Thursday, December 6, 2018

On Transformations, Pride, and Self-Love

It looks like Blogger finally got around to purging the old, extraneous blogs I deleted a few months ago. I certainly wasn't planning on reviving them or anything, but it still feels a little bittersweet to actually see that they're really and truly gone. With them go the fractured little pieces of me that they contained back when I was still not really sure who I was or what I wanted to be going forward.

To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure, but I do know I no longer have the time or energy to try to be all things to all people. I like that there is really only one of me these days. I'm still the reader, and the writer, and the lover, and the passionate home cook, and the closet spiritualist. I'm just all of those things at the same time now. It feels like a right proper place to be. Grounded, stable, and lots of other words I never would have used to describe myself a few years ago.

My phone's image gallery is full of selfies these days. I don't even share most of them with anyone else, but I consider it a very good sign that I've felt moved to take them at all. Historically speaking, I photograph things I'm proud of or pleased by. If I'm taking pictures of myself, that must mean I've reached a place where I feel proud of how I look again. I'm certainly proud of how well I've been taking care myself so far this year. My fit body and my beauty were things I never fully appreciated the last time I actually had them, so it's nice to feel the way I imagine other people would feel about those things. I love the ways I've been changing and I get excited every time I realize that things will only get better from here.

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Speaking of positive changes, I'm getting awfully good at make-up. Back when I worked retail in my 20's, I was pretty impeccable about my grooming routine. My hair, make-up, and nails were literally never not done. I really didn't branch out much or try anything new though, especially when it comes to make-up. I wore more or less the same basic color combinations every single day and that's something I've literally never changed over the years.

While that was one thing when I was 25 and not that far removed from my teens years and early 20's in the actual 90's, it's different now that I'm in my 40's in 2018. I'm definitely not looking to fool anyone into thinking I'm still in my 20's or anything, but I don't want to look like I'm cluelessly stuck in yesteryear or anything either. I've been actively trying to branch out as far as my make-up looks for that reason.

A couple of months ago, I signed up for a couple of subscription beauty boxes to make sure I'm continually trying new products and colors, especially ones that I wouldn't necessarily pick out for myself. I've also been using all of the stuff they send and having an unexpectedly good time doing so. I've learned a thing or two about myself in the process:

  • I apparently look good in just about any color combination, including a few I never could have pictured myself wearing. Case in point, that 60's-inspired look with the blue eyeshadow in that picture above or the one below with the pale pink lipstick. 
  • In the past, I always thought my eyes were boring and not really worth playing up at all because they're brown. I rarely to never wore much (if any) eye make-up in the past for that reason. Now I'm realizing that brown, almond-shaped eyes like mine are actually the best eyes to have if you like trying different colors.
  • I actually like contemporary make-up looks that don't look like they're total throwbacks to the 90's. To be fair, I'm really still very attached to my dark lipsticks and whatnot, but these days, I can honestly say they're no longer all I like to wear.
  • Not only do I actually like eyeshadow, but my favorite options have tons of shine and a lot of color to them. I'm still not a massive fan of super-understated or barely there make-up looks, so dramatic eyeshadows give me something to wear with some of the nude and lighter-colored lipsticks I've acquired. 
At this point, it's been a few months since I finally got my grooming routine back on track, so I'm super used to actually doing my hair and make-up on a regular basis again. I often think of grooming time as the highlight of my morning -- a fun, colorful activity to enjoy after my workouts that makes me feel like I'm doing something positive for myself. Something that celebrates the person I feel I'm becoming.

Beauty and grooming were never things I truly enjoyed when I was younger. Like most women, I saw them as things I "had to" do to stay gainfully employed, meet the expectations of others, and make myself socially acceptable. I was already an ugly duckling type growing up, so I genuinely thought of myself as an ugly person that needed a lot of help in the looks department (no thanks to shitty people in my life that reinforced that thinking at every opportunity).

