The elephant in the room...

Sometimes, that elephant feels like me. Except, the point of this post is about bodies and how I'm slowly learning to NOT make jokes like that. 

The first time I felt shame about my body, I was a little girl, and an adult pointed out to me that my brother wore slim jeans, and I was bordering on needing a Husky size. Even in my little girl head, I knew that needing jeans with an "H" somehow marked me as different and less-than -- not the thin ideal I saw praised all around me.

My journey with weight has taken a number of turns. Photos of me as a child show a body similar to mine now: hips, thighs, a tiny round belly. I was a chubby-ish high schooler.

After years of hating my body, I went on my first diet in college. My first attempt at weight loss spiraled into an exercise addiction and eating fewer than 500 calories per day. At my lowest weight, I was in the 80's.  

The thing is that even when you're unhealthy, people lose their minds over thinness. I was constantly praised for how tiny I had become and how "great" I looked. It was mind-boggling to realize that I was in no way healthy, but everyone was so proud of me. 

Later that year, overwhelmed with anxiety and fear about the life I was building (another post all together), I began to eat in secret to calm myself down. When I added alcohol into the mix at age 21, the weight began piling on faster until once again, I was a slightly chubby adult at what is arguably my body's "happy weight."

I started my career as a teacher a few years later and this habit of eating in secret continued on. I gained a significant amount of weight and hit my heaviest point as an adult. 

A few years later, I decided to lose a ton of weight after seeing some unflattering photos of myself. The cycle began all over as I started being conscious of what I was eating. At one point, I was going to boot camp in the morning, yoga nearly every evening, and training for a half marathon. Once again, the compliments rolled in, despite what could easily be considered an unhealthy focus on eating "clean" and an exercise obsession. 

After my first (and likely last) half marathon, I fell into a depressive episode so bad I could barely function. Working out daily was no longer an option because literally all I could do was go to work and come home. I berated myself constantly and told myself I was lazy and broken, that depression shouldn't cause ALL this.

I later found out that my body was actually quite ill -- my iron levels were through the floor, I had severe adrenal fatigue. The nutritionist I worked with was incredibly alarmed that I was even making it through the day considering my body's state. I was immediately told that I could not exercise for a number of months and had to change the way I was eating. The goal of those months was to rest. As someone who fought to become a daily exerciser, this was hard.

I'll keep it real: rather than fill this time with healthy, healing foods, I slipped into some old habits. It's hard to feel crappy all the time. Typically, the more I'm exercising, the easier I find it to eat well. When I wasn't doing it at all, suddenly the motivation I find in not vomiting during yoga is gone, making it easy to consume all the tacos without a second thought.

Currently, I weigh more than I have in recent years. I can see the people around me reacting to it, with big eyes commenting on how good it is to "be active" and asking if I'm going back to yoga. I get it. I see myself every day. I know what my body looks like. 

The reality is that if there's a diet, I've been on it. I've sat in Weight Watchers meetings, eaten low-carb meals, tracked every calorie, been vegan, eaten only protein. I've sat at dinners and denied any taste of dessert and turned down wine. I've also been on the opposite end of things: eating pints of ice cream alone in the dark, hit drive-thrus in secret, eaten until I've wanted to throw up.

What I've found is that for me, food is a vicious cycle. It starts with a desire to fix or control my life, which brings on the endless planning: the diets, the workout plans, the star charts. I start out strong -- working out two or three times per day, eating only greens, praising myself. Then, something shifts: a bad mood, an emotional day, a desire to eat a dang burrito. Suddenly, I am off the damn rails, the workout plans be gone. The cycle starts over once again, this time with even more intense shame and self-hatred because once again, I've failed. The things I say to myself in these moments are filled with the sort of hate I wouldn't spout towards anyone. 

Earlier this year, I decided that once again, I wanted to "get healthy." I considered all the typical options I've pursued a million times before: diets and running and workout plans. I decided that what I wanted more than any number on a scale or on my jeans was to feel at peace around food, and moreover in my life. 

I found my way towards Intuitive Eating. 

The thing that's difficult about food is that it's EVERYWHERE. You can't not eat. Food is tied into every occasion, every moment, every family and social tradition. Food is wonderful. It brings people together. It's enjoyable. Food is also a refuge, a drug, a punishment, an overindulgence, a way of making myself feel safe, a cure for being lonely or sad or angry. 

When food has held such a powerful role in your life, it's not as simple as just deciding to join a gym or get on a diet. For me, beliefs around food were deeply tied to my worth, my emotions, and my role in the world. Being a person of extremes means that for most of my adult life, I've either been "good" or "bad" or "healthy" or "terrible."

I started by reading a few books and perusing a few websites on the subject (I highly recommend Intuitive Eating). I decided that this was something I was interested in pursuing. 

That's when I started working with Nikki Stern. There are not enough words for how much I love and adore this woman. From our first phone call, I felt listened to, safe, and cared for. She is incredible at what she does. 

While our work initially started around food, what we actually unpacked together was everything that goes with that. We have talked about feeling fulfilled away from food -- prompting me to start writing again and begin performing stand-up comedy. We work on self love and understanding that the number on my scale does not make me more or less worthy of love and joy. Mostly, we have worked on eliminating this idea that our bodies are something that need to be fixed or changed or overcome in some way. 

