Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 207 of 365: Girl/Woman

I've made a very small, subtle, but important change in my life.

I've stopped calling all females over the age of 18 "girls".

I was noticing this when I was editing my first manuscript. How, even though I was writing about twentysomethings coming to grips with the real world, I was using the word "girl" constantly. Some would say that's perfectly fine: I mean, isn't it on the same level as "guy"? Guys and gals, guys and girls. Why not?

You don't need to know what the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is -- shit, you don't even have to have ever taken a semantics class before -- to know that language shapes thought. Preclude a video by saying, "In this video, a car will bump another car," and they audience will see the accident differently than if you had said, "In this video, a car will crash into another car." Make the tiniest change in your verbiage and you go from people disagreeing with you to agreeing with you. Say something is "over 200 years old" and you'll get a more impressed response than if you had said something is, "almost 250 years old".

Language shapes thought, plain and simple. It's why "semantics" is a thing in the first place. And there's a problem with the idea that "guys" and "girls" are on the same level -- any that's because they're not.

At the end of the day, "girl" is incredibly infantile. You think cutesy. You think non-threatening. You think someone who cannot fully fend for herself yet.

Don't believe me? Take a second to read these two sentences and try to see what image pops into your mind when you do: "The girl picked up her phone and said, 'Hello.'"

"The woman picked up her phone and said, 'Hello.'"

If you're not being stubborn and attempting to keep both images identical, you can't help but see the first sentence in a much more passive light. Maybe she's gingerly holding her phone. Maybe she's tensing up her shoulders that way little kids do when they talk to an adult on the phone. Maybe she's saying, "Hello," in a slightly higher pitch. On the flipside, maybe that woman picks up her phone just a little bit differently. Maybe you imagined her answering her phone in that annoyed way we all do when we're busy with something important and just can't be bothered.

And what is the girl wearing? How about the woman?

At the end of the day, "girl" is not on the same level as "guy". It's not a casual way of referencing someone. It's a subtle shift in semantics that can have some serious effects.

I know it's these very things that make people roll their eyes and go, "Ugh. Feminists." Like I'm two blog posts away from burning my bras (which would never happen; there are few agonies quite like free-balling when you're a chesty lady). But these are the very things we have to keep on eye out for. We can avoid the Mac truck barrelling down the highway with his horns blaring. But can we avoid all the subtle cracks in the road that will eventually pop one of our tires off?

Language shapes thought. Thought shapes actions. End of story.

And maybe you're reaching the end of this rant and are still rolling your eyes so hard that the tendons are starting to strain. But I will say, from personal experience, I've already noticed a change, replacing "girl" with "woman". I can already feel that separation from the pro-infantilizing attitude that is so pervasive in our culture that we don't even realize it's happening. I feel more empowered, and I see the women around me as more empowered.

And you don't need a dissertation on linguistic relativity to recognize that what works, works, and it's worth giving it a second of your time.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 206 of 365: Strong is the New Skinny

There is this incredible trend going on, and I hope to God it continues on, to the point that it's the only message when I have children.

"Strong is the new skinny."

I grew up in the same world the rest of us grew up in: a world where a woman's worth was based on how skinny she can make herself. In a way, I lucked out: sometime after I transitioned out of adolescence and teenagehood, there was this sudden uptick in this absurd mentality. Now we have thigh gaps -- this weird ideal where your thighs don't touch when you stand straight up (fun fact: I haven't had a "thigh gap" since puberty, and I was a scrawny little creature for most of my teenaged years). Then there's this hipbone craze, which culminated in the most effective trolling I have ever seen in my entire life, "bridge gap".

Some people have already heard of the bridge gap: the idea is that a woman is so skinny that, when she lies down, her hip bones jut out, creating a "bridge" with the waist of her pants. What people don't know is that this new ideal was created by -- who else -- the lovely folks who visit 4chan and decided to see what would happen if they put this concept out into the world.

We have become so messed up in our society that we took an obvious trolling ruse and made it genuine. And for what? To tell people they can buy all these new products to lose more weight?

A funny thing happened when I took up distance running on top of teaching tai chi and upping my game in yoga: I gained 10 pounds. It's funny how negative the connotation of that statement is. I gained 10 pounds. Say that at a cocktail party and you'll have your friends clicking their tongues and reassuring you that it's going to be okay and sharing their diet plans with you.

But, man, I loved it. I gained 10 pounds -- ten pounds of muscle. I put on my running leggings and my legs looks like they could be transplanted onto any professional athlete and no one would see a difference. I have abs so strong that I can lift my legs into a headstand without any "kicking off" on my part. I can do a full pull-up for the first time in my life. I can drop and give you twenty and only start hating life around push-up 15.

I love it. I love feeling like I am capable of so much more now. I love feeling like I could better push a car out of a ditch or pick up a heavy dog or help carry that heavy thing from one place to another. I love feeling like, if I needed to, I could dash 5 miles to the nearest hospital or safety spot or whatever it is that I need to dash 5 miles to. I feels incredible. I am so thankful for that extra 10 pounds of weight.

Strong is the new skinny. And may it stay that way. It's the first step toward a healthier way of living life. Fuck the bridge gap. Give me the iron bridge.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 205 of 365: Overdose

A New York Times article came out recently, saying that, in Massachusetts alone, over 185 people have overdosed and died on heroin in the last 4 months. That's over 46 people a month. Bordering on nearly two people a day. In the tiny state of Massachusetts.

I can rattle off the names of three people I went to high school with that have overdosed and died. One of them was a high school boyfriend's twin brother. Another was a middle school friend's younger sister from the grade below us. The third was someone from my graduating class that I didn't know personally.

And I can guarantee you that there are more; those are just the ones I have heard about.

To call it a rampant issue is an understatement. It makes no sense that the "En Memoriam" part of my graduating class would be this long before the 10-year reunion ever takes place. Makes no sense at all. People used to joke that Weymouth was a "drinking town with a soccer problem". Now we're a heroin town with an overdosing problem.

Addiction is a very sore spot for me. I've seen a lot of good lives ruined because of addiction. I've seen a lot of talented artists die in their prime due to addiction (the latest being the late Philip Seymour Hoffman). I've seen firsthand what addiction can and will do. And it's not pretty. It's never pretty.

So what is the first step forward? The first step forward is actually decriminalizing drugs. It seems counterintuitive, but that's the first step forward. Russell Brand recently published an essay that will better articulate why, but I'll try my best to sum up the reason. When you ban drugs, when you make drugs illegal, all you are doing is telling the addicts, "On top of being an addict, you are also a criminal." Banning drugs doesn't curtail drug use. It just burdens the court system, it just burns tax dollars, it just overloads the police force. Decriminalize drugs (notice that I don't just say, "legalize"; semantics is a wonderful thing), remove that burden from the police, the courts, our tax dollars, and focus that energy on rehabilitation. Focus that money on more federal funding for rehab centers. Focus that energy on helping those who are susceptible. Send out the message that you're not a bad person because you're an addict; you're just someone who needs help and treatment.

It's sometimes tough for me to wrap my mind around the addiction issue. To say I live a clean life is a bit of an understatement. But that doesn't mean I think less of those who fall into that trap. I'm just tired of hearing about yet another person who dies before they hit 30 because of an overdose.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 204 of 365: Writing Snags

So, remember that little blurb I wrote a while back, about "How to Plan a Perfect Wedding"? I had been holding onto that essay, trying to find the perfect time to submit it. I know it makes me sound egotistical, but I know that essay had "viral" written all over it. Maybe not half a million shares viral, but at least 4 or 5 thousand shares viral. It had beat, it had poetry, and -- most importantly -- it pandered to the masses in a way that would make people want to share it with others.

