Radio Silence

At the end of the theatre season in June, I promised myself that I would return to this blog, come back to exploring fashion and clothes in the everyday.

Then Orlando happened. Then Alton Sterling… Philando Castile… Dallas… Nice…

How do I make myself sit down and write about something as silly and vapid as clothing when this world is terrifying and unjust and cruel? By writing this blog, am I ignoring the larger conversations happening in the US or across the globe? Why bother to carry on with this when there’s so much more to focus on?

I had a conversation with a friend the other day. While she’s heavily involved in a lot of self-care practices (acupuncture, therapeutic massage, chiropractics), she’s recently started a yoga/mindful movement class and has been absorbing so much if the ideology taught by her teacher. Recently in a class, the teacher explained to her class that the best way to heal the world is to start with healing and caring for yourself. My friend mentioned that in passing and I’ve been dwelling on the thought since.

This blog isn’t a protest against the injustice from the world. And I don’t espouse my political thoughts openly and actively here. I don’t rage and scream and rally for something better in this venue. Why? It’s my refuge, my space to think about the frivolous for a while. While it’s bothered me that I would take time and effort to write here, this blog is a means of caring of myself, I guess.

I’m lucky that both my full-time museum-y position and my part-time theatre job allow me ample intellectual space to think about racial tensions in the US, religious conflict in the world, and the overall constant struggle of humanity throughout time. The expectations of my workplaces is that I’m knowledgeable about these themes and histories, have internal and external dialogs daily, and help educate others — children and adults alike. I’m honored to have these roles and responsibilities, but it’s admittedly exhausting to think non-stop about slavery, war, gender roles, gentrification, etc., without a respite. In the half hour it takes me to write a few paragraphs on skirts or lipsticks or shoes and throw in a few images, I get the mental down time to unwind, breathe and gather myself for the next article or book to read, conversation to have, or, simply, the next news story to pop up on my phone.

I’m hoping, friends, that I’ll make more regular appearances here going forward. But please understand if I don’t. And please understand why I’m not having discourse here on larger life issues: it’s not at all you, but entirely me.

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Whole30-ing

In my blogging absence (again), I did something super crazy: started Whole30. I feel like so much of the internet knows about Whole30 at this point, while everyone I would talk to in person just looked at me as if I had six noses.

In a sentence: Whole30 is a month-long elimination diet to cut out trigger foods. The key, flexible phrase in that description is “trigger foods,” which includes both allergens (dairy, grains, etc.) or an addictive substances (i.e., tobacco, alcohol, and sweeteners, especially refined white sugar). During the thirty days, you transition from withdrawal of your old diet to learning new methods to eat and care for yourself. After the 30 days is up, you reintroduce all of the eliminated foods slowly, deliberately to see which ones were affecting you poorly and in what ways (inflammation, break-outs, bloating, etc.) Pretty much, Whole30 is supposed be a major life overhaul. If you’re interested in reading about the diet much more in depth, feel free to check out the Whole30 site, as I’ve cover a mere fraction of what’s available.

I decided to do this crazy diet because, like so many people, I have a lousy relationship with food which can be summed up as: I only like to eat sugar. Really. In the past few months, I noticed how often I would resort to white sugar on any given day: a donut on my way to work, some cookies on the lunch table, a couple of sodas at the theatre during a shift, some ice cream when I got home — in one day! I’m not joking! My skin was horrible, my sleep restlessness, and my gut pained. So, like any over-analytical dolt, I decided to cut it all out to see what would happen, kind of making myself a science experiment.

Today is Day 27 and I’m feeling so much better! While I still crave a donut (damn you, lady problems), I’m finding that everything that was bothering me has subsided. My skin is better, my sleep is deeper, and I’ve eliminated all stomach issues. And, while weight check-ins are also verboten on Whole30, I’ve probably lost about 8-10 pounds. Not bad for four weeks.

 

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Dress: Stitch Fix from 2014

Cardigan: LOFT

Shoes: TOMS

Necklace: Modcloth

I wore this bright, festive get-up for a weird day — leading a training session in the morning and attending a cool networky event at night hosted by our favorite library. I love this dress, which I scored from Stitch Fix when SF still loved me, and thought it would carry me nicely between the two.