The space that's been created in our work together has allowed me to grow, change, and learn to love and appreciate myself in a way I didn't know was possible. Where I once saw an endless quest to fix myself, I now see a life that feels more like one I am proud of and happy to be living. 

To be honest, it's been one of the more challenging journeys of my life. It's easy to keep yourself from doing things because you are waiting to reach a "goal weight." Planning a diet is easier than having difficult conversations or taking care of unpleasant tasks. Also, if you have eyeballs and ears, you've likely been bombarded with images of what bodies "should" look like and information about the latest diets.

I am certainly not done on this journey. If I am being truly transparent, I spent half the week contemplating and half-way implementing a ketogenic diet because I convinced myself it was "different" than my previous attempts. When I took a minute to actually check in with myself, I realized that some events of this week took me right back to my old mindset of using diet and restriction to take control of other things. 

I could write a million words about how much this shift has changed me, but here are a few of my key takeaways.

Before this journey, I hesitated to trust myself, not just with food, but in all areas of my life. I spent a lot of time doing for others, trying to earn my worth, trying to make sure that what I was doing was "good" in the opinions of everyone I knew. When you have been looking outside of yourself -- to diets, to caloric limits, to food lists -- to know how to perform a basic function of living, it's not surprising that trusting yourself in any other area feels hard. This work has allowed me to listen to my body and trust my intuition and develop my own feelings and ideals in a way that feels powerful and congruent with how I want to live.  

While I doubt that I will ever be a poster child for "body love" and shooting videos of myself dancing around my house for my Instagram feed, I have at least made it to a place of "body neutrality." Generally, I think my body is pretty rad. It carries me through hard days. I have a strong immune system. I can crush a spin class. It lets me walk my dog and perform most tasks. I no longer feel the seething hatred and disgust I once felt towards my thighs. I see my body as an ally, not an obstacle. 

Intuitive eating means paying attention and being in inquiry -- and then really listening. One thing I was terrified of was that I would suddenly become one of those people who only wanted Taco Bell. In reality, I often want vegetables. I've learned a lot about what it actually feels like to be hungry. I've also gotten way better at really understanding what I want...and knowing that it's rarely an entire pint of ice cream consumed alone in my bed in front of Friends re-runs.

I no longer beat the crap out of myself for eating something I once considered "bad." A few weeks ago, I went to spin and emerged convinced that all I wanted was some Mexican food. I asked myself if I wanted it or if I was emotional or frustrated. As it turned out, I REALLY WANTED IT. I ate it and felt zero guilt. 

Part of this process is learning to allow yourself to have all the things you used to restrict, and then making informed decisions. I learned early on that some foods (DONUTS) make me feel crappy and send me down a path of eating everything and feeling terrible. I've also learned that a salad for lunch doesn't work for me, that my body literally MUST have animal proteins (backed up with medical information), and that seven hours is the perfect amount of sleep for me. By allowing my body to show me what it wants and needs, I am slowly befriending it and learning to take care of it. After years of forcing it to look a certain way and stuffing it full of food and generally ignoring its cues, this feels like a brand new process. 

I've learned that diet culture is pervasive beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Every time I share a meal with people, there is commentary on whether foods are healthy or not, slyly shared diet tips or plans to "improve" ones food intake, mentions of "cheating" on a diet. It is the fabric of our conversations around food -- we are constantly assessing, comparing, judging, commenting about food and it's perceived benefits. It can be jarring and triggering. 

Intuitive eating does not mean that I have "given up" on getting healthy. I still have goals for how I want to inhabit and move in my body -- they just look more like "Be able to run at _____ pace so I can rejoin a trail running group" or "Prepare meals that keep me full and satiated so I make it through the afternoon feeling good."

Movement is everything. I am currently investigating the ways I like to move my body and in what combination. Additionally, the way people talk to you during that movement matters. One of the reasons I am obsessed with spin at Team Ride is that the teachers there are constantly positive about bodies, progress, and effort. I never feel less-than in that room. I've worked out at places where shaming has been common. I absolutely refuse to stand for it anymore. 

Food isn't "just" fuel or "just" for comfort. Food is something I make and consume with love, joy, and with the health of my body in mind. It is also a treat, and something that can bring people together. Food is not good or bad. 

Finally, it is easier to find peace with food when you have peace in your life. The shifts I have made on this journey have had less to do with meal prep or calorie counting and more to do with making sure I feel fulfilled, joyful, happy, and in alignment with my own values. I can confidently say that these days, I am happier than I have been in a long time. I feel simultaneously in control of my life and excited about what's to come. I feel creative again. I am pursuing dreams (like comedy!) and investing in myself in ways that have nothing to do with what I am eating. 

It's unlikely that this journey will ever end. Being kind to myself around food and my body is something that is hard. It is endless. It is something I am committed to. It is not a one-shot deal, but rather a daily remembering of who I want to be in the world, and the things that really matter. 

 

Me again...(School, the eclipse, Dutch Bros)

Hello.

I assume you've been completely devastated by my blog absence. I have been writing, but mostly lesson plans and things for my classroom seeing as the school year is now underway. It was a great summer and honestly, I was in no way ready to return. That said, the year is off to a great start and my students are delightful humans.

