It’s…Fashion Friday!

Hello, loyal readers, and happy Friday! Hopefully it’s the start of a long weekend for most of you; my meetings are winding down and I’m wrapping up some loose ends at work before heading straight for the unopened bottle of rosé in my fridge (related: some recommended reading from the SF Chronicle).

I’ve done a series of “Feel-Better Friday” posts in previous weeks but was inspired to switch it up today in favor of an inaugural “Fashion Friday.” In an effort to add a #fashion angle to my personal #brand (totally kidding, for those of you not as well-versed in my sarcastic tone), I’m pleased to present some updates on what I’ve been wearing lately, as well as some tips and tricks for the bargain shoppers out there! I might even throw in a few tips from my skincare and makeup routine if you’re lucky.

Actually – I’ll start off with some #skincare #content! Well, skin-related content. I’m in the phase of my menstrual cycle where I get big, fat, painful pimples in various places on my face. This month’s worst one is between my upper lip and nose and hurts whenever I scrunch my face:

Follow my blog for more pimple-related content!!!!!

I probably deserve these painful pimples because the only skincare routine I have is washing my face with soap whenever I shower, so routine is probably a generous term. Oh, I also put on sunscreen before I go on a long bike or hike outside because skin cancer is no bueno! Anyway, as I sat at the kitchen table eating lunch with Thomas earlier today, I said to him, “My pimple is getting so big!” And he – without even looking up from his sandwich – said, “yes, it has to get worse before it gets better.” Which meant that even he – the least!!!! observant person ever – had noticed the large pimple on my face.

So that’s the #tea on my skin. Now, onto fashion. A few of my friends have said that shelter-in-place has meant they are now changing outfits multiple times a day. The outfit-changing seems to stem from a combination of boredom and showering multiple times a day. I, however, am here to provide an antithetical approach to clothing in quarantine: wearing the same item of clothing for multiple days in a row.

There are a few important considerations when choosing said item of clothing:

  1. Make sure it transitions well from day to night.
    You know how there are those articles about day-to-night outfits? Like this one?:
Day-to-Night Fashion Statements - cabi Spring 2020 Collection


Well, that’s not quite what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something you can wear both during the day for work, chores, etc., and to bed at night. Exhibit A is this fantastically amazing coral romper that Leslie bought for me because she, as my identical twin, knows me better than anyone else ever will:

Not only do I look super cute wearing it at the park and on my couch, but I am cozy and comfy when I go to sleep in it at night!

Don’t worry, I do shower, but these outfits simplify the showering process greatly for those like me who don’t *love* hopping in the shower every day. All I have to do is 1) take off the romper and leave it hanging in the bathroom while I shower, 2) shower, and 3) put the romper back on, without ever having to leave the bathroom! Genius!

Another great example of a perfect day-to-night piece is this dress, which I featured in my Instagram story the other day because IT HAS POCKETS!!!!!

Yes, this image is filtered, because everyone should get a free pass on filtering their photos during shelter-in-place.

Not only is this dress super easy on-and-off, but it’s light, airy, and doubles as a nightgown! The other fantastic thing about this piece is that I got it…

…take a guess…

…drumroll, please…

at a CVS in Florida! You know how pharmacies have that one rack of cheap clothing they try to sell you if you’re on vacation and in desperate need of something ugly to wear as a coverup at the beach? Well, this is from that rack! And it was only $5! When I said I was going to be sharing bargain shopping tips, this is what I meant. It’s all about how you wear it.

Until next time, my fellow fashion folks. Happy weekend!

Racing in the Street

Leslie and I were talking the other day about how we only have so many “energetic” hours in our day; namely, the first few after we wake up. My hours of peak focus and energy are probably 6am-11am, after which I become increasingly unfocused and useless. The problem with having this limited 5 hour window is that it means I need to fit into it whatever has to be accomplished that day.

I think back to my college years when I’d wake up at 5am, be waiting outside the door of our campus Starbucks for it to open, and sit there for the next few hours cranking out whatever math or CS problem set was due later that day. Being a morning person in a CS major did not work well, considering all my classmates would collaborate on their problem sets from 10pm-2am, long after I’d gone to sleep.

But I’m still the same way, and each morning I wake up and have to decide what to use those precious few hours to accomplish. If I’ve got a lot of work on my plate I’ll do that, which means that on days I used to head into the office around 8 or 9am I’d have already done my most important work of the day.

