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.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

Wednesday evening, Hanover Street
1. Last night I took a new (to me) class at my yoga studio and I loved it so much that waking up this morning I still don't know what to do with all my feelings about it. Pilates Fusion. I'd seen it on the schedule for years. I'd taken other classes by this instructor. She is enormously popular and I enjoy her pilates mat classes on Saturday mornings from time to time. This was Something Else. It's a little cardio, a little ballet toning, a lot of push-ups and squats, AND a classical pilates mat flow. It was so good I had to stop myself from clapping several times. Bit of a reserved group at this studio, no floor slaps for them. So, after you do all of that stuff I just mentioned and you are sweatier than you've ever been in your entire life, there is an actual savasana, which essentially means you lie on the floor and do nothing. Or everything. During the savasana she shut all the lights off and blasted this "Praying" song by Ke$ha that I'd never heard before and that made me cry joyful tears on my mat. I realize I'm maybe a little too excited about this class. That's just me being me. But seriously,  this was the real deal. If you want a PHENOMENAL workout, you need to try this. And just a quick sidenote for all my fellow lower back pain sufferers: pilates really does help, my lower back pain is way more manageable since I've started doing pilates more regularly. Thursdays at 7:15pm in the North End. $16 walk-in.

2. Well, everyone warned me. Not everyone, but most people. When I contemplated bangs people said they'd be fun, but growing them out would be a bitch. I tried. I really did. I got fun hair combs and tried to have a positive attitude and just push them to the side. I Googled pictures of Kate Middleton during her bang grow-out phase to make myself feel like less of a monster. I bought a wide headband and tried to liked it. But yesterday I just snapped. I hate this. I HATE IT. I want them gone. I don't know where to put them. It's throwing off my whole head. It's throwing off my whole LIFE. Growing out bangs is the damn worst. If you are considering getting them, don't. Okay sorry. I just needed to let that out. You're supposed to be all sunshine on the internet and pretend that everything in your life is great and you have it all together and I just can't do that any longer in the area of bang growing. It sucks and I'm miserable.

3. Fun Fact: I don't know how to drive. I still haven't learned. I don't dislike the concept of driving, it just hasn't yet occurred to me to go learn how to do it. Cars have never been my thing. Interestingly, cars are very much THE Thing for my boyfriend (I have one of those now) and they always have been. They are his passion, they are his career. His whole energy changes when he talks about cars and the depth of his knowledge about them is (at least to me) extensive. 20 years prior to our first date this summer we actually went to my prom together. That magical night back in May of 1997 we opted to forgo the group limousine and instead ride in his very shiny fancy looking black Mustang that I'm quite sure has a proper name other than Very Shiny Fancy Looking Black Mustang. It looked really good. It had a loud engine. I liked it when he drove fast. I felt like a smug badass arriving at my prom in it. That was about as much as I knew. Fast forward to 2017 and I'm still pretty car clueless, but last weekend I went to my first real car event. It was called Cape Run and my Prom Date organized it with a friend of his. This is the 15th year they've done it. Every year it raises money for two charitable causes: the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline and a local family in need. I wasn't sure what to expect. He said there would be fast driving. I said, "Like 80 miles per hour?" He kind of smiled and said, "Faster" and I kind of considered wearing a helmet. I didn't, but this event was a total culture shock for me. Imagine approximately 80 of the most impressive looking automobiles you've ever seen in your non-driving life all in one place. Powerful. I couldn't believe my eyes. We gathered at a very nice car dealership in Norwell, checked everyone in, there were some poignant remarks about the two charities, some rules explained, an introduction to the police who'd be escorting us, and then we took off. Holy SHIT did we take off. Remember how I enjoyed how fast my Prom Date drove the night of the prom? Same deal. Times a million. I had butterflies in my stomach and was holding on to the door handle awkwardly and could only breathe in, but I really liked it. I was so proud of him. The event raised a good amount of money, it was a beautiful day, and the genuine camaraderie amongst the participants was something I didn't expect. Hearing them all talk to each other about their cars reminded me of hearing artists talk to each other about their work. I loved it. I started to understand the car thing a bit more. The best part of the day, though, was seeing my Prom Date immersed in something he really loves. One of my MOST favorite qualities in a person is the ability to be passionate about something. Anything. Even something I know nothing about.

4. I decided I'm going to attempt to write an actual book. Truthfully, I started it seven years ago. It's a bunch of essays saved in various email accounts and on various laptops and in the notes app on my iPhone at this point, but I really want to do something with it. Until recently I've been scared to give it a shot. Writing is the thing I love to do the most. If I make it real, if I attempt to really do it, what if it fails? I'll have lost it, it won't be mine anymore, it won't be the same. A few things came together to motivate me and make me feel more brave. Part of it was thinking about teaching fitness. I loved BodyJam SO much. It was the thing that, in my mind, saved my life. Taking class made me happier than I'd felt in so long. If I tried to teach it, it could ruin it. It didn't. It made it better. A lot better. I'm also two years away from 40 now. That milestone is making me think, hmmm, what do I want to accomplish before I get there? Also, quitting the booze has given me a TON of free time and I need to fill it up with something. And finally, seeing my Prom Date do something with his life that is tied to the thing he loves the most has been inspiring for me. I feel like I should do this. I'm going to try. Stay tuned.