I am also so tired I can't handle it. 

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A thing I will literally never be ready for are people's comments on teaching and teachers. I have occasionally expressed how challenging it is to go back to work and people make snide comments like, "Well, I've never had three months off, so..."

LOOK. LISTEN. Until you have taught for one week, please don't comment. I know it seems like a lot of time to be off. But teaching is exhausted. I don't get paid for those three months if you look at it as a daily rate. Also, by the end of the school year, my brain hurts from managing feelings and hormones and lessons and grading. I can't pee when I want to. I am never "done" with work, not ever. Emotionally, teaching is challenging and rewarding and incredible, but also so draining it's kind of unreal. 

I am not saying I'm ungrateful for my schedule. What I am NOT grateful for is people who feel the need to comment with zero understanding of how challenging teaching is. 

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I am nearly done with my Master's degree and I have the most horrific "senoiritis" ever. I don't want to write. I don't want to post discussions. I don't want to make videos. My last class was on budgeting and it gave me such incredible anxiety. I have struggled with math since decimals in 5th grade and having to do it with huge figures, combined with a general lack of motivation, did not make it great. 

It is strange, however, to think that it is unlikely I will ever attend school again. While I used to say that my first child would be named "PhD" (yes, I recognize I am a douche), the idea of doing more school now makes me want to die inside. I have loved school since I was a kid (OBVIOUSLY, I AM A TEACHER) but I just don't have it in me anymore. 

When I finish in December, I am going to sleep for a week and consume a rude amount of champagne. 

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Am I the only one still riding the high from the eclipse this week? I thought it was magical. I love space, and have loved it since I was a little girl. A little-known fact about me is that I once wanted to be an astronaut. My dad stoked my love of science in general and space specifically by subscribing me to 3,2,1 Contact! magazine and taking me outside to make a pinhole camera during an eclipse. Sadly, I hate math and barf and am only 5" tall so being an astronaut wasn't in my future.

That said, I loved the eclipse. Not only did it look incredible, but I loved seeing so many people united around something positive and cool and that can't help but fill you with wonder. There was something so universal and beautiful about it that made me feel all choked up inside. 

If you want to see some truly lovely pics from the eclipse, this article from the New Yorker is just lovely.

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More stupid things that have happened while I've walked my dog:

1. One woman letting her teensy chihuahua off leash and getting frustrated when Hank was chasing it (on leash) and telling me to control my dog. Ummm...?

2. One family leaving their gate open and allowing their dog to follow me half a block before it got aggressive with Hank. I walked back towards their house, got their dog in the gate, and shut the gate. The homeowner came out and yelled at me for shutting their gate, even after I explained that their dog was out and getting aggressive with mine. 

3. A man hollering out a huge van about how attractive he finds me and then nearly turning the wrong way down a one-way street when I chose not to acknowledge him so he could let me know how distasteful he found me. Charming. 

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I stopped to get a coffee at Dutch Bros this week. I generally find the whole Dutch Bros situation to be a BIT much. I don't particularly enjoy talking about nothing, particularly with strangers, especially before 8 AM. But I do love their coffee and I wanted a mocha and so I went. 

A hyped up 20-year-old gentleman was taking orders and as per their normal routine, basically invited himself into my vehicle. As he was taking my order, he stood back and I realized that his zipper was down. I started trying to tell him but he was yammering on about college and life and other ridiculousness. He asked a bunch of questions about my coffee and finally I said, "DUDE." And then I told him. 

His reaction wasn't great -- he almost seemed perturbed that I had told him. I understand that it's embarrassing. I do. But seriously, aren't you GLAD? There was a lot poking out and I was happy to give him a tip (AHEM!) but he was so sensitive.

For the record, if we know one another in real life and you never tell me if I have green stuff in my teeth or a zipper that's down or a pulsing whitehead on my nose, I will question our friendship. 

 

 

Public transit, no thanks on surprise makeup, bodily functions, politics

Literally all I do (and all I WANT to do, mind you) is hang out with my animals and take Hank on walks. It's the dreamiest, most boring existence ever and I am obsessed with it. I start back to work next week and while I am excited to meet my students soon and see my friends and be back on a schedule, I am so sad that I won't be home all day to snuggle my babies. 

This week, while walking Hank, I walked by this creepy old abandoned apartment building and saw this ENORMOUS painted wood panel inside. 

IMG_1470.JPG

 

 

IT FREAKED ME OUT SO MUCH. It's super close to my house and I was torn between never wanting to leave my house again and wanting to go stake it out, Scooby Doo style. I've walked by it every day since and NO UPDATE. I am DYING. I envision some weirdo hiding inside, waiting to pounce on whoever enters. IT THRILLS ME.

I've watched too much Law and Order: SVU.

