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

Lucky Sevens

I’m taking this opportunity to highlight some of my favourite posts, including ones that might have been missed or overlooked by newer readers:

1. Most Beautiful

“Beautiful” isn’t usually a word I would use to describe my own writing, but if I had to choose my most beautiful-ish post, it would probably be Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me: God. A post about love should never be ugly, right?

2. Most Popular

One would think that my Freshly Pressed Post, Crying (and Cursing) Over Spilled Milk— in which I outlined the trials and tribulations of making almond milk for the first time– would be my most popular. Surprisingly, it is not. Rather, an otherwise nondescript post about ugly Christmas sweaters crushes the entire competition. In Search of the World’s Worst Christmas Sweater has nearly 4 times as many hits as any other post on my blog, including my Freshly Pressed post. Most of the search engine terms that lead people to my blog also have to do with ugly and horrific Christmas sweaters. Go figure.

A bit of sparkle from a gigantic Ugly Christmas Sweater I borrowed from a colleague. Unfortunately, it reeked of Bounce sheets and gave both Marty and I allergies. We couldn’t even wear it as a joke. 😦

3. Most Controversial

I have two categories of controversial posts– the first category deals with issues of censorship and the boundaries around what we choose to share online. A Visit from the Overshare Fairy chronicles the fallout of posting a little bit too much information about myself on the internet.

The second category of controversy is controversial only because it contains graphic details about a circumstance which many women face, but few women talk about openly: miscarriage. My This Day In History series– parts One, Two, and Three— address the messy range of emotions that Marty and I faced when we lost a pregnancy back in 2006.

Not me– this is my sis when she was pregnant with our niece, Lily

4. Most Helpful

In case you haven’t noticed, my primary objective on this blog is not necessarily to be helpful. I write mostly to entertain (or be entertained), but one of my posts inadvertently became helpful to others and continues to generate a lot of ‘thank you’ e-mails. Chlorella: Superfood, My Ass! was originally written as a flippant, eff-you homage to the nutritional supplement that renders me paralyzed with projectile vomit. It’s not an especially well-written post by any means, but lots of people have since discovered it and written me privately to say thank you– either for naming the substance that was causing them severe GI distress or for simply acknowledging that not everyone does well on so-called superfoods. (So in case you were wondering, helpful posts can have the word “Ass” in the title. Who knew?)

5. Most Surprisingly Successful

The post that continues to garner many surprising hits (although not new comments) was written way back in 2008. Talk to the Hand recounts my experience visiting a palm reader at our local mall. If my site stats and search engine terms are any indication, lots and lots of people take to the internet to learn more about mysterious beauty marks on their palms. Hence, if you need to boost traffic to your blog, might I suggest writing about finding the ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ line on your palms? And vomit– lots and lots of projectile vomit. πŸ™‚

6. Most Underrated

It must be a Universal Blogging Experience: you write a new post, congratulate yourself for your expert use of prose and scintillating adjectives, and then hit ‘Publish’– fully expecting a tsunami of Online Fandom to come crashing down in your comments section. But it doesn’t. To make matters worse, not only are you not ravaged by a destructive gale-force wind of admiration, but you also don’t even seem to make a ripple in the blogosphere. Maybe one person comments on your post… out of pity. The rest of your readers are already on to the next blogging sensation, and your Fantastic Post dies a quiet death in a lonely corner, all by itself.

The post I would like to offer up for your resurrection consideration is The Most Important Evening of Our Lives, in which I fail miserably as a wife, hairdresser, and a general human being.

At least *my* hair looked good on The Most Important Evening of Our Lives

7. Most Worthy of Pride

It probably seems a little strange, but I’m really proud of a post I wrote about eggs. The Dirty Dozen: My Initiation Into A Life of Crime came together effortlessly and incorporated all three of the essential ingredients in any winning post: hippies, Hollywood, and the Russian mafia. Every time I see this title in my “Your Recent Favourites” sidebar, I foolishly beam with the pride of a mother who has just watched her little Johnny hit a home run in a T-ball game. Other moms might not think my Johnny is a big deal, but I’m proud all the same. πŸ™‚

 

Shocking Admissions From A Failed Bulimic

Greetings and welcome to another cheery edition of my blog! Are you new here? Hello! Bulimia! Hi!

Let me start off by saying to the more tightly-wound among us (ahem) that I fully realize that eating disorders are both prevalent and serious issues in our society. Many of us have friends or family members who suffer from some type of disordered eating; some of us are the friends and family members who suffer from disordered eating. My post today will take the usual detours through humour, dry sarcasm, irreverence, and cheeky tangents, but please don’t misinterpret my written sass for an overall callousness towards eating disorders. That is not the case at all. I’m just attempting in this particular entry to lay the foundation– however crooked it may be– for future posts about my long and obstacle-ridden journey towards radiant health and wellness.

