Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sleep Tune Up

Today is Day 21 of my 3rd round of Whole30!  Physically, I feel fantastic - my energy is starting to level out (those 3pm crashes are on their way out!), ----, and I'm enjoying one of my favorite Whole30 benefits - better sleep.

Of course, full disclosure - I drafted this post last Tuesday (Day 14), and before a 36 hour birth-a-thon.  So, every night has not been full of sleep, glorious sleep and even-keel energy levels.

One of the best things about Round 3?  I'm really not thinking about food that much!  I was really worried this go-round for some reason - worried because two rounds of Whole30 and I'm not a magical perfect eater who has figured her way out of emotional eating and chocolate/sugar addiction, and I thought that my mind would cling harder than ever to the sugar I was going to be denying it for the next 30 days.  The opposite has turned out to be true.  My brain went right back into Whole30 mode, planning delicious protein and veggie filled meals, with only a passing wistfulness for the glass of wine and dessert I'd be forgoing for the next 30 days.

Because of my brain's remarkable ability to jump onto a Whole30 autopilot (who knew such a thing would exist for me last June when this was such a terrifying new endeavor?), I've actually spent the past three weeks focused on improving other areas of my health alongside the improvements that I'm making by eating a whole-foods, sugar-free diet.

One of the major areas of focus:  Improving sleep!

Living in the city that never sleeps, and working every day with new moms for whom four uninterrupted hours is a luxury, I sometimes feel like I'm all alone on Sleep Zealot Island.  I've been that way mostly my whole life (with the possible exception of college...), and I think it's partly due to my morning-person nature and the fact that my brain and body just shut down when it gets late.  When I don't get enough sleep, I'm emotional, cranky, foggy, and about 30% less smart.

For the most part, falling asleep has never been much of a problem for me, but I find the older I get, the less frequently I can just pass out as soon as my head hits the pillow.  The first days of a Whole30 often negatively affect my ability to fall asleep quickly too, because drinking a few glasses of wine is a great way to ensure I will fall asleep hard! Of course, issue with that comes with staying asleep through the night, but I digress.

As I've been expending way less mental energy on food (can I have chocolate after dinner? how much?  what kind?  can I have another glass of wine? will it really matter if I eat this entire bag of tortilla chips?), I've spent more of my energy focusing on helping myself to a better night's sleep.  I've been (a little) better about not looking at screens an hour before bed, carving out more to read, taking a magnesium supplement, and finally, I'm incorporating the amazing Yoga Tune Up balls to help my to body release tension and my brain to shut the hell up.

Yoga Tune Up isn't so much a type of yoga like Hatha or Vinyasa or Bikram - it's a "fitness format" that focuses not just on stretching and strengthening, but on self-massage, corrective posture, and the awareness to identify and consciously improve problem areas throughout the whole body.  It has been a huge part of my self-care arsenal, thanks to my fantastic physical therapist and to a former yoga teacher who also happens to be a renowned CrossFit coach and an inspiration to my first Whole30, Keith Wittenstein - aka Coach Panda.

For a yoga teacher, I don't always actually use the practice in ways I know I should.  One of the most powerful ways to incorporate yoga into your daily routine is right before bed to wind down and help transition your mind and body from the go-go-go bombardment of daily life to the quiet and ease of sleep.

Below are the two Tune Up techniques I've found to be most powerful and beneficial to sending me off to bed - and bonus points, they reduce the intensity morning headaches to which I've become accustomed.  If you don't have Tune Up balls, try lacrosse balls.

Coach Panda can take you through these better than I can, so I leave it to him.  Click the links below for his detailed explanations and videos.

The Headrest
This is also fantastic to do pretty much any time of day, or anytime you have a headache.  Use two Yoga TuneUp balls in their tote, or two lacrosse balls in a sock.  If you don't have a yoga block, use a thick book or two.  It may feel weird while you're in it, but after you come out you should feel a nice rush of relief from head and neck tension.

The Jawbreaker
This is a must of those of us who clench their jaws or grind their teeth in sleep!  It doesn't take long to gently massage each side, and consistency with this one will yield results down the road.


If you don't have TuneUp or Lacrosse balls, simply doing a few gentle yoga poses accompanied with slow, deep, full breaths in a quiet, dim room goes a really long way toward preparing your brain and your body for sleep.  My all-time favorite before-bed yoga practice is this classic from Jason Crandell, which I'm sure I've raved about on the blog before.

