Battle of the body and the brain (aka facts vs. feelings), Part 1

Do you ever have days (or weeks or months or years) where you feel completely at odds with your own body? Or your own brain? Maybe both at the same time which is always a joy and a pleasure?

I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that I can know – with every fiber of my being – that certain foods make me feel terrible… and yet, as soon as it crosses my mind that I want one of those foods, it’s like I’m powerless to resist and all that sense flies out the window. Cheez-Its, mac & cheese, cookies, pizza (this is the hardest one to admit and accept), popcorn, anything with sugar in it, anything made of bread… you get the idea. The ONLY time I feel good physically (and mentally) is when I eat lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and the occasional dairy or brown rice. Everything else gives me heartburn, gas, indigestion, foggy brain, lethargy, body aches, weight gain & bloating… it sucks. A lot. If I eat too much sugar or too much salt, my heart pounds out of my chest and my brain goes on overdrive.

And yet, KNOWING this does little to prevent me from shoving any and all of it directly in my pie hole, when given the opportunity. Why is that?

You know how, in flight, fight, or freeze mode, your rational brain (and a lot of other brain & body functions) shut down because YOU IN DANGER GIRL, and it’s not until that FFF reaction is gone that your brain & body resume normal function? Like, your rational brain ceases to function in order to conserve the energy you might need if you find you’re going to have to haul ass away from whatever threat is there – whether real or perceived.

I’m wondering if there’s a similar thing that happens when a craving pops up. Cravings are fleeting, of course, and the feeling of one is a whole lot different than fear for your life – mild anxiety because you’re panicking at wanting the THING, depending on what that thing is – but until the craving passes, your rational brain can’t play the tape out to the end and remind you of what happens every time (EVERY time) you eat pizza.

And that leads me to think about other situations in life, where you can absolutely KNOW WITH EVERY ATOM IN YOUR BODY that, say, a person is bad or wrong for you, but you’re still drawn to them and subject yourself to prolonged agony by continuing to spend time with them while everything else falls apart around you. Or you can know that getting laid off from a job was nothing personal, purely business, and yet you can’t help but be hurt, angry, and take it personally. Or, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a cigarette is going to taste like you’ve licked a dirty ashtray and make your lungs burn, but you just can’t help picking one up because IT’S THERE, and it was your social crutch for so long you’d rather suffer a little than have to go without.

There are so many things… but ultimately, I think it comes down to what you know vs. what you feel. There’s a difference between facts and feelings. And sometimes, I think you just have to let the feelings float on through – acknowledge them, call them out, say, “I see you” – before you can return to your sane, rational state of being.

Maybe it’s just me, though. I mean… when I’m driven by a feeling or a craving or a reaction, I’m really not my best self, most of the time. Certainly if the feeling is one of love or joy, then ideally the outcome of whatever behavior it inspired would be a good thing. Since I’m referring more to the URGE TO ACT when you’re overcome with anxiety or hurt or anger or fear, or the urge to make the feelings go away, or you’re beating yourself up for feeling the way you do, then it’s the negative outcomes I’m thinking of. I’ve never had a good outcome when driven by fear, anger, hurt, anxiety, or insecurity. But when I’ve allowed those feelings to show up and opted out of acting on them, I’ve found better alternatives on the other side of the feelings. Usually, fact-based alternatives. Goodness knows, my brain can make up some crazy shit when I’m anxious, and when I think about taking action – mostly in the hopes of assuaging the anxiety or fixing what I think is broken – it’s never a healthy response. I just don’t think it’s possible, at least for me, to engage in a healthy way when I’m in the throes of an unhealthy brain/body behavior.

I’m finding lately that I keep sinking into poor eating habits, and it’s… vexing. Especially because as soon as I go there with it, I STAY there with it, and it makes me feel worse (physically and mentally and emotionally), which prompts me to beat myself up and lose any momentum I may have had with eating well and/or exercising. Vicious cycle. Over the weekends, I tend to start moving in a better direction because I have no outside influence, but as soon as I go back to work – where there’s candy and baked goods and a convenience store and a Starbucks on the same block – all hell breaks loose and I’m back to eating junk, which usually prompts me to just give up and order fast food for dinner. With C traveling as much as he does, it’s been hard to get in a routine that isn’t disrupted one way or the other; I don’t seem to have much in the way of discipline OR will power, and the only way I am successful is when I am consistent, and don’t allow myself to stray from the path. At all. I know there’s all that “moderation” talk out there, and allowing for treats and normal meals and whatever else, but it’s like a portal to the devil for me, and THE DEVIL WANTS CAKE.

