FitBitter and Thirty-Fiveness

Kite Aerial Photography above Prescott, MI Explored!

Photo courtesy of George Thomas on Flickr

I’ve hit some invisible milestone in my life’s journey. Tripped over it is more like it.

Maybe it’s better to say I came to a crossroads. Perhaps it’s because this year marks ten years since I graduated from college. Inwardly, my eyes widen at the thought. Has it really been ten freaking years? Followed by: holy crap, a lot has happened in a decade.

As I began my college journey at twenty-one, I was twenty-five when I graduated, so ten years since that point in time goes from exactly mid-twenties to exactly mid-thirties. The differences between twenty-five, thirty, and thirty-five are so remarkably different, it takes my breath away. And sometimes makes me laugh, since I’m the same-but-also-different person from who I was at 25.

By now, lots of people my age are parents; I am not one at this point. Still, it is not a little awing to watch almost everyone you know become a parent. I’m going to borrow the imagery that the metamorphosis is akin to watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis–they’re the same beings, but markedly different. My basic point is that even not being a parent, hitting thirty-five is a particular time in life where I’m re-prioritizing my priorities. What’s next? What do I want go glean from life? (And also, oh God, I only have five more years before I’m 40!)

Case in point: I’ve napped far too long on the subject of my health. After I dealt with some health issues between 2011 and 2012, I thought it would be easier to get all disciplined about taking better care of myself. Unfortunately, in the wake of chronic stress from work, then suddenly finding myself engaged and doing All the Wedding Planning, those events did the opposite of motivating me to get more exercise and change my nutritional intake and habits.

I know most women love using a wedding as a reason to go all kinds of crazy about slimming down to fit into a dress, but that just wasn’t and isn’t my style. I felt I couldn’t handle the pressure to look a certain way on top of managing all the other zillion details going on in that eighteen-month planning period. And ultimately, I am relieved for multiple reasons that I did not give in to that notion.

Fast forward to early July of 2015, where I had been ruminating for what feels like an eternity on my health and habits, and I had my moment where I made the decision I was going to do something differently when I decided to just step on the scale and face what I’d been avoiding.

The number that stared back at me jolted me.

The perfect word for being at a loss for words

The perfect meme for being at a loss for words

I decided, in a flash and with zero hesitation, that I was changing some things. This could no longer stand.

Normally, the infantile part of myself that is scared to make changes, particularly when it comes to self-care and exercise, would rear her ugly head and paralyze me. Somehow, the in-charge adult upstairs managed to lock her in a closet so I could do what I needed to do without over-analyzing everything to death, as is my proclivity in life.

where-the-magic-happensI knew that if I was going to do something 180 from my current lifestyle, and if I wanted to effect long-lasting habits, I was going to have to try something I hadn’t before.

With a deep breath, I began researching fitness monitors and, with the recommendation of a coworker, went with a FitBit HR charge. It comes in two colors: dude/unisex and more feminine/plum. Normally, I would have gone for the plum but the plum stands out more, in my opinion, and I wear a lot of black, so I figured the black one would “blend in” as much as one can.

I usually avoid wearing anything on my wrists, including bracelets, but this wasn’t about what I wanted to be doing, something I’m still reminding myself of, and wearing a fitness device certainly isn’t a fashion statement, no matter what the companies purport.

Another reason I chose the fitness monitor that I did is the FitBit app ranks quite highly, if not at the top of the pile, and now that I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks, I can see why.

It is simple-pimple to use, for starters. All of the metrics it tracks are cool and convenient, especially if you’re a metrics/stats nerd, as I am. I’ve used it to track my sleep but as time has gone on, I find that being such a light sleeper makes me much more aware that I have the FitBit on, so I usually take it off at night. Still, for an occasional nap or just for experimentation’s sake, it really is eye-opening to see how restless one is during sleep hours.

A trend I noticed right off is that I went from pretty highly restless, as high as 33 times a night, to far far far less restless, maybe 1-7 times a night, especially as I increased my workouts during the week. There would be long stretches of “radio silence” showing on the app, which means deep sleep, and I began noticing I was generally more refreshed in the mornings, even for work and waking at 6am.

FitBit will send weekly progress reports, award arbitrary “badges” along the way, and I gotta admit it’s cute when the FitBit does it’s little happy dance when I reach my step goal for the day. (And for anyone interested, Zumba classes give you lots and lots of steps to help knock down that goal.) I’ve made friends with a wrist unit and for the time being, we’re on good terms.

