Crisis of Confidence

Typical Cancer-- hermiting myself away

I have been suffering through my Annual Existential Crisis for the past week or so.

At times, I feel completely consumed by feelings of confusion, panic, and helplessness. Who am I? Why am I here [i.e. on earth in general, not at the awesome lakeside cabin in particular, which I love]? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Why don’t I have more direction and drive? On those brooding, sulking, heavy days, I read through other people’s blogs and make the mistake of clicking “notify me of follow-up comments” when I respond to their posts. Then I feel washed in despair, bitterness, and that most ugly of emotions– jealousy– when my inbox is flooded with comments for other people’s posts, other people’s writing, other people’s experiences.Β  Other people have everything figured out, I whine to my bruised, tender spirit as I pillage through the contents of my inbox indiscriminately. Savagely. DELETE, DELETE, I DON’T CARE, DELETE!!!! Everyone else has tapped into life’s most abundant of arteries and are basking in the warmth of that rich, warm flow. [Insert sad and/or pitiful emoticon here.]

The next day (or sometimes even within an hour), I sneer at myself for being so shallow. Silly girl, I seethe to my paper-thin heart– the soul that feels like it has been burnt to ash and might blow clear away from me in the most gentle of breezes– Life does not boil down to stats, subscribers, or blogging at all. Get over yourself and focus on what truly matters.

Which is?, I wonder. What truly matters? What matters most to me?

Unfortunately, because I am mired in my Annual Existential Crisis, this brings me right back to questions of Who am I? and Why am I here? Back come those brooding, sulking, heavy days– days when even the most meaningless of circumstances render me utterly crestfallen. It’s a vicious, unfriendly, and exhausting cycle, but it seems to happen, well, annually now.

I believe it boils down to our crazy summers and the highly unstructured winters that follow. From April until October every year, I have a clear sense of what needs to get done and I am confident, positive, that I can do all of those things well. I am organized. I am great with people. I am approachable, genuine, and passionate about the art business that I share with my dearest partner. I am buoyed by the receptiveness of other people to our work and feel elated with the knowledge that what I do matters. People are taken care of– thrilled with their purchases. I am nurturing them, if only indirectly. Life is busy, hectic, sleepless, and often stressful, but I love what I do. Everything is great!

Then the winter months come along, those same months that I crave and yearn for from approximately April to October every year. Heh. In the summer, I say “I can’t wait to unwind!” or “We’re looking forward to some down time!” but when I finally get there, I crack into a hundred thousand little pieces and watch helplessly from beyond myself, a scattered pile of dust. In those months, the quiet months, I struggle to rebuild myself from the summer’s leftover shards of us, we, and ours. Who am I?, I demand to know. What is my purpose in life? Sometimes I even catch myself wondering what my junior high guidance counselors would think of my career path now– as though I even cared what they suggested to me when I was twelve. (For the record: I did not. I’d make a good truck driver, you say? SCREW YOU!!) Everything is external.

During the winter months– those slippery, ambiguous, crumbly months– I find myself turning outside of myself more often than usual. I search diligently for any confirmation, however slight, that who I am and what I do still matters. Am I a writer? Do people even like my writing? Like an oft-beaten puppy who needs love but is afraid to go looking for it, I crave Marty’s approval and the validation of other people. I know in my head that this is not right. I have no problems spouting off self-help proverbs to remind myself that real acceptance comes from within. But. As sweet as these little cliched nuggets are– Trust in the Universe! Believe in yourself!— they do not foster or sustain that prized, blessed calm in the heart, much like a diet of candy cannot promote impeccable digestive health. There must be something else.

Sorry, Yogi Tea bag. I love your pithy wisdom but I need something more.

For now, I’m just letting myself be. I’m having long, soulful conversations with Marty and lying protected in his embrace, breathing in his reassuring scent of acceptance, love, and safety. I’m chanting and meditating on a daily basis. In an effort to take and accept myself on my own terms and on those terms alone, I’ve hidden my modest blog stats into a dark corner and feel content to leave those stupid things there– totally untouched and unmonitored for however long it takes to not care about them anymore. Then I’m laughing at myself for having the audacity to put such a high value on the virtual equivalent of a popularity contest in the first place. Honestly. Who should even care about hits, comments, subscribers, pingbacks, etc.? The aliens would find that mighty ludicrous, I’m sure. (When I first started blogging– way back in 2006!– I only wanted to be able to keep in touch with my friends from Calgary online. It didn’t matter to me if any of them actually commented or even read my posts. Also, I didn’t even understand the whole concept of “subscribing” until this past March. Yes, March 2011. Oh, youth!)

