Friday, January 19, 2018

On January and Self-Improvement

So this year I decided to give some of that "New Year, new me" thinking the old college try (instead of just making fun of other people for doing it). Surprisingly, it's actually working out so far. Sometime around Halloween, Seth and I decided we were getting really tired of being so out of shape, so we bought some exercise equipment. Nothing super fancy -- just a stationary bike, a Gazelle Edge, and a set of resistance bands to start with -- things we could realistically picture ourselves using on a regular basis. Then after New Year's, I started working out. Not just "whenever" either. I actually came up with a consistent schedule that I've been sticking to. 

Monday through Friday I've been doing 30 minutes of cardio right when I get up before work or anything else has a chance to demand my ongoing attention. In addition to that, I've been doing some very basic strength training on Tuesdays and Thursdays after my cardio. Although my eating habits have honestly been pretty decent lately, I've been more mindful in that arena as well. Just the usual things -- watching my portions, cutting back on empty calories, and eating as much fresh produce as possible. Most mornings, I've also been taking the time to eat at least a small breakfast -- usually just toast and fruit with coffee, but sometimes an egg or some deli meat and cheese on an English muffin if I'm hungrier. 

The idea wasn't to drop a million pounds as quickly as possible the way it normally is when I think about fitness, but to actually come up with something sustainable I could see sticking with permanently. I don't want to do what I've watched my mother do the entire time I've been alive -- let her health and quality of life slide downhill until she eventually reached a point where she probably couldn't do much about it even if she wanted to. When I'm her age, I want to be healthy, happy, comfortable in my own skin, and living my best life. I guess I realized that if that's going to happen, I need to get the ball rolling toward some positive change and it seems to be working so far.

I didn't expect to notice a difference so quickly, but I have to admit that I do. I have more energy and less of that nagging chronic pain I've just learned to live with 24/7. I'm also already getting stronger and can tell I've lost a couple of pounds. (I'm purposefully not weighing myself yet so as not to become too preoccupied with weight.) Best of all, I've actually been sticking with it and feel like I can do so more or less indefinitely, which is the real goal. On my good days, I even enjoy it and look forward to it!

I also like that this has helped me reclaim my mornings and make them at least partially about me again. I've spent the better part of the past year making breakfast for my mother every day because of her health problems, which means I'm almost always the first and only one in my household up at the start of the day. I'm the sort of person that really resents being stuck with any sort of responsibility, especially if I'm the only one, so my attitude about all of this has honestly been pretty sour and getting worse all the time. I really missed being able to do as I liked in the mornings instead of getting up solely to do something for someone else that they really ought to be doing for themselves.

Taking that time to improve and nourish my body first thing (as well as pray -- something else I need to be doing more of) has done a lot to make me feel like I'm prioritizing myself and taking the time to actually enjoy my mornings the way I deserve to. I also love the optimistic feeling that comes with knowing I'll wake up every day a little bit stronger and healthier than I was the day before. At one point in the past, I was reasonably fit and very well-groomed in general. I felt like what I saw when I looked in the mirror was consistent with the proud, creative, valuable person I know myself to be inside. I'm looking forward to that being the case again one day soon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Past the Equinox

It's finally starting to feel a little bit like fall around these parts and I'm definitely relieved. We tend to have our warmest weather of the year around the same time it's actually starting to cool off everywhere else, but as always, I hoped maybe it wouldn't happen this year. Instead we wound up having an absolutely horrible heat wave that started just before Labor Day weekend and continued for a couple of weeks afterward.

We're not just talking hot weather by my standards either. Pretty much anyone would probably think temps of over 100 degrees are excessive, especially if you don't have air conditioning and double-especially in this particular part of California. I legitimately felt like I was going to die or go crazy at one point. Honestly, it's still a little too warm for my taste, but thanks to the way it's been getting so cool at night lately, I don't really feel it too much as long as I stay in the house.

At times it even feels downright autumnal and I can't help but feel like doing fall things when that happens. I couldn't (and didn't) work much while it was at its hottest, but I'm slowly getting back to being my productive self. I'm having ideas again (although I've yet to do much with any of my newer ones). I've picked things back up with some video courses I started a while back because I missed my Hitchcock class from July so much. I've been listening to some new music and reading regularly again. I even baked a few things -- banana bread, a very experimental loaf of pumpkin spice bread, and some peanut butter cookie brownies for Seth's birthday last week. It's been nice not feeling like I died in my sleep one night and woke up in Hell Proper to say the least.