5. It's getting cold out and I want to buy this, this, this, and these.      

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

And that's just what they'll do.
1. I shared this on Instagram earlier this week, but I'm mentioning it again here. You need need need need to go to Trader Joe's and buy their vegan Kale, Cashew, Basil Pesto. I cannot stop eating it and I'm terrified of the day they stop making it. It seems to be a new product so there isn't even a link for me to send you to. It's in the refrigerated section by their hummus and pico de gallo. Go get some, smear it on toast, top that with some thin slices of fresh mozz, and top that with an egg. SO DAMN GOOD.

2. I wish I could have done a "Me Too" post this week, but I couldn't. One thing I've always struggled with as a victim of sexual assault is to claim it. What does that mean? I can't say that it happened to me and really mean it. I cannot. I know what happened. I know what it's called. I knew it was wrong each and every time. I've even said it out loud. But, I can't say it and REALLY mean it. In the back of my head there's a teeny tiny voice that says I'm a liar. It didn't really happen to me. I didn't speak up soon enough so it doesn't count. I'd been drinking so there's a grey area. In at least one case I was probably strong enough to have physically stopped it and I didn't so consent was probably implied. And so on and so forth. I'm thankful to all of you who did share. I'm usually Share-y McShareson on Facebook and I really could not copy and paste and type those two words this week. That was weird for me. I thought about your posts a lot and that fact that it was probably pretty scary for you to write them and share them. You've really refocused and reinvigorated my healing process. Thank you, and I'm sorry for what each of you has experienced.

3. I haven't been to the MFA for a while. The last time I visited I wasn't in love with the experience. I got snapped at for attempting to use the wrong entrance and it soured the rest of my visit because I let it because that's how I am. I think I've recovered, and I'm glad because I am dying to see the Murakami show that just opened. Who wants to go with me? I think we should go and then go to the new Eventide Oyster that just opened in the Fenway. Doesn't that sound like a good day?

4. Earth shattering news: I've decided to grow out my bangs. Already? Yup. Tomorrow I will go to the salon and get a transitional haircut to begin the process of bidding my bangs farewell. In my heart I knew they would be temporary, a fling. I loved the time we had together. Honestly, I got them because I needed to act out. I was stressed and churning and needed to do something bratty and indulgent. But what could I do? I don't drink anymore. I couldn't find anything I really wanted to buy. Food wasn't cutting it. The night before I got my bangs, I taught my classes as hard as I could and the next morning I twisted myself into the most pretzel-y pretzel shape I've ever twisted myself into in yoga. But I still needed to do SOMETHING to get it out. Whatever "it" was. When I got to the salon I could barely sit still, and when it was done and I looked in the mirror it was such a relief. I really liked being a girl with bangs for a month, but now I'm done. I want my face back. I'm finished being in my disguise. I have combs to hold them back with and a headband and I'm ready. Let's grow.

5. I hate to get back on this and I really don't want to talk about it, but this Harvey Weinstein story is really making me itch. This morning I saw a New York Times video hitting the point home that most people in Hollywood knew about it and didn't do anything. This doesn't shock me. I had a situation at work many, many moons ago. It was totally separate and totally different from the situations I alluded to above in #2, but it was awful. It completely changed the course of my career and thew me into a tailspin in my life that, honestly, I'm sort of still trying to recover from. Most, if not all, of the people in the organization knew what was going on. They gossiped. Even the people who were hired after I'd left and who never even met me gossiped. They had a field day with it. I'm sure it was amusing, but they did nothing to help me. No one ever said, "Hey, you're a junior member of our staff. You've suddenly dropped 25 pounds and look like you're about to fall over and we know why. Maybe this isn't a good idea for you, let's talk about it and try and get you out of it." I've done my best over the years since then to be a good manager of younger female staff and a confidant for my female co-workers. If I notice even a tiny little thing that seems off, I drop everything and check in. It's important to do that, clearly... Okay. I'm done talking about this now. This isn't a very organized piece of writing. I'm not super clearheaded about all of this, but I'm getting more clearheaded and I plan to write a lot more about it :o)

Happy Friday, all.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

The Back Bay looked nice yesterday, no?
1. So last night at 11:30 p.m. I decided it was time to clean and organize my entire apartment. It wasn't like I had to get up and go to work and then teach two classes today or anything. UGH. Anyway. One task was to clean off my kitchen table which was covered in the birthday cards and gifts I received last week. (I am a very lucky girl, thank you for all the cards and gifts, you guys.) One of those gifts was a copy of Amy Schumer's The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. I picked it up and as I was walking to my bedroom to put it on my desk, I flipped through it. A sentence caught my eye and I stopped walking, got totally sucked in, and read an entire essay standing up right there in my hallway. I figured this book would be good. I had it on my list. But it's really not what I expected. It's better. I think you should all go get a copy and read it with me.

