Author: therenovationoflillian

#EarlyBirdLife, Budgets, and Diets: The Struggle is Real

There are three areas where I consistently, and without fail, ride the struggle bus:

1) Waking up early
2) Losing weight
3) Budgeting

It’s like I have a giant mental block around all of them – and as part of that mental block, things like my super comfy pillow, cookies, and Amazon Prime act like sirens luring me to my own wreckage. Like, I know I’d be better off if I woke up early, were able to stick with Weight Watchers, and adhered to a damn budget. I know I’d feel better, and that my mental and physical health would both be in a better place.

Similarly, I know I’m just screwing myself over when I hit snooze, eat cookies, and spend entirely too much money buying supplies for arts and crafts projects/decorating ideas.

And yet.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what, exactly, my problem is, and why trying to do these basic things is like beating my head against the wall separating Westeros from the white walkers. I mean, would it be so hard to resist the allure of the “purchase now” button on Amazon? Would it be so hard to stop myself after a half-cup of ice cream?

Apparently.

I realized that I have similar mindsets about all three of those issues: waking up early, trying to lose weight, and budgeting all feel like massive sacrifices — something akin to voluntarily chopping off a limb. I know the long term benefits would be worth it, but I can’t seem to get past the short-term sacrifices they require. (Why must I be so beholden to instant gratification? Why do my dopamine levels fuck with me like this? WHY, BRAIN? WHYYYYYY?)

I decided to do what all normal people do, and consult the Oracle at Delphi Mountain View, AKA Google. “Why can’t I stick to my budget?” I asked. And lo, the Oracle produced many articles, one of which was…actually helpful. Most notably, this piece from New York Magazine came up, and DEAR GAAAAWD did it ever resonate with me:

There are few words in the English language that conjure a sense of dread faster than the word budget…But the main problem with budgeting is its approach, says Brad Klontz, a psychologist and certified financial planner. “I think the entire concept of budgeting is flawed,” said Klontz. “Your emotional brain responds to the word budget the same way it responds to the word diet. The connotation is deprivation, suffering, agony, depression.” Klontz says hearing the word diet makes us feel there’s a famine coming. We can muster up the motivation to take on that famine in the short term, but in the long term, research shows that diets don’t really work.

Welp. That sure does explain a few things.

I spent some time poking around for other articles within the Science of Us series, and I was happily surprised to find some pieces that helped me ask crucial questions. This piece on the importance of asking what, not why, when trying to figure out how (and, uh, why) we do/don’t do something /feel/don’t feel some particular way, also felt like it hit the nail on the head.

So, that got me thinking: instead of asking why I’m so bad at this, I should ask myself what: what is it that I like and don’t like about making the effort to wake up early, stay on Weight Watchers, and stick to my budget?

What do I like? I like end result.

After I’m awake and out of my cozy cocoon, I’m productive and I have time for writing and art.

After I stay on WW, I like how I feel and how I look. I like that I’m able to run without my knees hurting from all the pressure that the extra weight puts on my joints. I like feeling like I can actually run, not just lumber along like a geriatric water buffalo. I like being able to wear clothes that I actually love, and not just ones that are adequate.

After I save money and stick to a budget, I like knowing that I have more flexibility to do things that really matter to me, like traveling, trying to start a family (egg donors don’t come cheap, y’all) and, ohpleaseohpleaseJesusOprahBuddhaletthisactuallyhappen, eventually quitting my job.

What don’t I like? I don’t like the discipline, effort, or sacrifice. I don’t like having to plan out my meals and exercise. I fucking hate sad desk salads. I don’t like having to plan out my purchases (as opposed to, y’know, just making them whenever the urge strikes).

Part of it, I think, is that my depression, PTSD from the cancer and hysterectomy, and the feeling that I have almost no control over my life suck up so much of my bandwidth that I rely on things like cookies and Amazon to give me little moments of happiness (GO GO GADGET DOPAMINE!). Without those little things, life would feel 99% heavy, dull, and grinding. With those things, it only feels, like, 90% heavy, dull, and grinding.

