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

Advertisements

How I Turned My Mornings Around

mornings

Up until last December, my mornings were pretty predictable. My alarm went off 45 minutes before I left for work, I hit the snooze button twice, jolted awake, and then stared horrified at the clock before sprinting to the shower.  Next, I struggled for the remaining 15 minutes or so to find an outfit that wasn’t either in the laundry, wrinkled, or under a sleeping cat, and rushed out the door without breakfast.

Then last January, when my husband left for his bi-annual grad school retreat up in New Hampshire, I kept waking up early by accident.  It was a weird change for me, the house being so quiet.  So I woke in the still-dark morning (at this time during the polar vortex) feeling weird and scattered.  I’ve learned in the past that rituals and schedules help me escape any impending bad mood funks, so I did just that, thinking that it would only help me through the two weeks with him away.

My new morning

1. Wake up a half hour earlier

Since I couldn’t seem to sleep past 6am those mornings, I would find myself putzing around the house waiting for the sun to rise.  And though I would have originally thought the extra half hour of lost sleep would leave me sluggish all day, it really didn’t.  Without the worry of launching out of bed for the morning race, I allowed myself to slowly roll around and eventually get up on my own schedule. I also had time to eat breakfast and make coffee, something that seemed like a luxury in the past.

Continue reading

September Goals and a Note on Surprising Yourself

394140_595504392459_1154736267_n

As we say goodbye to the last mile marker of summer, there is a lot to look forward to as things start to cool down an the world fills with pie and pumpkin flavored everything.  I’ve found that without the start of a school year, it’s important for me to set goals, or even New Years Eve-esque resolutions for September.  I no longer get to buy new pencil cases or extra long dorm sheets, but instead, things just kind of keep trucking along the way they were.  Except summer Fridays go away.  Grand.  So the impetus to start fresh at the beginning academic year is still very present, and I think it’s important to follow your natural urge to get moving again.

August Surprises

At the beginning of the summer, I loosely set a goal to “get published by the end of the summer.”  I wasn’t really sure what that meant at the time, so it was definitely at risk of never happening.  After reading the book Creative Nonfiction, and thus finally finding a name to my favorite genre of writing, I zeroed in on where to submit my writing.  And then during a particularly confident week in July, I just started Googling to my heart’s content and submitting my blog posts to any site that lined up with my writing vibe.  The whole experience went so much farther than I ever expected, not only reaching my goal, but finally providing some insight into what I’d like to do with my writing in the next year.

One step becomes another

Camino de Santiago

Six years ago marks the anniversary of packing up and leaving to hike in Spain, a crazy venture I also did not expect to shift the path of my life.  Though I could go on and on about the things I learned on this trip, one of the biggest points that sticks with me is you will be amazed at what you are capable of.  And I don’t mean this in a crochet-it-on-a-pillow kind of way.  Seriously, think about all the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race trends- people are finally being reminded that they are capable of doing more than sitting in chairs and following instructions.  So whether it’s physical or intellectual, starting off on a new project with a solid tangible goal very often comes along with a heck of a lot more.  Several years ago, I took a career workshop through the SAG Foundation a few things that stuck with me over the years:

