WE DID IT!! FUNDRAISER GOAL REACHED!!

photo-1439556838232-994e4c0d3b7c

You are all amazing people!!  As of today, we have gone BEYOND the goal to raise $900 for Zara Aina.  And the best part?  There’s still a whole week to see how far we can get.  I am so blown away by this experience, I had no expectations of reaching the total, especially before the end of the 30 days.  You have all given such a beautiful gift to me and this organization.  Go team.

THANK YOU ROBYN AND ALEX!!!

The amazing couple that put us over the fundraiser’s edge were my cousins, Robyn and Alex.  These are some of the most generous people you will ever meet.  When I was getting to know Ben, the welcoming energy of the family was overwhelming, and came full force from these two lovely people.  I couldn’t be more grateful to call them family.

14567430_10154654845441340_5245890669063108510_o

Day 13: Thirty Lessons Learned Between 20 and 30

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post. 

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Thirty Lessons Learned Between 20 and 30

  1. How to haggle with a NYC hot dog vendor
  2. How to stand on the right side of the subway platform so you get off on the right side of your stop
  3. Always tip extra
  4. Always double-read a lease before signing it, and for heaven’s sake, keep a copy
  5. There is no way to decide on all your life goals at 21
  6. Gratitude is not the sole answer to anxiety, but it is a gentle start
  7. The third drink is the window between two drinks and six drinks
  8. A lot of famous people are regular, nice human beings
  9. And on that note…there is no magical separation between the Broadway/Hollywood world and the rest of us
  10. I don’t need to try and monetize all my skills/hobbies
  11. A stalled train is not actually the end of the world
  12. Always carry chocolate
  13. Your body is capable of way more that you give it credit for
  14. We have the option to eat a lot of crap or eat food that fuels our body
  15. Sometimes you need to spend a little money to get over your fear of being broke
  16. At times, it’s better to go to bed instead of saying what’s your mind, other times it isn’t, the trick is knowing the difference
  17. Days of rest lead to days of productivity, and you never get a badge of honor for claiming otherwise
  18. You have no control over your audience’s reaction, only over your level of preparation and honesty
  19. Time heals all wounds, if we give ourselves the space and forgiveness to allow it to pass
  20. Nothing good every comes from being snippy to a waiter–or any business you interact with
  21. Living a life without barriers from pursuing your art or passion is the greatest privilege, and one worth fighting for, even if it’s never attained
  22. Go for a walk
  23. The more money involved, the more you need to fight for the project’s genuine, original purpose
  24. Telling someone to “choose happiness” is a lack of awareness of your privilege of stable mental health
  25. You have no reason to feel guilty for taking care of yourself
  26. Hard work does pay off, but it is not rewarded evenly
  27. An arts career is a long-distanced run, not a sprint
  28. How to educate myself during a mind-numbing, dead-end job
  29. Kindness is always the answer, is any situation you can imagine, no matter how many people label you as weak for believing so
  30. Nobody owes you shit

Continue reading

How Diane Lane Narrating My Life Became This Blog

Little Thoughts on Finding Your Writing Voice

I’ve been in career mode recently.  I love when my brain lets me go there.  I have these occasional waves of motivation, usually timed with the changing of the seasons.  Fall is a big one for me.  I want to fill my house with pumpkin smells, wrap up in a blanket, and make large claims about writing a novel.  I even recently took an awesome rocking chair from someone’s curb on bulk garbage day and arranged this handy-dandy writing nook.  For the time being, it’s really helping–yet I have absolutely accepted that it may turn into a cat cuddle space/storage area.

IMG_3174

I’ve had several people ask me about how I decided to begin blogging and how I grew this voice over the years.  So here is my personal experience, with advice that may be up your alley as well.

The other night, I was sitting in my new rocker and started to pick through a section of our book shelf that just holds our endless collection of diaries and journals from over the years.  If there’s one action that proves how much my husband and I trust each other, it’s by openly leaving out approximately ten years of feelings on a bookcase in the middle of the apartment.

