14 Days Later

On October 6th, I decided to enter into a challenge I saw floating around on my Facebook newsfeed sponsored by CBS called “14 Days on the Wagon.”

wagon

The premise of the challenge was fairly simple: take 14 days and abstain from alcohol and other addictions (i.e. nicotine, drugs, etc.).  I actually wish this would’ve gotten a bit more traction and hoopla. Perhaps it did, and my social media just wasn’t linked into it, but never mind that. I did it, and I succeeded. Sort of.

I almost feel like a bit of a cheat because on the very first day of the challenge, I was deathly ill. As it turns out, I had/have (hopefully it’s out of my system) pneumonia thus making it incredibly easy to abstain from alcohol or nicotine use for the first week. The thought of either made both my stomach and my infected lungs tighten and wretch (if lungs could wretch that is).

But here I am, fourteen days later, and I have some thoughts.

It’s curious because as I sat down to write this piece, I had a clear vision in mind for how I felt throughout most of today, the last day of the challenge. But then, quite randomly mind you as I was searching for the link to post in the first paragraph, I happened upon Gabrielle Bernstein’s article and video for the challenge.  Her words have forced me to take pause and re-evaluate everything I’ve felt about quitting, addiction, and my own struggles to live a healthier lifestyle.

She said this:

“ Sobriety is a surrender, a release. It’s not something that can be white knuckled. It’s not something that can be done because we are forcing ourselves to do it. In that forceful nature we will always fall back.”

And, quoting A Course in Miracles:

“The presence of fear is a sure sign that you’re relying on your own strength.”

I was taken aback when I read that. I’ve always felt the opposite way. I thought strength was precisely what I needed to be better. Will power. The strength to make good choices. The wherewithal to choose the gym over happy hour. These are the things I have always felt I lacked, and in that lacking, shaped an image of my own weakness. Every failure to do better, to drink less, to not smoke, has always boiled down, in my mind at least, to some innate flaw I must be carrying. Simply put – I’m not strong enough. There is something both terrifying and hopeless in feeling this way, and the “falling back” that Gabby speaks about has become my new normal.

I want to say, “that is until now,” but the truth is, I haven’t surrendered. Not yet.

Here is what I wrote earlier today about my feelings on finishing the fourteen days while a moment of inspiration hit me at work:

“…And yet there’s something about this new me that doesn’t quite fit. It’s almost as if I have emerged from an extreme makeover, going from 0-60 in fourteen days, shaped by the hands of Gabby Bernstein and Kimberly Snyder, two women I completely admire by the way. I look and feel better than I did two weeks ago. Things ARE better, but they also feel slightly false, as if this lifestyle is something I’m supposed to want because beautiful, happy, successful people told me so. I feel like an imposter, someone who merely pretends to be well. It is this identity crisis that worries me most. It is the reason these things never “stick” with me.

I know how to be a mess. I can navigate that world with some level of functionality. I understand how to suffer in that mode. I understand what to do with my joy. When the booze and the smokes are tossed away, I am suddenly naked and exposed. There are no crutches anymore. Every emotion is raw, different, and too clear for my comfort. Dealing with life’s inevitable swings becomes a skill I have to rework and relearn. It is a frightening endeavor.

I’ve always attempted to emulate and define my wellness based on today’s health gurus, a la Kimberly Snyder, Deepak Chopra, Gabby Bernstein, etc. – essentially Oprah’s entire “Soul Sunday” line up. I read their books, I do their guided meditations, I cook their food, and I never seem to stay better. I’ve tried to read A Course in Miracles and it gives me a headache. I make dishes from Kimberly’s books, but I don’t want to eat like that 24-7, and I don’t really give a shit if there are parabens in my shampoo. I need a vision for what wellness looks like for me, because when I try to become who these people are, I fail, or I feel unnatural, fake. There’s no joy in it.”

As you can see, these fourteen days have been a bit of a mixed bag. I feel more stable and balanced, but I also know that my brain battles with going back to old habits several times per day, flirting with the idea that I can somehow control them better and have the best of both worlds.

For what it’s worth, I can say that I am ready to explore this notion of surrender. To Gabby’s earlier point, I have been white knuckling every attempt to be a better “me” and that hasn’t worked. I’m also moving away from idealizing people who’ve overcome their addictions/hang-ups/what-have-you and beating myself up over not being able to replicate their transformations. Their journey is different from mine. Gabby Bernstein woke up one day and heard a voice tell her that she’d have everything she dreamed about if she got sober and from that day on didn’t touch a drop or snort of anything. That’s awesome for her, but maybe I don’t have some revolutionary light bulb moment where I am changed overnight. Maybe I’m downplaying how hard it was for her to do that. Maybe I just want it to be easy. Maybe I just want to feel like I’m not trying to change constantly.