Anyway.

These beautiful runes were handmade and given to us as a wedding present

My runes and tarot cards from the Winter Solstice reading basically suggested that I try living life for the process of it instead of the outcome. Of course, my surprisingly linear, forward-facing mind reels at the thought of not having a solid Five Year Plan in place, but seeing as my Plan lately has consisted only of ?????s and ums, it’s probably for the best. πŸ˜‰ Sure. I can try doing things just because and not worry about how everything will turn out. At least I’ll try. That sounds good.

The one advantage of having an Existential Crisis every year is that I know it will pass. It always does. I will stumble around in the darkness of my psyche for a week or two– confused, timid, insecure, and shy as can be– but I will emerge again, confident and kicking ass (or humble and zen-like– or all of those things!) when the time is right. I know in my heart that I’m where I am “supposed” to be in life right now, but it seems I just need to go through the process of re-affirming that belief for myself… again and again and again. I can do it.

Thanks for listening and for being here. xoxo

Smooth Move

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’d like to start this post off by shouting “Hello!! Guess what, everyone? I’m still alive!!”

[enter hollow-sounding echo] [enter crickets chirping]

Yeah, it’s me. Yes, I’m still incredibly busy. No, I don’t have enough clean underwear to last me through the weekend. Yes, I might have to buy some new pairs. Pronto. (Because wearing underwear inside out DOES NOT COUNT as clean.) Like Marty says: we– the childless by choice couple– seriously need an au pair. Or two. Stat!

Anyway. You’re probably all wondering how my Personal Beauty Detox Journey is going, right? (Admit it: sometimes you lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling, and desperately pray for some kind of a sign. “How is Dana doing?”, you wonder. [AOK] “Is her skin clear?” [Yep] “Do her pants fit?” [Kinda] “Is she still eating sauerkraut?” [Every now and then] “And cake?” [Sadly, yes] “Please, god– I have to know!” Don’t worry: I get it!)

Even though I was derailed for about two months on my Personal Beauty Detox Journey– gaining a total of 12.5 effin’ pounds!! (I know: seriously?!)– I seem to be heading back on track. [Fingers crossed.] [Knock on wood.] [Salt tossed over my shoulder for extra good measure.] And as of Sunday the 5th, I have actually taken the plunge and incorporated one of the major, signature tenets of Kimberly Snyder’s program: the Glowing Green Smoothie.

I have a thing with food textures, remember, and in my mind, green things are not supposed to be soft, smooth, or creamy whatsoever. (That’s why it took me 28 years to enjoy eating avocados.) I’ll admit I was terribly nervous about shoving a head of romaine lettuce, half a bunch of spinach leaves, some celery, and some fruit into a blender and then drinking it down. Being faced with nearly a litre of emerald green drink to down (every day!) did not seem like an obstacle I could overcome successfully.

But everything in my life started pointing me in the inevitable direction of the Green Smoothie.

First, I read Kimberly Snyder’s book, “The Beauty Detox Solution”. Did I jump right on the smoothie bandwagon after reading her incredibly inspiring book? No, but I did start incorporating some of her other suggestions. I was just a little nervous about all that blended green drink.

Next, I attended that powerful talk by Tim VanOrden. He was incredibly motivating and also talked about drinking Green Smoothies every morning. Did I head home that evening and triumphantly drag my Vitamix out of its cubby? Still no.

Finally, I happened to pick up a book called “Green for Life” at the local raw foods cafΓ© while I was waiting for a gorgeous take-out salad to be made. I started thumbing through it mindlessly, and the few pages I read were what eventually convinced me to take the plunge.

I’ll confess it was mostly vanity that inspired me to make green smoothies every morning. Cough.