Anyway, I found my Camino notebook–the oneI used during my first hike across Spain.  The back of it is filled with panicked budgeting and addresses for everyone on my postcard list.  Though I’ve been a diary writer for as long as I can remember, this notebook was the most similar to my future blog.  But making the leap to online writing primarily developed when I was left alone with  my thoughts while walking for approximately eight hours a day in a desert/mountain/middle-of-nowhere Spanish village.  You have a lot of time to think, talk, sing, write songs, rhyme silly words with one another, zone out, count flowers, and sometimes even try to translate as much of The Wizard of Oz lyrics into Spanish.  You get the idea, you have a lot of time.

Well, amidst all this, my journal writing began to reflect the persistent narrator inside my head.  My fellow hikers would occasionally check in to see who my current mental voice sounded like this week (I have tons of respect to everyone for not thinking I was totally losing my mind).  Some days, it was Diane Lane from Under the Tuscan Sun.  In case you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about:

under-the-tuscan-sun-hero

Under The Tuscan Sun Clip

Other days it was Forrest Gump.

 

I didn’t think anything of this, I’ve had narrator in my head since I was little.  Too many movies with a dramatic, James Horner-backed narrative during my childhood I guess.  But I learned throughout the hike that this is how I compartmentalize my experiences and how I process important moments of my life.

Slowly but surely, these voices were reflected in my journal writing.  Brain to paper was a huge step, and not an immediate one.  Now, I have never been a diary writer that reports the day’s activities.  I don’t like to report what happened–I already know what happened.  I mainly like to get all the angsty thoughts on paper before I spew them at someone else–it’s a moment of mental detox.  But as my mind’s observant voice developed, the more it began making its jump to the page.  My writing began to balance out between ranting and experience–and hence, the blog voice was born.

Blog Post Structure

The leap between my journal and blog writing came when I began to latch onto really nice ideas that my mental voice chose to say during that given week.  If I had a particularly poignant moment–whether big or small–I learned to bookmark the wording that came to mind and write it down for later.  If it really strikes me, then I see if there are larger themes going on in my life that could be related.  This post is a good example.  Often in life, images and feelings tend to repeat themselves within a short period of time.  It’s like when you keep spotting the same word over and over and realize it’s a super-weird coincidence. This happens with fluffy feelings and motivational blog posts as well.

The more experience I had with morphing a moment into a story/lesson, the more aware of these moments I became.  I could even drag them up from the past.  The issue I still struggle with is how to create ideas when you need to write, especially when you haven’t have a light bulb moment in several months and your blog is getting dusty.

Writing for an Audience

In my early days, I wasn’t that concerned with audience.  I just wanted to write something and post it without passing out from fear.  If one person read it, that was enough for me.  In the beginning, I was very lucky to see this new venture as a side-project just for me–not for money or attention.  Creatively, this is how I really managed to grow as a writer.

As the years went on, and this became more my jam, audience became way more important.  I can break up my current writing voices into several categories:

Personal Blog:

I do whatever the hell I please.  This began as a public way to develop my writing, so whether my post is 400 words or 1500 words, it doesn’t matter.  It will be nice for some people, and not great for others.

Outside blogs:

Get to the point while keeping your voice intact.  My biggest jump from online journal writing was keeping everything within a word limit while still telling a story with soul and personality.  But this is the skill worth developing.  Too long a story and your reader is lost.  Too succinct and you’re writing a book report.  When a story strikes you as important, how do you put someone in your shoes without banging the story over their heads?

Essay writing: 

This is my new jam. I picked up Creative Nonfiction’s book about three years ago, and it opened my eyes to this genre.  Apparently first-person memoir essays are a thing that you can write for money!  And people want to read them!  And they’re so much longer and more poetic than blog posts.  So when writing these, and I’ve only submitted to a few contests so far, I let all pistons fire at once.  I get lofty, I write on and on, I make comparisons to birds and trees and rainstorms.  The privacy of it–the chance that it might be published on paper opposed to the internet–for some reason allows me the freedom to tell darker secrets and elaborate where blog platforms often fall short.

Ways to keep growing:

After I while, I recognized I was falling into the same traps.  I wrote (and still often write) on the same subjects and tend to come to the same conclusions about art and careers and such.  What was missing was a teacher.  And so I began to obsessively read.  My final bit of advice is to seek out which authors spark your urge to write.  Their form of narrative should have such a strong power over you that you put down the book and race off to your notebook or laptop.  For me, these ladies are Nora Ephron, Anne Lamott, and one of the first narrative writers who inspired me, Dominique Browning.

