Several days ago, my roommate and I decided to do a cleanse. I’ve been feeling pretty crappy. My job and school was causing me a lot of stress. Which was causing me to eat things that my body can’t handle. I was undoing a lot of healthy habits and just feeling like I needed a major intervention. I told my roommate I wanted to do a bland diet–sort of like the one I did a few months ago when I had a horrible stomach flu. I noticed I felt a lot better, afterwards, and–since I was struggling so much with cutting sugar, soda, gluten, and dairy, I thought it’d give me the chance to make a clean break.
A few weeks ago, my new naturopath diagnosed me with some food allergies and sensitivities: dairy, gluten, refined sugar, eggs, and tomatoes. She strongly recommended a Paleo diet for me. Now, I’ve struggled with the food thing for a long, long time. All of my comfort foods–all my nostalgic foods–are all the things that make me sick. I absolutely hated the idea of giving them up, but I knew enough was enough. My body was being attacked every single day. I couldn’t keep going like this. Relying on sodas to keep me going wasn’t going to keep me healthy or happy.
When I told my roomie about my bland plan, he mentioned a local juicery and maybe we should look at their cleanses. Because of my gall bladder surgery stuff, I was actually kind of terrified to do a full-on cleanse. I mean, I’ve backslid progress-wise when it came to my post-gb body, but it was tolerable. It took me a long time to get out of the intolerable part. So, I wasn’t eager to go back to it. Plus, I’m just damn busy and need my brain to function. I can’t have a crappy attitude /grump-at-the-world day with the work I do. I’m exhausted while eating food–so how would I deal with just juice?
I mean, I’d done cleanses before. The horrible lemon water, prune juice nightmares that meant I’d never leave the house. I lost weight and felt bad again within a week. Would it even be worth it?
So, while my roomie decided to do the full-on cleanse–I decided to modify it…allowing myself some rice along with said juices. Unfortunately, the day before said cleanse, I got super-sick with what was definitely food poisoning. As much as I wanted to tough it out, my bile reflux was requiring me to eat more than just juice…or even juice and rice. Needless to say, it seriously complicated things. I ended up feeling really, really bad. So, I decided that–to get the reflux under control–I’d allow myself to eat some meat and veggies with my rice and juice. So, essentially, in addition to the juice, I ate the way I’m supposed to! I still considered it a cleanse since I was eating pretty barebones and stayed away from everything I’m supposed to.
My roomie did really well on the cleanse, and I did well on my modified cleanse. I had way more energy. I slept better. I had less allergy symptoms. My skin cleared up. My persistently getting worse tummy problems started healing. The foggy feeling I always have went away. I didn’t have any sugar cravings; I didn’t want dairy–not even cheese. I gave up my nemesis soda like the bad habit it is without any problems. By the end of the week, the roomie and I decided to go another week. Only this time, my confidence buoyed, I decided to try the full-on cleanse…making no promises. I had modified supplies at the ready.
The first day, I was mostly just tired. I also noticed I was in a much better mood than normal–more even. Bad things didn’t upset me so much. My happy self came out more readily. It was way easier to access joy. Some of the juices (ahem, chlorophyll) were hard to drink–but most were great. My body seemed to adjust right away. So much so that drinking the final drink of the day–almond milk (so delicious)–was hard on me. That night was super-rough, though, and I had some weird problems (probably not cleanse related) that made me cave and eat rice the following morning so I could take medicine to deal with it. By 10 am, I was back to juice and have not looked back.
It’s been actually really good. I feel a lot calmer. I’m much more aware of my body and what it needs. I do feel light-headed if I walk more than around the apartment. But I have lots of energy and don’t feel like I’m struggling against food addictions.
I actually feel like I can give up all the things I need to. I’ve made a conscious choice to cut soda out of my life for at least 3 mos…and then I’ll only have 1 every once in a while (if that)–and it better be the best damn soda ever. I’m even okay with cheese going bye. I’ve decided to have a 1x/week “cheat day” where I can eat the best quality of whatever I want–but I don’t feel like I’ll really go crazy. The majority of the time, I’ll be doing veggies and protein with a fresh green juice.
The cleanse has probably been most beneficial in how it’s changed how I deal with my thoughts and emotions. In the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer talks about the idea that there’s a sacred part of you–that’s the actual you–that isn’t your thoughts or your emotions. That separate part of you is peaceful and basically just observes. It’s in control and isn’t controlled by all the stuff happening in this crazy world.
