Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What 30 feels like so far.



When on the cusp of turning thirty I'd imagine many people feel like when the day arrives, the sky is going to crack open and the earth will shudder, and life as they knew it will be over. There was no earth shuddering, life changing bit for me, but the sky did crack open and send down quite a shower. People were kayaking the streets of Austin on my birthday.

I was tucked away in a lovely rented ranch house at Sage Hill Inn in the hill country with Tim, and one of my best friends and her husband. We sat on the back deck and watched the rain pound down, laughed, ate queso and chips, and then watched the sun set with the most incredible misty-cloudy backdrop. Fortunately, the most of my personal worries that day was that I wouldn't get to go swimming. (I didn't, but the sun sure came out the next day!) It was a nice couple of days with zero pressure, a really bad sunburn, and Tim getting drunk and poking a rattle snake.

In all seriousness, though - I really thought I would have experienced MUCH more anxiety about this birthday. I desperately hate getting older (is there anyone who loves it?). I don't know anyone else who cried on their 21st birthday and refused to celebrate with large amounts of alcohol. It's not just the fine lines and gray hairs and all the physical changes of age, it's that everything feels harder, reality is more oppressive, and with every passing year I see aging embodied in incredible waste....of time, creativity, potential. You start to see that fear that you might wake up at the end of your life and feel as though you accomplished nothing that you set out to do might actually be realized.

Strangely, though, after two months of introspection, 30 feels more and more like a golden opportunity to go forth and live a life of intention, balance, and contentment. It's been motivation to open my heart to possibility and just trust that my purpose will find me. Those are the lines, I just have to figure out what shade to color them.

Over the past five years I started feeling increasingly imbalanced and out of place. Fuzzy instead of sharp, defeated instead charged. I struggled to perform well in my work or feel satisfaction in achievement. I lacked the confidence to follow my gut. I often couldn't even hear my instinct over the roar of insecurity, and spent a lot of time feeling anxious that I looked stupid. I was constantly paranoid of flunking life. It was sort of like I lost my inner-compass, if that makes sense.

All those cliches started to apply to me: I had no sense of self, I didn't know who I was, I needed to find myself. None of that had ever been a problem for me. If anything, I was always told I was too confident, opinionated, stubborn, and independent. I had consciously spent years post-college attempting to water those traits down in order to be hirable, manageable, and moldable in a traditional work setting, all the while not realizing that that was my core. Those weren't bad things, they were just what made me a little different from everyone else. Could I afford to be a little more patient and compassionate - YES. But I also didn't need to be so afraid of being wrong or messing up or people not liking me, that I hyper-analyzed every human encounter.

Quitting my acting *career* in 2010 made sense at the time, but looking back it was also me closing the door on my willingness to be really vulnerable - either on stage or in *real* life. What was once exciting and intriguing, was more and more just scary and painful. I dreaded my studio classes, I hated improv and auditioning, it was all so much work to keep pushing, exploring, and making new discoveries. Even so, it wasn't easy to quit. Theatre had been my identity for so long. It had been there before high school and then college, before Tim, before Oscar... it was very very deeply rooted. And it was always what I thought I wanted to do.

I think I stumbled around a lot after that. Without one clear directive, I wasn't sure where who I was meant to be or to what I should dedicate my existence. I still haven't really figured that part out, so let's just gloss over that for now. BUT. I'm starting to feel OK with the not knowing, and I think that's usually when the magic happens.

Oh. Also, in honor of 30 I finally changed my hair color. After 11 years.


Inspiration photos I took to the salon with me.
















Before and After.
(Don't judge my shades... also from 2004. I lost my regulars.)















































Tuesday, July 28, 2015

These days.

So after my birthday in May, a couple of things happened.

My friend and personal trainer of years past, Diana Haggerty, invited me to take part in the beta testing of a new program she's developing for her business Femme Power Fitness. For me, this meant I could afford to jump back into training session twice a week. For Diana, this meant she got fresh flabby meat to test her programming on, and my *valuable* feedback. One round of testing turned into two, and we're still going strong. This was exactly what I needed, starting exactly when it did. I talked about being really busy most of last year, and one of the things that definitely got sidelined was activity and exercise of any kind. Working with a personal trainer is good for me because I have to be held accountable, or working out generally doesn't happen. So while Diana doesn't technically have me do anything I couldn't do at home, and I definitely want to work up to a point where I don't need a very well trained, paid workout buddy to get 'er done, this is right for me, right now. Also, Diana is just awesome, so I don't mind buying her friendship twice a week.