  1. Choose one or two measurable goals within a practical time period.  For example- if you are working on building your website, by the end of the month set the goal to contact 5 people for advice, and create a layout for at least 2 people to look at.  There are numbers to the tasks, and therefore you can clearly mark if they’ve been completed.  If you just say, “I would love to be paid for my writing by the end of the month,” you are choosing something out of your control.  Yes you can submit to a certain amount of places, but the success is not up to you.  So don’t do that.
  2. Create a schedule.  All you need are tiny steps.  If there is one small thing you can do a day, or say 5 a week (in case things get super busy) then the project doesn’t pile up and stare at you like a research paper you left until the night before it’s due.
  3. Find an accountability buddy.  I found one!  My lovely friend Kathleen and I are going to join up for coffee and keep each other on track!  Finding someone to check in with you will keep you from falling into the pit of “Maybe this was a lousy idea.”  It wasn’t a bad idea, keep doing it.
  4. Reward Yourself!  If you reach your goal, take yourself out for ice cream!  Or I dunno, but those pants you’ve been talking yourself out of buying.  You deserve it!  Also, it sets the idea up in your mind that following through is a gift to yourself.
  5. And my own addition: Write it down!  It’s very easy to forget why you wanted to focus on this one particular goal in the first place, especially when you start to talk yourself out of it.  At the start of the month, when you’re feeling particularly jazzed, write down an emotionally charged paragraph about why this is the most awesome thing ever.  Getting back into this mindset when you’re struggling will bring back the same urge that made it happen in the first place.

I’m actually not sure what my goal for the month is quite yet, but hoping to nail that down by the end of today.  Do you have any plans for September?  Lemme know!!

 

Celebrating Growth, Even When You’re Bad at Math

I’ve been thinking a lot about math lately.  I’m terrible at math, I always have been.  It was the only subject in school where I was happy if I even squeaked by.  But it took some growing up to understand that the concepts in math are much more relatable to life than I expected.

I’ve started to notice that each time I get into a rut about where I’m headed, it’s because I am looking at the “numbers” in my life instead of the rate of growth.  That’s a math thing, right?  Rate of Growth?  Growth Rate?  Charts?  Great, I took on another blog metaphor that I don’t understand, like that whole basil thing.  Well, here we go!

On those lousy mornings when I feel waves of despondency, it’s often because I am looking at the actual number in my bank account, or the number of shows I’ve done this year (or haven’t done), or the number of things I have fallen behind on.  I look to everyone else’s numbers and feel like a failure, or that I am starting to go in circles.  I think about when I first moved to NYC, confused and broke and start to think, “Aren’t I still confused and broke?”  And things get much worse when I suddenly think, “Will I always feel confused and broke?”

And then it hits me.  If I had the income I have now back in 2010, or wrote online as much as a I did, or had so many wonderful theatre people to collaborate with, I would have considered myself a success.  I would have felt like I suddenly hit the jackpot.  And yet in these low moments, I feel like I haven’t made progress at all.  So the bad self-talk takes over, which spirals me into a state that actually temporarily stops the amazing progress I was too blind to see I was making.

Sometimes it takes all getting in the same place to realize how far we've come. Go team go!

Sometimes it takes all getting in the same place to realize how far we’ve come. Go team go! Photo Credit: John Reardon

Recently I’ve been trying to measure growth over numbers, and here are some helpful things I came up with:

Continue reading

If the Whole World Took an Acting Class

As an actor, I have spent my fair share of time laying on the floor and barking at the ceiling.  Okay, I’m not barking, per se, I am sending my voice through the space from the top of my head.  I have sat on the backs of classmates and been sat on by teachers, all for the sake of a vocal exercise.  I have chased fellow classmates around the room, repeating what they say, and I have run up and down a flight of stairs until I felt the “sensation of doing a line of coke” to start a monologue.  In my children’s theatre days, I’ve played princesses, fairies, puppies, teachers, moms, horses, trees, and once a shrubbery that slowly transformed into Lady Gaga.

Blanka Zizka and I in her workshop at the Wilma in 2014. Photo credit: The Wilma Theatre

On the other hand, I’ve waited in eight hour lines, spent overnight film shoots on the floor of an abandoned Brooklyn middle school, eaten dollar pizza while literally running between two jobs with four bags while dressed as a “hipster type”, and lied to several bosses about dental emergencies because I got a spot at an EPA.