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This week when I wasn't walking my dog, I took a quick trip down to San Francisco to have breakfast with my friend Sasha of Trail Mavens fame (if you live near me you should seriously go on one of her trips, they rule). I took BART in because driving in SF is the quickest way for me to have a full on panic attack. BART is always a terrible mix of weirdos and smells but this trip, I was treated to two people with ENORMOUS rolling bags. They were middle-aged and both seemed healthy. Rather than stand quietly and ignore everyone as the rest of the train was doing, they began to loudly comment about how people should give up their seats and how it's like these "selfish young people can't read." Um, no sir, I can read. I just don't give up my seat for passive-aggressive jerks who can't handle a 20-lb rolling backpack when I'm about to be on BART for a long time. SORRY NOT SORRY. Finally, the woman got a seat next to me and started reading all of my text messages. I began typing a long missive to a friend about what jerks were on BART! When I exited, I served up some of my best side-eye to date, and if you know me, YOU KNOW HOW GOOD THAT WAS. 

I recognize that this makes me look like a huge jerk, and mkay, that's fine. I would've given up my seat in two seconds for an actual elderly person, or a disabled person, or a pregnant person, or basically anyone who didn't insult an entire train car of people because they are grumpy about going to the airport and expect us all to fall in line. My friend Joy wrote about this in terms of airplane travel, and I love her commentary on being kind to people serving you, and maintaining good boundaries with everyone else because no one should be a jerk in public transportation situations.

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I am always seriously surprised when I get emails advertising some sort of surprise item extravaganza purchase. I've done the Birchbox situation, and as a human who is so pale I am almost translucent, the pickiest and craziest hair of all time that needs very specific products applied, and someone who is quite averse to weird smells, getting a box of random crap I will throw out two years from now just doesn't appeal. I'll spend that $15 on something I might actually use, thanks. And the same thing with clothes. A random "Stylish Surprise" of god knows what that is non-refundable? NOPE. If I can send it back, sure, but I refuse to take leftover sale rack crap under the guise of HAPPY MAIL. 

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One of the things that delights me most about being in my mid-thirties is that suddenly, everyone is okay with their bodies and habits and lifestyles. For example, pooping. After spending most of my life being mortified that anyone knew I pooped, I am so relieved to have entered an age where it can be fodder for conversation, or at the very least, no one acts scandalized when it is brought up. I have a friend in town this weekend, which, sidebar: only true friends come to visit Central California in July when it's at least 100 degrees, and another friend stopped by my house after I'd finished cleaning. She used my bathroom and commented on the considerate placement of a candle and lighter situation, as well as room spray. Her comment was something like, "Wow, you're just inviting people to poop!"

UM YOU BET I AM. My day is downright ruined when I am unable to use the bathroom. If you're staying in this house, I promise a few things: I will clean my hair monsters from the shower, you will have clean towels, and I will create a safe space so that you aren't dying of stomach cramps by the time you leave. 

YOU ARE WELCOME. 

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I've been thinking a lot lately about politics (I mean, who hasn't) and this week has really been a DOOZY. I've watched people I know coping with terrible news and trauma and worry about what is next to come. I've also, thankfully, watched many people I know try to ask good questions and understand issues -- sadly, it hasn't always been met with understanding. I am not advocating leaving people alone who stand in the way of your right to exist and live and all that. But what I am more troubled by is this game of "Who is more woke?" I see brewing in communities of people I love and respect. I enjoyed this article from Autostraddle about social justice and some of the more problematic aspects: "Punishments for saying/doing/believing the wrong thing include shaming, scolding, calling out, isolating, or eviscerating someone’s social standing. Discipline and punishment has been used for all of history to control and destroy people. Why is it being used in movements meant to liberate all of us? We all have made serious mistakes and hurt other people, intentionally or not. We get a chance to learn from them when those around us respond with kindness and patience. Where is our humility when examining the mistakes of others? Why do we position ourselves as morally superior to the un-woke? Who of us came into the world fully awake?" Rather than cut people out or refuse to explain, can we work to be a little kinder? I hear iterations of THEY SHOULD GOOGLE over and over again, and I respect and understand that we all can't be helping explain things all the time but if it's someone you love, help them understand your side. Lovingly. I know that I am endlessly grateful for people who have taken the time to help me understand things more clearly, given a personal experience to something I wasn't sure of, or shown me a direction to go for more information as necessary. 

People who talk to me on walks, toddler barbarians, eyewear

1. This week, while walking Hank, a man stopped me to say that Hank should grow some legs. Who says that? I gave him a dirty look and rolled my eyes while he laughed at his own joke. I SAID GOOD DAY SIR. 

2. Another man approached me and asked if he could "join my cute dog and I for a walk one night." I said no. OBVIOUSLY. He was like, "Why? He seems friendly!" I said that Hank doesn't really dig dudes and neither did I. Finally I just walked away. 

3. In my final "Charming Stories About Men While I Walk My Dog" tale, a man was sitting on some stairs and decided to follow us. I have watched all the Law and Order: SVU in the world and immediately stopped, got out my pepper spray, and waited for him to pass. I definitely didn't stop Hank from barking but this idiot continued to pause every 10 feet and wait. Finally, I employed my favorite tactic and fake called a fake man to come meet me to buy some things at the corner store until this dude left. I don't know what he was going for there, but it freaked me right out. 

4. In short, men, please be better. As a woman walking her dog alone, I like listening to a podcast and watching my dog's curly tail. I don't want to talk to you or be your friend or hear your voice even. Just leave me be. And also, stay out of my space. Sure, you may be harmless but I feel immediately on edge. It's sad that I have to feel that way but I'm pretty sure history shows I am not incorrect in feeling nervous. 