First of all: I’m starting from the assumption that many (if not most) of my regular readers think that the foods I eat and cook are a little… out there. Different. Unusual. Am I right? Hey? (Let me hear you say “Yeah!” YEAH!!) I thought so. πŸ™‚

My mom thinks I'm cool...

Some of you might listen to me sing the praises of kale and quinoa and wonder what on earth I’m talking about (or why!) Others might think that I’ve probably always led a crunchy and holistic lifestyle, that I’ve easily followed an almost-vegan lifestyle since fetus-hood, and that I inevitably get the proper daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, water, exercise, sleep, sex, and whatever else is good for me.

Easy, breezy, beautiful raw foods meal

This is not the case at all.

With that said, I wanted to take this opportunity to give you some background into my Personal Food History, just to let you know how far I’ve come already and also maybe to spark a bit of hope in some readers that it’s never too late (or impossible) to incorporate healthy changes into your lifestyle. Baby steps, right? So please bear with me while I reveal the sordid truth about my past relationship with food…

Part One: VERY Picky Eating

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when I was growing up, I was an extremely picky eater. Practically every food had an objectionable texture to my discerning palate, so I downright refused to eat plenty of healthy foods, including most cooked vegetables, many raw vegetables, meat, legumes, and whole grains. I loved carbohydrates and dairy, though. Loved loved loved. My diet for many years literally consisted of the following foods and nothing else: white rice, commercial soy sauce, butter, margarine, bread, cereal, milk, processed cereal bars, instant soups (not even the kinds with the dehydrated peas or carrots in them– noodle-based ones only), peanut butter (not the natural kind), jams and jellies, fruit juices, raw celery or carrot sticks, cheese, potatoes, corn, white pasta, canned tomato sauce, baked goods of all sorts, the occasional boiled egg, and candy. Lots of candy.

My parents desperately wanted (and tried– god knows they tried) to feed me a nutritious diet. My poor mother spent countless hours in the kitchen concocting homemade wonders that would nourish my body and, more importantly, hopefully make it past my Ultra Sensitive Texture Detectors. (They rarely did.) Did I eat her homemade baked beans that took her hours upon hours to prepare? Of course not, although I did enjoy her fluffy, white waffles with tablespoons upon tablespoons of brown sugar or maple syrup heaped on top. Would I happily slurp up her vegetable marinara sauce, which was chock full of fresh produce and loving energy? Definitely not– not even if my mom blended it to a smooth pulp beforehand. I would take canned Catelli tomato sauce over my mom’s homemade “crap” any day! If I knew (or even suspected) that something nutritious was hidden inside one of her recipes, that was it: there was no way I would eat it. I’m not sure why this was the case, but that’s how it went with me for many, many years.

Part Two: I Fail Anorexia

Don’t be misled into thinking that I never ate, that I limited my portion sizes in any way, or that I exerted any control whatsoever over my intake of calories. No way, man: I loved to eat, even though I was very, um, selective about my foods. There was no chance I could ever be considered anorexic, because I couldn’t stop myself from eating (or more like bingeing) at every opportunity.

By the time I was 9 or 10 years old and taking public transit en route to and from school, I was guaranteed to buy a chocolate bar surreptitiously from the nearest gas station if I ever managed to save up 75 cents. Absolutely guaranteed. I purchased and sneaked candy whenever possible, and I would stuff my face with cookies, muffins, granola bars, chips, licorice, slurpees, or even spoonfuls of plain peanut butter and worse: powdered hot chocolate or powdered iced tea crystals (!!) whenever I thought somebody’s back was turned. I would effortlessly devour an entire box of “fruit snacks” by myself when I was babysitting and my charges had gone to sleep, and then I would hope that their parents would assume we had all partaken in this particular treat. I would wake up extra early in the mornings before school and make myself a whole package of Kraft Dinner for breakfast. I could even vacuum my way through a Costco-sized box of processed cereal bars in a matter of mere days, and that was only because I was “showing restraint” and “leaving some for other people”. (If left to my own devices, I could easily have eaten a dozen granola bars in one sitting. Easily.)

Amazingly, I was not grossly obese on this all-carb, all-sugar diet of mine. I’ve always been a pretty average size, if a little on the busty/curvy side, but I’m completely astonished that my body didn’t betray my binges with a serious case of Size Eleventeen Hundred XXXL Pants. (Instead, my body decided to tell me that something was very wrong with my “diet” by signaling me with severe GI distress and a pretty nasty case of acne… neither of which I acknowledged with any degree of seriousness or respect for decades.) So I was a picky eater with a penchant for sweets and obscene amounts of baked goods… but did I ever alternate these binges with purges?

