Feel fine vs. being fine

A few weeks ago, my wise pal Claire says the following:

I worry that you keep trying to convince yourself it is okay rather than working on getting to okay.

My elegant reply was:

Huh?

I said, aren’t those one in the same?  Isn’t convincing myself I’m okay how one gets to okay?

No, she says.

I’ve been letting that marinate for days.  Slowly, it started to become clearer to me – what Claire was telling me.  I wasn’t doing things that helped me get to okay.  I wasn’t being interesting, or learning, or enjoying my days.  I was just going through motions telling myself I was fine and then completely losing my stuff every now and then.

So, I decide to start watching a Ted Talk every morning.  It’s a way to think about a new idea, listen to people with passion and wake up with questions and ideas about the world.  It’s going really well.  I like this new routine.  It helps me have interesting things to talk about, guides me to look up more about an idea, encourages me to listen to music or get more sleep or avoid monogamy – whatever the speaker might be advocating.

Then, I took a drive through West Virginia.  Most of the time I think I don’t like nature, and then something will happen and I will realize I am wrong.  The weather was perfect, the trees were a mosaic of fall colors all the way up the mountains and I was enjoying every moment of it.  And the drive became a way to leave some bad feelings behind me.  I feel like I found some peace on the drive.

WV2

Today I read this article, by my new guy, Mark Manson.  He writes the following:

Our culture reinforces this subtle form of selfishness, this constant identification with feelings and wanting to feel better. But feeling better is not necessarily being better. This fallacy is present in our advertisements, in our political speeches, in our films and literature, in our self-help industry. If you feel bad then it is bad. If you feel good then it is good. “Go with your intuition.” “Listen to your gut.” “Follow your heart.” “Live for today.”

Clearly, Claire could become a rock star essayist.  This is the idea she was trying to get me to understand a couple weeks ago.

The rest of the article is worth a read.  It’s about fear of simple things – and how we perceive our actions to be so much harder.  For example, How could I possibly tell my parents I want to quit medical school when they really wanted me to go?  Easy answer: You tell them you’re quitting medical school.  Mr. Manson gives a few examples of these things that we’re making so much harder, when from the outside they are so simple.  How do I ask that guy out?  Well, you go up to him and ask him out.

I’ve been in this introspective tailspin for what seems like ages now. I’m starting to think it’s been worth it.  I’m starting to see how some things come together.  And when I’m really on the other side of this, I’m going to be so much stronger because of all the work I’m doing right now.  It doesn’t always feel good, but it’s the right thing to do for me.

 

I like helping.

Yesterday was a bad day.  Nothing happened to make it a bad day.  Nothing except creepy old demons popping up in full force.  I’m soooo over the demons.  Being a “silver lining” kind of gal, there was one moment that was really positive.  I had a good idea.  (Insert Sports Night joke here…)

I’ve read a lot about habits and patterns and trying to change them.  The one big take away I had from that line of study is that habits exist in three phases: trigger, behavior, reward.  One of the worst habits I’ve picked up lately is delaying getting out of bed.  But I don’t hit the snooze and get a few more minutes of sleep, I grab my phone, pull up Netflix and turn on an old rerun of some show and lay in bed, slowly waking up while listening to something I’ve certainly seen before.  Yesterday, in a moment of clarity, I thought – fine, keep the behavior, but start your day with something better than old 30 Rock reruns.  Grab the phone and pull up a Ted Talk.  Start your day with a new idea, someone talking passionately about their life or how to make the world better.  Trigger: waking up, behavior: watching something while consciousness seeps in, reward: staying in bed the extra few minutes.

Keep the Ted Talk thing in mind while I tell the next part of the story.