Anyway. I’m splitting this into two pieces because it could get real long, real fast, but there’s a whole lot more I’ve got to say on the matter of bodies and brains betraying us, facts vs. feelings, etc. Nothing more about food/exercise, though; this took a turn I wasn’t quite expecting, but it’s certainly one of the many things I’ve got on the brain. I think I just needed to get this out there and get the ball rolling.

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Whole30 Observations, Revelations, and Other Stuff.

CW: Some weight, scale, and body image discussion ahead…

I’m writing this tonight, the last night of our Whole30 adventure, for a few reasons. Mostly because I have the time while my sweetheart is on his way back from his 4th work trip in as many weeks. Have I mentioned how impressed I am with his brand of stubborn, sticking with this thing while traveling for work? I mean, if I were in Vegas, I’m not sure I would have been able to resist going ALL THE WAY OFF plan. In fact, while he was gone, I was *this close* to calling it quits (mostly because of the intestinal distress), but I couldn’t justify it when he was having to find a grocery store, rent a refrigerator for his hotel room, and eat the same damn things every day while I could make all kinds of yummy stuff.

Anyway. The other reason I’m writing about it tonight is because I want this to be about everything but the weight I’ve lost. More about that in a bit.

Before we started this thing, we were eating relatively well, but our habits were devolving pretty rapidly. Like, instead of going to Baskin Robbins once in a while, we’d go several nights a week. Anytime he traveled for work, I’d go to Panera for dinner and get the French Onion Soup (with all that cheese and bread) and a large mac & cheese. And then stop for ice cream on the way home. There was always at least one glass of wine with dinner. I’d start foraging for chocolate or candy at work around 2pm. And don’t even get me started on the reduced-fat Cheez-It binges…

Yeah. I mean, it certainly could have been worse; we were having smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, and more often than not, a relatively healthy dinner. But those were getting interspersed with taco and margarita nights, Panera nights, eating anywhere but home nights…

So, a few of my favorite things about Whole30 is that it was like hitting the big reset button on my bad food habits. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had cravings pretty much this entire time, but my behaviors have changed around food. For the most part, we’ve cooked healthy breakfast meals and sat down to enjoy them, instead of running out the door with a smoothie. (I say “for the most part” because today for breakfast I had an apple & almond butter.) Lunches have stayed healthy, either chicken &  broccoli with lemon, or some form of protein and veggies, leftovers, etc. Dinners were the best part, getting creative or not, making good use of the recipes in the book and being blown away by the flavors… and all the while, getting to spend that quality time cooking together.

Real Talk
Yes, there was a lot more planning and prep work involved. No, I didn’t always feel like doing it, especially when he was on the road. Yes, I ate a lot of eggs for breakfast and got tired of them halfway through, but am back to enjoying them again. No, I never did get the “tiger blood” they talk about in the book, but that could be due to any number of extenuating circumstances not related to diet. The bowel movements have been… exciting. I haven’t had the energy or interest in the gym since we started.

Random Observations

  • There is sugar in damn near everything
  • If it’s not sugar, it’s corn or soy. Did you know that most cans of “tuna in water” in the regular grocery stores are actually “tuna in vegetable broth that probably has soy in it”?
  • I’m pretty sure I heard angels sing when I found the sugar-free, nitrite free, whatever whatever free bacon at Whole Paycheck
  • This can get expensive, real quick, if you let it
  • Some of those sauces lasted more than a week, or close to two, and they were worth every ounce of effort
  • I like making our own almond milk, and will probably keep that up

Weights and Measures
My initial inspiration for wanting to do this was, admittedly, weight-related. I could feel my already-upsized clothes getting tighter, I was carrying more fat than I’d ever had on my frame before, and with the wedding coming up, I started to panic a little. Going to the gym and eating relatively healthy wasn’t making a dent, and I could tell the food consumption was going to get worse before it got better, unless we did something “drastic.”

For about 3 of the 4.2 weeks of this program, I obsessed about getting on the scale. Like, I thought about it more than I ever had when I was allowed to weigh myself. As soon as I could tell I’d lost a few pounds, I wanted to know how many, and I wasn’t going to rest or relax until I knew. I managed to overcome those urges, just like the urge to shove a Twix in my face, but man. Those sucked.

