“Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die…”

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Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

Wow, 2018.  What a year.

When I look back I see a lot of typical ups and downs this year, but more ups than usual. I tried and failed with some things like getting a podcast off the ground and training for a 10k, but I like to consider them learning experiences.

The big event was going to Europe in April.  My BFF and I went to Copenhagen, Berlin and Prague, and it was both of our first times being in Europe.  It was a life-changing experience for me, and I can’t wait to go back.  I really should write a blog post about this trip.

Things changed a LOT on the work front this year.  My team changed almost entirely, with key people leaving and new hires coming onboard.  I got a new boss who has been enabling me to learn and take on more challenges.  I took a Scrum Master course and became a Professional Scrum Master, and now I facilitate our daily standups and sprint planning.  I crawled even further out of my shell and hosted our monthly company meeting, which might be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but I survived.

In the same vein, I also became an event host for my company.  In trying to remain anonymous I won’t name my company, but we host fun social events that require an instructor.  I taught a class of 27 how to do something, and I had a ton of fun doing it.  Not only that, but it gives me a little more money in my paycheck.

I read eight books this year.  That may not sound like much, and actually my goal was 10 books, but it’s more than I normally read.  When I was younger I would spend entire weekends reading in bed.  I still love reading but my attention span isn’t what it used to be and I’m trying to get that back.

Another huge change this year was that I moved to a new town.  My work commute went from 90 minutes to 20 minutes and my rent decreased by nearly $1000/month due to acquiring a roommate.  I am finally starting to make some slow progress on my financial situation.

I also lost 15 pounds this year, and although I gained every bit back (thanks to Europe’s delicious food) I now know that it’s possible to lose weight, and I am confident that I can do it again.

Lastly, I gave up alcohol for the most part.  I have had a few drinks since posting about quitting, but I didn’t really enjoy it and the desire to “go out drinking” has totally gone away.

*  *  *  *  *

So what is 2019 going to bring?

I have so many things I want to accomplish, and I was even skeptical about my list as I was writing it, but why not aim high?  I started to push myself this year and I am ready to take it to the next level.

Here’s my TODO list:

  • Run five races (5Ks are fine!)
  • Hike seven 4000+ footer mountains
  • Get my National Parks Passport and three stamps*
  • Read 12 books
  • Lose 70 pounds
  • Have 3 months’ salary in savings
  • Go to Iceland

(*The stamps don’t have to be from previously unvisited parks.  I’ve already been to a few but didn’t have my passport book then.)

Aside from these specific list items, the main theme of 2019 is “Mindful spending”.  I don’t want to acquire any more material possessions, as I’m already trying to pare down my belongings, and I don’t want to spend money on things that provide little value to my life.  I’m not going to make any hard rules; I just want to be more present and mindful instead of impulsive.

This may not be very exciting for my readers, but to hold myself accountable, I’m going to post monthly recaps of every single thing I spent money on.  Another blog that I used to follow did this every month and I was surprised at how much they actually spent.  I can do better.  😉

This is the year where I really have to change my lifestyle completely.  This time next year I’ll have age 40 in my sights, and man, if I’m still eating cheese and playing video games in my pajamas all day, that’ll really be depressing.

Happy New Year, everyone!  ❤

 

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Minimizing

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

A couple weeks ago, my friend turned me on to this blog about a girl who is living out of one bag and enjoying remote work while essentially being “homeless”.  Ever since then I’ve been able to think about nothing else.

I’ve always fantasized about being homeless.  People look at me funny when I say that, but I don’t mean living outside and roughing it.  I mean not being tethered to any one place, which means no rent, no mortgage, no maintenance, no cleaning, no utility bills, etc.

However, it’s out of the question for me right now and probably for a long time.  I have two cats who obviously cannot be nomads with me, although I could probably fit them both unhappily into a backpack.  But the reality is that I can’t go anywhere until they’re no longer around.  And that’s OK for now.

But in the meantime, my mindset has shifted a bit.  I’m thinking in terms of preparing to someday become homeless.

I’ve always embraced the minimalist movement although I, myself, still have quite a bit of work to do in that area.  I’m definitely in a much better place today than I was five years ago.  After a messy break-up I sold, donated or otherwise got rid of 80% of my belongings, mostly because I was tired of schlepping boxes and boxes of “stuff” back and forth while I tried to find a new housing situation.  It was such a liberating feeling and I like to think of it as a reward for enduring years and years in a bad relationship.

I consider myself lucky to have been born without the shopping gene, because I don’t care much for things like shoes, clothes and beauty products.  (Don’t ask me about cat toys and craft supplies, though…)  But I also don’t enjoy wasting things, which makes it difficult to get rid of things that I may find useful in the future.  For example, I haven’t crocheted or knitted anything in years, but I still have a very large box of yarn, polyfill stuffing and a spectrum of crochet hooks and knitting needles.  I’m not sure how much time has to pass before I get rid of all that.

