and now for something completely different

Yesterday morning I went into the city before 10am, which is the equivalent of 6am anywhere else when it comes to NYC on a weekend. I got out of the house early because I had to capitalize on my morning energy to accomplish my mission: replacing the worn out 10+ year-old items in my closet.

I’ve been buying cheap clothes for a long time – not just cheap, but the cheapest of cheap. Not like…decent brands on sale, but the $4 shirts you get at TJ Maxx. I think it works well when you’re a teen and playing with your style for the first time (and also growing!) but I carried the habit into adulthood mostly because I was never making enough money to even consider buying clothes that were over $10-$15 per item. If I found something cheap, I tried it on – if it fit, I bought it. It didn’t really matter how the clothes made me feel, or if they offered any potential to last more than a year before falling apart.

I’m already off on a tangent. Essentially, I’m trying to execute the whole “have fewer things but of higher quality” idea, particularly when it comes to buying clothes I want to wear. I went shopping with that in mind and was pretty successful! I caught myself holding several shirts for $4.99 at one point in TJ Maxx (yes I went shopping on 5th Ave and still ended up at TJ Maxx) but I checked myself and put them back. I know you too well, $4.99 TJ Maxx shirts.

I shopped with intention yesterday and felt very satisfied, which is my segway into this post’s real topic: becoming the homemade toothpaste lady, but not overnight.

Right? Okay.

My dad stayed with Sean and I for a few days around Christmas, and brought up (multiple times) that there’s no point in recycling anymore. Of course he doesn’t mean that, he’s just fed up with the way the world works, as we all darn well should be.

This is embarrassing to admit, but I really didn’t know until he told me a few weeks ago that China is no longer buying our recycles because we can’t be bothered to 1) clean them or 2) recycle the right things. This has been going on for close to two years, according to this NYT article from 2018. Was this big in the news a while ago and I just didn’t notice?? Again, embarrassing.

Anyhow. Upon learning this information, I decided to recommit myself to something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never got very far with: no longer purchasing products that are sold in single-use packaging.

If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen the gals with the pantries entirely comprised of fancy dry goods in mason jars, living off of their own gardens, either buying top shelf organic/recyclable/chemical-free/etc skincare products or alternatively, spending their days making products for themselves from scratch. I’m inspired and intimidated, and I feel like I’m not alone. I know that “we all have the same amount of hours in the day” and “no one is too busy to make a difference” but I am definitely too busy to go that freaking hard, Penelope and your homemade charcoal toothpaste.

So I let that be my excuse – if I don’t think it’s realistic that I could ever be on that level and I already do a little more than the minimum when it comes to living a sustainable life…why take it any further?

Admittedly…not a great attitude. If we’re all thinking that, that’s a collective HUGE difference not being made.

Going into the new year, I decided that it’s worth trying to change one thing at a time. Y’know, rather than trying to overhaul my entire life, going into panic mode and abandoning ship. I figured it wouldn’t be hard to come up with one thing that we buy/throw away (the packaging obviously) on a very regular basis. And it wasn’t! Because we are both addicted to…

Coffee!

We go through at least one coffee bag per week, and would definitely go through more if I didn’t have a café at work. Sean does the grocery shopping and is very loyal to Trader Joe’s. We usually end up with the coffee from TJ’s that comes in the classic shiny, not-really-paper bags like this:

I’m not a giant, that’s just a really small coffee bag that came as part of a sampler.

Staring at the coffee in our kitchen, I asked the internet a question to which I already knew the answer: are coffee bags recycleable? No, of course they’re not, unless they’re paper. This wasn’t too upsetting of an answer, for surely we could just start buying coffee in paper bags. Trader Joe’s must have this option.

I asked Sean to check the coffee situation on his next trip, and we both forgot. For three weeks. I was in Trader Joe’s yesterday and I still forgot to check.

I did step out of my comfort zone and go to Whole Foods on New Year’s Day where I saw a few options…one being that you can fill your own paper bag, but it’s mostly with the beans, not ground coffee. They do have a grinder there, but of course I’m too intimidated to use it.

Option two is to buy normal plastic-y bag coffee.

Option three is do what I did – spend $13 on prepackaged coffee in a paper bag.

Sustainable with regard to the earth? Yes. Sustainable with regard to my wallet? Obviously not.