5. This week, my mom, grandmother, and I took my nephew to this little gym to play. This may have been the cutest thing I have ever seen, ever. That said, there was a weird Toddler Lord Of The Flies moment when suddenly two garbage bags of balloons were emptied and then each toddler was given half a pool noodle with which to hit the balloons. I'll let you guess what they did instead. My sweet grandmother leaned over at one point and said, "Doesn't this seem a little barbaric?" I was too busy being whacked with pool noodles to respond.

6. Do you ever want to yell at people to clean their houses when you see them on social media? I am very much a Reformed Slob. I was not a particularly tidy child and have had moments of messiness as an adult but for the most part, my house is clean and I want to make a PSA to all the people I follow online whose houses hurt my feelings and give them my best cleaning tips which are as follows: 1. Throw away half your crap. Then throw away half more. 2. Clean up everything as you go -- do dishes, put away activities, tidy up. 3. Make your bed! It gets you in the right mindframe. 4. Buy a robot vacuum because nothing forces you to clean up your stuff like having to remove a dirty sock from the jaws of your Roomba. It's a win-win! Your floors get cleaned and you're forced to get your stuff off the ground! 5. Make it easy: Clorox wipes in the bathroom, a toilet brush in close proximity! It makes everything easier. ALSO JUST CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. 

7. I am certainly not a fashion icon but I just sometimes want to ask people why they buy those glasses with clear frames. I don't get it. They are not quite as bad as transitions lenses which just kind of horrify me in every way but still. In terms of transitions, I feel like they never quite...transition, as were. Like I can't fully see your eyes even if we are inside if there is light, and your sunglasses never seem quite dark enough to accomplish their goal. I just have a lot of opinions about eyewear apparently.

8. Also, just a reminder that having jaunty, huge, brightly colored glasses frames is not the same as having a personality. I've met so many people whose personality I would just describe as "wears glasses." NO. 

9. Despite my earlier complaints, this week was actually pretty dang lovely! I had a lot of coffee dates with friends. I ate at my favorite restaurant. I visited my friend Tracy. I got a lovely package in the mail. I had breakfast with my parents. I took a calligraphy class with my sister in law. I get to go see Hall and Oates tonight! I slept well! I discovered two delicious new recipes! 

10. I guess what I am saying is that despite the number of weird men who insist on bothering me, as well as the existence of transitions lenses, it was a good week and I am happy right now in this life and that feels really, really good. 

THIS HEAT, my insane concern about my pet's Instagram account, dog culture, the grocery store AND MORE!

I have been sitting at this laptop trying to come up with something to write about, some lesson I have learned or something to share, and honestly nothing has come to mind for days. I am convinced that it's the heat. As a teacher, I am contractually obligated to love summer, and I DO, but I am so tired of sweating. Anyway, here are a few things that have been going down in my world. 

1. I hung out with a new friend this weekend. Is there anything more agonizing than a new friend hang out? My best friend once said that any time you're hanging out with someone new, dating or friending or otherwise, they don't meet you, they meet your representative and I've never heard anything more true. Anyway, as we were casually discussing things we sort of have in common, she made a joke, and in true Amy form, I decided to jump on said joke with my own (FUNNIER) joke that I decided to laugh maniacally at because in my mind, I am so funny it's unreal.

Unfortunately, I had a bite of taco in my mouth and it went fully down the wrong pipe, scratching my throat and burning me and making things terrible. I nearly coughed to death for a full minute: eyes bulging, tears streaming, choking. This poor normal human being had to watch as this girl she barely knows nearly dies in front of her, all because she had to make and laugh at her own joke. 

2. I recently got a dog. My neighbor needed a home for her dog, and he and I had already fallen in love and I'd dog sat him a bunch and he is just the best ever. But what I didn't realize was that I was going to be filled with concern about my cat feeling neglected and making sure they both feel loved. I started an Instagram for them because I am a true monster at heart and found myself alternating photos of them because I DO NOT WANT EITHER ONE TO FEEL LEFT OUT. I found myself considering this and then seriously had to stop and ask myself if my animals WHO WILL NEVER SEE INSTAGRAM would get their feelings hurt.

Also, I've been a dedicated Cat Lady for so long that I feel like it's hurting my brand. I love cats. I have cat pillows and cat everything. I love them. But now I am also in love with a dog? Dog culture is really annoying but it's also really easy to get sucked into the dog park and doggy playdates and all these things that cats have absolutely no time for. And I sort of love it? Dogs are fun! I don't have to worry if he likes what I am doing because HE LIKES EVERYTHING. I get more affection and attention from this dog in one hour than I've gotten in my cat's entire life. And yet, I feel like I am losing or compromising some key part of my personality because I suddenly love both cats and a dog and I WILL NOT BE MADE TO CHOOSE.  

I really need to get a grip on life is what I am saying. 

3. The best part about having a dog so far is that it forces me to be active every day. Like no, I will not drag myself off my couch to walk four miles a day for my own health but dang it my dog needs to poop so every day, twice a day, I set off on a long walk. Seriously, America's obesity crisis could be solved with some dogs and some FitBits because an animal plus gold stars are where it's at. 