I highly encourage anyone to try adding a little pre-bed yoga - see if it yields results, and tell me about it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thoughts, Prayers, & Action

I drafted a post early Sunday morning - before connecting with the news - as part of my efforts to get back in touch with writing proper entries in my blog.  In light of the horrifying massacre in Orlando this weekend, it just seems trivial to share it today.

Instead I want to provide a list of organizations to which you can donate and things you can do to take action in response to this hate crime, this terrorist act, this worst mass shooting in our history, this attack on an LGBTQ sanctuary, this attempt to decimate freedom and love.

I'm sure a thorough Google search of one's own could turn these up, but it feels like the right thing to do today - to help throw more positive, actionable resources out there.  It should go without saying that my heart, my thoughts, my prayers, my tears are with the victims and their loved ones.  It should go without saying because we say it way too often, and the people who say it the most frequently are the ones who have the power to actually do something.

So without further ado:

Pulse Victims Fund for Equality Florida

Pulse Tragedy Community Fund

"We Stand with Pulse" Victim's Fund

Donation Page for the Orlando Regional Medical Center

Donation Page for the Florida Disaster Fund via VolunteerFlorida

Guide to contacting your representatives about gun control

Sign the petition to lift the ban on blood donation from gay and bisexual citizens

Finally, just turn to your loved ones and let this be a reminder to never ever take them for granted.  Tell them you love them.  Give your love and support for the beautiful gay community of this nation and the world.  On this Pride Month, declare yourself a straight ally to them.  Show love, kindness, and solidarity to the Muslim members of your community, and don't give in to the hysterical right's attempts to simplify this issue by calling it an issue with Islam as a religion.  There are over 1 billion Muslims worldwide.  If they were all evil and out to get us, do you really think we'd still be here?

Have civil and reasoned conversations with family and friends and colleagues who don't hold the same views about all of the various factors that contributed to this horrible crime.  Don't just blindly unfollow that acquaintance on Facebook who supports the un-American ban on Muslims - engage them in respectful debate about it.  You never know - you may begin to change someone's mind and open their heart.  Or if it's too much of a source of pain and stress - step away from Facebook (my own advice is the hardest to take) and keep engaging with the people in your life that you love and remind them every day that you love them.

In short, just love.  Love and love and love and love and love some more.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Overabundance

Happy June!  It's been just over a month since I've posted, and I can't blame it on how oh so crazy life has been like I always do.  It's been the usual amount of busy, plus a wonderful holiday weekend with in-laws, but there really hasn't been any reason for not writing except I haven't been met with the clarity (ha) of inspiration and the time - or more specifically, the time and inclination - to sit and find something specific, articulate and worth sharing.

The two main things keeping me from posting since May 10th are a lack of scheduled structure to when I'm supposed to write in this thing and an overabundance of things to write about.  It's sort of like the opposite of writer's block, but the end result is the same - nothing gets written, and this sits here collecting Internet-dust.  It's sort of like when you have so much to do that you become paralyzed and simply do nothing.

Considering this is a voluntary, just-for-me, 100% not making any money off of this thing blog, it's ridiculous the inner agony that can go on when I think about how I've been delinquent in posting.  Seriously - it's no big deal.  But my upholder nature doesn't like the idea of a half-hearted commitment, and lazy excuses.

So, I'm utilizing the #1 tactic that always works on me when trying to build a new habit - I'm scheduling it.  Every Tuesday, rain or shine, idea abundance or idea desert, I'm going to post something.  And I'll try to make it worth reading.  For me, the simplicity, clarity, and most importantly, the obligation of having something on my calendar is what gets me to do something.  Whether it's a dreaded one time chore that I've been putting off or something recurring that gets lost in the shuffle of unstructured time, scheduling is basically my way of coping and meeting the expectations of Life as a Grown Up.

This may very well be one of the most boring posts I ever share, but it does feel a bit like an important declaration - like putting it out there that I'm doing another Whole30.  If I keep it a secret, I can choose to quit or self-sabotage.  But I wanted to set the stage for the hopefully more interesting things I want to touch on in weeks to come - lessons I'm learning in this 3rd round of Whole30 (spoiler alert: they have almost nothing to do with eating), lessons I've learned from my 3rd half marathon, and my struggles to find rhythm, normalcy, and boundaries between work and rest while leading a career where my schedule is frequently full of irregularity - especially when I'm on call.