I remember reading that and feeling like it was beyond me. My existence was all about chasing emotions and overthinking. I could not separate these things! I have struggled all my life to do this. I used to look at people who meditated with so much respect. Clearly, I was just not cut out for this shit.
Oddly, I found myself doing that with this cleanse–almost immediately. When things got hard, and my belly was talking to me–I found that I did separate (exactly!). I realized that this calm part of myself wasn’t part of all those crazy thoughts and feelings. As much as that part of me wanted to convince me it was. Normally, those thoughts and feelings would trigger spontaneous decisions to do things that dishonored me…like ordering pizza after I decided to avoid such things–mostly because I knew I’d be seriously ill if I ate it. This time, I just drank more water, took a breath, and waited. Within five minutes, the feeling would pass. I’d feel fine. This kept happening, over and over.
Yesterday, I had a hard day. I woke up pissed and everything was going wrong/being annoying. The first part of the day, I truly grumped at everything–feeling more grumpy for being grumpy. And then, there was a turning point. I found myself acknowledging the feeling, but not giving into it or being controlled by it. I just waited and gave myself permission to be a bitch (within reason). When I did that, I could laugh at myself.
It’s been so much easier to practice self-care (truly hard for me, normally). I don’t forget myself anymore. I might get behind, but I’m on the list.
I’ve also been able to sort of apply this wisdom to my relationship boundaries. I used to be a very passive aggressive person, and I’ve made conscious efforts to change that. There are still a lot of people in my life who are like I was, and they assume I still am like them. When I don’t do what they want or need–because it’s not what I want or need–they get angry and act passive-aggressively toward me. This usually drives me crazy. But I’ve been able to handle it–even yesterday–when I was so mad at everything. I just sort of acknowledged the situation. I realized, “Oh, I’ve outgrown that person.” That’s why we’ve been distant. Unfortunately, their haste to hold on to the situation and inability to see me as I am now–to know me now–has made the chasm grow deeper. But they just aren’t ready. They aren’t walking the same path. They’re still back there. They’re trying to keep me back there, so they don’t lose me. But I’m already lost…and not lost.
The thing is–I’m only responsible for my own happiness. With my friends, I just want their happiness. I used to be someone who didn’t want that. I wanted my happiness, and I wanted people to stay–at all costs. So, I’d manipulate and force things so that those things would stay the same. That’s a dictatorship–not a relationship. Healthy relationships should support happiness–for everyone–and that means evolving. Once that clicked, I realized…if we’re good for each other…if I need this person in my life, our paths will cross. I can trust myself. I can trust that person. I can trust that the Universe is loving and kind. I can trust and believe that I don’t have to do anything to get what I need as long as I stay true to my own happiness.
That means that–I acknowledge that we’re different now. I acknowledge that our relationship isn’t what it was. I am able to enforce my boundary of needing people who call themselves friends to be in my life–really in it–and not just pretending or pulling me along/being pulled along. Stay or go–it’s alright. It doesn’t mean goodbye. I doesn’t mean shame or guilt or fixing. It does mean living my life on my terms only for me and loving the people who are able to keep me company, whenever they are able to do so.
It makes it a lot easier. And damn–it’s actually simple. So simple. Why the Hell did it take me this long to really really get it?
One of my favorite movies, ever, is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It came out during what I call the Year of the Cyclone–2004. The hardest year of my life. At the time, my mother had just been diagnosed with CHF, and we were waiting for her to be stable enough to undergo open heart surgery. My heart was literally breaking, too. My then fiance had moved across the country for a job–without me–and he was miserable. Then, he came back for a short period of time for a work project–with the intention of moving home permanently. We had been through Hell & back–but I believed that him actually being here would fix it. And, honestly, more than anything–I just needed him to be sane. I needed him to be my rock. I needed him to get through this awful thing that was engulfing my life.
Only he wasn’t. I started noticing all the cracks in our relationship–how we didn’t quite fit anymore. I started noticing how he didn’t really care about what was happening in my life–not in the way someone who loves you more than anyone should. I just knew it wasn’t going to work. But I clung on to it–because I remembered that guy who wrote me poems every day–who helped me carry the burden of my childhood–who got me through the grief that fell on me when I finally chose to be myself.