They sucked mostly because more than anything I know this: my weight does not equal my value as a human being. My size is not my soul. I would never be as harsh a critic on others as I am on myself when it comes to the condition of my body, and the last 30 days put a huge spotlight on that internalized obsession/unkindness. Yes, I want to be healthy, and yes, I want to feel good about myself, but focusing on the scale is sure as hell not the way to do that.

And that’s where my last post about comparison came in. I compare my body against those of other people, and have allowed that to determine my worth in my own mind. It’s insane, it’s dangerous, and it’s completely unfounded and unnecessary. If I’m going to judge anyone – including and especially myself – may it always and only be on the content of character.

Will I weigh myself tomorrow? Probably. Am I going to allow that obsession to guide my behaviors, moving forward? Not if I can help it. There are much better benchmarks of success, if what I want is to be stronger, healthier, smarter, happier…

So… yeah. That’s my Whole30 experience in a nutshell. I’d absolutely do it again, even after 2+ weeks of a tender butt and near-desperate need for a bathroom every morning. In fact, I intend to eat like this as much as possible, moving forward. If I find that we’re deviating too far from the new norm, we’ll hop back on the wagon for another round.

In the meantime… tomorrow morning, you better believe I am putting some damn coconut palm sugar in my coffee, and there’s a lovely glass of wine out there with my name on it.

Table for One: Americano

After my trip back to Portland last year, I realized just how important good food is to me, and just how much I desperately miss living out there because of it (among other things, but I’ll save that for another time). As a result, one of my (many) resolutions for 2016 was to dive back into my current hometown and give it a chance, food-wise.

Twenty years ago, Nashville didn’t HAVE a food scene (edited to clarify: no food scene of which I was aware at the time!), but now that it’s enjoying an extended reputation as a hot destination to visit (and to move, as evidenced by all the overpriced apartment and condo buildings going up everywhere, ahem), we have a more than respectable burgeoning food scene, with new restaurants cropping up all the time and all over the place. Even more exciting is that they’re not all trying to duplicate the hot chicken/shrimp and grits/fried everything fare that has permeated the city’s menus for so long.

I don’t know many people who get as excited about food as I do, nor do I know many here in town who have any interest in trying out all the restaurants I want to try. Between that and my status as a single lady without a whole lot of free time flexibility, I decided I’d take it upon myself to just start eating my way through Nashville’s restaurants, flying solo (unless someone opts to join me along the way).

Enter the Table for One series. My goal is to average 2-3 restaurants a month, if at all possible. The photos may not always do the food justice, but I’m hoping my enthusiasm will!
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Last week was Restaurant Week, courtesy of Nashville Originals, a local organization designed to highlight and promote locally-owned/run restaurants here in town. They do this twice a year, I believe, and participating restaurants put together a special menu for the occasion, allowing diners to try out a selection of dishes at a reduced price. I love this idea, because it can get people out of their dining comfort zone, and also opens the door for people to go places they may not otherwise because of cost.

I’d already decided to check out Americano, primarily because I know someone who works there; he also happens to be a mutual friend of one of my new co-workers who’d been raving about the food. Small world + great food = perfect reason to go in, I figured. It helped that they were participating in Restaurant Week, and I figured I would just load up on tapas – trying everything I wanted to try, which would have been a pretty valiant effort on my part (have you seen the menu??).

From what I hear, the line is often out the door and reservations are recommended, if not necessary, to get in there. It worked out for me that we’d had snow that day, so I think a lot of people just stayed home; the restaurant was comfortably full, but with plenty of room for me and my plans to eat. A lot. I had every intention of ordering off the menu and being able to recount and recommend whatever I’d tried and liked, but as it turned out, it pays to know people, and I wound up being served off-menu for the evening. And since I had three glasses of wine to go with it, my memory of what all I ate is a bit… fuzzy.