The author of “Green for Life”— Victoria Boutenko– talked about the power of green smoothies to a) regulate sleep patterns and nourish the body on less sleep each night, and b) potentially heal even lifelong sores on the body. Seeing as we are so busy at the Harbour these days, the thought of being able to rejuvenate on less sleep every night was very appealing to me. (Maybe we can build our way up to working 22 hours a day?? Heh.) Also, I’m ashamed to admit that I still have that nasty, not-so-girly foot affliction, so even the possibility of having it drop off effortlessly after many years of trying to get rid of it was enough to turn me in the direction of blended green drinks.

Yes, I started drinking smoothies because of a wart. Ahem.

I have to say, I am loving both my morning smoothies and the fact that I own a Vitamix blender. Seriously. I don’t think I could keep it up if I had to chop everything into tiny pieces and then down a still-grainy “smoothie” from a non-Vitamix blender. The first morning, I was paranoid about over-blending the smoothie (in case all the rapid-fire blending action caused the smoothie to heat up, which I would not have been able to tolerate.) So I didn’t really blend it enough. It came out kind of chunky, luke-warmish, and admittedly nasty. And yet I drank it down for the sake of my health and non-girly warts falling off.

The second morning, I declared to myself that I would blend the hell out of those vegetables, and guess what? My Vitamix rendered the greens, celery, apple, pear, and banana into a heavenly-textured confection. It was silky, it was fresh, it was just the right thickness, and it was delicious. Yes, itΒ  took a bit of mental maneuvering to move past my mind’s alarmed insistence that This drink has vegetables in it!! DON’T DRINK IT!!!, but once I grew up and focused on how delicate and fresh the taste was, I was hooked.

I have been mowing through greens and fruits in the nearly two weeks since I started drinking the smoothies. I’ve also become emboldened in my smoothie making and experimented with other greens and fruits every now and again. In place of romaine lettuce, I’ve used dark kale leaves. Instead of spinach, I’ve tossed in generous portions of swiss chard leaves. I’ve used parsley sprigs, cilantro, raspberries, blueberries, and I even have some nectarines ripening to try them out in a future smoothie. All of the drinks have been divine. When I drink them, it’s like my body has been wandering in a dusty desert for months and is finally being quenched at some blessed oasis. Every one of my organs seems to sing when I drink the smoothie, and I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a super-hero because of it.

Is it a bird? A plane? No! It’s Supple Kidneys Girl! πŸ™‚

Every morning, I consume about 750mL of the green smoothie, and Marty gets the other half. To my pleasant surprise, I have been fine taking out my morning staple of oatmeal and drinking the smoothie instead (after literally years of eating a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast). Marty, on the other hand, finds he still prefers oatmeal off the bat and then he has his smoothie later in the morning or early in the afternoon. I have lost a modest amount of weight in the past two weeks (2lbs), but I’ve decided to focus instead on the non-scale measures of my increasing health:

– I have been waking up before my alarm clock on most mornings and feeling refreshed on all of them

– My body feels cleaner, fresher, and leaner (even though I haven’t changed anything else about my eating or exercise habits– still eating sweets and actually exercising less, to my chagrin)

– My skin feels more supple and elastic

– My elimination has been more frequent and more regular

– I am craving more fresh and raw foods (but yes– still eating things like carob bars daily)

– I still have that stupid sore on the bottom of my foot, but I’m holding out hope that it will magically fall off in a few more weeks (or months– whatever)

My goal is to actually drink at least a litre of green smoothie every day. I could easily drink more as it stands, but I’m just being polite and sharing the yield with Marty! (To reach a higher target, I’d have to make two batches of green smoothie in the morning). They keep well in the fridge or freezer, and they don’t separate out or become nasty even after an hour or so of sitting in my travel mug. This has been a big step for me, but I’m so thankful that I’ve taken the plunge and also made more use of my expensive, fancy blender! It finally feels worth it! πŸ˜‰

Try A Little Tenderness

Hello, world– and welcome to my week-and-a-half-ish check in! πŸ™‚ Yes, it has been nearly 10 days since I’ve posted (and an equal amount of time since I’ve found the time to comment on other people’s blogs- whoops!), but instead of pummeling my fragile self over this, I’ve decided to adopt a more novel approach: I’m just going to be okay with it.

‘Why so gentle and understanding of the circumstances so suddenly’, you might ask?