Just get started:

For those of you who have approached me in the past several years about starting a blog, I will generally tell you this (but am clearly happy to elaborate): find a platform that’s free and easy to use–I highly recommend WordPress.com–and write as if you have nothing to gain or lose from hitting the publish button.  What inspires you will inspire someone else.  What bores you will bore others.  Start with your own needs and the people who you connect with will find you.  Then share, share away on Facebook and Twitter!  That’s how I get 90% of my traffic.  The other 10% or so is from exploring the wonderful WordPress community and reading other’s blogs on topics I enjoy.

Your voice will only continue to develop with time, as I hope mine does as well.  You will never–at any point in your career–be able to predict how an audience will respond to a post you love.  So you might as well write it if it makes you happy.  When in doubt, go on a hunt for a voice similar to your own and let them lead the way.

 

 

To Reach Others, You Must Reach Out

Almost a year after reaching my 100 follower goal, I just got the notification that I hit 200!  Neato, team!  I love to think that a community has gathered over the past five years to share in my mental wanderings through the ups and downs of pursuing this wacky career.

image1-3

Blogging has taught me something way more valuable over the years though.  I meet many actors and writers alike, including myself, who say that they want to pursue this career to affect people–to challenge their thinking, to touch them emotionally, to support them through a life change.  When I was 13, I was in a show at The Growing Stage, an incredible theatre for young audiences in North Jersey.  The show was about an orphan searching for a place to feel at home without a family.  It was one of the most beautifully written shows I’ve ever been a part of.  After one of the performances, an older woman approached me, probably in her 80s, and said that she grew up as an orphan in a similar time and part of the country and really appreciated the show and how it made her feel less alone.  This has never left me, and I use it as an example of why I stay in theatre each time I get disheartened.

Continue reading

Two parks, three trees, and a mighty fine popsicle

As I get older, I am constantly reminded that a day can take unexpected turns when you let it.  I began today with an overly structured plan to make it past the morning surprise that I awoke feeling like had spent the night rolling down a rocky, jaggedy hill–a reminder that either my mysterious illness still lingered or that I had quite an adventure while sleepwalking last night.  Either way, I rolled out of bed and committed to my plan to work diligently at my office until I couldn’t see straight anymore–something that’s been kicking in around 2pm each day–and then head home to try and rejuvenate myself for my acting class tonight.

Yet alas, as I approached the school this morning, a large jackhammer-type-creature was ripping off the facade of our school’s porch directly outside the hallway of my office.  Within one hour, we were all told to go work from home due to the noise and dust.  And so, my wacky, unexpected day of reflection was kicked into motion.

Tree #1

IMG_3128

Have you ever tried to sit in public and simply do nothing?  It’s surprisingly bizarre. My final task of the morning was to drop off a catering order at a nearby restaurant, which happens to be positioned next to one of the most delightful little parks in Montclair.  Motivated by my recently fuzzy brain-fog, I zombie-walked into the park paths and plopped myself down on a bench to stare of into the distance of the Tuesday morning.  Since this is a pretty froofy suburb, there were a surprising amount of people out and about–all of which either on their phones, jogging with headphones, or pushing a baby stroller of some sort.  Then along comes Ginny, throwing off the whole social construct of how to act in public.  I didn’t have a book to read, didn’t play with my phone (since the recent political sludge of Facebook has only been adding to my tension), and didn’t really have anything to do other than wonder in the beautiful sunny summer morning that I hadn’t expected to be a part of.  Well, the wild thing is that people are uncomfortable with this unless you’re a little old man.  Perhaps it’s my tragic resting face or the fact that I always look a little bit lost, but not a single person passed without looking at me as if something had just gone terribly wrong. All I was doing was sitting on a bench, staring into nowhere, and suddenly the world wonders why I am outside without a purpose, without a goal, without an activity.  If someone had asked, I would have just said, “I didn’t think I’d get to sit outside today.”  It reminded me a bit of all the people chasing Forrest Gump when he starts his cross-country trek:

Newsman: Sir, why are you running?

2nd Reporter: Are you doing this for world peace?

3rd Reporter: Are you doing this for women’s right?

Newsman: Or for the environment?

Reporter: Or for animals?

3rd Reporter: Or for nuclear arms?