I'm excited to jump start this old girl out of the slump we've found ourselves in for the past two years.  This blog did turn 6 years old in April, after all, and I want to continue to let it help me with figuring out the mysteries human nature, yoga, and all the rest of life's madness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Clear

Happy May!  The city has never looked more beautiful to me than in this last month.  The blooms, the trees, the brief but beautiful tulips!  It was also really amazing to be in South Carolina for a week - aside from the obvious joy of being with my nephews and niece - to be surrounded by trees, open land, and big, gorgeous southern sky.

So yes - I am back from another three week period of madness.  So much joy in seeing my best friend get married, spending the week with the one and only Katie Parker, spending a week with my sister and her family.  But - it is good to be back.  Not just back in NYC, and not necessarily just back to my normal routine and my husband and my own kitchen and my wonderful job - but back into a different and entirely self-inflicted madness.

The Brooklyn Half Marathon, my first distance race since January 2014's Disney Marathon, is coming up in 11 short days.  That brings its own variance to my usual schedule and routine, as with today, where I mapped out roughly three and a half hours (including warm up, travel, and going verrrrrry slowly) for my longest training run of 10 miles.  Due to various mental and physical road blocks here and there during training, I have honestly not been feeling as great as I hoped to be feeling at this point.  Happily, however, today's run went better than expected, and I'm relieved to be almost at the starting line with my one and only Laura Frye by my side to cross the finish with me.

I've been very into choosing and sharing a particular word or mantra for each month so far this year, and May's is a very simple one - clear.

Just as my brilliant and fiery niece Zoe can completely reset herself from having a total meltdown to being a perfectly happy child after just fifteen minutes of alone and quiet time in her room, we all have the ability to completely change our mental course throughout the stresses of our days and hit our own reset button.  We all have the ability to clear our heads of useless worry or self-doubt and start over, choosing a new and more positive thought.

It doesn't come naturally to probably 90% of us, but it is biologically possible.  And man is it beneficial.  Just today, on my run, I can think of several times I let my worrying and my negative thoughts the challenge of the run was get the better of me, and then, remembering my mantra, I consciously stopped and visualized just clearing it all out of my head - like highlighting the text of a document and hitting delete.

I've written about this sort of thing in the past - first, just scratching the surface on it when reviewing the absolute must-read book My Stroke of Insight way back in 2010 (which delves much more deeply into the biology of it all), and second just this past fall when talking about the "reset button" I refer to with my prenatal yoga clients.

It's so easy, literally anyone can do it - all you have to do is get out of your own way.  Gretchen Rubin often shares the quote, "It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light."  Sometimes complaining is the comfort zone.  Sometimes it's easier to live in worry than in hope.  Sometimes the habit of being bitter feels easier than taking the chance to let it go and choose to be better.

Just hit CLEAR.  Pause.  Reset your thought pattern.  Choose a positive thought.  Don't judge it, don't over think it, just do it.

And off you go, into a better moment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Savor

April started with one of the most extraordinary weekends - getting away from the city with beautiful women and a beautiful man in the mountains.  A lot is going on this month at work (birthday parties upon birthday parties upon holiday camp...), I'm trying to responsibly train for the Brooklyn Half Marathon next month (i.e. lots of stretching, foam rolling, and icing) and I'm ending the month by flying down to South Carolina to connect with my absolute bliss - being with my sister, her wonderful husband, and her gorgeous children.  (And to finally meet Emma, their saving grace who helps with the kiddos and school!)

Before that happens, and in the midst of all the Karma Kids madness, my best friend in the world is getting married.

I can't even express how excited I am and how anxious I am and how much I want everything to go off completely without a hitch and most importantly, how deeply I just want her to feel as completely and perfectly happy as possible.  I am so excited to see my parents, who are coming up for the event, and some of the best friends a girl could ever hope for who are flying or bus-ing in.

With all of this in mind - work, love, celebrations, travel - I sat at the end of March and decided that my mantra for the month needed to be:

Savor.