It’s frustrating, though, to not be able to focus on much after a certain time. Every silly “life-hack”/productivity post tells you to schedule around these hours of peak performance, but for me it’s difficult to decide what I want to use those hours for. If I have work to do that takes priority – gotta pay the bills! – but if I want to have energy for a run or bike ride, or to read or write, those activities fall by the wayside. With my writing, for example, either I do it first thing in the morning (like I am now) or it doesn’t get done. And I want to write more!

That’s the good thing about Sundays, I guess. I woke up with no plans and am now out for a walk, typing this on my phone as I head down Folsom St. The rain just stopped and the sky is clearing up and the trees lining the street look especially green this morning:

I’m listening to Bruce (duh) and thinking about how basically everything in life (work, sports, our bodies) is temporary except for art. My body will age and at some point I won’t be able to hike any more, but music will still be there. Maybe that’s why I love music so much? Because I’m subconsciously afraid of the day my job and my body can’t preoccupy me anymore and I’m left feeling empty and unfulfilled?

Just passed this beautiful rose still wet from the rain.

Ah, man. Well at least I got a few words down this morning. Most of my thoughts happen when I’m out walking or hiking or running or riding so the walk-and-type strategy works well for me. It does mean that I have to make sure I’m paying attention to traffic and, if I’m on a trail, rocks and divets. I said to Thomas earlier this week that I need to buy a cheap handheld recorder so I can safely dictate my thoughts while out on a ride. Maybe I’ll start updating this blog with some of my morning “one-liners,” which is how I like to refer to a random thought that pops into my head but never end up elaborating on.

Anyway. Back to Bruce.

Good Morning(s)

I love mornings because they feel like a clean slate. I don’t know if that’s always a helpful thought to have, because “clean slates” aren’t really how the world works. But sometimes it helps me to know that if I go to bed feeling depressed or anxious or angry that tomorrow is a new day, and the sun will rise again, and the way I’m feeling then won’t be how I feel forever.

Recently, though, mornings have been feeling less innately “clean” and hopeful. I don’t want to waste energy dissecting the impact of Covid on our mental health (there’s already plenty of good material out there on that topic), but of course these circumstances are unique. And it sucks that, in these circumstances, the “fresh start” I usually ascribe to mornings doesn’t seem to apply.

But mornings are still the best part of my day. They are, for logistical (Thomas is still asleep), logical (working hours have not yet begun), and some unfounded (I collapse into a useless ball of anxiety in the evening) reasons, the time of day when I feel most entitled to “take time for myself.” For me, that looks like sitting down with a nice big glass of iced coffee and listening to music. And if there’s one good thing that’s come from shelter-in-place it’s that I don’t have anywhere else to be in the morning except there, at my kitchen table, drinking iced coffee and listening to music.

Maddy Mornings: A Photo Series

Shenandoah Sunsets (for My Sister)

It’s 5:04 pm on a Saturday but if I hadn’t consulted my phone I’d have no idea what time of day it was. The sky has been the same translucent grey since I woke up, making it impossible to distinguish between morning and evening. I’m typing this on my phone as I walk laps around the park a few blocks from my house; I wanted to sit and write but my body – just like my mind – is not accustomed to stillness. For a multitude of reasons (global pandemic included, of course) I’ve felt more thrown off in the past 24 hours than I have in a while.

I have so much anxious energy in my body; not entirely in a bad or negative way like it sometimes is – but just an overwhelming amount of it, like if I don’t move around it will swirl around inside me like a tornado, sweeping up everything in its path, gaining strength until eventually I explode?

I miss my sister so much. I painted this watercolor while thinking of her:

A sunset in Shenandoah National Park, inspired by Leslie

I wish I could reach into my belly and extract like a heavy mass all the love I have for her and Express Mail it to London.

This morning she sent me pictures of the gorgeous flowers out in London and I had this thought that they’d all bloomed for her. Like all the flowers, in all the gardens across London, put their heads together – each arching in with their stems so that their flowered heads touched – and were like, “OK guys, it’s time. Leslie needs us. Give us your best bloom.” Like the flowers knew that she – more than anyone else – is always, always there for her family and friends, sometimes to the point where she neglects herself. And that the flowers saw this and said, “Hey, Leslie needs some love, too.”