(But first, a note.  Because I’m about to talk about still being all blue and broken from the last relationship.  What I have done a bad job at, and maybe because I didn’t even know how to verbalize it myself until recently, is explaining exactly what is wigging me out so completely.  I don’t want the ex back.  I broke up with him for reasons and those reasons solidified and multiplied with his behavior since the break up.  I’m wigged out because I am shocked at his behavior towards me.  The other disservice I’ve done to myself is letting myself near any electronic device after a couple of drinks.  Because what I tend to email or text to the ex is the end of a thought or conversation I’ve had in my head – and without the logic that got to that conclusion – he assumes I want him back.  The thing that wigs me out so much is that I became the villain in this story.  I wanted to get married.  I was willing to make sacrifices and compromises and live a life very different than the one I had imagined for myself because I loved him that much.  He wasn’t in love with me.  He wasn’t ready to talk about that kind of future.  I could tell.  I could tell in his pulling away.  I could tell in his avoiding certain discussions.  But he wouldn’t man up and break up with me so I did with him.  I couldn’t love him as much as I did and have to find enough to love me as well.  It was honest and brave – to break up with a man I still had soo many feelings for, soo many plans for… What wigs me out is that he couldn’t be as honest and brave back.    He had to turn me into the villain and himself into the victim so he could avoid taking responsibility for any part of this.  We could have parted amicably.  He could have said, “Sarah – this is so hard.  You are so great and it’s been amazing to get to know you better.  I understand that we are both trying to be active and present in our lives and our current long distance situation does not facilitate that. ”  Or something like that.  Instead, for the last five months I’ve been carrying around the broken love and broken plans and broken pictures of us in the future AND all the blame, when his actions are what led to the break up.  He was relieved I did it and he didn’t have to.  Why can’t we just tell the truth about this?  I’m wigged out by him not being at all the man I had hoped he was.  That he said he was.)

I busted out my trusty copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert a few nights ago.  There are a few passages that have become like a best friend’s advice for moving on and dealing with my stuff, especially when it comes to men.  One of her most famous passages by now is the conversation between her and Richard from Texas about soulmates.  Recently, Gilbert was with Oprah on some kind of speaking tour and I ran across this snippet, where they talk about that passage:

She says in the clip (if you didn’t watch it – which you should – it’s 2 minutes) “Whatever they fired up in you, you might have needed fired up, and then they need to go.”

If I look at the last relationship through that lens, it helps.  I loved D so much that I looked like crazy to get a job in Ohio.  I wanted to be closer to him.  It was going to take something that massive to drive me from the pretty comfy life I had in St. Louis.  To leave my family, to leave my perfect apartment, to leave my park and Farmer’s Market and Claire and Ex Hubs and my routine… I landed in Ohio just fine.  Maybe his job was just to bring me here, where professionally I’ve had more opportunities than I could have imagined in St. Louis.  I’m better connected to the work, to things that challenge me.

So – now you have the habit/Ted Talk part of the story, and the Elizabeth Gilbert fan girl part of the story.  This morning, after my rough mental health day, I woke up, grabbed my phone and pulled up her latest Ted Talk.  She just did this one a few months ago.

I just love her.  Watch the video – it’s about 8 minutes long.  Recently I wrote about the purpose article and how it struck me, and I think she has some of the same lessons.  What are the yearnings, what makes you forget to eat, what kind of crap can you put up with because putting up with that crap is better than not doing what you love.  “I loved writing more than I loved failing at writing.”

She goes on to say that after the success of Eat, Pray, Love she was struggling with creativity and felt a lot in common with her unpublished diner waitress self.  This bit spoke to how I felt yesterday.  For some reason, by last night, I was back in the worst place about this silly break up.  I knew it had to be more than about not having the guy anymore.  First, he was a nice man, but he’s not for me for the long haul.  Logically, I know that.  Second, I’ve been through break ups before.  Why was I back in the worst emotional place?

It’s because I feel empty.

For about a year surrounding my divorce I felt I was in a place where all I did was take.  I took energy from the universe, kindness from friends, all the pity I could get and I gave nothing back.  I tried to right that the next few years.  I thought of the first half marathon I ran as part of that atonement.  I was raising money for the disease my cousin died from.  I ran 13.1 miles because I didn’t love it.  Because I knew I needed to do something outside of me.  It’s hard to explain, but I feel I had gotten to a great balanced place.  I was giving a little more than I was taking and I was happy.