Who knows?

For now, I am considering going for fourteen more days to sort some of these questions out and to see what wellness will look like for me. There is a vision for it that I’ve been slowly piecing together, one that I need to make uniquely my own, as I believe we all should try to do. And maybe that vision constantly shifts and changes. Maybe we do too. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Here’s to whatever comes next.

Eye Openers: My First Visit to the Hospital in Abu Dhabi

Today, I woke up to the unexpected sight of a red, itchy eyeball that, in my amateur diagnosis, was most certainly pink eye (gross!). My very knowledgeable eye doctor brother agreed with me that my eye ball was indeed gross, but advised me to have an eye doctor take a look at it as he does not do selfie diagnoses. Still being new to the country, I was unsure where to begin so after a few texts with veteran coworkers, I decided to try to nearest hospital and see about their eye clinic.

Outside of my medical tests, which were certainly quite the chaotic event, this was my first trip to a hospital here in Abu Dhabi and I didn’t know what to expect. Based on my experiences in the States, I was bracing myself for long waits, disorganization, and busy, overwhelmed staff who may or may not be kind to me. I knew that the medical costs here are cheaper than the States, but that was about it. Suffice it to say, today’s visit was eye opening in more ways than one.

When I walked into the hospital, I was immediately surprised by how clean and open the facilities were. Perhaps this is just the quality of hospital I came to, but I suspect the standard is relatively high throughout the city. I can’t say for sure. The vibe wasn’t the white washed, sterile feeling I’m accustomed to in the States. It felt peaceful, calm. They even had a little open-air courtyard that I half expected to contain a koi fish pond and some yoga mats (it did not). I asked for the eye clinic, but was told it would be another two hours before it opened. Bummer, but fortunately I came ready with my Nook, phone charger, and a couple bananas. I decided to wait it out. Until I got antsy, that is.

Oh, by the way… This is what the courtyard area looks like:

burjeel courtyard 2

I walked over to the ER, not because I believed my eye was a real emergency, but because maybe someone was available to give a quick look, prescribe some eye drops, and send me on my way with “sick leave” note. At this point, my eye was already significantly less red than when I woke up and I was contemplating whether I had overreacted by coming at all. Get in, get out, and take a nap. That was my game plan.

Inside of the ER waiting room which, at 7:30 AM, only had about four people, I approached the registration desk. The woman working there asked me what I was there for and informed me that they only had GP’s in the ER (general practitioners). I expected her to be annoyed with me for coming to what was clearly the wrong section of the hospital and send me on my way, remanded to the eye clinic waiting room. She didn’t. Instead, she asked two nurses to speak with me about my eye, how long it had been that way, my symptoms, etc. One of the nurses immediately hopped on the phone and contacted someone who could schedule me an appointment in the eye clinic for 9:30 AM. She was concerned that if I just went over there, I might not be seen as a walk-in and (seemed to) genuinely want me to get my eyeball looked at. She took a look at my name and, realizing that it was not phonetic in a way that is easy for Arabic speakers, politely asked me how to pronounce, as if she really cared about getting it right. She even seemed apologetic (which wasn’t necessary, but I appreciated the sentiment nonetheless).

I was pleasantly surprised, and also a bit shocked. In the urgent care and ER facilities I’ve been in most of my life outside of my hometown in Indiana, the vibe is generally one of minimal patient interaction, massive shuffling, long waits, and little tolerance for patients like me who are a bit lost, do not outwardly appear to be very sick, and also may have names that are not easy to read in the national language. I almost felt as if they were making too much of a fuss, so accustomed am I to getting and witnessing very different levels of patient care in out-patient settings such as this.

I sat inside the waiting room of the eye clinic, enjoying complimentary hot chocolate (seriously, can we get some tea in our hospital waiting rooms back home?!). At 9 AM a nurse came and got me, not because it was my scheduled appointment time, but because she had time and I was there so why not? She did a quick vision test, asked me about my eye, took a look, did a pressure test, and had me wait in another very comfortable waiting area to see the doctor. Within 15 minutes, I was in the doctor’s examination room. She was kind, patient, and very, very concerned about my eye which she revealed through a thorough line of questioning. Apparently, I was right to go to the hospital as my cornea is “severely inflamed.” She examined me for what felt like an eternity, asking questions, trying her best to figure out what happened to my sad, little cornea. She explained to me the possible causes of an inflamed cornea and why my symptoms, or lack thereof, didn’t really fit many of the usual causes. She was baffled. I felt like a patient on House. She wanted to take pictures of my curious little eyeball and get to the bottom of this diagnosis.

