The past couple weeks have been good for me. I spent some time reconnecting with friends, reconnecting with family, and reconnecting with my city. I’ve been so busy going and doing that I haven’t had time to stop and think, and, in a weird way, I feel like this has exposed a major flaw in how I approach things. So I’ve decided to make some changes, to try and create more balance in my life.
Ah balance. This is something I have a very hard time with (I know I’m not alone). When I go into something, it’s often in a head-first, all-or-nothing manner. If I’m focusing on working out and eating better, I go at it to such an extreme that the majority of my day is spent planning, recording, sweating at the gym, and cooking six separate small meals from scratch every two to three hours. The cleanliness of the house and my work suffer. If I’ve decided the apartment needs to be cleaned, I spend a couple whole days on my feet, scrubbing, wiping, sweeping, folding, vacuuming, mopping. At the end of it all, I want nothing to do with cooking and my sciatica is acting up so badly that I can hardly walk, let alone hop up on a stepladder and bend over to take photos of food. If it’s my work that I’m committing to, well, then you see more yummy recipes while the dishes pile up and my jeans get tighter.
The nice thing about getting caught up in my work, however, is that it leaves me feeling fulfilled. That is, until something comes up. I could be content to live my whole life holed up in this apartment, cooking, writing, and taking pictures. I know that probably sounds sad (and, admittedly, it’s a bit of an exaggeration), but I love what I do and I’ve always been the kind of person that enjoys solitude. That way of living, though—if one truly is living—isn’t sustainable. Friends reach out to make plans, some even get married, and others do incredible things like have babies. Being a part of any of that requires getting dressed in normal people clothes and opening up the front door.
And this is where that feeling of fulfillment lapses.
(Oh man…I didn’t know I was going to go here with this….)
Since Chris and I got married last fall, I’ve gained twenty pounds. That’s right, 2-0. Twenty. To make matters worse, though I felt pretty good about myself when we got married, I was still about fifteen pounds heavier than when we met…and, since we’re going there, when we met I felt like I could have lost five. Who’s counting along? Yeah.
So, as fulfilled as I feel in my day-to-day while I’m wearing baggy t-shirts and yoga pants, that feeling goes right out the window the moment I need to put on real clothes and go interact with other people. This is because a) very few of my real clothes even fit anymore and b) as vain and trivial as it sounds, I’d prefer to not be seen this way. My current “form” is not how I think of myself and it’s not how I want others to think of me either.
This is why, for the past few months, I’ve put off making plans whenever possible. One of my favorite people in the world moved back to this city after living across the country for a couple years and (until just recently) I didn’t make any effort to get together. Which is to say, if I’ve been neglectful or distant to anyone out there—in all sincerity—it’s not you, it’s me.
But I’m making an effort to change that.
After a sudden and heartbreaking reminder of how short life can be, I had two weeks filled with life-affirming events. The weekend before last, Chris and I attended the wedding of two of our friends. I even went out a couple days beforehand and bought a dress that fit. (Tip: If you’ve put on weight and haven’t bought clothes in a while, measure yourself before you go shopping, cross reference those measurements with the size charts of your favorite stores, and come to terms with it all in the privacy of your own home. Trust me, it makes for a far less traumatizing shopping experience.) We met a lot of wonderful new people, connected in new ways with those we already knew (Kate—we’ll always have Mariah), and celebrated as two totally wonderful people promised to share a life together. It was impossible to be concerned with anything but dancing and enjoying the evening.
Last week, after we returned from the wedding, my cousin and a friend of hers came and stayed with us for a few days. I played host and tour guide. We did a ton of walking, saw a Broadway show, took the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island trip, and spent some quiet time at home in between it all. I learned things about my cousin that I never knew and I feel like we really started to build a friendship. Maybe that’s a weird thing to say about family, but we grew up with the kind of extended family wherein Christmas was the only time we were sure to see each other each year. Sometimes it was Easter too, and occasionally Thanksgiving or a random birthday. When we were all kids it was easy to come together, but as we grew up and became awkward, and then grew up more and became independent, it was difficult to connect. Spending this past week with her made me feel a little sad for the time we lost over the years, but so grateful for now and for the time we still have.
And then I spent an afternoon with a week-old baby cradled in my arms and sleeping on my chest. A friend of mine from college just welcomed a thoroughly beautiful little girl and was hoping for some hands-free time. So I trekked down to Brooklyn with a fresh loaf of banana bread and a to-be-baked pasta dish, ready to hold that baby. I cannot tell her how thankful I am that she reached out and asked me to come by. I’m one of those people that errs on the side of not imposing (which I’m starting to realize may instead seem like a lack of caring…), so when she extended the invitation, it felt like exhaling a held breath. Of course I’ll be there, with anything you need! I know she appreciated being able to take a little break, and I felt good just being there with her and her daughter.
Doing all of this over the past couple weeks has kept me so busy that I haven’t even had time to feel that self-conscious dread before walking out the door. It has also made me very aware that I overthink everything, often to the point of sabotaging myself. It’s the reason that, when I focus on taking care of one specific thing, I wind up failing at everything else. And I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I want to do a little of everything, incorporate the things that I miss back into my life, and also be an active participant in the life happening all around me.
So I’ve decided I’m going to start doing. If I allow myself to think too much, I can psych myself out of anything—from washing the dishes, to going to yoga, to making plans with people I care about and actually want to see. And the more I do, the more things are bound to fall into place (including that needle on the scale). I know that this is something I’m going to have to work at; self-discipline and scheduling is particularly challenging when you’re self-employed. Sometimes I long for high school, when I could be involved in five different things at once because there was always someone else setting up the schedule and holding me accountable. Spanish Club, cheerleading, Forensics, the school play, and the local professional theater group? No problem!
Welcome to adulthood.
Time to pull it together now. Life only gets more complicated from here.
And with that, here is my first act of doing this week: pressing publish on this post. If I were to let it, my mind could create a million reasons why I should delete these words instead. But I sat down and wrote them for a reason. I was tired of just thinking them. So here it is. Done.