But really, what am I getting out of that 9% difference? More importantly, even though it comes with an immediate happiness bump, there’s also a rebound effect which amplifies the feeling that I’m not in control of my life: sleeping late makes me late for work, which means I have to stay late to make up for lost time, which then means I have less time to do what I want. Spending money on things I don’t need makes me feel queasy and gives me pangs of guilt. Seeing myself in the mirror, totally devoid of muscles and nearly as heavy as I was at the end of my progesterone treatment, makes me depressed.

The immediate gratification gives me a moment of satisfaction, but it’s quickly followed by guilt and discontent.

So, that 90% is probably more like 95%. Which, y’know, doesn’t seem like much. And it’s probably not worth the rebound effect of the guilt.

When I think about this more, I realize that by trying to actually do these things that I find so hard — self-control, discipline, short-term sacrifices for long-term gain — I might actually start to feel like I do have some semblance of control over my life. And, considering that this lack of control is one of the factors that feeds my depression, I might actually stand a chance of breaking out of that self-reinforcing feedback loop.

So, those will be my next tasks for renovating my life, and it will undoubtedly be among the biggest and most difficult: creating a budget and re-starting — and sticking to — Weight Watchers. Any tips y’all might have for how to make this happen, or how to make it suck less, would be greatly appreciated!

Wee Little Renos: Health and Life Management

After the last few long-ish posts, I figure I’ll mix things up a bit and talk about some of the day-to-day things I’ve done lately as part of my self-renovation effort. I’d originally planned to post about one thing per day, but then I started to worry that it would be painfully boring for people to read.

Like, more boring than standing in an interminably long line, at a place with a slow internet connection, while C-SPAN blares on TV.

One of my pet peeves about reading peoples’ blogs is when they revert to random lists of things they did that day — “And then I went to Starbucks, and then I drank my triple nonfat 2-Splenda frappuccino, and here’s a picture, and then I got my nails done, and here’s another picture” and at this point, readers are actually dying because they’re so bored — and I just didn’t want to go down that road. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that, you guys.

kermit annoyed
Kermie, expressing the frustration in my heart when I read random, and wholly unnecessary, details about peoples’ frappuccinos.

So, instead, I figure I’ll provide occasional lists that round up my recent Acts of Renovation. This way I’m keeping myself on track and staying accountable, but I’m also not running the risk of boring everyone to the point of their untimely demise — unless, of course, there are those among you who’d actually want to read about the details on some of these things, in which case I’d be more than happy to elaborate. (If you fall into this category, let me know! I’m happy to write about nearly anything in greater detail, except for something really heinous like the mating habits of worms, so I’m happy to take suggestions/requests/feedback/whatever.)

I’m going to break these up into a few posts, so as to not feed into the boredom issue (THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, Y’ALL).  For today, I’ll focus on my efforts to get my ducks in a row, both in regards to overall organization/life management, and in regards to my health. Organization comes pretty easily to me — because I’m deranged, I love cleaning, tidying, and organizing things, and I have absurdly intricate systems for filing papers, hanging up my clothes, etc. –

Health, by contrast, has been a consistent struggle for me over the years. (You may have noticed this, in the sense that sometimes one notices that the sun is shining.) I very much want to get back on track with my health: back to feeling strong and energized, back to being able to run and lift, back to looking and feeling like myself again.

Anyways, all that being said — behold, a self-congratulatory list, but partial, list of accomplishments:

Life management: As an official Xennial,* making the switch from analog to digital totally upended all my carefully constructed filing, note-taking, and paper organization systems. It’s been a bit cray since then, but I recently signed up for Evernote — and I then proceeded to spend hours consolidating all my random ideas, lists, notes to self, paper scraps, and other miscellany into organized, easily accessible notebooks. For the last few years I’ve been writing down my ideas, lists, etc. in my email, but because I didn’t want to send myself 20,000 messages that I’d constantly have to update as I added things to the list/fleshed out an idea, I basically amassed a colossal pile of draft messages in my Gmail account. And, because I hadn’t found a good way to categorize or organize them, I had no f*cking idea where those brilliant ideas and lists actually were without painstakingly sorting through said colossal pile. Needle. Haystack. No bueno. So, as you can imagine, I was quite pleased to get everything pulled into one place and organized in a way that makes it possible for me to find them.