The bottom line here is that for the first time in a really long time (and in some aspects of this, first time ever), I’m utilizing the tools at my disposal, e.g. a gym membership and a fitness monitor, to help me actively work toward long-standing goals that have been sitting on a shelf in my brain collecting dust for a long time. I also fully admit that having a supportive spouse who is along for the ride is half the battle. We are both eating healthier, making activity a priority, and enjoying not feeling completely wiped out every single night from a day at work. Exercise seems to be breathing life into the precious few hours we have in a given day for personal time, much as I hate to admit it, or even as much as I hate to get sweaty and gross to attain it.

The hardest part of all of this, honestly, is going to be remaining patient and focusing on the journey, while at the same time keeping my eyes on the end goal. It’s so easy to give up. And boring, frankly. People get all excited when they first hear that you’re making lifestyle changes and then after a week or so, forget about it until one day, they’re like, “Are you still doing that?” Yes, yes I am.

To be perfectly Stuart Smalley about it, it’s all about “progress, not perfection.” So here goes nothing.

smalley

Advertisements

Wed

Happy New Year, friends!

I took a little sabbatical from posting in the latter part of 2014 and there is good reason for that.

On October 25, 2014, I married my best friend and the most wonderful man I know. After almost two whole years of engagement, planning a wedding, and designing a honeymoon that we hoped would work out (and it did!), the misty ethereal imaginings of our ceremony and fancy party became a reality.

In terms of anticipation, my wedding day was my entire lifetime of Christmases combined. I just could not fathom how it would all be on the day of until I was experiencing it. And every person who gave me the advice that there would be things happening that were completely out of my control was absolutely right.

  • My dress wasn’t perfectly pin straight after being pressed.
  • We ended up taking a cab from the reception to our hotel because of a SNAFU with the limo company. It was late, it began to rain, and we were hauling all of our wedding paraphernalia into and out of a minivan taxi. Fun times.
  • I found out way later that someone had broken into our car the night before the wedding, something my very wise husband kept from me on the wedding day, as nothing was broken or taken. (My decision to not keep anything of value in our car paid off, at least.)

And you know what?

Courtesy of NBC Universal

In fact, it was the journey leading up to the wedding day that held a number of surprises I didn’t expect–many more than any small things that took place the day of.

Things like:

An imminent wedding brings out ALL the feels in everybody.
There is something about the acts of booking a reception hall, picking out invitations, dress shopping, cake tasting, photographer interviewing, and a million other details in this process that makes anyone who has ever gotten married much more emotional–and I mean every emotion on the spectrum. To be sure, it is a thrilling time. I had a ball during the major part of the last two years and have been touched beyond measure by people’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

But man alive, not only will you go from manic to drop-dead exhausted all in the course of minutes or hours, but anybody involved in the planning will also add his or her feelings into the mix, causing quite the Feels Party. It could be about an accessory, the location of a hotel, what kinds of favors to include in hotel welcome bags, or any number of issues a person has about the Wedding Day Schedule. The fact that my husband and I had two solid months of 2014 that weren’t devoted to wedding planning was the greatest gift of all, quite honestly. The relief that comes with not planning All the Things is indescribable.

The mother/daughter relationship in particular during wedding planning is one that goes through a special time. I won’t delve deeply on this particular topic but I will say that wedding planning can damage a relationship if it’s not a strong one. Let’s just say I am grateful that my mom and I emerged with lots of love, even if there were a few bumps along the way.

You try strange things you might never have otherwise.
As the weeks dwindled down, all kinds of thoughts entered my mind about my skincare regime. Since I no longer possess the youth of my twenties to afford me automatic dewy fresh skin on the day of my wedding, I was examining each pore, line, and freckle on my mug.  I have my usual daytime and nighttime routines but like anyone with their looks on their mind, I was paying attention to things that normally I would pass on by. Case in point: I read something about taking coffee grounds and using them as an exfoliant on one’s scalp and face. This struck me as a brilliant thing to try out.

Since we had just brewed some coffee not too much earlier in the morning, I piled some fresh coffee grounds into a bowl and placed it on the edge of the tub. I dumped a bunch of coffee grounds all over my scalp and began rubbing them in. I discovered that sure enough, they exfoliate. Boy, do they. However. The mess that coffee grounds make in the shower is shocking. They go ev-er-y-where. The entire shower from top to bottom was coated in little black flecks. Half the shower was spent chasing these little buggers down the drain and then making sure they were rinsed off my person and then I would have to start all over again with rinsing the tub.

I’m not sure I would keep this up on a regular basis since the clean-up is so time-consuming. I can say that after using a very small amount on my face, that it was extremely smooth after sloughing off the surface cells. As far as cheap scrubs go, I can’t really complain. I would probably caution against using coffee grounds in one’s hair, however, no matter what the experts say it’ll do.