I finally found my (temporary) solution last week, when I noticed that Sean brought home coffee in a can. Ah yes, cans. Do you ever just forget that things exist and spend too long trying to solve a problem? After Google confirmed that I could recycle my coffee can, I looked up at the sky (ceiling) and sighed. At last.

On a not entirely coffee-related note, I definitely want to toughen up and be less weird about doing things outside of my normal grocery store experience, like grind some coffee in that Whole Foods grinder – a seemingly not too difficult task. I think that the price per pound would still be insane, but it’s more about the task itself and my apparent grocery store anxiety.

Something else that I never noticed because the Whole Foods near our house is still pretty new (and I avoid the ones in Manhattan as much as possible) is that they have a pantry at the front where you can fill bags with rice, beans, nuts, and other dry goods from large jars. As far as I could tell, you can’t bring your own container to fill, but it’s possible that the produce bags they offer are biodegradable or something like that. This is something I will have to find out. My fear, again: the prices will be insane, and i’ll somehow spend $17 on a tiny bag of almonds.

It’s crazy how standing in the store the other day, assessing everything as questions ran through my mind, I reached a place of “f*ck this i’m getting the stuff already in bags.” Over something that’s really not tricky – just different. And to top it off, I’ve placed this assumption on this method of shopping that it’s going to cost way too much money. I mean, it’s Whole Foods, so I feel like I’m probably right…but still. I’m definitely an example of how people end up staying in their routines, longing for change.

…but I have coffee in a can now, so I’m pretty much just waiting for Ellen to bring me on her show as an eco-hero.

I realize I don’t get a lot of comment engagement, which is still cool with me, but if anyone wants to talk about a change they’d like to make to help out our toasty planet, I’d love to hear about it! My next small goal is to sort out our cleaning products – with a larger goal of setting up a compost. Ambitious and possibly illegal where I live. Because of all the skunks.

On that note, I’ll see myself out.

why yes there is a small, lavender-filled sloth in my sweater, thank you for asking.


So…that’s where we landed with the sign.

The first ever National Period Day was last Saturday and as promised, I made my way over to city hall to add my voice to the crowd. For my first rally, it far exceeded my expectations. I think I had expected at least some small negative element to come along with attending a rally because of the nature of the event. Something along the lines of people making fun of our cause, bad weather, general confusion/disorder…a riot…I don’t know.

Nope. It was a beautiful fall day, everything was well organized, and I could tell by the faces in the crowd as I watched from behind the numerous featured speakers that people were listening and learning. I’d have to say that was my favorite part, watching women (and men!!) nod their heads with furrowed brows as they absorbed the stories and harsh facts being shared. Unfortunately, as I was on the top step, I couldn’t hear about 70% of what was being said…but the bits I could hear were powerful. I reached out to PERIOD’s NYC chapter to get a list of names which they kindly (and quickly) passed along, so I’m hoping I attribute the right moments to the right people.

Back to the sign. I was nervous about the sign I made, I must admit. It wasn’t exactly the “end the tampon tax!”-type signage I saw in many different, creative forms last week. I mean, let’s call it what it is. My personal experience, plus a meme. Also, the ONLY meme sign I saw. The majority of the protesters were college students – how is that possible that my elderly 25-year old self had the only meme poster?

I figured that I would be surrounded by people whose knowledge about period poverty, the tampon tax, and menstrual inequality far surpasses mine. What I hoped to do (and I think succeeded in doing) was branch off of the idea that we need to stop thinking about health and women’s/menstrual health as two separate things. I believe it was Megha Desai of the Desai Foundation who dropped the quote that 71% of girls in India don’t know what a period is when they first get it. That’s a huge health education issue, and the lack of conversation where we need it is the same issue that keeps people un-diagnosed and untreated. Especially when the issue involves body parts or functions that no one seems to want to talk about. There’s an overarching theme of needless suffering, confusion, and embarrassment, and that’s where I feel the direct connection between why I write, and why we were all there to fight.

Magically enough…the events of Saturday the 19th sort of set the tone for the following week.