Forrest: (voice-over) They just couldn’t believe that somebody would do all that running for no particular reason.

2nd Reporter: Why are you doing this?

Forrest: I just felt like running.

fg

I find people are confused by actions taken without outright gains or outcomes.

Anyway, I wandered home, still hobbling, and tried to keep my mind fixated on work for several more hours, all the while balancing the endless list of tasks outside of work I had on my list this week.  As you can expect, I horribly failed at this attempt as my eyes started to glaze over and I felt the all-too-familiar urge to climb into bed and try, yet again, to feel better.

Around 2pm, something struck me.  A breaking point came in my frustration, and I put on some pants, got in my car and headed back to a park–a different one this time–to try and regain that perfect moment of equilibrium I had seen poking through the clouds earlier today.  Because while sitting on that park bench, doing nothing, I felt like myself for the first time in perhaps a two months.  So gosh darnit, I was going to go find that again.

Tree #2

IMG_3129

When I reached Edgemont Park, three books and a journal in tow, I located what appeared to be some sort of fig tree and laid down beneath it–as far away from anyone else in the park as possible.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this weird illness–which is looking more and more like Fibromyalgia every day–it’s that I am becoming even more of an introvert than I was before.  Every sense is heightened.  Sounds are amplified to the point where I can’t decipher two people talking at once, bugs landing on me don’t stand a chance, and I can smell food cooking across the neighborhood.  As you can imagine, I am also overly affected by crowds–especially the loud, smelly, noodgy ones of NYC.

So here we are, ditching my work email and laying on the ground in the middle of New Jersey.  How did I get here?

I closed my eyes and felt the back pain of the morning sink into the supportive ground beneath me as the wind blew through the fig tree, making the thick, bowl-shaped leaves clap together like an encouraging audience.  I open my Anne Lamott book, a woman who has become a member of my imaginary lady-writer friends, whose voice I only dream of mirroring, to a chapter about forgiveness.  After an hour or so of absorbing the healing voice of lady-wisdom, I sit up and peer out into the uneven nature of the park, reminding myself that my original goal of this life was not to spend time in a career that would keep me from the beauty of the day.

This is my idea of freedom.  My freedom is not about saving up enough money to go to Key West once a year and try to turn off the part of my mind that curses Mondays and deprives itself from Vitamin D behind a tower of files and perpetually refilling inboxes.  It’s about living a life of creation, within the world that inspires me to create.  I may never go fancy places or purchase a fancy home, or hell, even retire with the well-balanced portfolio of a retirement fund, but at least I would have fought for the freedom to live in a way that reminds me that the sun rises each day and that there are so many possibilities for change.

In need of movement, I pried myself from my grassy knoll and made the executive decision to call out of class this evening.  My bones still don’t feel like they’re properly connected to one another, and I don’t need to throw myself into the fiery social hell of NYC just as I’m starting to improve.

In my lofty, “the world is my oyster” trance, I wander toward an ice cream truck playing “It’s a Small World After All” to get a popsicle.  Because I’m an adult, and I can buy a damn popsicle from an ice cream truck.  On my walk there, I begin to feel better again.  The words of Ann Lamott float through my head about self-forgiveness, and the blog wheels begin to turn.  When I reach the truck, I buy a phenomenal chocolate-caramel-double-layer thingy, basically made of sheer magic, and exclaim that I have exactly $4 in cash to buy it.  At this, the delightful Glinda-esque ice cream lady answers, “Even if you didn’t have the money, you could always take what you need and pay me another time.”  Did the ice cream truck just offer me the option to open a tab?  Yes it did. Some people are just great.  I then headed out into the sunny afternoon to eat at least the 5th-best ice cream of my life.

IMG_3131

Tree #3

I find a new sunny spot, feeling rejuvenated by my sudden decision to scrap all the plans of the day, and lay down under another tree. With my book in mind, I start thinking about my least favorite question when I was a child actor: “Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?”  This is what most theaters asked kids to make them relax and show their personalities to the audition panel.  Well, being the pessimistic Wednesday Adams that I was, I saw this question as an unfair way to brand myself, to essentially provide the adults with an elevator pitch about how much of a quirky, put-together kid I was.  It was a way to quickly label yourself.  In adult life, we call this small talk.  I hate it just as much.