In the end, I did not use coffee grounds on my face or scalp prior to the wedding. Oh and airbrush foundation and having someone do your full hair and makeup is absolutely fantastic. Oprah knows what she’s talking about when she says it’s one of the best experiences money can buy on a regular basis.

Despite the excitement, you can’t invite everyone you know, and those who fall into your Made It and Didn’t Make It lists will surprise you.
Both Kevin and I had some strong disappointments that certain folks couldn’t attend our wedding for one various reason or another. (Our wedding coincided with a TON of babies being born, for starters.) Nevertheless, we had the time of our lives, and the joy of the day dominated any lingering regrets we had about those who couldn’t be with us. One aspect of the wedding that I loved was hearing all the individual stories from people later about their personal experiences having attended. Stories would interweave with one another and I slowly put together this puzzle of what it was like to be one of our guests.

Another favorite was seeing how much fun people had and hearing it was an amazing time for them. As a person who takes pride in her hostessing, nothing makes me happier than hearing that all of the time and energy I spent on the details of this elaborate, expensive party didn’t go unnoticed, and in fact, were ultra appreciated. Never have my organizational and coordination skills served us better. Which brings me to….

Get used to “we” and “us.”
Despite having been in a relationship for years with the man I now call my husband, I’m much more conscientious of using the pronouns “we” and “us.” When I became married, I also became ultra conscientious of being one of an official couple and losing a little of the “I” in my identity. I now represent a family of two people, as does my husband. I find myself having to revert my pronouns when I get onto a “we” streak, because sometimes it doesn’t apply. It’s like, oh yeah, sometimes I’m just me.

Being super "we" and "us" makes me feel like Meg and Hamilton Swan sometimes.

Being super “we” and “us” makes me feel like Meg and Hamilton Swan sometimes.

The whole thing about wedding planning is, and it’s HARD to remember throughout, as long as you’re having fun and you are looking forward to seeing all of the details you’ve planned come to life, you will have a fantastic day. It’s been almost three months already since our day came and went, which amazes me, and I’m still processing and reliving one of the happiest times of my life.

If any of you out there are planning your own nuptials, all I can say is: savor, savor, savor.

ZK

Letting Go, Letting In

Recently, mid-week insomnia led me to my computer to write on something more personal and that which has sat in my heart and my Drafts for months. Truthfully, I have been mulling over this particular topic as a post for so long I can’t remember when it actually germinated.

I’ll start with this:

If you Google “friendship,” you come up with a ton of photos with inspirational quotes on them. Here is one such quote:

A Friend

It’s a really nice sentiment–at least I tend to favor this particular one.

Lately, I have begun to question whether I’ve ever had that kind of friendship in another person who wasn’t a significant other. I read and hear all the time about friends who are as close as siblings, who can be their total messy selves with one another, and I think, “What must that be like?”

My recent experiences with certain friendships have bestowed upon me a few layers of cynicism–several more than I care for. That cynicism rendered me unsure of what a “real” friend is supposed to be or do for someone. I began to believe that the notions I’ve held somewhere in my mind, perhaps some might call them fantasies, created a set of ideals to which no one can be upheld. As I continued to find myself healing from some wound or another, I began asking myself, “What was my part in all this?” lest I completely victimize myself and throw a pity party to which no one would want to come, not even me.

I have been fortunate to have had a handful of friendships with people whom I thought would be by my side for a lifetime. It just turns out that those lifetimes were much more quantifiable. They have all since faded from active existence in one way or another and while I’m okay with that now, it has taken me a while to grasp the lessons from each and be at peace about their current stasis.

Grieving a friendship has its own peculiar flavor for each particular person, I find.

In one instance, I lost one of the closest friends I had in the world. My heart was broken for a very long time. I dreamt about this friend and our relationship on a regular basis for years. I would cry at random intervals. My soul ached for some kind of closure. Eventually, we were able to put some things to rest after what felt like an era had passed, though the damage that had been done affected the friendship permanently. The grieving dreams have ceased but occasionally, I have a happy one and I reflect on the friendship and the person with nostalgia and tenderness.

In another, the friendship simply faded away of its own accord. We didn’t have anything in common anymore, despite being long-time childhood friends. At least from my perspective, it felt mutual. No words were ever exchanged, no acknowledgement of the end of the friendship occurred. It was a natural drift. Because that drift happened when I was in my late teens, it turned out to be easier to accept the gift of that person in my life for a specific period of time and move on.