As I talked about in the last entry, a monthly mantra can sometimes be a way for me to actively engage in whatever yogic platitude I'm trying to bring into my life.  I think Savor touches on two points - being grateful and being present.  I'm hoping Savor can help me slow down a little bit, and truly enjoy the rare and special time that I get to spend with so many people that I love this month, celebrating so many unique and special once-in-a-lifetime moments.

When I tell myself to "be present," it sometimes triggers a mild little panic of wondering if I'm doing it right.  But to savor something - to savor that glass of wine, to savor a reunion dinner with beautiful friends who just moved home - I know how to do that.

This one is getting married in a few short days, and I can't even handle all the emotions I'm having.  So I'm just going to try to slow down, stay present, be so freaking grateful, and savor all of it.
Ruining her life with love in between her singing our first dance beautifully
and then slaying us with an epic toast.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Focus on the Positive

Happy almost-April!  March just flew by in a fabulous fury of schizophrenic weather, celebrations honoring my beautiful soon-to-be-married best friend, my 3-year-old marriage, my fantastic brother-in-law and his family, and LOTS of playing yoga.

Today I want to write about my monthly-mantra.  Over the last several years, in lieu of a ton of super specific and/or overly lofty New Year's Resolutions, I've instead attached a broader word or phrase to guide me through the year.  It's a really lovely practice that I highly recommend, and I wrote about how 2016's word is Kindness right around the new year.

Each month, though, presents its own plans and challenges and unique adventures, so I wanted to go back to a practice I used to do years ago and create a new mantra or goal(s) for each month - and this year, I wanted to make them a little more practical and actionable rather than just the vague idea of "let go" or "be present" or "practice gratitude."  These lovely phrases have oversaturated the world of yoga and are actually very hard for a lot of us to nail down and do day in and day out.  As any good acting teacher will tell you - be specific.  Play an action.

So my mantra this month - Focus on the Positive.  It's very, very easy to get into the habit of complaining and gossiping, which I freely admit to doing all the time, as most humans do, I think.  By attempting to keep this simple and entirely un-fancy phrase in the forefront of my mind as much as I can, I can help curb whiney thoughts, negative words, and impatient actions.  It's worked pretty well this month, but I found an even more beautiful way of putting that intention into action, thanks to a lovely friend and former co-worker:

"Today, I changed all my "I have to's" into "I get to's" and boy, was it beautiful."

I remember when she first posted that two years ago - the phrase stuck its way into my head for a long time, but I'd since forgotten.

That is simple, actionable, and truly remarkable change-making right there.  Those of us blessed enough to live in the US or another non-third world country where we can have all our basic needs met need this reminder.  Sometimes #firstworldproblems are legitimate sources of pain and struggle, but come one.  We get to commute to work to provide for ourselves.  We get to go to the grocery store to have the most insane amount of choices as to how we are going to nourish ourselves.  We get to spend an hour on the phone with our health insurance...I'm still sort of working on finding the gratitude in that one, but at least it means I have health insurance!

Try this simple, beautiful practice and see if it changes your perspective on the mundanities and challenges of your day.  Thank you, Amanda, for bringing it back to my attention!


PS - check out this lovely, more in-depth post about the "have to" vs. "get to."  It has a Christian bent rather than a yoga one, but it all works!  It also focuses on parenting, which I can only imagine is overwhelmed with "have to's" every day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Report - Better than Before

Finally!  It only took a month but I'm finally ready to blog about one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time - Better than Before:  What I learned about making and breaking habits - to sleep more, quit sugar, procrastinate less, and generally build a happier life.  (Yes, that is a hell of a subtitle)


Perfection may be an impossible goal, but habits help us to do better.  Making headway toward a good habit, doing better than before, saves us from facing the end of another year with the mournful wish, once again, that we'd done things differently.
Habit is notorious - and rightly so - for its ability to control our actions, even against our will.  By mindfully choosing our habits, we harness the power of mindlessness as a sweeping force for serenity, energy, and growth."
-Better than Before, paperback page 12-

I've been a fan of Gretchen Rubin's books since 2011, when I read her first book on the subject of happiness, habits, and resolutions, The Happiness Project. It so inspired me that I followed in her prescribed footsteps to do my own happiness project, and I even followed it for quite a long time.