To keep the complaining minimal, I have to say it was a challenging week. I was lucky enough to have the worst pain hit when I was at home, and was able to manage at work with a million bathroom breaks, tons of water, and my sloth hot-pack tucked inside my sweater. Wednesday night was some of the worst pain I’ve had in a good while, which I file under “interesting” rather than “the end is near” because I’m still very happy with the long streak of good fortune that I’d been riding since around April/May.

Wednesday night brought the familiar feeling that something is swollen and pressing up against things under my left ribs, as well as soreness to the touch. I’ve never broken a rib (that I know of) but I have a feeling that the pain of a few bruised or broken ribs can’t be a far cry from what was going on that night. My ribs do click about (“click about?” okay) sometimes, depending on the position I’m sitting or laying in, but I chalk that up to my floating ribs just doing their thing. Flashback to that massage therapist telling me that the left side of my back is raised in a way that my right side isn’t. The mysteries, they just keep coming and they don’t stop coming.

It was also strange that I couldn’t get any relief whatsoever from a positional change. My choices seemed to be fetal position: pain level 10/10 – anything else: pain level 12/10. I went so far as to take Tylenol *gasp* to get myself comfortable enough to go to sleep. I never take Tylenol. Not for any particular reason other than feeling like I’m not really addressing the issue. But if you don’t know what the issue is…what are ya gonna do? You’re going to be friends with Tylenol, I guess.

Today is Sunday and I’m feeling pretty decent. Which is odd, considering I was the worst yesterday and ate nothing but high fat and dairy-filled foods (an avo/egg/cheese breakfast sandwich, cream of mushroom soup, a quesadilla, a massive ice cream) AND drank. Beer, of all things. I did chug water throughout, though, and maybe the universe is being forgiving today because I made that tiny effort? I’m the perfect example of that person who eats like a saint all week and then throws it out the window come Saturday.

This week will bring its own challenges. I love Halloween, and I’m neither concussed nor couch-bound with an ankle injury this year, so I’m hoping to do something. I’ll have an office party this week, as well as my cousin’s concert on Halloween, and then hopefully a get-together on the weekend as well. I won’t be home to hand out Halloween candy, which is a shame, but I’m sure I’ll see all of the adorable dogs kids in their costumes throughout the week. I must embrace being the girl who eats and drinks in moderation despite the company I keep, which is worth doing if it prevents a repeat of last week.

I hope all of you Halloween fans get to do just the right amount of something festive, whatever that may be. I highly doubt that I’m alone in feeling a bit of anxiety that always comes right after Halloween. For me, it’s the turning point into a season that hasn’t been the best for my mental health. When the costumes are put away and the candy gone, and society speeds right into family-centered holiday season mode, I can’t help but feel the pressure to be better this year than every year past. Be happier, more excited, things like that.

In admitting this, I’m hoping that anyone reading who relates knows that they are so not alone. What’s probably not going to make you feel better is comparing your holiday season to everyone else’s on social media, so don’t be afraid to take a break from looking at other people’s lives. You don’t need to enter the competition of best picture at an ice rink/cutest “cozy post”/lengthiest post about gratitude coupled with a very flattering picture of yourself if it doesn’t bring you joy. Find the balance of doing for yourself and doing for others that gets you through, and don’t beat yourself up for negative thoughts. My way of letting them out is through writing (in my personal journal of evil thoughts, not here) so I’d definitely recommend that route. But find your own if writing isn’t for you! (No, I don’t have any suggestions, because writing is #1.)

Well wishes to everyone’s brains and bodies. We will be okay. ❤

there’s a joke to be made about standing up for standing…

I know that nobody knew this already, but time really flies when you have a steady job. Wild.

As a general update, I’m still very happy with my new position and have now been there long enough to dismiss my main (and pretty much my only) concern about rejoining the “nine-to-five” crowd.

My somewhat silly fear regarding getting back into the office grind was the correlation that seemed to exist between my increased pain and frequency of illness, and the last time I was working at a desk for 8-9 hours a day.

I don’t have any concrete, scientific reason to believe there’s a connection between the two, but the whole four months that I worked 7:00 – 4:00 in a moderately stressful environment and was spending quite a bit of time (see: 3.5 hours) commuting a day, I felt like I was barely keeping my health together. I mean, there was the stroke code day, at least one other ER visit, and a bunch of chaos in between just within those four months.