And we all do. We all need love, especially now. And so much of this energy I have in my body is made up of love for everyone in my life: Leslie, my family, my friends, even strangers I pass (six feet away) on the street. Sometimes I don’t know where to put it all and it swells up inside me and I find myself like I am now: walking in circles, typing furiously on my phone, looking like a madwoman. Which, a lot of times, I’m pretty sure I am.

I take a deep breath; the moisture in the air tingles in my nose.

The High Life

At exactly 4:07pm on Wednesday, April 8 – four days ahead of schedule – I achieved “To-Do List Zero.”(That’s my version of “Inbox Zero” but, instead of an email inbox, refers to the weekly to-do list I write each Sunday that details everything I want to accomplish that week, both work-related and personal.)

I had a shockingly productive Monday and Tuesday and, despite starting to fade earlier this afternoon, kept plugging away at the list items (note to self: where does the idiom “plug away” come from?). I finished the hefty work projects I’d been putting off for days (in favor of responding to one-off emails and chats which made me feel productive but weren’t exactly high-value activities), paid the medical bills that had been piling up on the corner of my kitchen table for two weeks, painted my mom’s birthday card (two weeks ahead of schedule, I might add #bestdaughterever), and put away my laundry.

So it was in the middle of a conference call that I referenced my weekly planner, distractedly planning what to work on next, and saw that all the checkboxes had been…checked off. The ensuing joyful sensation would have been much more gratifying were I not confined to my house with absolutely nothing better to do than immerse myself in work and household chores, but for a moment I experienced the brief high one gets from productivity.

It was in this state – of realizing I’d done everything on my list, but that the list itself was what had given me purpose the past few days – that I drew this quick sketch of the table in front of me:

That is a Joshua-scented tree candle, by the way, gifted to me by my wonderful sister-in-law Maïté. I’ll be lost when it burns out.

And here it is with my “desk” (read: kitchen-table-turned-workspace) for reference:

Having nothing else to do for the day, while daunting and slightly depressing at first, gave way to an appreciation for the opportunity that lay ahead. The world was (almost) my oyster! Like…a tiny oyster! Who’s confined to a small section of ocean! I could read! I could walk! I could cook! I could write (this post)!

And so, at 5:28pm, a few minutes after my last meeting finished, I went outside for a short walk. Because my “office” doubles as my personal reading/writing desk as well as my kitchen table (a multi-purpose function explicitly not advised by any article titled “Helpful Tips for Remote Work”) I make sure to step outside to signal the end of a work day. (Also, on days like today when Thomas and I have a delicious-smelling curry made for dinner in the Crockpot, a short walk is a useful way to kill time so that I don’t eat dinner at 4:45pm.)

I bring my phone only in case of emergency and relish the time away from a screen. When I started going on these short walks after my spinal surgery – always within the same five-block radius of my house – I challenged myself to notice something new on each of them. These walks quickly became the most joyful part of my day.

And, as it turned out, there was absolutely no element of challenge involved in noticing something new each time. There was always an intricately-designed door on some house I’d never noticed; or a few flowers that had bloomed since the last time I walked by; or a street that looked entirely different depending on the weather and how light was reflecting that time of day.

Today, for example, I encountered the following interesting things on my 20-minute walk:

This 40-ounce of Miller High Life perched on top of a garbage can outside of Thee Parkside, which I thought made for a nice little still life.
This box of old records left outside the stoop of a café. I sorted through them and came across this Natalie Cole one, which meant for the rest of my walk I had “Unforgettable” stuck in my head.
And, lastly, the most exciting discovery of all: finally meeting the man who owns my favorite car on the block (an old, pale green Imapla). He had his garage open – it was as cool as I’d expected from the guy who drives an awesome vintage car – and I got to chat with him a little about the current paint jobs he was working on.

I may not be able to travel far these days, but I’m managing to keep things pretty interesting over here in Potrero Hill. That’s all for now; I’m off to Google the history of “plugging away.”

Mad E. Coyote

I have struggled to write anything intelligible or cohesive in the past two weeks, much less creative or fresh. Sometimes I wake up feeling optimistic and inspired and manage to type a few paragraphs, jot some notes in my journal, or start a quick sketch. But then the 20-minute coffee high wears off and reality, and its subsequent anxious and “what’s-the-point” thoughts, hit me like a ton o’ bricks. I feel like one of those cartoon characters in the exaggerated, panicked moment where they’re hovering in the air after the ground has fallen out beneath them:

Wile E. Coyote –> Mad E. Coyote (get it?! Maddy Coyote?!)