Health: The lifting ban is OFFICIALLY OVER! In preparation for this momentous occasion, I found a handful of strength training routines to try, and I’m excited to get started with this. I want to split the different lifting sets over the course of four days, so as to allow for recovery time, etc., and I found some good options for doing that. Now if only I could stop hurting long enough to start lifting again. And to that end…

Health: In hopes of getting some better answers about my chronic pain problem and why it likes to flare up so often, I saw my primary care doctor yesterday and got a handful of referrals to specialists who might be able to help solve this mystery, or at least mitigate some of the symptoms. She also ran a butt-ton of blood work — and yes, “butt ton” is totally a medical term, by the way — to look for any hint of an autoimmune problem, so we’ll wait to see what those tests indicate. She also gave me a course of doxycycline, since this fits the constellation of symptoms that people can experience with Lyme disease — and, as she put it, it can be worth it to treat possible Lyme as confirmed Lyme, because if the antibiotics resolve my symptoms…then poof! I can start getting better. In the absence of proof, though, we need to do some digging to figure out what’s going on, so I now have follow up appointments scheduled next month with neurology, a pain psychologist, and a sleep medicine specialist. So, hopefully this will bring me closer to figuring out why my meat suit** is malfunctioning.

So, all in all, I’m pretty pleased with myself — and hopefully no one has keeled over. 😃

*Xennials are the micro-generation between Gen X and Millennials, and SWEET BUDDHA I’M SO GLAD IT’S FINALLY A THING.

** Meat suit is my not-at-all-weird term for my body. Like I said: not weird. Totally not weird. Don’t judge.

Four Years.

Four years ago today, I heard the words that changed my life: “I’m so sorry. We found cancer.” I’ve spent a lot of time (read: entirely too much time) thinking about how much has happened since then — and yet, despite all that, how much some things haven’t changed.

On one hand, I’m proud of myself for surviving, both physically and psychologically, the last four years. This has been, for so many reasons — some of which I can’t talk about publicly, in the interest of preserving the privacy of those closest to me — the hardest time of my life. Surviving with both my body and mind relatively intact has taken a lot of work, and I’m proud of myself for muscling through the pain, fear, loss, sadness, and what felt like repeated assaults on my body.

On the other hand, though, today’s anniversary has reinforced, for like the 83,954th time, how much my body has changed in the last four years — and not in ways that I like.

However! Two side notes before I get into this:

1) Despite my own not-so-great feelings about my body right now, I very much believe in the importance of encouraging women to feel good about their bodies as they are, and not as society’s purveyors of skinniness would have us believe. Body-shaming is not okay, ever. As long as a woman feels good in her own skin, is able to do things she enjoys, and is healthy, then I have no f*cks to give about her size. My weight and body image struggles apply solely to me, and this is definitely not a commentary about anyone else.

2) I also want to make it clear that I know that none of this is my fault, and I don’t blame myself for anything that has happened. I got cancer because I inherited a shitty genetic mutation, not because I did anything wrong. I gained weight because of the medications I’ve had to take and the surgeries I’ve had, and I don’t blame myself for any of this. That doesn’t keep me from feeling gross about the end result, but I want to be clear that my frustration is with the situation — which has entailed losing control control over how I look and feel — not myself.

All that being said, my body has been through a lot in the last few years. It started in spring 2013: before I first got sick, the uncontrollable hemorrhaging was preceded by rapid weight gain. After having worked so hard to lose weight in 2012, it was alarming — who gains 30 pounds in 6 weeks?! — and profoundly demoralizing.

