Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New Year, Same Me (But Better)

Our Wonderful New Year's Day Dinner
So I guess it's official. Another year has been and gone, but it's different this time. This past year was perhaps the first year of my entire life that saw me truly and deliberately growing toward being the person I actually want to be. I have twelve months to look back on that I spent being determined, responsible, and dedicated to self-improvement and I like the way it feels. I definitely plan on continuing along that path in 2019 so that I can feel that way again next New Year's and hopefully every New Year's to follow.

Speaking of New Year's, I had a wonderful relaxing holiday yesterday. For dinner, I made us this delicious ham I got from ButcherBox with black-eyed peas, country greens, and mac on the side. I took the day off and spent the great majority of it relaxing. The latest and last season of A Series of Unfortunate Events went up on Netflix, so Seth and I started that, as well as continued with our rewatch of Mad Men. I spent some time working on my language lessons. The ColourPop palettes I ordered during their after-Christmas sale arrived on New Year's Eve, so I created a very pretty (and contemporary)  look with those after my morning workout as well. It was a great day and a terrific way to start a brand new year.

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The more I continue to work on my health and my looks, the more I'm getting back to being my old self again. Part of that has actually meant being more social (at least online) and actually talking to people again the way I used to. In many ways, that's been great. I've found some great groups online where I can talk to other people that are into things I'm really interested in at this point in my life (e.g. fitness, beauty, tarot, or astrology).

Somewhere along the way, I also seem to have started befriending more women than men. For most of my life, I actually had a really hard time relating to other women. Some of that had to do with my upbringing and the strange, disconnected relationship with my own femininity I developed as a result. The rest of it just had to do with who I am. I'm something of a tomboy inside, so I often come across as "one of the guys" to those who know me really well. However, I also come in a package that's considered conventionally attractive by contemporary Western beauty standards. That combination of qualities together made me someone men very much wanted to be around, especially when I was younger. They thought that if they were with me, they'd be getting the best of both worlds -- the pretty, well-kept girlfriend they could be proud to show off to others and the fun "best friend" they could actually be themselves around. It is also a combination that inspired a lot of jealousy and resentment in other women because of how appealing men found it.

But things are changing now that I'm older and now that others in my peer group are older. When you're in your 40's, it really doesn't matter how hot you are. You just don't attract that many men willing to pretend they value your friendship while they wait in the wings for a possible chance to get into your pants one day, especially when it's also very widely known that you're in a happy, healthy, long-standing relationship already. They're just not here for the bullshit anymore and they know you're not either. That in turn causes other women to see you as less of a threat. They no longer see you as someone who's competing with them for men, or jobs, or anything else in life. Instead they see a sister who's just trying to live her best life, same as they are. It's been a nice change.

My New Year's Day Makeup
Unfortunately though, being friendlier and more social has also been refreshing my memory as to the things I've never actually liked about "having friends", online or otherwise. I don't like the way people -- especially other women -- feel entitled to their friends' time and often enjoy spending long periods talking about nothing in particular. I also dislike the way friendship often means people start expecting you to make decisions about your own life based on what they'd like, as opposed to what's really best for you.

Friends like that eventually start pressing you for money, help, or advice when they're down on their luck. They also feel completely entitled to it, because friendship. They expect you to sign off on all their bad decisions for them and enable their poor life choices on an indefinite basis as well, because to them, a good friend always agrees with them and tells them exactly what they want to hear 100 percent of the time.

I'm realizing that I'm no longer a person who's willing to put myself in uncomfortable positions for other people, even if I genuinely like them. I've become someone who makes decisions based on what's best for me and those I'm responsible for first, friends and acquaintances second (if at all). I'm also realizing that I don't really want to get terribly close to anyone who's habits and values are not in line with my own, online or otherwise, but especially offline.

Ideally speaking, real-world friends that are actually part of my life would be people that are active, hard-working, responsible, and serious about ongoing self-improvement. People that will encourage me to become even better than I am, not drag me back into the bad habits and negative thought patterns that made my life so hard before. I no longer want friends that think it's OK to be lazy, overweight, or unhealthy. I don't want friends who don't know how to have a good time without alcohol/drugs being involved or who like spending all their free time partying and bar-hopping. I don't want friends that are chronically unemployed and constantly down on their luck despite also being over 40 (or damn close to it) either.

I want friends like myself. Friends who read, watch foreign films, and occasionally decide to learn something completely new just for shits and giggles. Friends who care about taking care of themselves and are more likely to suggest a hike or a trip to the museum than they are a night sitting at a bar getting drunk when they feel like hanging out. Friends that are self-starters who solve their own problems instead of expecting me to let them cry on my shoulder all the time and listen to their excuses for still being fuck-ups at their age, often for what feels like the millionth time. As I will it, so mote it be. I hope.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Sunset of Another Year

I can't believe Christmas is on Tuesday, nor does it seem possible that it's nearly time to say good-bye to yet another year. My relationships to both my biological and extended families are strained at best (where they're existent at all), so the holidays always bring up some weird feelings for me. However, this year I also have this wonderful feeling of accomplishment to help balance some of that.

I'm realizing that at one point, I got pretty used to feeling like a fuck-up. Every December usually finds me painfully aware of the fact that yet another year has slipped by without my accomplishing anything of note. Anything to be proud of. Nothing I've done to make my life better or truly move forward toward any of the long-term goals I like to claim are so important to me.

But not this year. This year, I can look back on a year I spent diligently improving myself. I've been exercising every day. I've been eating well. I've been taking amazing care of myself, both inside and out. I've been learning, reading, praying, and worshiping. (I am learning German, among other things!) I feel beautiful, and confident, and strong. I can honestly say I am finally growing into a woman I am proud to be and cultivating an image I'm unashamed to show to the rest of the world, either casually or in regards to something that's more serious.

Take last weekend, for instance. I've sort of made friends with one of our Instacart shoppers over Facebook recently and she asked to meet me in person last Saturday. (Normally I do the shopping and handle the orders, but Seth gets the door for the shopper in the event the delivery includes alcohol and needs to be signed for.) I'll probably never be the most voluntarily social person in the world, but it was really nice not to feel like I literally can't show my actual face to anyone because I've let my weight, hygiene, and grooming routine slide too far out of control for too long. Despite wearing boxer shorts and absolutely zero make-up, I felt like a normal human being saying hello to a friend who wanted to see me and that was really nice for a change.

This year has brought me so far from where I once was. I'm truly excited to see where I am by this time next year if when I continue to stick with all of my fantastic new habits. I have this wonderful suspicion that I have no real idea who I could become if I can just manage to believe in myself consistently enough for long enough.

I think next year, I'd like to see if I can leverage some of this momentum into whipping our bedroom into shape. Getting rid of all the junk and clutter. Cleaning. Maybe decorating a little bit and setting up a corner we can use for eating, working, or whatever else we might be in the mood for. I'd like to see if I can integrate some regular creative writing time into my schedule as well. I really need to be working on some serious pieces of my own that I can submit to publishers and whatnot so I can at least say I'm trying to make fetch happen with my writing. I just need to make it a habit just like I have everything else I've been working on. Suddenly, it seems so easy. Definitely possible.

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!