The same nurse got me and took me into another examination room to take said photos – many, many photos. I didn’t realize my eyeball had so many potential angles to capture. The entire staff seemed very determined to figure out what exactly was wrong.

After my photo shoot, I waited a little while longer and the doctor saw me again. She asked more questions, had I changed my contact solution, has there been any past trauma to my eye? She asked her colleague to come in from a routine examination to look at my eye to be sure she wasn’t missing something. I was floored, and not just by the fact that I hadn’t realized the extent of my eyeball woes, but that this ophthalmologist was being so diligent in her diagnosis and treatment of me. She wanted to dilate my eyes to make sure there wasn’t additional inflammation in the back.

Throughout this entire process, I never got the sense that she was frazzled by having to spend more time on me than expected. She wasn’t quadruple booked with patients, though the waiting room did fill up a bit, and I certainly wasn’t getting any special treatment – everyone got this same level of care. When I was in her examination room, she gave me her undivided attention. It was nice. I left her office with directions to take three different eye drops and come back the next day. She wanted to see what, if any, progress had been made and would refer me to a specialist if need be. She even wrote me a handwritten letter for my job, as I don’t yet have my ID card, a process that took at least 5 minutes because she wanted it to be legible and clear.

All of this cost me $50 AED, the equivalent of $13 USD.

When I went to the pharmacy to get the cortisone drops, some antibiotic drops, and a topical gel that I am not exactly looking forward to using, the total price without my medical card would’ve been approximately $65 AED, or $17 USD. There was no dropping off the prescription and waiting an hour. She filled it right then and there, not because the pharmacy was empty, but because things like drops and birth control (yes, birth control) and antibiotics are ready to go and be dispensed upon request. With my medical card, I was charged a whopping $7 AED. That’s a little less than $2 US dollars.

My heart sank.

I am admittedly not well-versed on the ins and outs of what keeps our healthcare costs so high in the US, but I can tell you I do know that most other developed nations offer universal healthcare at low costs, much like what I’m receiving here in Abu Dhabi. The medicines I’m prescribed here are the same as the States at a fraction of the cost. I am also aware that pharmaceutical companies in the States operate at obscene profit margins. I came away from the hospital and pharmacy today feeling both blessed and grateful, but also frustrated by the knowledge that I likely would not have received the same care for anywhere near the same price I paid today in my own country. Even with the insurance I had in the States, which I thought was fabulous at the time, my co-pays were 2-3 times more than what I paid today and my prescription costs nearly quadruple in most cases. I would’ve paid approximately $3 USD for something I’d have been charged $200+ in the States without insurance, IF I was even able to see someone.

I won’t feign expertise in the reasons behind the conditions of our healthcare system, but I will say that we have a long way to go and a lot to learn about quality patient care, taking time to actually listen to people when they are unwell, and providing these services at a cost that is affordable for the vast majority of people. Too often we wait until the damage is severe to invest in treatment.

Had I been in the States, I wonder if I would’ve been given a quick glance, some drops for pink eye, and sent on my way, not really knowing that I had another, bigger problem happening. Maybe I would’ve been referred to another doctor, who I would then have to schedule a separate appointment with after my insurance said it was actually okay to see said person, the entire process taking up to a week, not to mention an additional day away from work. I can’t say for sure. I also don’t know who all gets this level of care here in Abu Dhabi, if it’s 100% of people, or just those of us of a certain working class and locals. What I do know is that if you want to come live and work here, you can expect great, affordable healthcare without making a six figure salary.  One day, I hope to say the same for my home country.

Keeping Cool in the Desert

Welp, folks, I’ve made it through my first month in Abu Dhabi (woo hoo!) and there has certainly been some lesson learning over the last couple of weeks (today was no exception). First and foremost, nothing here is easy. This is important to remember if you’re ever thinking about making the journey and settling here. For reasons I don’t fully understand, even things that appear simple to my Western sensibilities tend to be anything but in this new home of mine. I’ve actually lucked out on a number of things, but “lucking out” simply means things were just done when and the way they were supposed to be (or within 24-48 hours of anticipated time).

When living in Abu Dhabi, you quickly learn how to tackle the settling in process and what to expect which is, sadly, a bit of hair tearing and awkward/confused/angry conversations with providers. Appointments to set up services or deliveries can take up to several weeks to get done (or just a day! Inshallah). You may request a certain time and clearly state that you will be working and thus, not at home nor will you ever be at home, during a particular set of hours every day Sunday through Thursday. Sadly, it won’t stop the delivery guy or technician from coming, calling your phone, and despite saying things like “Sir, I won’t be home until 4. I am at work” getting “Okay, I’ll come back at 3 o’clock.” At this point, further explanation is futile. Prepare to relive this fiasco 2-10 more times before everything gets done. (I giggle when I overhear disgruntled expats requesting to speak to a manager. Good luck, buddy!) Helpful tip: Just say okay to 3 o’clock and hope the man is late.

