Outshining Broken Bulbs at 150 Days

Stringing the lights on the Christmas tree is one of my least favorite tasks of the year. Not to sound Grinchy, but I always end up doing it by myself, getting poked by myriad needles while trying not to be toppled by a nine-foot fir.

Tonight, my daughter asked if she could help me. And, lo and behold, my little stringbean ninja turned out to be the key to successful light-stringing! The process was painless (save for a few inevitable pokes) and a fun bonding moment. I was grateful to finally have a wingwoman to support me through this dreaded but critical Christmas task.

Then she plugged in the lights. And the top 1/4 of the tree did not work.

I could consider the whole effort a failure. I could give up, rip the lights off the tree and let it ruin my night. I could buy a new strand of lights to try to hide the broken ones. I could.

But I’m not going to do any of those things. I talked about it with my daughter and she said, “Well, it’s still a great tree even if some of the lights don’t work.” And she’s right.

I’m struggling with eating right now. But I do not consider myself a failure. I am not going to give up and let the sugar monster ruin my night. I am not going to try to hide the fact that I am struggling. And I know that I am still great even if my relationship with sugar is not working.

A year ago, I was struggling with drinking. What if I had given up then? What if I had let the wine witch ruin my night, and eventually my life? What if I had continued to hide the fact that I was struggling?

I didn’t, thank goodness. I found Connect and appealed for support and received it in spades. As low as I felt, somewhere inside I knew I was still great. I knew I deserved better, and my #sobersisters on Connect helped me strengthen that belief.

I have so much more confidence now than I did a year ago. So much more faith in myself. I have overcome a soul-crippling, dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. I know I’ll figure out sugar too.

Sometimes I still feel alone in my struggles. But I know I’m not, and I never was.

If you are struggling, you’re not alone. There is support for you here. Believe that you deserve to receive it. Let us help give you the boost you need. You are not a failure. Do not give up. Do not hide, from us or from yourself.

You are great. We are great. We may have a few wonky bulbs, but our light shines beautiful and bright.

On Finding Grace

I am not having a particularly grace-filled day. So I am writing this post in the hopes of finding some.

This has been a day of ticking off boxes as resentment and frustration start to simmer.

Why am I frustrated?

I am frustrated with my husband’s fever that he can’t seem to shake. I miss his presence and partnership, especially during these routine-less summer days when life seems to be injected with extra insanity and we are stuck in this relentless weather cycle of blazing sun-soupy humidity-severe thunderstorm-drenching rain (seriously, Mother Nature, from one mama to another, give us a break already!).

I want to be able to do it all and I know that’s not possible but it’s still frustrating. I want to be able to do the exercise, the healthy eating, take great care of my kids and my husband and my dogs and still have energy to keep my kitchen counter clean and stay on top of, well, life.

I am also anxious about the fact that if – WHEN – I get to lifetime and maintain it, stuffing my face in stressful times like these really is no longer an option. I know that’s a good thing. But I have relied on food since I can remember and it’s a little scary having both food and booze – my two trusty coping mechanisms – off the table.

So what is left: I go for a walk. I exercise my dog and clear my head. I identify what’s really bothering me (e.g. I’m not mad at my husband, I’m mad at his fever). Instead of distracting myself with food or alcohol, I actually think my feelings through. Huh.

***

I wrote the first draft of this post dictating into the Notes app on my phone while out walking Fred. And guess what? By the time I got home I felt better about all of it. Because instead of opening a bag of tortilla chips or a bottle of wine at 2:30pm (because weekend), I actually dug through my pile of mental rubble until I got down to brain bedrock.

And what did I uncover? Fear. Not exactly a twist ending. Pretty predictable. As I navigate this year, with its ups and downs, I will likely often discover that the complex emotions that I used to smother with booze and junk food are grounded in fear.

I no longer accept a foundation of fear. Time to start chipping away.

I came home, put my lips to my husband’s forehead, and told his effing fever to skedaddle. My husband apologized for being sick and “abandoning you with those lunatics” and I said, “My love, I actually believe you would choose me and our lunatics over being bedridden and feverish for four days, so no need to apologize.”

Weight lifted. Frustration processed and dismissed. SmartPoints and sobriety intact. Face unstuffed.