But there are other things that I have less attachment to that I can be minimizing.  This past weekend I donated all of my glassware and mugs and replaced them with a handful of mason jars.  I love mason jars because they’re multipurpose.  I can drink both water and coffee out of them, plus I can use them as food storage.

I also donated most of my cat food dishes, because I realized that if I just stop being lazy, I can use the same two dishes every day after washing them.  I also let go of my one-purpose kitchen gadgets like my spirooli slicer and mandoline slicer, and culled all duplicates of things like spatulas and casserole dishes.  And suddenly I have way more kitchen cabinet space.

I think the next things to go with be half of my plates and bowls (which I’m proud to say I found sitting outside a dumpster in perfect condition), and then it’s time to face the hard truth about my wardrobe.  I don’t have a lot of clothes that are currently in rotation, but I have a big box of clothes that I hope to fit into someday.  Time to embrace the present while also realizing that I can afford to buy new clothes if and when I actually lose weight.

I get so incredibly stressed out when I sit down at my home office desk and there’s clutter everywhere.  It makes it difficult to find things and puts me in a negative state of mind when I’m supposed to be working.  I’m really excited to slowly work towards becoming an actual minimalist, which will leave me better equipped to take off with one backpack when the day comes.

Stay tuned for my recap of 2018, along with some overly-ambitious resolutions for the new year.

New

Last night was my first really challenging night without alcohol.

I went to a Paint Nite event by myself and, aside from the host, I didn’t know anyone else.  I had a lot of fun and chit-chatted with the strangers at my table, but everyone else was drinking and I felt super awkward.  I felt boring, like I couldn’t keep up, like everyone was laughing and poking fun at each other, and I was just focusing on my work and smiling like a weirdo at other peoples’ jokes.

I texted my sister and asked if it would be terrible if I had one drink, but ultimately decided not to.  This morning I’m SO very glad that I didn’t.  Not only am I still battling a cold, but I’m also on day 5 of no dairy and I know it would have made things worse on both fronts if I had given in.  I have to remind myself that it’s never just one.  I’m not capable of stopping at one, which is why I gave it up entirely.

I’ll face more challenges as I go, but it’s nice to have solid proof that I actually can get through things sober.

Speaking of no dairy, I’m doing well and not even craving it.  It does help that I haven’t eliminated meat, fish and eggs yet, but I plan to phase them out eventually.  I already feel so much better.

I remember thinking in the days and weeks before giving up dairy, that I couldn’t do it.  I was going to fail again, and how could I give up cheese?  My greatest love in life.  But I did it.  I’m doing it, and it’s not so bad.  I don’t feel gross after meals, my energy levels are rising and my brain fog is receding.

*  *  *  *

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately, mostly because I feel like my life is completely different without alcohol in it.  I feel much more authentic, I’m learning more about myself, and I’m actually feeling myself grow, albeit very slowly.

I’ve always felt this tremendous pressure to get out and have experiences, but lately (and maybe it’s just because I’ve been bedridden all week) I’ve been quite content to stay in and watch a movie or read a book under a warm blanket with the sparkling lights on my Christmas tree in the background.  Always feeling the need to be doing something is stressful and maddening.  Feeling like I constantly need to be working toward goals, and getting angry with myself when I’m not, isn’t helpful.

I’m trying to take a more laid-back approach to life these days.  Things that are important will naturally make their way into my life, and things that aren’t will fade in to the background.  It sounds like I’m giving up control to fate but that’s not it.  I still want to be superhuman someday, I’m just figuring out that my natural abilities and interests are getting buried amongst the ever-growing list of things I wish to do and be, and sometimes I need to stop and embrace them.

xo.

Ready to level up

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Photo by Ugur Akdemir on Unsplash

It’s been over one month since I decided to stop drinking and, to be honest, it hasn’t been bad at all.

I even went to a metal show for the first time in years, where I had to push my way through crowds of huge, sweaty men to get to the front of the stage.  I gotta say, going home that night completely sober with no lapses in memory was all the encouragement I need to keep going.  Waking up the next day with no hangover and no face-palm moments of, “Oh god why did I say/do that?” was the cherry on top.

I think the hardest part is not being able to casually grab a drink with someone I haven’t seen in a while.  But I can always turn those expensive get togethers into a less expensive coffee and chit chat instead.  I have yet to try that.