(Seriously, why do you think the majority of essays that litter Facebook are things like, "17 BBFs Totally Do!" or "Marriage Is Not For Me!")

So I submit it, and it gets accepted, and it gets published ... as a list.

Not only that, but they change the title to properly list-ify it, and the preview blurb contains only one sentence. And it just so happens to be the one sentence that makes my essay look genuine and not sarcastic.

This isn't exactly the first time I've had issues with how Thought Catalog edits my stuff. From horrifically crappy preview texts to changing titles on me to pairing a very serious essay with very fluffy stock photos (which I would then get emails about, as if TC is some blog that I can totally just edit willy-nilly). And while it was frustrating recognizing that, while they didn't have the time to edit out a spelling or grammatical error, they did have the time to dumb down my essay, I let it pass. In a perfect world, writers would get the exact platform they needed with 100% control. But I don't and I can't. My little blog does not exact get the same traffic that Thought Catalog does. Nothing on this or my craft's page will ever go viral in the way things on TC can go viral.

However, timing is always incredible: the day they published my essay in such a format was the day I got an email back from another website about a different essay. They loved what I had written, but asked for a few changes before they could publish it. I was over the moon -- not only was there another website interested in my work, but they weren't going to just change my work on me. They wanted me to still have that control, even if they were the ones guiding it.

It's just a weird evolution. I went from a writer desperate to get anyone to listen to what I had to say to becoming particular about who I say what I have to say to. I remember reading Thought Catalog and wondering if I'd ever have the chutzpah to submit. And now I'm looking at other websites and going, "Maybe it's not as difficult as I thought it would be."

I still love Thought Catalog, and I still plan to submit things to them, but I believe yesterday was a bit of a wake-up call. It's time to diversify my portfolio, in a sense. So, first thing's first: time to edit up that essay and submit it back.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 203 of 365: What Built Us Up Will Tear Us Down

Society is a crazy thing.

The Ukraine has been making the news as of late. The protests that have been going on for months are finally reaching the Western world, and people are paying attention. In Latin America, Venezuela is undergoing almost the exact same transformation: a corrupt government killing its peaceful protesters. Factor all of this in with the civil war in Syria, the bloodshed in the Republic of Congo, and the increasing unrest about 15 other countries (not to mention the feeling like First World America/European Union is two cracks away from crumbling), and you can't help but wonder how much longer modern society has left.

Unfortunately, it is kind of inevitable. Every dystopian writer talks about the folly of mankind and how it eventually serves as our destruction. It is what it is: we are selfish, short-sighted, aggressive, territorial, ego-centric. We are immediately distrustful of those we deem outsiders and we're quick to hoard our resources, even if it harms us in the long run.

The funny thing is, however, that it is those very traits that gave us the modern world in the first place. The very reason we have technology and advancements in medicine and climate-controlled homes and so on is because, at the root of it all, we are all those negative things. Are ancestors first and foremost survived because they were the most brutal. As the centuries progressed, human beings started creating things because they not only wanted to survive, but they wanted to survive better than that douchebag in the other tribe. America scrambled to build and improve its space program purely because they fucking hated that Sputnik made orbit before they could ever put something in space. Business expand and evolve and thrive because we are so cutthroat competitive. We are never satisfied, always in want of more power and more resources. And, through that, we have laptops and cell phones and an absurd selection of food at the grocery store.

The very things that helped build what we have now will be the same things that eventually tear it down. It's incredibly beautiful, if you think about it.

I have a skewed sense of the world, I know, but it's a viewpoint that helps me take in all the insanity, all the pain and bloodshed and all the passive, fragile beauty, and recognize that it's all one big, multi-dimensional piece of artwork. And maybe it's easier for me to take that step back and admire the whole of Earth's story because I'm not currently ducking bullets or mourning the abduction of my son by a guerilla army. And I might be singing a completely different song if everything falls by the wayside tomorrow and I'm suddenly clawing for basic survival. But, until then, I'm going to marvel at the incredible rise and potential fall of modern society. No wonder so many novels touch upon this topic. I'm hard pressed to think of a better storyline.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 202 of 365: Second Wind

If I haven't said it enough, I'll say it again: sometimes it's really tough to keep up with this blog.

You'd think, after over 200 days, I would get into my rhythm and this would be almost unconscious by now. But, especially after the editing marathon, I find myself dragging ass to write my posts for the day.

I find myself dragging ass to do so many things writing-related. One of the reasons why I hate talking about projects unless they have already been completed is that too much energy gets expended talking about what you are going to do and not enough energy is used to actually do it. To reword a trite saying: those who can, do. Those who can't, talk.

That's been the case with my collection of modeling essays. I found myself hitting a roadblock with editing recently. I knew some of the essays needed a proper rewriting, but I couldn't find the energy to do it. And I worried that the energy I needed to get over that hurdle had been used talking about the damn project in the first place.

But sometimes all it takes is something different to get that second wind. I decided I would be doing the cover photo for the project (if it gets accepted), especially since I've been trying to get better at photography -- specifically photographing people (including myself). I dolled myself up, set up my tripod, got to use my external flash for the first time, and posed my little heart out.

There were a lot of duds, a lot of shots that could have been it had the focus or the color balance been correct. And then there was the shot that I knew -- just knew -- was it.

And suddenly, editing my essays got a lot easier.

Sometimes that's all you need: something different to remind you that this is your passion. Something to get you out of whatever rut you were in.

So I think it's safe to say this is the last time I'm talking about it until things are final. Those who can, do. Those who can't, talk.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 201 of 365: Quote Journal

Every yoga instructor closes out their class in a different way. Some (like those in gyms) will essentially jump off their mats and tell you to have a nice day. Some will spend a solid 5 minutes sitting in lotus and chanting. The more moderate (read: sane) yoga instructors find that nice middle ground, settling everyone into savasana, allowing a few minutes of stillness to set in, before instructing people to roll onto their right side and push themselves up into a seated position. One of my favorite yoga instructors uses the time between rolling onto your right and pushing yourself up to read a quote. It's usually something simple, something about life or love or how we handle what either throws at us. Just a little something to absorb after a long practice and a peaceful resting pose.

I have been slowly toeing into setting up my own classes and sequences. I've been figuring out how I would explain things and what I would do with my classes and figuring out where I would fall on that spectrum: would I be the bubbly LA gym instructor who essentially has her students do a million crunches and then immediately leave their mat, or would I be the esoteric yogi who only appeals to the absolute nuttos.

One thing I love, however, is the idea of quotes between rolling onto your side and pushing yourself up. You are at your most calm at that point and therefore the most likely to absorb what is being said. One of my yoga instructor teachers suggested buying a journal and filling it with quotes for that very purpose. Which, of course, I did, because every person with an English degree has a downright fetish for little notebooks to write shit in.

It's only been a day and I've already filled five pages of the notebook with various quotes I remember. Quotes that have helped me tremendously in my life and I would want to have help for other's. Because that's the exact type of yoga instructor I want to be: the kind who can benefit her students both physically and mentally. I don't give a flying shit if my students can om or if they know was a tapa is. All I would care about is if they are able to feel a little bit better, a little more peaceful, a little more in shape, and a little more prepare to take what life throws at them.

I'll leave this entry with quite possibly my favorite quote in Spanish (and one of my favorite quotes of any language):

Si nada nos salva de la muerte, al menos que el amor nos salve de la vida.