As we all have, I’ve done some strange things, and no, I wouldn’t trade that for security any day.  But two nights ago, when laying on the floor of my Alexander Technique class, my teacher used the phrase “Pelvic Ears.”  I lost it.  I lost it to myself, because I deeply respect my teacher and the group in my class, but for some reason, after many years of the strange things I’ve done, I lost it at “pelvic ears.”  In the context of the exercise, she made complete sense.  Yes, I did want to listen with my pelvic ears!  But seriously, it’s truly remarkable that this is a career path.  And I wish it on everyone that is missing out.

Group exercise before a performance in college

Last night on a particularly crowded train, I sat next to a friendly man who started up a conversation.  The regular chatter began: Where do you work? Where are you from?  Why are you on NJ Transit?  All that stuff.  He was in IT, and I am an actor.  Here is what I notice about genuinely interested non-theatre people:

-They often call their own profession boring in comparison to hearing you are an actor.  Dear sir, this is not true.  If you are good at what you do and you are happy, then you go for it.

-They ask if you’re on Broadway.  This is fair, I get it, why would I know the ins and outs of IT?  I don’t!  There’s no reason you would know there are shows outside of the commercial theatre world.

-But most importantly, they tend to bring up one theatre experience from their past, either from school or community theatre.  Their stories are always specific, personal, and vivid.  It’s as if you suddenly gave them the green light to say, “Yes!  I was upset that I didn’t get cast in Oklahoma in 1994!”  or, “I’ve always want to go back to it, but I’m not as brave as you are.”

Here is what I take away from these interactions:  theatre has an incredibly lasting emotional impact, and the business scares non-career performers away.  I think this is silly and needs to change.  I know there are corporate coaches that bring theatre exercises to executives, but in my tempting experience, it is not seen often, and many of the execs I’ve met look like I just threatened to sell their first born when I suggest they take an acting class.

Skills learned on the road.

What is unclear to those outside the business, is that acting classes make you better at being a human.  A human in public, a human alone, and a human who cares about their present.  Also, a human who knows their emotions are justified.

If I grabbed a selection of executives from one of the many offices I’ve temped in, and threw them into the acting business for a year, this is what they may learn (ups and downs included):

-How to find their feet, and support their body for a healthy life, perhaps correcting the computer slouch from 40 years at a desk.

-How to lay on the floor and make continuous sound, at whatever volume you like, without ever being judged or told to be quiet.

-How to trust a classmate, or essentially, a stranger, to respect your feelings and perhaps catch an imaginary ball.

-To find their true voice.  And experience an entire room of people listening with respect.

-How to be pretty fantastic at costume parties.

Mad Men New Years 2013

-How to think on their feet, and never be scared of the question “What are you doing?” ever again!

-How to ROCK at the “Questions” section of Kings.

-What it’s like to experience the difficulty of not making ridiculous faces during a photo shoot, and reveling in it when you do.

Photo credit: headshot  proof by Emily Lambert

Photo credit: Headshot proof by Emily Lambert

-To see what your body and mind is truly capable of.

-To become closer with a group of people than you ever thought you could be (after three weeks!), and to share your life story over drinks instead of bad-mouthing your coworkers.

Celebrating Opening Night at Speranza Theatre.

-How to support yourself emotionally after leaving a difficult audition, especially after hearing the dreaded words, “You’re free to go.”

-How to stretch $50 until next Friday, and become friends with your mailman, who smiles when he has your check.

-To memorize all the free places in NYC to use the bathroom, and how to kill two hours between gigs without spending a dime.

-To forgive yourself and know that not getting hired is beyond your control.

-To get up time after time, burnout after burnout, and realize you still have your feet, your voice, and even your pelvic ears.

If you are an artist reading this, let us make it our responsibility to share this incredible world that has become a normal part of our lives.  If you are not an actor, you’re always welcome.  The door is always open, and I think you’d be amazed at what you’ve been missing.

What do you think people outside the business could learn from a theatre class?  Are there other similar industries I should jump into as well?  Let me know!

An Unexpected Tale of Perseverance

The story of my morning has three characters: a spider, the Quick Chek Man, and me.