Grace found.

No Day But Today: Day One of My OYAF*

*One Year Alcohol-Free

I woke this morning with a dry mouth and puffy face, the result of two margaritas and a few sips of wine: my last alco-hurrah before embarking on my 52-week experiment in sobriety. I had planned to drink one last glass of Sauvignon Blanc to say farewell to my drinking days. But by the time I got to it I already felt queasy from the margaritas and zillion tortilla chips (because ‘Merica) so I could only manage a few measly sips.

It was a good ending note, actually. I could have done without the nausea but it was reassuring (in an albeit unpleasant way). I had planned to have a few drinks, to celebrate Independence Day and my own impending independence from alcohol. But my body didn’t want ’em. There will be less to miss, I think, now that I know I’m no longer capable of “having a few drinks” the way I used to “have a few drinks…” every night.

I have had Sauvignon Blanc, my shining beacon of fabulosity, on a pedestal for the last several years. She has been my savior, my salve, my BFF. She has comforted me, chilled me out, lifted me up.

Except she’s a devil in disguise. A fraud broad. A knockoff handbag sold out of a trash bag on Broadway. At least that’s how she has been revealed to me. Everybody is different. But my body is onto her, even if my still-smitten brain wants to give her another chance. And another.

For the next 365 days, that won’t be an option. I’m locking the door to my mental trophy room and letting the key fall into the bottomless pit of my mom bag, to rest among the half-crayons, Hot Wheels, and used tissues.

Why am I doing this now?

My gut has announced that now is the time. I have a year before my son starts kindergarten. So, a year to figure my shit out so that I don’t feel completely gutted when he struts onto the school bus. That same September, in 2019, I’ll be celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary. I’m still a couple of years away from turning 40, but I want to lay the groundwork now to feel amazing by then.

I am closer than I have ever been to my best body ever. And I have been doing Weight Watchers for long enough now to know that I can’t effectively address my eating issues (read: battle the sugar-and-salt monster) with the shadow of alcohol looming over me. Willpower is a finite resource, after all.

As the phase of early motherhood comes to an end for me, I need to be able to think clearly and creatively about where I’m heading. I know I can’t do that if I continue to be seduced by Sauv B. Those days are over. For now. Maybe forever. But definitely for now. And I have a feeling that if I ever chose to open that door again, I’ll find Sauv B’s pedestal has crumbled to dust.

Fall In

A beautiful quote from my Peloton “Feel Good Ride” this morning with Ally Love. Some days it’s easy to “fall in” to self-love. Other days, like today, it feels impossible to surrender to that empowered ideal. Even though I know in that surrender is the contentment I crave.

Today, I ended up crying through my kids’ swim class after getting a speeding ticket on the way there. It’s not about the ticket, but the mortifying experience of getting pulled over with my kids in the car pushed me over the edge. I am crippled with cognitive dissonance right now. I am stuck in the shift from school year to summer and I’m letting it get the best of me.

One broken mama

Over the last couple of days I’ve tried to resort to old coping mechanisms to ease this tricky transition in our family routine. But junk food and a glass of wine make me feel so much worse. SO much worse. They always did, but I didn’t notice it as much when I was stuck in my wino-life, because I never knew how good I could feel.

But I am not fully equipped to fill the void left by booze and junk either, and that’s what broke me today. Can’t drink, can’t stuff my face with chocolate. What else do I have? Foam rolling. Tea. US Weekly (though that’s fairly toxic too). Writing. Seltzer. Stretching. Breathing…? But I just want a jar of Nutella! Is that so wrong? Yup. F.

I know this is a process. And I know I’m too hard on myself most of the time. I get lost in one bag of tortilla chips and lose sight of the long game, in which I’ve already scored more goals than I ever thought possible.

So let’s zoom out of this pity party for a moment.

This was a tough week. My daughter was crushed to have her kindergarten year come to an end. My husband was out three nights and has been renovating our garage all weekend. I haven’t had enough time or space from my kids to be able to digest the end of the school year. Oh, and I had a heinous case of PMS.

I have a kid who finished kindergarten. This is a big deal to me. A milestone in my motherhood journey. My little girl is vanishing before my eyes, and in her place is an increasingly poised, articulate, compassionate, curious, independent big kid with real feelings and opinions and the ability to express them.