I wasn’t going to give up on that. So, I tried–and tried–and sacrificed time with my ailing mother. I made choices for myself that I can now only regret. Mostly because he wasn’t who I thought he was. Or maybe we weren’t. Or maybe I changed. Or maybe he did. But–that thing we became? It wasn’t worth one minute of holding my mother’s hand when she was scared.
I remember watching that movie right after all of that–and just bawling. Uncontrollably. Because I just wanted to pretend it didn’t exist…that my heart wasn’t shattered. That I didn’t care.
Sometimes, I still do.
A few weeks ago, I started the massive task of getting my digital shit together. I decided that I would put all my music in one place. All my pictures in one place. All my movies in one place. And then, I’d back up everything.
While I’m normally pretty responsible about things, I’ve been slacking on backing up these items–simply because of the volume. I probably have more music than any sane human being. I have an incredible collection of photos. Like ridiculous amounts. And in my rush to collect all of these things, I just put them where I had room. No logic or rhyme. It made it hard to manage and organize. So, this was a good plan.
It was fine in the beginning–though so incredibly time consuming. And then, one of my hard drives–the one that I was clearing off to use as a back-up–which had most of my movies–started being a bit combative with Windows. To the point that my trusty laptop seemed to be failing. So, I bought another laptop and decided to get everything off this drive as soon as possible. I work from home, from this laptop, so I wanted to make sure I’d have a back-up plan just in case.
In the process of clearing that drive, it started causing a whole host of problems. Since it was on the same USB hub as my other hard drives, this was bad. The other hard drives were also crashing and restarting randomly. I did error checks, and everything was fine until yesterday. I knew I was losing that one drive. That was okay. Nothing too important. But this other drive was brand new and contained at least 3/4 of my music collection plus a good 1/4 of my photos. Yesterday, while transferring data onto it, this drive suddenly stopped being recognized by my computer. I tried everything. I even tried the other laptop. It wasn’t working. Desperate, I finally emailed tech support for the device. And then, I unplugged it in sheer defeat and took one more chance and plugged it back in. It started running, and there was the drive. It was 3 am. I immediately signed up for a cloud back-up service.
When all of this was happening, I found myself grieving. I had no idea what was on the drive. I just knew that even one lost photo was a loss. And it could take me years to figure out what I lost, music-wise. It made me sad to know I was losing something and I couldn’t replace it–either because it was irreplaceable (in the case of pictures of my mother) or it was simply unknown.
Both things made me think about some things. In an odd way, I started to feel like those photos–while irreplaceable–could never actually be lost. Mostly because I was there when they were taken. I lived that life–and while I didn’t have a photo to print out or share–I could hold it forever in my heart. And then–is it really lost if you don’t know it’s there? Isn’t it always there in your memory?
When I was 26, I was in love with a guy who wrote me sappy poems. I was naive enough to think that the way that we met–that who we were–was somehow meant to be and could weather any storm. I lived with rose-colored, romantic sap glasses stuck to my face…mostly because the reality of my life was hard–and I needed to escape it.
Lately, I find myself kind of annoyed by that perspective on life. When friends I know who are like I was post things on Facebook that hearken back to those times, I find that–instead of being enthralled–I’m kind of sickened. I’m just not that girl anymore. Because that girl needed to hide. That girl needed the pretend. She needed the photos and the music to know who she was and where she’d been.
Now, I just want a life that works for me. I want real–the real that comes with trying and failing. The ugly mess of cleaning it up and somehow getting the pieces to fit when they look like they never will. It’s fine to hold onto things, but to know that those things don’t matter so much as what they represent. All things change. All people change. And eventually, we all go kablooey.
The things we lose? Those things aren’t meant for us. They’re distractions from what really is ours. And the faster we realize that, the faster we can start living the lives we need to live.
This past Friday, I started the last two classes of my MNM program. One I’ve been, honestly, putting off for months. The other is my capstone–which is basically the culmination of everything. Both are probably the two most demanding classes I’ve taken. And I’m doing them simultaneously during the final part of the summer. After not really having a summer or a spring because work and school kept me so busy. I’ll be in the most stress right around my birthday and probably won’t have time to celebrate.
This weekend, my roommate is out of town. So, I was looking forward to a weekend to myself–finally. I call these weekends Introvert Paradise weekends because I mostly do the things I used to do when I lived alone–things I desperately miss doing. Like singing my lungs out at 3 am; talking to myself; and showering with the door open. Silly things. I usually eat nostalgic food, sleep in, and just chill.