Part Three: The Answer is No. I Also Fail Bulimia

Despite my near-constant bingeing on food and my nearly-as-constant feelings of guilt and shame, I could never bring myself to purge. Call me squeamish, but I couldn’t stand the thought of making myself throw up. (Plus, I know from experience that I’m not exactly the most discrete person when it comes to vomiting– I hurl with gusto: loud and proud, baby!)

I would eat grossly unhealthy foods, often in secret, to the point of feeling extremely unwell and/or nauseous. However, I never purged afterward– not even with exercise– unless admonishing my lack of willpower via the scathing written word in my journal counts as purging. Many of my journal entries from the time just asked myself Why? Why must I purchase the entire stock of leftover Halloween candy on November 1st and eat it all by November 2nd– if it even lasted that long? Why must I make myself a hefty pot of packaged pasta, smother it in powdered alfredo sauce and a generous splash of heavy cream, and eat the entire thing by myself in under 10 minutes? Why must I eat 4 or 5 cupcakes in one sitting? Why must I make a recipe for Rice Krispie squares and down the whole shebang before it even gets into the proper pan?

Why, why, why?

Don't be fooled by their angelic appearances-- cupcakes are actually a gateway drug

The truth is, dear readers: I have not always lived a virtuous life when it comes to my relationship with food. Not even close. Most of what I ate from the ages of 2 to 22 was incredibly processed, starchy, full of refined sugars, or salty. (Or a combination of all of those things.) Many times, I ate compulsively or for emotional reasons– alone– rather than when I was actually hungry or in the company of other people. Food was not nourishing for meit was simply comforting. (“Comforting” for a while at least… until it would make me feel guilty, shameful, and/or physically sick.)

So. If that was my shameful starting point, how did I possibly end up where I am now– with a fridge full of leafy greens and a pantry stocked up with whole grains, dried seaweeds, and nutritional yeast? Easy:Β 

I fell in love.

I know, I know. It sounds horribly cheesy and clichΓ©, but when I met Marty, things started looking up for my diet. A lot. During our first few weeks together, Marty cooked me all sorts of delicious dishes– soups, stir fries, homemade sushi rolls, and salads. I had never tried most of these dishes before and, in all honesty, I would have normally refused to even give them a chance, but…

I ate them initially because I was trying to impress Marty.

Then, over time, I ate the dishes because I actually enjoyed them. Fake it until you make it. Take it from me: if you pretend to enjoy eating things like collard greens enough times (even if you are simply trying to impress somebody with your culinary openness, over and over again), you eventually will enjoy eating things like collard greens. For real! Practice makes perfect, right?

During our nesting phase, Marty and I spent nearly all of our spare time in each other’s company. I discovered that I had less time to sneak food– since I was always with Marty– so I just started eating foods that were healthy, ‘acceptable’, and that would cast me in a ‘favourable’ light to him. Again: fake it until you make it. We still enjoyed sweet foods like chocolate and cheesecakes together, but now I ate these foods more in moderation, not to mention in public. It was a big deal. My universe was opening up and my life was changing for the better. (Aside: I don’t mean to suggest that I was pretending to be somebody I wasn’t when I first started dating Marty. In actuality, I just found myself being more open and receptive and deliriously in love with this man. Picky eating just fell to the wayside, especially in the face of good food and great company!)

My palette has expanded enormously since I met Marty. I am still a vegetarian with a sweet tooth, but now I find myself naturally turning to vegetables first and then grain products second. I’m eating foods more for fuel than to satisfy some gnawing emotional need, and I genuinely get excited to prepare and enjoy foods that make my body sing.

Did I mention that my mom thinks I'm cool?

My transition from OCD Junk Food Junkie to Salad Munching Tree Hugger was long and sometimes arduous, but it wasn’t impossible and it’s made me feel so much better already. (And my Beauty Detox Journey is still just beginning!) Anyway. If you ever read my food posts and feel like I’m from another planet (possibly The Planet of Left Field) or like I’m on an entirely different plane of existence when it comes to eating healthier foods, please remember this: it hasn’t always been this way. I started out in the ghetto of Refined Sugars and Starches and gradually (very gradually) incorporated some changes to steer my eating in a healthier direction. It’s never too late to start, and even small changes can have a big impact for the better. Onward, ho! πŸ™‚

The Dirty Dozen: My Initiation Into a Life of Crime

Remember the movie “Eastern Promises“? In it, Viggo Mortensen’s character, Nikolai, undergoes a series of grueling tests (including time spent in prison, crude cadaver alterations and disposals, and fighting off murderous, knife-wielding attackers whilst naked in a steam room) to prove his loyalty to the Vory v Zakone mob and earn his official Member Star Tattoos. As an outsider, after all, you can’t just “join” this underground dynasty– you have to fight and prove and earn your way into a lifetime membership.