The Resilient Spider

For the past week, a brown and black spotted spider, about the side of a nickel, has taken residence in our driver side mirror.  When he isn’t building his web, he crawls inside the casing, angrily taking shelter from the wind of the car’s motion.   He first appeared last Tuesday when Ben and I came back up from vacation.  We came back up midweek to work a few days, and then returned on Wednesday.  When I left my house for work Tuesday morning, I opened the car door and felt familiar, “Oh crap there’s a spider web attached to me,” feeling and quickly smacked around my head to make sure its owner was not attached.  This time, it was.  Swinging toward me like an panic-stricken trapeze artist, the equally frightened spider came barreling toward me.  He was attached to my dress.  I did the only logical thing and screamed like a small child, to which my brave heroic husband came to the rescue and brushed him away.  The spider swung up to the car and begrudgingly took to his hiding spot.

It wasn’t until I got into the car that I saw the beautiful web attached to the car I had almost completely destroyed.  I didn’t have much of a choice, I had to drive my car, but I still felt bad.   To both our surprise, there he was the next morning, beautiful web right back where it was.  Well now I just felt like a jerk.  The spider saw me, retreated into his mirror, and I started the car.  The web was gone by the time I got to school.  Even after leaving for Cape May for four days and then returning, he is still at it, claiming our car for his home every morning.  I tried to snap a photo of him this morning, but only got his house.  As much as I don’t like spiders, I have respect for this little guy’s perseverance.

FullSizeRender-4

The Quick Chek Man

For the past two days, I have stood behind an older man in yellow at the Quick Chek by my school.  After noticing him the first time, I’ve started to see him every time I drive down the main road leading to the store.  Each morning on my way to work, and each afternoon on my way home, I see him, walking back and forth to Quick Chek.  He walks with the gait of a determined sleepwalker, and though his presence is intimidating, he has a kind face and is always polite to the cashier.  I worry about him in the heat.

In my family, we would say he’s “one of my dad’s.”  My father has worked with mentally disabled adults since we were kids and since using the phrase “mental disability” was hard for younger kids (and because the word “retarded” was NEVER accepted in my house, even before people realized it was a hurtful term), we always said “one of my dad’s.”  I’m not sure of Quik Check man’s situation, but I do see him three times a day, making his journey back and forth, even in the recent weather.

Me

I spent the morning feeling sorry for myself.  Sometimes I feel like it’s just when we think we have our feet on the ground, something slips through the cracks, and yet again, we’re scrambling.  Nothing major happened, and yes, we will be fine.  But because of what has to be a bank error, we woke up to an all too familiar frustration.

It’s hard to not feel like you’re starting from square one sometimes.  Like the days are going around and around and each day someone is ripping down the web you spent all yesterday building.  I dropped Ben off at the train and drove off feeling bad about our financial goof, bad about screwing over the spider, and just bad about anything I could find the excuse to feel bad about.

And then I saw Quik Check man.  He was on his morning trip, making his familiar journey to a place I’m assuming brings him comfort.  I started to feel bad for feeling bad, but because of my experience with this cyclical frustration in the past, I caught myself.

The spider, Quik Check man, AND I, have places to go and things that are important to us.  It’s frustrating to feel like you’re only going in circles, hoping that things change.  That throughout the day, you’ll get some magical email that says everything will be a little easier now.  But the important thing is that the three of us are all still showing up.  We got out bed and we are doing our thing.  We are trying.  Why does the constant rebuilding or the continuous journey back and fourth need to feel like a failure?  And if this frustrating morning helped me connect to a spider and a stranger, then I am thankful for that.

 

Keep doin’ your thing, everyone:)

 

Backwards Budgeting: For National Blog Posting Month!

In honor of NaBloPoMo (or National Blog Post Post Month) I took on Blogher’s challenge to write about something I feel I am an “expert” in.  To say I am an expert at budgeting is VERY far from the truth, but when it comes to somehow keeping our heads above water while freelancing, I have some experience.  So below I have included our tactics for “backwards budgeting!”  Woohoo!