Rubin goes deeper in her latest book to talk about the minute architecture of our daily lives - our habits.  How we form them, how we keep or break them, why we may want to make or break particular habits, how we can strengthen them, and the almost innumerable ways in which we try to get out of doing what's in our own best interest.

As illustrated in the quote above, she highlights how when something is truly habit, we do it without thinking.  It's so deeply ingrained that, theoretically, we are able to exert little to no self control when acting on it.  As a yoga teacher, constantly inundated with the idea of "mindfulness" in day to day conversations, it was amazing and fascinating to discover all of the upsides of "mindlessness!"

Rubin begins by stating that in order to truly have clarity and take control over our life's habits, we first have to identify what our tendency is.  She divides people into four basic categories - Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, based on their likelihood to respond to particular expectations of life.  Outer expectations would be defined as - meeting work or school deadlines, keeping particular appointments, etc., and inner expectations could be to keep a New Year's Resolution, stop snacking after dinner, quit snoozing, etc.

As she defines the basic tendencies -  (paperback page 16)
Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations
Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it's justified
Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

Obviously there's room for fluidity and variables within those definitions, which is why she calls them tendencies.  For instance, based on her more fleshed out descriptions in the book, I am 100% an Upholder...but that doesn't mean I always respond and meet outer/inner expectations perfectly.  (Her chapter on "Loophole spotting" hit close to home with every single sentence - my brain is excellent at figuring out ways to justify breaking healthy habits I want to keep for myself.)

But I do tend to do what I say I will, whether it's expected of me from a friend or my boss or just something I want to do for myself.  Maybe it's related to my deep-seated fear of being in trouble or rule breaking - but that's a deeper exploration for another time.

She also breaks down the "Essential Seven," or seven habits that reoccur most frequently when people sit and make a resolution, or decide to give something up for Lent, or are in some way inspired to improve their lives.  They boil down to:

1. Eat/drink better
2. Exercise
3. Save, spend, earn more money
4. Rest, relax, unplug
5. Stop procrastinating, accomplish more
6. Simplify, clean, and organize living/work space
7. Engage more deeply in relationships (personal and/or with God)
(paraphrased from Better than Before, paperback page 9)

Rubin says you first must know yourself in order to figure out which strategies will help yourself make or break the habits you desire - only then can you make real headway toward improving the above seven areas.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to life, because if there were, the self-help section at bookstores and libraries wouldn't be the behemoths they are.

Better than Before is broken down into a lot of fairly small, easily digestible, chapters that delve into various strategies and tactics.  Though the chapters are small and easy to read quickly, they are dense - chock full of anecdotal examples and solid research.  There's a reason I felt the need to read this book twice before writing about it, and why I read The Happiness Project and its "sequel," Happier at Home over again almost immediately after finishing them for the first time.  Rubin is a disciplined writer who knows how to make every chapter, page, paragraph, and sentence count.    It's somewhat overwhelming the amount of information she packs into such a small, compulsively readable book.  (Compulsively readable if you're a huge nerd about habits, at least...)

This book is truly for everyone.  Who doesn't have habits they want to cultivate or break?  Who doesn't have areas in their life that are challenging, and are overwhelmed at figuring out where and how to start improving them?  Do you tend to set big lofty goals that are unachievable, and then discouraged when you don't achieve them?  Do you tend to procrastinate everything on your plate until you suffer the inevitable consequences?  Do you tend to put way too much on your plate for other people, and then suffer burnout because you haven't tended to your own needs and desires?

Better than Before offers strategies and solutions for every type of person.  You may find the entire book revelatory, as I did, or you may only find that some of it resonates with you.  (Not surprisingly, the fastidious Rubin is also an Upholder, so even though I don't identify with her on a lot in terms of our preferences and lives, there is a lot in her journey to which I can relate)  This book, despite its subtitle, doesn't dictate any specific habits she believes people should adopt, or tell you that just because the author is happier waking up at 6am and not eating sugar that you should too.  It's up to each individual to decide what they need to be happier - Gretchen Rubin is just doing the work of laying out roadmaps to help us get there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Micro-Manager

Happy Tuesday!  I wanted to write a quick entry today touching on my completion of my second Whole30 (hooray!), my subsequent control issues, and a concept introduced by who other than Gretchen Rubin, my habits-and-virtue muse.  This could get a little neurotic and ramble-y, so...enjoy.