I guess a lot has changed since I was young. These days, women seem to see their beauty routines and makeup choices more as ways to express themselves and tell the world a little something about who they are. I've even heard people describe it as "wearable art". It's no longer about covering up your "ugly" natural face or trying to better fit society's idea of what a woman ought to look like. People also seem more focused on actually cultivating truly healthy skin, hair, nails, and bodies as opposed to simply mimicking the look of health.

My workouts are still very regular and my results are coming along nicely as well. At this point, I've lost enough weight for it to really show. I'm much stronger too. In fact, yesterday I managed to get a new mattress Seth ordered for us inside all by myself -- something I never would have been able to do this time last year. The drastic reduction in alcohol intake has made my mind clearer as well. I feel creative and motivated again on a level I wasn't sure I could anymore at this age. I'm just doing really, really well in general these days and feeling good in general about me.

Monday, August 20, 2018

On Red Hair, Glamour, and Anne of Green Gables

I finally got around to coloring and styling my hair a couple weeks back. I decided I wanted to take advantage of actually having virgin hair to work with again (for the first time in a very long time), so I switched things up from the really super bright shade of red I was doing previously. I chose a shade from L'Oreal's Power Reds collection, a coppery color that reminded me of fox fur -- a color found in nature, but still nice and bright. I had to dye it twice to get the level of lift I was after, but it ultimately came out exactly the way I wanted.

I invested in some new cosmetics recently and signed up for a couple of beauty subscriptions, as I want to get back in the habit of taking care of my skin and doing my make-up on a regular basis as well. It's been really fun so far, trying some new products and learning how to put together some different looks. I don't necessarily see the need to get all made up every day, as sometimes I just really like to sit around with a bare face, but I no longer see the point in saving my efforts for days I plan to go out or be around people either. I probably do my make-up more days than I skip it altogether though. I want maintaining my hair, face, and nails to one day feel like an essential part of my ongoing routine just like working out and watching what I eat have become.

I even took a few selfies the day I finished my hair so I could update the profile pictures on all my social media pages. Sometimes I'm really at a loss to explain why I don't take or allow more pictures of myself, because I rarely dislike the way I look in photos if they're taken properly. I'm honestly looking pretty good for an old broad in her 40's, even if I do say so myself. And the longer I stick with all the positive changes I've been making lately, the better I'll continue to look and feel going forward. I'm definitely going to keep looking for ways to stay excited about that, hopefully indefinitely. I think I'm off to a really good start and am super proud of all the progress I've made this year.
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Amybeth McNulty as Anne in Anne with an E
On a more random note, I'm currently reading the Anne of Green Gables series for the first time ever in my life. I felt like I absolutely had to after Seth got me hooked on Anne with an E on Netflix. I remember tons of my friends being really into those books when I was growing up, but I somehow never got into them myself. My mother definitely encouraged me to be well-read, even as a little girl, but she didn't really like me reading age-appropriate literature -- books that were actually written for and about girls my own age. (The only exceptions seemed to be books that were magical or fantastic on one level or another, like Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz.) 

She preferred being able to tell everyone she knew that her daughter was so smart, she was already reading Shakespeare, and Dickens, and Fitzgerald instead of all the childish books other kids preferred. I recall having to practically beg her to let me read the Sweet Valley Twins and Babysitters Club books that were so popular with all the other girls at my school when I was young for that reason. That said, I sometimes like to go back as an adult and fill in the blanks as far as my childhood reading experience goes. I still love rereading so many of the fairy tales and young adult books I used to love, as well as exploring newer ones that have come out long after I ceased to be a child (e.g. Harry Potter or Twilight). I obviously still read classics, and non-fiction, and biographies to my heart's content, but sometimes I really just want to relax and sop up a really simple, pure-hearted story instead. 