Unless your a freelance psychic, this is for you

In a perfect world, freelancers would have consistent income like the full-timers out there.  For the majority of my time freelancing, I worked more hours than when I have a 9-5.  The hours in between actually creating my art are spent chasing after the next gig or organizing my finances so I can continue to maintain my career. Up until last Spring, my husband and I freelanced at the same time, making our hair stand on end every 1st of the month, because things never seemed to line up.  I recently took a full-time job outside my career to catch up for a bit, and it’s given me some insight into why so many non-freelancing friends of mine are able to do things like chip away at their debt- they have a predictable budget.

learnvest

After discovering the website Learnvest, an incredibly relatable financial site written for women, I started to grab hold of our finances and felt much less alone in our situation.  Apparently I am not the only one frustrated that most budgeting instructions begin with “Enter your income.”  But here’s the kicker – since freelance jobs often come in last minute, and the timing of paychecks vary from job to job, you often do not know your income on the 1st.  (This was one of the hardest things about figuring out the Affordable Care Act forms). But alas, this is a sacrifice that you happily make to do something you truly care about. Still, there had to be a way to catch up.  The constant wave between feast and famine was leaving us in a purgatory of credit card debt that slid up and down depending on the week.  After many failed months of trial and error, this is what we came up with:

1. What do you need vs. what do you have

IMG_1349
The first thing we did when we built our spreadsheet was create a section just for “Essentials.”  These were the “if we ignore these, someone will come knocking on our door” payments.  Rent, credit card minimums (not ideal, but again, bare minimums), and student loans.  I also added groceries to this list, but this was more a psychological trick for me, to remind myself that if all else fails, we will still eat.  I have managed, in a very tight month, to get our grocery bill down to $200 a month for the two of us.  This is thanks to Trader Joe’s and a lot of pasta nights.  The other items on this list are train tickets, gas money, electricity, and internet.  If you cannot do your work without them, you should pay for it.

2. Special Essentials: Or what to do when you drive a U-Haul into your neighbor’s gutter The next section is Special Essentials.  These are all the oh-so-special bills for that month in particular.  Things like union dues, medical payments, and random things like parking tickets or a bill from your neighbor for breaking his gutter.  The only reason they are not in the top category is that they can wait if absolutely necessary.  The world will not stop spinning if a bill has to be a little late.  But it isn’t ideal, and no, it doesn’t feel great.  But it is what it is.  I also try to put savings into this category when we can.  Paying yourself first, especially for an emergency fund is always a priority.

amelia

3. Lifestyle
And this is where all the “living your life” stuff comes into play.  These are the items people often bring up when they say, “Maybe you can just cut back a bit.”  I assure you, freelances are most likely not splurging the way you think they are.  For me, this category is often Restaurants/Bars, Coffee, Gifts, Shopping, Education/Gym, Misc., and any special events that month like a wedding.  Determining your priorities is very helpful here.

4. Making the numbers add up (to something over $0) And this is where the backwards part comes up.  Back at the top of the spreadsheet, have a place for your income.  You can break it down by source if that helps, or by person if you combine finances with someone else.  I like to use a line for expected income and actual income, so that when money is deposited, I enter the actual one and the formula changes the amount that is still expected that month.  Creating a center box for all this is really helpful.  If you are interested in seeing how we set up our sheet itself, I would be happy to write a follow up post:)

As your gigs line up for that month (and you know the check will arrive before the 31st) add this to your income.  This way you can see how far away you are from breaking even.  If at the start of the month, you are not breaking even from what you know, adjust all the lifestyle categories.  If that doesn’t fix it, take off the Special Essentials.  Most importantly though, add the amount you are putting off to next month so that it is not simply brushed aside.  This way, you have a timeline for paying it off.  Having a timeline and a plan is better than putting it in a sad growing pile of bills with the post-it “someday” on top. If your expected income suddenly spikes (hooray!) we try to add a small portion to section of lifestyle, a small section to our savings, and the remainder to our credit card and loan payments.  This way, the extra is going to getting rid of debt, paying into your future and emergency fund, and also giving you some physiological wiggle room to go out to lunch occasionally.  Without this wiggle room, I have found that I begin to resent my art form.  No we are not going out for a night of snazzy cocktails when this happens, but we may have a beer and wings night without worry.