Working is often no different. Things are changed last minute, meetings are announced at the 11th hour, or happen during times that don’t make much sense. Everything is in flux and with that comes a particular vibe that can range anywhere from jarring to soul crushing. The language barrier doesn’t help either and the longer I’m here, the more I really want to learn Arabic.

You know, the weird thing about it all is that I’m kind of grateful for it.

The way I see it, I’ve been thrown into the deep end and told to swim, so I have. Some around me are drowning and will not likely make it; others are floating and coasting, while the majority of us paddle and flail with our own struggles (many shared), yet somehow manage to keep our heads above water. At the end of the day, we find a Ladies’ Night or a gym or both and get over it.

If the UAE has taught me anything thus far, it’s that “keeping cool” is the only way to make it. I realize that, as an American, I come with my own little quirks that likely annoy the bajeebies out of my coworkers and others I may come into contact with. If you expect to live life as an expat, you should also expect that “your way” of doing things is not likely going to be replicated in whatever country you’re going to – especially not this one. And guess what? That’s probably never going to change, which is great, because it means our world is not a monolith. So you can either accept it and try to roll with it, or get rolled over by a nervous breakdown. I prefer to avoid the latter.

I’m learning more and more each day to go with the flow and not internalize things that are beyond my control. It’s getting easier to step back and observe my feelings, breathe through them, and keep it moving without falling apart at the seams – at least that’s the strategy I can manage about 85% of time. (I’m still working on it.) Today, for example, a particularly vexing last minute change of plans at work put me in a funk that killed the vibe of my classroom for the rest of the day because I just couldn’t get over it and recover. As a result, I had kind of a lousy class today.

That kind of thing happens and will likely continue to happen, but it’s okay. It doesn’t mean I have to carry it with me once I leave the building, and that’s where I feel I’m growing the most.

Though I’m still working on making this aspiring Zen master my primary persona, I can say that the progress I’ve made so far has helped me to look at all the various challenges lately with my life, my “self”, and even my chronically jinxed relationship (which I wouldn’t trade for the world), and examine it all with a different lens. Meditating, breathing, relaxing does open you up to a different kind of clarity where you aren’t filtering your experience in a way that focuses solely on the negative.  Oh, this sucks. I have the worst luck. Nothing ever works out for me. The world is unfair. Blah, blah, and blah. I have said all of those things a bazillion times and can’t think of a single example of it making things better. That thinking became a self-fulfilling prophecy and I’ve always found that I tend to get back what I’m throwing out the most. If I feel like complaining a lot, generally the Universe will let me have some more. It’s very giving in that way.

So I’m trying to chill on the “woe is me” as best I can and take my life here in stride, one day at a time. I find the more I do that, the more things fall into place, and the happier I feel – not because everything is suddenly perfect, but because I understand that they don’t have to be. Life is going to come with ups and downs, frustrations and heartache, as well as love and great joy. Being happy doesn’t have to mean that everything is perfect (or even okay). I could never get to a place where I accepted that in NYC, but it’s clicking more and more now that I’m in the UAE.

So despite your little quirks and our differences, Abu Dhabi, thank you for throwing me so far off that I have been forced to balance. I dig you for it.

 

keeping cool in desert pic

Abu Dhabi: Where Everything is a Little Different, Including Me

I haven’t written a blog post in what feels like almost a year, so I’m admittedly rusty and also feeling a bit scattered with all the change that’s happened in my life over the past two months. In July, I packed up my things, sublet my beloved apartment in Brooklyn, and moved halfway across the world to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

It’s interesting for me to write this post and look back at the transition with hindsight. The truth is I didn’t handle the move well. I was imploding for months before, stressed out by not knowing when I would actually leave, wondering if time would be on my side and make it possible for my love and I to go together (it wasn’t), and basically avoiding any emotions I had with leaving everything (and everyone) behind. To numb myself against any and all feelings, I drank too much and did awful things like pick fights with the most important person to me outside of my immediate family. He deserves a medal for sticking with me. I was on a war path of emotional yo-yoing and self-destruction. At one point, I contemplated not going at all.

MANY things did not go as planned and, after eight months apart, I was only able to spend four days with my boyfriend in Trinidad as my ticket came several weeks earlier than expected. But now as I’m here, and settling into my first month abroad, I’m learning how to come to peace with everything, accepting that things happen when they’re supposed to, if at all, and (I say this lovingly) the Universe gives zero fucks about whatever timeline I had envisioned in my mind.