I couldn’t exercise after the bleeding began, so I felt helpless to do anything about my sudden, and disconcertingly rapid, expansion. Oh, and there was the unrelenting, agonizing cramps that came along with it, and the nausea caused by the prescription pain meds I was given. None of that was a picnic either.

Then I got the cancer diagnosis, and I spent the next 14 months on massive doses of progesterone in an effort to treat the cancer while preserving my fertility. This made me gain an extra 20 pounds — by this point I was nearly 50 pounds heavier than I’d been before I got sick — and left me feeling like I had the worst case of PMS ever. Even though I was able to exercise during my treatment, the dose of progesterone I was on was so high that my exercise routine didn’t have any impact on either my mood or my weight. My anxiety and depression were in overdrive, and between that and the weight gain, I felt like an extremely emotional water buffalo.

Once I was declared cancer-free, I was able to go off the progesterone, and within a few months, I lost the extra 20 pounds it had made me gain. I was starting to physically feel like myself again, but emotionally I was still a wreck. And then I went on Clomid when we were trying to conceive, which not only gave me vertigo and made my hair fall out in clumps, but also took my existing anxiety problems and turned them into the mental health equivalent of Sharknado. I used to sit at my desk, holding onto it to keep from falling out of my chair from the vertigo, while also having panic attacks thinking about how everyone I love is going to die, and I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. It was…not fun.

And then!!! Then my cancer came back, and then I had to have a total hysterectomy. My ovaries came out too, which made me a resident of Menopause City — and in case anyone is wondering, it’s a miserable, wretched city, and I hope someday medical innovation makes it possible to burn that sh*thole to the ground.

Burn it down

So then I went on antidepressants, which helped with the depression and anxiety, but also made me gain weight again. I have very mixed feelings about this: the fact that they give me a leg up on my brain’s determination to be freaked out and sad is enormously helpful, but when they also leave me feeling like the Stay-Pufft Marshmallow Man (among other side effects), it winds up feeling like a double-edged sword.

AND THEN. Around this time last year, I also developed a befuddling chronic pain problem (seemingly unrelated to the antidepressants): my migraines have become more frequent and more intense, and I’ll have days where every layer of tissue in my lower body just f*cking hurts. I’ll feel like I’ve run a marathon; my muscles, fascia, tendons, and joints will all feel like they’ve been brutalized, and I’ll be hit with overwhelming fatigue. I haven’t found a discernible pattern to when the pain flares up, and it’s increasingly resistant to NSAIDs. I’m allergic to opiates, and even if I wasn’t I wouldn’t want to take them since this is a chronic pain issue — but that means I’m running out of pain management options. Yay.

The last hurdle was this spring, when I discovered the hernia as a leftover complication from my hysterectomy. That put the kibosh on doing any sort of weight training, which just…seriously has bummed me out.

Granted, there have been some major improvements over the past six months: I was finally able to go on estrogen replacement therapy, which has almost totally eliminated the menopausal misery, and I found that eating a lot more protein helps my pain flare-ups be fewer and further between. So, there has been considerable progress in both minimizing and managing all my body’s temper tantrums.

But the fact is, I’ve always been strong, I’ve always been fast, and I’ve always been an athlete. (The way my parents tell it, shortly after I learned how to walk, I figured out how to run — and then I never stopped. I reportedly spent my first birthday running laps around my grandmother’s house.) But now, between the pain, weight gain, surgeries, and fatigue, I haven’t felt like myself in over four years.

Four. Years.

Four years of feeling like someone covered my muscles with marshmallow fluff. Four years of running more slowly than I ever have, and working harder just to do what used to come so easily. Four years of having either intense physical pain, or feeling so besieged by depression and anxiety that I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Four years of feeling weak, not being able to gain muscle mass or lift as much as I used to. Four years of feeling like a vastly diminished version of myself.

I want this stage of my life to be over. It’s been long enough, dammit. I’m tired of hurdles. I’m tired of unexpected complications and unforeseen challenges. I’m tired of feeling like I’m stuck in a body that feels so alien to me.