I’d say that there are two really great (and very noticeable) changes.  I have much more time on my hands and much more money in my bank account.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I’m filling the extra time with video games.  I’m struggling with whether or not it’s a waste of time.  On the one hand, I have a passion again.  Gaming has been a huge part of my life ever since I was around 6 or 7 years old.  I stopped playing about five years ago when I broke up with my partner because playing alone wasn’t as fun anymore.  In those five years I sort of floated around trying to figure out what I was “into”, and nothing stuck.  I still volunteer every year at the local gaming convention, but I was so out of the loop.  Now I have something back that I can talk about with friends and dedicate some real time to.  And yet I feel like I should be doing something else all the time.

I’m working on trying to find a balance between allowing myself time to play games and working on some longer term life goals, like getting healthy and losing weight.

Now that alcohol isn’t in my life anymore, I’m ready to clean up my act in other areas.  I am going to try again to go vegetarian, starting with cutting out dairy.  I want to try to run again and get into shape so I can do some big hikes next year.  My 2018 bucket list consisted of hiking five mountains and I didn’t do any of them.

Movement makes me happy, but my self-consciousness limits me.  I feel like people are thinking, “Look at the fat girl trying to run.”  It’s something I need to overcome, and I feel optimistic this time around because there’s less chance of having alcohol-related setbacks and/or skipping workout days for social events instead.

I’ve been mad at myself lately because of the gluttonous, lazy life I lead.  I have a million reasons for becoming vegetarian/vegan and I’m still not.  I want nothing more in life than to be at a healthy weight again, and it’s totally within my control but I’m not doing anything about it.

It’s time to change, and the timing is good because I enjoy feeling the fresh start of a new year.  I know I’ve said it so many times before, but I really want 2019 to be the year that everything turns around.  I started this blog about a year and a half ago with the intention of holding myself accountable, and it’s about time I start doing it.

Better late than never, right?  There’s no time like the present.  If not now, when?  Yadda, yadda, yadda… let’s just shut up and be better.

xo.

Peeling off a layer

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Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

This past weekend I made the hard life decision to stop drinking.  Forever.

I thought about letting myself enjoy a beer or a glass of wine if I’m in for the night with friends, or at a holiday gathering with family, but moderation doesn’t work for me.  Excuses do work for me, and I know that the line would get more and more blurry along the way.

I make really poor choices when I’m drinking, and I don’t know my limits.  When I look back at what drinking has done for my life, I see a wake of destruction.  I see a lot of terrible relationships, fake friendships, utter embarrassment at my behavior, weight gain, entire days wasted from being hungover, low productivity at work, fucked up priorities, no money in my savings account… and those are just the things I can remember.

As someone who is literally medicated for hypochondria, I don’t know why it took me so long to make this decision.  I can only imagine what my insides look like after years of binge-drinking.  I shudder to think about the brain cells that I lost and will never, ever regain.

I always wanted to be a “smart” drinker.  The type who can sip a glass of bourbon slowly while enjoying the company of others, or someone who could come home and have a beer to unwind after a stressful day.  But the truth is that I never actually enjoyed alcohol.  I used it as a crutch in social situations.  I almost never drank at home by myself.  But when I did go out and drink, I drank very fast to quash any bit of anxiety or awkwardness I was feeling.  And the truth is that I ended up being more awkward than if I hadn’t drank in the first place.

Without alcohol, my life is about to be drastically different.

I’m going to have to learn how to navigate social situations differently.  I’m likely not going to go out as much, because watching people drink isn’t super fun.  I’m probably not going to date for a long time as I re-assess myself, my priorities and the type of person I’m looking for.

But it won’t all be bad.  In fact, most of it will be good.

I’ll be able to make better food choices.  I’ll have more time to myself from a) not going out and b) not being hungover.  I’ll be a better employee.  I’ll have a happy savings account.  I can work on getting healthier in general and find new hobbies to occupy my time.  I can spend more time with my sober friends who I haven’t seen as much since they stopped drinking, because the majority of my friends are still drinkers.

I used to think that my true self was who I was when I was drunk, because I didn’t hold back and I didn’t second guess any of my decisions.  I realize how completely ridiculous that is now.  Drinking has been a mask for me; a way to cover up things I didn’t like about myself.  Now is the time to practice self-love and acceptance.  It’s going to be a challenge–maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I feel like it’ll only help me grow as a person.

I feel eternally grateful and lucky that my years of alcohol abuse never landed me in jail or in the grave.  It feels weird to say “alcohol abuse”, because I never really considered myself to have a drinking problem, but I absolutely did.  So here is where I stop playing with fire and turn my shit around once and for all.

 

death

Yesterday I suggested to my friend that she get her cat euthanized.  So she did.  And I watched it happen.

He wasn’t actually my friend’s cat; he was her father’s cat.  But she cared for Mr. Penny Bear while her dad traveled and took much better care of him in general.  So even though I’ve known Penny for about 15 years, I didn’t have a strong emotional attachment to him because I only saw him sporadically.