The second thing to happen, that went hand in hand with the training, was a nutritional adjustment. The first few weeks of the beta testing the hubs and I also used Diana's meal prep services. So we had prepared meals to pull from the freezer 4 nights a week. If I'm being truthful, Tim ate more of the meals than I did. I didn't really start taking nutrition seriously for about another month - but I'll get to that in a minute. 

Tim being on board with a nutrition fix was a game-changer. It's not that he was ever anti-eating well, we just both supported each other's bad choices. Once he was on the wagon with me, it felt like a team effort and we were making the hard (but right) choices together. His vice is beer and overeating, and mine is fried food and sweets... and pretty much everything else bad for you. The prepared meals really helped him with portion control (Diana assigned us each a certain amount per meal) and kept us eating at home, instead of ordering out so much. A couple of other things clicked at about the same time that really helped motivate us both - namely I had a lot more time to focus on this issue and get my stress levels back to semi-normal, I turned 30, and we both hit our max weight EVER. I realized that for the last 3 or so years, I'd been looking toward year 30 as this goal - where I would be in the best shape of my life. Then the old birthday rolls around and I'm actually in the worst shape of my life. Time for a change.

I think a lot of women my age can identify, but at this point I'm not really concerned with being a skinny-mini as much as I am with feeling strong and healthy. Even if I weighed my goal weight, that isn't going to look on me what it would on someone a foot taller with genetically gifted long and lean limbs. I don't have that build. That sounds obvious, but it's taken me a long time to realize that being fit for me isn't going to be poster-worthy, and it isn't all about pounds and ounces. My new goals were (yes) to lose some weight, but also to build muscle and have more energy. 

And then came the real "experiment." We decided to cut out gluten and wheat-based products from our diet. I did this once before and didn't feel like it made a huge difference for me, so after a month I gave it up. Bread has always been my first love, so giving that up is always a challenge. This time it was like magical things were happening for our intestines. After a mere two weeks we had a cheat day and both felt like warmed up dog shit, so the proof was in the pudding, so to speak. 

Oscar judging us on a cheat day at The Launderette.
 Gluten-free has become a cliche these days, and specifically in Austin it feels uber trendy to be gluten-intolerant. I roll my eyes when I hear people request it at restaurants because half the time I don't think they really know what it means, but I can't anymore - because I'm doing it, too. In our favor, this does makes it really easy to go out to eat around town while still maintaining our dietary restrictions. Most places here have a number of GF options, or are very accommodating if asked. All I can say is, I feel bad when I eat it, and I feel better when I don't. I'm not going to get more scientific than that, because I really don't care. The next step will be to eliminate all processed foods. But for now I still need my GMO-free, GF, organic blue corn chips and salsa to get through the day.

Ignore the bread. It came with the meal and wasn't eaten, by us anyway.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Where I can breathe.

Is it just me, or people my age, or are we - as a nation - trending toward the rural life again? So many folk I know now have dreams of unplugging and making their urban exodus, quitting their jobs and traveling like nomads, setting up farms and ranches or living in tiny houses on big spreads of land. Some days it sounds truly glorious. Then I think about milking a cow at 5:00am every day and I waver.

Even though I grew up in the country and played in the dirt (literally... I LOVED making mud pies, mud soup, mud muffins, etc, like nothing else), once I got into theatre, I always thought I'd be a city gal. No aspiring actor's dream is complete without a penniless move to NYC, right? I never made it, clearly, and on my first trip to NYC I was mesmerized / revolted / in disbelief at the piles of trash and stench of pollution everywhere. I felt suffocated and depressed. I couldn't fathom how someone could live there, much less happily. Yes, I saw the character, I felt the pulse of opportunity, I soaked up the history and admired the architecture. But I also felt like the city just looked tired, patched together, with millions of tiny human ants milling about. By comparison, D.C. (our home at the time) felt like a pristine National Park. 