I had a few different goals: 1) rest…I was stinking exhausted after last week; 2) watch as many ’80s movies as possible; 3) post an entry at my new collaboration; 4) clean; 5) get a head start on the week; and 6) do some self-work. Namely, I’ve been wanting to start a Happiness Project, & I wanted to start making plans for the new year of my life–after the crazy settles. I really want to do some different things in the next few months, but those things require a strategy. So, I was hoping to get the foundations up.
While I had to start work on class stuff, for the most part, classes start pretty slow. So, I was hopeful this weekend would be mine. Only that wasn’t the case. I already had major things due mid-week. I also had an external drive go assplodey on me, and I got a summer cold. This afternoon, I started feeling sorry for myself when I realized I’d done all the things I needed to do–but I never got to the stuff *I* really need for long-term sanity. I focused on the things others needed from me instead, like always. I do this pretty much all the time, and I just started beating myself up again…pretty much the opposite of the self-care I was hoping for–and then I beat myself up for that.
Pity Party Alma is not pretty. She’s an angry girl. Mostly angry at herself, but really angry at the world. Like hating on everything since the beginning of her existence. It’s all rooted in feeling like it’s never my turn, and life is continually unfair. I’ve worked so hard just to have normal–things most people take for granted.
Then, I sort of kicked my own ass and made myself own my choices. I don’t believe in victims, and I’m certainly not one. Yes–I did get handed a raw deal in a lot of ways–but I’ve made the most out of them. Every single decision I’ve made has led me to better places for me–and yes–I’ve had to work hard. And no–that means I often don’t get to do all the cool, fun things I really want to do. But I chose these paths for all the places these things will take me to. And playing all day every day would honestly be boring, eventually. I do need to play, but moreso–I need to figure out how to do both. And not pout about it–because pouting is for whiners. And I’m not that either.
I reminded myself of who I actually am. I’m not some frivolous person. I have big dreams and goals a mile long. I don’t settle for easy. I was that girl that crawled out of that life, and I live an existence that is absolutely a privilege. I don’t get to complain about it. I was never supposed to be here. I made this happen, and if I can do that, 8 weeks of Hell is absolutely nothing. I’ve walked that path a few million times. Bring it.
I’ve never been good at breathing. As a kid, I was always holding my breath or trying to minimize the wheezing that inevitably came with my existing. But it never really worked. Everyone could always hear me breathe. Which made disappearing a difficult task.
Every so often, in some weird, magical, I don’t even know what place, I’d overcome my breath and life would be as it should be. Like, I could actually run and jump like everyone else. Like better than everyone else. And I wasn’t ever sure what caused that magical whatever, but there it would be.
It made me believe that I had more in me than what I accepted as me.
In elementary school, my gym teacher said something about me having asthma–which made me ask my mother if I had asthma–which made her ask him why he said I had it. He assumed I did–since obviously. So, we went in. I got tested, and yup.
It was more or less a nuisance growing up–nothing altogether life threatening. But it taught me to live in shallow depths of breath. Which I suppose is a metaphor for a whole bunch of other things.
And eventually, my asthma got worse. As I started pushing my limits especially.
I rarely breathe deep. I breathe like I have tiny lungs–which means I get tired really fast. I’m always catching my breath. I’m always reaching for the next moment–running some race against some self I created.
I used to do yoga. I sucked at yoga. So I stopped.
And then I found swimming. Where air is everything. And I realized why I like water–why it relaxes me so much. It’s like the whole world is inhaling and exhaling with each wave.
I’m learning to breathe again. To access memories and emotions I’ve long since buried. Things that live in my cells, but not my consciousness. I hate it. It makes me self-conscious. That old feeling of being a little girl, panting because her lungs didn’t quite work. That little girl not wanting anyone to see her. If you heard her, you’d see everything. Her red face with the freckles and the asymmetrical everything. And the not good enough.
When I feel things, my instinct is to build a dam. I can feel this pressure in my chest–the erecting of walls to keep the pain at bay. To keep life at bay. And it’s taken me a while–several sessions of breathing–and letting someone hear me breathe–letting someone see me cry–letting someone in on all the secrets. It’s taken months of that, but–now–when I feel myself holding back the Universe inside me? I go back to my breath. And I let the wave pass through. I let it lose its energy and find rocks to kiss. And fade out into the ocean to the peace I never knew existed behind the heartache.