Most recently, a friendship of mine ended on such a strange and abrupt note that I still have to remind myself of it. This person was a part of my life for close to twenty years, though the last three to four were plagued with issues that we attempted to work out. Suddenly, though, I had to shift my thinking from present tense to the past. The loss hurt primarily because I had believed we were making progress at finding our way back to the foundation of the friendship to reclaim what once was lost. Alas, the falsehood of this belief revealed itself, and I was left to make sense of the sudden rejection. What struck me most was that I did not wail or fall to pieces for this relationship that disintegrated into nothingness with a singular piece of correspondence. All of my anger, grief, and a multitude of other (caring) feelings for this person had already come and gone over the course of several years. Poof! I simply had to reconcile that the end had come without my knowing it; until she told me, that is.

There will always be a part of me who wants to go back and pick things apart, convince myself that if I can find out where things went wrong, or apologize just one more time for my role in the mess, that the friendship has a chance.

Old habits die hard.

And while I muse on these heretofore vital friends and relationships, I continually remind myself that letting go of something means I also have room to let something–or someone–in. The journey continues, and who knows whom I’ll pick up on the way?

Maybe they’re already here.

Maybe they’d like to learn a new song.

I know I would.

 

Thoughts on a Birthday

Birthday Candles

Courtesy of Cade Buchanan on Flickr–“Birthday Candles”

I don’t always do a post on or around my birthday, but this year–today–I felt compelled to.

I woke up from having one of those dreams that feels endless and like it must be taking up at least an hour of my sleep, when in reality, it was probably five or ten minutes at most. Lockers the color blue, like the ones from my high school, were present. The locker number I kept going to or trying to find had the number 30 on it. (Perhaps I wish I were only turning 30?) When I opened said locker towards what felt like the end of the dream, I found bags with scribbled notes on them in my best friend’s handwriting. Some of the notes were sad.

I kept trying to find out what time the train was going to be leaving. Sometimes I was already on the train, speeding towards someplace (Washington, DC kept running through my head) and other times, I was in a station, waiting and trying to make the connection. Anxiety was there; my old friend and as of late, a more constant companion.

I woke up begrudgingly when the alarm went off and realized I took the day off from work. I got to do what I always want to do when the alarm is going off–turn it off and go back to sleep, without a care in the world! My first gift to myself: an entire day to do whatever I want without worrying about work–or that it’s Monday. Today, Monday is meaningless to me. It’s just a day in time. It is my birthday.

Despite that gift, my internal body clock would not let me sleep past 6:45, the time when I’m usually up and downstairs, waiting for breakfast. So I sat on the couch in my zucchini-colored robe, patiently waiting, while my dearest made me a delicious hot breakfast. And not just because it’s my birthday. Just because he’s wonderful like that, as he makes a hot breakfast at least three days of the work week. Another gift, and one that could be taken for granted over time, which is why I make sure to thank him for breakfast when he makes it, because it is not something I would readily do for myself.

We had just run out of coffee by yesterday morning. I remembered that the coffee I had ordered might have arrived on Saturday and perhaps the mailman tried putting it in our tiny mailbox. Lo and behold, he had. So we were able to have our favorite fresh coffee this morning without having to run out and get something separately. Happy birthday to meee. In lieu of birthday candles, a spoon stirred the cream into my coffee.

When I was a kid, things were the name of the game. Especially if they were pink. My Little Pony, Care Bears, Barbie, Sylvanian Families, Sweet Secrets, Popples…these all inhabited my existence. I screamed the house down the day I received a Funshine Care Bear. I don’t remember the last time I screamed upon opening a present.

sweet secrets collection

A bevy of Sweet Secrets

Now, I squeal inwardly when I receive a book on spirituality that I’ve been wanting to read, or a gift certificate to Sephora, my favorite mecca of beauty products.

As a child, I fretted over who might not show up to my birthday party and being so happy when people came. (“You really like me!”) I remember ripping through the wrapping paper of all the presents, feeling impatient to get to the next THING, while my mother chided me to slow down, show my guests what I had received, and loudly chant, “THANK YOU!”

Today, I take more time to appreciate the real cards sent in the mail and the handwritten sentiments inside. I sit and actively cherish the people in my life who remind me I matter to them, that I am valued, that I bring something special to the table. I struggle with my self-worth, so the best thing I can bestow upon myself is kindness; letting myself feel truly loved; seeing that I have qualities which are considered wonderful to others; allowing the sentiments to settle in my soul without naysaying, ridiculing, or devaluing those statements with self-derision. I channel my inner Stuart Smalley.

smalley

I sit here basking in the knowledge that I have hours ahead of me to do whatever I want. Whatever I want. I’m almost paralyzed with this notion. What do I do first? (I’ll tell you, my first desire wasn’t to get all dolled up like the ladies of Golden Girls did. Even lounging, they were always dressed to the nines.)