Logically, I know I’m improving. I know I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago, when both the pain and the menopause symptoms were wildly uncontrolled. I got the hernia repaired, and I’m nearly at the end of the compulsory six-week waiting period before lifting anything over 10 lbs.

But at the same time, I’m panicking that I’ll never actually feel like me again. I’m scared that I won’t ever be in a position to go off of my antidepressants — given how deeply unhappy I am with both my career and living in D.C., it would be madness (pun intended!) to discontinue them right now — and that I’m doomed to be eternally fluffy, slow, and weak.

I mean, what if the physical trauma of the last four years, the menopause f*ckery, and the meds have all joined forces to permanently wreck my metabolism? What if I never find a decent pain management regimen? What if the depression and anxiety prove too squirrelly to manage without medication, and I have these side effects for the rest of my life? Or, what if I discontinue the meds, someday when my life circumstances are more forgiving, and nothing improves?  What if I’m like this forever?

anxiety-girl-1
I always wanted to be a superhero!

Aaaaaallllll that being said, I know that, for now, I need to just focus on the things I can do. I can go running, even if it’s slower than a tortoise that just smoked a joint the size of a yule log. I can start weight training again on the 13th. I can keep being gentle with myself, because I know that none of this is my fault.

So, those are my goals for now: to focus on doing what I can, to remind myself that I’m still kickin’, even after all this grossness, and to keep taking things one day at a time. Even though I don’t love the pace of things, I know that small steps tend to have a cumulative effect: after a while, they eventually lead to big changes. I’ll definitely be ready for those big changes when they roll around, but for now, I know I need to just keep on keeping on.

To Plan or Not To Plan?

I’ve recently noticed a recurring, and really weird, theme throughout my life: whenever I make specific plans, they almost never turn out the way I’d intended. In fact, they often don’t turn out in ways that even remotely resemble what I’d intended — but in most of those cases, something better comes along to replace the original plan.

Take, for example, high school and college: I’d worked out a plan with my school to finish high school early and enroll in college during what would’ve been my senior year, because I was 1) entirely too motivated and filled with Type A ambition and drive (ok, where did all that energy go?), and 2) I loved the school where my parents worked and knew that I’d be able to go there for free as a staff dependent. (They worked at Colorado College, AKA CC, a small liberal arts college in Colorado Springs, CO.)

I wrote up a proposal for my school board, got conditional acceptance into CC, and was all set to go into academic overdrive when…my dad got a new job in Pennsylvania. since I was transferring to a new school with the cross-country move and wouldn’t be able to go to CC tuition-free, my big plans went up in smoke. I was upset at the time — there was a lot of teen angst, wailing, gnashing of teeth, etc. — but it wound up working out wonderfully: I spent the next two years attending an awesome high school and making amazing friends (y’all know who you are). After having a hard time with the first two years of high school, the last two wound up totally redeeming the whole thing — and in ways that I couldn’t imagine when I was drawing up my plans to graduate early.

spongebob high school
I found myself in this exact scenario entirely too often.

There are tons of other examples like this (see: getting into college, infertility, etc.), but for now I’ll spare you the Tolstoy-length post on all the details. Suffice it to say, though, this has been very much A Thing throughout my 36 years.

By contrast, the one thing that has gone according to my plans is my career. I got into grad school, got a fellowship to come to DC, made my big transfer into my current job, and…well, look at me. Not the happiest of cowgirls, am I?

All of this has made me wonder about the utility of making long-term plans vs. simply being open to possibility. When I was younger, I thought the Soviet concept of five- and ten-year plans was genius: I mean, why wouldn’t anyone have a master plan figured out for their life? Since then, however, I’ve come to find that this was the most ludicrous approach to life I could’ve possibly taken. I chalk this up to youthful naivete, because y’all, I soooooo don’t have that much control over the trajectory of my life. (Does anyone, though?) I’ve seen people suffer enormous tragedies, bear tremendous burdens, receive extraordinary gifts, and rise to face impressive challenges — all of which were unforeseen and totally not part of their plans.