Then I moved to Ohio.  And I gave a lot.  I gave all this love and energy and attention to someone who I thought was deserving.  I put a lot of my own wants aside to be what I thought he needed.  And I would have kept doing it if I hadn’t bought a house that needed someone to stay and work on it over the weekends.  I would have continued to go up there most weekends, plan and pay for trips, make special dinners and special plans, compromise some of my key values because they were very different from how he lived, get Cleveland Browns t-shirts… the list goes on.  And some of that is okay – some of that is relationship stuff.  But I failed to get what I needed back.  I continued to show up and ask “how can I be nice to him today, how can I make him feel special and loved and important?”  I never got that back.  So, sure, I had this coming, right?  I saw what was happening and I let it happen.  I could have broken up with him for any of those reasons too, but I didn’t because I loved him.  And I was making choices.

And now I feel empty.

There’s an emotional bank, right?  Have you heard this metaphor?  There are going to be days that are emotionally hard hitting.  Days I hurt someones feelings.  If I’ve made deposits in that person’s emotional bank, then hopefully the withdrawals can be weathered.  By making me the villain in this story, by not acknowledging and validating all the efforts I made, there were no deposits made in the ole emotional bank.  But I kept spending.

And now I’m empty.

Back to the Liz Gilbert Ted Talk.  What do you love more than you love yourself?

I like helping.  (You were wondering where that title was coming from, yes?  No?  Moving on…)

After my semester in Disney, I realized I wanted to go into hospitality because I loved answering the tourist questions.  I loved being the person with answers.  Even in what should have been a dark time after getting let go from the casino in 2011, I had these part time jobs that let me help people AND talk about food all day!  I loved helping them pick out chocolate and master the mandolin (cooking one, not the instrument one).  I got a master’s degree because I wanted to help organizations be what they were supposed to be.  I love when strangers stop me on the street and ask for directions, and if I don’t know, I stand there and google it for them!  I offer to take pictures of families in front of land marks so they can all be in the picture.  I like helping.  This is the thing at the core of me.

I feel empty and it’s hard for me to help anyone right now.  I gave a lot this year.  But at least I feel like I’ve finally figured out what the demon is that I’m trying to slay.  I need to find a way back to helping.

From my pal Liz Gilbert (because I really do feel we are pals) and her Facebook page:

Maybe this is just a year that asks questions.

Maybe this is just a year that asks questions.

Quinn and I will just have to figure out the answers.

Quinn and I will just have to figure out the answers.

Cards Against Humanity

This freaking game makes everything fun.

Have you played???  You need to play.

Warning – it’s a little dirty – so drinking helps.

7 of us went through some lousy vodka, many beers and at least 4 bottles of wine.  I’m not sure who drank what, but I’m pretty sure I drank a lot of the wine.

I made pumpkin penne and pumpkin cupcakes and the Cardinals won the game.   All of these things are good.

I may be just a tad toasted.

Most of my "gang".  Missing the Canadian consultant.

Most of my “gang”. Missing the Canadian consultant.

The delicious cheese tray - including a baked fig brie.  As one does.

The delicious cheese tray – including a baked fig brie. As one does.

How cute are Rex and Mackenzie Mackenzie (she's so great we have to say it twice)?

How cute are Rex and Mackenzie Mackenzie (she’s so great we have to say it twice)?

Oh Chris.  He's our dreamy consultant.  And tonight he had almost all the good cards.

Oh Chris. He’s our dreamy consultant. And tonight he had almost all the good cards.

IMG_9771

Darryl is a boss. If he were a cartoon character he would be the bear who sings “Bare Necessities”.

Almost nothing makes me happier than a house full of happy guests.  I so adore this group.  We mingled, ate dinner, enjoyed pumpkin cupcakes and just had so much fun playing this silly card game.  Laugher is sooo good.  As is wine… as is sleep.  Good night.

I may have drank 2 bottles of wine all by myself.  Good night, friends!  :)

I may have drank 2 bottles of wine all by myself. Good night, friends! :)

 

Sometimes, web articles nail it

Alternate title: The art of sitting still

I’ve had this article on my mind for over a week now – where did the time go?!