2. I'm on the hunt for a new apartment. It's time, but I'm not in a rush. I started my search a little over a week ago. I've been to see one unit and seeing that unit temporarily took the wind out of my sails. I don't understand how anyone affords to live in Boston. I moved into my place a little over five years ago, and I think it just might be the cheapest apartment in the entire city. I saw what I could get for $1700 (which would be a somewhat substantial increase in price) and it rattled me. I wouldn't have been able to keep both my bed and my couch. It was that small. Because I'm not in a hurry and not totally sure what I want and where I want it or who I am and what the meaning of life is, I've started to search by keyword on Craigslist and Zillow. Instead of searching by location and price I'm just typing in things like "clawfoot tub" and "walk to beach" and "hardwood floors." Priorities. So far the search results are telling me to live in Lowell, Swampscott, Brighton, or Revere. Interesting.

3. "When you are a young woman, and you believe in your own worth and personhood and agency, it can be hard, despite the cliches that govern this situation, to understand that an older man who takes an interest in you does not necessarily share these beliefs."

4. I'm making this spaghetti pangrattato recipe for dinner tonight. One of my absolute favorites. It's so flavorful and comforting. Also, I love capers. Capers on everything, please.

5. This week my therapist asked me a question and I can't stop thinking about it. I was telling her what my experience of being in a therapy session was like. I said that I felt like I sort of floated above myself and listened to the words I was saying for the 50 minutes I was with her, and then reflected on them afterwards. She asked me if I ever felt fully present in our sessions and I said no. I felt bad. I felt like I was telling her she wasn't doing a good job. She is doing SUCH a good job. She then asked me if I ever felt fully present anywhere else, and I said no again. Then I took it back and told her I felt fully present when I was teaching. This is true. It's not that I don't want to be fully present in any other areas of my life, it's just that I'm not. I can't be. Yet. Sometimes I'm 95% there. Sometimes I'm 50% there. But when I'm teaching I'm 100% there, and I always have been ever since the first time I attempted to teach six years ago. It was in my very first training. When I got up to present my track something clicked. I felt like I met myself. The second the music started I had this feeling of, "Oh, there you are. Hey." Like I'd been looking for someone for what felt like an eternity in a grocery store and they literally weren't in any of the aisles and then I finally spotted them way up front looking at the potted plants. I'm not sure why teaching is the place where I can be fully present. I'm very shy, pretty insecure, and not super in shape, but standing up in front of a room full of people with a microphone strapped to my face telling them how to exercise feels just right. I wish so much that I could take that feeling out of the studio and apply it to the rest of my life. In the meantime, I'm thankful to have that feeling in the studio. I'm excited to see some of you in the studio tonight.

Happy Friday, all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

World Mental Health Day

Ann in the Sand.
Was feeling mopey today and the beach cheered me up.
Today the Internet told me that it's World Mental Health Day. I don't know if establishing a day ever actually accomplishes anything, but I'm glad this one exists. I think the world does need to pay more attention to the importance of mental health, and if this day encourages even a few people to start taking theirs more seriously, I'm all for it. I thought I'd share a tiny bit of my mental health story here:

I'm pretty open about the fact that I see a therapist once a week. I need help. I have no problem admitting that. I'm not going to whisper about it or call it something else in my planner in case someone sees it written down. I'm getting help because I struggle with anxiety and have some traumas to process. That doesn't make me a bad person. That doesn't make me "crazy." I'm getting help so that I can manage my anxiety and not let the things that happened to me in my past put a damper on my present and my future.  I'm getting help so I can treat the people I love better. I'm getting help so I can be a good co-worker and a more clearheaded instructor. I'm getting help because I want to live a happy and healthy life. Nothing to be embarrassed about. 

I'm a sharer, though. I'm an open book. I LOVE talking about my feelings. I'm aware that not everyone is this way. Sharing how you feel can be hard, asking for help can be really hard, and finding help can be absolutely BRUTAL. When I was looking for my current therapist, I wasn't feeling my best. I was feeling pretty lousy. I started to look for someone to talk to. A lot of providers just never called or emailed me back. Those who did reply went nowhere. They were either not taking new patients, they didn't take Harvard Pilgrim HMO, or they weren't available at a normal time of day. It can be so discouraging. You finally get to a place where you're ready to look for a therapist and you feel rejected over and over and over again. It can start to feel like it's not worth it because it's almost making you feel worse. 