If nothing saves us from death, at least love can save us from life. -- Pablo Neruda

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 200 of 365: Getting Back to Passion

For a very brief moment, there was sun yesterday. As part of my morning ritual, I trudged out through the snow to feed the chickens (a path that I've given up shoveling and now just stomp through in hopes that my feet eventually carve out a path). I couldn't help but notice how beautiful the sun was early in the morning. I wasted no time getting back inside, grabbing my headphones and my camera, and going out to do a little photography.

While the sun eventually disappeared as the morning went on, but not before I got a few cool shots in. I played around with the shutter speed, the aperture, seeing what happened when I increased one, decreased another, brought both down and up... The clouds came in and I found myself back to my wintertime-anti-productive self, dragging ass just to get the most measly homework assignment or house chore done. It was so bad that I actually patted myself on the back for sending one email out to a magazine with a copy-n-paste pitch query.

But, still, that feeling I got while snapping photos, crouching down, getting into awkward angles, reviewing photos with a smile or a scowl...I forgot how good that felt. It's easy to get caught up in life, easy to fuss over the pragmatic aspects or worry over the weather and forget the little things that drive you forward.

I remember walking around Boston for hours on end, my iPod practically drained of all its life as I took pictures of street signs and the Charles River and whatever else passed my fancy. When I moved up to New Hampshire, I wandered the nature trails with the exact same mindset. My camera is by my side on every vacation, even if ends up being way too bulky for my own good.

And that moment, when you get the angle just right, and the lighting is downright perfect, and you can't help but get a visceral reaction to what you see? And knowing that you are the one who made that angle, you are the one who manipulated the light? There are few feelings like it. It makes shelling out hundreds of dollars for a DSLR and proper lenses worthwhile, even as the rest of the world gives up their point-n-shoots to snap photos from their phones.

It's been tough, trying to combat the ever-ubiquitous Seasonal Affective Disorder (or, as I call it, the "We're supposed to hibernate this time of year," syndrome), but a brief reminder of one of my passions is just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 199 of 365: Time for San Diego

We have had four blizzards in the past week. Two of those blizzards resulted in snowfall of over a foot. The second of those two blizzards was originally only supposed to be a light flurry. We are expecting a fifth tonight. And, while they say it won't touch down until late tonight and the overall accumulation will be negligible, I've already have two students email me, saying that they cannot make it to tonight's class (and this is after having to cancel two classes in a row due to freak storms).

My husband and I have been talking about trying to get a winter vacation in. It hasn't been easy: like I mentioned before, with mortgage, an unexpected surge in oil consumption, car payments, and now dual-tuition payments, we don't exactly have a few thousand laying around for luxurious vacation in Tahiti (it's a magical place).

(You're welcome, 0 people who watch Agents of SHIELD and read this blog).

However, after this last storm, my husband simply said, "I don't know if we should talk about planning a vacation so much as we should be planning to purchase one-way tickets and stay there until summer."

I honestly feel like I've hit my breaking point with winter. I know New Englanders always say that, but it's getting to the point that I genuinely wonder if I'd be happier packing up my stuff and moving further south. Of course, most of the south would be out of the question, as I'm miserable in humid weather. Which leads me to places like Arizona, Texas, Nevada ... or southern California.

Honestly? I'm okay with forest fires and a potentially life-destroying earthquake, so long as it gets me out of this disgusting weather pattern.

Call me fair-weather, because that's exactly what I am. Give me some fair weather, dammit.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 198 of 365: The Aftermath is Pretty

"At least the aftermath is pretty."

We got walloped yesterday by "Winter Storm Rex". I'm not usually one for winter storm names, but this one was fitting: like a proper king, it invaded our land and demanded our subservience. We were supposed to get only two to four inches, but meteorologists pulled the biggest "JK" at the eleventh hour and suddenly I'm shoveling a solid foot of snow in my driveway while my husband attempts to swerve around snowbanks on the highway. The only plus side is that our neighbors have a plow hitched to their pick-up and plowed out our driveway after seeing me going at it with a shovel.

I had to head out first thing this morning, as I had forgotten dishwashing detergent during yesterday's grocery run (something I realized in the afternoon and decided there was no way in hell I was going out in that terrible weather again). I had made a huge dinner to celebrate the 8th anniversary of my husband and I meeting (actually the dinner he made me the Tuesday after we met, which I remember because I was just so shocked that a dude actually wanted to cook me dinner?) and the dishes were flowing out of the sink and onto the counters.

It was a son of a bitch, trying to drive around roads that, despite being busy roads, had not been recently plowed. But, even with all this frustration, I couldn't help but enjoy what was around me. The world was just waking up, the morning sun was reflecting gently off the snow, the skies were a vivid blue. The mountains in the distance looked like something out of a postcard. I was so entranced by what was around me that I drove north for a few minutes, even though it meant dealing with roads at a slower pace than usual.

"At least the aftermath is pretty." One of my cousins posted this today on Facebook. As someone who tries to see the beauty in everything, as someone who recognizes that the line between beauty and brutality is a pretty blurry one (and sometimes they are simply opposite sides of the same coin), I am in love with this statement on so many levels. Look at this destructive force -- look at what shut the northeast down time and time and time again this winter -- and look at how beautiful it is. Look at everything in this world that can destroy us without batting a proverbial eye. Look at how beautiful it can be.

I know I'm toeing into Buddhist territory -- and rightfully so, given what I have been reading for yoga teacher training -- but I don't care. It's a great way of looking at the world, even if it's a bit hippie-dippie-douchie. Beats many of the alternatives.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 197 of 365: Yoga Sequencing

I finally finished my first full yoga sequence.

I've been trying to make my own sequences since before I even started training. I would improvise, I would plan, and I would always end up short, or my sequences didn't feel like they had any cohesiveness to it. I started my teacher training classes and suddenly I was having the opposite problem: my sequences were getting too long. And while it's admirable to "accidentally" do yoga for two hours, no student in their right mind wants to be on their mat for two hours (unless they're part of some crazy retreat).

And then sometime last weekend, I finally put pen to paper and wrote out my sequence. I kept with one main physical theme (spinal movement - twists, turns, backbends, etc), prepping where I needed to prep and building up where I could build up, and finding a nice 1 hour to 1:15 practice on my hands. I smiled to myself, put the paper to the side, and began drafting notes for a second sequence, this time for shoulder strength and flexibility.

I was downright giddy that I was finally making out these lessons. It was one thing to have a few ideas swimming in my head. It was another to actually write them out.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little voice said, "It's almost like you're doing lesson plans again."

After my teaching burnout, I wanted nothing to do with education. It got so bad that, for the first few months, I didn't even want to read or play with my friends' children. The dojo that I ended up not working with suggested a tai chi for kids class and I felt my skin crawl. I didn't even want to look at the artwork that my students had made for me. I was burnt out in a way that I thought I would never recover from.

My current realization was needed on two separate levels: one, it proved to me that the aftershocks from quitting are slowly starting to fade, as I'm remembering just how much fun it was to construct lesson plans from scratch (even though I was usually flying by the seat of my pants, scribbling them down before my students woke up from nap). Two, it showed that maybe, just maybe, I'm not as a loss for passion in terms of a new career.

I was so passionate about early education, I devoted so much time and energy to just the idea of that career field, that burning out essentially created an inverse of those emotions. I worried that there would never be any type of practical career that I'd ever be that passionate about ever again.

But here I was, slowly figuring out how to make yoga sequences, and feeling a glimmer of that giddiness. I know I still have a long way to go: this is essentially the first date after a nasty divorce, and I'm still cognizant of the suffering I went through. But it's a step forward, and a step in the right direction.