As of February 1st, I finished my second Whole30 and it was overall a smashing success.  By including eggs this time around I didn't spend quite as much money as last time (where I'd need meat of some kind with every meal), and by teaching myself to make a fabulous roast chicken I saved money and opened the door for all kinds of other yummy treats, like homemade bone broth.

The downside - not having Marc around, being home alone on cold winter nights - it was much, much harder to fight my emotional cravings for chocolate and alcohol.  Especially the weekend of the blizzard!  I tend to eat when I'm bored, and while I relish having alone time, it was just easier to distract myself and keep myself disciplined and motivated when Marc is home - even if he is eating cheese and crackers.  I probably over-did it a little bit on figs and almond butter (my favorite Whole30 "treat") and next time I might ban that from my list of Whole30 approved foods, but overall it went well.

The following week I was very careful about what I re-introduced and when - basically just natural sugars, wine, and dairy - and kept to a mainly Whole30 style of eating.

And then - the weekend.  Drinking with family.  A lack of real food available at the hotel with Marc's parents lead to a reunion with my old and dear friends, Cheetos and M&M's (Cheetos!!!  Nostalgia in a bag).  And then - the SuperBowl!  I bought Whole30-compliant treats only to succumb to the inevitable tortilla chip love-fest that is SuperBowl Sunday.  Between the copious amounts of drinking, the food, and my allergies to the lovely animals owned by our friends who are hosting Marcus, I felt a bit of a wreck waking up yesterday.  And of course, I couldn't quite tell what cause was causing what effect because it all came on like a glorious, delicious tidal wave of sugar and things I'm allergic to.

My usual mental and emotional route would be to wallow in regret and recrimination and frame it as thirty plus days of discipline completely down the drain, but that's just melodramatic and silly.  All I can do is learn from it, notice how I felt and if it was worth it, and move on.

It got me thinking of the concept of a mental or internal Manager as brought up by Gretchen Rubin in her latest book Better than Before.  In my own brain, I'd titled this concept as my "higher self," but it's basically the same thing.  We all have a little voice in our head that's the Responsible One, that knows what's best for us, even when (and especially when) it's not necessarily the most fun or delicious or enjoyable thing.  The Manager knows it would be more responsible to dip the veggies in guac instead of half a bag of the Tostitos.  The Manager knows two glasses of wine will lead to a better night's sleep than four.  The Manager has a responsible plan, and it's up to us whether we as the actual real human will act on the advice of management or on...whatever else.  Call it impulse, call it self destruction in some cases, or just call it lightening the hell up and enjoying yourself.

The Whole30 is not a way of life 365 days a year, and it doesn't purport itself to be.  It's a way to get information on your physical, mental, and emotional relationship with food, and that bleeds over past food into other areas of life as well.  But it does become a habit after 30 days, and it's a precarious thing to suddenly change your habit and move into uncharted territory - what they call "nutritional off-roading."  The hope is that you take the mindfulness that you've cultivated and use it to make purposeful, thoughtful, deliberate choices about what you consume.  That your Manager Self has been strengthened through the past 30 days of killing your sugar addiction and eating healthy, nourishing meals.

This is the type of thing that I over-think about a lot.  I think part of why I can go to such an over-indulgent extreme in SuperBowl party-type situations is because I can be such a tightass in others.  The opposite of a profound truth is usually also true, and we all have contradictions within our personalities.

If we all lived our lives by letting our managers call the shots 100% of the time, we'd all probably be a lot more responsible, healthier, and better-rested.  But dear God, we'd be so bored and boring.

Food is really just a microcosm of so many other choices and challenges in life, and in how we deal with the things that are in control (and so little in life is truly in our control).  Finding that role of the Manager in each of us and deciding how much and how little power to give it is a constant struggle but one that I think is crucial to each person wanting to live better.

Does this resonate with anyone?  Whenever I write about or think about this topic, I always think I'm maybe slightly more insane than the average bear on this.  Maybe I just need to have a drink and relax.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Creative Living (Part One)

Rare night-time blog!  Rare because my desire to do anything at all productive almost always goes down with the sun, which should also explain why this week's blog is basically a link to a video.