Treat yo' self.

Treat yo’ self.

5. Diagnosing the sneaky problems The first few months for us were very eye-opening.  Every several days, I check in on our account and add the purchases to the appropriate category.  At first I realized that we were spending a comical amount on coffee.  We used to have a Dunkin Donuts next to our train station and so we stopped almost every time.  I think at one point we spent $200 on breakfast sandwiches.  So yeah, that stopped.  But we didn’t even realize it until it was adding up in front of us.  So now instead of wondering where all the money is going, we can see the reality of $3 sandwiches adding up over time.

6. More income over less spending Sometimes there is only so much you can cut.  When you have to pay a bill, you have to pay a bill.  You need to eat and live somewhere, and getting to work is not always cheap.  So this year, I also stopped beating myself up for spending  money on essentials and remembered that increasing income is often way more effective.  Unfortunately, it’s much more out of your control.  I’ve come across similar posts where comments go off track and accuse the writer of “not getting a real job.”  If you are confused by artists and why they break away from the typical structure of 9-5s that aren’t related to your interests, message me, I’m happy to chat. But nonetheless, sometimes your budget can alert you that it is time for a change.  An extra gig, an attack of a particular credit card to cut down your monthly payments, or perhaps an overhaul of how your approach your career in the long-term.  All of this is very helpful to consider.  It’s also important to remember that these things take time.

6. Taking a deep breath Though obviously budgeting will not literally create money, I felt a huge weight life off my chest after we set this up. Learnvest also has a fantastic budgeting program that goes into way more detail, but having an excel spreadsheet worked better for us as far as sharing.  Seeing your end of the month total pop above $0 always feels like an accomplishment, even if in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to think about this.  But at least this gives you a game plan instead of holding your breath the last week of the month, hoping that it all adds up.

Three cheers for budgeting!

Three cheers for budgeting!

As stressful as it can be, I don’t think we will ever give up the freedom of pursuing our art.  And though we may bring in less money than many, I believe we as artists need to be more diligent and organized because of our income’s inconsistencies.  The best thing I always remind myself is that we are still plugging away, doing the thing that we love and somehow squeaking by.  Perhaps in a few years the phrase “squeaking by” will be a thing of the past, but at least for now we can sleep more soundly because of a meticulous excel spreadsheet.

Exciting News! I was featured on Blogher!

Photo by Kim Craven

Photo by Kim Craven

Hello all! My recent post, The War Against Office Snacks, will be featured tomorrow on Blogher!  Blogher is a wonderfully insightful and inspiring site that promotes women bloggers.  I was floored by their offer to feature my post and am so thrilled to be a part of their blogging community.  Check them out here!!  My post is up now, but will be featured on their Facebook and Twitter tomorrow: Blogher Post!

And as always, thank you for all your support!  I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week and when Ben and I return from Cape May, hopefully I will have some lofty posts about the ocean, childhood vacation spots, and getting drunk on the beach.

Woohoo!!!

The War Against Office Snacks

edbadge_Featured

A few days ago, my boss purchased a fun little candy dispenser from Costco.  We’ve been trying to make our office more welcoming for teachers to come work. So when she came across this awesome little candy machine, she went for it.  We filled it to the brim with Peanut M&M’s and mini Hershey bars and placed it by our door.