She has also arrived at a point in her life where she will have legit memories. And here are her dad and I, at the helm of our family craft, doing our best to steer both of our kids through what they will hopefully remember as a happy and fun childhood while navigating the tricky waters of adulthood ourselves.

We are all first-timers here. And we are all going to stumble along the way.

After her swim lesson today, my daughter could tell I had been crying – luckily my 4-year-old son was oblivious so I only had to contend with one conversation, which of course turned the waterworks right back on. She looked me directly in the eye and wanted to know exactly why I was so upset and what she could do to help me feel better.

My kid shows compassion beyond her years. And she loves me so damn much.

I need to show her that it’s just as important to love yourself as it is to love those closest to you. I need to give myself a break. I need to show her that when things get out of whack, love brings us back to where we should be.

Oh wait. She already knows. Fall in, Mama.

Monday Malaise

I’m feeling some malaise today. I am quite literally not at ease. It’s not the alcohol, since I haven’t had any for the last 17 days (and 96 out of the last 99 days!) anyway. It’s not even the chocolate mint waffle cone, bagels, cookies, and Chinese food I binged on yesterday – though recovering from that is not helping. It’s just me – unclouded, un-hungover – having a malaise-y Monday.

With the end of the school year upon us, and my son starting kindergarten in another year, I ponder the precipice I approach. I have been a stay-at-home mom for the last six and a half years. And I don’t know what’s next for me. I don’t have a job waiting for me, or a career to which I could make a triumphant return. I am about to emerge from the depths of #SAHMlife and I don’t know what’s out there in a world where I will have SEVEN WHOLE HOURS to myself five days week.

I imagine some of this time will be taken up by a part-time job. But what am I going to do to make money? None of my volunteer commitments have the potential to turn into paying gigs. And lately I’ve lost steam with them anyway. I’ve been too into, well, THIS. Writing. And reading. And Connecting.

I am figuring my shit out, learning to love myself, and finding my voice.

So what do I WANT to do once I am able to usher both my kids onto the same school bus and not be chauffeuring them, cooking for them, cleaning up after them, and wiping their butts all day?

I want to help people like the person I used to be, by which I mean overweight, wine-dependent, unfit, and – most importantly – under-self-loved. But how? There are already so many beautiful women with perfect Instagram accounts and gazillions of followers who are established in the sober/mom/fitness/wellness/you-name-it communities. Books have already been written. Podcasts have already been recorded. Who am I to think I have anything to add to any aspect of any of this?

Especially since I have not fully given up alcohol. And I have not fully conquered my eating issues. And I could always be more fit. And a better mom. Etc.

But I have come so far. I wake every morning now with a body that a year and a half ago I believed was totally unrealistic for me. Before starting Weight Watchers, I had my wedding rings sized up and now they dangle from my fingers on cool days. The thought of drinking the way I used to not only holds zero appeal, it feels like a different life – and yet it was only six-ish months ago that it was MY life. I feel more comfortable in this skin than I have felt in years – maybe ever.

And yet I’m uneasy. I think because I don’t have a clear picture of where I want to go, what I want to be, what I want to do. My opportunity to emerge from #SAHMlife is on the horizon and when I get there I want to be ready to slay.

For now, I am a work in progress. And that is ok. I will never catch up to those amazing ladies who have been pioneers in the alcohol-free movement. And that is ok. I am finding my own voice. And that is ok. I can’t pretend to be anything other than this much-improved version of me. And that is more than ok.

Will I ever give up alcohol completely? I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: I will indulge in a glass of wine the way I indulge in a cup of Cold Stone Peanut Butter Cup Perfection. Very occasionally. I know it’s not good for me. I know it brings no benefit to the body that I have worked so hard to achieve. I know I will feel worse for having consumed it. And yet I am building enough inner trust to know that one cup of ice cream or glass of wine will NOT send me into a spiral anymore. And that is huge for me.

Maybe someday these desires will disappear, and I won’t want to burden my body with booze or sugar. Wouldn’t that be great? I don’t know, actually – and that’s why it’s not my goal right now.