The sun is shining. It’s a beautiful day. A lawn mower chugs in the distance, a sound that has always soothed me. I have a lunch date with a dear friend. My phone chimes occasionally with birthday texts.

It is otherwise quiet.

I feel loved.

I am thirty-four.

 

 

 

Me and the Sea

IMG_8455-Edit

I have a strange dichotomy with the sea. Seas = beaches. Beaches are hard to find when you grow up in landlocked states like Missouri. If you want some sea, you have to go and find it.

When I have found it, I have stared and contemplated for long periods of time (what felt like little eternities), soaking it all in.

No matter the weather, these bodies of water mesmerize me.

IMG_0730

I become very aware that I am in an otherworldly place, someplace else that is not my day-to-day. Perhaps the sea is my “somewhere over the rainbow.” The rhythmic sounds of the waves, sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh, lull me into a state of inner peace where I am much more easily able to put away my cares. My favorite nature sound is listening to the ocean to help me get to sleep when I’m feeling anxious or experiencing insomnia.

Despite my love for the beauty and tranquility of the water (this is where the dichotomy comes in), I don’t feel the need to live near one.

Some people require being in close proximity to bodies of water. My mother is one of those people. She takes her pleasure from the lake(s) she lives close to; I truly think it grounds her.

But for me, I prefer to keep the specialness of the sea apart from my daily life. In addition to seas and oceans making me feel as if I’m on vacation, which I enjoy preserving, I also do not possess skin genes that allow for high doses of sun on a regular basis. In another life, perhaps I’ll have gorgeous skin that browns like a turkey at Thanksgiving. But in this life, I have pale, incendiary skin, suited for shade, air conditioning, and computer work.

When forced to be outdoors for any length of time, sea or no sea, I swath my skin in high doses of SPF sunblock, the better with which to help me be an outdoors(wo)man for a few hours.

Me and the sea are tight. I can’t wait until the next time I’m near one, so I may dip my toes into the frothy water and drink in the salty air.

Until such time, I’ll remember the sea fondly with previous memories and look through others’ eyes who have captured it in places I will probably never go.

The Lonely but Beautiful Path

This post was in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea.

I’ll bring the cream.

20130626-151053.jpg

Photo courtesy of Mikael T on Flickr.

I grew up with a father who worshipped coffee. He still does. I absolutely attribute my love of the rich, bold tasting brew to him, since I may not have given being a coffee drinker more serious thought if it hadn’t been for his influence.

He took it so seriously that I thought one must be a cool person if s/he is a coffee drinker. And I still hold this opinion. But we know I am a total coffee snob.

Anyway, my dad took his coffee with cream when I was a kid (well, half ‘n half). On Sundays when we’d go to church, he would bring a carton of cream to share with others during coffee hour (the hour(s) adults would stand around and talk about grownup things), because he wanted his coffee doctored just so. I always thought this was a strange practice, not understanding what was at stake, of course.

I didn’t know what “powdered creamer” was or that it has nothing whatsoever in common with the real thing. I was ignorant of what delicate texture cream gives to a hearty cup of joe.

As a grown woman who has strong preferences on just about everything, especially what food and beverages I consume, I can safely attest that given the same set of circumstances, I, too, would be hauling my own cream to a weekly function where there is coffee but nothing with which to doctor it.

I have brought my own cream to work on many occasions, because otherwise I cannot drink coffee at work. Coffee and cream go together, plain and simple.

At one of my previous jobs, my employer actually provided milk and cream in the kitchen in the fridge. It was even stocked for us. Do you know what a luxury that was? Picture Forrest Gump saying, “Magic cream.” (Instead of “magic legs.”)

Seriously, best. thing. ever. My cup runneth over with cream. I had my fill of coffee those three years, perfectly blended just the way I liked it.

As I was doing some dishes in the not too distant past, I got to daydreaming and thought about whether I would ask my staff to keep cream in the fridge for me if I ever made it to a top position in management or public office or something. I really think the answer is yes.

Certainly, if I were a pop star, my rider would explicitly state that a small carton of very cold heavy cream would need to be in the fridge in my dressing room, in addition to a pound of my coffee bean of choice.

Thanks to my father, I totally GET the utter importance of having one’s cup of java doctored to one’s exact preferences. And it makes total sense why he would get so understandably upset when he would forget to bring it to church.

“God BLESS it! I forgot the cream!” he would cry out in the car.

Diva or no diva, when it comes to coffee and conversation, I try to plan ahead. Thanksgiving, brunch at a friend’s house, or even church, should I someday join one. I’ll be the woman who states loud and clear, “I’ll bring the cream!”