(Oh yeah, it went to hosting one of two dinner parties in the past week, Zombie night at the Science Center, Birthday recovery, entertaining my aunt and uncle in town for the day and prepping for the 2nd dinner party which is 8 people coming to my house…)

I follow enough hippie dippie stuff on Facebook that every once and again an article about living my best life crosses my path.  I often click on them, thinking if I get even a nugget of good advice, then it will be worth it.  I rarely do.  Until this one…

7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose by Mark Manson

I clicked through and the frankness of the author’s tone and the opening anecdote hooked me.  I read all the way through, nodding and feeling inspired.  I emailed the article to my old grad school cohort, encouraging us all to revisit the development plans we made, to continue to hold each other accountable.  I got several responses from my ex-classmates and one in particular stood out to me.  I’ll get to that in a minute…

The opening paragraph that was so fetching to me was this:

“One day, when my brother was 18, he waltzed into the living room and proudly announced to my mother and me that one day he was going to be a senator. My mom probably gave him the “That’s nice, dear,” treatment while I’m sure I was distracted by a bowl of Cheerios or something.

But for fifteen years, this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions: what he studied in school, where he chose to live, who he connected with and even what he did with many of his vacations and weekends.

And now, after almost half a lifetime of work later, he’s the chairman of a major political party in his city and the youngest judge in the state. In the next few years, he hopes to run for office for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong. My brother is a freak. This basically never happens.”

I love the phrase, “this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions.”  

Purpose.

One of my former classmates told me the story of her son, and how he always knew he wanted to be a pro football coach.  Everything he does – school, internships, activities – points him there.  He just joined an SEC college team as the youngest coach on staff.  He’s tuned in to his purpose and I was happy to hear that story.

I felt a really strong purpose for myself in 2012.  My word for the year was FOCUS and I had three objectives – school, work, run.  And every decision I made did indeed fulfill one of those purposes.  I didn’t drink on Friday nights because of long run Saturdays.  I got over the fact that it was kind of a dead end job because it allowed me to go to school.  While I got my 13.1 tattoo, Claire and I were discussing one of my assignments.  Seriously – I had a purpose that year.  Even to an extent in 2013, I had a purpose… Get a new job and preferably in Ohio.  Put that master’s degree to work.  And I did.  I had some goals in 2014 – buy the house, involved in ACMP, etc, etc… but I think I’ve lacked clarity.  Or, I had clarity and it broke.  Or, it was cloudy clarity.  Moral of the story is I’m floundering.  Good news is, I manage to still be successful at work and engaging enough to make some friends while floundering.  Bad news, I am lacking purpose.   I don’t mean existential purpose, I mean Focus.  What am I really after right now?

hunt pinterest

Back to the article.

“1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?

Ah, yes. The all-important question. What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:

Everything sucks, some of the time.”

Mr. Manson goes on to say that everything includes an element of sacrifice, even the stuff we love to do.  We sacrifice time, another activity, etc each time we make a choice.  What struggle or sacrifice are you willing to put up with?  

Luckily, I love my job.  I love my work and can’t think of a sacrifice I had to make for it, outside of seeing my family less.  The few bad days or rough spots I’ve had have hardly seemed like a struggle.  Moving on…

“2. WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT YOU TODAY THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF CRY?”

I used to be able to spend hours playing with dolls or toys, making up elaborate story lines and character development.  Through high school and college I was involved in theatre – mostly painting or building big things that brought stories to life.  Even 8 or 9 years ago I was thinking about creating elaborate “bits” for Ex Hubs or casino employees.  I have a hard time being alone with my thoughts enough to get back to that imaginative, creative place.  I have said for some time that I’m not great at being alone with my thoughts, and that seems to have gone into overdrive lately.  I can barely get out of bed unless I have a tv on.  I can’t cook or do the dishes without 30 Rock reruns in the background.  I’m making a more conscious effort to from tv/movies in the background to music (love Spotify! I’m a late adopter.  Love it.).  I think my 8 year old self would be surprised we don’t act or play or imagine.  

“3. WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT AND POOP?

We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn into “Holy crap, I forgot to have dinner.”

Supposedly, in his prime, Isaac Newton’s mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would go entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget.”

While I don’t love the word choice, it’s a great question, right?  And I think it goes to where is your passion?  The place I get lost for hours is writing this silly blog.  A post last week took me three hours by the time I found the right pictures and crafted the story the way I wanted and thought about flow and word choice.  I sat down at 7pm to write a quick recap and next thing I knew it was 10:15.  Tonight, I’ve been at this for about 45 minutes now.  I know that because I popped some cupcakes into the oven, set the timer for 30 minutes and I had barely gotten warmed up when I needed to get them out of the oven.  