In other news, I've sort of been feeling my age lately. For the most part, I love being in my early 40's. I'm definitely growing more eccentric by the day, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm also better adjusted, more even-tempered, and more responsible. I actually feel a rush of accomplishment over things like improving my credit or successfully managing a grocery budget, if you can believe that. I'll probably never stop finding that amusing, considering the person I used to be when I was much younger. I know people that used to know me and don't anymore (like my ex-husband) would barely recognize me.

There's an odd sort of emotional tiredness I've been dealing with though. It feels different from the depression and bipolar lows I'm already used to. At this point, I'm well aware of things like my parents getting older and of not having a seemingly unlimited amount of time to do certain things with my life. Maybe this is what people mean when they say they feel world-weary. I'm really not sure.

That's forced me to take inventory a little and re-evaluate some things. I'm well aware that when my parents pass on, I'm likely to still be in this same phase of my life to one extent or another, so I'm having to at least consider responsibilities that might become mine in the near-ish future -- things like probably winding up with a house to pay for and take care of. I've also been thinking about some of those alleged life goals on that very long list I've had going since I was a teenager. I feel like a new chapter will be opening up in my life very soon and I'm not entirely sure whether or not I'm excited about it.

At this point, I think it's pretty safe to say that if certain things had really been that important to me, I would have found a way to move forward with them by now or at least pursue them the way I did with my relationship. There have only been a couple of constants I've remained consistently interested in and active with over the long haul -- my writing, my learning, and my interest in food. Everything else -- art, music, and so much more -- have simply come, gone, perhaps returned for a period of time, and then gone again. Probably best to pour most of my focus into the things I already know come naturally to me and work for me as far as generating at least some sense of personal accomplishment. 

These days, I find it unlikely that I'll ever become a best-selling novelist, but I'm no longer certain I ever truly wanted to be. That sounds like something society probably led me to think I should want if I'm really passionate about being a writer. Really I just want to write and make enough money to maintain a modestly comfortable lifestyle. As long as I have my relationship, as well as things to read and write about plus plenty of free time to enjoy it all, I think I'll be pretty content.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On 23andMe the Strangeness of Genes

As I mentioned in a previous post, I did finally get around to doing that whole 23andMe DNA test thingamajig this summer after probably a good year of hemming and hawing about it. It's been a few weeks since I first got my results, but I've been truly fascinated by some of the things I found out, especially in regards to the ancestry side of things. 

Suffice it to say that my mixed race heritage has always defined quite a bit about my physical and biological identity whether I wanted it to or not. When I was a kid, I was a shy wallflower type that just wanted to fit in, so I used to hate being mixed because of the constant questions I always got about my ethnicity and heritage. As an adult though, I've come to realize that being different or unique isn't so bad, so I've learned to embrace it for what it is. I've even become quite curious about the bare-bones, honest details of who and what I am from a cultural heritage standpoint.

Lots of people grew up in households where cultural identity and heritage were really, seriously important things. That wasn't the case with my immediate family when I was growing up at all. I knew my dad was black and that my mom was probably mostly of Irish heritage, but that's about it. Neither of my parents seemed to consider those aspects of who they were to be terribly important. My brother and I were certainly never encouraged to really identify with anything about where we came from ethnically speaking, especially in regards to our black side. 

Neither of my parents ever dared say so in so many words, but I sometime got the impression my blackness was considered a negative to overcome in life, even by my father who is honestly as black as it gets by society's standards. It was certainly nothing to express any sort of pride in the way I saw being done in other families that included black people. Interest in anything related to black culture was pretty strongly discouraged (and in some cases even "corrected"). However, I was actively encouraged to be "grateful" I had light skin, hair that flowed and grew long, or features that were relatively Caucasian-seeming in comparison to other people with similar backgrounds -- like I lucked out in dodging bullets I could have been hit with because of where I came from.

Looking back, all of that was really pretty fucked up and I have to wonder what my parents were even thinking in getting together and producing mixed children if they didn't actually want to raise children with that background. Granted the atmosphere at home was only part of the reason, but I truly felt like there was something wrong with me -- like I was disappointing, unattractive, and just plain "weird" in a way other kids just weren't. As I've gotten older though, I've come to realize none of this had anything to do with me. It was about personal hang-ups my parents apparently both had in regards to what it means to be black or what it says about you if you choose to embrace your blackness. 