Namaste, bitches. Om shanti, shanti.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Day 196 of 365: Slutshaming

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't always have the most progressive mindset. I thought I did: I grew up in blue state Massachusetts, believed wholeheartedly in marriage equality and the right to choice. But, like a good portion of purportedly liberal Massholes, I never did the introspection necessary to see if I actually had said liberal mindset.

(As a sidenote, it blows my mind, the number of people who call themselves liberal in the Boston area but are flagrantly racist, but that's for another time.)

And one of the areas where I was way too conservative for my own good was the idea of women's sexuality. Man, what a slut she is for having one-night stands every Friday night! She is such a whore for dressing that way. Why can't she just find a boyfriend like a good girl.

It took years to realize where my mind was because society has deemed this way of thinking perfectly fine. You can be the most liberal, progressive, bleeding-heart hippie ever and still find women's sexuality taboo. I looked down on Paris Hilton -- not because she was manipulative and self-absorbed in a way that would make Machiavelli blush, but because she would hook up with a lot of dudes.

I found myself essentially pulling a Buddhist monk on top of a mountain with myself. Just a constant stream of, "Why? Why is that so? Why is it that way? Why?" Until I realized that there is absolutely, positively, no reason to have that mindset, aside from the fact that society tells us that women need to be chaste beings.

The older I get, the more socially libertarian I become. If you're not harming other people, have at it. If a woman enjoys sleeping around, so long as she's safe about it and not spreading diseases, have at it. You quickly realize that the taboos have no intrinsic value (especially when you learn that female chimps are actually quite promiscuous, and not "naturally monogamous" like people once believed, debunking that attitude that female chastity is an evolutionary trait).

I once had a conversation with someone about this very subject, about how guys can sleep around and be considered the man, but it's whorish when a woman does it. He replied with, "Well, it's easier for a girl to have sex. She can walk into any bar and be guaranteed at least some type of guy. A guy has to work for it."

And to that I think: man, it must really piss you off that it's so easy for a woman to get laid.

Because that's the only explanation I have for that type of thinking: either it angers/scares you that women can have such power over sex, or you just don't think about what you think about. Because, really, if you want it, and it's easy to come by, when else would you ever be told it's not okay to go forward? Imagine having an ATM that gave you free money whenever you wanted. People would think you were insane if you said, "You know, I'm not going to go near that. I'll play it cool. Make the ATM earn it. I don't want to be seen like a money-slut or something."

Some people might find it funny that I have this mindset when I've been in a relationship for almost 8 years (8 years tomorrow, eek!). But -- crazy idea, I know -- sometimes things don't have to directly affect me for me to care about them.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 195 of 365: Sprint Interval Writing

I love this blog. I truly do. I know I've grown as a writer -- I've definitely grown as an essayist -- and I know it's making it easier for me to get what's in my head on paper.

But, man, it is just tiring sometimes.

So the cryptic contest that I kept alluding to opened yesterday (technically today) at midnight. I found out there were a few last-minute things I had to write up (things they don't tell you about in the rules). To compare this to running, it was like finding out that the last mile in a marathon is not only uphill, but you have to sprint it. I was exhausted from editing an entire manuscript (plus pitch -- plus those modeling essays for a different project) in just a month and a half. And now I had to write up a bunch of stuff, never knowing if the contest would fill up by the time I finished.

But I did finish. And I went to bed. And then I woke up and had this to do.

If we're continuing the metaphor here, this blog post is like the sprint intervals after crossing the finish line. And I bloody hate the running at this point.

But hey, much like running, if you can force yourself forward when all you want to do is quit, suddenly a different world can open up for you. Suddenly you realize you can run 5 miles, 6 miles, 10 miles... Suddenly you realize you have it in you to complete NaNoWriMo, or edit like a banshee (I'm sure banshees are actually terrible editors, as they have no grasp of any grammar rules), or do whatever it is that you love, but more of it.

I feel like it's a cop-out to have a blog post talking about how much I don't feel like writing, but, oh well. My blog, my rules.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 194 of 365: The Blase of Addiction

I had dinner last night at a Japanese steakhouse. As part of the usual fanfare of hibachi, the cook squirts saki from a squeeze bottle. I laughed and commented on how it really says something about my drinking habits if I'm buzzed off of a swallow's worth of watered-down saki. The next day, one of my friends posted on Facebook about how getting blizzed-drunk is accepted in our society, when any other type of drug use is frowned upon.

It's funny, how many things we judge as "right" or "wrong" are based purely on what society instills upon us. Well, if we get down to it, everything that we judge as right or wrong is technically a social construct, but that's for another time (and for a group of sociology nerds). But think about it: think about all the different taboos we have. Think about what we deem acceptable and what we deem inappropriate. And, aside from the actions that cause obvious and blatant harm to innocent people (which tends to be the common denominator in the most basic taboos), there doesn't seem to be a real reason.

Getting drunk out of your skull is not only accepted, but lauded in some occasions. We have the commercials on the TV, we have alcohol carted out at every sports event, music festival, party, wedding... People joke about being total alcoholics with as much tepidness as admitting the sky is blue.

It's why people are so slow to connect "alcoholism" with "addiction". Because that's what alcoholism is: an addiction to alcohol. Alcoholics are addicts, but we don't feel comfortable saying that. Why? Because compulsively drinking is not taboo. Crack is taboo. Meth is taboo. Shit, even weed is still taboo on some levels. But not alcohol. Not even cigarettes.

I could go on a tangent about the absurdity of blindly listening to society's values. From slutshaming to religion, but there will be a time and a place for all of that.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Day 193 of 365: What I Want for Valentine's Day

I don't want chocolates on Valentine's Day.

I don't want you to go to local pharmacy and pick up the first heart-shaped box and wait in line, fingering the bright red cellophane as you try to balance the chocolates alongside deodorant, aspirin, and the 18 oz Gatorade bottle. I don't want you to dart into the Hallmark section and pick up whatever card you can find.

I don't want to go to a restaurant on Valentine's Day. I don't want to deal with the reservations and the prix fixe menus and the obviously price gouging. I don't want to go into an overcrowded room with a million other couples and pretend like this is somehow a beautiful and unique experience.

I don't want jewelry for Valentine's Day. I have my wedding rings, I have the various knick-knacks and jewelry you picked up for me "just because". I shine enough when you're around. I don't need a ruby to add onto that.

What I want is adventure. What I want is for us to pack our bags and do whatever and build memories together. I want to shovel out a driveway side by side and dump snow on you, because I know it'll start a snowball fight and we'll both end up laughing. I want to made a crude joke and banter back and forth and be reminded just how much I had lucked out.

What I want is a genuine representation of what we have. And that won't involve obligatory chocolates or a bangle from Zales or a French restaurant where we have to order three courses for $100 a piece. Because that isn't what Valentine's Day should be about. It's about us, and that's what I want.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 192 of 365: The Winter of Our Discontent

This is what I'm talking about.

February hits and we are just desperate for winter to be over. We suffered through a cold and dark January, we're starting to see the sunlight, we're already making plans as to what we'll do once we finally thaw out.

And BOOM. Blizzard.

It's just not fair that February is actually the coldest month. It's not fair that snow storms hit February with the most prevalence. We can muddle through maybe a month or two of this nonsense, but we're at our limit at February. This becomes our heartbreak hill: that sudden increase in intensity just when we want to quit.

To be perfectly honest, if we weren't currently anchored by simultaneous mortgage/car/tuition (tuition on both sides of this marriage, sheesh) payments, I'd be boarding the first plane to Hawaii or Puerto Rico.