When Gallbladders Attack

This post could alternatively be titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation at the Doctor.”

Hi, folks. Been a while.

I didn’t mean to take such a long hiatus from writing. It just sorta happened. You’d think that when life gets nuttier, I would run to the soothing salve of writing. Instead, I tend to bury my head in the sand. For any of you who have followed me for a long time, this probably isn’t news to you. I was on a really great streak for a while though, wasn’t I?

Okay, let’s get down to business. I’ll try to recap what’s happened since last summer and what has kept me away.

First and foremost, I started a new job, which took just about every ounce of energy I had for almost the entire year. Seriously. It wasn’t just ordinary stress of starting a new job, either. It was a doozy because the department I work in was going through a major transition. Myself and my colleague (who turned out to be awesome) just kind of grabbed on to each other for dear life and had a “make it work” moment à la Project Runway, except that it was twelve months of make-it-work moments. Things are much better now. Our office made it through the first year of transition and I am hoping the really rough stuff is behind us.

On top of that, Kevin and I finally left the house that tried to kill us. We moved into a great place and are very happy. Naturally, because it’s us, I have a story to tell about the adventures in the new place, but I’ll save it for later.

Adding insult to injury, our former landlords turned out to be giant pieces of crap in human form. The home’s condition probably should have tipped us off but we really didn’t know that we were dealing with legitimate scam artists. What I’m hoping happens, thanks to karma, is that they get back what they did to us and presumably countless others. They claimed we damaged their home to the point where they felt it necessary to hang on to our security deposit. They know it’s bullshit, we know it’s bullshit. But in the end, it would have cost way more time, money, and energy to prove we were in the right (which is exactly how they exploit their student tenants), and it ended up being more important just to get the hell out of there and never look back.

I’ll put it this way: the dog food in the oven was definitely not an accident and it was definitely in retribution for these people being truly awful. Even worse is that their daughter, who assists with their real estate business, is in on the whole scam. It’s like all three of them ripped off their human masks and underneath were writhing piles of rotting flesh. Graphic? Yes. Apt? Yes.

In general, 2012 ended up being a continuation of more bizarre health issues for me, as well. I’ll say this: being in my thirties has definitely given me a newfound appreciation for cell turnover rate in my twenties. By June, I was having some serious pain in my stomach, particularly when I would eat fattier foods. I don’t experience nausea very often–hardly ever–so when I started having nausea and dizziness (and confirmed that pregnancy was definitely not a plausible scenario) on top of a really full feeling in my stomach after eating, it got to the point where I went to an urgent care center on a Sunday.

The nurse practitioner ruled out appendicitis but ordered me to get an ultrasound after having an appointment scheduled with my primary care physician. Oh, that’s another thing–I finally got away from a really crappy doctor.

I was all over WebMD and Googling all my symptoms until I could figure out what could POSSIBLY be wrong with me. On the way home from the urgent care center, I came across some symptoms of a problem that mirrored exactly what I was going through: those of having a gallbladder attack. I had pretty much every single symptom on the list and it explained a lot, including having inexplicable pain on my upper right abdomen.

When I talked to my doctor later in the week and told her I was strongly suspicious I had been having gallbladder attacks, she dismissed this hypothesis of mine but ordered me to get an ultrasound, anyway. (She was a real winner.) The ultrasound was a really non-traumatic albeit expensive experience, which ended up not showing much. I didn’t have gallstones but my gallbladder was also not functioning, either. They give you this shot of stuff to stimulate your gallbladder and then monitor how it works while you’re in the ultrasound.

My doctor was smart enough to send me to a surgeon to talk to me about my gallbladder issues, however. Long story short, the surgery was scheduled in August and I had it taken out through the magic of laparoscopy. It’s hard to describe the pain when your gallbladder is giving you the finger and refuses to work, but essentially, if you aren’t properly digesting fats in your diet, your whole digestive system just like, shuts the hell down. So my little gallbladder had become inflamed and was throwing a shit fit and needed to be removed altogether. I am in the rare percentage of people, around 5%, who have their gallbladders removed without having any gallstones. Makes me feel special, all right.

I had never had major surgery before and the whole notion of having something I was born with, a formerly functioning ORGAN just totally removed, really scared the bejeezus out of me. Kevin was a trooper and waited until after everything went smoothly to tell me he had been terrified, too. I was glad I didn’t know at the time. Being wheeled on a gurney into this cold, sterile room filled with trays, bright lights, and stainless steel utensils that you just know are going to be inside of you had me tearing up something fierce. I was and am so incredibly grateful that everything went routinely and I was just another successful gallbladder removal case. The surgeon had a sense of humor and was from New York. Somehow that was comforting to me as a scared patient.

