Food Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

**I wrote this blog post a whole YEAR ago last spring and let it sit in drafts, mostly because I felt I needed it more for myself than to share with others. I did a lot of the things I list below through the summer and fall, but then this March  I gained some weight that I was feeling uncomfortable with and fell right back into my old patterns. And then I thought, “Damn Ame, if you’re in this food feels thought spiral AGAIN, get it out there!”

I also in the last week had separate conversations with my mom and best friend about all these food feels, and it became abundantly clear that I am not alone in this “it’s complicated” relationship status. My BFF said something to the likes of “Cooking and eating no longer bring me joy. I just microwave sweet potatoes and spend a lot of time stressing about numbers.”  I was jumping up and down telling her “This isn’t the way it should be! Food is fuel! Cooking is joyful!” and then realized I needed to look in the mirror and listen to my own advice.

Sharing this is a mixture of accountability and vulnerability, and a way to work towards a positive relationship with food. Below is the original post, with some notes of the things I have been able to do this year.

Continue reading “Food Relationship Status: It’s Complicated”

The Wants

The majority of young adulthood has been spent checking the necessary boxes. Completing education and then doing some more education, taking on professional experiences to build a career path, establishing financial independence, meeting the guy (and then moving hundreds of miles away from the guy, finally finding our way to the same place again) building community,  developing interests and passions that fuel my soul and contribute pieces of Amy.

I’ve done the “need-tos.” I’ve checked all my boxes. I’ve got it good (really, really good).

Now, the question that keeps cropping up – what do I want?

Wait a minute-I get to have wants? I have my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed, so now you’re saying I can do and be whatever I want? (ok, not exclusively WHATEVER I want, because then I would eat peanut butter all day and watch my shows, and we need to have some limits here) First thought: “This is awesome” quickly followed by “This is terrifying”

When you’re living life moving through the procedural boxes, thinking about wants is like stepping off the side of the world. Where is my map? Is there a plan for wants? Could I take my wants and make them check boxes? The security blanket of a Plan with a capital P  is  missing, leaving the Planner feeling aimless (and alive and free).

In thinking about what I want, I have found a few things to be true

Your wants are truly yours. You’re not going to find them in someone else’s blog post or Instagram feed of a filter-worthy life. They aren’t coulds or should or woulds from the outside world. They come from the low rumble in your tummy (the one you have been ignoring as you jump from box to box) that reaches into your heart and center and points you in the direction of “Yeah, that is me.” They come out of the doodles on the meeting agenda, the day dreams prompted by “if I could do anything,” the way you choose to spend time on completely free afternoons. Listen to that internal rumble and collect your day dreams to piece together what you truly want.

They aren’t always about achievement. Wants aren’t about looking good, they are about feeling good. Less flashy, more fulfilling. Last spring, doors simultaneously opened on two different volunteer opportunities; one with the my sorority and another with a small start-up I had been engaged with. The go-getter, yes-lady in me wanted to do both, and yet I knew I needed to choose one to have enough time and capacity to dedicate to the role. While the sorority role provided organizational name recognition and an opportunity to regionally and nationally grow my network,  I found myself much more motivated by the start-up’s mission and the opportunity to be a part of a new venture with their team. I said yes to being a part of their conference planning group and have found a great match.

In a backwards way, choosing the initially less flashy option has actually led me to personally achieve more. More skills, more connections, more confidence. I am extending my comfort zone by working in new areas, and I am excited everyday by our team’s shared accomplishments and hustle.

They can be selfish. The wants can truly just be for you and your benefit, and that’s ok. As a giver and a people pleaser in a helping profession, this has been a bit slow to come around to. Many a guilt party of one when not putting others before myself. I have acknowledged, however, that I am in a time of life where I only need to worry about me, and thanks to checking some of those boxes, I have the freedom and security to do so. It’s ok to take advantage of these circumstances to explore new layers of myself and give myself rest. Many of my wants have revolved around having more time for me to be still, and I have given myself permission to make more time to just be.