My recent exhaustion, which I have no doubt contributed to this weird illness, had been partially brought on from many years of desperately trying to fit into many different comfortable artistic, and non-artistic boxes.  Since college, all I’ve wanted is to exclaim “I am an actor,” “I am a writer,” “I am something that people respond to and understand and respect.” And yet, here I am at 29, still completely unable to answer, “Tell us a little about yourself.”  Because I may never be able to fit into a comfy box, I may never be able to explain which career path I am banging my head against a wall to achieve, and I may never be able to say that I know where I want to be in five years.  As I left the park and headed for home, the heavy exhaustion of carrying around this misunderstood responsibility became an obvious contributor to my problems.

Many very caring people have offered practical and lovely advice to help me feel better.  Most of them, if not all, involve suggesting that I take a vacation.  To all of them, I say this: I don’t need a vacation.  I don’t need a temporary escape from a lifestyle that we are told to maintain until we’re 65, when we are finally allowed to get on with the living part.  I need a new way to see the world, and a new view of what I want to do while I’m on it.  And it may not fit into a career category, and it may not be able to explain at auditions or a Christmas party.

That’s all.  If you find me sitting on a bench staring off into space on a summer day, I’m totally fine.  I’m just figuring out what to do next.

Confidence vs. Context: An Artist’s Dilemma

Creative Commons by Josefa Holland-Merten

Creative Commons by Josefa Holland-Merten

When I was little, and acting came more easily to me, I was constantly told to make sure it “didn’t go to my head.”  Because I was an anxious child, I immediately tucked this idea up on the shelf with the other “Things to be Super Terrified Of,” and decided that being conceited was one of the worst fates of the artist.  To go a step further, I started to wonder: why are people mentioning it so much?  Has it already happened?

It wasn’t until my teens that I realized I was actually afraid of confidence itself.  My dad, always my strongest supporter, would step in for me when asked what show I was working on–not because he was overbearing, but because I would shut down when someone gave me an open door to celebrate my work.  I started to realize that my fear of big-headedness had ruined my ability to believe in what I was doing.  These fears were confirmed when a bitter acting teacher  in high school announced in front of my class that I “thought I was better than everyone else because of my ‘big, fancy’ professional credits.”  So I shut  my mouth and that was that.

Fast forward fifteen years, and it’s very clear I am not remotely alone in this feeling.

Continue reading

Avoiding Negativity in the Groundhog Season

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

A few mornings ago, I woke up to an article on Elephant Journal about what is know as the Buddhist Dön season (vowel pronounced like “could”).  In a nutshell, the ten days leading up to the Tibetan New Year (this year on February 9th) are believed to enhance our awareness of daily obstacles and provoke frustration with our current situation.  Whether you believe in this type of thing or not, it’s hard to ignore the how many people feel during this part of the winter — sick of the cold, overwhelmed with cabin fever, and angry at Punxsutawney Phil.  Even with the unseasonably warm temperatures this week, I can feel my body and mind going into that slump that I always battle around this time.  Not enough vitamin D, dry skin, angry immune system, and vehement annoyance toward slushy puddles.  But underneath all this annoyance, is the possibility of a plan for the much lovelier months ahead.

Since we are about to hear from Phil tomorrow, and the Dön season conveniently overlaps with February 2nd, I will call this Groundhog Season for my own purposes of this blog post.  I’ve had a lot of extreme highs and very low lows over the past several weeks.  I started this Whole Life Challenge, I was cast in a show, and have begun auditioning again.  On a good day, I feel energized by my sugar detox, over the moon about finally being cast again (especially in a company I have such  a wonderful history), and can jump on each new audition and writing project with energy and impermanence.  And by impermanence, I mean I don’t beat myself up when nothing comes from the audition or a blog post flops.  On a not-so-good day, I get resentful toward salads with olive oil, am judgmental about artistic choices, and feel that I am falling farther and farther behind my artistic colleagues that don’t work 9-5s.

The latter description has been winning the battle the past several days, and strangely enough, finding out that this is a commonly recognized time of difficulty in the Buddhist calendar, made me feel a lot better.  No matter what you believe, there’s a reason why traditions like this come about.  And chances are, if you feel lousy at the same time every year, then you’re probably not alone.  The trick is accepting that the next few weeks will be bumpy, and extra attention is required to keep yourself from losing your cool (or in my case, eating all of the almond croissants.  That’s all I want.  Just one damn almond croissant).