For my part, my long-term plans included having babies with my husband, and possibly running a half-marathon — but then I got cancer, became permanently infertile, and picked up a chronic pain problem. I sure as sh*t didn’t see those things coming.

More recently, at the beginning of the year, I created a set of goals for myself (goals, not resolutions!): goals that included doing lots of planks, starting to do more weight training, and working on building muscle after basically becoming the human embodiment of cake batter over the last four years.

But then I found that I had developed a hernia at one of the incision sites from my hysterectomy, so that put the kibosh on lifting and anything involving my core muscles.  (I had surgery to repair the hernia, which I named Ralph, on June 1, so I’ll be clear to start lifting heavy things on July 13.) And then on Monday I had a massive asthma flare-up that landed me in the hospital, so even my plans to start doing cardio are on hold for now, and I continue with my whole “Hi, I’m basically sentient cake batter” motif.

I’m not pleased by these developments.

But I keep reminding myself that it isn’t all bad: I occasionally see glimmers of a silver lining floating around (coming out of the infertility-grief fog with a profound desire to write about it, for example), and moments of serendipity help me remember that things have a funny way of working out sometimes.

I decided long ago that one of my theme songs for life — you know, if you could make a soundtrack to your life, what would the primary theme songs be? — is You Can’t Always Get What You Want, by the Rolling Stones. (True story: I remember hearing it as the background music for a Motorola commercial in, like, 1998 and it burst through the ambient noise with such clarity that I felt like the Universe was shaking me and saying “DUDE. PAY ATTENTION TO THIS. IT’S IMPORTANT.”) I have to keep reminding myself that this is generally a sound approach (get it? A song is a sound approach? I’ll be here all week, folks. I also do bar mitzvahs.), that this setback in terms of my health is manageable, and that just because Plan A usually hasn’t worked, Plan B can be just as good as, if not better than, what I originally had in mind.

Joseph Campbell Quote

The Great Asthma Debacle of 2017

Welp, I’ve had an eventful week.

After taking a long weekend to visit my grandpa in NC for his birthday, I got home and ventured up to my building’s gym. Yes, I know: there’s nothing notable there (although I can report that the elliptical is just as heinously boring as ever). Mercifully, I had lots of guilty-pleasure TV shows on my phone to keep me entertained, and I refuse to feel ashamed about watching Hollywood Medium while sweating like a woolly mammoth in Dubai.

Side note: I especially refuse to feel ashamed when it keeps me from also being so bored that I contemplate things like what I’d eat if I ever became one of those people whose Ambien prescriptions cause them to binge-eat in their sleep. (Would I wind up eating gluten, either inadvertently or out of some kind of subconscious sense of defiance? And if I did do that, would I go for just any gluten, or would I seek out the good sh*t like pizza and brownies? Would Ambien-me know that Celiac-me would suffer grievous consequences for this, or would Ambien-me just not care?)

But I digress.

Anyways, after my session with the elliptical and Tyler Henry, I got in the elevator to head back to my apartment, and I found myself in there with two heavily-cologned dudes. Now, this isn’t unusual either, despite Axe Body Spray being basically a weapon of mass destruction.* But this time, for whatever reason, the mild asthma that I’ve had since I was a kid, and which was well-managed until this week, decided to become wildly ambitious. Because why not? Breathing is for sissies, y’all.**

I started coughing almost immediately, and since hot air and steam usually help to loosen up my spazzy lungs, I jumped in the shower to let the steam work its magic. But it didn’t work. Soon I was dizzy from the lack of air, so I took a seat and had my husband bring me my inhaler. Now, for me, using my inhaler is the nuclear option: it makes me shaky and anxious, so I prefer not to bust it out if I can resolve an asthma attack by other means.

As you will soon find out, my inhaler is no longer the nuclear option.

Because it barely worked.

And then I could barely breathe.

It wasn’t fun.