On that note, I'd actually forgotten about the kind of child I used to be before life and my parents' constant pressure to grow up sooner rather than later eventually got the better of me. I was very much like Anne with an imagination that was constantly going full throttle and curiosity to match. I also just loved nature and would sometimes become positively enchanted by things most people might not even notice -- an apple tree in full bloom, or some wildlife happening by, or the way the world smelled after a fresh rain. I did not have Anne's fox-red hair (although I do now), nor was I even a fraction as talkative and extroverted as she was, but I was a misfit like her and I worried a lot about whether I'd ever find a place where I fit in. Anne is even a Pisces like me! These books are reminding me of this in the most wonderful way and helping me to get back in touch with the magical way I used to see the world. Perfect reading for a summer that's already been characterized by change, rebirth, and rediscovery.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Of Eclipses, Loss, and Transformation

This month has been a tad rough, spiritually speaking. We've got this massive blood moon lunar eclipse coming up in a couple of days here on the 27th and it's had me feeling some kind of way. I've definitely been having one of those months where staying upbeat and excited about life in general seems a bit harder than usual. The same sticking points and problems I always have in my life have seemed more daunting somehow and the things that normally make it better have been less effective for no real reason. Typical me when something odd is going on with the moon.

It hardly helps that a friend of mine died in a truly horrific way last Thursday night. Her name was Angela Coleman and she lived in Indianapolis. She and pretty much her entire family were involved in the Branson, Missouri duck boat accident that's been in the news lately and the great majority of them died -- 9 out of the 11 Colemans that were on the boat.

Angela was an online friend of mine, so I only knew her but so well, but we talked relatively often. I converse with so few people these days, so I think it's fair to say she was one of my closer social media friends. We shared a lot of interests, particularly food and cooking. She signed up for ButcherBox because of how excited I'd always get about receiving and cooking with the things they sent. We traded recipe ideas often and even her son, Donovan, was getting into cooking. She was also a total "take no shit" type of person just like I am, so we bonded over general life stuff a lot too. She was most certainly someone I was always excited to hear from and talk to. She'd even gotten to know Seth over the years, so he knew her as well.

Her death really kind of messed with my head, as deaths tend to do. Although I've had some folks almost die on me a couple of times over the course of my life, I've never actually had to cope with losing someone that was a large part of my daily offline life at the time that they passed. A few old high school friends, online acquaintances, and coworkers, yes. But not anyone like a partner, a close family member, or a really close friend that I spent time with in person every single day. In a way, that is something I really don't know about myself -- how I truly deal with having my day-to-day life drastically changed in an instant by a death. If how I handle deaths like Angela's or even the deaths of famous people I looked up to is anything to go by though, it's not something I'm good at coping with. As usual, it's been really hard for me to grasp that concept -- that once upon a time, I lived in world that had an Angela in it and now --abruptly and suddenly -- she is no longer there.

Despite the fact that this month's been weird and rough though, I've continued to make steady progress with my ongoing fitness and grooming project. I'm proud of myself for that. To start with, I've been keeping up with my workouts like a boss. In particular, I've been noticing that my legs and arms have been looking a lot leaner and shapelier lately. There's still more body fat than I'd like covering up the muscles I've been working so hard to build and train, but it's no longer so thick you can't tell there's a real leg under there somewhere. I can actually see where one day I may actually have a body I'm proud to call mine again. I also finally got my poor, neglected hair back to a place where it's ready to be dyed, cut nicely, and styled again. I chose my color yesterday and everything. If I like, I can have it done as soon as this weekend, so it won't be long before I'm feeling much more like myself again at all. It's about time!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

June Musings in Triplicate

The Treachery of Images - Rene Magritte (1928-29)
As always, time continues to fly without my apparently noticing, but for once it's not necessarily a bad thing. In just a little over a week, I'll have reached my six-month milestone as far as my decision to improve my health goes. Six months of mindful eating with intermittent fasting. Six months of working out every single weekday without fail. I've lost close to 40 pounds since New Year's Day, so I'm about where I hoped I'd be with my weight loss journey by halfway through the year. I've been building muscle, strength, and stamina. A couple of weeks ago, I also started wearing a latex waist trainer when I work out to help support my abs and encourage my waist to tighten up a little bit -- another little something that's been helping me make steady progress toward my goals.