So how am I doing? Welp, despite living in a country where ladies can drink free virtually every night of the week (even though alcohol is technically a no-no here), I haven’t been doing much imbibing – maybe once or twice per week tops. I’ve been much more content to take it all in, relax, and learn to navigate a new country that has a lot quirks and perks. And I don’t need to be shit faced to do it. Bonus! I still stress, and I still miss the hell out of my man, but I’m learning how to enjoy my life as it is right now.

I’ve got a long ways to go in terms of getting where I want to be and living a lifestyle that is healthy, body/self/soul loving, but I’m letting that go too. The truth is I’m taking small steps and trusting, as best I can, that things will fall into place. It’s easy in the world of Instagram and Facebook, to look at people who’ve spent years building towards an end goal that you desperately want to achieve and being completely unrealistic about how to get there yourself. Comparison is a cruel little demon and I’ve been tearing myself down over failed attempt after failed attempt to transform overnight into a fitness loving, healthy lifestyle junky. My entry into this new life and world has been fueled by a steady crawl towards self-forgiveness and transformation, one that I am going to chronicle as best as possible via this site. I definitely left the States (and Trinidad) feeling like I was going to step off the plane a new woman, leaving all vices behind, but it’s just not the case. Some things I’ve improved upon and other things are still a work in progress.

And guess what? I’m okay with that.

So what has Abu Dhabi been like? I’ll do a brief list and hopefully this might help anyone who is contemplating a move to this tiny, desert country.

The Good

  • You get to meet so many different people from all over the world, in ways I never did even living in New York City. I’m loving the people I’ve met and have formed fast friendships here.
  • Gas is ridiculously cheap. I spent $15 USD filling up my tank.
  • Ladies Night. Ladies drink free. Enough said.
  • I got placed in Abu Dhabi City on Reem Island. This is EXACTLY where I wanted to be. My apartment has three pools and fitness centers so my weekends can be spent working out and getting some much needed vitamin D.
This is actually where I live. Can you believe it?

This is actually where I live. Can you believe it?

  • Local (or anything from Asia and Africa) produce is pretty inexpensive compared to what I would pay in the States. Yes, if you want the imported stuff, you’re going to pay an arm and a leg, but it is possible to enjoy a relatively low cost of living. A bag of avocados for $3 USD? Yes, please.
  • The architecture here is so innovative and unique. I’ve had many a breathtaking car ride. It also helps that the majority of the clubs and bars are attached to beautiful hotels so you are never at a loss for ambiance.
  • People are generally very helpful and friendly here, which I have both needed and appreciated.
  • I LOVE my students. Yes, we are honeymooning and they will start to act out a bit more as the months go by. I came to this country hearing horror story after horror story, but my 7th grade girls are so sweet. I could not feel more blessed in that regard.

 

The Bad (or Just Weird)

  • People drive so dangerously here. They speed and tailgate and it makes for stress inducing commutes.
  • Toilet paper is somewhat optional. In the city, in areas where expats and particularly Westerners are known to frequent, you’re okay. But otherwise, the preferred method of “cleansing” is a hose that is attached to the toilet. Let’s just say, that gets messy.
  • This isn’t “bad” per se, but it has been interesting. Technically there is not supposed to be drinking and women are to dress conservatively (skirts, long sleeves, collarbone covered). However, it’s not actually practiced everywhere or in all circumstances. There are bars and unlimited cocktail brunches all over the place. Women go to clubs wearing things I would never wear even in the States. You have to learn to navigate the spaces. I’ve seen women in spaghetti strap tops and shorts in the mall, but I also know that sometimes local men will demand that they leave if dressed that way. Oh, and if you get into a cab wasted, you will be going to jail…for a while.
  • People answer their phones no matter what. In the middle of teaching a class? Answer the phone. Middle of a meeting? Answer the phone. It’s rude not to answer here, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the idea that interrupting a meeting with me to answer your phone is not also rude. Meh. (shrugs shoulders)

The Ugly

  • I won’t name names, but let’s just say that getting things delivered, set up, or installed can be a complete nightmare here. Take deep, deep breaths.

So there you have it. I apologize for the long-winded post, but it’s been a crazy month filled with lots of things to talk about. Let’s see what the next month brings! Inshallah, it will be good.

 

Corniche

10 Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Things Insecure People Do

The other day I was reading an article about the habits of happy people and thought, “Man! I wish I could write an amazing piece like that and live those habits on the reg.” Then I thought about the reasons I haven’t become a happy, balanced superhero and hosted a tiny pity party for myself from the comfort of my living room. Then I got inspired.

The only way out is through, so I decided to stare down one of my demons. And then I made a list.

I bring you the “10 Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Things Insecure People Do” as told from the vantage point of a woman determined to stop being one.