The author states that he loved video games – got lost in those.  But really it was the competition against himself he liked.  I like to write.  I could channel that into writing papers or articles or crafting research.

“4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF?

Before you are able to be good at something and do something important, you must first suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing. That’s pretty obvious. And in order to suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing, you must embarrass yourself in some shape or form, often repeatedly. And most people try to avoid embarrassing themselves, namely because it sucks.

Ergo, due to the transitive property of awesomeness, if you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, then you will never end up doing something that feels important.

Yes, it seems that once again, it all comes back to vulnerability.

Right now, there’s something you want to do, something you think about doing, something you fantasize about doing, yet you don’t do it. You have your reasons, no doubt. And you repeat these reasons to yourself ad infinitum.

But what are those reasons? Because I can tell you right now that if those reasons are based on what others would think, then you’re screwing yourself over big time.

If your reasons are something like, “I can’t start a business because spending time with my kids is more important to me,” or “Playing Starcraft all day would probably interfere with my music, and music is more important to me,” then OK. Sounds good.

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says.

 

Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.”

I’m going to just let this section speak for itself.  Embarrassing myself is something I’ve got down, friends.  Moving on…

Start watching around 1:10 if you don’t want to do the whole clip

“5. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD?

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, the world has a few problems. And by “a few problems,” what I really mean is, “everything is fucked and we’re all going to die.”

I’ve harped on this before, and the research also bears it out, but to live a happy and healthy life, we must hold on to values that are greater than our own pleasure or satisfaction.1

So pick a problem and start saving the world. There are plenty to choose from. Our screwed up education systems, economic development, domestic violence, mental health care, governmental corruption. Hell, I just saw an article this morning on sex trafficking in the US and it got me all riled up and wishing I could do something. It also ruined my breakfast.

Find a problem you care about and start solving it.”

Kids.  In several ways, I want to save the world by saving the kids.  I want to help all the foster kids.  I want to make public schools so much better.  And in one that seems counter intuitive, I want to protect the abortion law.  Because I think people who have made the choice to have an abortion believe that they are not the right people to raise children and I respect that.  There are enough unwanted children.  I struggle with being “ready” for foster kids, but I could get involved in Big Brother/ Big Sisters again.  I could volunteer more time.  I could join the campaign to fight Missouri’s new ridiculous law about the waiting period for a legal medical procedure!  Do I have to wait three days to get an appendectomy?  A colonoscopy?  I know this is a very passionately fought argument on each side and I don’t mean to start debate.  I just mean to point out there are things I’m passionate about.  I need to start saving my part of the world.  

“6. GUN TO YOUR HEAD, IF YOU HAD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

For many of us, the enemy is just old-fashioned complacency. We get into our routines. We distract ourselves. The couch is comfortable. The Doritos are cheesy. And nothing new happens.

This is a problem.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.2, 3

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-and-error process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.”

True Story: Claire invited me to Zumba class with her for about 3 months before I actually went.  She kept asking me, kept telling me I’d like it… finally I went.  And I can safely say it made a huge impact in my life.  I fell in love with the instructor who was amazing to me and for my self esteem.  She and I remain friendly to this day even though she lives in Las Vegas now and I am here in OH.  I fell in love with Zumba – with dancing to loud music, little instruction, and feeling strong and happy.  Passion is the result of action, not the cause of it!   We don’t know what we’ll love until we try it!  So, if I’m forced to leave the house, I’m probably stopping at a great Zumba lesson.  

My aunt and uncle are on their way to Buffalo, NY and stopped in Columbus for the day this past weekend.  I took them to this quirky bookstore in German Village, The Book Loft.  The Book Loft has 32 rooms of books and the hallways wind around, it’s a funny place.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a bookstore because… Amazon.  It was so wonderful.  I wandered.  I browsed.  I bought a book called 100 Things to do in Ohio.  I’m going to start doing them.  If I have to leave the house all day, I like to see stuff.  And then if it’s cool I want to tell other people about that stuff.

“7. IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DIE ONE YEAR FROM TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?

Most of us don’t like thinking about death. It freaks us out. But thinking about our own death surprisingly has a lot of practical advantages. One of those advantages is that it forces us to zero in on what’s actually important in our lives and what’s just frivolous and distracting.