Case in point, once I reached young adulthood, I started hearing all the time from my dad about the Native American heritage I'd supposedly inherited from his side of the family and was encouraged to embrace that for reasons I still don't totally understand. (I guess anything's better than being just plain old black.) My father's never necessarily been someone I associate with honesty or transparency though, so I never knew how seriously to take that -- one of the many reasons why I wanted to have a 23andMe done in the first place. I wanted to know how much of what I've been led to believe about my heritage was real and how much was bullshit I could just go ahead and let go of.

As you can see from my ancestry report, there isn't any Native American in my heritage, which there obviously would be if it were any major part of my father's heritage. What I do have back there somewhere is some apparent Asian heritage, which really intrigues me. I also have a good deal of Scandinavian and Iberian heritage, which is also complete news to me. I was pretty surprised to find out that I have as much European ancestry overall as I apparently do as well. I always just assumed I was mostly black genetically speaking, but I guess that's not necessarily how genetics works (with one type of DNA being "stronger" somehow than another). I certainly didn't figure my predominant heritage would come up as Irish/British, but there it is just the same. 

I kind of hate that if I'd never had this test done, I wouldn't have known about some of this stuff in any way whatsoever. However, I love that I now have this information from an accurate source I feel like I can trust. I feel this immense interest in my heritage beginning to emerge as a result and I'm excited to see how that develops for me in the years to come. I've never really identified that closely with any one part of my heritage, partly because of my upbringing and partly because I really do scan so thoroughly as "mixed" to other people, but I like this new feeling. I feel like I'm somebody -- somebody with an identity that's attached to a real history, and a heritage, and a background. The fact that my parents never thought it was important that I appreciate it is now irrelevant.

In other news, I also opted in to 23andMe's relative matching network, because I figured "why the hell not". There are apparently over 2,000 people in their databases that are genetically related to me to one extent or another, which just blows my mind. Many are distantly related cousins or something and they live all over the United States. I think a few may even live elsewhere, but I can't quite remember right now. 

I'm a pretty passive person, so I haven't actually reached out to any of these people on my own, but I have had three people contact me through the site wanting to compare DNA results and whatnot -- two guys and a girl, all distant cousins. The girl in particular expressed a lot of interest in maybe getting to know me better. We added each other on Facebook and actually spent a little time yesterday afternoon talking about heritage and whatnot. It was actually a pretty cool experience. I'm really not used to having most of my blood relatives take much of an interest in me as a person, so that was a nice change of pace for sure. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Moving on to Other Things

Tippi Hedren - Publicity Still for The Birds
It's strange. Whenever I do a thing, I always try to make it as easy as possible for people to find out more about me or get to know me better if they're so inclined. However, it never fails to surprise me if people actually decide they want to do that. I was just as surprised (but pleased) to learn this blog has been seeing a modest amount of traffic from the TCM forums and occasionally from Twitter over the past few weeks, especially lately. (I don't actually market my personal writings here or anything, so I don't see many passers-through as a rule.)

I suppose that can only mean people appreciate my thoughts and insights on some of the films I've been studying with my fellow Hitchcock students enough to come see what else I'm about. A couple of folks have even gone out of their way to chat with me or at least say hello. I'm used to being seen as smart, but I don't know that I'm always seen as interesting, so that's been nice. It's also been really refreshing for me to interact with new people that actually think for a change. I've probably shared more original thoughts and insights with others over the past month than I have in the past... I don't know... five years? I hope I'm able to keep some of that optimism and good energy going, because that's something I need to be doing if I'm as serious about my writing as I always tell people I am.

Tonight is going to be the last Hitchcock viewing party and the course on the whole only lasts through next week. I will truly miss the lessons, the instructor, my classmates, and all the daily discussions. This has given me so much to think about, and do, and discuss as far as my free time goes. My mind is happiest when it's busy like that, so I'll have to think about how best I can fill that void and keep going with some of these positive thought patterns. I suppose there are always more classes to look into, not to mention aaaaaaall those personal creative projects I never quite seem to get around to working on, let alone sharing. I thought maybe age and a growing sense of disenchantment with the world and with the rest of humanity had destroyed my passion for thinking and sharing my thoughts, so mostly I'm just really relieved to know that part of me is alive and well.