At this rate, I expect to be very happy with where I'm at by the end of the year. Two years from now, I wouldn't be at all surprised if I'm actually able to look in the mirror without seeing a single thing I don't like about my body composition. That will be absolutely amazing, as I haven't been able to say I like my body in many years. I've never been able to say I'm 100% happy with it, so that's something I'm looking forward to for sure, especially since I'm in my 40's now. I'll take my ego boosts where I can get them.

This is hardly just a vanity thing for me though. Everything that's been going on with my mother over the past year has really changed my attitude toward self-care and fitness. She's taken terrible care of herself pretty much the entire time I've been alive. She's always been as lazy and sedentary as her responsibilities would allow her to be. She's very overweight and has a terrible relationship with food. For a long time, she had just as terrible a relationship with alcohol as well. I honestly always just thought of that as her business until she ran her health into the ground to the point where she couldn't really take care of herself anymore.

I fully realize at this point that her choices didn't just affect her. Her bad choices wound up changing the course of my life as well and not in a good way. I'd be lying if I said I don't feel angry and resentful about that. Those feelings eventually led to my own realization that how I take care of myself actually isn't just my business and no one else's. I realized that if I didn't start caring about my health sooner rather than later, I was eventually going to wind up putting my own loved ones in the same position one day too. I grew up feeling like a burden pretty much just for existing and it's the worst feeling in the world. If working out, drinking less, and eating better can reduce my chances of ever having to feel that way again, then I'm happy to make those changes. 

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R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain (June 25, 1956 - June 8, 2018)
In other news, Anthony Bourdain died a couple of weeks ago. He apparently took his own life by hanging himself with the sash from his hotel bathrobe, so... there's that. Like David Bowie and Prince, Tony was one of the few famous people I can truly say was a hero to me, so I was incredibly shocked and saddened by the news of his death.

Despite my own lifelong struggles with depression and suicidal ideation, there is always this extra layer of loss and sadness that comes with hearing someone I admired took their own life. I understand better than anyone why these things happen, but I always have that very selfish feeling of being "left behind" regardless, if that makes any sense. At this point, it still hurts that the world no longer has a Tony in it, but I've also stabilized and started to get used to it.

Like other heroes I've had over the years, I discovered Tony's work at a point in my life when I really needed it. It was the early 2000's. I'd just left my ex-husband, moved from California to Connecticut, and begun my relationship with Seth. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was free to actually be myself and live an honest, transparent life to a degree I never could while I was still with my ex or physically around my family on an everyday basis. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with that life and I eventually chose to focus my energies on my writing (and at one point, also my art).

And just then, along came Tony. He was doing No Reservations on the Travel Channel at the time and it didn't take me long to get hooked on watching him assess all these different locations in that sarcastic, witty way he always had. His voice as a writer and as a television personality seemed very similar to the voice I'd been keeping to myself all those years. I had always thought that voice of mine was "too much" for people to handle. I also felt at the time like I'd wasted the best years of my life on the wrong people, the wrong jobs, and the wrong efforts, so I saw myself as "too old" to make anything much of what I was left with. Tony showed me how wrong I was and I haven't been the same since.

Now he's gone. I never knew him, but I miss him. I miss "traveling" around the world with him to places I'll likely never visit and being introduced to people I doubt I'd even take the time to talk to if I were in the same position. I miss getting excited about seeing new writings, musings, photos, and brilliant ideas from him roll through my social media feeds. However, I remain grateful for the way Tony taught me to see the world, to appreciate food on a completely new level, and to never be anything less than the truest version of myself. I hope that wherever he is now, he knows what a difference he's made for so many that needed to hear exactly what he had to say.

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
In more positive news, TCM's "Mad About Musicals" course officially started at the beginning of the month and I've been pretty engrossed in that, just as I knew I would be. I've always liked musicals despite not knowing that much about them, so there have been plenty of opportunities for me to learn interesting new things. I've filled in some of the gaps as far as important films I've always wanted to see, but never got around to watching as well.