I couldn’t talk by this point, so my husband called an advice nurse to see if we needed to go to urgent care — and she immediately told him to call 911. Basically, my existing respiratory distress was at a stage where it could rapidly turn into respiratory arrest, and since I could feel my airways swelling, it was time to go for the real, actual (but not, y’know, literal) nuclear option: an ambulance.

Since I’m stubborn and also vain, I resisted this because I knew it’d be embarrassing — and, since I was conscious and able to walk around, it didn’t seem bad enough to warrant this level of emergency response. But, deep down, I knew it was imperative.

So I did what any 100% sane, level-headed person would do while my husband coordinated with the 911 operator: I tried on four different shirts, all while wheezing and coughing my brains out and barely moving any air, because I didn’t like the way they looked with my pants.

Oh, and I also grabbed my phone charger, list of medications, and all the responsible, logical things one should probably consider taking in a f*cking ambulance.

Yeah, I was doing really well.

So then the EMTs arrived, loaded me onto a stretcher, and wheeled me out through my building’s lobby (thus causing me to almost die of embarrassment in addition to hypoxia). All in all, I got three nebulizer treatments, one prescription for Prednisone, five hours in the ER, another prescription for Singulair, and a fancy new inhaler.

I’m doing better now, thanks to the, like, veritable cornucopia of medications I’m now taking. But looking back on it, it was scary and weird. At the time it was mostly weird, since the lack of airflow made me do bizarre things like worry about whether or not my shirt worked with my pants, and not, for example, the fact that severe asthma attacks can wind up being fatal, and that I was definitely having one. Deep down, I knew I was in serious trouble — when I’d thought about trying to drive to our urgent care clinic, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it there in time before things got precipitously worse — but my conscious mind wasn’t willing to acknowledge it. (Hence the “OMG, but what am I going to wear to the hospital?” fashion crisis.)

Now I just have to finish out the Prednisone and hope that I can eventually start exercising again soon, since that’s the primary way that I manage to stay sane. Until then, a brief PSA: friends don’t let friends wear Axe Body Spray. Especially not in elevators. The public thanks you in advance for your consideration.

*Props to one of my favorite former colleagues for pointing out the Axe-WMD connection. This makes perfect sense, you guys: Saddam Hussein gave all the WMDs all to Unilever.

** As you may have discerned by this point, it’s not for sissies. It’s for people who want to stay alive. Vital functions: who knew?

 

Mama* Needs a New Job, Like, Yesterday.

Mama* Needs a New Job, Like, Yesterday.

One of my big goals — nay, one of my primary goals — in renovating my life is to somehow, by the grace of God/Oprah/the Flying Spaghetti Monster, transition from my career in government to a career that’s more my style.

I may or may not be willing to sacrifice a goat and/or make a burnt offering in an effort to help make this happen.

I’ve been trying to investigate possible avenues for this aspiring career change, since a lukewarm, limp, and — ok, I admit — really whiny “I dooooon’t knoooooow?” isn’t a great answer to questions about what, if not government and public policy, I want to do with my life. All I know for sure is that I want my work to involve writing, autonomy, creativity, and being able to serve as a catalyst for good in the world. Beyond that, though? The details elude me.

dafuq
An actual photo of me when people ask what I want to be when I grow up. Except that I have dark hair. And I’m 36. But that’s not the point.

Well, ok, that’s not entirely true. The full truth is that I want to be a writer. I’ve been in love with words since I was a child; I remember desperately  wanting to learn how to read because I knew my whole world would change once I did, and I used to beg my teachers for extra creative writing assignments when I was in grade school. There have only been two things that I’ve consistently always known I want to be when I grow up: a writer and a mom.

Hooooowever, I’m also a realist, and we all know that unless one is an extremely successful novelist like, say, J.K. Rowling (whom I admire and adore), that writing generally doesn’t pay the bills. So, while I’d love to just…be a writer, the reality is that freelance writing isn’t exactly reliable or lucrative. And, since I have enough student loan debt to sink a fleet of aircraft carriers, and since I also enjoy things such as having food and a nice place to live, a gal’s got to make money somehow.