Removable Obstacles

The first step for me, which I will start to take on this week, is removing the things in my life that invoke negativity.  I don’t think we should hide under our comforter and watch Chopped all week, as much as I would love to do that, or hide from anything that challenges us.  Hiding doesn’t work, I’ve tried.  But instead, recognizing what doesn’t serve us and removing it from our habits is a strong first step.  For me, this is Facebook.  On days, or weeks, when I’m feeling particularly aggravated with myself, digging through social media drives me up a wall.  I take all of my own achievements and place them below the announcements flooding my Facebook feed.  “Oh I’m in a show?  Well, that person just booked a national commercial and won a Tony.”  Really helpful, brain.  Also, not how I want to feel toward that friend.  So for me, detoxing from Facebook before I become a bitter secretary that talks about her glory days, is pretty imperative.

Replace Them with Ladders

Just removing something like Facebook doesn’t fix the problem for me.  I have to replace it with a new focus or I have no where to go when I zone out.  For some, this is puppy videos, which is totally cool.  For me, it has to be something relatively challenging or I start to slump farther into the “what am I doing with my life” pit of despair.  Every time I get the urge to wander through a news feed, I run to a podcast or website that is not related to other people’s rants, announcements, or motivational posters.  Telling me that I have to “jump into the deep end to reach my goals” or “build a rocket to reach the stars,” or whatever else, doesn’t actually help me in this moment.  It’s a nice thought with no practical instructions.  If the posters said, “Get up from your desk and go for a walk, you’ll feel better,” I’d be more into these types of things.  Either way, there’s nothing wrong with changing up your daily input.  It doesn’t make you weaker or less connected with your friends, but rather reminds you that there are a few negative sources can be controlled like a faucet, especially when many cannot.

Call out the problem

The most helpful part of the Dön season, is approaching this frustrating time of year with a Buddhist mindset.  Because of the weather, it is the hardest time of year for me to do this.  I recharge by going outside, and without this option, I start to close in on myself.  But Buddhism has never been a fan of hiding away or suppressing issues — it’s all about calling them out and even inviting them over for tea.  In the Shambala Times, a lovely Buddhist online magazine, a Dön is described as “anything that distract[s] us from engaging with the present moment in the most clear, precise, and authentic manner possible.”  I know that when I get distracted by resentment or jealousy, I waste countless hours wondering where I went wrong with my acting career, what else I “should” be doing, and why everyone else clearly has some magical answer.  Since I am tired of looking back on that wasted time, I’m trying a new approach cut out all this wallowing.

Here’s my new idea, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

  1. Make a list what is bothering you.  From big things like “I am always frustrated about money” to “My toe hurts.”
  2. Write possibilities (obvious ones), about what is causing them, such as, “You have more debt than income” to “I keep stubbing my toe”
  3. Brainstorm ideas of what would fix the problem, without yet considering if it is immediately possible or not.  For expample, “Get an extra job, build a budget, talk to a financial advisor, cut up your credit cards,” or “Move the table you keep stubbing your toe on”
  4. Here’s the fun whiney part.  Write out all the excuses (legitimate or not) why none of your solutions will work. “I have no time left in my week, I don’t know how to build a budget, financial advisors intimidate me/cost more money, I occasionally need my cards for emergencies,” or…you may find there are no excuses, and all you need to do is move the damn table.
  5. Look through your list and figure out which excuses are completely inflexible and which ones have even the slightest gleam of hope.  Anytime you see “I don’t know how,” start small, and list out possible places or people you can seek out help from.  Break it down to the very very early stages of change.  For example, you could google financial blogs about debt, look through your bank’s website for debt consolidation options, or even open an excel spreadsheet for 10 minutes a day in an attempt to build your own budgeting system that works for you.  If you found an answer in #3, then your flow chart has come to an end!
  6. And lastly, perhaps most importantly, document your progress and its purpose.  For example, I sought my current job out last year in order to eventually help my artistic career. In the long run, I will be in a much healthier financial and psychological place to return to the life of a full-time actor when the time comes.  But on days like today, in the midst of the Groundhog Season, it can be hard to remember that.  Each small step is a large part of a long hike (hey look, I made a poster quote!), but it’s important to remember the hike itself and how you are making progress.   The credit card payment, that unsuccessful audition, and even that short walk around the block, is all important.