While probably a little more colorful than necessary for my training session in a historic house, this dress fit perfectly into the scope and scene of the evening event. Our fave library asked their Board President to host it at his wonderful loft. Southern New England has a great track record of taking former factories and repurposing them as living and working spaces. While every renovated space is unique and quirky, this dwelling was beyond belief: filled to capacity with wonderful artwork on top of the eclectic design elements, it took me all my might to not hide in a closet and plead for the owners to adopt me. And I wasn’t the only thinking — or saying — that. The abode had been featured in a local magazine a few years back:

Tripp: 1. I built this indoor pergola not long after we bought the loft in 2005. The columns came from a 19th-century house in Richmond, Virginia. They crossed the Mason-Dixon Line in a snowstorm, flagged and projecting four feet from the back of our station wagon. 2. This standing sculpture, an earthenware figure holding 109 graduated porcelain bowls, is Balancing Burden by the Chinese-American artist Eric Kao. Kao’s work explores his identity as the son of immigrants - a theme that particularly resonated with Ed, who emigrated from the Azores with his parents in 1966. 3. This is a former gas streetlamp from Savannah, Georgia. It was rescued by my ex-sister-in-law, a Savannah native who will probably want it back if she ever sees this. 4. Providence artist Kik Williams made Bubble Gum Pink for a Steel Yard show (the hot pink “glaze” is actually metallic auto-body paint). 5. Beyond Williams’ sculpture are works by other Providence artists: Gregory Poulin, Jungil Hong, Dan Wood, Andrew Raftery and C. W. Roelle. We’re lucky to have landed in a city that supports so many talented artists, and that’s preserved so much of its industrial architecture - without one, you’d never have had the other.

See? AWESOME.

While Whole30 was difficult to maintain during the night, as we had to skip a lot of picky things to eat, we managed just fine. Food I wouldn’t be able to resist was, oddly, just fine staying on the table while I chatted! What else was cool about this diet endeavor, though, was being forced to see the other ways I’m growing and changing. While networking stuff is anxiety-inducing for me, to like a panic attack level, it was nice to walk into this and feel moderately at ease. It also helps that there were some lovely folks to see again (hi, Julienne!).

I guess, the point of all of this: if there’s something scary and daunting and just beyond where you’re comfortable, either examining your relationship with food or trying to understand why something freaks you out to the point of tears — just face it, as debilitating as that may seem. You can do it cold turkey style, like Whole30, or in graduated steps, like anxiety, but in all of my experience, the journey is always rewarding.

Grey Days

Ooph. Winter.

B took these photos of me probably a couple of weeks ago (I know, I know! I’m late!) and I’ve been meaning to put up a post but lost track of time. Then — snow. Ugh. Snow.

I wanted to write about how I’d been doing on my gym-going endeavor, including the fact that I ran three miles before these photos were taken at 10am! I wanted to share the trials of finding the right weight to lift. Or how I was starting to feel pulled together and healthy again. Or how I was trying out some new heels that day at work because I felt spunky. Then — snow. Ugh. Snow.

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Shirt: LOFT

Jeans: Gap

Shoes: TOMS

I look at these photos now — taken on a sunny, fairly mild January morning — and I think about how volatile my moods are in the winter. Once we hit late January/early February, with those first few substantial snowfalls and grey, murky days, and my mindset explodes. I always think of the first line of Tony Hoagland’s “Reasons to Survive November”: “November like a train wreck.” Except November is February, in this case.

I’ve spent the past week or so unable to truly focus — maybe enough to muster reading a couple of pages of a book or folding half my laundry — but I find things of substance so hard to deal with. Answering emails with thoughtful, timely responses? Debilitatingly difficult. Buying and sending birthday and Valentine’s Day cards? Probably not this year. Making a simple phone call to, say, the bank? Maybe I’ll feel better and less worn out tomorrow.

And sleep? Any days I’ve had off — hell, if I get home early enough from work — I spend upwards of 12 hours sleeping, only to wake up still headachy, tired and sore. And it’s not that I’ve slept too much and it’s a vicious cycle, it’s much more of a pseudo-hibernation state.

But I plow through. I take my vitamins and drink water. I let myself eat an extra cookie or cuddle next to B for an extra 9 minutes in the morning. From going through this for so many years before, I know this won’t last forever. It’ll be spring in eight weeks, then summer and I’ll feel like myself again.

(But still, despite the forced optimism, I really do hate this time of year.)

 

Birthday Recap and Intentions for the Year

It’s been a week since I turned 30, so I figured I should write about it for posterity’s sake!

From Thanksgiving through my birthday in early January, there’s normally a weird, stressful vibe in my life. B and I both tend to work 50+ hour workweeks because of our respective full-time jobs and our shared part-time gig. Plus there’s family fighting and all that junk which always comes up at this time of year. (I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t cry on Christmas Eve/Day.) Finally, I really do not like the winter, to the extent of looking into SAD therapy lights to help me make it through. Needless to say, birthdays can be emotionally erratic .

When my 30th arrived, I was surprised at how awesome it was! It was a low-key, fun day: texts from friends; raspberry-and-chocolate chip pancakes; a solid gym visit. B had been worried that my gift wouldn’t arrive in the mail until the USPS truck rolled up outside our house.

What was in the package? Just the prettiest necklace that I’ve wanted for a couple of years now!

(You can find other stunning wax seal pendants from Plum and Posey here.)

