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. She's been my problem ever since and I feel constantly burdened and overwhelmed because of it.

I fully realize at this point that she didn't just screw herself over. Her lazy lifestyle and bad choices have unfairly screwed me over too. I'd be lying if I said I don't feel incredibly 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 being a burden to those around me 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. 

........

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.

........

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.

Friday, May 11, 2018

On Inner Peace and Progress


Every so often, it occurs to me that I'm actually a lot more satisfied with myself and my life than I tend to think I am most of the time. It's pretty much impossible to sell me things I don't really want or need and I don't fall for the same bullshit schemes other people seem to lap up just like it's mother's milk. I don't wish I was a different person or dream of living a radically different life one day. Not anymore. There's definitely always room for improvement, of course, but I'm also pretty content with who I am and with how I fill my days. Anything I'm not currently satisfied with is either temporary or something I'm actively working to change for myself.

My recent disenchantment with so many of my old friends has found me trying to make some new ones that share some of my current interests and values. I found a few Facebook groups to join and contribute to that seemed promising. I've also been attempting to actually talk to people that seem personable. As a result, I've had a few superficial "let's get to know each other" chats with some new folks I've met and I've noticed something about the way I speak about myself and my life. I speak with confidence and pride about my accomplishments, my relationship, and the person I've worked hard to become. That's a far cry from how I used to talk about myself in the now distant past -- very carefully, as I was constantly worried that the truth of my life would seem as pathetic to other people as it did to me.

I'm not sure when or how it happened, but at some point I guess I stopped pretending I like myself and started actually liking myself. I'm proud of how honest, spiritually grounded, and responsible I've become over the years. I'm proud of the fact that I'm no longer settling for ho-hum relationships with boring, embarrassing men I don't actually care about or, worse, feel ashamed to be associated with. I'm very proud of the way I can say with complete candidness and confidence that I'm a full-time professional writer that can feed her family thanks to her skill with words. It's been fun to see how impressed new acquaintances are when I talk about what I do and what I'm into as a result. It's like seeing myself through fresh eyes and truly being able to say I like what I see. 


In other news, I deleted my LiveJournal this morning. I posted a final entry stating my intentions a couple of weeks ago along with a few links to other places I could be found in the future if people were actually interested in continuing to know me. I figure that if folks haven't taken me up on my offer to follow me one or more of those places by now, then they simply don't care enough about keeping in touch with me for me to be bothered any further. So as of now, I'm gone from there. Free at last.

It does feel a bit odd though. Even though my journal there hasn't been active in many years at this point, actually deleting it closes a pretty major chapter in my life for good. LiveJournal was the catalyst for many serious changes in my life. The choice to start writing there was directly responsible for my later decision to start my business and become a professional writer. It's where Seth and I met many years ago when I was still married to my ex. Most importantly, seeing myself through the eyes of the people that once read and loved my writing there showed me that I was so much more than the unremarkable, unimportant little Macy's salesgirl my ex-husband and family saw when they looked at me. That was then and this is now though, so it's time to let go.

Next order of business is to go through my friends lists on the rest of my social media and scrub it clean of anyone else I really no longer want to know. I don't want to know any more losers, or mooches, or sad little excuse makers with no self-esteem. I only want to associate with people that lift me up, inspire me, or make my life better than it otherwise would be.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Angelus

The Angelus - Jean-Fran├žois Millet (1857-59)
That painting there -- Millet's The Angelus -- is one of my favorites right now, as it makes me think of the head space I'm in these days and all of the things that are positive about it. To begin with, it depicts a couple that not only works together, but prays together, taking a moment to bow their heads for the Angelus at dusk. They're hard-working farmers that work the land, not fancy folks that live easy lives. They work hard for everything they have, but it's a good life they live and it's one they never forget to thank God for. 

When I look at that painting, I see the standard I'm aspiring to, both on my own and within the context of my relationship. My ideal life with Seth looks like that life. In fact, I think I've made a decision. Whenever I get around to fixing up my desk area and making it work-friendly again, I think I'd like to buy a framed print or canvas of The Angelus and replace the nondescript print of my mother's that's currently hanging over my desk. At one point, I thought I'd replace it with a piece of my own art, but I think this is much more appropriate for where I'm currently at in my life.

It's amazing how differently I process the passage of time when I feel like I'm being consistent about  doing something good for myself. For instance, it's now the second day of May. At my current age, time has a way of zipping by at what honestly feels like a breakneck pace sometimes and the start of yet another month normally finds me feeling disappointed in myself because of how little progress I made as far as moving my life forward over the month before. This year has been different because of the way I've stuck by my decision to make exercise a regular part of my life. 

Every time I realize another month has passed and a new one has started, I can't help but also realize that means I've successfully completed yet another month's worth of daily exercise and mindful eating. I feel productive, disciplined, and proud of myself on a level I just haven't in years. I've kept up with my promise to myself and to God that I'd start every day with prayers, a set of rosary mysteries, and some Bible study as well. And as if that isn't enough, I've been getting back into my video lectures lately as a way to keep my mind busy while I work out. This is me at my best and most productive. I'm thrilled to see this version of myself isn't something that's simply been lost with age.