They might scare you.  If you thought straying away from The Plan was terrifying, wait until you start to listen to that low rumble and see where it points you. Uf, it  can knock you off your socks. But could I really do that? Can I actually go there? How the hell am I going to make that happen?

Take a beat to calm the shame & guilt monsters, the coulda/woulda/shouldas, and consider some small tangible steps. Small pieces with patience and persistence can add up to big things! Aaron and I wanted to travel  together this year, and our big goal was to do an international trip. After having a lot of ugly love towards other jet-setting twenty somethings, I took the time to crunch budget numbers and we both set up a savings app (Qapital check it out!) to slowly build up a trip fund over six months. I write this a handful of days after our return from a week in the UK! We are continuing to make those small steps so we can travel at least once a year.

 

There will still always be things I need to do – go to work, do the laundry, make a Target run (though, some days that is more of a want than a need…). The time and space that has been opening up to explore wants has turned from a scary blank slate to a rich addition to this season of life. I am aware it is a privilege and it is temporary, so I am excited to see how the small pieces lead to big things in 2017.

 

 

Finding it

I remember being in second grade and telling the class I wanted to be a stand-up comedian when I grew up. And then in sixth grade, my dream job I listed in the yearbook was “someone famous in the arts.” Growing up overweight and frustrated with shopping experiences, I wanted to become a fashion designer for fat kids and make trendy clothing for teens in all the sizes. I was both performing onstage and working behind the scenes in musicals, and have a decade of tap classes under my belt

All sounds like a strong creative streak, right? I would think so too. And yet, as I grew up, even while still doing a lot of this kind of stuff, it never seemed enough. I was never the kid who had it – the visible talent, the ease for an art, the gifts of artistic expression. It didn’t phase me, and I was happy working towards means in areas where my identifiable strengths thrived. Somewhere along the way, however, I learned that creativity was not for me; that my identity did not include being creative.

In my wrestling with improving quality of life, through rest and owning it, there has been a low rumbling to step out of bounds and take risks around creating things. I have some strong desires to make things of my own production; to work for myself; to have a domain where I can create work that has greater meaning and affects others.

But what are these things? And how could do this? Hasn’t anyone told you yet that I am not creative? I do not have the magical it! Please, leave me with my coffee and allow me to chug along on my productivity train through to-do list town.

The low rumble has not quieted, however, and in some cases it has driven me nuts ( I refer you to the sevenish blog post drafts I currently have the in queue that, for whatever reason, I have deemed are not enough) To get a handle on the rumble and to begin to organize my thoughts, I have turned to podcasts and readings from creatives to try to learn what they do and how they do it. I urge you all to listen to The Imposters and Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, both of which have been good company on this journey.

The starting block that I have taken away from this fine group is that creativity is for everyone and that we all have it, even if it has been shamed and tucked away somewhere. Even if the things remain amorphous, I now worry less about having the it. Creativity does not work within the scale of enough. Showing up for myself is enough; taking a risk to try something new is enough; exploring the creative piece of myself is enough.

My ears have been ringing with multiple Magic Lessons sounds bites and “ah ha” moments, and I continue my creative journey with these two in mind:

“I am not sure I even believe in talent, but I do believe in persistence.” – Michael Ian Black

“You are a born maker. And we need what you can bring to us because you are the only once who can bring it. I think it’s that simple.” – Brene Brown

#makersgonnamake Or, at least, I will try to.

 

 

 

Ditch the Band

Because I have written about it multiple times (here & here), I wanted to be sure to let everyone know that last week I got the damn pull-up! This was a moment two years in the making, and there were self-fives, high-fives, and an unbeatable badass feeling.