Maybe it wasn’t the “style” of work and the environment, but the stress of it all. It’s also really hard to get up before 5am, which I did regularly. On top of that, I was not the happiest in my personal life at the time, which surely added to the garbage pile of conditions that contributed to my feeling run down all the freaking time.

The odd part, and the part that made me feel like it was the desk work that was messing with me, is the fact that I’ve never experienced symptoms while waiting tables that were anywhere near as intense and frequent as they were during those four months. Working as a waitress is physically demanding and definitely stressful, but wasn’t really problematic for my health. What gives?

All of that aside, I have to give credit to the way my current company emphasizes wellness. I probably switch from working sitting down to standing about five times a day and I relocate from room to room, as well. At certain points in the day, I find I’m much more focused at a proper desk, but at other times I find the light music and atmosphere of our cafe-style kitchen area to be extremely relaxing while I work through my to-do list. Not being confined to one desk & chair for hours on end definitely contributes to my staying sane at work and, call me crazy, I think helps my blood circulate…? Naturally, I still don’t know what’s so odd about my circulation (other than the very comforting information I was given by my doctor that my heart “doesn’t take as much blood back as it should”) but I know it’s funky, and I know switching up the position I’m in helps prevent fatigue, lightheadedness, and that fun feeling of weakness in my limbs.

Anyway, that was a long road to get to this other super cool perk: pretty much anyone can work from home whenever they need to.

My first cynical thought was that people must abuse this privilege, but from what I’ve observed, I really don’t think anyone does. It’s a great option for those who aren’t feeling well but know they can still get work done from their laptop. It’s been one month and I haven’t even had so much as a cold, which I expected would happen immediately after getting back into an office environment. Shout-out to discouraging people from coming to work sick!

Knowing that I have this option is also a HUGE relief when it comes that one day a month that I’m barely comfortable leaving the house for fear of…well, disaster. I haven’t figured out how to bring this up to whoever I’ll have to speak to about working from home that day, but I figure I’ll just talk to one of the many females in the office about how to go about the whole thing. The thought of not having to spend that whole day paranoid, getting up from my seat once or twice an hour…oh my gosh. It’s like Christmas morning, y’know?

Annnd with that in mind, remember when I brought up Nadya Okamoto, the found of PERIOD: “a nonprofit that gives women access to the period products they need to feel confident and clean every menstruation cycle, no matter their income” (from the PERIOD website’s “About” page)? Well, I finally found a very cool way to get involved, which I want to share.

On October 19th, there will be rallies in all 50 states for National Period Day. The fact that I feel this immense relief and gratitude over being able to stay home when I have my difficult days makes me feel even more frustrated for those who don’t have that luxury, or even the ability to afford the most basic period products just to get themselves through the day.

This link will lead you to information about the rally. If you want to go to the one in NYC, let me know! If you’ve never rallied before – don’t even worry about it, neither have I. I don’t know what’s going to go on my sign, but I have a week to figure it out. It’ll almost definitely involve a meme.

If none of this is for you and you’re wondering “is this the whole post?” …yes, yes it is. But for all of my people who:

  • have had their pain dismissed by doctors for being “just period pain”
  • have gone out for the day just to rush right back home and stay there until it’s over
  • have experienced doctor’s office frustration tears
  • have lied to their employer for fear of grossing them out with the truth
  • have been made to feel “gross”
  • have ruined clothes
  • have had to buy emergency replacement clothes
  • just want to stop having to put so much thought and energy into both taking care of yourself and also feeling like you have to hide all of it

…the more people who show up to events like this, the more likely the issue is to be taken as seriously as it needs to be, someday. Someday soon, hopefully.

I haven’t made breakfast yet and I’m already thinking about lunch

Remember in that last post (3 weeks ago, my bad) when I wrote this:

“Here’s the thing: Unless I find a fantastic contract/short-term job that pays well and offers a nice chunk of consistent work for a while, I’m looking for a job that I can stick with.” ?

I DID THAT. I GOT A FANTASTIC CONTRACT JOB THAT PAYS WELL AND OFFERS A NICE CHUNK OF CONSISTENT WORK FOR A WHILE.