One thing I've noticed is how bad the world is at navigating sidewalks. First of all, it's not called a sidebike, so if you're one of those jerks who acts inconvenienced by me WALKING while you ride your bike on the sidewalk, I hate you. Secondly, I run into people walking with friends all the time, which is sweet and great and fun, I'm sure. But last I checked, the polite thing to do when someone is coming down the sidewalk and you and your pal are taking up the entire thing is to walk single file for the three seconds it takes for us to pass.

As it turns out, apparently I am the jerk for thinking so. Two women scolded me this morning because I was unwilling to put both my dog and myself into the path of a sprinkler so they could continue discussing Game Of Thrones side by side. 

4. I live relatively close to a Natural Foods Co-Op in my city and I go there frequently for groceries (although now that Amazon Prime Now delivers groceries for $5 I'm pretty sure I'm done with that life) and man, there is nothing worse. I love kids. I really do. But something about the grocery store, and specifically, this Co-Op and perhaps the parenting styles that happen there are just kind of the worst because it all feels like a performance. Recently, I saw a kid crying because he wanted a package of hot dogs because he loves hot dogs (I FEEL U KID) and his mom threw them in her cart until she saw another mom smirk at her and then REMOVED THEM and started loudly saying, "Moonstone, I will buy you hot dogs but remember WE ONLY EAT THE ORGANIC KIND!" This poor child cried and cried as he watched his mother remove the hot dogs and choose some different ones. Never have I ever wanted to kidnap a child to take them on a joyride to McDonald's as badly as I did in that moment.

Yesterday, I was at this grocery store when a child approached me with drumsticks. Not the kind from a chicken, but the kind you use to hit a drum. He started by smacking the metal containers housing produce and then started hitting the fruit and then, he hit me. It didn't hurt but I think we can all agree that you're not setting your kid up for success in life if you're letting them think that hitting strangers in the grocery store with drumsticks is an acceptable thing to do. I asked the kid to stop, nicely, and then he did it again, so I looked to the parent expectantly, sure that they would be embarrassed. Instead, the mom looked me right in the face and said, "Do not address my child, address me."

UM WHAT? I just can't. 

5. Am I the only one who gets in a seriously bad mood when they feel vulnerable? I wrote an essay that I was really proud of and submitted it for publication and BAM! I had to take to my bed and watch episodes of the L-Word and play Ballz on my phone until I felt like a human again because I suddenly doubted my ability to put words together and felt like surely I'd just bared my soul in the form of garbage writing and wanted to crawl into a shame spiral. The same thing happened after my open mic comedy set last night. I got laughs and good feedback but I was so GRUMPY about the whole thing afterwards. I never understood it when people talked about how performing or writing could be painful but the more I do it, the more I get it because DANG. 

6. A random list of things I have enjoyed this summer if you're looking for something to read or watch or listen to:

Touch by Courtney Maum is the best book I have read in a long time and made me think a lot about technology and interactions and love. Recommend. 

Lorde's new album, Melodrama, is exceptional which shouldn't surprise anyone.

Amy Turn Sharp continues to write poetry and posts on Instagram that take my breath away.

The StandUps on Netflix is great, specifically Fortune Feimster's episode.

Unless you live under a rock you've heard of My Favorite Murder, but co-host Karen Kilgariff has another podcast with comedian Chris Fairbanks called Do You Need A Ride? and it is the light of my life as both are funny as hell and the comedians they get are great. I am fully obsessed.

Fellow Sacramentans, if you're looking for good stuff to do, can I recommend Midtown's Cantina Alley for Mexican food and margaritas? Also, I cannot get enough Team Ride these days, just saying. 

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To be honest, this list was a lot more fun to compile than anything I've written recently, plus it puts my deep need to eavesrop to good use so stay tuned as this blog could take a hard turn into random vignette territory. 

You do not have to be good...

A little over four years ago, I sat on the floor of my yoga studio, in the midst of teacher training, and listened to my beloved teacher tell me how the things I believed to be my gifts were actually not. From her perspective, my humor, my ability to communicate in writing, my story-telling...all of it was a big farce, it was too much, it wasn't good. I was devastated and spent our lunch break sitting behind a bush, sobbing, wishing I was anyone but me, making plans to be more like the yogis around me who seemed to be shiny beams of goodness when compared to my brash existence.

It wasn't the first time I'd felt that way. In fact, the entire conversation harkened back to the feelings I have possessed since I was a child of being a little too much. Too loud when compared to the quiet, studious girls I was friends with. Short, curvy, exuberant, when compared with my tiny friends. Always raising my hand with the answer, always needing to be seen, to be right, to be joking, to be contributing in some way. I was a good student who loved school, but my desire to have my nose in a book and write a lot, coupled with outspoken nature and love of my teachers got me labeled a nerd, a teacher's pet. I loved fiercely: my friends, my teachers, my family, and the normal up's and down's of friendships could break me easily. 

Growing up, my dad referred to these qualities as my "easy spirit." Quick to laugh, quick to cry, quick to feel. My sense of humor was welcomed in my home and among my friends. Anne Lamott once wrote about this, saying, "As far as I can recall, none of the adults in my life ever once remembered to say, “Some people have a thick skin and you don’t. Your heart is really open and that is going to cause pain, but that is an appropriate response to this world. The cost is high, but the blessing of being compassionate is beyond your wildest dreams. However, you’re not going to feel that a lot in seventh grade. Just hang on.”