Still, I loved him because I love all cats.  I watched him get older and sicker with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and who knows what else.  Yesterday when I saw him he was all skin and bones.  He hadn’t been eating or drinking at all and he had stayed in the same spot in the house for nearly 24 hours.  When I pet him, it felt like I was hurting him because his bones were protruding everywhere.

The vet didn’t hesitate when we asked if euthanasia was an option.  He moved us into a more comfortable room with a couch and a big box of tissues and took Penny to get the catheter put in his leg.  When they returned, the vet had the syringe with him.

Penny was all sorts of anxious and upset.  He was growling, hissing and squirming in my friend’s lap right up until the moment the syringe started to empty.  And not even ten seconds later he put his head down and all was silent.

My friend and I parted ways after leaving the vet, going home to our respective houses to have a good cry and then a nap.  Later that evening we went out for some cocktails, asking, “What would Penny like?” and choosing ones that were orange in color.

I’ve never lost anyone close to me, not a person nor a pet.  And I haven’t been able to come to terms with the fact that you just cease to exist.  I keep asking myself, “Where is Penny? Where did he go?”

I went to my friend’s house today to walk her dog and saw that Penny’s litter box and uneaten plates of food were still there.  I closed my eyes and pictured Penny in the same spot I saw him in just yesterday, and remembered his quiet purrs when I put some treats in front of him.   It felt like he was still there somewhere.  He doesn’t feel gone to me.

I’ve never seen anything die before.  And I had no idea I’d be this affected by it.

I’ve had a nerve-wracking week at work, which is helping to take my mind off things but when I have some down time and think about Penny floating away on a fluffy cloud, I start to lose it again.

I don’t get it.  I don’t understand death.  I want to believe that it’s the beginning of a new life, but to me that also means they’re leaving.  I want everyone and everything to stay.

I’m afraid of my own emotions.  If I’m this broken up over a cat I barely knew, what’ll it be like when someone close to me dies?

For now I’m picturing a big, orange, fuzzy face hovering over me, telling me he’s not in pain anymore, and to stop fucking crying.

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R.I.P. Mr. Penny Bear, sweetest boy in town.

fe(ar)males

It’s getting darker earlier, but sadly that’s when the heat starts to dissipate and it becomes bearable to be outdoors.  I started a new goal of walking 10k steps every day and I had no intention of letting myself down on the first day.

Walking down the tree-lined path it felt darker and later than it actually was.  The last bits of daylight reflected off the river and peeped through the leaves.  I can hear the traffic on the street, which runs parallel to the path, but I can’t see the cars.

Every few minutes I see the headlight of a lone bicyclist round the corner and come directly at me.  They approach and pass me quickly without so much as a glance.  These are not who I fear.

It’s the pounding of feet as a jogger makes his way closer to me from behind.  The audible panting and the smell of sweat as he’s right on my heels.  I am not running.  I’m not a runner, despite my many attempts on the treadmill.  I’m a slow, chubby female out for a casual stroll that could be knocked out with one swift blow to the back of the head.  I wouldn’t even see it coming.

Is this it?  Is this the one that’s going to attack me?  Kill me?  Would I be able to scream?  Shit, I didn’t bring my pocket knife with me.  Maybe I should give in and get a fanny pack to hold some safety items like a whistle, my phone and a weapon.  What would I do if I were grabbed from behind?  Would I have the courage to shove my palm into his nose?  Kick him in the balls?  Would I freeze or would adrenaline take over?  I wish there were more people within my sight.

These are the thoughts I think whenever I hear the gravel shift a little.  Whenever I hear a rustle in the leaves from a squirrel or pass someone sitting on a bench.  These words race through my mind as I walk down the street, get on a train or bus, hail a cab, go through a parking garage, live my life.

And that’s exactly how I’ve lived my life.  It’s how females live their lives.  It hasn’t been a big deal, it’s just part of being a girl.  We’re used to it.  The fear is a constant so much so that I don’t consider it unusual, or even consider it at all.

But lately with such movements as #MeToo, I’m realizing that men have absolutely no idea what it’s like to have this fear be a part of who you are.  They haven’t a clue about how threatened we feel when we’re whistled at, cat-called, or gazed at for longer than a few seconds.  Some men have taken to message boards to say things like, “Well then don’t go running by yourself.”  How about, don’t attack us?  I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone said that it’s so much easier to tell a woman how to protect herself than it is to tell a man to change his behavior.

But times are changing, my friends, and we’ve decided that the easy way isn’t going to fly anymore.

I want to be able to walk around the river without hatching an escape plan.  I want to hike in the woods and enjoy the nature around me without having to watch my back.  I don’t want to be researching laws about what types of weapons I can carry with me in public.

I just want to walk and meet my step goal every day, dammit.