earrings that they don't appear to have online. I really like getting earrings at Old Navy. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a nice pair of earrings. I am researching gold hoops currently. I really want to buy myself a super nice pair of Big Girl gold hoops. But even when I do buy those hoops? I'm still going to buy earrings at Old Navy to wear day-to-day. They are between $6 and $10 and they are adorable. If you're on the go and disorganized like me and taking your earrings off and shoving them in your gym bag hurriedly, you're eventually going to lose one. If they are $6? It doesn't matter. Also. Anytime someone tells me they like my jewelry, it's something I've purchased at Old Navy. Every. Single. Time. I love you, Old Navy. Never change.

3. I made this Shrimp with Tomatoes, White Beans & Spinach recipe last night and it was divine. Highly recommended. For those of you who know my situation: I did include wine in my sauce. I bought $2.99 Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio, poured out the half cup of it that I needed, and then dumped the rest down the sink and put the empty bottle outside in recycling. I felt like a superhero.

4. While we are on THAT topic, I went to an AA meeting recently. I'm not going to tell you where or when it was. I'm not going to tell you who I went with. I was asked if I wanted to check it out and I went. A lot of things about the experience were eye-opening for me. The most major thing was that I could not believe how crowded the meeting was. HUGE group. Standing room only. Tons of people who looked exactly like me, tons of people who looked nothing like me. I looked at the person I went to the meeting with on the way in and jokingly said, "I thought I was the only one." I sat through the meeting and looked around and wondered who was in all the bars since everyone was here. I never realized and still can't totally comprehend how common it is to have a complicated, challenging relationship with alcohol. Going to this meeting and seeing how many people showed up for it kind of blew my mind. On one level it made me feel better: I'm not the only one who has this struggle. On another level, it sort of bothered me. If THIS many people in this tiny sliver of the world are showing up for this one meeting of which there are hundreds in the area, then why is it still okay in our culture to almost celebrate binge drinking? Sweatshirts that say, "Sip Sip Hooray" and tote bags that say "Rosé All Day." I tried drinking rosé all day many, many, many times. I tested it out. I made sure I got a good sense of it. Trust me, it's not a good thing. I was walking through Roche Bros in Downtown Crossing yesterday and the woman running the wine tasting asked me multiple times if I wanted to try some wine. I finally had to tell her I had a drinking problem and she needed to stop. I went to lunch in my beloved North End last month and at the end of the meal during which I did not drink alcohol, the server brought me a shot glass of limoncello. A nice gesture? Maybe. But thank goodness I was master of my drinking domain by then. If they'd hit me with that on a day earlier on in my process, I would have had the limoncello and it would have been off to the races for days and days. Now, I'm not turning into a preachy jerk who thinks everyone on the planet has a drinking problem and alcohol needs to be banned. I'm not saying that at all. On Thanksgiving my family split a bottle of white wine and I didn't really care. On my birthday I went to the Four Seasons with a huge group of my friends and 90% of them had cocktails and I didn't really care. It doesn't bother me that people drink. What does bother me is that there is this culture that really encourages us to overdo it. If you go to a restaurant and you aren't drinking alcohol, the server rarely asks you if you want another glass of whatever you're having. If you are drinking alcohol, they are up your ass to order your next round, they are refilling your wine glass before you can tell them not to. I went to a party on Friday night in a restaurant and told the server I didn't drink alcohol but that I wanted something with a lot of lime juice, a splash of grapefruit, seltzer, and a salt rim. It was delicious, I really liked it. I wanted another one. I had to chase him down to order it, but I noticed he offered everyone who WAS drinking alcohol a second round. I had a couple people at the party ask me how I went about ordering my drink, and I saw it occur to them that not having alcohol at the event was an option. For YEARS I felt I could not stop drinking because how on earth would I still socialize? How could I do all my favorite things like see friends after work and go to nice restaurants and have oysters in the summer and cook in my kitchen at the end of a long day? You needed wine to do those things. What I've learned over the past 121 days since my last drink, is that I can still do all my favorite things. I actually enjoy them more. Prom Date and I go to a really nice restaurant and have a gorgeous meal almost every Saturday night. I ate oysters several times this summer. I cook in my kitchen all the time. But it was driven into my brain for years that I couldn't do those things without alcohol, and that's bullshit. Now, this was my first AA meeting. I'm not going back to that particular one simply because it won't work with my schedule regularly. I'm not sure if I'll find another one. I might. We'll see. But I'm told that a big part of AA is to go through the steps and achieve sobriety and maintain that sobriety partially through your efforts to help others with the same struggle do the same thing. I am a huge fan of this model. When I shared my initial post about my drinking problem, I heard from a lot of people who confided in me that they wondered about their own drinking. Talking with those people did strengthen my resolve to stay sober and made me look at my newly adopted lifestyle and like it more. I want to put it out there that if you do wonder about your drinking and you want to talk about it, I am here to listen to you. Again, I don't think every person on the planet is an alcoholic, but I do think we are all encouraged to overdo it. If you need support figuring out where you fall on the alcohol spectrum, I am happy to provide a judgement-free space for you to talk it out. That meeting really let me know that I'm not alone, you're not alone either.