1. They use.

Sometimes it’s drugs. Sometimes it’s people. Usually, it’s a little of both. I’d elaborate, but it might turn into a diatribe and the only real point is that we are users. Proceed with caution.

2. They dwell.

Oh boy do we dwell. What past? I’m living the drama right now baby. We cannot get over even the smallest of insults. Break ups? Total devastation and we will relive the tough moments for many, many, many months after, even after we’ve found someone else. (P.S. Facebook, you make dwelling far too easy.) Honestly, we’ll probably project those horrible moments onto our new boos so we can keep the misery going. We like to pay it forward that way.

3. They quit.

Not good stuff you’re supposed to quit like cigarettes.  We quit on important stuff like writing a book or loving someone. When we get inspired to embark on a new journey, we tend to fail the resiliency test and give up the moment the going gets tough. After which, we will resort to #2. Because of #3, we aren’t very good at getting promoted or, in some cases, keeping jobs. And let’s be honest – nowadays, who can afford that?

4. They make it all about them… like ALL the time.

Insecure people are shitty listeners. Empathy? Girl, bye. We can’t hear anything but our own thoughts and opinions. Because we constantly seek validation from others, we feel a need to make every conversation about us. You’re having trouble with your significant other? Let me tell you for 45 minutes what I would do and about what happened to me that one time way back when. You got time, right?

5. They Judge.

Some of us are good at it because we mask it in hilarious sarcasm. Others are just bitchy and quicker to turn people off. Either way, it’s the same symptom. Those wealthy chicks in the Village sipping a $12 bottle of green juice after yoga class? Hate ‘em and I’m gonna let you know about it if you’re walking with me. That girl at the bar who squeezed herself into those shorts (and probably does not give a damn what you think about it)? Let’s crack some jokes on her. Everybody is ridiculous. But let’s not forget the biggest target of them all: ourselves Yes, us. Insecure people judge themselves all the time. It’s exhausting. We’re never pretty enough, skinny, enough, smart enough, or successful enough to eek out even the tiniest sliver of gratitude or joy. I assure you that whatever snarky thing we say about others, we are one hundred times harder on ourselves.

6. They hide.

Some of us turn into social recluses, content in the security of our apartments, Netflix, and a sixer. Others hide behind images we’ve created to mask the broken human beneath. We find ways to bury the ugly instead of healing it, whether it be avoiding social interaction or gussying ourselves up in the latest trends and partaking of #5 with our equally insecure homies.

7. They get around.

This manifests in a few different ways, sometimes all at once. Insecure people are certainly not a monolith. Some people indulge in sex with multiple partners so they don’t have to get close to or rejected by anyone. Some are serial monogamists and have never been single for longer than a month or two (alone = scary). For others, it manifests socially. We don’t keep the same circle of friends for longer than a year at a time, or, at best we’ve only managed to attach ourselves to frenemies who support us in our endeavor to hide effectively. The central theme here is a lack of fulfilling relationships, which is likely caused by any combination of #1-6.

8. They care what other people think.

Although I alluded to this in #4, I think it’s worth noting separately that insecure people really, really, really care what everybody thinks. Even the people who are constantly saying, “I don’t give a [expletive] what anybody thinks!” probably care the most. It’s bravado. I find it difficult to make any remotely difficult decision without getting input from other people. This includes seemingly minor things like whether or not a pair of shoes is ever worth spending more than $100 on and if I can actually pull off patterned skinny jeans at my age. I’ve even written off potential love interests in the past only to become utterly smitten the second I realized other chicks were into them. We get easily embarrassed by the company we keep (see #5) and seek to pull otherwise confident people into our web by making them question themselves as well (again… #5). It’s brutal.

9. They are storytellers.

Not in the liar, liar pants on fire sense – though some are. Insecure people are great at creating stories in their head about what’s going on. Oh, your boo hasn’t texted you today and it’s almost 4:30 in the afternoon? He’s cheating/mad/goingtobreakupwithyouanysecondnow. Time to do #2. Those girls giggling in the corner over there? Totally hating on you. Bitches (see #5). Everything is a potential assault or disaster. This leads to some very unhealthy mind wandering and build up of emotional sludge in the soul.

10. They play it safe.

Insecure people are not risk takers. We’d much rather live vicariously through the exploits of others via Instagram or Facebook. It’s not that we’re afraid so much as that we don’t believe we could ever do something that incredibly rad and awesome. This results in a host of missed opportunities, regrets, and woulda coulda shoulda’s. Once I hit my 30’s, #10 barreled into me at full force. Words like “can’t” become commonplace. It’s perhaps the biggest tragedy of the list.