All of that is a long-winded excuse for another week of unfinished drawings and thoughts. Last week I posted a half-finished sketch along with whatever rambling thoughts I could compile, and this week it’s kind of the same.

Here’s another half-finished drawing from my notebook earlier this week:

This sketch is reflective of my persistent daydreams about bright colors and flowers (and ideally experiencing them with my sister, Leslie).

I try to start my day by setting aside time for a calming activity before beginning work. About 50% of my mornings actually begin this way – with drawing, writing, or something as simple as deep breathing – and the other 50% are me waking up, pouring unhealthy amounts of cold brew into a jug, and immediately logging on to my work laptop. Once I start checking my email – even if it’s 7am, two hours before any of my coworkers log on and meetings start – any hope of me accomplishing any of these other activities goes out the window.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In addition to the time I managed to draw for 20 minutes this past week, I also eked out the following indecipherable words in my journal:

More questions than answers about my trains of thought here…

If anyone can provide me with clarity on my own disorganized thoughts that would be greatly appreciated. Alternatively, please send me a note or leave a comment about some the things you’ve been thinking about (bonus points if they make no sense).

Love to everyone. Keep hanging in there.

Hang in There, Everyone

I’m using the boring post template I introduced back in November because I want to write more but my “well of ideas” is as dry as my skin right now (lol!). Being creative is hard when you’re someone who derives the majority of their inspiration from the outdoors. My mind – just like my body – feels stuck.

Date and Time: Wednesday, March 25, 2020. 8:37am.

It feels selfish and foolish to write or think about anything other than the coronavirus. It’s impossible not to feel helpless and confused and scared about the thousands of people suffering and in need of help. But it also feels necessary to read, write, and think about things other than the virus to maintain some semblance of psychological health. I’m lucky enough to have a job, a home, a wonderful partner, and my health. I know how lucky I am. I’m trying to help others in whatever ways I can. It’s a tired saying, but it’s true that you can only help others if you help yourself first.

I joked on Twitter the other day about how prepared I felt for the way this crisis would affect my mental health:

(#FollowMeOnTwitter)

On a more serious note: the coping strategies I’ve been practicing for years to deal with my anxiety and depression are now at the forefront of articles and media about how to stay mentally healthy during this crisis. Meditation, journaling, therapy, etc. are being recommended more than ever, to the point where I wonder if anyone’s actually doing these things or everyone’s just posting and tweeting about them????? (Also, if I see one more home workout video, I might lose it!!!!!!!)

The difficult thing about these practices is that they – whoa! – take practice. The only reason I’m able to take deep breaths and reframe my thoughts (#CBT) in this time of crisis is because I’ve practiced them over and over when I’ve been in…not a crisis. It was when things felt more manageable that I was able to gradually, successfully alter my trains of thought and transition from unhelpful behaviors to helpful ones. Then, when I did enter a time of crisis – a serious bout of depression, my injury, this pandemic – I had enough practice to have made these exercises a habit.

All of that’s to say: it’s OK if you don’t have things under control right now. I’m 99.99% sure no one does. So give yourself a break.

Location: At home (duh). I started sketching but then I realized I had a 9am meeting so here’s my half-finished sketch (was just getting to the reflections in the water…):

Guess what’s been on my mind….?!?!?!

I figured drawing mountains would be one way of feeling closer to them in this time. Thomas, however, was relieved when Yosemite announced its park closure because he’d spent the previous weeks afraid that he’d wake up one morning and I’d have packed up and gone to shelter-in-place in Yosemite. (I can’t pretend it wasn’t something I seriously considered.)

It’s also crazy how much I’m coming back to thoughts and sentiments I expressed over a year ago when I first started posting on this blog. For example: my first post in which, in the last paragraph, I talk about sharing more writing and art despite the fear of being “bad” at it. I hope others are encouraged to create more in this time just for the heck of it.

Weather: It’s been rainy and grey outside the past few days. For those of us who rely on sunshine and fresh air to stay sane, this weather (combined with the shelter-in-place, obviously) is a double whammy. The house in which Thomas and I live doesn’t receive much natural light; I ordered a “White Light Therapy” lamp online last week in the hopes that it makes it easier for me to stay inside. Thomas, meanwhile, seems to have no issue with staying inside all day, which is confusing to me but good for him.