When my current therapist wrote to me and said that she did take my insurance, she was located a 5-minute walk from my office, and she was available at a normal time on a normal day, I was in shock. I honestly still don't believe her sometimes. A tiny part of me is just waiting for the day when I arrive for my appointment and she tells me that woops, she was wrong, she doesn't take this particular type of Harvard Pilgrim insurance and here's a bill for $1.4 million dollars and have a nice life. I doubt that will happen, and the fact that I still kind of worry about it happening is the reason I'm there in the first place, yay! 

Anyway, trying to find help was shitty. If my therapist moves or retires and I have look for someone new, it will be shitty again. If you're in the process of trying to find help, you probably think the process is shitty, too. I totally understand. But what I want to scream from the rooftops tonight is that it is SO WORTH IT. Taking care of your own mental health is so important and can make such an enormous difference in less time than you probably think. If you feel sad, angry, overwhelmed, or anxious; if something terrible just happened and you need some help making sense of your feelings; if the extreme amount of violence in our country and around the world is shaking you to your core and you need to talk it out, go for it. Get some help. And (I mean this, I really really really mean this, you tiny community of people who read this blog) if you need help asking for help, I'm here to help you. Please never ever hesitate to ask me. 

Happy World Mental Health Day.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

New year. New mug. New motto.
1. I'm going to keep this short because it's my birthday and I'm all jittery and happy and excited for my day. Today I am 38. Isn't that hysterical? They are going to let ME be an actual 38-year old. It really makes me laugh. I'm not 38. You should see my kitchen table right now. You can't even believe what a disaster it is. People who are 38 have neat, orderly, clean kitchen tables. Clearly, I am not really 38. How did this happen? I can actually remember my third birthday. I know you don't believe me, but I really honestly do. I have this vivid memory of coming downstairs and then turning around to face the stairs when I got to the bottom. I held three fingers up and stared at them and in my little kid brain I thought, "Woah. That's a lot. I hope I like 3." I still feel that way this morning. I hope I like 38. Even though I'm not really 38.

2. I fell in love with these Parcelona hair pins while back. I just thought they were so pretty. I finally ordered them and they arrived this week. OBSESSED. If you love a messy bun as much as I do, you need to get these magical things.

3. I can't put my feelings about the horrific massacre in Las Vegas into coherent sentences. I wanted to write something about it in this post, but I honestly can't find the words. I'm just going to say that if you're reading this, I love you and I'm happy you're alive and I'm alive and let's try and have a good day today because life is just too fragile.

4. The other night I was pouting into my kitchen cabinet like a brat thinking, "Why don't chickpeas go with pasta? What could be more disappointing and boring than chickpeas and pasta? Wah." That was pretty much all I had in. Well, guess WHAT! Turns out? Chickpeas do go with pasta. Thanks to Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen I learned that Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas) is a staple dish in Rome. She posted this recipe yesterday and I made it last night and it was wonderful. Really delicious. The best part is the finishing oil, make sure you do that part, takes only a few minutes.

5. I was reflecting last night and honestly couldn't remember a time where I'd felt more content on a Birthday Eve. I cannot put into words how huge this is for me. I've spent a lot of years being deeply unhappy and really mean to myself. I was going to say that 37 was good to me, but honestly, I think I was good to 37. It was still a pretty typical year and nothing about my life is really THAT different. Some good things happened this year for sure. But some shitty things also happened. I cried. I got mad. You recall I have a very messy kitchen table. My butt is still bigger than I'd like it to be. I had some really bad days. It was far from perfect. But the thing that was different, was that I got on my own team this past year. I've never done that before. I've been self-centered. Really really self-centered. But there's a HUGE difference between being self-centered and practicing self care. I learned that this past year.  Onto the next one.

Happy Friday, all.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

Best life candle
1. It's chilly this morning and and I'm sitting here in a shawl with hot coffee and I love it. I'm so happy it's fall. Fall feels like a fresh start, even more so than that holiday in January with the noisemakers and champagne. Fall is a new school year. All of the real TV shows are back for a new season. (Has everyone watched the season premiere of This is Us?!) All of the performing arts organizations in the city have their opening nights. Maybe you get yourself a new sweater or two. It feels like one big shiny second chance. The year isn't over yet. You can still get it right. You have a clean slate and rosy cheeks. Knock 'em dead.