I do know that I started off with Crispy Brussel Sprouts, and it was close to the menu selection (which comes HIGHLY recommended, btw) but not exactly the same, because while there was pork belly in there, there was also kimchi. And it was glorious.

brussel sprouts

Along with that were steamed bao buns with seared duck. Also fantastic.

seared duck buns

And then there were these… well, I hesitate to call them chicken nuggets, but lacking the proper verbiage, I’ll just say it’s that best part of the chicken you find, that one little piece under each leg, I believe, and these had a sweet sesame sauce.

chicken somethings

Next up, completely switching flavor gears: a mini-paella. No saffron, but there WAS oxtail that had been braised for a long, lovely time.

mini paella

And, finally, a beautiful French-style dessert of poached pears and cake, with crème anglaise.

dessert

Also, Prosecco and St. Germain, because I am nothing if not predictable.

cocktail1

I have to say, it was a fine way to dive into this endeavor, and I’m really looking forward to going back. Even if I’m never permitted to order from the menu, I feel pretty certain I would always leave well-fed and sated. ❤

Upon Further Reflection…

In writing the piece about my intention for the new year being one of reclamation, I found myself thinking more about what it is I truly value. What it is that lights me up, you know?

Travel and exploration, yes. Going somewhere new as a stranger and doing my best to fit in and do as the locals do is always fun for me. Going somewhere to rest and recharge is huge; I haven’t really found that place around here yet, but I’m working on it. Going somewhere familiar and soaking up the comfort of “home” is also one of my favorite things. Road trips, weekend trips, even just trying new places and things here in town. I’d like to challenge myself to do that once a week, if possible – at least for the local stuff, and at least one road trip and one bigger trip each semester I’m in school.

Learning and education, absolutely. I’ve got a stack of books, ever-growing, that I fully intend to read this year. The Undercover Economist, for one. Between the World and Me, for another. The new Jenny Lawson, the old Howard Zinn, and so many more. Plus, school starts up in a few weeks, so I’ll be reading up on the DSM-5 as well as another social work-focused text. So much information to seek out and absorb; it’s daunting, but appealing just the same.

Food, food, food, and more food. But eating WELL, and healthfully. I’m starting to get excited about the suggestion posed some time back by Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I want to find recipes for vegetables/plants that will have me looking forward to dinner, something that’ll tide me over but still be healthy and varied and exquisite. I think it’s possible. For instance, when I was out in Portland recently, I had a dish with beets and cilantro that was just outstanding and I’d like to recreate that. The thought of eating seasonally and locally again also sounds good to me, although the produce in TN isn’t nearly as abundant or varied as it was back in OR/CA… anyway. Something to dig into.

There’s more, of course. But what it all comes down to, what I realized the other day and have been sitting with long enough for it to believe it to be valued: I want to live a life that takes my breath away. I want to see things, do things, go places, eat food, drink wines, tell stories, try the new, and read, watch, and experience breathtaking things. I realize, of course, this isn’t a sustainable thing, nor would it happen all the time, or even a lot. But the more I can do to live a breathtaking life, I believe the better off I’ll be, and the better I’ll feel at the end of it all.

So here’s hoping the end is a long ways off, and here’s to many more breathtaking moments, until then.

My Own Private Oregon.

It’s been 3.5 years since I left Portland, OR, to return “home” to TN. There were so many things I loved about Portland, and even more about Oregon: the landscapes, trees, mountains, ocean in close proximity, clean air, charming homes, innovative restaurants and excellent bars… I could go on. But at the end of it all, I felt impossibly lonely a lot of the time. Disconnected. I think a big part of that was just me and the walls & barriers I had up, but I also think there’s something about Oregon that is akin to places like Minnesota or other spots in the Midwest: people are guarded and distant. Friendly, but not at all interested in pursuing friendships or otherwise. They’ll give you directions anywhere but to their house. After growing up in the South where I never met a stranger, I never quite learned how to navigate those stoic waters.

Anyway. Last weekend I had the opportunity to head back for a long weekend. It was wonderful in all the ways I’d hoped it would be, even better in some, and it was honestly one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. I ate, drank, napped, hugged, explored, and laughed my way through five glorious days. Here, for posterity, is a photographic record, with a few notes thrown in for good measure.

Thursday

I arrived mid-afternoon and made a beeline for Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which I’ve been craving since I moved. That’s a long time to miss something, but man, is it valid. I also got to see one of my dearest dears and her 3-year old daughter’s perfection (if you math it, you’ll note I moved before she was born), and that was the very best way to kick off the trip.

Nongs

And then I went to Saint Cupcake, which, in my estimation, makes the very best chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting ON THE PLANET. This is my heaven.