Listening to: Lots and lots and lottttsssss of music (sorry, I still can’t get into audiobooks or podcasts). Ideally I would use this time to discover new music – or at the very least catch up on what everyone else has been listening to for the past few months (finally learned what the “Renegade” dance is last night, #let’sgo) – but I’m still listening to the same ol’ tunes.

Made this evergreen meme a few months back.

Music recommendations are very welcome at this time. And TV show recommendations, too. I started rewatching New Girl last night. Season 1, Episode 1, baby. Spoiler alert: it’s still fucking hysterical.

Hang in there, everyone. Much love.

Remote.

It’s 11:12am on a Wednesday (edit: posting this a few days later) and so far today I’ve had the pleasure of joining meetings via Google Hangouts, WebEx, and GoToMeeting, not to mention conversations on Slack, Google Hangout, email, and text! My only dream these days is for someone to develop a conferencing aggregation tool so that whenever I have a customer meeting it doesn’t require downloading an entirely new piece of software.

Live footage of me at home, working in my underwear, hoping my video camera doesn’t accidentally get turned on during a meeting

I hope everyone’s staying healthy and sane out there. Lucky for me, thanks to my injuries and surgeries, I’ve had lots of recent practice in the art of remote work. Don’t get me wrong – remote work and I still wage a daily war for control over my mental health, but at least I have an idea of what to expect.

I can’t tell if I prefer the “10 Tips for Working at Home” articles to the “10 Tips for Wellness” ones, but at least the health and wellness influencers are being slightly drowned out during this chaotic time. It never ceases to amaze me how many ways people can write the same things over and over and pretend they’re sharing new ideas.

In the spirit of solidarity with those who are finding remote work difficult, I’ve created a comparison chart between what this article – “25 Working from Home Tips to Slam-Dunk Tasks” – recommends, and what I’ve actually been doing for the past weeks.

Article RecommendationMaddy’s Reality
Build a permanent workspace.Oscillate working between my bed, my couch, and my kitchen table. Carry my laptop, my notebook, and a fuzzy blanket between these locations.
Invest in technology.n/a? I’ve tried to set up an extra monitor before to increase productivity, but I just end up continuing to work on one screen and watch sports on the other.
Set “Work Hours.”Ummm….. 6:30am-2pm and then 4pm-7pm? And then maybe check my email again at 9pm? Is that what they mean by work hours?
Avoid “Work Creep.”When I first read this tip my mind immediately went to the weird guy in the office who I’ve never worked with but always tries to chat with me in the hallway… turns out the article is referencing work creeping into your personal life. Ok, so I’m not doing well at avoiding that – see above “work hours” – but, on the bright side, I no longer have to worry about dodging the other “work creep” in the office!
Make To-Do Lists.I do that already. And they usually just include things I’ve already done, so that I can check them off immediately and feel “productive” and “accomplished.”
Don’t Work in Your PJs.Unrealistic.
Eat a Healthy Lunch or Snack.A family-size bag of chips counts as a healthy snack if I bought it at Whole Foods. I don’t make the rules.

If anyone needs a friend to FaceTime, you know where to find me (at my house, in my underwear or PJs, questioning the purpose of life). Or leave an anonymous note/comment/question. I think a semi-conscious goal of mine is to become one of those people that’s so famous that random people on the internet ask them questions about their life. Imagine being that important.

Some Things I Thought While Watching the Sun Set This Evening

Feel free to call me out as hypocrite here; I know I’m usually the person running and riding and squashing around like crazy. But today, the only exercise I got was walking two blocks from my front door to watch the sunset (OK, fine, also to pick up dinner at the Whole Foods hot bar because I’m a lazy and impatient piece of garbage who didn’t want to wait for pasta water to boil). And as I watched the exceptionally beautiful sunset (again, probably played a role in my current sentiments) I thought to myself, “I don’t need any more from ‘exercise’ than this.”

By which I mean that even though I have spent the majority of my life playing sports or being active, there’s only so much the intense physical activity is necessary for my happiness. I run and ride and hike because for me, to be outdoors is to be happy, no matter what it is I’m doing. To be able to sit outside and watch the sunset, or to spot the new flower blooming in front of my neighbor’s house, or to smell the ocean or the eucalyptus trees when they’re nearby; that is happiness.