Wow, this has turned into an epically long post, and I’m pretty thrilled that it’s given me some direction this morning.  Whether the unrest I’ve been feeling is a part of a larger cosmic season or just pure annoyance with the cold, I hope (as always) that a positive spin can be placed on this first day of a new winter month.  If you have any advice on how you tackle particularly negative moods and stages, please let me know below!  I always love to hear from you.

 

Thanks for reading and have a lovely week:)

Diet Chronicles: Day 4. The Sarcasm Phase

Creative Commons via Haystaak Photography

Creative Commons via Haystaak Photography

If you haven’t had a chance to check out why I’m taking on this crazy food challenge, check out my most recent post here.

Healthy Lying

I have something to admit.  While all your very sweet support was pouring in two days ago, I was sitting in a friend’s house eating a homemade brownie covered in mascarpone whipped cream.  Because when your friend makes homemade brownies covered in mascarpone cheese, you take it.  Especially when there’s wine…and it’s snowing outside…and your football team is losing.  But I let go of the shame with the support of my other friends on the diet and we accepted that diets are not made to make you miserable.

Other than a little cheating last night, I am back in sugar detox-land.  It’s like I restarted the clock.  The exhaustion hasn’t turned up yet, but I feel like a bit of sarcastic shell of a human being.  Physically I feel fantastic,  I can stand up after eating without saying, “Uuuggh”….which probably should have been a red flag to begin with. But all in all, I eat a meal and that’s just that.  I don’t want to take a nap afterwards or sprint to our coffee maker in desperation.

Continue reading

Maybe There Will Be…Green Beans? Diet Chronicles: Day 2

Creative Commons by Sonja Langford

Creative Commons by Sonja Langford

 

Hey team.  I’m in day two of sugar detoxing.  Things are a bit better than last night. I no longer feel like my stomach is trying to eat its other organ buddies and I don’t want to kick the cats as much.  I also went food shopping for some great options and don’t have to make it through the day on carrots and apples.  Let me back up a bit…

Why the heck am I dieting?

I have always been a little judgmental toward diet-fads, mainly because everyone’s body chemistry is so unique that lumping yourself into a specific food detox doesn’t seem healthy to me.  However, The Whole Life Challenge (and no, they aren’t paying me) is an 8- week challenge/game that several of my friends in the area have been playing on and off for the past year. You sign up, choose a “level” that is right for you, and tally your score each day.  This one appealed to me for several reasons:

  1. It’s well-rounded: In addition to diet, you are also encouraged to record your sleep, water intake, lifestyle habits (such as journaling) and exercise.
  2. There’s no body-shaming.  As well-intentioned as many of the programs out there may be, I can’t get behind a diet change that is motivated by fitting into a socially-imposed body standard.  I’d rather diet to fight the Man, opposed to looking “good” for one.
  3. It’s community-focused: Part of the app is about checking in with your fellow teammates each night.  Would I continue along the path without someone keeping track?  Maybe?  Or I may fall into a corner of the house with a container of peppermint patties and a handle of whiskey by week two.  Didn’t want to take my chances.
  4. And above all: it makes me give up all added sugar.  Judging by the fact that I have a blog titled after the emotional dependency on baked goods, I knew this would be hard for me.  I have always managed to remain relatively slim, but you wouldn’t know it from my diet and exercise habits.  It wasn’t until I started reading about the new research on belly-fat and sugar’s effects on the body that I started to reconsider my dependancy.  So above all, this isn’t about telling other people to change their ways, and no diets should be, but more about testing if I can actually give up something that I’m clearly addicted to in order to change my life-long health.

Sugar Detox…a little bit like the flu

They weren’t kidding friends.  Sugar detox is no joke.  I tried to ease into the sacrifice by slowly cutting it out last week but I usually gave in when it came to all the gluten-related products that I would eventually have to give up on the 16th.  This diet cuts out (among other things) added sugar, dairy, gluten, white potatoes, white rice, and all but one alcoholic drink a week.  A friend of mine on our team purchased a Das Boot for his one drink a week, which is amazing.