SaintCupcake

I settled in to my Air BnB, located in inner SE, and was immediately charmed and felt at home. It probably helped that I was less than a mile away from where I used to live, but the studio itself was cozy and perfect. While I was grateful for the offers to stay with friends, this time around – and especially with homework to do – it made sense to have my own space.

A bit later, I ventured back out and went to Barlow Tavern, where I ate a few sliders and had a few drinks, keeping company with my friend who was tending bar.

Barlow

Once she was done, we made our way to Clyde Common, one of my long-standing favorite downtown establishments. After a few drinks (and a very unnecessary salad and pretzel), I bid her adieu, and toddled back to the studio for the night.

ClydeCommon

Friday

I slept like a ROCK.

In the morning, I met back up with my dearest dear from the day before at a place called Broder Nord. Breakfast was just fantastic, as evidenced by the below. I also snuck in a sparkling brunch-type cocktail, since I’d had coffee at the studio. Better living through chemistry and all that.

BroderNord1 BroderNord2

It was a beautiful day and I had a few hours to kill after breakfast, so I wandered up to North Portland, St. John’s area. I lived there for a year and had a view of this bridge, which never ceases to take my breath.

Bridge2

I mean… phew. And here are a few others from that little walk. (I feel compelled to mention, the weather was pretty unusual for this time of year. Rain. LOTS OF TERRIBLE RAIN ALL THE TIME, IF ANYONE IS THINKING OF MOVING THERE DON’T DO IT.)

Bridge1 Bridge3

I made my way into town where I had lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery with some favorite former co-workers. (I will mention here that many, many years ago on my first visit to Portland from MN, when I was trying to decide where to live/move, Rock Bottom was the first place I went because it was right next to my hotel. So, there’s good history there.) The food was fine, the beer was great with a silly name, and the company was exceptionally fun. Afterward, I stopped by to see a friend who owns a gym across the street and we visited for a few minutes; mostly, I just went to get one of the best hugs in existence. It happens when the person you’re hugging is a human brick wall, I suppose. One of the sweetest. And it’s kind of nice to drop in on someone and immediately launch into a conversation about racism. I mean, I’m into that sort of dialogue.

Went back to the studio for a nap, and then back out to meet up with a longtime friend and her family for dinner at Bollywood Theater on Division. The whole family had me cracking up; it had been some years since we’d all spent time together, and it was like meeting the girls again for the first time. They got jokes, man. LOTS of jokes. The food was excellent.

BollywoodTheater

After dinner, my friend and I split off and went for drinks at White Owl Social Club, where we sat by the fire and caught up on life. It was pretty fantastic. I also may have had a Jell-O shot.

jello

We carried on to the Limelight in her neck of the woods, had a drink there, and then called it an early night. Tempting as it was to keep going, I have learned temperance in my old(er) age. Mostly.

Saturday

I met up with a few girlfriends I hadn’t seen for a while prior to the move; we had a grand old time catching up and having brunch at Midpoint Food & Drink. Portland is notorious for brunch, and just as notorious for the long lines that generally come with it, but we timed this one just right and were able to get in right away (wonderful service, food, and company). Here is my breakfast (and lunch, because LOOK AT IT).

MidpointFoodandDrink

I went back to the studio for a nap, packed up some things, and made my way to Verboort, Oregon, home of the Sausage and Kraut Festival! It’s one of my favorite things ever, and yes, I actually did plan this entire trip around the festival’s occurrence. An old friend and former co-worker met me there, and after a not-too-bad wait in the rain, we were seated. And it was glorious. Everything is home/handmade, and it tasted like it. ❤

Verboort

After sausage, we drove to Banks and had a beer together before parting ways, and I went on to Seaside for the night. I miss the coast more than anything. Time was, when I lived in Portland and had a little heartache, I’d drive straight to Astoria and regroup. There’s nothing that fills my spirit better and more than time spent near the ocean.

I stopped in to visit an old friend and favorite, one of the very first people I met in Portland when I moved there. He’s opened a brew pub (Seaside Brewing Company) and it’s pretty fantastic; I highly recommend a visit.

SeasideBrewing

We made our way to U Street Pub for one more…

UStreetPub

…and then I parked it at Seaside Oceanfront Inn for the night. They were incredibly friendly, the room was great (although sadly, no real fireplace – that’s my other favorite thing), and I woke up to this.