It was after a CrossFit class, and I was working on pull-up skill work with some friends in an effort to turn some ugly love upside down and DO the thing. No big workout, no expectations, not trying to PR Fran or anything. Just (literally) hanging around with some friends having fun. I did a few rounds of the skill sets with the smallest band assisting me, and then one round I thought “Hey, let’s ditch the band and try this”

In a very Amy, quiet jazz hands way, I made no announcements to the group, just moved the band to the side. “Alright, swing! Big hips! DAMN AME YOUR CHIN IS OVER THE BAR”

Then I started shouting “I did it! I did a pull-up!!” while still hanging from the bar, and got in a few more while I was up there. I forgot about the band for the rest of the sets and did real, live pull-ups to close out the night.

Big things are sometimes little things, and sometimes they happen in the quiet corners. Regardless, I have been thinking more about owning it (hi, yes, I did tell everyone and their mother I got the damn pull-up) and now I am thinking about striving for it. Where else in life can I ditch the band and give something a shot? Are there places I am holding myself back with “I can’ts” or “I won’t make its”?  What’s the worst the would happen? I could be left hanging (ha), or I could realize I had the strength to do it all along.

Ditch the band. If you fall, you can always pull yourself back up.

 

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An intervention

The months of March and April were a ride, as they always are in higher education student activities. Travel for conferences, spring break, April carnivals, and a big concert to top it off. I add rugby to my plate, with all day tournaments most Saturdays. It is a chug, chug, chug along time where I take my calendar day by day, sometimes hour by hour. The challenge to stay where my feet are is real as I flip ahead pages in my agenda to prepare for the next thing and get glimmers of hope as I see May peek around the corner.

I did not do this well last year. I was all systems go through spring and did not focus on the necessity of balance and rest, resulting in what I described as a stress hangover through May. My mind and body didn’t know how to hop off the adrenaline train and I was up for many anxious nights for no reason at all. Anxiety is tough; anxiety without rational reason is infuriating.

I’ve been working on improving my standard of well being throughout the year and be ok with just being.  Life has been on the up and up, and while there were a few rushed moments and stressors with lots of travel, I am happy to report this spring went a whole lot better.

Rugby concluded last week, and we finished THE big show this past Wednesday, shutting the door on major major events and closing out the month of April (one.more.day). Leaving work at midnight for the (fingers crossed) last time of the year lifted weights off my mind, my shoulders, my feet.

Last night I chose to ditch the laundry for another day and have a bath. I brought down a candle and some wine and decided to do a face mask. I set up my iPad to watch a show as I typically do . TV is my me time, the way I shut my mind off from its constant buzz. Right when everything was ready to go to Relax with a capital R, my internet cut out and Hulu and Netflix weren’t working. Huh, dang.

I sunk a bit further in my tub and laid my head down and closed my eyes. I accepted the internet’s failure as an intervention from the universe telling me to sit and be still in the purest sense. I stretched out, breathed deep and acknowledged all I had done the last few months. I felt gratitude for my colleagues, students, teammates, friends and family ; all the people who had helped and supported me. I missed my friend and coworker, Michele, who unexpectedly passed away last week, giving myself space to continue to feel and process her loss. I took off the “get through April” blinders and I allowed myself to look ahead to the things I am excited about for the summer and not so distant future.

I breathed and I felt and I sunk a bit deeper. I was still, and in the stillness I found contentment. A foreign concept to one who is motivated by doing, but not unwelcome. Rest, we’re getting there. (Thank you universe for the pause button)

 

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(Epilogue: once the internet did get working, I watched this Broad City episode and laughed over ice cream on my couch. Same bath, minus an Ilana to my Abbi)

Owning it

 

Aaron tells people there is never a compliment he has given me that I have not already given myself. While highly confident in our partnership (some may say too confident), I am generally a fade in the background kind of lady. I am most likely to say “It was a team effort” when given positive feedback at work, and reply with “No, you’re the best” when being praised by friends. I need a sign for life that says “Please don’t mind the monotone lady in the corner quietly doing jazz hands”

The past month I had two moments where I was in the spotlight (quick, time to exit stage left!). The settings were incredibly different, but many of the feelings were the same.

