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.


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.

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. 


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 ( 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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

On Growing Up and Its Consequences

So I cut ties with a couple of friends this week. Sadly, it seems that the more of my own issues I resolve and the more growing up I do, the more I start to see some of my so-called friends for the losers, eternal victims, and rotting garbage people that they are. As far as how I feel about that? On the one hand, I'm really pleased to realize I've grown enough as a person to finally assess such situations accurately. But for someone that really hasn't had many close friendships to begin with, growing up can also be a really lonely process. I definitely feel like I lose friends these days at a much faster rate than I make new ones.

This time, the people in question were a middle-aged male friend I'd known online for years and his female partner of about a year whom I was only just getting to know. (We can call them David and Terri for the sake of this post.) David is of the age where people that haven't really taken very good care of themselves over the course of their lives start having serious health scares and something to that exact tune finally happened to him maybe a month or two ago. He's also been struggling with some pretty serious depression and anxiety lately, some of it probably related to the health scare and some of it not.

Now David has always been a little bit stunted as a person. Like many people I've known online, he sees and presents himself as one thing when actually he's another. (No real judgment on that front. We've all been there, including me. Hell, especially me.) Like many people in that boat though, he claims to tell it like it is and to be all about brutal honesty, but only when he's the one dishing it out. When someone else is serving it up -- even if it's someone he claims to respect -- he handles it with all the grace and dignity of a toddler. That's not actually the reason I cut ties with him though. That happened because I decided I could no longer tolerate the way he treats people, particularly his partners. 

The night before last, David initiated what would eventually evolve into a 24-hour meltdown on Facebook -- one of many he's had, but much worse than usual. I won't get too much into the gory details, but suffice it to say he flippantly decided to dump Terri without even telling her first for reasons that are still unknown and was using Facebook to be what I can only describe as cruel, abusive, and sadistic about it. He also kept baiting his friends the entire time, apparently as a test to see who cared enough about him to put up with his behavior. As if that's not enough, it came out at some point that this was not an isolated occurrence, but something David has made a habit of doing to Terri ever since they've been together. We apparently just hadn't had the sublime treat of seeing it play out on Facebook before.

David's toxic mood eventually exhausted itself and he (of course) decided he wanted to get back together with Terri at that point, so a half-assed apology was posted to all their friends. David blamed his depression and his meds for the outburst, expecting that to somehow make everything OK. Terri's obvious hurt and confusion at the situation though, as well as David's apparent enjoyment of it at the time, was... really triggering for both Seth and me. We've both had experiences in our younger years with people that treated us exactly that way -- like we were toys to be played with instead of people with actual feelings. Saying those experiences were traumatizing is putting it really mildly, David's behavior (and Terri's later decision to defend her abuser) was just the last straw for both of us.

I'm a pretty low-maintenance friend and I can overlook a lot of things, because honestly, my friends have had to overlook a lot of bullshit on my end over the years as well. You can be a victim. You can be an adult baby. You can be someone that sadly lacks any sort of self-awareness. You can be a complete drama queen that sucks at life. (Although don't expect me to be all that close if you are those things. I'll probably just hang out in the corner praying for you and hoping you eventually get your shit together until you eventually do.) You don't even have to be a particularly good or attentive friend to me. 

You can't be an abuser or give me any reason to think you enjoy being intentionally cruel to people though. Under any circumstances. That's where my hard limit is and it's a hanging offense. I have no interest in knowing someone who's like this. And if you use your mental illness as an excuse for whatever unspeakable thing you did? Expect me to be doubly bothered. Seth and I both struggle with similar issues, but we don't take our issues out on others like that or use them as excuses not to take responsibility for any poor choices we do make. Ever. 