It's just not pretty anymore. I look outside and no longer see a winter wonderland. I look outside and see yet another one of my tai chi classes cancelled. I see another two-hour shovel-fest because we swore up and down that we didn't need a snowblower. I see me trudging out in the snow to feed the chickens (who aren't even laying eggs for us right now because a chicken's cycle essentially stops during the winter).

I fully recognize that life is exactly how you perceive it, but, right now, I don't see how I can perceive it any other way. We have reached the winter of our discontent, which will hopefully be made into glorious summer by a few benevolent shifts of winds.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 191 of 365: Why I Can't Read Books

It has been impossible for me to pleasure read as of late. I've enjoyed a few comic/picture books from my favorite blog people (if you're unfamiliar with the Oatmeal or Hyperbole and a Half, I suggest getting yourself acquainted), but that's really about it.

I first blamed it on a shitty string of books. It took me a month to get through Caprice Crane's A Family Affair (which broke my heart, because she is such a funny writer otherwise, but this book read like a creative writing major's first draft). I picked up the sequel to Shanghai Girls (Dreams of Joy) and, again, found myself muddling through. The book wasn't as bad as A Family Affair, but I couldn't read more than ten pages at a time, and I couldn't get myself to read on most days.

I worried that this was the beginning of the end. This is the point where adults talk about how they used to read so avidly, but "something happened" and they just stopped. I wondered if my constant writing/editing was forcing me to read these books in a more critical light, seeing what they could've changed instead of enjoying the story for exactly what it was.

And that's when it hit me: I haven't been reading other people's books because I have been too busy reading my own. I devote roughly 3 to 4 hours a day purely on editing right now -- and some days that number can double. Editing my first manuscript, editing my model essays, editing the blurbs that I write in here so that it can be somewhat presentable for an actual publication. I'm reading 100 or so pages a day, which I usually only hit if I'm really into whatever book I'm reading.

And when I'm not doing that, I've got my nose in a textbook. Anatomy, philosophy, spirituality... it's incredibly common to get an email from my instructor that basically says, "And for our next class, I want you to read this entire book." Which is not exactly unheard of, especially as someone who got her degree in English. I ping-pong from my laptop to my couch, going from reading for editing purposes to reading for educational purposes, all day long.

I forget that, in college, I almost never pleasure read. There was just no time. The only thing I could do was enjoy the books I was assigned to read and treat them like some version of pleasure reading.

Which is what I'm doing now. I am proud of the fact that I'm entertained still by my first manuscript. I enjoy whatever pieces of philosophy and spirituality that I absorb from the textbooks. Granted, the anatomy stuff makes me realize how poor of a nurse I would've been, but it's still so cool to learn about the parts of the spine, the different movement planes, inward and outward rotations, flexion and inflexion, etc, etc.

So maybe I'm only 50 pages into Dreams of Joy with absolutely no idea on when I'll finish it. But I am 300+ pages into Chick Lit (And Other Formulas for Life), I am reading I'm Just Here for the Free Scrutiny cover to cover at least once a week, and I'm devouring enough philosophy books to make any self-help author blush.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 190 of 365: Re-learning how to Refuel

The hardest part about giving up running distances until the world thaws out a bit was learning how to eat again.

When I was running 30 miles a week, life was a constant stream of eating. Nice big breakfast before the run, protein bar immediately after the run, huge lunch, lots of snacks, and a dinner that would make Michael Phelps blush. This, plus yoga and tai chi, resulted in a leanness that I had never experienced before. I felt like I could take on Jillian Michaels and only walk away feeling slightly pudgy (and incredibly pale -- have you seen how tan that lady is?)

But now, I'm off the roads. I kept getting minor injuries from running on not-fully-plowed roads (and let's not forget what happened when I tried running in -9* weather). I decided that it's just best to let winter happen and start up again in the spring (and maybe next year we'll have enough money for a treadmill...and a finished basement to put it in).

This meant that I was no longer burning a day's worth of calories in an hour and a half anymore. But no one told my stomach, who was still requiring a meal schedule fit for a hobbit.

Being a model is a double-edged sword. Since I'm so conscious of my weight, I recognized that I was starting to gain weight pretty early on. And, being tall, it was currently only noticeable to me. However, I knew that weight gain in the modeling world is a dangerous thing. I've been reprimanded before because my hips were an inch bigger than what my comp card. And I wasn't exactly going to email my director and say, "Hey, I'm an inch bigger in my waist right now because my brain still thinks I need second breakfast."

It's been an insanely weird transition, but a transition that has been working. I've been drinking lots of tea in between meals and I've been loading up said meals with the healthiest of healthy (ever had a quinoa and black bean burrito, with hot sauce and cheese? It is actually insanely delicious). I've been having fruit when all I want is ice cream and making sure my plate has more veggies than anything else.

This is something I need to get used to, even when I go back to distance running. My metabolism is on a tailspin. It has been ever since I was 18 and could no longer go to Wendy's twice a week (oh, that was a sad, sad day, when I realized that). And it's picked up speed ever since I hit 25. And what people forget is that a lower metabolism doesn't necessarily mean you are just going to get fat (barring any actual thyroid diseases). It just means that you don't need as much food -- a sentiment that your stomach takes a long @$%^ing while to accept.

This is a rocky road, because we're taught as kids to finish our plates, eat on schedule regardless of how hungry we are, etc, etc. And it can quickly manifest into something far, far, far too unhealthy, on either end of the spectrum. But I'm oddly okay with eating a banana over a gigantic bowl of Wheaties, a salad and tea instead of first and second lunch. The only thing that will never change is my coffee consumption, because my life revolves around Dunkin' and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Day 189 of 365: Sexy Versus Sex Object

"Well, what's wrong with being sexy?" "What's wrong with finding someone sexy?"

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Granted, I'm going to be absurdly biased. I recognize that I was born with the gift of possessing some of the very specific traits that society has deemed attractive. I make part of my living by portraying myself in an attractive manner so you buy that kayak or that new pair of jeans. And I have no issues portraying myself in that light. I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I didn't enjoy the fact that at least some people find me sexy.

I've heard people say that you can't do sexy photo shoots -- that you can't wear a revealing top or dress in high heels -- and still be against the objectification of women. I say you can. I say that objectification of anyone is intolerable, but that doesn't mean you can't find them sexy.

When you find someone sexy, you are attracted to the physical characteristics. They've got a phenomenal body, or a gorgeous face, or they just carry themselves in a way that oozes sex appeal and charisma.

When you see someone as a sex object, you are also attracted to the physical characteristics. Great butt, knockout features, etc, etc, etc.

When you find someone sexy, you would like to have sex with them. Yeah, yeah, yeah, get over your Puritanical roots. It's why the term "sexy" even exists in the first place. They are attractive, you are attracted, and your lizard brain goes, "Hey, we should do that thing that we are biologically programmed to do with this person."

When you see someone as a sex object, you still would like to have sex with them. We are sexual creatures, end of story. No problem with these overlaps so far.

But when you find someone sexy, there is room for the personality. It doesn't necessarily have to make the attraction stronger or weaker, but it's there. Maybe it takes the form of, "Wow, big breasts and she quotes Shakespeare?" or "I'm just going to pretend he didn't just say that and look at his face some more."

When you see someone as a sex object, that room is gone. You aren't listening when they speak, because, hello, sex object -- you're just here for me to oogle over. Can someone shut this broad up?

When you find someone sexy, there is no cognitive dissonance when they branch out. The hot movie star also does dirt biking? Cool. The absurdly good-looking athlete can crack a joke or two, too? Sweet. Get down with your well-rounded self.

When you see someone as a sex object, there is nothing but cognitive dissonance when they branch out. Who let that Adonis speak? Who said the ring girl could have an opinion? Bet she wouldn't be reciting poetry if my dick was in her mouth.