2. My friend Ally has very good taste and a way with words. A couple weeks ago she told me about a candle she discovered at a hotel she'd recently stayed at that made the room smell so good she wanted to "lick the walls." This candle was available for purchase. I ordered it immediately. I needed a treat that day. I wanted to lick the walls. Now, I'm not usually an expensive candle person. My favorite candles are unscented tea lights from Ikea and the Glade Apple Cinnamon candle from CVS. Both are under $5. The Kimpton Candle is $40. $40! Am I insane? Yes. But honestly, this candle does smell like heaven, and sometimes having a nice smelling apartment makes me really really really happy. I'm using it sparingly so it will last a long, long time. If you're looking for an indulgent treat or a nice gift, order one of these billion dollar candles. You really won't regret it.

3. If you want to live your very best life, when your candle arrives you should light it up and then make yourself a little snack comprised of this amazing cheese from Trader Joe's, a little honey, and some apple slices. Trader Joe's Unexpected Cheddar will blow your entire face off. It's cheddar, but it's not. It's cheddar, but better. I bought it on a whim this week and I can't even believe how good it is. It's only $3.99. Balances out the cost of the candle. There you go.

4. A funny thing happens when you quit drinking. At least it happened to me. (And don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a blog all about the sober life and be all preachy about it.) A few weeks after I quit the booze, I looked down and essentially said to myself, "Holy shit, I'm a real person. I have a body. Woah. I should probably start taking care of this thing." Now. I tend to be a little obsessive, and when I realized I was a real person with a body that needed to be taken care of I went to the doctor.... a few times. I got checked for.... a few things. I started taking a bunch of vitamins and some fish oil in the morning. I went back to Pilates. I thought very seriously about eliminating Frito Lay products from my diet. I thought very seriously about attempting to meditate. I started washing my hands more often. I'm trying to get more sleep. I'm trying to drink more water. Some of that will stick and some of it won't, but I wanted to tell you guys about one part of my aggressive, sudden health tune-up that I think is really important: the dermatology skin check. Do you all have dermatologists? Are you pale and freckly like me? Go get yourself checked, friend. Right around the time I realized I should take care of myself, I was in the fitting room at Ensemble in the North End and noticed that a little spot I've had on my chest for a years looked funky as hell. Bigger. Weird. Kind of gross. Not good. I, of course, immediately panicked and thought of nothing else for days. I eventually ended up at the dermatologist and they determined that they should remove not only that little guy on my chest, but another one on my face that I wasn't even worried about, and make sure they were not skin cancer. So, for five days I've been hyperventilating waiting for biopsy results. Mercifully, both were okay, but I was given a lot of advice on how often to get checked, how often to check myself (before I wreck myself), and how to better protect and care for my skin. Do you all throw a little SPF on everyday? Do you wear it in places other than your face even when you're not at the beach? The sun can still get at you even when you're on the sidewalk, FYI. I bought this to wear on my face and this for my whole real person body. It's a start.

5. I think each one of you should listen to this song at some point this weekend and dance around your living room. I LOVE this song. I was listening to this song while walking past the Hancock Tower yesterday afternoon and my ankle randomly gave out and I fell down right on the sidewalk and didn't even care. It's that happy of a song.

Happy Friday, all.  

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Evidence: The Story of My Last Drink

I didn't buy my last drink and I didn't finish it. Actually, I didn't even start it. The night of my last drink started out like most other drinking nights. Dinner and three glasses of rosé with a friend. Gave her a hug when the train pulled into my stop, told her to get home safely, said I was doing the same. Didn't go home. My night was just getting started. Dinner was my warm-up. This was a very familiar pattern.

A few weeks prior to this night though, I'd realized it was okay for me to stop drinking. I didn't have to do it anymore. It was such a relief. I couldn't believe it. It felt like someone had suddenly eliminated a huge debt I was thinking I'd never pay off. It was gone in an instant. This burden, this thing I secretly dreaded, I could stop it now. The realization came to me when I connected with another person who also wanted to stop drinking. To know that I wasn't the only one and to know that someone I admired was feeling some of the same feelings I'd felt for years - feelings I'd assumed made me garbage - suddenly made it feel less impossible.

Anyway, I stopped. And then I started again that night when I went to dinner with my friend. I wasn't sure why. It was okay to stop now, so what was my deal? Why was I having wine? Habit? Maybe. Anyway, I got off the train under my usual guise of going home and instead headed to a bar. If I was going to drink, I might as well drink like me. I chose a bar where there was very little chance of seeing anyone I knew. More wine please and thanks. Yum. I was coasting into the familiar cozy tunnel of drunkenness. So nice. Everything is great. I'm confident. I'm fine. I'm just a 37-year old woman on her way home stopping for a drink. As far as anyone here knows, it's the first one I've had tonight. I'll speak in my super articulate voice and sit up very straight so they'll believe me. They'll think I'm a normal person. Fools.