Now neither of us told David or Terri off before disappearing from their lives. We just quietly unfriended and blocked, the better to avoid drama, because David at the very least is the type of person that can't not make a big fuss about such things. But the fallout as far as mutual friends go was still pretty much what you'd expect it to be. David has built himself a pretty cozy echo chamber full of nothing but fellow victims and card-carrying yes men, so it didn't take long for people to start telling him and Terri everything they wanted to hear -- that we weren't "real" friends, that we clearly didn't "understand" depression so our exodus really didn't matter, and all sorts of similar soothing lies.

But the thing is... we were real friends. We do understand mental illness, probably better than anyone. We are loyal, compassionate, and forthright as well. We might not be the friends you want 100% of the time, but we are the type of people that will always be the friends you need. And David lost us. He fucked up and pushed good people to their absolute limits the way he always does sooner or later. It's just a matter of time before Terri gets tired of being treated this way the way David's numerous other exes also have and walks away as a result.

For Terri's sake (and for the sake of her child that's completely stuck in the middle of all this), I hope that either David gets his shit together or she sees the light and walks away before too much real damage is done. I can't worry about that though. It's sad that I had to walk away from yet more friends when I already feel like I barely have any, but it is what it is. That's life and all that. Thank God I have the wisdom to do so instead of clinging to damaged people that have no interest in self-improvement and outmoded situations that no longer serve me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

On Figurative Spring Cleaning

I don't know where the time goes, but it's definitely that time of year again. Lent is over with. Easter has come and gone. The weather is warming up and Seth has officially had to add tending the lawn to his rotating to-do list again because it's green and actively growing. I'm busy managing my business as my clients begin to make their usual post-tax season plans for their content needs. Collectively, we're starting to think about the warmer months and the different possibilities they bring with them.

As far as how I'm doing personally, I'm happy to report that I'm still doing an A+ job of keeping up with the workouts I promised myself I'd stay serious about way back in January. When I first started, I don't know that I expected to see much of a difference in how I looked or felt after only three months, but I've been pleasantly surprised. I've lost a few pounds for sure. I'm also feeling stronger, healthier, and just better all around. A lot of the issues I simply blamed on getting older before have even noticeably improved (i.e. less energy, lower moods, and lower sex drive) much to my great relief. I feel a lot less "old" as a result.

I've been feeling a lot more motivated in regards to other things as well. Just knowing I'm being proactive about my health and watching my physical state start to move in the right direction as a result has helped me with my depression and made me feel more optimistic about certain things. Knowing that I'll only continue to get slimmer, and healthier, and more comfortable in my own skin has found me getting excited about maybe actually "doing things" again in the near future -- going places, working on personal projects, and -- most importantly -- actually recording my life again. My thoughts, my experiences, and my adventures.

That said, it recently occurred to me that it's about time to streamline my online presence again and let go of some dead weight. Although I never thought I'd see the day at one point, I really no longer post on LiveJournal or even check in there with any consistency. When I do feel the need to share something about my life, I tend to do it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter instead. When I want to actually flesh out some of my more complicated thoughts by journaling the old-fashioned way, I tend to come here -- to Blogger and to this particular blog. I'll probably leave my LiveJournal account open for now, as I do have a handful of decently close friends that still post there. I also very occasionally still feel the need to blog behind closed doors. 

I've backed up and unpublished my other three Blogger blogs for now though. I realized that I haven't updated any of them in well over a year (almost two in regards to a couple of them). I can't say I feel any real desire to revive them anymore either and I dislike allowing dead accounts to stay live once I know I won't ever be back. These days, when I'm in the mood to write actual informative content of any kind, I tend to want to capitalize on my efforts and sell it to third parties instead of just posting it up somewhere for other people's free consumption. Any time I feel like writing about those topics on a personal level, I can easily just do it here.

So that is where I'm at and that's where my other blogs have gone (on the off chance anyone actually cares or was wondering). I figure it will be easier to actually blog more consistently if I'm able to focus all my efforts on just one narrative. It'll be easier for those that actually do want to keep up with me to know where to go for any news as well. Stay tuned.

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.