My goal is to spend what little kid-free time I currently have empowering myself with knowledge. Understanding acutely the effect of these chemicals on my body. But I am not going to force myself to fit into the alcohol-free mold before I’m ready, because I don’t want to set myself up for self-sabotage.

The final ascent to the self-actualization apex of Maslow’s Pyramid probably does not include alcohol or sugar, or caffeine for that matter! But everyone’s ascent is different. And I can only follow my own. As long as I’m making my way up that pyramid, no matter how round-about my route, that is the important thing.

I have more than a year until two little butts scurry up the stairs onto the school bus. I have time. I am in learning and discovery mode. And whenever I feel late to the party, with my tiny blog and tiny Instagram following, I have to remind myself that the party has already changed for the better because I am here.

 

maslow-5
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Dear Future Me

Dear Future Me,

So you found your abs at age 37 and life has been perfect since then, right? Tee hee. Ha.

I’m writing to you today because I’m reading a book called The Food Therapist in an effort to tackle my issues with food – diagnosed, according to the author, as dependence, craving for control, and lack of trust. Apparently, the more connected I feel to YOU, Jen-in-her-40s, the better equipped I will be to conquer these issues and maintain my goals (abs!) (and other stuff) for the long haul.

So how are you? Energized, clear-skinned, inspired, confident, and still fitting into a size 4-6? Continually obsessed with your Peloton bike? Still getting a literal and figurative kick out of your heavy bag kickboxing classes? I hope so.

If you recall, you spent ten weeks in 2017 dropping 23 pounds with Weight Watchers. You maintained your weight loss as you began to exercise regularly again. And you also drank regularly throughout. Your drinking became both less pleasurable and less escapable, and so you decided to go dry in January 2018. And that’s when things really got interesting.

Your world opened up with clarity and exquisiteness that you couldn’t have imagined. You liberated yourself from the “mommy juice” myth. And when alcohol became routine again in February and March, you started The Alcohol Experiment. 30 days turned into 60 which turned into 76 days sans booze.

As of today, 93 days since the start of The Alcohol Experiment, I (switching pronouns here, sounds a little less awkward this way) have had four drinks. And I feel great about that. I have steadfastly adhered to my alcohol non-negotiables. The one night I had two glasses of wine, I enjoyed the first and did not enjoy the second. I am continuing to experiment and I am striving, always, for balance.

I wonder where you are with alcohol. In this letter I’m supposed to tell you where I want you to be. But, honestly, I’m not sure. I want you to be happy and healthy, first and foremost. I trust that you have not regressed. If you have decided that alcohol really has no place in your life, kudos to you! And if you have continued to drink occasionally, so long as you truly enjoy it and always adhere to your non-negotiables, that’s a-ok too.

As of the typing of this letter, I am about 98% at peace with my relationship with alcohol. I hope you can confidently say that you are at 100%. And if you haven’t taken a moment lately to celebrate that, please do. Go ahead, I’ll wait. The 2017 us did not believe we would ever be free from our reliance on alcohol. I am so proud to have broken free, and you should still be proud too.

As for food, I hope that walking by the small batch artisanal tortilla chips at DeCicco’s is no longer torturous for you. I hope you can have a bag of chocolate granola – or maybe even a jar of Nutella! – in the pantry without eating the whole thing in one go. I hope that you and food were able to work through your issues and that your relationship flourishes now.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy. After all, you and food had a rocky rapport from the beginning. As a kindergartener you fell asleep every night with your blankie and a Hi-C juice box. Food was always a comfort, a salve, an escape, a distraction. A moment of joy that was worth long-term emotional and physical malaise. But then you ditched booze and started to really love yourself, and once that self-love took hold there wasn’t as much room left for your toxic relationship with food, was there?

I am at the beginning now. I am just starting to untangle 37 years of food dysfunction. I think I can do it. I hope I can. No. You know what? I WILL. Because I’ve come too far to not tackle this shit. (I hope as you read this you’re smiling to yourself, endeared by my determination and my still-flickering self-doubt, which I hope you extinguished for good long ago.)