5. On a lighter note, have any of you seen this new movie Lady Bird? It looks really good and Stephen Colbert says it's one of the best movies he's ever seen. I'm thinking I might need to take myself to see it on Sunday afternoon.

Happy Friday, you guys.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

1. I was late to the party in terms of loving butternut squash. Nowadays I can't get enough. Doesn't this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus sound delicious? I love that there's no tahini in it. Can't stand tahini. Might whip up a batch of this over the weekend. 

2. I read this article on self-care this week and it really resonated. The whole concept of self-care sort of bothered me for years. Oh great, on top of everything else I'm dealing with, now there's pressure to find the money for a fucking facial and some free time to take a bath. Ugh. What the article was saying is that self-care isn't necessarily about making your life look like some happier woman's Pinterest board, it's literally about taking care of yourself. It's having a dentist. Making a spreadsheet so you can figure out your debt and your budget. It's staying home and letting yourself not wash the dishes and not care that you're not washing the dishes. I loved this article. You should read it if you haven't already. 

3. Tonight is my 20-year high school reunion in Quincy. I can't believe it's been 20 years. I kind of doubt anyone prepares for something like this and says, "Yeah. I can believe it's been 20 years," but I still have to say it. I didn't like high school. I was shy and awkward. I had a crush on a boy who didn't like me back. My favorite teacher from all four years was actually a student teacher from Boston College who taught my history class for just a few months one year. I didn't drink any water during the day because I was scared to go into the bathroom because people smoked in there. I was voted "Quietest" in our yearbook and the day they took the photos I refused to show up for them so they had to come upstairs and get me and make me come downstairs and in the picture I look like I've been crying and that's because I had been crying. My business teacher sent me to the school psychologist because he thought I seemed sad. I had a few very close friends, but I never really felt like I was part of a group. I didn't really go to parties or drink (I made up for that though, right? Haha, right.) My grades weren't amazing. I wasn't super nice, people weren't super nice to me, and I was pretty happy when it was all over. I never felt comfortable in that building. I went back there about eight months ago. I found myself in Quincy on a Saturday morning and was passing North Quincy High School on my way to the T and saw that there was a fair amount of activity out front, so I just followed a group of people in and kept walking so that I looked like I had a reason to be there. I noticed a few changes, but it was pretty much the same. It smelled the same, it echoed the same. I walked all over the building and tried to feel nostalgic or have a sense of, "Awww I remember that!" Never happened. I went to my five-year, my 10-year, and my 15-year high school reunions and I left all of them feeling funny. I've never gone to any of my college reunions. I think I popped into an after party for one of them in a bar one time, but that was about it. I loved college. I feel great about the experience I had there, I loved so many of my professors, and have so many fond memories. I'm at peace with college. I rarely think about it. So it seems for me reunions are not about reuniting with old friends and catching up and celebrating, they are about making sense of an experience, making peace with it. Maybe this will be the year high school will make sense.

4. Did you all have a nice Thanksgiving yesterday? Mine was pretty good. I was having an off day. Don't you hate it when your off day falls on a day where you're supposed to be cheerful and rosy cheeked and laughing and skipping everywhere? Yeah I was off. But teaching Thanksgiving morning classes perked me up and time with my family is always lovely and seeing my pug nephew never fails to make me smile. I think there's a LOT of pressure to be happy during the holiday season and I just want to put it out there that it's okay if you're feeling off or a little meh or downright sad here and there over the next few weeks. Everyone else is, too from time to time. Ease up on yourself. 