This is a Part One because I will inevitably purchase and read (and I'm guessing - love) Elizabeth Gilbert's latest, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and inevitably write about it.  However, this amazing little gem popped up through the magic of Facebook earlier this week.

There's a 18 minute video of actor and playwright Tracy Letts giving his advice for living a creative life, accompanied by an annotated list of his 10 top pieces of advice.  Because my attention span is as short as I'm guessing most people's is these days, I just read the list at first, but, at Marc's recommendation, I've now watched the video as well, and it's well worth the time.  Just think of it as 6 three-minute cat videos or Hamilton clips or whatever it is you typically waste your time with and it won't seem so big and intimidating.

His first piece of advice, for me, is the best one - Do Nothing.  He's not saying to meditate, just...Do Nothing.  Don't listen to anything.  Don't watch anything.  Don't mess with your phone.  Just. Sit.  Let your mind wander.  As he says, "...pretty soon you'll stop thinking about your problems or your schedule or your failings and your mind will start to wander and you'll start to fantasize.  You will start to daydream."

It's incredible how rarely we do nothing.  I'm honestly hard pressed to find a moment of my day where, if I'm not doing something, I am consuming something.  Podcasts, TV, music, a book, the news.  I can feel that my brain misses that freedom because there are times I'm walking down the street listening to a podcast and I realize I haven't been paying attention to the last five minutes - and then, and only then, do I turn it off and just walk.  I wait for my brain to beg for it and tell me out loud that it needs some free time.

It doesn't have to be a long time.  He advocates a half hour, which I'm ashamed to admit sounds terrifying and impossible to me.  But how glorious for our brains to get that space and that freedom!

Here is the link again, if you didn't click it up above.  If nothing else, give the list a read.  It's fantastic advice for tuning into your creativity - and whether you're an artist or an accountant, our own personal creativity helps all of us lead happier and more successful lives.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Whole30, Take 2

Happy Tuesday!

I had originally planned on doing a book report entry on Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before, but I loved the book so much that I feel like it deserves a second, closer look before I write about it.  It's so densely packed with fantastic, helpful information that it needs a better entry than I could write at the moment, as I'm a bit short on time.

Instead, I'll write about what many people are probably sick of hearing about - my second Whole30!

This is my second Whole30, but my first time doing it with friends who actually live in the city.  That's been a fantastic boost to the overall experience - in addition to sharing recipes and tips and commiserating with my awesome mom, who is doing the Whole30 with Jim, I can do the same with besties who live right here in Queens.

There are way more soups and fewer salads this time around, as opposed to gloriously warm June.  I have more kitchen toys to play with and have roasted and trussed my first few chickens - a delicious way to stretch my Trader Joe's dollars!

My favorite thing about the Whole30 - even more than feeling lighter and having more energy - is the mental affect it has on me.  First, it frees me from the daily mental battles I have with myself when I'm not eating Whole30 of how much and when to eat chocolate, cheese, tortilla chips, wine, and my other vices.  It's a constant battle between my desires and my manager-self and it goes on 24/7 in my head.  Gretchen Rubin actually talks about this - moderators vs. abstainers.  Sadly for me and my sweet tooth, I function much more happily as an abstainer.  More on that in the book report!

Second, it keeps me hyper aware and hyper accountable.  There is no room for cheating or slip-ups if you're committing to the Whole30 as written.  There's no crazy portion control or calorie counting either, but in terms of what you eat - no wiggle-room allowed.  This helps me to notice my near reflexive-like reach to the chip bowl at a party, it helps me to notice that I don't need alcohol to have fun and I don't need dessert after a meal.  So much of people's social identity tends to get wrapped up in what they do and don't consume and the habits therein - it can be scary to go a different way and buck expectation, but it's so freeing.

Tomorrow brings a new Whole30 challenge I have not yet faced - Traveling on the Whole30!  I'll only be gone for a day and a half, but I'm a little nervous about my plans for feeding myself while I'm gone - and my first ever opening night party with Marc without a celebratory drink! (or five!)  Luckily, I have an incredibly supportive husband who is well versed in the Whole30 rules by now, and I'm confident it'll go well.

Today is Day 18 of 30 - more than halfway there!  If you're interested in doing your own Whole30 or just learning more about it, check out http://www.whole30.com