After I got the little bugger removed and I was finally on the mend, I thought I would magically bounce back to some supreme state of being. 2012 laughed and said, “Oh, Zoe. You’re cute to think so.”

I had been experiencing all kinds of whack things that I just attributed to having a faulty gallbladder: acid reflux, tinnitus, incredible fatigue, and on and on. As life would have it, all of those things continued. Not one of them changed.

Fast forward a few more months and I finally do more research and plan to go back to get more lab work done; this time with a different clinic system. Evidently my iron levels have been in the toilet for quite some time and when that happens, it sends your entire functioning-as-a-human-being thing out the window. Extremely low iron levels can not only mimic hypothyroidism, which I thought I had, but can cause a whole slew of symptoms as I was experiencing, including but not limited to digestive problems and inflammation of organs, causing them to crash and burn.

Ding!

There is always the chance that I was always going to have my gallbladder out because all of my mother’s siblings have theirs out. So, shittygallbladderitis runs in the family. But since I’ve been my own medical researcher for a few years now and I’m still making a comeback with my health, I’d venture a quasi educated guess and say my low iron levels are the culprit of my chronic ailments.

The upshot is I was not only able to switch to a primary care physician who treated me like a human being and is a nice person to talk to, but my lab results confirmed that indeed I need to consume lots and lots and LOTS of iron to get my levels back to where they need to. As I’ve been taking my iron supplements diligently and consuming lots of delicious red meat and spinach, I’ve noticed a reduction in some of the symptoms that have plagued me for a while. By no means am I out of the woods but at least there appears to be a proverbial trail of bread crumbs for me to follow.

While it’s scary as all getout to go to the doctor, even and especially when you know something is really, really wrong, as I did, it is so much better to figure out what the heck is going on and get it taken care of. It also made me a hundred times more thankful for the healthcare plan my employer provides, because I had been without a healthcare plan since I left New York City. Having consults and labwork and endless blood drawn and a surgery still cost me a lot of money we didn’t have immediately on hand (thank you, Discover Card), but looking back from the privileged standpoint of hindsight gives me reassurance that I absolutely did the right thing by paying attention to what my gut was literally telling me.

2013 has already been a better year on the health spectrum than the last two years combined. I am hopeful the streak will continue but I have come to realize how much my health lies in my own hands. It is all about the daily self care, even down to something seemingly simple like taking iron and vitamin supplements to make sure my cells are functioning properly, which then means I can hold down a job, pursue hobbies, and walk around and do stuff like spending time with friends and family. You know, little things like that.

Last but not least, I want this to be the rebirth of getting back to mental and spiritual side pursuits, as well–like writing!

For now, je suis revenue.

Until next time, friends.

Sixteen

Earlier this month, I turned 32.

I’m still kind of coping with the number. I don’t FEEL 32. Thirty-two year-olds are supposed to have a few things figured out, aren’t they?

Sixteen years ago, I turned 16 and the only thing I could eat, sleep, and breathe was taking my driver’s test. Since the age of nine, I counted down the years until I could drive. I just knew at that young an age that I was destined to love driving.

Obtaining my driver’s license was one of the biggest thrills of my entire existence, no exaggeration. Getting that little laminated card sent to me in the mail felt like a bucket of freedom pouring all over me. No more would I have to solely rely on anyone else to pick me up and take me places. I could just get there myself and derive every drop of pleasure from driving.

Some people hate driving. My best friend is one of them. She still can’t drive and until some life event forces her to have to get a license, she will remain a chauffeured passenger. While I may not understand it, I am fully supportive of her if that makes her happy. (And I think we’re all a little safer with those who can’t stand driving not being on the road.)

The sensation of driving is a therapeutic one for me with the road under my tires and the steering wheel in my hands. Driving also satisfies my intense need to control. I fully admit I am a control freak. I don’t like to think of it as negative but there are several people who have told me – Kevin included – that I am bossy. I don’t have an answer for that except for a shrug and a, “Yeah, so?” I’m also one of those people who thinks my ideas and the way I do them are ideal.

You might think I’d be a manager of some kind by now but I’m not. Not even close. Despite my being utterly confident in carrying things out a certain way (and usually being disappointed when others don’t hold themselves up to the same high standards of execution), I am extremely non-confrontational. Having a subordinate or a team of them would be an incredible challenge for me. Though, having had some less-than-terrific superiors in my work history, I can say I would sincerely strive to avoid doing the things that have really aggravated me or been my own undoing. It has never ceased to astound me who makes it to a managerial level–anywhere. It could be Pizza Hut. When I run into inefficiency or sheer incompetence, I think, how am I not at the top again? But I don’t make it my life’s mission to choose a different path that might get me there. I stay put. I ruminate. I dwell on the what-ifs.