What is your legacy going to be? What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? What is your obituary going to say? Is there anything to say at all? If not, what would you like it to say? How can you start working towards that today?

And again, if you fantasize about your obituary saying a bunch of badass shit that impresses a bunch of random other people, then again, you’re failing here.

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are.

And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.”

Yes.  This last section.  This.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I want the things I want, lately.  The problem is, I want everything.  And I don’t mean stuff, I mean experiences, ideas, credentials, etc.  I have something between an identity disorder and an impulse problem.  Someone tells me they’re taking a trip to Egypt – and suddenly I feel less than because I’ve never been to Egypt.  A few days later I realize I do not want to go to Egypt, I just want to be cool and interesting.  Many people have a PMP certification, I think I need one to be accepted, to be taken seriously.  You know what?  I don’t!  I can read a book, get some of the lingo and move on with my life.

There are a few things I know for sure that I did/do for me and not someone else’s priority.  Grad school, trying veganism, flying to NYC to see Arcadia on Broadway, running the Tink 1/2 marathon…  But so many other things I do because my knee jerk reaction is to do what other people are doing.  I’m sure this is tied in with my comparison stuff… I’ll let Claire work that out for me.

 

There you have it.  The article that has made me think.  The article that has me asking questions.  And if you have any time at all, read some more of Mr. Manson’s work.  I devoured about 6 of the articles in the first sitting.  He’s on to something.

 

 

The morning after 35

Birthday cake on Wednesday mornings

Birthday cake on Wednesday mornings

Forget about taking the day of your birthday off work.  Take the next day off.  Bring the last piece of birthday cake back into bed with you.

Photo on 10-1-14 at 9.28 AM

Bring some coffee, too.

And then think about what the year ahead brings.  Cheers.

I’m almost 35. And I don’t know how I feel about that.

Editor’s Note: Nostalgia and some angst ahead.  Proceed with caution.

Underneath all the fun of birthday month shenanigans is the true story that I’m another year older.  I always use my birthday as a great time to look back, reflect, make plans, get excited, measure up, compare needlessly, etc.  There’s something extra for birthdays that end in 0 and 5.  I don’t know why, there just is.

daysr-are-long-years-are-short

That was the alternate title of this post.  I’ve got plenty of people telling me I’m not old.   But most of those people are older than me.  It just feels like age became a real thing all of a sudden.

Thinking about the last five years – it’s been a pretty amazing, actually.  For sure the most significant personal growth, and maybe that’s the good part of getting older – wisdom.  I see clearer, understand more, worry less, pay less attention to stupid, and generally contribute more good than bad to the world.  Tomorrow I’ll post about birthday fun and hopes and dreams and wishes and the future.  Tonight I get to take a minute to think the last 5 years, as measured by birthdays.

How 31 was done:

I had been at River City Casino just under a year at this point and had finally relented and befriended the four crazy women that made up our HR office.  I walked in the day of my birthday to find cake and decorations.  It was really sweet.

See the tiny spoon?  I'm pretty sure that was a gelato tasting spoon that we had in the HR office for some reason.

See the tiny spoon? I’m pretty sure that was a gelato tasting spoon that we had in the HR office for some reason.  Ahh, casino days.  

Angela threw me a perfect party: Turkey burgers, pumpkin beer and s’mores for dessert.  It was exactly what I wanted.

I may have made a little Dr. Seuss-style speech to thank them for the party and their friendship.  But mostly to make a rhyming speech.  Also - how much do I miss my super long hair??  Grow faster!

I may have made a little Dr. Seuss-style speech to thank them for the party and their friendship. But mostly to make a rhyming speech. Also – how much do I miss my super long hair?? Grow faster!

These girls.

These girls.

Meg is there on the left, she’s the one getting married in Virginia in a few weeks.  Angela is on the other end, holding George (the dog).  I emailed her a few days ago to tell her I can’t believe this years ago.  Since then she has had two baby girls!  This was just a minute ago!  This was the group that brought me back into the world.  I had come home from Chicago the day after my 30th birthday feeling lost and defeated.  If there had ever been a time for me to focus on me and figure my crap out – it was that time.  And when I was ready – so were these ladies.  My divorce was final 4 days after this.  And so I entered 32…

31 Birthday recaps here and here

Boo to 32…

Yeah.  Mostly the last several years have been a roller coaster that only goes up, but my 32nd birthday came right in the middle of a super yuck time.  I “resigned” from the casino at the end of August and was once again lost and sad.  Meg had moved in with me for what we thought would be 6 months while she looked for a job in Virginia, and good for her and all for finding one after 6 weeks.  She moved out just a few days prior to my birthday.   All I wanted for my birthday was Indian food with my sister for dinner.