Here is how I envision you, Jen-in-her-40s:

You wake up well-rested and maintain steady energy throughout your day. You walk into your closet knowing you can fit into everything you see. Whatever you put on, your clothing brings you joy and makes you feel good about how you look. In the summer you confidently wear a bikini, and not just on skinny days. You have a strong core (do you have those awesome side muscles that I am just starting to see? I hope so!) and you don’t look pregnant by the end of the day. You are confident in how you look and how you feel and how you move. You feel sexier than I do. But most importantly, you feel strong and healthy – which may mean something different to you than it does to me, and that’s cool.

You are your own living epitome of health.

No pressure, though.

I don’t expect you to have yanked out your sweet tooth. Or your salt tooth, for that matter. I hope that you and food have a relationship based on trust and appreciation. You see food as fuel for your strong and healthy body and mind. The occasional indulgence does not send you flailing into a downward spiral or fleeing to the pantry in a state of sugar-lust. Sugar-lust may still exist for you, but YOU are in control of your cravings. You understand why they are happening. You are mindful and aware and whether you choose to indulge a craving or not, you act consciously and move on confidently.

I’m starting to feel so excited for us. I’m excited for me to become you. I could do without the additional gray hair and fine lines that will turn into wrinkles; but I’m less fussed about those things because I know that I am taking our wonky foundation and reinforcing it so that we can continue to grow, to build, to strengthen, to create, to achieve.

Thank you for getting yourself to where you are.

You’re welcome for starting you on your way.

Love,

Me

 

 

My First Session with The Food Therapist

You can’t make better, more consciously driven food decisions that are in line with what you really want for yourself and ultimately reach your health and bod goals if you don’t examine the roots of this vital relationship. – Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD

I finally started reading The Food Therapist today, and there is already so much to digest (pun intended)! Through a quiz that is included in Chapter One, I’ve identified that I have three main food-related hang-ups:

  1. Trust Issues – I feel like I have no willpower and I don’t trust myself with certain foods (and booze). I feel like I can’t keep certain foods in the house for fear that I will eat them in one go. I often eat things I shouldn’t, and/or eat too much.
  2. A Craving for Control – I am a rule-follower, so I get mad at myself when I overeat and follow that with a heaping serving of guilt. When I do stick to my food rules (i.e. staying within my daily and weekly Weight Watchers points), I feel like I’m winning. When I don’t, I feel ashamed, guilty, and depressed.
  3. A Dependence Issue – I “treat” myself with food in both good times and bad. I eat when I procrastinate. And in all of these moments, I tend to overeat which of course makes me feel worse than I did to begin with (or makes me feel bad when I had been feeling great).

The goal is to accept that I have these tendencies, dig deeper to understand them, and then figure out how to manage them. Hmm. Ok, I’ll play.

Shira provides a neat little Venn diagram to show the forces behind our behavior around food. According to her diagram, my food issues (trust, control, and dependence) are both emotionally-driven and mistrust- and negativity-driven. All true! I have used food to self-soothe ever since I can remember. I was never taught about proper nutrition and had a crappy diet as a kid, so I have basically never felt nutritionally empowered or in control of food. And I am also a veteran negative self-talker. So there you have it: 37 years of food issues, summarized in one short paragraph! Am I done? Am I cured of my food woes? No?

“… these forces will always be there, so it’s up to you to get better at anticipating them and identifying your personal vulnerabilities in order to start making conscious eating choices that are in sync with your ultimate goals.” – Shira Lenchewski

Ah, ok. So this is gonna take awhile.

The forces will always be there, she says. I will always have emotions. I will have triumphant days and garbage days and I will feel feelings about all of that. Will the mistrust and negativity always be there? Ugh, I hope not. But realistically, and certainly for the foreseeable, yes. It will take a long time to build trust in my relationship with food. And negative thoughts will inevitably creep in.

I’m feeling hopeful, though. This is going to take a LOT of work – this is only Chapter One! – but I am worth it. I don’t want my kids growing up with food hang-ups like mine. Tonight at dinner my son asked me what I was eating – spiralized butternut squash – and my daughter said, “That’s so healthy. Mama always eats healthy stuff.” Eureka! There is hope! For me and for my kids (and maybe even for my husband)! And maybe one of these days some of those squash spirals will end up on my son’s plate without an epic battle ensuing. A mom can dream. And in the meantime, get herself sorted.