MorningView

Sunday

Oh hello, ocean.

I wandered around on the beach for a while, taking pictures and video, but also just closing my eyes and listening to the sound. Thankfully, there was no heartache from which to heal on this trip; just pure enjoyment and soul fulfillment. I could have stayed forever, and am still kind of surprised I didn’t. But instead, I hopped in the car and drove the ~20 minutes to Astoria, home of the Goonies and also my very favorite breakfast place, Columbian Cafe, home of the E-shot cocktail (espresso, vodka, and Kahlua) and homemade toast with pepper jellies. Total swoon.

ColumbianCafe

It was another unseasonably lovely day on the coast, so I wandered around for a bit, hard-pressed to head back into town just yet. I wound up talking to a friendly old veteran who was standing on a pier, watching two bald eagles hanging out on posts. There was the slightest hint of a rainbow, which just made it all the more perfect.

Astoria2 Astoria Astoria3

One of these days I’ll move to a small coastal town. There’s something familiar and comforting to me about it all; I won’t ignore that forever.

I made it back to Portland with enough time to do a little studying and a little napping before meeting up with another group of friends/former co-workers for drinks at Produce Row. They were playing a wonderful soul soundtrack when I walked in, including a lot of Marvin Gaye. It was perfect. So was my drink, the Lemon in the Grass. I won’t tell you about the other drink I ordered because it was even MORE delicious, but also super high-maintenance and I wouldn’t do that to the handsome barkeep.

ProduceRow

Soon after, we went over to Taylor Railworks for dinner where we proceeded to have one of the best meals I’ve ever experienced. So much laughter, connection, intelligent discussion, honesty… and the food was fantastic. Highly recommend; my photos don’t do this one justice at all.

TaylorRailworks TaylorRailworks2 TaylorRailworks3

That night was just perfection.

Monday

There was a whole lot of tedium to tend to before checking out of the studio at 11am, so I stuck around and tended to all that, cutting it real close but locking the door behind me at exactly 11 o’clock. Which worked out well, because I had a lunch date at 11:30 with a friend who’d just returned from Asia the day before. She was kind enough to power through the jet lag; I like to think Andina (the final must-go-to on my list for this trip) made it worth her while. Plus, I mean, I was there, too.

And then there was all this. I wanted to order more, but it was enough to whet the appetite and remind me why I love this restaurant so much.

Andina

After lunch, I met up with another of my dearest dears for coffee and a long walk through Mt. Tabor park. We had a lot of catching up to do, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last afternoon in town. Plus, another unseasonably gorgeous day (I swear I’m not lying under threat of injury from all of Portland to please not encourage anyone else to move there, I’d never do that, ahem) meant I got views like this.

MtTabor

We stopped in for a few drinks at the Doug Fir Lounge where I had the distinct pleasure of meeting his girlfriend. Suddenly, it was time to head to the airport, but not without first stopping at Nong’s one more time for dinner to go. I mean, when you crave a place for 3.5 years, it only makes sense to eat there twice. At least.

Nongs2

Portland… I miss you a whole lot more than I thought I did. Til next time, eh?

Sunday Randoms.

It’s the last day of the SNAP/food stamp challenge for school, and while I am grateful for that for a lot of reasons, I am also reminded that for most people living below the poverty line, or anyone receiving assistance, there is no actual end in sight. I mean, not really. It’s just a different reality, one to which people grow accustomed, or it may also be that they don’t know any different, so there’s no “adjustment” necessary. All I know is, it makes me feel like a privileged a-hole to be so relieved over the temporary nature of this experience. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, and it should instead be more of an impetus to do whatever I can to help those who find themselves hungry on a regular basis, struggling to afford even the worst kinds of cheap food just to survive.

I was certain I’d have a huge list of foods I was craving, making for a lengthy Saturday Sampler post this week, but instead I found myself having little or no interest in food at all. Mixed blessing, I suppose. That said, for three days straight I thought about these. A lot: Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread).

Many years ago when I was visiting family in Puerto Rico, I remember eating something like this, and fell in love. I mean, how do you not love cheese and bread? A recent visit to a Brazilian steakhouse reignited the love, and here we are. Don’t know if I’ll make them or not, but I’ll sure as heck think about them. Often.