In other news, Seth and I decided to have our DNA tested through 23andMe last month. I got my results back last weekend and Seth got his back today. Ethnic heritage has never been something that was talked a lot about or considered important in my family. However, I've always been very interested in world culture and world history, so I've always been similarly interested in knowing where and how I fit into the grand scheme of things, especially considering how racially mixed I've always known myself to be. I really feel my thoughts about the whole 23andMe experience deserve their own detailed post though, so I'll simply stick a pin in that topic for now and revisit it over the weekend. Marnie is about to start and I love me some Tippi Hedren.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Stopping at Manderley

Rebecca (1940)
It's always a good thing to realize you're growing as a person, but it's very strange indeed to realize almost no one you're close to has been growing in the same areas you have. Seth and I both have a lot of moments lately where we're going through our social media feeds reading posts from people we once considered ourselves close to and shaking our heads. "Was so-and-so always such a self-pitying crybaby?" "Have Person X and Person Y always been this mind-numbingly boring?"

Normally I simply assume that if I've fallen out of love with a particular friendship, it's because the person changed and isn't as cool as they used to be, but lately I've been realizing that's not the case at all. I am changing and world views that once made a lot of sense to me now seem very silly and unrealistic. I'm also realizing that I know so many people that suffer from victim mentality because I used to be the same way and like attracts like. I guess I need some new friends. People that also like to learn and grow. People that are determined to see themselves as winners, not losers.


I'm really very proud of myself for keeping up with my Hitchcock 50 class despite having as much to do for work as ever. At this point, we've successfully completed two weeks of lessons -- one on Hitchcock's early work in silent film and another on the British spy films he made in the 1930's. Seth and I have both taken and passed two tests. We've also made it a point to watch as many of the films as we can on Wednesdays and Friday when TCM shows them, as well as participate in class discussions. A lot of the other students have already fallen behind at this point in the course, so I'm really proud of both of us for sticking with things and making the most of the experience.

This week, we're moving on to the Selznick years, as well as some of the films that made me fall in love with Hitchcock as as young person. I'm saving the bulk of the lesson for after I get some of my Monday obligations out of the way, but I took a quick peek at today's module just to see what was on the agenda and saw it focuses on Rebecca, easily one of my favorite films of his. I can't believe how eager I am to dive in today for that reason. 

I'm also realizing how sad I'm going to be when the course is over. These lessons and all the fun live tweeting with classmates while watching movies a couple of evenings a week have easily been the high point of my summer so far. Makes me realize how starved I am for experiences that are productive, enriching, and semi-social while also being completely voluntary. No one is taking this course because they have to. They don't need it for college credit or anything. Everyone is doing this for the exact same reason I am -- they appreciate film and want a chance to learn more about it with other people that appreciate film. Period. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer of Hitch

The Lodger (1927)
So I'm actually doing a thing this summer. I'd been seeing ads on Facebook and elsewhere about a free film study course TCM was giving on the work of Alfred Hitchcock, my absolute favorite director of all time. At first, I didn't know if it was a good idea, especially since I've been more stressed out than usual lately. Then I decided there was no harm in signing up and giving it a try, as I could always drop it if it turned out to be too much to handle on top of everything else I have going on right now.

Now I'm really glad I enrolled, because it turned out to be just what my summer needed. In fact, Seth and I are both taking it and the lessons have since become one of the highlights of our days. It's fun to have something to focus on that feels productive, but that isn't somehow about work or taking care of other responsibilities. I especially like that it's led to some really fun discussions, both with other people that are taking the class and with Seth. I've always thought we might enjoy the experience of taking a class of some sort together. We have fun together anyway and talk about all sorts of things, but it's been fun to have an actual activity to focus on.

I'm also realizing I need to go easier on myself sometimes and do more things just because they sound like a good time. Period. Generally speaking, I'm the sort of person that truly hates not being able to finish something I start, even if I have a really good reason for bailing on whatever it is. I also don't really like signing up for things and then half-assing them, so I find I often won't give anything new a try if there's the slightest chance I'll have to give it any less than 100% at any point. I don't even want to think about how many fun experiences I've probably missed out on over the years because that was always my thinking.

I probably need to find more things to do with some of my time that actually get me socializing with other people I have something in common with as well. Since I have Seth to talk to about whatever, I don't feel a lot of need to seek out interaction with others. When I do, it's always on general social media, which isn't without its share of annoyances. Even when they're actually older than I am, people seem to assign me this weird mentor/advice giver role that I really dislike instead of seeing me as a friend and equal. I like just shooting the breeze with other folks that are just into learning new things and sharing ideas. Makes me think other online courses might be just as good a fit for me. I guess we'll see.