And the feeling of my legs underneath me and my breath colder against the becoming-crisper October air; that is happiness.

And to notice: the smallest corners of the earth, my breath, the simultaneous silence of a sunset and the background cries of a bird or a child; that is happiness.

When I heal I will return to my sports and my jogs, I can’t pretend I won’t. There’s something about my heart beating hard in my chest and the burning of my quads that gives me an endorphin rush. But after not having any of that for the past six weeks – and believe me, I never thought I’d say this – I genuinely think I’d be ok without it. As long as I have this sacred earth’s nature, and the ability to notice and feel even the smallest moments of beauty and awe within it, I think I might just be alright.

(P.S. I wrote this stream-of-consciousness while sitting outside, in the dark, on the sidewalk outside Whole Foods. When I say that these are my unfiltered thoughts, know it’s no exaggeration.)

Making Room

Lying in my hospital bed, eating a nice, thiiickkk burrito, I had a revelation: “I never would have been able to do this before.” Meaning, I never would have been able to lie in a hospital bed, unable to run or bike or even walk, and eat food I truly enjoyed. There have been long periods in my life during which I felt the need to earn the food I enjoyed, or punished myself for not following a certain (crappy, illogical) set of rules. And yet here I was, eating foods I enjoyed (it didn’t hurt that friends had been delivering me pints of mint chip ice cream #shoutouttokathrynandandy), and not going into a full-fledged anxiety/depression/whatever spiral.

I spend so much time looking forward, wanting to progress and improve, that I leave little room for reflection on how far I’ve come. Making time for this reflection was crucial in my eating disorder recovery, and remains important to maintain it. Remembering the ways in which my relationships, health, happiness, and fullness of life have been positively impacted by my recovery are the reasons I don’t relapse, especially during times that might otherwise be triggering. And I’m not that great at “patting myself on the back” either, which is why I’m sorta writing this to remind myself that the changes I’ve made are worthwhile and something to be proud of, because – no matter how trivial they might seem to others – they required a looooot of work.

The one thing that has continually frustrated me about recovery (from an eating disorder or disordered eating) is that it’s such a vague term. What does “recovery” even mean? What does “being recovered” look like? I’m someone who needs straight answers, definitions, and quantitative measures; half the reason I studied math in college is that it meant everything was well-defined, nothing left open-ended. Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight answer or definition when it comes to recovery, and I’ve had to learn to be OK with that. It’s a spectrum, of course, and might look different for everyone. Personally, I measure my recovery in terms of fullness of life: the more “recovered” I am, the more fully I experience my life and participate in relationships.

I had some thoughts the other day about the stages I’ve experienced in my recovery and, even more importantly, where I want to be today and in the future. I visualized a sort of combination iceberg-pyramid in which some changes happened above the surface (the tip of the iceberg) and the rest below the surface but become more and more foundational as you go deeper:

FullSizeRender
The first layer – the tip of the iceberg – was the changing of my visible behaviors, physical actions, and habits. This meant eating and exercising in a healthy way and in opposition to the rules I’d created for myself. Often this change was forced upon me – there are debates in the ED treatment community as to whether or not it’s helpful to force behavior changes first or to address thought patterns first; I think it’s probably a combination, and also dependent on the individual – though it’s often a little vague as to how I was able to make these changes when I look back on them.

The next layer, of course, was addressing the thought patterns and rules driving the behavior. This stage is where the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) played a role, etc. I don’t want to spend too much time on these first two stages because the thoughts I had recently were around the next two layers on the pyramid. I should also note that these layers are specific to the way I think (or don’t think) about my body; they aren’t directly correlated to recovery as a whole. Eating disorders are much, much more (especially in my case) about issues other than body image, so I don’t want to conflate improved body image with improved overall recovery. I do, however, find that the body image piece of recovery is something that comes up frequently in day-to-day life as it’s a piece largely influenced by our unavoidable society and culture.