I love cities. But living in any big city is HARD. Everything takes more effort. Everyone's exhausted from just doing life everyday. I love to visit and do city stuff, but I have no more desire to live there. I'd much rather sip coffee on the front porch of a cabin in the mountains, or look out my window and only see fields and cows. It's in those places I feel like I can breathe. 

It's like we've come full circle, to another generation running like wild from a concrete paradise. A generation who is invested in the quality and source of what we put in our bodies and interested in where our food is grown and raised, and sees value in owning and cultivating land. That simpler life where the goals are sustenance and survival. You work hard, but you work to feed yourself and your family, and nothing more. It seems like a small and a manageable life. The work is hard, but meaningful and rewarding. We don't need so many things to make us happy. Just meals, shelter, and sunset embraces after a day of toiling in the earth, and rising just to rinse and repeat again tomorrow.

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.” 
― Wendell Berry

Monday, July 20, 2015

This blog and me.

This note is a page-holder for things to come. Get ready, it's long and rambly.

If it isn't obvious from previously posted content, I have a difficult time posting anything less than 591,847,236 words long. Case in point here with this one. Usually when I sit to write, it's because one of two catalysts occur: 

1. I've been mulling something over for a very long time and finally feel ready to put it down.
2. I'm struck by or experience something that inspires "a light bulb moment" and feel the need to write about it right away.

Point being, I'm long-winded and I'm not very good at making anything a habit, unless we're talking about caffeine and chocolate and binge watching Netflix. So regular posting has never been easy for me because it takes time and apparently (over) thinking, and then I just talk myself out of it in the end. Like I do exercise. Also, even though it might not be obvious, I tend to spend a good deal of time on what I write. Rarely Never do I sit and write and then click publish without a good proof read or several revisions. Sorry, that's just the English major in me. And THEN once it's all up there I immediately start to doubt it: the tone, the style, the content. I'm a judger - it's what I do - and don't think that I'm exempt from my own criticism. (I once tore diary entries out, because I later thought they were "stupid.") I worry that it's too contrived, too indulgent, too narcissistic, too anything. The list is long. Everything about putting what are essentially personal journal entries out for public consumption leaves me wracked with about a bazillion feelings. 

And let's for a brief moment (because I know this is a very over-worked subject) talk about the fact that I'm a little torn about having any social internet presence at all. There is a VERY big part of my soul that would love to snub social media as a whole forever. I miss my flip phone where I could only receive text messages and make phone calls and occasionally get really, really grainy photos, so so so bad! I find myself falling into the black hole of click-me! headlines and endless youtube videos, and then feeling so disgusted at the total time I just wasted. I would love to be uber hip and go completely off-grid. 

BUT. I'm also fascinated with the way technology connects total strangers. Most of my generation doesn't even have a clue what the world was like before chat rooms, forums, and online dating services. I still remember the excitement of hearing "Welcome" and "You've Got Mail" and the little door opening and closing as your BUDDIES signed on and off of AOL. A whole new world, that's what that was. So while I hate all the stereotypes - the snarky comment threads, the oversharing, the people who use Twitter and Facebook for their own political agendas, you know the kind - I sort of love the weird, modern beauty of how the interwebs link perfect strangers together. It's why I recently turned off the private settings on my Instagram and started using hashtags. I've found and followed so many other ridiculously interesting people with amazing life perspectives on Instagram. It's cheesy, but I've been inspired by them. Those people thought they had something worth saying and were brave enough to share a bit of their life with the world, and the fact that it was accompanied by a photo didn't hurt either. It's brave - EVERY time you share something - whether it's on the internet or face-to-face. Don't disillusion yourself that because you put something on the internet you can't hurt or be hurt because it all happens through a screen.

I often think about what tangible, recorded history I'll leave behind. Not that I think my life is or is going to become quite astonishing, but I know how much I've treasured old letters my parents wrote each other, cards I received from my mom, or even how much I enjoy rereading hand-written trip entries from just a few years ago (I always take a real journal with me on trips). Emails get deleted, computers break, files mysteriously vanish. I can't tell you how sad I am that I don't have some of the email correspondence between me and my dad from when I was in college. Heartbreaking. Before the internet, history was often recorded through letters. What do we have now for future generations? Blogs?