And so it goes with my local Black Market.

You can’t just move into a new neighbourhood in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia– however sketchy and ghetto-like it may seem– and expect that your new address and postal code will automatically make you privy to the hottest, most secretive information on the block. No way, man– you have to earn that privilege. There’s a whole process to go through, and the Under Lords have certain protocols to follow. Come on. Just because it’s the Neighbourhood Hippie Black Market doesn’t mean there are no rules. Geez!

Well. We have lived in the ‘hood for a year now, and I am proud to report that I’ve officially earned my Ghetto Super Stars! I have put in my hardcore time and aced the dangerous tasks that were put before me:

1. I suffered through a particularly severe bout of tendonitis, which I incurred while scrubbing the residual stains out of our rental refrigerator, bathtub, and cupboards.

2. I deftly dodged the shards of broken glass and leftover needles that were strewn all over our sidewalks and in the park across the road– and I emerged victorious, with nary a cut, scrape, or Hepatitis/HIV+ test to boot!

3. I tolerated many sleepless nights with circles of hippies camped out on our front lawn, and I only called in law enforcement officials on one of these occasions.

4. I suffered through the indignity of– and subsequent confusion over– having our compost bin stolen. Filthy kitchen scraps. Stolen! Three separate times. (Why??)

5. I even remained stoic and unflinching when I learned that one of Victoria’s only murders in the past year had been committed in the building right next door to our suite… if by “stoic” I mean “I freaked the eff out“, and by “unflinching” I mean that “I begged Marty to beam me out of this dodgy apartment– STAT!!” (In any case– I passed this particular Black Market Worthiness test by default, because I was too lazy to pack up shop for a third time in one month).

Anyway. As a final test in the “Eastern Promises” movie, Viggo (we’re on a first name basis now) is put before a panel of Russian mobsters, who sit him almost-naked on a chair and “read” all of his tattoos to determine his worthiness of being branded with the gang’s Signature Star Tattoos.

My final test was similar to this, insomuch as I was sitting in a chair (although clothed) in the company of other people when it happened. However, where Viggo’s tattoos ultimately told the mobsters his story of loyalty, dedication, self-sacrifice, and requisite toughness, I happened to overhear some secret information by accident.

And that, my friends, is how I came to know about the Underground Egg Market.

You all know how much I love eggs, right? Of course you do— my almost-vegan self adores them! So when I heard (accidentally) that I could obtain free-range, basically organic eggs from a place that was only a hop, skip, and a jump away from my ghetto apartment, I capitalized on the knowledge and demanded that the Egg Baron procure me a dozen of those jewels, pronto! The Drug Egg Lords were none-too-impressed that their secret had slipped out haphazardly, but seeing as I had proven my neighbourhood worthiness on the other tasks they had set before me, they had no choice but to hook me up with a stash.

So rustic-looking-- so pure and unadulterated!

Victory at last!

Of course, it is legal to keep chickens in Victoria. What is not legal, though, is selling off your chickens’ eggs to the general public, unless you obtain the expensive licenses and necessary farm documents to do so. *The chickens and chicken by-products are meant to be for personal use only.* (Just so we are clear.) This particular Egg Baron works on a generous giveaway plan, at least for those of us who are In The Know, which obviously I am now. This is how the system works:

1. He gives me a dozen eggs for free– out of the kindness of his own, Black Market heart.

2. In my gratitude, I can choose– perhaps, hypothetically– to give him an offering of approximately 3 dollars. To clarify: this is not 3 dollars in return. Likewise, it is not a fixed, 3 dollar cost for a dozen organic and free-range eggs. I would only (perhaps, hypothetically) give this Baron 3 dollars out of the kindness of my own, left-leaning heart. And maybe I was so overjoyed to see these still-dirty eggs in the carton that my hand automatically reached for 3 dollars. Just because.

Honest-to-god DIRT still on the shells! THESE PUPPIES ARE FRESH!

Here is the dramatic re-enactment of my secret meeting with the Egg Baron:

Me: How can I ever repay you?

Baron: Don’t worry about it– they’re a gift.

Me: Can I give you 3 dollars out of the kindness of my granola-loving heart?

Under Lord of the Black Market: Hmmm… okay. But just this once.

****************************************

I made a delicious (curried!) omelet this morning to seal the deal. So that’s it, folks– I’ve officially crossed over to the Other Side and am now a mule for the Lesser-Known Underground Egg Market. Don’t think you can find out my source, either– as if I’d ever tell.