The bartender was stretching his legs, and we talked about the soccer game he'd played earlier. Seated next to me at the bar - a guy around my age and his wife. Next to her and wrapped around the corner of the bar - four dudes in their 40s and 50s. One of them shouted to me that he wanted to buy my next drink. Shrug. Fine with me. At least he wasn't getting up to talk to me. The bartender put a shot glass in front of my wine glass. The married guy next to me explained that it was to indicate I had a drink on deck. He could tell I was confused. Then he struck up a conversation. He told me the story of how he'd been shot in the back and chest in Ireland and almost died. Apparently it was pretty bad, but he was tough. "You can't kill me, I'm like a cockroach," he said. I loved that. I wrote it down. Hearing that story flung me into familiar drunken territory. I was tough, too. You couldn't kill me, either. I loved this part of being drunk. I'd get up in my head and walk around the gallery of my mind gazing at all the lousy things that had happened to me like they were big beautiful shiny trophies. "Look at what happened here, look how ugly it was. I survived it. Look at what I've accomplished. Can you believe I taught a fitness class only HOURS after that happened!? Look at that one. Look at THAT one." I loved going up to visit with those memories when I got numb enough. I'd pat myself on the back. Think about how nothing could touch me. I had survived multiple traumas and I was sitting here in a clean dress tricking all these people into thinking I was a responsible grown-up. I was a cockroach, too. You couldn't kill me. Bottoms up. I shared some of my trauma trophies with the married guy. His wife was chatting with the four other guys in the bar. I now had two shot glasses in front of my wine glass.

I felt daunted and tired.

Normally knowing I had limitless wine made me feel better. I honestly could never stand splitting a bottle of wine at dinner. It's one of my favorite things about sobriety, the lack of that particular stress. I'd always sit there worrying. What if the other person got more? What if we ran out? Was it gross to order an additional glass? What if the server didn't come back soon enough and I had to wait a long time between glasses? What if I started to come out of my tipsy tunnel before I was ready to face reality again? These were actual thoughts that ran through my brain. But now I looked at the shot glasses lined up in front of my half-full wine glass and just felt overwhelmed. Then, the kicker. The married guy suddenly said to me, "I'm going to say my phone number out loud. I want you to look away from me while I say it. Put it into your phone and send me a text message so I can reach you." I was so confused. Was he an undercover cop? Was this like The Departed or The Town? Nope. I really am an idiot. He wanted to cheat on his wife. He called her a "green card wife" and said she was headed out of town for a few days, so we should get together. Bye. I left my wine and wine-on-deck behind.

I walked to another bar. I felt like a piece of trash. I needed to feel better. I approached the door and put my "responsible grown-up voice" back on so they'd let me in. The bouncer told me he liked my blue dress. Nice guy. I sat down at the bar and said to myself, "Okay. You get exactly what you want. You're the best. Everyone else is mean. You get whatever you want to drink. Screw that married guy who made you feel like garbage. Get a drink. What do you want?" I heard myself order water. Water? Yeah, water. It was delicious. I was so thirsty. I ordered another one, and another one after that. (I don't really do anything in moderation it turns out.)

After my three waters I was feeling excellent. Still pretty lit, but nowhere near as drunk as I have the ability to get. I decided to head home. On my way, I started to feel what I guess was happiness. I'd recently started dating a man I really liked. He was a good person and he seemed to like me. I thought about him and it made me smile. I felt good in my blue dress. That bouncer was right. I wasn't all that hideous. I liked my jobs. I liked my neighborhood. I was walking up Richmond Street in the North End. It was 12:41am and I snapped a photo. I started to feel like maybe I could move forward and stop drinking after all. I wanted to so badly. I was so sick of it. But first I had to forgive myself for screwing up that night, and that would be hard. I've never been great at forgiving myself or anyone else. I collect all my bad experiences, all my mistakes. I even made a mental trophy case for them.

I turned the corner onto Hanover Street and BOOM, I crashed right into one of my ex-boyfriends. Great. We used to live together. It was terrible. He'd agree with me, he was just as miserable as I was. We were never the right fit. I hated his desk. He hated my frigid air conditioning. He wasn't a bad guy at all, but I always felt crappy when I thought of him because we didn't part well. The last time I'd seen him we were in the Prudential a few years ago. Not a good day. I said things I didn't mean. He said things he didn't mean. We walked away from each other and that was that. Now here he was. We stared at each other for a few seconds. I can't remember which one of us spoke first but we had a really brief, really positive chat. All was forgiven. He was happy. He was walking home to Beacon Hill. I heard myself telling him I was happy, too. Then I heard myself telling him I was happy for him. We said we were sorry, we hugged, we parted ways.

I walked the rest of the way home with the same feeling I'd had a few weeks prior when I realized I didn't have to drink anymore. I felt lighter. I didn't have to hold onto that resentment anymore. I could let those negative memories go. I didn't have to wallow and I didn't have to stay angry and I didn't have to feel guilty. He forgave me. And I forgave him. It didn't happen because we randomly ran into each other, it had already happened. That night was just the evidence. But I needed it. Knowing that forgiveness was possible, seeing it happen.