 

So here’s the thing…

When I wrote this list, I worried that it would come off bitchy or whiny (see #8) and honestly was not sure why I was writing it other than I felt inspired to do so. I do not have the magical follow up article that tells you how to stop doing all these things to yourself and those you love. What I do know is that every habit and negative story looping through your brain can be changed.

Here are two books I’ve read that gives guidance in that pursuit: Mindsight and The Power of Habit.

I’ll end with literature, light, and of course, Rumi:

Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere,
cloudcover thick, I try to stay
just above the surface, yet I’m already under
and living within the ocean.

Does sunset sometimes look like the sun’s coming up?
Do you know what a faithful love is like?

You’re crying.  You say you’ve burned yourself.
But can you think of anyone who’s not
hazy with smoke?                                       

life coaching image

How to Meal Plan Like a Boss

In New York City, it’s easy to become beholden to the gods of delivery and take out (thank you, Seamless!). It’s also incredibly expensive, and despite our best efforts, mostly unhealthy. Much to the surprise of my friends and colleagues, I actually cook about 90% of the food I eat and do so at a cost of about $4-$6 per meal.

I’ve had discussions about how I manage a busy schedule, long commute, and yet always seem to have home-cooked meals on hand for lunch and dinner.  Whereas I don’t have it down to an exact science, I do have some easy-to-implement tips to help you get off the Seamless train and back into your impractical, tiny New York kitchen. Teasing (but I know it’s often true). J

whats for dinner

Tip #1: Cook BIG on the Weekend

On the weekends, I cook approximately two big meals which will last me anywhere from 8-10 meals (essentially all of my lunches and dinners). Now, this method has not always worked out for me in the past because by Wednesday, I’m really sick of these two meals and food often goes to waste, replaced by falafel from Zaytoon’s.

The solution? Mix and match. Make items that can you create different meal combinations with to reduce the chance you’ll get sick of your food and let it go to waste in the fridge.

EXAMPLE: Last Sunday, I made the following:

*not the recipes I used, but I thought I’d provide links if this meal line up tickles your fancy

All in all, it took approximately 3 hours to make. That’s it. Food for the week and the ingredients for the items above cost about $65 in total.

Breakfast is very simple for me, as I typically just eat fruit, toast with almond butter, or maybe some oatmeal. This rarely costs more than $3 a day and doesn’t exactly require cooking unless you count heating up water for oatmeal or waiting on the toaster.

NOTE – I usually buy greens, onion, and tomato to prepare simple salads to go with my meals, though I also don’t consider this cooking so much as a three minute prep in the mornings before I head out for work.

Tip #2: Freeze What You Won’t Eat & Save

Now there are only so many ways you can mix and match the items above before feeling like you really hate callaloo, lentils, potato pie, veggie korma, and mushroom soup. If you don’t get “food bored”, you’re awesome. Skip this tip.

If you’re like me and can’t eat the same thing for more than a few days, then store and refrigerate enough to get you through the next few days. Place the rest in freezer safe containers and place in the freezer for a later time.

 But you said food for the week! What’s this, just having enough for a few days nonsense?

When you first start cooking this way, it generally means making a third meal around Wednesday or Thursday. However, once it becomes a habit, your freezer becomes the source of meals for Thursday-Saturday.

Thought you’d go crazy if you ate another portion of black bean soup two weeks ago? This week, it’s looking mighty tasty again. Heat it up! Still got some veggie patties left over from the day you made a whole batch (yields about 8 or so). Grab some ketchup and mustard. It’s time for burgers, girlfriend!

Your freezer will be a big reason why you’re able to cook so economically. Cook big. Save and freeze. You’ll always have something awesome to eat. If you get really good at it, you can even start taking a week off from cooking (and grocery shopping). Oh heyyyyy!

Tip #3: Remix Your Initial Dishes

You can make smaller items to go with the food you’ve already prepared without spending more than $10-$15 or spending longer than 5 minutes in the grocery store after work. It’s all about getting creative.

ADVICE: Look at what’s currently in your fridge and see what you can make work without buying a ton of new ingredients.

I had brown rice and lentils from my big cook, but I was sick of the flavor combination. I had some tortillas and salsa on hand in the fridge. I bought some lettuce, an onion, a tomato and an avocado (I MAYBE spent $5 on this). I made “tacos” by using the lentils as “taco meat”, and then adding the other ingredients in.

From there, I saved the other half of my avocado and used it to make my favorite sandwich – avocado, chopped onion, greens, tomato, and a bit of lime juice on toasted gluten free bread for my next meal.

This little anecdote is just to serve as an example of ways you can keep your BIG COOK food from going to waste without force-feeding yourself the same meal five days in a row.

YOU GOT THIS!