5. I chose new glasses frames and I'm so excited I could burst. I never thought I could be a cool Warby Parker person and I never in a billion years would have picked these out. I grabbed them by accident and put them on and LOVED them. I think I'm going to be a glasses person, I'm going to wear them all the time. I can't see a damn thing, if I'm honest. I've always been insecure and not wanted to wear my glasses regularly because I wasn't sure if people would think I looked funny. But, I'm 20 years removed from high school and shouldn't care about stuff like that anymore AND I'm into true self-care nowadays, so a glasses person I shall be.

Happy Weekend, everyone.    

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

One of my favorite pockets of the North End.
1. I love Frances McDormand. I love her. I'm going to see her new movie Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with my two best friends (Mom and Dad) this Sunday at the wonderful Coolidge Corner Theatre. It looks great, but honestly I'd see anything Ms. McDormand did. (Also the Coolidge has the best popcorn I've ever tasted.) If you're a fan of Frances and you haven't already, you should read this recent New York Times article about her. 

2. I think had what Oprah would call an "aha moment" the other night. I was sitting on a bench trying to get in the zone to teach a dance class. I started thinking about a class I'd taught recently that I was particularly pleased with. I approached that class almost as if I was trying to earn the right to continue teaching. I did this because my new manager was in the studio taking the class. I wanted to do my very best work, and convey how much I care about my participants and how grateful I am for the opportunity to teach. Teaching that way felt TERRIFIC. I realized sitting there that I could and should be approaching every single class that way; from a place of genuine caring and gratitude. Then I dug a bit deeper and decided that maybe I should approach other situations in my life that way, too. Maybe I should care a bit more and give my very best effort to everything that I'm grateful for. Maybe I can apply this approach to the way I do my job, the way I treat my people, and the way I treat myself. I'm going to think more about this. Operating from a place of gratitude. I've never really had a life motto or philosophy. I'm kind of loosey goose with how I live. Do you have a life philosophy? Is that what you even call this? A life philosophy? A human being mission statement?

3. While you're thinking about your life philosophy/human being mission statement, here is a quick and delicious snack you should make: sliced baguette brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven, smear of good ricotta, sprinkle of black pepper, thin slice of Prosciutto di Parma piled loosely on top, drizzle of honey. I made this last weekend for me and Prom Date and it was quite good. I'd do it again with a bit more honey. Be indulgent with that drizzle. Make it rain.

4. 100 days ago today I officially quit drinking. 100 full and complete days. I keep waiting for the moment to arrive where I regret this decision or genuinely miss alcohol, but that moment hasn't arrived yet. Sometimes I crave the escape the bottles of wine once gave me. When you're sober you feel every feeling and hear every thought. On occasion that can be really hard, especially if you're like me and struggle with anxiety. I've tried to seek out other ways of coping with the noisier, harsher moments and I've done an okay job. I give myself a B. Maybe a B+. Overall, life is good. I don't miss the shame, exhaustion, and despair of my drinking. It sounds dramatic, but that's what it was for me. Shame, exhaustion, and despair. I was watching This is Us on Wednesday night and there was a scene where one of the characters who is battling an addiction to painkillers and alcohol crumples to the ground and tearfully keeps repeating, "I just need somebody to help me." Once again, This Is Us just nailed it. Nailed. It. I had a moment exactly like that. It was a year ago. A Saturday. Very, very late at night/early in the morning and I was sitting on the steps of a church in the North End bawling my eyes out. Several hours earlier I'd texted whichever friend I'd been out with and told them I was "Home safe!" Nope. Not home. Not safe. Sitting there outside the church after several hours of supplementary drinking by myself in an effort to not feel my feelings and hear my thoughts, I just wanted someone to find me. I was ready. I wanted someone to come out of the church and find me and take me inside where it was quiet and safe and let me tell them how I ended up there. I knew if I could start talking to someone right then, I'd start the process of fixing what was broken. No one ever came out of the church and eventually I walked home and went to sleep. I'm thankful for the combination of factors, people, and experiences that came together a little over 100 days ago and made me brave enough to start fixing what's broken.

5. I applied to a real, legit yoga teacher training program and got accepted. Isn't that weird? I start in January. If you told me two years ago that I'd be doing this I'd have laughed REALLY hard in your face. Sure, I teach in a gym. But I yell and crank music as loud as it will go and flail and say strange things and throw myself on the floor and at the mirror. I'm not a yoga instructor. For some reason I feel in my bones that this program is the right next step for me though, so maybe I'll become one. We'll see.

Happy Friday, you guys.