Ok, so, that being said, the next-most foundational layer in the pyramid of body image is developing an appreciation for your body. If you’re a young woman, I’m sure you’ve encountered some sort of “love your body for ___” or “be grateful for your body because it can ____” messaging as part of an attempt to improve body image. For me, this stage would be saying to myself, “I am grateful for my strong legs that allow me to hike mountains and play squash,” or, “I’m grateful for my body because it’s healthy and strong.” I see many girls and women similar to me (athletes or outdoor junkies especially) spreading similar messages, likely working to convince themselves that their body is OK because it “helps them run marathons” or “is strong and lifts heavy objects.” I understand that this framing might be helpful for the vast majority who are still stuck in the “I hate my body” phase of recovery, and I, too, found it helpful at some point in my journey. The problem with the, “Thank you, legs and body, for helping me run up mountains” is that it’s predicated on some sort of athletic achievement or ability to perform a certain action. While useful at first in transitioning from body-hate to body-gratitude, I don’t think it’s sustainable, at least not for me. If I’m only grateful for my body when it can do certain things, what happens when it can’t? What happens when I’m lying in a hotel bed and my body is struggling to get enough air into its lungs? I still should love it then. Or, what about all the other people who don’t like to hike or play squash – should they not love their bodies? (Rhetorical question; of course not.)

Here’s where the final layer of my body image journey comes in. I’ve heard the term “body neutrality” being thrown around a lot recently, and by some definitions that’s what I’m striving for. An article in HuffPost (I just Googled “body neutrality” and went with the first article that popped up) defines body neutrality as “seeing your body as a vehicle that, when treated with care, can help you move about the world in a way that brings you joy. That’s it. No thinking about how you look, either good or bad.” This last piece, “no thinking about how you look” is what I would describe as my idea of full recovery, but I would extend it a little further: “no thinking about how I look, my body, my food, my exercise.” Of course I don’t mean that I shouldn’t think about food or my body at all, I just mean that my goal is to only think about those things in positive or helpful contexts (“my body is tired, I’d better rest” or “this food is delicious”) or – more simply put – as I would before any disordered behaviors or thoughts took over.

Despite having clicked on this Huffington Post article because it was the first in my Google search results, it mentions exactly the reason I push to reach this final layer of body neutrality: “When we spend less time thinking about our bodies, it affords us room to focus on other things.”

Louder, for the people in the back!!!!!!

For real, though. Imagine what would happen if every young woman (not to mention every person, as this extends to every gender, age group, demographic, etc.) used the brain space they dedicate to obsessing over body image, weight, diets, food, etc. and redirected it towards other things!!! Imagine how much more powerful we’d be!!!!

Almost every day I am saddened by a woman wasting her time and energy on fixing her body to meet some bullsh*t ideal; in fact, I was inspired to write this after watching a young woman who I perceived to be attractive, smart, capable, and kind next to me on the plane spend the entire five-hour flight reading a book about dieting. I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything, but all I wanted to do was rip the stupid book from her hands and tell her she was so much more than her appearance, that the hours she’d spent reading that book could have been used for something that (hopefully) matters more at the end of the day.

I’ve heard the female executives in my office chatting to one another in the hallways about the latest exercise routine they’ve started to shed a few pounds, and all I can think to myself is, “You’re a BADASS WOMAN WITH AN INCREDIBLE CAREER and you still feel such pressure to look a certain way?!”

I suppose the purpose of this post is to give me a place to scream these things … into the ether of the interwebs …

Image-1My Bitmoji, yelling into the ether

IMAGINE WHAT YOU COULD CREATE IF YOU DIDN’T SPEND TIME WORRYING ABOUT FOLLOWING FOOD RULES!

IMAGINE THE RELATIONSHIPS YOU COULD DEVELOP IF YOU DIDN’T SPEND TIME THINKING ABOUT HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT!

IMAGINE THE ENERGY YOU COULD PUT TOWARDS WORK, FAMILY, FRIENDS, ART, IF YOU DIDN’T TRY TO READ ABOUT EVERY NEW FAD DIET!

 

This is Not a Recipe Blog

I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I cook for myself every night, or even most nights. Approximately four out of five nights a week, I get home from work and am too tired to do anything besides microwave a Trader Joe’s frozen meal (two meals, actually, since the portions usually aren’t big enough). I’ve had nights where just putting food in the microwave seems like an insurmountable obstacle, in which case I’ll eat popcorn, Clif bars, cold leftovers, and ice cream until I’m full.

Tonight, however, I arrived home after work with a miraculous amount of energy, probably thanks to catching up on some sleep over the Labor Day weekend. In addition to dumping heaps of dirty clothes from our camping trip in the laundry, I decided I’d iterate on my pizza recipe for dinner. I tried out a new recipe a few weeks ago, one I’d come across in a magazine and took a picture of while standing in the grocery aisle (so as to avoid paying $15 for the issue), and it was one of the better pizzas I’ve made. Making a perfect pizza is, of course, an iterative process, and so I’m hoping that tonight I can hone my skills further.