With that in mind, I’m investigating a handful of ideas for jobs that a) I might enjoy, and b) can pretty reliably pay the bills: content marketing, social media marketing, grant writing, college essay tutoring, and copyediting. That list might expand  — or contract — as I learn more, but for now, information gathering is my primary game plan. My hope is that I can build multiple streams of income so that I will, to use finance speak, diversify my portfolio. You know, balance risk and reward, remain agile, all that jazz.

(Although really, I ran far and fast from any sort of math class once I was done with high school, and I never once looked back — so maybe I should give the finance metaphors a rest?)

Anyways, aaaallllll that being said, yesterday’s Act of Renovation was to visit my friendly local career center to review my resume with people who are Legit Authorities (TM) on this sort of career voodoo. Mercifully, these people are incredibly helpful. They’ve been helping me though each painful, bewildering step of editing my resume from a Lumbering, Bland, and Bureaucratic Government Resume, which is loaded with arcane D.C.- and government-centric terms, into a Nimble, Witty, and Modern Private Sector Resume (also TM…but not really, I just like making proper nouns out of things that don’t warrant capitalization in real life). You know, one that can actually be read and understood by normal people outside the Beltway.

The woman I met with not only really liked my first round of changes (yay!), she also had some insightful suggestions for my next iteration revisions (double yay!). So, I have myself an Act of Renovation for later in the week, too.

We on the rise, y’all.

* Oh yeah, and I’m not actually a mom, despite weirdly referring to myself as Mama. That whole cancer thing kind of deep-sixed my grand maternal plans, but that’s a topic for another post.

The Great Un-F*cking of 2017

This is a story all about how
My life got flip-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute and sit right there
And tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air

No, wait. Hold on. That’s not my situation. My life definitely got flip-turned upside down, but the last time I checked, I was neither royalty nor in Bel Air. (Alas. Le sigh.)

Let me try this again. You know how sometimes people have a so-called “annus horibilis” (year of disaster/horrors/misfortune)? I had four of those. In a row. It was exceedingly lame.

To make a loooooong story super short, endometrial cancer, the realization that I got myself into the totally wrong line of work, student loans, fibromyalgia, major depression, a hysterectomy – and the resulting infertility and premature menopause – all pulled a Captain Planet and combined their powers to turn me into a hot mess.

I’ve been pretty fercockt for a while – but now, with my health under control and things calming down a bit, it’s time for me to rebuild and recreate my life not as something to slog through, but rather as something to enjoy. Hence the renovation: much like HGTV – but without Chip and Joanna Gaines or the Scott brothers, alas – I hope to tear out the old, dilapidated parts of my life that don’t work anymore while rebuilding a much nicer, more livable structure in its place.

It’s not what I had originally planned or wanted for my life, but a mantra that has gotten me through the last few years has been a quote borrowed from Sheryl Sandberg’s incredible Facebook essay about life after losing her husband: “Option A isn’t available. So let’s kick the sh*t out of Option B.” The things I had planned, hoped for, and wanted – fertility, a job and career that I love, perfect health, full repayment of my student loans, a life free of debt (the aforementioned loans) and chronic pain (fibromyalgia) – aren’t available right now, so I have to move forward and rebuild with what I’ve got.

So, this is my effort to start kicking the shit out of Option B. My goal is to do one thing each day that helps me renovate my life. Whether it’s something that helps me improve my physical or mental health, un-fuck my professional situation and move towards a new career, improve my finances, pay off my loans, or just something that brings me happiness, I’m a big believer that small steps can eventually lead to big changes.

And so, to use the already heinously overused cliche,* if a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, this is that first bit of forward movement. I don’t anticipate being able to write a long and involved post about each daily activity, but as long as I’m doing something, I’ll consider it a win. So, feel free to come along on this ride, and welcome to the party.**

* May the writing gods forgive me this sin. I shall provide a burnt offering in hopes of absolution.

** And by “party,” I mean an introvert party wherein things are tame af and we all go home by 9.