There's the pressure (is it all in my mind?) to have a categorized blog, or have a purpose. Gone are the days of livejournaling all your deepest emo thoughts, and knowing everyone was gonna be channeling the emo right along with ya. Now there are a million fashion bloggers, or fashion-travel bloggers, or fashion-travel-photographer-home-renovator bloggers who make shit and sell it on etsy. Few just write about their lives anymore. Maybe because everybody's trying to make money. Most people's lives aren't interesting enough to make them money, and we, as consumers, aren't interested in regular life anymore. Our culture prefers the sham that is a curated internet lifestyle. Our own personal museum pieces. I'm guilty of it too. I want my life to look and sound interesting. WHY ELSE WOULD I SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD?

Suffice to say, I have major mixed feelings over this blog and blogging in general. I feel supremely foolish telling people I have a blog - it sounds SO cliche - so I never promote it. I never really considered trying to make money off of what I write, either. When people who do read it comment on something I've written I usually feel embarrassed. Exposed. I think I need to get over it all. Blogging is here to stay. I like it. I enjoy doing it. But I have always struggled with the purpose. I mentioned living life with intention this year. I'm trying to decide what that means for this blog. Am I writing for ME, or am I writing for some (mostly) unidentified audience? Is it for therapy, pleasure, or the need for attention? What's my motivation and do I have an agenda? I'm not entirely sure. I think it's a combination of things, but I keep coming back. To write. I just like to write. Can I leave it at that?

Since the end of May, when I turned 30 and found myself with an excess of "free time" on my hands, I've been having a lot of deep thoughts and BIG feelings. All of the feelings. About everything. About BIG stuff. It's not world-changing, but it's world-view-changing... for me. I feel like during the transition from 29 to 30 I lived a whole mini-lifetime. I need to - really need to - write it down. Not for the internet, or my 3 readers, but for me. I want to remember it, it's my history.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Intention

Typically in January I set some intentions for the year. Even if I don't share them here, in the last few years I've truly been thoughtful about who I want to be during and after the forthcoming 365 days. When January rolled around I just wasn't ready. I couldn't make myself stop working long enough to decide what my intentions were for 2015. Sure, I did my yearly survey, but that was it. I thought for sure I'd have something down on virtual paper by my 30th birthday. But I wasn't ready. I was too busy.

For a long time - the past 2 years - being too busy was the best thing for me. It really helped me transition quickly from a place of deep grieving much more quickly than if I'd had a lot of time to sit and dwell. It covered up a lot of things I just didn't want to feel, embody, or understand. So I glorified how busy I was. I was that person who had to stop conversations to check my email and whose phone interrupted dinner, and I'm sure I acted very self-important about it, too. Anyway, busy got busier, and then sort of insane, and then it didn't feel like a good, healthy, normal, distracting busy anymore. It was a "I'm on the verge of a meltdown" busy, and on top of the life-busy, my heart and mind and soul were pretty damn busy trying to deal with all that grief that had been swept under the rug. I was struggling with everything - career, relationships, financial status, materialism, wellness, marriage, life. Just "doing life" was tiresome, each and every day. I couldn't enjoy anything. Except crap food. 

It's not an unfamiliar story. I was sad, super stressed, unhealthy, and now sort of overly plump in a way I had never been before. And for someone who always dealt with immense stress and crises extremely well, it was clear I needed a small team from FEMA to take control.

Establishing an intention for this year seemed so big and monumental...and just one more thing to set off an anxiety attack. Asking anything that deep of myself was far too stressful for January. And also for February, March, April, and May. And apparently June as well, come to think of it. Maybe I thought it had to be more significant than other recent years, because this was a BIG year - the year of thirty. Maybe I was just being lazy. Maybe the overachiever in me wanted to have ALL of the intentions because I was experiencing ALL of the emotions in a VERY big way. Seriously. But maybe, it's also just taken me this long to realize that this year isn't going to have a key word or phrase or special goal. This year is going to be all about living with intention for me. That's it. In everything I do.

Do you know what's really fantastic? The medical definition of the word intention is: "the healing process of a wound."

THE HEALING PROCESS OF A WOUND.

You guuuuys. Such a happy coincidence. I promise I didn't plan it, it wasn't my intention. 
Well... now it is.

below: the face of 30. and Oscar.