We finished the day with a fancy-schmancy dinner with friends downtown, where we feasted for hours! When we came home — stuffed and waddling — B and I took some photos and then he finished my favorite birthday cake. By midnight, I was fat and happy.

A week before my birthday, I had attended a “new year, new you” yoga class. While the title was silly, it was taught by a teacher I love. During the session, he shared his own emotional journey to yoga, even tearing up in front of a class of 30 students. That raw honesty — especially about a lot of the same personal problems I share — moved me and struck a deep cord. The instructor explained the pratfalls of setting New Years’ resolutions, how they’re created out of anger or frustration with oneself. Instead, he offered the alternative, more positive idea of setting intentions, which allow one to return to them in the event of failure.

While I never make New Years resolutions, I have made birthday ones for years, seeing it as a more personal promise to myself. And this year, I’ve decided to rename this endeavor “birthday intentions,” mainly because I’m human and I fail, but this re-titling, hopefully, will allow me to return to these tabula rasa-style.

Already 2016 has been one of major change: I turned 30; have been a home owner for a year; returned to work with a major promotion; and lost my closest, bestest colleague to retirement.

While there’s a lot more suddenly expected of me, my biggest aspiration to care for myself first and foremost. How exactly?

I’ve joke often that I cut myself out of my life first when work needs doing: I’ll commit 60+ hours a week to the museum and theatre and make myself miserable. That’s stopping. I’m taking days off. I’m going home when my time is done. I’m not using “but I have to work” as excuse when friends want to hang out. While I need to work two jobs still, my first priority is me.

With that all said, I really need to start caring for myself on a physical level. This past December, I don’t know how often I would come after a double, sit on the couch and sob because I hurt. I had seven or eight knots up and down my back and constant headaches; I was simply exhausted. It wasn’t pretty. And I put on weight too. This year, I’m intending to lose some weight (10 pounds would be perfect, 20 preferred by my doctor). I’m recommitting to running and yoga and drinking water and sleeping and eating well.

“Eating well? But, Jenn, you don’t cook!”Guess what else I’m endeavoring to do, folks! Those who know me “IRL” know my aversion to cooking food, but I’m realizing how impractical it is to subsist on take-out, both physically and financially. B and I have taken turns cooking this week: Italian wedding soup, Thai-style chicken pumpkin stew, and, last night, salmon and “poor man’s risotto” (yum!). I forget how nice it is to have a built-in lunch plan, as well as how my week’s half of groceries is the equivalent of  eating out two or three times.

Holy cow! Cooking at home saves cash! As does being intentional and decisive when buying stuff. I tried out the KonMari method at the beginning of the new year and I’ll admit that throwing away a lot of stuff really sparked a desire to cut back on spending. Sure, I’ve been online window shopping for pretty dresses, striking work-out clothes and snazzy shoes, but I haven’t committed to anything because I don’t want to waste: cash, space and time (because I regret-return stuff a lot too).

And finally: I want to have friends! (Whaaaaat?!) This sounds weird, right? I’ve admitted that I’m anxiety-ridden and shy. But I’ve had three separate conversations this week with other people about how they feel the exact same way. So I’m really going to attempt to stop letting my flight reflex control my sociability; I know a lot of awesome people liminally and I don’t want to waste time not being friends with them. I got my first taste this past weekend – between a bookclub meeting, birthday dinners and a catch-up lunch — and I loved feeling like a new me.

There you have it, kiddos. My long-winded recap of birthday festivities and my intentions for 30. Are there other things I’m endeavoring? Sure, but I’m thinking they’re really going to grow out of the wellness-plan I’ve already laid out for myself.

Much love, friends!

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Lesson #8: “Adulting” is Hard Sometimes, But…

Adulting: (slang; verb) to be responsible for all the obligations that a typical “grown-up” would have in life (ie, a typical 9-to-5 job, mortgage payments, car finances, etc.)

I’ll admit it: I cry quite a bit when I’m overwhelmed. I’ve cried at every one of my full-time jobs since I’ve graduated college. I’ve cried about getting into blow-out fights with my family as I’ve asserted my independence. I’ve cried about money. I’ve cried about buying a house and all the crazy responsibility that meant. Being a “grown-up” isn’t always fun.

But.

But.

I wouldn’t want to go back to any other time in my life. I love walking into my house and knowing it belongs to B and me. I love driving around in the early spring, music blaring and windows down for the first time that season. I love finishing a huge project at work and knowing I’ve accomplished something major. I love touring little kids through the museum and they think I know everything.

Life is tough. There’s no working around that fact. But the way to offset it is to find other facets that you can appreciate on a daily basis. Simple as that. Achieve a balance between the overwhelming and the pleasurable and you’ll pull through.

(Also, lesson #8.5: “real adults” have no idea what they’re doing. We all fumble through this existence. Cut yourself some slack.)