That’s the bite of irony, there. I feel mostly out of control when it comes to my situation in life, so I clamp down to control what I can. I’m not in the career I thought I’d be in by the age of 32, I’m not yet married, I don’t own my own home, I don’t have children, and for the most part, I feel very in limbo. (I do have a steady rock of a partner for whom I am grateful every single day. So I appease my litany of complaints with that solace.)

The number one thing I struggle with is self-discipline.

Mostly, that applies to exercise and other self-care choices. When I was much younger, maybe 12 or so, I thought to myself, “When I’m older and on my own [say, 25], I’m really going to have it all figured out. I’m going to be successful and physically fit because I’ll be making ALL my own decisions and doing what I want when I want.”

If only! I think back to that long ago thought and wish I could hug my younger self. I so wish it were that easy.

I am an absolute perfectionist and if I can’t have exactly what I want, when and how I want it, I give up quite easily (or take no action). My modus operandi is that something just won’t happen if it can’t be done in a manner matching whatever idea of perfection I’ve dreamed up in my mind.

A perfect example of this is with our vacuum cleaner.

When Kevin and I began our cohabitation adventure, he brought to the household a vacuum cleaner – one he had thoroughly researched that would really clean up pet hair. While we were still living in New York City, I determined that I hated this vacuum. It smelled bad when you turned it on (which was half the reason I hated it) it clogged easily, and the pet attachment only feebly worked.

Due to our budget constraints, this thing had to stick with us for a while longer. Fast forward to 2012 when I received my tax refund. I made an impulse decision that this would be The Year of the Vacuum and I could fulfill a fantasy of mine and purchase a Dyson.

I know, what is this, the 1950s, where the little wife dreams of her shiny new appliance?

Nonetheless, with nothing short of pure jubilance, I took myself to a local store and purchased a Dyson Animal. Let me tell you, this thing has seriously changed how I view vacuuming. Whereas before I avoided vacuuming at all costs, I have pulled this thing out again and again and again because it works just as it should. I have never in my life enjoyed vacuuming but since I can see everything being lifted away with ease, it actually takes away the blood, sweat, and tears I previously associated with this chore. I triumphantly proved to myself that if I only had the perfect tool, the one thing I really wanted, then all would be well and I would be motivated to do something I had formerly hated. I don’t jump out of bed every day and want to vacuum, but considering I do it without having to have a pep talk AND it’s done much more regularly, I consider this an incredible achievement.

I sincerely wish this were the case with all things. I think that’s why infomercials which tout that this ONE piece of exercise equipment will change your life are so successful. It’s so easy to buy into that fantasy! I have fallen for it, as have millions of others. I have owned (and loved) a Gazelle, that non-treadmill piece of equipment that that Tony Little guy is advertising incessantly. It’s actually pretty fun but it is not a miracle machine. Then again, nothing is.

I continue to struggle with my perfectionism, trying to just relax and let things be. It is the hardest thing for me to do. Because I can’t control situations, how other people react, or even the results I get if I put effort into something (read: exercise/weight loss), I struggle every day to not become completely immobile. In one of the thousands of episodes of The Simpsons, Homer says to Lisa, “The lesson is….never try.” I can so relate, since I have gravitated towards taking the easier path more often than not.

At the same time that I have all this self-awareness about this issue, overcoming these innate urges takes the same force of will that a 500-pound man would need to climb Mount Everest with no experience. I don’t want to be the fat guy choking for air on the side of the mountain. I’d rather stay put on the ground, safe and sound, where I can complain in pure comfort.

And then the question I have to ask myself is, where does that get me? Answer: directly to where I don’t want to be.

Sixteen years ago I was a junior in high school. I hadn’t even thought about what a college career would look like or where I’d apply, much less seriously considered what I would do for a living. (I also thought I’d be married by the age of 25. Hahahahaha.)

I look back and wonder where the second set of sixteen years went. The difference is, I didn’t begin in infancy to get to where I am now. I was a young adult and now I am a fully-fledged adult who is still trying to figure out the same things. I suppose we all are, on some level.

Sixteen years from now I will be 48. Talk about scary. It’s not just a little different, it’s a completely new era of life I will be experiencing. While I am striving to enjoy the small moments, the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, each year as it comes….they will add up into another sixteen years, where I will look back and wonder how I got from here to there, whatever “there” looks like. I will find this post and instead of mourning the choices I did not make due to some paralyzing sense of perfection, I hope I will celebrate the risks I ended up taking instead.

Deep breath and……Ready. Set. Go.