IMG_1400

Now overall, this office has been a million more times open minded than anywhere I’ve worked.  I genuinely enjoy the company of everyone who comes by my office, and I am always impressed by how healthy the environment this.  However.  A trend is forming that I’ve seen almost everywhere, from the most corporate hedge funds down to the most liberal middle school.  We’re terrified of snacks.  We think that if we don’t hide them in secret drawers behind the receptionist, that they will force themselves into our stomachs, making a b-line for our thighs!

Ever since we put out these candy dispensers, I’ve had a range of comments:

“You’re evil!”

“That’s so dangerous!”

“No!!  Terrible!  I can’t even be NEAR chocolate.”

“I saw that, did you see that?  Where did it come from?”

Back, snacks, back!

Back, snacks, back!

Yes, I know these are playful comments, I’m not trying to be uptight here.  But let’s back it up a bit.  When I worked at a similar school in the city, the tension between my coworkers and sweets became an outright war.  Someone would buy cupcakes for someone’s birthday and with each bite the room would scream, “Oh I shouldn’t!  Oh this is awful!  Why am I do this?!”  For Christ’s sake eat the cupcake.  Now on top of the processed sugar, that yes, it not excellent when eaten in giant quantities, you are stressed.  So now your body is not only working to break down the sugar, but also releasing all sorts of angry stress chemicals.  All over a birthday cupcake.  If you have chosen to cut back on sweets, or simply don’t like them, that is totally fine.  A simple “No, thank you” will suffice.

The Skinny Myth

high school

At a theatre competition in 2004

Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve gotten passive aggressive comments about being thin.  I didn’t break 110 pounds until I was about 18.  I got a lot of, “Oh be quiet, you can eat whatever you want.”  But did being thin make me healthy?  I think I drank 2 glasses of coke with each meal until high school.  I went through my teenage years making an ice cream sundae a night.  No, I do not have some super-human ability to expel all that sugar from my body, it just didn’t hang around as fat yet.  But that doesn’t mean it didn’t negatively affect my body.  Strangely enough, it wasn’t until I became more in touch with my actual hunger and started eating better that I reached a healthy weight (by gaining some).

But I am literally sitting here eating a brownie as I write this, and happily.  I will not spend the whole day guzzling soda or beer and will not have five more brownies after this.  I am just enjoying the damn brownie.  The problem about these casual comments is the dread and body shaming that lie underneath them.

Awareness vs. Body shaming

The sweets in an office are “dangerous” because eating them (apparently against our own control) will lead to something “terrible”, like weight gain. Heavens forbid!  My “beach body” will  apparently not be up to par with those only drinking milk shakes this month.  Our relationship with food often seems like a direct relationship with our physical awareness.  If we took the energy we put into fighting back the evils of chocolate and the need to complete a certain amount of squats in a day, and used it instead to figure out what our body actually needs and how it works, then we may be able to stop fearing everything we consume.  We may even figure out why we eat and what we truly want to eat.

If there is one main theme I have learned from studying Alexander Technique, it’s that our body knows how to take care of itself if we get out of its way.  Once you do, you will know when you need cardio, or to eat some protein, or to stretch.  Forcing a regimen on yourself that is perfect for someone else is like buying a size 10 shoe when you’re a size 7, just because you liked how that specific shoe looked on someone else.  It doesn’t work.

sailing

How I felt when I stopped worrying about my “beach body”

So I will say now, with complete respect to my Beach Body friend representatives, please stop sending me Beach Body invitations.  Without realizing it, you are inferring that I need to alter my body to go to the beach.  And frankly, I am doing plenty to try and get in touch with my best diet and exercise patterns, but I am not going to do them in the name of a bathing suit.  I am not going to go for a run and check my calves when I get home.   I am not going to chart out my calories every time I take a bite.  I am going to continue educating myself on how my specific body responds to sugars and chemicals, and I will continue to find the best way to keep my energy high and fabulous through whatever exercise I damn well please.  But that is up to me, and it is a timely process to find the balance.  So please cool it.