Getting back on the cooking wagon takes time and practice, but is so worth it at the end of the day. Once you catch your chef’s groove, you’ll immediately start to feel better. That heavy, oh my god why did I order those burritos feeling that’s been dragging you down and placing you into food comas by mid afternoon will be a thing of the past. Give it a shot! Your body (and bank account) will thank you for it.

makeyourown

My 2014

Tis the season for new beginnings, proclamations, reflection, and maybe (if we’re lucky) a little forgiveness. After a few days of clear-headedness, a state that has eluded me for several months, I’ve managed to sit down and write again.

Although many great things happened to me in 2013- I saw Rome, accepted love into my life, began a new job – when I look back on it completely and honestly, I have to admit that it was actually a pretty shitty year. I spent most of it quite unwell. I endured emotional swings both up and down, fleeting motivation, crippling fear, periods of binge smoking and drinking, loss of friends; I didn’t take care of myself, believe in myself, or trust that I had any power to authentically change. I stopped making goals. They all seemed so ridiculous and unattainable. Sadly, it was mostly a monster of my own creation. With the exception of some mishaps and let downs compliments of a very fickle and mysterious universe, I had primarily done all of these things to myself. In 2013, mine was a messy, cloudy spirit and brain.

Not all was bad, of course. I’d hit good strides (one week, maybe three at a time) where the skies parted and sun shone down. Everything was possible and I dared to pursue lofty ideals of who I could become and what I’d be doing. You can track these moments via my blog entries when I felt creative and in total control. No matter how sporadic or short-lived, they were quite beautiful moments and I’m sorry I did not trust them more fully or be more grateful for them. Perhaps that is the great lesson of the past year.

But here we are. It’s 2014, a new year that brings with it the allure of new chances. I could continue to wax poetic on the self-inflicted clusterfuck that was the year before, draw shades on the bright moments, but I will attempt to digress. I am also tempted do the obvious which is to make RESULOTIONS! Live them, breathe them, bathe in them for the whole of January (If I’m lucky) only to see them sink once February rears its ugly, dark head. That would be, after all, my usual pattern as goals have always had a bit of a shelf life for me. Yet, despite whatever naysaying a bad attitude and articles written by super smart folks may say about the effectiveness of New Year resolutions, I’m going to give it a go.

In full transparency, I’m on day three of no smoking (my boyfriend is joining me – the couple that quits together, stays together!), there’s a mostly empty bottle of cold-pressed green juice next to my computer, and I definitely rejoined the local Crunch earlier today. I’m totally fine with that, cliché as it may be. It’s what I’m supposed to do and I am a total “new year, new me” bandwagon fan. What I’m not doing this year, however, is making huge plans and superficial promises for some completely evolved and transformed “me” that will, like many resolutions of New Years past, come crashing down in the first four week. That’s usually the point I find myself hurled quickly back to the habits of the year(s) before. “Better luck next year,” I tell myself. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Don’t get me wrong – I DO need a transformed, fabulous, beautiful, glowing skinned, toned, happy, kale-consuming NEW me. She exists and I intend to release her from the marble, chipping away slowly and dutifully like Michelangelo did for his beloved angel. But I understand that it is a slow and painstaking process and the green juice, gym junkie, nicotine-free, and sober(ish) lifestyle is just one piece of the bigger puzzle. For me, and maybe you as well, it’s not just about forming better habits. It’s about fixing what’s been broken.

I think resolutions fail because we don’t address the issues within ourselves that cause us to stay stuck on couches, become incredibly sad, succumb to loneliness and depression, lose friends, and in many ways, just plain give up. Aside from the fact that sometimes it just sucks to go to the gym and choose salad over three slices of pizza, there are deeper roots nourishing our bad choices. These are the pains, memories, and negativity remaining expertly quiet during the first week or two of a life overhaul. But they are patient little demons and they will speak up. That has typically been the point where I slip, slide, and go crashing backwards. Unless you change what’s happening in that brain of yours, recognize triggers for what they are, and heal those deep-seated wounds, you will continue to play a tug of war with yourself, your weaknesses, and your goals.

Although different for everyone, I think I have a fairly good idea, in theory, of how to tackle this. So far, I’ve lacked the courage to utilize these tools. Procrastination and apathy have been my faithful companions since November and I’ve conveniently waited for January to begin immersing myself in this work. What can I say? Change is scary, even when you know you’ll be happier for it. No matter how low you sink, at least it’s familiar. Who would you be if not this disaster?

Well, January is here now and thus it begins. This year is dedicated to the exorcism of demons: doubt, fearful living, depression, and stagnation. It is an embracing of mindfulness, an unpacking of old baggage, and the rewiring of a brain that has accumulated too many self-deprecating loops and habits.

Oh, and hopefully I go to the gym a few times a week too. I wouldn’t mind adding a six pack to a healed soul.