When you find someone sexy, there is still a part of you that recognizes that you're dealing with an actual person. An actual person doesn't want to get a random message about how you want to bury your face into their bosom. An actual person would never want a tweet that proclaims how much you want that person to "murder your vagina" (sorry, had to go there). You might want said face-burying/murdering, but you also recognize that there needs to be a level of respect when dealing with another human being.

When you see someone as a sex object, that is gone. Who cares if they hear you scream, "Take off your top!" Their well-being is not your chair, not your problem. You just want to see some ass.

Why is this distinction so important? Because human beings are flawed fucking creatures. Remove the ability to see someone as an actual person and watch the proverbial fur fly. All you need to do is look into Marina Abramovic's Rhythm 0 or the Stanley-Milgram Experiment to see just how easy it is for the average person to do great harm when our brain is not 100% convinced we are dealing with a living, breathing, feeling human. Just look at how people act in text messages versus face to face conversations. I know I'm invoking Godwin's Law, but, oh well: just look at how the Nazis portrayed their Jewish citizens as animals, as less than human, making it far too easy to let the later atrocities take place.

Remove the human element and we are capable of horrific things. See someone as less than human and suddenly it's easier to hurt, to rape, to murder. Suddenly it's easier to infringe on rights.

And that is not to say that every person who sees someone as a sex object is going to be a frothing-at-the-mouth perpetrator. But it is saying that this particular element is there, and we do a world of damage to pretend it isn't.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 188 of 365: Discipline

It's hard to stay on track.

It's why I roll my eyes when people remark on my supposedly steadfast discipline, or assume that I'm just naturally a go-getter and everything easily falls into place for me as a result. Because it doesn't. Of course, I love seeing things get accomplished and I love results, but that doesn't mean I naturally fall into line when it comes to doing what I need to do to get said results.

It takes an extra kick in the butt sometimes. In the fitness world, sometimes it takes me imagining that I'm a professional athlete -- and a professional athlete would never skimp out on a run or a yoga session because they don't feel like it. I've been gritting my teeth as I slowly build up my upper body strength. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me from dropping the idea of actually doing a proper set of push-ups completely is the attitude that, in some alternative universe, I'm a professional MMA fighter and what fighter doesn't have good upper body strength?

And it's the same with writing. In a way, it's my writer's mind that keeps everything else in line. Imagining a world where I'm an athlete, or I've hit it big as a model. Or I've finally sold a manuscript and it somehow became the mega-hit I know it could be. I've been editing my first manuscript at a fevered pace (ironically, when I had a fever last week, my editing ground to a screeching hault). I've been doing this blog, even on days when the last thing in the world I want is to write. I've been editing essays and sending them off and responding back to reader's emails. I've been editing my modeling essay collection, only to constantly rewrite entire paragraphs. And it's all driven by the idea that, in some parallel universe, I've made my millions writing books that resonate.

I'd love to be the type of person who is crazy-disciplined and can essentially turn into a machine. But I can't. So my discipline comes in more roundabout ways, and through more creative outlets.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Day 187 of 365: My Pet Idiot

Most people cannot stop gushing over how smart their pets are. Their cat can do this. Their dog can do that. Their cat can problem solve. Their dog is so clever. Their goldfish has an above-average attention span.

My cat is such an idiot.

Before I go any further, I should state that I absolutely adore Milo. He is an incredibly sweet, loyal cat. I love him with all of my heart and soul. But Mensa material he is not.

There are some things he does that is so mind-bogglingly cute that it turns me into a crazy cat lady. Like when he carts around his mini stuffed teddy from room to room (and when he gargle-meows with the teddy in his mouth to let you know that he has arrived in a room and plans on staying there for a while). So cute, my heart turns to glitter and my head explodes.

And then there are some things that are so blastedly moronic that I genuinely wonder if I get a factory defect.

Take for instance: his inability to be a cat. He cannot jump onto kitchen counters -- but he wants to. So he'll just sit at the base of the counter, look up, and meow pitifully. If you ignore him, he might pace back and forth and quasi-attempt a jump, but he'll inevitably admit defeat and walk away.

Some days, I take pity on the moron and help him onto the counter. He then prances around like the pretend-cat he thinks he is, enjoys the fruits of his pretend labor. Like yesterday. Only yesterday, he decided he needed to hop into the sink. A sink that was still lined with water from when I did the dishes.

A normal cat with hop into the sink, realize it's still wet, and hop out. Or they won't care and stay in. Milo hated the water, but didn't really know how to solve the problem. So he did was he always does when something he happening that is above his pay grade: he meowed pitifully. Better: he sat down in the water and cried pitifully.

Thankfully, I didn't have to get him out. He eventually figured that the sink is only about a foot or so deep and hopped out. He celebrated this sudden victory over the kitchen sink by trotting over to the toaster and liking the front section for a solid 5 minutes.

He might be a dumb, fat chihuahua with identity issues, but, man I love the little bugger. Besides, his adopted brother is smart enough for both of them.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Day 186 of 365: The Truth of Valentine's Day

The Oatmeal has a great comic about this: the annoying thing about Valentine's Day is not the rampant consumerism, or the pressure to have a date, or the reminder that you're not in a relationship. No, the annoying thing about Valentine's Day is the constant complaining about Valentine's Day.

The older I get, the more I understand that I am in control of how I view the world. I can let something bother me, or I can find ways to process the situation in a healthy and productive manner. I can view a holiday in the negative or I can view it in the positive. I can view Thanksgiving or Christmas negatively, focusing only on how things have shifted when I come home for the holidays ever since my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's, or I can focus on love and reunion and all the fun aspects of being back in my hometown, albeit for a short amount of time.

The same with Valentine's Day: I can focus on the fact that restaurants gauge their prices and every store is filled with headache-inducing glitter hearts and giant teddy bears (and if a snuggle maniac like myself finds something like giant teddy bears gaudy, they're @$&%ing gaudy). I can focus on how my Facebook is going to blow up with pictures of flowers and chocolates and equally-gaudy jewelry from Zales or Jared (can someone PLEASE explain to me the Pandora bracelet? I still don't get it. They remind me of the bead bracelets I'd make in Girl Scouts). Or I can focus on the idea that the day is a moment for reflection.

Eight Valentine's Days ago, I got stood up. I should've known I was going to get stood up, because the guy cancelled on me last minute for a previous date, but decided to "make it up" to me by taking me out on a nice Valentine's Day dinner. I remember being in the lobby of my dorm hall, texting him, angry as all hell, waiting around forever, only to have him reply back like we had made plans to grab a coffee before class and he didn't feel up to it after all. For me, that was the last straw: I had spent the first semester in an amazingly unhealthy pseudo-relationship, followed by a string of pretty terrible dating mishaps. I decided that I was going to focus on school and not on boys. Little did I know that I would meet the man who would become my husband four days later.

The last seven or so Valentine's Days have run the gamut. From being surprised with flowers as my last class got out to both of us forgetting Valentine's Day (and our anniversary) thanks to me being stressed as all getout from school and him being stressed as all getout from work. And I know it's easy to brush off Valentine's Day when you've been in a loving, committed relationship for nearly eight years, but the fact still remains: Valentine's Day is what you make of it.

This year, Valentine's Day falls on an off Friday for my husband. He mentioned yesterday how he hasn't made any plans yet and that he needed to get on it. I told him not to worry. As I joked, "As long as you're not spending all day playing video games, I'll be happy." I don't care if we go to a restaurant, or a rock-climbing gym, or just drive around New Hampshire all day. I don't care if we make a dinner and pop some popcorn and watch a movie. I'm just happy that I get all day to enjoy time with my husband (who, after 8 years, I'm still not sick of).