It’s so good. I wish I was comfortable writing about it in more detail, but I think it’s good internet practice to not be super open about where you work. Especially if you write rather candidly about your personal/health issues. However, it’s a fantastic company, a great team, and they have been so patient with me as they gradually realize that I have no prior experience doing the thing I do now. Luckily for them, I love learning, and when I commit – I commit. I’ve been doing little else for the past two weeks besides going to work early, coming home late and making sure I take care of my brain and body in the meantime so that I can be on my game at the office.

…actually, I will give you one detail. I don’t know how many of you read this from NYC, or if this exists outside of the city, but my office is part of a group catering program called “Stadium.” The way it works (and it differs depending on where you work) is that everyone can get a lunch order of $15 or less delivered from any participating local restaurant three days a week at no cost. This really means a lot to me. I love eating. I’m also weird about spending money on food, and was prepared to come every day with my lazy girl packed lunches to avoid going out and spending $10-15 on a daily basis. Now I get three free, healthy, big meals a week. This is how you get happy and grateful employees, people.

It’s such a relief to feel a bit more stable, finally. I’m still sorting out my routine as I go into Week 3, but for now I feel like I’m doing enough. I don’t want to push it by trying to add trips to the gym or anything else into the mix. Being that the job is contract and that I’m so happy there thus far, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to perform very well. Admittedly, it’s a big routine adjustment. Thankfully, my health has been pretty fantastic lately – but the minute I start slacking on my 8 hours of sleep, I feel it all over. Last week I thought I could handle going to a fairly low-key concert on a Monday night, but when I checked the time and saw that it was 10pm, my anxiety kicked in hard. I insisted on leaving at that exact moment despite there only being maybe 10 minutes left of the show, and made myself look a bit intense in front of some people I had just met. Again. Whoops.

It’s hard to live here and say “no” to things just because you need to, and not because you have other plans. Although, I guess I did have other plans that night…preparing for the next day and getting a good night’s sleep. Also, avoiding an anxiety attack is sort of an ongoing plan of mine. But who’s going to say any of that? There is always, always something going on on New York City and I think that there are a lot of people who work long, weekday hours that feel the pressure to cram their whole life in between Friday night and Monday morning, and even in the post-work hours during the week. I’m that way too, to an extent…but honestly, my concern with saying yes to things usually comes from caring about what people think of me rather than feeling left out if I don’t go. I mean, is anyone really cool with being the friend/coworker, or even girlfriend who “never goes out?” Again, unless you’re some kind of weirdo enlightened person who really doesn’t care what people think. Imagine the potential for an embarrassing situation, though, just based on my body’s unpredictability. Picture it: I go out for a social night with my coworkers one evening after work, not knowing that my kidney is up to his old tricks. I have one sip of beer, projectile vomit, and fall asleep.

…it’s not out of the realm of possibility. (If this reference makes no sense, please refer to “big ankle keeps on turning” from last December.)

Anyhow, I’ll figure that out as time goes on. The mission right now is to keep writing. My windows of time are between 8-8:30am when I hang out in the park by my office (because I am the master of being too early always) and between around 7:00-10pm. It might sound unlikely that I’d actually write in the park, but I’ve been doing it! I have 4,000 waitress notepads lying around anyway, so now I carry one in my work bag. It’s harder to get into a writing mindset with this new job solely because I’m not used to work that’s mentally exhausting rather than physically, but eventually as I keep growing into this position, I’ll be able to do my job with less strain on the brain.

Needless to say…I’m glad I held out. I was really so close to settling – I had even gone through orientation at that retail job the day before I found out my current company wanted to hire me. My gut remains good to me, and there was no doubt in my mind when I said yes to this job that I was doing the right thing.

To conclude this self-congratulatory post that really doesn’t contain anything important whatsoever, I’d like to show off these pictures from Sean and my last trip of the summer to Philly/Atlantic City a few weeks ago. I feel like I’m really stepping up my blogger photography game. I mean, I didn’t even take the good pictures, that credit goes to strangers on the streets. But still. Progress.

first of all, how DARE you buy me groceries

Séan and I were away this past weekend for a disconnected opportunity to recharge. (Disconnected from the internet, phones, etc – not each other.) We did the things that I grew up with and miss so much when summer stomps her way into the city. Not that there aren’t hundreds of great events and opportunities around the city during the summer, but summer can be very “go-go-go!” here, with all the concerts and rooftops and baseball games and whatever else. Back home, everything slows down. Summer at home is still all about getting outside, but not for a ‘gram-worthy picnic in Central Park or the switch over to rooftop bars for the season. Please reference the pictures below.