SO!  Snacks!

Let’s begin by cutting back the snack shaming.  Saying that something is “dangerous” infers that no one else around you should eat it either.  And that isn’t your business.  The snacks can exist in your presence, and if you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat them.  So until you find that happy place and know what your body needs to feel good, cut down on the accusations.  That poor plate of brownies did nothing wrong, and neither did you by eating one of them.

Feelin' good about my recent ability to run a full mile AND drinking that glass of wine.

Feelin’ good about my recent ability to run a full mile AND drinking that glass of wine.

Monday Boost: An Ode to Schleppers

I name this hot muggy Monday, National Schlepper* Appreciation Day!  It is for all the people who think delivery is lazy (or too expensive), who run the office errands, the family errands, the boring “I know the CVS pharmacy is going to take forever” errands, and everything in between.  We work several (usually strange) jobs, commute on sweaty trains, kill two hours in the city without spending money because it isn’t worth going all the way home, and are not afraid to walk those fifteen blocks instead of spending $2.75 on the subway.  We are the ones that get strange glances and are asked “Wait, you’re walking there?”  And you say, “Yes!  I have legs!”  and carry on in the 94 degree heat.  You are the one that teaches on the Upper East Side, babysits in Flatbush, temps in the Financial District, lives in Queens, and makes it to Amelie on West 8th because they have a cheap happy hour.  All on Tuesday.  Today we should be proud.  And in my half-asleep blogging state today, I name this day for you.

*By “Schlepper” I mean, a person who schleps, or carries things all over the place.  It’s Yiddish.  Dictionary.com tried to tell me otherwise.  It is wrong.

$10 Wine Flights...

$10 Wine Flights…

When I was young, I always heard my mom talking about having to “schlep” all over the place.  To the store, to the bank, back and forth to work.  I realized pretty quickly after moving to NYC that I was destined to also live the life of a schlepper.  At one point in time, I had seven different possible jobs at once.  Seven.  One week I was just a babysitter, and then the next I was a babysitter, a secretary, a background actor, and a teaching artist, all depending on if I answered my phone in time to accept the work.  To say the least, it was a lot of running around with many clothing changes, snacks, and all the various crap you need to do these jobs.  I once carried 14 shoe boxes in a shopping bag on the 6 train during rush hour.  This will be my whiny story I tell our grandkids about walking uphill both ways in the snow.

Sometimes I jumped centuries.

Sometimes I jumped centuries.

I am always surprised by non-schlepper’s shock when you use a little more physical energy to do something than is normally required.  The other day, a caring coworker asked me if I needed help carrying a case of water bottles up to our office, and to not hurt myself.  I was tempted to say, “I work in theatre, I once carried a flight of steps up a flight of steps!”  But I didn’t feel like explaining because I was carrying water bottles…and didn’t want to sound like a jerk.

postits

I was once paid $11 an hour to cover this wall in post-it notes…after buying a lot of post-it notes.  At many Staples.

But today, when I am not particularly high on energy, I was thankful to be part of this motivated bunch.  I had a fantastic weekend up in Boston with my college roommates – a group of fellow schleppers that know how to keep a friendship going despite living in different states after almost ten years of friendship.  But because of this wonderful weekend, I am a zombie.  A warm, tired, slightly overwhelmed zombie.  So when my office ordered lunch today, and I was faced with waiting an hour for a delicious sandwich or getting off my butt and picking up everyone’s delicious sandwich, I chose the latter, got the sunshine I desperately needed, and became the sandwich hero (hehe) of the day.  They may look at me like I am an overachieving pushover…but I got to get up and get outside.

Our schlepping will also: (all taken from American Heart Association)

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

Ha!  So there!  Today is for us!  We will travel across state lines, borough lines, and out into the hot muggy day to get sh*t done.  I declare we all end the day with a glass of wine, that we all schlep to Trader Joe’s to purchase.