Valentine's Day is exactly what you make of it. Whether or you rename it Galentine's Day, or you take it as an opportunity to go out to the bar and find someone else who is looking for some fun for V-Day, or you do something fun (or nothing at all) with the person you're with. Valentine's Day is exactly what you make of it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Day 185 of 365: Don't Be Egotistical. Maybe You're Not the Reason

So, I got rear-ended on Tuesday.

I'm fine, and my car is fine. I have two nasty holes where the license plate of the pickup truck hit me in my bumper, but that's about it. We've emailed our repair people about potentially fixing it out of pocket, and if the cost ends up being more than what the deductible would've been, we'll be filing a claim.

I can't even pretend: I've been playing the "why me?" game like you wouldn't believe. Especially since there was a car next to me on the road just seconds before the crash who had essentially driven side-by-side with me for half a mile and then ran the red light that I had slowed down and stopped for. In fact, I was remarking on how that guy had blatantly broken the law just as I heard the loudest bang and felt my car lurch forward.

Seriously, why me, why my brand new car, and why did it have to happen as I was obeying the law (while the person next to me was breaking it)? I was lamenting this to my best friend, who replied with: "Y'know, maybe sometimes things really don't happen for a reason."

And, as I told her, I disagree with that sentiment. I truly believe every single thing happens for a reason. We might not know it yet, but there is a reason for everything. But I think people get hung up on looking at the events in their lives and immediately going, "But how did this event at all affect my life for the better?"

I've been there, too. Been there too many times for me to keep track. And I arrived at one big conclusion: don't be so egotistical. Maybe the reason has absolutely nothing to do with you.

It’s not always an easy mindset to swallow. I struggled immensely with the idea when I found out my friend’s mother’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse. And it only became harder when she passed away. But maybe the reason has absolutely nothing to do with us. Maybe the purpose of this tragedy has nothing to do with the people who cried so much last week. Maybe the purpose has everything to do with a relatively unknown person, whose life was changed in such a subtle manner, but in a way that set off a chain of monumental events that I will never be a part of.

Maybe the reason for me getting rear-ended has absolutely nothing to do with me. Maybe my life is not going to shift because I have to get my bumper repaired. But maybe it will for the passenger in the pick-up truck. Or maybe someone who was driving by and saw the accident. Maybe witnessing the event changed how they acted that day. Maybe they drove a little slower than they normally would. Maybe, because they got to their destination just a few seconds later, they were at the front door in time to hold the door open for someone else. And maybe that someone who received that small act of kindness was kinder to someone else in the course of events that day. Maybe it snowballs from there. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it continues its ripple-pattern into infinity.

How narcissistic of us to assume that all the events that happen around or to us happened for a reason that involves us. We're one of seven billion. How silly it is to think for even a second that every single misstep is supposed to happen for a reason that will affect us and us alone.

This is a seven-billion-person dance. This is not a solo act with 6.999999999 billion background dancers.

So, while I'm frustrated as all get-out that I got rear-ended, I recognize that there's nothing to gain by whining over, "Why me?" I accept that I'm going to have that pretty pitiful thought process, but I also accept that there's nothing in it for me to stay there. It's time to drop the "why did this happen to me?" attitude and instead pick up the "how did this affect the overall song and dance?" mindset.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 184 of 365: Take It Easy

For the last two weeks, I've had this linger fatigue/achiness. It wasn't enough to fully cancel class or heat up the chicken noodle soup, but it was enough to affect how I went about my day-to-day life. I was frustrated over how tired I was getting, frustrating over the aches and chills I would get after a minor yoga practice. I said to myself, "If I am getting a cold, just give me a fucking cold. None of this pseudo-sick bullshit."

Be careful what you wish for.

Maybe it was because the weekend was super busy, what with two day-long class sessions for teacher training, with UFC169 on Saturday and the Super Bowl. I got a whopping three hours of sleep between Saturday and Sunday. But, either way, I woke up on Monday feel like someone had hit me with a Mac truck. My sinuses were filled past maximum capacity. My throat felt like sand paper. It felt like there was sponge in my alveoli, making it impossible to breathe. I had a low-grade fever and about 50% working capacity.

It's now Wednesday and there has yet to be any improvement. I'm frustrated beyond all measure: with the contest under two weeks away, I need all my brain power and energy to edit, edit, edit. And instead, I'm staring at the screen like I'm reading Greek. All I can do is look at everything and berate the situation, berate that I've spent the last two weeks muddling through editing, only to have the situation worsen.

I think one of the worst things I ever could do as Type A personality was work at companies where calling out sick wasn't really an option. There's a horrific irony that childcare centers -- which are right up there with pediatrician's offices in terms of germs -- have some of the worst policies when it comes to sick day (and sick pay). When I wasn't being guilt-tripped into coming in anyway because they were already short-staffed, I was weighing just how "sick" I had to be to deserve getting a dock in pay (since sick days do not exist for a good chunk of ECE teachers; just "vacation pay" that we can use in place).

That only reaffirmed my attitude that I should feel bad that I, well, feel bad. Being sick isn't a natural phenomenon that you treat by taking it easy. Being sick is a nasty impediment that should be ignored or squashed.

But, really, I have no choice but to take it easy. I'm not going to stop myself from wishing I could be up and doing stuff, but I can redirect it into getting caught up on my favorite TV shows (I have about 20 Late Late Show episodes DVRed and waiting for me) and maybe just glancing over some of my writing so I don't feel like I'm falling too far behind.

Besides, the more I try to fight it, the longer it's going to last. So, really, the most proactive thing I can do is nothing at all and let my white blood cells get down to business.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Day 183 of 365: It's Not Satan

Facebook has had quite the evolution over the past few years. As of late, it's become a bit of Pinterest Lite -- a lot of reposted pictures, recipes, articles, etc. And I love it: I made a delicious cannoli dip for the Superbowl thanks to a recipe I found on Facebook. And every time an essay of mine is published, best believe I link it onto Facebook (and best believe I check how many times other people shared my essays on the various social networking sites). But it's a double-edged sword: for every cool recipe, there's a whole lot of bullshit. And one of those came with an article that was titled essentially:

"This is Satan with your Children"

The actual title is slightly different (I didn't feel like calling out a fellow writer like that), but the overall feel is the same. In it, she talks about how Satan wins every time she loses her cool with her children, or gets anxious, or has a moment of doubt. She says that Satan is constantly around her, waiting to strike when she is vulnerable, ready to fill her mind with anger or sadness or frustration.

And, truly, honestly, genuinely: I can't. In the fullest internet/gossip-site definition of "I can't": I can't.

I just cannot with the, "Satan is doing this" stuff.

In some ways, people who get into this mindset are actually in line with what the Bible says: in the Old Testament, Satan is the guy who fills your mind with doubt. He's the Loki of the Christian world, playing tricks and causing chaos. But I doubt these people see Satan as a Loki figure. To them, he is evil, pure evil, and the reason for all the bad things in the world.

I can see how that's an easier pill to swallow. Is God to blame for the suffering in the world? No, this other guy is! Ignore the part where God is omniscient and omnipotent and nothing happens without His doing. This is all Satan's fault!

I get the mindset, and I get how people can find peace of mind thinking that way, but, wow, how unhealthy. How unhealthy to decide that all the pain, all the times we see red or have doubt or worry, is because of ~satanic forces~. I grew up Christian and, while my church was wonderful about preaching love and peace over hellfire and damnation, that didn't stop me from hearing about said hellfire and damnation.