 

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CrossFit Open workout 16.2 (check out that pain face). It was a staged workout, with weight going up and reps going down, and a 4 minute time cap for allowance into the next stage.  I went to do it in the first heat with no hopes or expectations except to be breathing at the end.

Next thing I know, I am in the fourth phase and the only one in my heat still going, staring at a barbell weight I have never squat cleaned before, and everyone surrounding me to cheer me on. Incredibly uplifting, and yet terrifying (failure as a recovering perfectionist – bad times. Failure in front of others – the WOOOOORST).

Thoughts at the time: “Alright, you got this. Deep breath, good form. Just listen to Kristi. 3, 2, 1 pick it up!”

And I did. And then I did it again another 7 times for a 95lb squat clean PR for 8 reps. It felt physically awful, but emotionally amazing. Afterwards I just kept thinking “I did it! I can do that! I’m a strong ass lady!” That endorphin rush didn’t hurt either.

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Two weeks later, I was in New Orleans for the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) 2016 National Convention. I was there to attend the conference and receive the Revis A. Cox Memorial Scholarship award for dedication to multicultural education within student involvement. Leading up to the conference, I was surprised and felt incredibly humbled and undeserving.  I committed myself to social justice education at RPI out of an identified need and a personal drive to contribute to a socially just world. Awards, achievement, recognition- not a part of the game (nor will they ever be, no way would my work be whole, educational, or just if motivated by my own privileged gain)

It wasn’t until I arrived in New Orleans and spent time with my family and colleagues that I allowed myself to celebrate the work I had done and the impact it has made on my campus. I accepted the recognition and celebration from others with gratitude and a deepening of my commitment to diversity and inclusion education. Hearing the summary of my nomination and walking onstage in front of all of ACUI was an unreal experience to have in the beginning stages of my career. I had another “yeah, I did that” moment again, and I committed myself to keep doing it to further help our community.

 

I am working on living big the next 100 days, and part of that will be not fearing the spotlight and owning it. One day it might be a Liz Lemon self-five, or perhaps a celebration dance for finally getting that damn pull-up (summer 2016 it.is.happening). Big or small, I am going to take a moment to say “Yeah, I did that.”

Maybe I will even step out of the corner and do loud jazz hands.

 

 

Ugly Love

I think about jealousy like it is ugly love. It is in no ways attractive, but on some level, it lets us know we care about something. I am guilty of the jealous flair, passive aggressive “Oh don’t worry, it’s fine” while I side-eye so hard I would make my own shade in a desert. The pit feeling in my stomach that hungers for what others have and feeds the internal voice that tells me I won’t get it, don’t deserve it, I’m not good enough to have it. Real ugly, nasty, not good for anything love.

It’s lonely love. Jealousy shrinks us, pushing other people away with dismissals, unanswered text messages, closing the door on possibilities and the courage to say “yes.” It makes us feel less than and unworthy. Who would even want to work with, be friends with, this ugly, jealous creature? Why would I even try if it is obvious I am not (talented, smart, pretty, strong) enough? Isn’t it so clear that everyone else has it better than me?

When all the ugly gets to be too much, I go to the following strategy : sit down for your pity party of one with a glass of wine (or two) that might be (definitely) from a box. Feel ugly, and lonely, and just a bit sour. Get out your hums and your ahs and your “Why not me?s”

And then get off your butt and do something about the things you love. Open the laptop and start the blog post (no one will read unwritten words). Pick up the bigger weights at the gym and get after that damn pull-up (muscles don’t build themselves). Grab your phone and call your best friend to tell her that you miss her and that she matters (nothing validates a friendship more than three hours of laughs). Get real about what is limiting you, and start to take away the limits (build the travel fund $5 at a time, take the design class on YouTube, show up to the networking event). Become selfish towards pushing your own agenda of wants and needs, and not looking towards everyone else’s.

Take your ugly, lonely love and flip it upside down. Say “I see you, thanks for letting me know that I care,” and then get out of your own way and embrace it towards the good. Embrace it so hard, you make them all jealous (wink).