Anyway, the first thing I’ve discovered about processed sugar is that it’s in everything.  More specifically, everything I love.  So although yesterday was a struggle, since I didn’t prepare, shopping today was pretty awesome.  Here’s are some pros and cons so far of my sugar break up:

Pros:

  1. My grocery bill was less.  I didn’t grab the cookies I’m emotionally dependent on or the bags and bags and pasta I default to each evening I don’t feel like cooking a complicated dinner.  Also, no bread or cereal!
  2. I made a killer omelette.  I’ve been discovering combinations of food I would have normally covered up with mad amounts of cheese.  Oh yeah, this diet cuts out cheese.
  3. Since I partially started the sugar detox last week, I’m beginning to feel the benefits I’ve read about, such as craving healthy foods.  Also, things are starting to generally taste better- without covering them in syrup.
  4. I’m saving money all around.  No drinking means that I sit at the bar and have an iced tea.  I just assume bartenders around here think I’m pregnant.

Cons:

  1. I’m exhausted half the time.  I’m told this will pass in two days.  But sometimes people say things to me and it takes a few more seconds to process anything has been said.  So obviously, I’m super cool to be around.
  2. I kinda want to punch a wall.  I asked my husband yesterday if he ever just felt “dusty.”  He thought I was a little nuts. Generally, I feel antsy and uncomfortable.
  3. I’m always a little hungry.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have basically been eating non-stop since I started this.  I can’t seem to stop, and again, apparently this is normal.  Sugar activates your brain’s reward system, assuring you that everything is okay.  So as each meal goes by without this sweetness to fill the void, my brain things something is wrong.  Great.
  4. Last night, the nausea was no joke.  I’ve read that sugar withdrawal is comparable to some drug withdrawal, though I can assume I’m doing better than that, seeing that I can generally go about my day (even if I want to punch something).  But around 8pm I thought I was actually sick.  I finally calmed it down by eating several beets.  Just beets, like a crazy person.

At the end of the day, I’ve always been a huge supporter of listening to your body.  But if my body is telling me to fall back on chemically engineered foods that are sending me into an unhealthy spiral, then I think it’s a good day to tell my body that it needs to see other people (or in this case, food).

Will keep you posted on my occasionally discoveries or inevitable demise into eating Ben and Jerry’s on the floor of our local CVS.  Either way, it helps me to write and hold myself accountable during this crazy project.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

The Things I Couldn’t Budget for in 2015

sparkler

2015 was a year of movement.  Though bittersweet, Ben and I waved our life in Jersey City goodbye and moved out to the little haven of Montclair.  As we pulled into town with the first car load of stuff, I jokingly said, “Hey, thanks for moving to the suburbs with me!”  I could feel his mini-heart attack from across the car.  Nine-to-fives, 401k’s, me in an apron making pot roasts while searching to find the perfect Yankee Candle scent.  But most terrifyingly- no time for theatre, only time for domesticity!  I assured him this was not our future, or my intention for suggesting we move out here.

But to be fair, moving was meant to cause a huge shift, and we knew that.  For the past five years, I have done loops — financial, emotional and career-oriented loops.  At the end of last year, I looked back on my five years in the city, and though I had significantly grown as a person, I didn’t have a savings or a resume to show for it.  I hit 28 and my family holiday conversations were still going like this:

Relative: So where are you working now?

Me: Oh at the Girl Scouts, just a temp job again.

Relative:  Neat!  What do you do there?

Me: Just clerical stuff, nothing super exciting.  It’s really just so I can afford to audition.

Relative:  Great, that make sense.  So what have been auditioning for?

Me:….Not much actually.  I don’t really have the time with a full-time job or the money to take a morning off.

Relative:  Well you must really love it.

Did I though?  That’s what I started to ask myself everyday.  Why was I chasing after an art form that made me so miserable?  Don’t get me wrong, the second I got up on stage (whether it was in an actual production or 50 seconds in an audition room at Ripley Grier) I was the happiest of people.  But all the moments in between were starting to outweigh the highs of actually performing.  I was barely able to see my family around the holidays because of much-needed temp work, we could only afford the minimums on our credit cards (if we wanted to buy enough groceries), and the thought of ever buying a home or having kids was laughable.

Continue reading