In other news, I got a wonderful surprise in the mail today. My monthly delivery from ButcherBox arrived safely and I was thrilled to see it contained the salmon special I added to my shipment this month. Anyone that has known me for long knows how much I love the different food delivery services I use to supply us with good quality things to eat and ButcherBox is my favorite way to get responsibly sourced meat. Up until recently, you haven't been able to get seafood through them though, so I was really happy to see they were offering a salmon special for the very first time. With any luck, this will be the first of many.

Food and meals are another area of my life that is pretty well in order and that I'm thankful for. I love food, love cooking, and have a real passion for food culture. I read voraciously about food, study gastronomy, and welcome the chance to explore new territory when it comes to good, simple, delicious food. I'm also lucky enough to be with someone that is the same. So many of the men I've dated in the past have been so limited and had so little curiosity about anything truly wonderful in this world, so Seth's attitude is really refreshing. I can't wait to cook this salmon up for our Friday Fish Day meal this week. Life isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but so much about it is good nevertheless.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Out with the Old, In with the New


Every so often in life, I appear to arrive at a kind of... social crossroads, for lack of a better way to describe it. At first, I just find I have trouble relating to my friends groups to the same extent I once did. Then I start noticing myself becoming actively irritated with individual members of those groups, usually because something they do, say, or think seems immature or unreasonable on one level or another. Then one day I just wake up in a state of active disgust with nearly everyone I know from that group and just want to be permanently rid of most of them.

That gradual process of disillusionment is what eventually caused me to realize I'd outgrown the friends I'd had throughout my teenage years, as well as most of my core family. It's what made me want to jettison myself from the online art community years ago, not to mention cut ties with almost everyone that even remembered I used to make digital art. Now it's officially happened with that group of LiveJournal people I used to be so tight with. I'm just sick to death of how petty, and gossipy, and childish they all are.

These are feelings I'd been aware of for quite some time. However, the whole David incident was what really dragged them out into the open. I'm not the sort of person that takes kindly to another person's decision to ignore my wishes and just hop right over any boundaries I might have set, but that's exactly what David eventually decided to do. Right after I removed and blocked him on every social media platform I could think of, he went out of his way to track me down and tweet me on Twitter, the one place I'd forgotten he had an account and failed to enforce a block. Then at some point yesterday, I got another message from him basically begging for another chance at friendship. I had previously responded to the tweet with a brief explanation as to why I didn't want to be friends anymore, but I didn't dignify yesterday's follow-up message with a response at all. I'm only going to tell you once.

I was later unfriended by another mutual friend of ours, I assume because David decided to complain to the rest of his friends about my lack of interest in rekindling our friendship and this chick wanted to kiss up to him the way she always does. This other person had been on my last nerve for a while as well, so it didn't really bother me, but yeah. All this implies that there's been all sorts of behind-the-scenes talk about me and my decision not to be friends with David anymore. That's just ludicrous, as David and I have never met or hung out in real life. We haven't even really interacted online all that much in recent years. I get that I was exactly the type of person David usually seeks approval from, so I'm sure this was a blow to his ego, but that's about it. He really doesn't even know me.


So I really got to thinking: Who the hell goes out of their way to contact someone they know for a fact doesn't want to hear from them instead of simply respecting that person's decision? An even better question would be: Who the hell does any of the things some of these damn people have done over the years to make me start feeling this way and what does that say about the kind of "friends" they are? Seriously, most of these people are complete fucking losers. They're chronically unemployed, unable to cultivate healthy romantic relationships, unnaturally attached to their parents in many cases, and perpetually dealing with one personal crisis after another. These are people that have tried to hit me up for jobs, for money, and certainly for my personal seal of approval on whatever dumb-ass decision they're about to make with their life next. 

All that was one thing when we were all still in our 20's or even our early 30's. Now though? We're all well into our 30's (at the youngest), in our 40's, or even older (50's in David's case). These people should be showing some measure of personal growth by now -- some improvement in their ability to control their damn impulses and certainly to respect other people's boundaries. David literally spat on mine as soon as possible and then did it again when he felt enough time had passed that I "should" be over what happened and ready to be friends again. Don't even get me started on these other tools. 

At any rate, I'm pretty worn out as far as these people go and I'm way ready to be done with them. I'm astonished at the fact that I didn't reach this point years ago. I also think it's time I start thinking about who else from that crowd I want to get rid of because they're entitled, petty, immature, or just plain annoying. It may even be time to finally delete my LiveJournal, as it's my final remaining tie to a large portion of that crowd. I just don't know how many ties I even want anymore to the people I used to know there or to the person I used to be back when I still considered them friends.


As far as happier news goes, I found out a little earlier in the month what the theme for this year's online TCM course is going to be -- musicals! In other words, it's the best theme it could possibly be as far as my getting excited goes. Seth and I both love classic musicals, but we don't know a ton about them from a film studies standpoint. There are also many important musical films one or both of us have yet to see, so we're looking forward to filling in some of the blanks. Class starts at the beginning of June and I'm eagerly looking forward to it.

I also finally bought myself an actual grown-up URL the other day (shannonhilson.com) that I currently have forwarding to this blog. I may also open up a Blogger blog for my business that may double as a sort of professional website at some point and have a second URL forward to that. My new workout habits have really made 2018 a productive year for me so far and I've been having fun embracing ways to keep that going, both personally and professionally. "Out with the old, in with the new" is definitely my motto in a big way right now.