Like most of us, the teasing of peers and the revolt of our bodies through puberty and a few too many moments where we are burned had quieted my spirit significantly, and yet, that moment, on the floor of a studio I'd deemed my safest space brought me right back to those childhood feelings of being a little too much to handle. 

Looking through my journals, it is almost comical how many lists I have about ways to improve myself. Many of the items are the same: specific numbers to reach on the scale, directives about how clean my house will be, how perfect my lesson plans, how quiet I will be, how I will keep my mouth shut in whatever situation. After a friend mercilessly mocked my blogging, I stopped writing completely, because I couldn't bear the fact that others were making fun of this thing that felt so precious to me. 

I have existed for so long in these quiet beliefs that what I have to offer isn't good, that somehow I will always feel like a stereo turned up to 11 in a silent car, that these things I once perceived as gifts were actually an albatross holding me down. 

As evidenced by my writing lately, I feel like I am in the middle of this deep shift and awakening. It feels sort of circuitous that as a kid, every summer was filled with a quest to show up on the first day of school as a brand new me: quiet, thinner, refined, more like the cool girls I wanted to be.

This summer has similar goals, but rather than emerging as someone different than who I am, it's a goal of settling into this skin, as me, right now. It's not easy, per se, but it feels so wholly worth it. There wasn't any one a-ha moment, but rather a multitude of them -- time and time again realizing that despite the childhood mocking or the words of a yoga teacher or the teasing of a friend, that I have gifts to share.

But perhaps the bigger realization has been that none of it has to be perfect -- that yes, these gifts can also be struggles.

The same jokes that endear me to others can keep me from being genuine about my own pain or can hurt people or can go too far. That my ability to communicate in writing can keep me hidden behind text messages and email rather than being willing to have face-to-face discussions. That my strong feelings can hinder connection at times, simply because they are so big, and that my compassion and deep feelings are okay, but that it's also okay to learn to harness them a bit so you don't walk around with your heart bleeding all over everything. 

And yet all of those things are okay -- that embracing the good things also means recognizing the shadow. But there is a difference between recognizing it as a necessary part of who I am, rather than obliterating it. 

The key is acceptance and not a constant goal of improvement. It's to stand firmly on who I am, rather than letting the opinions of others and a constant goal of being approved of motivate my choices. It isn't that I won't ever try to stop my more annoying, damaging habits, but rather that I get to view even those flaws as gifts, moving forward in self-love rather than in self-hatred. 

It feels like the ultimate revolutionary act: to say that I know I am imperfect, but even in that imperfection, I am enough. That no to-do list of things to fix is necessary, but rather a daily softening and moving towards the good in me and in others. 

I've been reading and listening to a lot of Mary Oliver in this journey, particularly the poem below. You do not have to be good. You already are. 

Does everything have to be such a production?

The title of this post is a question I have found myself asking over and over recently. 

Does everything have to be such a production? Does everything have to be so hard?

I just returned from a nine day trip down the Eastern Seaboard with middle school students. during which I lived out of a giant black bag and a hot pink rolling suitcase. The entire week, I struggled with the handle of that stupid suitcase. Every time I would try to put the handle down, it would jam.

I would stand there slamming it, willing it, forcing it to retract. And every time, I would eventually take a deep breath and stop fighting it so hard. Only then would it retract and allow me to load it onto the plane or bus.

Metaphor alert. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had to learn the hard way. One of my most vivid memories of being a small child was of a sunny day in the Bay Area of California, which everyone knows might as well be a winter day everywhere else. My parents suggested I wear a coat since it was freezing cold. Precocious me replied that it was sunny out so wearing a coat was clearly not necessary. After fighting them so hard, they finally relented and I went outside, sans coat, and learned my lesson in about three seconds.

This tends to be how I move through life: if there is a lesson to be learned, I will throw myself into it full throttle, only backing down when I am sure that nothing can be done. I work hard to control as much as I can and when it doesn't work out, I tend to push harder as opposed to letting go. 

In the past year, I have been forced to let go. There have been numerous situations in which I have begged and prayed for and fought for a different outcome, and much to my dismay, nothing would change. As someone who has just the slightest of control issues, this is highly disappointing and unacceptable to me; however, life tends to remind you over and over that you cannot control many things in this world.

One of the most notable was in some friendships. I had once been extremely close to a group of people, when I started to feel like I wasn't truly part of the group. More and more frequently, I was seeing pictures of things I wasn't invited to and events I wasn't included in. At first, I fought. I tried asking what was going on, inviting them to do things, trying to communicate how left out I felt. After months of turmoil and hurt feelings, I tried a new approach: letting go. 

I stopped clamoring to be included. I stopped agonizing over the pictures. I let myself grieve the loss of friendships I once treasured, while trying to reflect on how I could have been a better friend. And while it still stings, the sadness has been replaced with a sense of ease because I am no longer struggling to force something that clearly wasn't working for many of the people involved. I poured energy into people who were eager to be friends and whose friendship left me feeling filled up rather than depleted and wondering why I wasn't good enough. 

The circumstances didn't change. They didn't suddenly come to their senses and realize that they wanted my friendship back. The only circumstance that changed was my attitude: I was letting it go. 