What’s great about forcing myself to look back is that I’m so humbled by how people showed up for me.  This blog may be ridiculous to everyone else, but I might have forgotten that Angela showed up to my house the morning of my birthday to go for a run and a workout with me.  Claire met me at my favorite Mexican restaurant.  When I stopped in to see Brian he made it seem like I was doing him a favor by working for him that fall, when I’m sure it was the other way around.  My sister did go get Indian food with me for dinner.  Cyndi continued her tradition of being the most thoughtful gift giver I know.  Man.  I have tears streaming down my face.  I’m sure I took all of this kindness for granted in the moment.  I’m sure I couldn’t see beyond my terrible, no-good time.  I’m going to immediately send so many people flowers after I publish this.

Birthday recap here…

I look back and know that it was a hermit-y kind of birthday – but what I couldn’t have known is that three weeks later I would get the call that told me I was accepted into the BGSU grad school program.  And that friends, was a choice that made all the difference…

33 – being as old as Jesus

I was really happy that my birthday was falling on a grad school weekend.  These were the people I was closest to at that time and I couldn’t imagine spending my birthday with anyone else.  I requested that we go back to Jed’s, and sit on their patio and drink the night away.  And we did.  What makes me smile about that night when I look back is it’s also the night I told, well, everyone really (including D) about my crush on D.  It was this very grade school like plot to try and sit next to him or have a reason to talk to him.  Our classmates weighing in on whether they thought this was a good idea.  And me finally just telling him it was now officially the worst kept secret in the cohort.  It was the first time there was any flirting and it was fun and exciting.  Ahh, early romance.

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I made the rounds that night taking selfies with everyone… Kristy – who lives in Columbus now and I just had Girls Day for this birthday with!

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Just an hour or so before the crush confession.

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And with Steve – class clown extraordinaire.

The next morning in class I had some ‘splaining to do to poor D who may have been caught off guard by my admission.  I spent the plane ride home crafting a really long email explaining how it had all come to be and what I was thinking, etc.  It’s one of the emails I’ve kept – it was a really fun time.

Emilie, my favorite sister, always made sure she was around to celebrate with me as well.  We went to a Slow Food St. Louis fundraiser and then drank Rumchata at my favorite neighborhood bar.

My sis and I celebrating pre-birthday with Rumchata.

My sis and I celebrating pre-birthday with Rumchata.

Birthday recaps here and here …

The first link was actually a post a few days before my birthday.  And one that was really great to read right now.  It was about the amazing and thoughtful people I have in my life (seriously Cyndi with the crazy thoughtful gifts) and the people that I’m so close to and that in this moment I’m not sure I deserve.  I’m all wrapped up in break up angst (yes, still, a little – I know).  I think that may be one of my favorite posts ever.

34 in paradise

This one is a little tougher to write about.  Last year I ended birthday post with this paragraph:

I had no anxiety about this birthday at all.  I don’t care that I’m “mid-30’s” now, I don’t mind another year.  I have decided it’s a function of being very content.  I don’t feel I should be somewhere else, someone else, something else.  I’m actually quite happy with where everything in my life is right now.  

I spent 34 in Mexico with D.  It was a perfect trip.  We were celebrating graduation which had been a month before, we got to spend real quality time together, he gave me two birthday cards because he couldn’t decide and I remember thinking that was adorable.  It was just this really sweet and romantic trip.

34th Birthday dinner

34th Birthday dinner

All over the resort we were referred to as Mr. and Mrs. D.  Except it's in quotes.  I never did get it.  Maybe his last name was just easier to spell than mine.

All over the resort we were referred to as Mr. and Mrs. D. Except it’s in quotes. I never did get it. Maybe his last name was just easier to spell than mine.