Anyway. I’m not going to tell this story in any sort of a way that makes sense, and you’re going to have to be okay with that, because only one small smidgen of it matters. Let’s not even call it a story. Here’s what happened: I woke up grumpy about something the day before we left, and immediately transferred all of that anger onto things that it really…just…wasn’t about. I can’t remember what nonsense was pissing me off that particular morning, but I do this a lot (I did it yesterday!) so you’ll get a more detailed example in a moment. Point being, I ended up apologizing to Séan and saying “I’m still working on being upset about the thing I’m actually upset about.”

I am still working on being upset about the thing that I’m actually upset about.

I also told him that I used to be worse! It’s true!

I don’t know if this hits home with anyone, but it is so freaking difficult and yet so necessary to trace anger back to its actual source. That’s probably true of any emotion, but I struggle most with anger and frustration.

Yesterday’s head-about-to-explode moment of the day happened when Séan brought home a load of groceries. Grocery shopping with Séan is a major anxiety trigger (you’ll soon know why) but I learned yesterday that it’s just as bad when he shops for the two of us.

He bought what could in my universe easily be a year’s supply of paper towels. I saw these paper towels, and the fire of my frustration ignited. Even in the moment it happened, it didn’t make sense to me. My discomfort was so instantaneous. I had to check in: alright, why am I feeling anything at all over paper towels?

It took some time, but maybe ten or fifteen minutes later I pieced together all the steps my brain had jumped between “excessive paper towels” and “resentment”. Do let me try to explain. Here is an outline of my reflective thought process (aka me talking to me):

  1. Oh wowza. That amount of paper towels makes me uncomfortable. #Tbt growing up and my mom treating paper towels like they were made of gold. Shouldn’t we be trying to use washable, normal towels? Wouldn’t that be better for the environment and less expensive? Plus we have so many dishcloths.
  2. We should calm down with the AC and plastic water bottles and the water usage, too. That’s how I always wanted to keep my household. My apartment. If I had my own.
  3. I never did end up having a space that was just my own.
  4. Y’know, I don’t feel any ownership over this space, or any right to a say in how we do things.
  5. …but I also don’t feel a real claim to living here because I can’t financially support myself.
  6. And if I had the money to do so I’d also just buy groceries at my own pace. And he’d see how that ends up working out for the way I eat, compared to him.
  7. But hang on, I really am bothered by our general waste of resources, whether it’s paper towels or food that gets thrown out before we eat it because it isn’t bought in a logical way with our schedules.
  8. Yeah, that drives me insane. I hate waste.
  9. I have waste anxiety.
  10. Because I don’t feel secure about any of my resources, like all of this might just go away, so I have to make everything last as long as possible and also save every penny.
  11. Oh.

So there we go! I have deep-seeded issues that present as freaking out over nothing. ~lol~

But alright, for real now – tracing my seemingly erratic emotions back to their source has been a huge help in stopping my anxiety from growing and turning into the horror show I know it can turn into. I’m not always successful, and I know that there are times when my physical presentation of anxiety is so strong that no logical thought process is even possible. I wanted to share this train of thought all the same, because the act of writing it down for this blog has given me a much more accessible (I think) way to present to Séan what happened yesterday. Working on my mental health is my job and mine alone, but it’s also important that I do what I can to help the person I live and spend my time with to understand my…well, particular “quirks” (some of my quirks are just straight up trauma so using the word “quirk” here isn’t too comfortable, alas, I can find no better way to explain my damn self).

Anyway friends, everyone already knows that I feel like I’m spinning in circles a lot of the time. It’s just nice to have a moment of clarity. Like Hannah B on Monday night. Where are my Bachelorette fans at?! Crossing my fingers for a strong cross-section of health blog readers and Bachelorette junkies!

My wish is that this post brings someone besides myself a little hope that we really can work on ourselves, and that progress is possible. I feel a tiny victory when I dig deep and learn something about myself, and I hope you’ve experienced those moments, too – and that you continue to. Especially my friends with anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, any and all of it – just trying to present your true self can be so much more work than we deserve! But we do the work. Keep doing the work. 🙂