I got home and snapped another photo outside my front door. 12:51am exactly. It was of my shadow and feet. I told myself this was the last picture that would ever be taken of Drunk Me. This was the end. My self portrait of the end. Evidence. I was done. I was moving on. It was okay that I had one more night of drinking. I needed it. Just like I needed the evidence of forgiveness. I needed to have a drink in front of me and not drink it. I needed to walk into a bar and choose water. Evidence that it was over. That is the story of my last drink. That was about two months ago.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Five @ 5

Boat Run. Boat portion.
1. I started a new morning exercise routine this week and I think it's kind of wonderful. Boat run. What? Boat run. I've done it four times now. I live about a 7-minute walk from Long Wharf. There's a ferry that goes from there to the Charlestown Navy Yard. My T pass covers this ferry so, no charge really. I get on the ferry at 6:30AM, take a very scenic 10-minute ride across the water to the Navy Yard, and then run the mile and a half back to the North End. Well, let's be honest. I run/walk. Running is hard, man. What do I look like, a fitness instructor? Psh. Sometimes my run/walk back to the North End includes a stop for breakfast or coffee and several pauses to take pictures. Early morning Boston is pretty. I guess this routine isn't exactly exercise. Maybe it's exercise for the soul.

2. The new season of Bachelor in Paradise started this week and I don't know what to do with all of my happiness about it. I really don't. I was so filled with joy watching the premiere this week that every time someone new arrived in Paradise I had to stop myself from actually, physically waving at the screen and saying, "Heyyyyyy!" I don't know what it is about the Bachelor franchise that I love so much. It's completely ridiculous. Maybe it's that I've watched it for so long. The love I have for all the Bachelor shows is similar to the love I have for Matty in the Morning on Kiss 108. I've listened to Matty almost every morning since 7th grade. I'm listening right now. I've seen every episode of every season of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and let's not forget, Bachelor Pad since the premiere of The Bachelor more than 15 years ago. It just makes me so happy. We are entering into a dark time, though. After Paradise we have to wait until JANUARY for a new season of The Bachelor. We don't even know who the next Bachelor is yet. My money is on Dean, Kenny, or Eric, though I'd LOVE to see it be Wells who is serving as the bartender on this season of Paradise because Jorge left to start his own business.

3. Speaking of bartenders, I've stopped drinking alcohol. Plenty of people don't drink alcohol, and now I'm one of them. It's not a big deal. I'm not going to hide in my apartment for the rest of my life, I'm not going to stop eating in restaurants I can't afford multiple times a week, I'm not going to stop going to the Four Seasons when I have a bad day, I'm not going to get all smug and judge you if you drink alcohol. I'm just not going to drink it anymore. I'll drink other things. Now. Of course, there's always more to a story. I didn't just decide this out of the blue and for no reason, but I've only just started to unpack the 13 years that came before this one and that led to this decision, and I'm going to keep that story to myself. For now.

4. It's feast season in the North End. This weekend is the Fisherman's Feast. My favorite. The best part is Sunday night's Flight of the Angel. Two young North End residents (I think they are 8 years old? 10 years old?) in angel costumes stand way up high on balconies over North Street and recite an Italian devotion. Then, a third little girl "flies" from a window and is lowered to meet a statue of the Madonna below. The street is FILLED with people and when the ceremony is over there is a huge celebration with confetti like an actual blizzard, you can barely see. It's so fantastic. Am I going this year? Nope. Because I'm terrified that someone is going to drive a car through the crowd. I was walking home last night and saw the set-up for the Fisherman's Feast and stopped to take a picture. Nice moment. Then I remembered what happened in Spain earlier that day, immediately felt terrified, changed my mind about going, and sent a message to my mother asking her if she and my dad could please skip the feast this year. I know we're supposed to be brave and continue with our lives, and that if we stop doing the things we normally do because we're afraid then we are letting "them" win. But I have to be honest, I'm scared. Way too scared. I admire those of you who still show up for things like the Fisherman's Feast. I really admire those of you who go to marches and protests, and if you're going to the Common this weekend all I can say is thank you for doing the thing that my anxiety keeps me from doing and saying the things that need to be said, but please be careful. Last night I watched the Vice documentary on what happened in Charlottesville last weekend and I don't think I've cried that hard since 3am on November 9, 2016. I can't believe this is where we live now.

5. Instead of going to the Flight of the Angel on Sunday night, I'll go to a double header at the yoga studio to chill my anxious self out and then make THIS amazing recipe I found yesterday: Heirloom Tomato Garlic Toast with Basil Whipped Feta. It's not a confetti-filled dance party in the streets of my beloved neighborhood, but it'll do.