As a result, my world's been a little brighter and more colorful these past couple of weeks. I haven't really had the time to be active on the TCM forums or on Twitter to the extent I was with the "50 Years of Hitchcock" class last year, but I have made time to watch a ton of the movies covered in the course. In fact, I've actually been watching one most mornings while I work out and complete the rest of my morning routine. Seth and I have been watching quite a few together as well, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays -- "movie nights" with the rest of our class.

As a slight aside, I'm really pretty proud of the time management skills I've developed over the past few years. I always thought I "didn't have time" to work out, or take classes, or really throw myself into learning more about a topic I'm interested in. I've since discovered that it's not so much about making the time as it is learning to make better use of the time you usually just waste without thinking about it. And I've learned that enriching my life and getting the most out of the blessings I do have is something I can do anywhere and under any circumstances. I'm doing my best to remain in that mindset as time continues to march on.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On Royal Weddings, Birds, and Shifting Social Tides


Last Friday, Seth and I stayed up late to watch CNN's live footage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle getting married. I'm so very glad we did. I've casually followed the lives of the British royals since I first saw Diana and Charles get married as a little girl, so naturally I was interested in seeing their boys get married too. I watched them be born and grow up, after all, so -- like many people -- I guess I feel like I know them a little bit. Plus, Seth and I already watched the live footage of Prince William and Kate Middleton getting married years ago and had a wonderful time.

Harry has always been my favorite of the two princes though, so I was especially interested in seeing him sort of find someone eventually and settle down. Imagine how thrilled I was when he chose someone not only smart and poised, but biracial as well. Being biracial myself, that really means something to me. I was born in the 70's, so I very definitely grew up with the message that girls like me don't get to be princesses. We certainly were never considered pretty, or desirable, or noteworthy, so it's been quietly blowing my mind a little bit that I can actually recognize myself in the face of one of the British royals -- something I really didn't think would ever happen. Yes, there are still plenty of bigots out there that think we mixed girls (Meghan Markle included) ain't shit, but they can't change the fact that this is just huge.


At any rate, watching that wedding was just what I needed, so haters be damned. Some people really seem to get something out of feeling miserable all the time and focusing on everything that's wrong with the world we live in, but I don't. As melancholy and depressed as I can get from time to time, I always choose happiness, and cheer, and optimism as often as it makes sense to, so it was really nice to spend an entire evening thinking about gorgeous white flowers, and crazy English church hats, and a beautiful mixed girl marrying the best prince for a change. 

It was nice spending the next morning filling my Facebook feed with articles and photos from the wedding as well -- something nice to look back on when the "memories" function reminds me in the future. And since my page is pretty well free of all the fake friends and annoying people I've been complaining about for a while now, I didn't have to put up with a single negative comment mocking me for actually caring about something as "frivolous" as a royal wedding. It was a really nice break from all the negativity and I'm glad I took the time to experience it. It's nice to know that life hasn't made me so jaded by 42 that I no longer have the ability to feel as innocent and enchanted as I did back when I saw my first royal wedding at only 5 years old. 


A couple of weeks ago, I finished the original set of video courses that I'd been chewing on here and there for months, so I eagerly started a few more -- one about performance psychology (to keep me juiced up about my workouts), one about the Irish identity (to start connecting with some of the cultures from my 23andMe ancestry reports), and a third on birding (for no other reason than I love birds and would like to be better informed about some of the ones that live here). Workout time really has turned out to be an ideal time to also try to learn something, so I really wanted to keep the learning train going.

I also downloaded a birding app from Cornell University yesterday and installed all the recommended guides to birds in my area. I played with it so much last night that I eventually gave Seth an Excedrin headache, but it sure was fun regardless. I love learning new things and I feel fortunate to have such easy access to really great learning platforms that are affordable (if not completely free). I don't know how people can actually choose to sit on social media all day and waste 100% of their time online when there are unlimited things to do, and read, and learn, and see. 

Now if only I could actually make some new internet friends that are interested in at least a few of the same things I'm into, particularly self-improvement. It's been nice to be rid of all the victims, and panhandlers, and losers I've been jettisoning from my life lately, but I haven't really met many worthy replacements yet. I guess until I do, there are always the new Facebook groups I've been going to. They're something.