As I wait for the frozen dough to thaw, I’m listening to Pusha T and Lauryn Hill’s new single “Coming Home” (related good read: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/pusha-t-lauryn-hill-coming-home-interview-877915/). It’s … fantastic. I know it’s one of those songs that wasn’t written for me (Pusha T raps about drug dealing, black activism in the 80s, lack of access to education growing up) but I don’t think that means I shouldn’t be able to get something meaningful from it. After all, isn’t that the definition of any great work of art: that its themes are universal? And Lauryn’s refrain (“When love is real, you can do anything”), well … who doesn’t want to believe in that?

Ok, now I’m rolling out the thawed pizza dough with a wine bottle.

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I’m not sure why I have yet to invest in a proper rolling pin, maybe it’s because some part of me feels resourceful when I don’t buy an extra tool and instead make use of something already in the house. I’m planning to make a bbq chicken and mozzarella pizza, and a mushroom and vodka sauce pizza, not because those are the tastiest pizza combinations, but because I want to use ingredients we already have in the house (mushrooms, bbq sauce, vodka sauce, grilled chicken).

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The first time I used this recipe I made a pesto pizza using fresh pesto I’d purchased from the local farmers’ market earlier that week, but everyone knows that adding pesto makes anything taste good (see also: cheese, salt), so we’ll see how these ones turn out without the “pesto crutch.”

Oh – if you somehow missed this blog post’s title, I’d like to remind you that this is not a recipe blog. This a simply a post that details the events, and my corresponding thoughts, of a mundane Tuesday evening. And another reminder: no one’s forcing you to read this. Now back to the cooking.

When it comes to food and cooking, I’m sucker for presentation (“if it doesn’t taste good, it might as well look good” is usually my motto). Pizza dough, however, is frustratingly difficult to mold into a circle, and so I often settle for some lopsided oval-y shape. You do what you can. These puppies are about to hit the oven:

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Now, we wait. Thomas got home from work a few minutes ago – just in time for his fantasy football draft! Woo! On the bright side, he’ll be occupied for the rest of the evening, and I can watch whatever stupid rom coms I want without his judgement. I also look forward to devising his team’s name once the draft is complete; I’m basically renowned for coming up with fantastic player name puns. For example, when Thomas drafted Odell Beckham Jr. two seasons ago, we named his team “OBJYN.” And last season when he drafted Tyreek Hill: “Tyreek-a-Leek” (if you don’t get the Petey Pablo reference, please remove yourself from this blog).

And … the pizzas have arrived!

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Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Besides taste, I rate the dinners I cook based on time spent vs. gourmet-ness (the more gourmet-ness for less time, the better), dishes needing to be washed at the end, and use of existing kitchen ingredients. I’d say I scored pretty well on all fronts today. And now, as zee French say, “Bone Apple Tea!”

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Satur-gratitude (tried to mash the words “Saturday” and “gratitude” but it didn’t quite work)

So it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in San Francisco and I’m sitting by the window thinking about how much I love… sun and Saturdays and San Francisco. What a coincidence!

Our landlords above me are blasting music that I’m not super into but I’m too lazy to find my headphones so instead I’ve turned the music volume on my computer all the way up in attempt to drown it out. It’s not exactly working so I’m now listening to a weird mash of my music and their music and it’s chaotic and gross.

I smell pretty bad since I’ve yet to shower after my morning ride, but Thomas isn’t home to tell me I smell bad so I’ll just leave it be for a while longer. The more pressing reason I should shower, actually, is that I got a bit scraped up on the ride (pictured) and if I took my health and hygiene more seriously (it’s a constant W.I.P.) I’d have cleaned it out hours ago.

Speaking of riding and sunshine, here’s a quick note or two I took after my ride yesterday morning. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, gratitude lists are most important when they’re hardest to write:


I write one every morning and have been meaning to write some longer thoughts about gratitude lists and related practices that have improved my life. tl;dr I’m extremely cynical about many of the advertised self-help practices floating around these days, but gratitude lists have been a game-changer. Stay tuned for more thoughts on the topic; for now, I’m off to try out a new recipe for pesto pizza.