Happy weekend, you guys.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Tale of Two Lemons

For years I've quietly refused to shop at two places: Haymarket and lululemon. They don't have anything to do with each other and I didn't swear them off on the exact same day, I've just had them both on my "nope" list for 3+ years. I have no idea why this happened, but they both returned to my "okay" list this weekend within 14 hours of each other. I thought I'd write a little review of each since my feelings have changed towards both.

Haymarket. Sigh. One night several years ago, some girl who was part of a group of individuals I was only socializing with because they were friends of my then boyfriend was going on and on about being thrifty and responsible and saving money. On. And on. And on. And on. Grocery stores were so overpriced and blah blah blah Haymarket Haymarket, yay Haymarket. I didn't like her. (I didn't like my boyfriend either, ha!) Anyway, regardless of the fact that I didn't like a single person who was influencing my behavior and decisions at the time,  I was desperate to fit in and be thrifty and responsible, so I tried to make myself shop at Haymarket. Long story short, the last time I tried this one of the vendors screamed at me and told me to go to Whole Foods and pay four times the price if I wanted to choose my own peppers. I just sort of looked at him and said, "You're right." End of story. Off to Whole Foods. Fast forward to this morning. I needed a lemon. I needed limes. I didn't feel like leaving the neighborhood today. I was sitting on the Greenway. I slipped some dollar bills into my fist and casually and cautiously meandered towards Haymarket. Well well well, look at you, jerk face. I mean, I have refused for years to even walk through it. I walked around it. Full on shunning. But the lemons looked pretty good. And they were six for $1. Last week in this same situation I paid $1.29 for a creepy looking lemon at 7-11. Nope. So I shyly approached the vendor with the good lemons. Get this. He took my dollar and I jumped backwards figuring he had to pick the (shittiest possible) lemons and give them to me. He smiled, handed me a bag and said, "Go ahead, honey." Seriously?! Psh. Okay....? Same deal at the lime guy a few vendors down. $2 for six. #goaheadhoney Maybe I was going to the wrong vendors before. Maybe everyone at Haymarket just got nicer. Maybe I got nicer. I have no idea what changed. But my bowl of citrus looks tremendous on my table and for $3? I'll go ahead, honey.

lululemon. I mean. Do I own items from lululemon? Yes. Five. (Well, six after last night.) Do I like them? I try not to. Did I buy them between three and six years ago and are they all still in pretty great shape after being pulled and stretched and sweated on and hurriedly rolled up into balls and shoved into bags multiple times a week? Yes. DAMN them. But I hit a point with that place three or four years ago where I couldn't do it anymore. Too much. Too expensive. Too fake. Too in-my-face in the store. Then the pants were rumored to be sheer. The CEO apparently didn't like anyone over a size 0. Screw you. Goodbye forever. Fast forward again. I started taking yoga regularly seven months ago. I really REALLY enjoy it. I also teach multiple fitness classes each week. I've tried to love my Old Navy leggings, but this week in class I spotted another hole in another pair. (I still love you, Old Navy. For $15 the fact that your leggings last as long as they do is a miracle and you should be proud of yourselves.) Last night I was leaving the Prudential and passed lululemon and thought I'd just take a look. The experience of the store was largely the same. "HI I'M AMY ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH OUR PANT WALL?!!?!?! WHAT KIND OF EXERCISE DO YOU DO?!?!?!" Various. Can you stop yelling? Thanks. "DO YOU WANT TO TRY THOSE ON?!?!?!?! WHAT'S YOUR NAME??????????????????????" Ugh. Simmer down. So annoying, but I have to hand it to them, the Wunder Under Hi-Rise Tight was everything I'd ever wanted. Perfect length. Zero chance of the waistband rolling, that thing is locked in way up high. Soft but SUPER compression-y. These tights literally make you feel like you're naked AND you have no fat on your body. That is the only way I can describe them. I had to get them. I walked to the register and told the girl that I was an instructor and that I'd been part of their discount program several years ago and I'd like to re-enroll. Thunderclap. Scream. Carmina Burana plays. So many personalities at lululemon. She glared at me and demanded to know where I worked as an instructor as if to say, "They let YOU teach?" Well yes they do, sweetheart. Come to Brookline on Monday night, oh wait you won't be able to get a ticket. I regained focus and suffered through the speech she gave me, "The PROGRAM has changed. And it's not just for anyone who considers themselves an athlete anymore. It's way more serious now. Way more serious. And the discount............ is now 25%." She paused for my reaction. Stone face. Paid. Left. Those pants were one hundred dollars. One hundred. Dollars. And yes, the discount helped and I love them and literally could not wait to wear them to class this afternoon but, damn. Get it together, lululemon. Your products are ridiculously high quality and over the years have gotten better and better and I will begin to buy them more regularly again, but your stores are completely psychotic. Take a page from the kinder, gentler vendors at Haymarket.

Happy Saturday, all.