Last week, I happened to attend a speech on Marty’s behalf. He wasn’t able to attend the talk himself because he had a cycling race that night. (This was a tad ironic, because the talk was all about thriving in competitive athletics on a vegan diet.) Anyway. Being the considerate person and loving wife that I am, I signed up for the talk for Marty’s sake and rode my bike there, notebook and pen in hand. I didn’t expect that this talk would have any personal relevance for me, given that I am not at all a competitive athlete and that I am practically a vegan anyway (I haven’t even eaten eggs in a few weeks because the time needed to prepare them– 10 solid minutes– has escaped me!) So I was blown away when the talk started out something like this:

“Are you here to learn about the foods that can help you succeed as a vegan athlete? (yes) Are you here to lose weight? (why, yes!) Are you here to learn the secrets of raw veganism? (sure, why not?) Then you might as well leave right now and get your money back, because you already know the answers to these questions.(um, pardon me?)

To my pleasant shock and surprise, instead of being a (probably boring) speech about vitamin B12, plant enzymes, probiotics, and protein, this gentleman spoke for over 2 hours about the psychology of eating and emotional eating. I was enraptured. Totally consumed by every word. Convinced that this person had been sent to Victoria by God himself to give this talk specifically to me. It was amazing. I actually felt a little choked up listening to it! And it took every bit of will power and focus I had not to blabber on like a Creepy Super Fan when the time came to thank the speaker in person afterward.

OMG! You are my super hero! I loved every single word you spoke tonight! Can I have your autograph???

This talk was all about the things we do as people that inadvertently/subconsciously sabotage our efforts to “get healthy” or “go vegan” or “[insert grand ambition here]”. He talked about how we declare to ourselves that we will “Go Vegan!” or “Go Raw!” or “Lose 25 Pounds!” or “Run A Marathon!“, but we rarely start out from the real starting line on our journeys– i.e. from a place of accepting ourselves as we are already. When we stand tall and boldly declare that we will Fit Into A Size Six!!, we are secretly saying to ourselves is that we are not okay at any other size, which means that we are probably not okay with ourselves as we are, right now. The way the speaker put it was that we are trying to start at the finish line of our race. The marathon of life (or weight loss, or veganism, or whatever) is starting miles and miles away from us, but there we are at the finish line, looking into the pretend mirror and saying stupid affirmations to ourselves like “I am a winner! I succeed at running! I can run a marathon and be a beautiful, fit person!”… all the while not actually running or actually doing anything to move forward.

Wowza.

Suffice it to say, after 2+ hours of listening to this pure genius talk about all of the issues that were eating at my very soul, I left feeling full of thankfulness and gratitude. I don’t want to beat myself up or hate myself over trivial things and circumstances that are beyond my control. I want to be gentle and accepting of myself and to try a little tenderness! Even two weeks ago, my strategy for Life in General went something like this: Eat perfectly, work perfectly, blog perfectly. exercise perfectly, sleep perfectly, and look fabulous doing it. No mistakes or deviations from perfection allowed!! Now, it’s a little more like this: Eat the best that I can, even if it means ordering take out food or buying treats; accept that we work a lot during the summers and be thankful for our pretty awesome source of income; blog and comment on other blogs when I can, even if it means I won’t crack the 10-post mark this month; exercise when I can; sleep when I can; and look fairly decent doing it! πŸ˜‰

The new strategy seems to be working alright so far, but I’ll admit that sometimes it feels like I am still liking myself out of pity and sympathy instead of actually liking myself “just because”. (To use the earlier analogy, occasionally I find myself standing at the finish line of Liking Myself instead of working through the starting issues of not always liking myself 100%. I’m working on it!) Mostly, I am just thankful to have been directed to that talk last week. I really needed to hear it. (Should we all hold hands now and sing Kumbaya?)

And how are you doing lately?

Bring me up to speed in the comments section below! (Maybe I’m more likely to succeed at reading short paragraphs about your recent goings-on instead of 5 long blog posts every week? There’s only one way to find out!)