I can create a sense of ease wherever I go. 

Letting things be easy doesn't always feel easy, at least at first. I recently made a list of things that I want to accomplish during my summer break. Most of them are creative goals, or goals that contribute to my own sense of well-being. Next, I made a list of all the things standing in my way.

There was one common denominator: me. 

I revised my list to consider all the ways I could make things easier on myself:

Instead of simply wishing I was writing every day rather than spending my days dinking around the Internet, I could delete Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone so it's less likely I get stuck in a rabbit hole.

Instead of preventing myself from making art because all of my stuff is spread out and far away, I could organize it and place it in an easily accessible area so it's easier to use.

Instead of making a complicated plan for working out, I could just do what I like: spin and yoga and walks.

Instead of buying things for all new recipes at the store and deciding it's too hot and annoying to do that and ordering delivery instead, I can choose easy, healthy favorites I know I will eat and things that don't require an oven for the summer time. 

More and more these days, I find myself asking, "How can I make this easy?" Not so I can be lazy, but so I can flow rather than run ragged against road blocks. 

Not everything has to be such a production. But if I don't want it to be, I have to be willing to make it easy. 

Stop Doing Things You Hate

A few summers ago, I attended an Off The Mat, Into The World yoga training up in beautiful Lake Tahoe. The training itself was incredible. One day of the training was focused on somatic experiences, and included a dance party. 

I want dance parties to be my thing so badly. They just aren't. I don't enjoy the act of flailing around a room with strangers, gyrating to music, and looking foolish. For me to really feel it on the dance floor, I require a giant crowd and more booze than I ever consume.

As I watched the people I was in training with move all around the room, freely dancing and enjoying it, I decided to make a swift exit to the bathroom. When I got there, it was occupied, and as I sat in the hallway waiting, I starting beating myself up for not being in the dance party.

Why don't you feel comfortable?

Why do you hate your body?

Why can't you just relax for once?

One of the facilitators from the training emerged from the bathroom and could clearly see my distress. She asked why I wasn't out on the dance floor, and true to form, I started crying and muttered something about how I didn't like it and it just wasn't for me but I was going to use the restroom and then go in and try again.

I kid you not, she looked at me like this.

I was confused, at first mistaking her words and expression for not understanding why I didn't want to dance. I launched into another explanation, and she gently put her hand on my shoulder and said, "No, not why do you not like it, why are you doing this?"

I stopped talking. 

She explained that it was enough to just not like something, and to stop doing it. 

This was news to me. I had never considered the fact that not liking something was enough of a reason to just not do it. 

I collected myself and returned to the room. I stood against the wall and clapped and did some Awkward Leaning In Time To Music and watched as others joyfully weaved around the room, and for the first time, I felt truly free to choose the things that worked for me, and to leave the rest behind. 

In what feels like an endless discussion of self-care on the Internet, I repeatedly read things over and over again that are something to the effect of "I CHOOSE JOY!"

I want to choose joy. I really do. That said, my emotions tend to come crashing in like a bull in a china shop. I would LOVE to be able to "choose joy" and leave it at that. That sounds downright delightful. But for someone who feels things deeply and lives from her emotional center, I don't always have the capacity to just decide to be happy and let that be enough. 

If you have some sort of potion that makes this possible, please let me know.

That said, what I learned in that dance party meltdown, and what I continue to learn over and over is that while it is not possible to always choose joy, it is always possible to stop doing things you hate. 

This feels like a revolutionary act to me.

I think we are often tempted by things that seem really fun to others. Dance parties at yoga, for example. For some people, that's an opportunity to have fun and let loose; for me, it's a hellscape. It can be tempting to look at the things that bring other people joy and fault ourselves for not enjoying those things, when in reality, there is nothing wrong with having a different vision of fun. 

A few months ago, I sat down and made a list of all the things I do: work and school and extra-curricular things I say yes to and workouts I feel pressured to complete and all the things that fill my time. And as I examined each one and its place on my calendar, I started to realize how few of those things I really enjoyed. I paid attention to things I knew I wanted to do and saw how little space they were occupying in my life.

What I realized in that moment is that I forgot I had a choice. While adulthood certainly brings things we must do (bills need to be paid, I have a job to do, not cleaning my house is icky) I had said yes to so many things that I'd convinced myself I had to do in order to be loved, to have value, or to be doing things "right." Remembering that I did not, in fact, have to do any or all of these things gave me the biggest dose of freedom I have experienced in a long time.

Rather than forcing myself to complete workouts I don't enjoy, I have committed to going to Team Ride for spin class a few times a week, because it makes me feel strong, happy, and capable. I've been back on my yoga mat in classes with teachers that make me feel seen and loved, rather than fighting my way through classes I don't enjoy. I took eleventy billion work things off my plate so that next year, I have room to be a joyful person again rather than feeling pushed to my limits. 

It was a gift to be reminded that not liking something is enough of a reason to not do it -- no dramatics or long-winded explanations required. It's enough to not like it.

While I don't think I will ever adopt the philosophy of "Choosing Joy" what I am wholeheartedly adopting is "Choosing Not To Do Things You Hate." My guess is that they are pretty closely connected, and that's good enough for me.