I went into this post thinking about that last line from last year’s birthday post.  My intention was to then say that not only did things not change – everything changed.  I think during the course of writing this (incredibly long) post I’ve realized that actually, maybe not as much has changed as I think.  I’m still incredibly lucky.  I’m still surrounded by amazing people – many of the same.  Cyndi is still an insanely thoughtful gift giver (Thanks, Cyndi!) and Claire is still checking in with me and Ann still likes every picture I post on Instagram and I’m in Meg’s wedding and Angela and I have dinner when I’m back in STL and Colin still texts me a random Sorkin quote…  I feel a little like Ebenezer Scrooge with the ghost of Christmas past…  These last few  years have been amazing.  It will only get better.

To 35 and beyond…

Tomorrow a group of colleagues will meet me for birthday happy hour.  With the exception of two people, it’s a group I didn’t even know a year ago.  And now there are some new favorites, friends I hope I have for many more birthdays to come.

Wow.  Maybe the best gift (outside of the book and calendar Cyndi sent me!) is the always appreciated increased self awareness.  It’s amazing how I came into this with a sad tinge.  And I’m leaving with a list of people to send notes to, and be grateful for, and send love into the universe for.

I’ll save the article and Year 35 resolutions for another time.  This became a whole other thing tonight.  I wrote the title of this post first.  I would have to say I do know how I feel about 35… fan-freaking-tastic.

Inspired by Friday Night Lights, I embrace hot chicken

I’ve been binge watching Friday Night Lights over the last couple of weeks.  It’s soooo good.  If you haven’t watched it, remedy that as soon as possible.  I love so many things about it: Coach and Tami’s marriage, the way Tami says “hon”, Tim Riggins, Julie’s real struggle to get what being an adult is all about…

I finished the last couple episodes earlier today while reading the paper.  I’m not afraid, and surely  not alone, to admit I cried several times throughout the series and these last few episodes were no different this morning.

The last few episodes also made me really pumped about the idea of community.  You watch what Coach Taylor does to East Dillon, the way he creates something to rally around and support, they way they come out and root for the Lions and tell me you don’t want to be a part of something.  Inspired by that feeling I took a little lunchtime field trip to Hot Chicken Takeover.

This place has had a bit of press – when they first launched and then with their kickstarter campaign.  Jeni of Jeni’s Ice Cream has tweeted about them even.  I watched their Kickstarter video a couple weeks ago and put it on my list of things to get around to.  That time came once I was all riled up by the last episode of Friday Night Lights – I wanted to go out and be part of the community.  So I got Hot Chicken for lunch.

The place is exactly as described in the articles and Kickstarter video.  It is a walk up window with a long line  and a few tents with community picnic tables.

I waited about 20 minutes until I got to the window - then another 10 after I ordered.  Not bad.

I waited about 20 minutes until I got to the window – then another 10 after I ordered. Not bad.

I love that the window sign is partly made of tape.  A true start up on a budget.

I love that the window sign is partly made of tape. A true start up on a budget.

Their entire menu.  Free sweet tea and ranch dressing.  Community.

Their entire menu. Free sweet tea and ranch dressing. Community.

I was cautioned by reviews that they are not messing around when they say “hot.”  I started off with “cold” which just means no heat from spice, it’s still hot, fresh fried chicken.  People in line are chatting, the owner comes around asking if anyone is there the first time and thanking people who are wearing Hot Chicken Takeover shirts that indicated they’ve donated to the Kickstarter.  The neighborhood this is in is very “transitional”.  One of my favorite breakfast places is just down the street, but there’s not much else here yet.  The two houses across the street from HCT are boarded up.  One of their hallmarks is that they hire the “harder to employ” individuals.  Everyone there was awesome.  And I got the dose of community I wanted.

My carb-tastic lunch.  I'm glad I went with the "cold".  I'm not sure I could even handle Medium.

My carb-tastic lunch. I’m glad I went with the “cold”. I’m not sure I could even handle Medium.

It was really, really good.  It’s a perfect meal, even the way pickle juice soaks into a bit of the chicken breading, the ranch dressing that came from no bottle, and yes, really good mac and cheese.  I also happen to love non-mayo based cole slaws, so this light and vinegar-y one was perfect – and I can tell myself that was the right amount of vegetables for lunch.  So, thanks Hot Chicken Takeover for giving me what I needed today.