PS: The talk was given by Tim VanOrden of Running Raw fame. Without sounding like I’m the president of his Teenage Fan Club, I thought his talk was awesome. πŸ™‚

“Balance” and Other Figments of My Imagination

It would be misleading and downright dishonest of me to brag about the small successes I’ve had in my personal Beauty Detox Journey without also sharing the challenges I’ve faced and the obstacles I’ve encountered. For one thing, I haven’t exactly been diligent when it comes to monitoring my intake of sweet foods and (randomly– since I haven’t eaten them in a while) baked goods. For another thing, I have put on more than 5 pounds in less than 5 weeks, which may or may not have anything to do with the resurgence of my sweet tooth. What do you think? 😦

Funnily enough, shortly after posting an online confession about my sordid history of sneaking food and eating copious amounts of candy, I started craving sugar again. I had been fine for a relatively long period of time before writing that post, but getting that secret out into the open must have kicked up some old, sugary dust. I found myself gravitating towards homemade truffles in Costco-sized servings and soon afterward, I developed particularly violent yearnings for homemade berry cake, also in Costco-worthy portions. What gives?

While I was busy inhaling family-sized portions of homemade treats (I bake in bulk!), I told myself that things could be much, much worse: I could be eating Twinkies washed down with Dairy Queen Blizzards and Pepsi every day. I could be camping out at the Lil Debbies’ headquarters every night. It could be worse… right?

Yes.

But it could also be better.

When I outgrew my ‘off-season’, regular-sized pants and had to squeeze into my roomier, ‘Harbour-sized’ jeans a full 3 months early, I knew the gig was up. I had (disappointingly) (hopefully only temporarily) failed at the Beauty Detox Program. 😦 😦 😦  (<— that’s how sad it was to get to this point, very recently I’ll confess. Sad x 3)

Obviously, I’ve been finding it particularly challenging to establish balance in my day-to-day life since returning to work on the Harbour. A prototypical late-June baby (Cancerian through and through!), I am a creature of habit, and having my normal routines disrupted substantially by my new work hours has left me floundering. A lot. When I’d normally be cooking, working out, doing chores, or blogging, I am now down by the water. Working! All day long! With nary an all-access pass to Ye Olde Internet! I’ve been especially cranky lately, and my poor body has been going into overdrive trying to reclaim at least a semblance of balance again.

What does this have to do with balance? This, my friends, is photographic proof that I have been doing other things besides working at the Harbour-- in this case, hiking-- even if only for a few precious hours.

Unfortunately, my body’s idea of “balance” doesn’t necessarily involve striving for moderation in everything. Instead, it overcompensates for any perceived extremes in my life by hurtling me in the exact opposite direction until a zero-sum state of equilibrium has been achieved.

E.g.: Eating monster-sized portions of leafy greens and other healthy foods? Better round things off with Godzilla-sized slabs of cake! You can thank me later!

Lost 8 pounds recently with careful attention paid to diet and exercise? Whoopsies! Guess we’ll have to tip the scales back up to your starting weight– nothing lost, nothing gained! LOL!

Taking a healthy step back from work-related tasks during the off season? Looks like it’s time to work around the clock again! All work, no play! Back to the grind, little miss! xoxo!!

I must say that I’m pretty mortified (bordering on devastated) to find myself in this predicament, especially so early into the Harbour season. I hate not being able to blog, and it irritates me to have my entire life revolve around work (even though I’m extremely fortunate to work where I do and I love working with Marty as well. I know that I’m a very lucky lady, which apparently gives me permission to whine excessively about trivial matters. Heh.) I know that my weight, especially, is just a stone-cold number on a icy-hearted machine, but still. It’s no fun having to bust out my stretchy pants ever, let alone way ahead of schedule. (Long-term readers will recall that I have recorded an 8-pound weight gain during both of my previous two Harbour seasons. At least I’m consistent! (??) *Frantically trying to look on the bright side. Also: Grasping at straws.*

I know, I know. I mustn’t beat myself up over the decided lack of balance in my life (or those extra pounds in my pants, to be more specific). It’s time to just pick myself up and move on like the Big Girl I am. (Literally. Har har.)

Do I look as weary as I sometimes feel these days?

I envy the people who can (or already have) achieved real balance in their lives and who don’t have to obsess over maintaining it every waking second of every day. Wouldn’t it be nice to gravitate naturally– almost effortlessly— towards a perfect state of equilibrium? An equal amount of time spent working and playing? Online and offline? Eating healthily and occasionally indulging? (Do such people and lifestyles even exist?)

I’m not there yet. But I’ve got my eyes on that prize. Yes, you heard me, Balance: I’m watching you…

No one does this quite as well as De Niro does, am I right or am I right?