And here's the kicker: when I was a kid/adolescent, I went to church every Sunday, prayed every night, said "Our Father"s when I was worried or scared for my well-being. I believed very much in hell and the devil and worried myself sick over people who didn't believe in God and were going to go to hell. Now that I'm an adult, I go to church sporadically at best, I rarely pray in the traditional format, and I've long-stopped believing that there is a hell awaited those who don't believe the exact thing they are supposed to believe. I opened my eyes to the idea that the spiritual world might be a lot more than we can even begin to believe as puny humans, and that -- the same way there is the contradiction of God as the Holy Trinity and God at the same time -- we can have the contradiction of a thousand paths to God, all saying they're the correct one, all being vastly different, and all being right.

And I think I have a closer relationship now with God than I ever did as a traditional Christian.

And while it's hard to imagine that all this suffering -- all the gang rapes and torture and child soldiers and war and famine -- is preordained, I walk away feeling a lot closer to God than I would had I said, "Well this is the work of the devil," and walked away with that unease about powerful evil forces in the universe. And I think it takes away some of the personal responsibility: when you blame the devil, you are looking at outward forces. It is no longer what you can do to better your own reaction to things; it is about how you can fight off offending forces.

But, of course, this is either preaching to the choir or preaching to no one. People who genuinely believe in the article I just mentioned will look at this essay and go, "Well, clearly this is the work of Satan's influences. Just look at how she talks about personal responsibility!"

Oh well.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Day 182 of 365: What Are We Missing?

"Cats can't detect beat or melody. Music is completely lost on them. This means they don't understand why you just picked them up and bounced them around the room."

I made that comment maybe a month or two ago. Just a little something to make light of the fact that I was probably giving my cat seasickness. In fact, aside from humans and parrots, music is lost on almost all creatures. A series of changing notes means nothing to the vast majority of creatures. They are just that: a series of changing notes, without rhyme or reason.

Music is so ingrained in our everyday life. Some anthropologists believe we actually sang before we talked. We remember things better when they are sung out in jingle format (yeah, pretend that you don't know the numbers for Luna Carpeting and the Cars for Kids Charity). One of my favorite radio stations plays orchestral covers of mainstream hits and I can predict the melody long before I can predict the lyrics (or even remember the song's name). This random series of changing notes gives us catharsis, a way of speaking and communicating complex feelings, a way to make the mundane extraordinary.

And it means jack shit to the most creatures.

It's purely chemical. Their brains take in the sound waves and deciphers them one way, while our brain deciphers them another. The sound waves don't magically go away for the dogs and cats. The perception of them simply changes. To them, music does not exist because they have never perceived it, and perception of reality trumps actual reality.

I had a philosophy class in college that tried a similar experiment when it came to dimensions. I argued that, outside of mathematical equations, we can never experience a one- or two-dimension object. Purely a representation. We live in a three-dimensional world, and that dot and line will have length, width, and depth, no matter how thin you draw the line, or how tiny the dot is on your computer. If we are so trapped in perceiving the world with three dimensions, how could we ever try perceiving any additional dimensions (again, outside of math)?

We trust in our five senses because we only have five. We trust in the colors we see because that's the only way our brain processes what's going around around us. We trust in the emotions we experience because those are the only ones we are given. Think of the cognitive dissonance we get when we see something that falls outside our usual schemas, or we hear something we cannot immediately categorize. Think of the anxiety we get when people discuss the universe at large and we realize just how little we actually know.

You can blame the hippy-dippiness on my recent string of yoga training classes, but, really, this is beyond New-Age philosophy. Just how much are we missing because we assume we know all there is about reality? We touch and taste and feel and assume those textures are what make up the fabric of existence. When we might just be nothing more than the average housecat, missing out on a life-changing symphony because we cannot detect beat and melody, and therefore assumes something like music just doesn't exist.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Day 181 of 365: You Are Here for a Reason

"You are experiencing exactly what you need to experience right now. You are here for a reason. Things are happening to you right now so you can learn from them."

I sometimes cringe at yoga philosophy. I've already gone into detail about how I tend to tune out about peace on Earth and life without struggle. But I'm almost always in agreement with the philosophies discussed during yoga class. It helps that I vibe so well with the group as a whole (the instructor reminds me of a grown-up version of my bridesmaid from New York, but that's for another time). But, really, if there were ever a time for me to be in this class, this is it.

I've discussed at length the emotional fallout from leaving the teaching world. While it opened a lot of doors for me, it has left me with a lot of uncertainty. An uncertainty that has only worsened as a yoga studio I worked under went out of business, a karate dojo gave me the runaround, the modeling world is in a winter slump, and I've yet to actually sell a manuscript.

"Embrace the uncertainty. Uncertainty means you are living life in the moment, without plan, without attachment to the outcome."

I ran my first sun salutation yesterday for the class. We've been upping the ante when it comes to learning about anatomy and adjustments. Today, I got a turn to be assistant yoga teacher, helping adjust a student during a small sequence. I got to talk about me being a tai chi instructor and how I use what I learn in class to help shape my classes better.

"Do not concern yourself with what minor details are considered 'wrong'. It is not 'wrong' to eat meat. It is not 'wrong' to leave your bed unmade. What is important is the intent behind your actions."

This is where I am meant to be. That feeling I got in September when I cut out of yoga class before the training info session is in the same vein as the feeling I get when I chat with my fellow students before class. It's the same feeling when I learn something new about the spine, or the abdominal muscles, or proper sequencing. And while there are certain things that still poke at the demons from my past, something akin to trying to go out into the dating world again after a nasty and drawn-out divorce (something I might get into tomorrow), I am confident that this is the right path for me right now.

I am exactly where I need to be, right here, and right now. These are the exact things that need to happen in my life to teach me what I need to learn.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Day 180 of 365: What Grounds You

I just got back from my yoga teacher training classes. Like every other time getting home, I parked my car in the garage, hung my keys up in our pseudo-mudroom in the basement, and walked up the stairs to the first floor. I opened the door and saw two sets of flowers in two of our post-wedding vases: one on the kitchen island and one on the dining room table.

"You seemed a little depressed over all the bad winter weather, so I figured I would brighten up the place with some nice spring colors," explained my husband.

I don't know what it is, but there is something about being surprised with flowers that gets me every time. I recognize the silliness when you strip it down to its must objective core: here, I bought some clipped plants. Because they are shaped in a way to entice bees, we consider them pretty. Here, enjoy them for two days before they die. But, oh well. It's an incredible wonderful token of affection.

I couldn't help but think about the very first hour of my class today. As part of a writing exercise, the instructor told us to list all the things that ground us. It could be physical: running, yoga, tai chi, etc. It could be creative: writing, drawing, dancing, etc. Or it could be intrapersonal: spending time with family, your husband, your cats (and cats are people, dammit). And, alongside running, yoga, tai chi, writing, drawing, dancing, I wrote, "my husband".

I honestly don't know where I would be without my husband to ground me. Plain and simple: he gets me. He not only tolerates the bullshit I can sometimes pull, but he understands where it is coming from and knows how to call me out on it without sounding accusatory. He knows how to challenge me even when I don't want to be challenged. He knows when to give me solutions and when I just need a hug. He has been the driving force behind why I've been attempting to transform my mind -- why I'm trying transition from a very hysterical girl who lets her past, her emotions, the situation get the best of her, into a better, more capable (and for lack of a better term) warrior.

This is sappy as all getout and I don't mind it. I needed something to write before darting off to watch UFC at our friends' place and the flowers inspired me to wax romantical about that dude I vowed to spend the rest of my life with.