I keep pondering the question, “Who do you want to be?” Not “who do you think you should be” or “who do you think other people want you to be”, but who/what kind of person do I want to be. When I imagine myself interacting with others and the world around me, what is my ideal? Am I kind? Honest? Forthcoming? Brave? Loving? What I’m realizing is that when I am not being the person I want to be, if I’m not being a “good” person, it causes me to worry that other people are thinking the same thing. But when I live in keeping with what’s important to me, what other people think doesn’t seem to matter as much.

For instance… imagine you’re having a conversation with someone, and you’re venting or speaking ill or even just talking about someone else who isn’t in the room. It’s a mutual conversation, both people partaking. I find myself in that situation once in a while (although, not so much lately, thankfully), and even if it’s good-natured or not intended as a slight, I still walk away feeling as though I’ve somehow betrayed the person not in the room, and I find myself worrying that it’s going to get back to them that I said something. That I’ll be portrayed as the bad guy, even if I wasn’t the one to initiate the conversation, and even if it was just an expression of frustration, not character assassination.

So what that tells me is, I would do well to just never engage in conversations like that. Right? Integrity is a hell of a thing. I want to feel good about facing the people in my life and if what I’m saying or doing isn’t something I’d feel okay saying or doing to someone’s face, then I either need to change my behavior, or rethink that person’s presence in my life. It’s unfair and unkind to give someone the false impression of being a trusted, loving friend or lover or family member or whatever if that’s not how you’re actually feeling or behaving.

I’ve also been thinking on anxiety and depression, and how those express themselves in my life. Depression usually looks like not being able to get out of bed or leave the house, the phone weighing 500lbs, and preferring to just hide instead of engaging with the outside world. Anxiety shows up to try and counteract the depression sometimes (SO helpful), and that means constant butterflies and amygdala activation which renders me unable to focus because I’m in fight-flight-freeze mode and can’t break through it (and all the ruminating thoughts that go along with it).

There are things – and people – who trigger it, and I’m still learning how to manage it all, still making judgement calls over what I can reasonably take on vs. what I can’t. I wind up spending a fair amount of time at home doing my own thing as a result, and anything out of the ordinary (like house and kid-sitting this week) can, and usually does, throw me for a loop. Adding graduate school onto the pile and the constant worry about not having enough time, not doing well, etc., keeps me a little bit stuck.

But I don’t want to get stuck and trapped in that. I know that diet and exercise help a lot, as does talking to kind and trusted friends, family, and others. So, there will be more of that, especially as we head into winter and hibernation time.

Also, eleven days back into being on Facebook has me working on figuring out how to get away from it again. I appreciate being able to easily stay connected to friends in other cities and states, and appreciate how it’s used for invitations to local events and festivities. But there’s something that feels not-genuine about it, and I guess part of that is, it’s not reality. Reality is the people you spend time with, or the people you have active relationships with in some way. I suppose FB helps provide a forum for those interactions, and it’s just another tool, but… I don’t know. It doesn’t feel good. And I would do well to pay attention to that. In all areas of life, really.

Final thought: my brother’s kids are amazing young humans. After spending this past week with them, I am reminded yet again how fortunate I am to have the family I do.

Sunday Randoms.

(wherein I unload any and all random stuff accumulating in the brain)

This coming week is my SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps) challenge for school: I’m to live and eat on a $29 food budget for the next seven days. $29 was the average benefit per person per week in TN as of FY2014. Think about that for a minute. $29 for an entire week. How can you eat healthy on that? $29 is the average amount I spend at the butcher every week. I’ve gotten to the point in my life where food is a glorious luxury; I love to cook, love to indulge, love to get fancy with it… and I haven’t had to operate within a strict budget for a long time. All the thoughts, feelings, and reactions that have already cropped up as a result of this challenge are interesting, to say the least. I’ll write more about it throughout the week, I’m sure.

It occurred to me last night that, when you date someone for a year (or close to it) and it ends, the first year after that can be a challenge. You’ve got a whole year ahead of you of being reminded where you were and what you were doing this time last year. That’s the space in which I’m finding myself these days; it’s making for a melancholy autumn, so far.

(Melancholy Autumn is my new band name. Or my new stage name, although that wouldn’t really bode well for an exciting performance, now, would it?)

And then there’s this lovely piece. I don’t know if it’s real or if someone made it up – I’m not sure I need to know, either. It’s just perfect. I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972.