March 28, 2013

What you don't know.

I read this piece on “33 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer” the other day and one of the suggestions was to “tell people something that nobody knows about you.”  This, of course, got me thinking and giddy.  But then I got nervous.  And then I got it excited.  And then I got nervous again. 

I am in some ways quite reserved and in other ways quite open. (Deja vu: have I written this before?)  With those who only sort of know me I am reserved.  With those who really know me, well, I’m quite open.  Perhaps not ironically, when I write I turn to that really open self, so much so that I usually have someone read my stuff before I post it on my blog.  This is typically my husband, who happens to be both my biggest fan and my biggest critic.  He will sometimes say, “ should probably remove the line where you talk about…” and then I either remove it, or not.  Basically, he will tell me if I’ve pushed the envelope too far, which is not uncommon.  This is a good thing, though I’m already pretty certain that my in-laws no longer think I’m the pure, little, delicate flower they once thought I was, although I still am a flower.  (I like to think so anyway.)

The truth is that it’s really difficult to be equal parts reserved and blatantly honest in a world that expects you to be either black or white.  If I’m in reserved mode will I shock someone if I accidentally make an inappropriate joke, if I say something off-color?  Or do I just bite my lip the whole time and listen to what everyone around me is saying, making witty responses in my head?  At a conference last year a fella kept trying to get me to say a swear word as if I’ve never sworn before.  My internal response was, What the H?!  I swear as much as the next gal – you just have to get me in the right mood.  But of course, I relented, even if it felt contrived to say something just because some guy was asking me to.  To say the eff word when someone asks you to just feels dirty.  But I guess that’s okay.  I don’t mind dirty every now and again.

What I’ve learned is that when I’m open, honest Sarah out in the world (that is the Sarah I happen to be most familiar with), I’ve realized that I suddenly become popular, a phenomenon that makes me equal parts uncomfortable and empowered.  (But alas, this going-against-the-grain thing all the time can get tiring, so I've found myself rolling wit it.)

Being yourself, whatever that may be – reserved, open, or in between – is the state where we're most happy and content, and that is important when you’re out there in the world, as much as when you’re eating Chinese food and talking about sex with your bestie.  For me, open, honest Sarah is actually the true Sarah – the Sarah I’ve always known.  Reserved Sarah is what I am when I’m perhaps not feeling entirely comfortable, which translates to a certain amount of inauthenticity for me.  And no one wants to feel inauthentic. 

I feel.  I am curious.  I am passionate.  I like getting to the nitty gritty.  I am both a rule breaker and a nerd, and I happen to like it that way. 

Depending on who you are, maybe you already know this, maybe you don’t.  But either way, you may not even care, and that is totally okay.

March 24, 2013

Time for Spring Cleaning: My 21-Day Detox

Now that I'm at the end of a three-week cleanse of which has included the elimination of sugar, wheat, meat, dairy, and processed food, and the addition of a heavy dose of vegetables, fruit, and beans, nuts and seeds, I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in a very long time.  If I was an absolutist (which I’m not), I might even say I feel the best I’ve ever felt.  Aside from the bevy of physical benefits, including things like improved digestion, clearer skin, and increased energy, perhaps the most unexpected side effect has been an improvement in my mental state.

My cleanse was inspired by Kris Carr’s 21-day detox, with some components of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live six-week plan.  Because I’m so active and didn’t have a goal of losing weight, Dr. Fuhrman’s plan felt too restrictive for me; however, I did borrow the premise of eating a large salad once a day from his approach.  Nearly two years ago I had tried Carr’s detox plan, but at the time I was eating a diet heavy in dairy (ice cream three times per week?  Yeah, that was me) and a moderate amount of meat, it felt so restrictive I lasted only three days before I gave up. 

Since watching Forks Over Knives about a year ago and learning about the implications of a diet heavy in animal products, I’ve cut back my intake of meat and dairy significantly, and so the detox, which included the elimination of dairy and meat, didn’t feel restrictive to me the second time around at all; in fact, I felt like there were so many great options to choose from that I very seldom felt hungry because I could eat as much as I wanted so long as I made the right choices.  Though I will say, however, that when your diet consists mainly of vegetables, fruit, green juices, and beans and nuts you get hungry quick.  And by "hungry quick" what I mean is that you run the risk of getting HANGRY,  which is why having the right food on hand at all times has been a must. 
There was a time during the first few days of the cleanse that I was caught at work late stranded without any food and my only choice was to jump in my car and drive to the grocery store to pick up some produce.  On another night I might be tempted to run to the convenience store a block down from my office and buy a bag of Doritos because hey, I’m working late and what else do you crave when you're starving and in a bind?

Perhaps the ironically wonderful thing about a cleanse is that it limits your choices, thereby enabling you a sense of freedom, because sometimes choosing and having to make decisions can wreak havoc on willpower and therefore be kind of stressful.  While I had to do lots of food preparation for the week, I was surprised to learn that I was left with energy to focus on other things beyond obsessing about food.  This was likely because the decision about what to eat was pretty much already made for me.

Before the cleanse, I hadn’t realized how many mornings I was waking up in a dreary fog until I began to rise feeling instantly happy and chipper, despite having a tall, dark sky as a companion during my AM workout.  While I am not by nature a grumpy or sad person, it hadn’t occurred to me the fog that I was in.  Whether due to a diet heavy in grains and sugar preceding the cleanse or letting go of the “food noise” during the cleanse, who knows, but I welcomed the mood boost as an unexpected surprise, which has benefitted me in ways I never imagined.

Now with the 21st day drawing near, I can’t say that I haven’t craved pizza and chocolate cake (of which I didn’t even have at my own birthday party last weekend!) in the past few weeks, but I do feel empowered by being able to undertake a challenge that I never thought was possible for me.  And while the detox was no more a cleanse than just eating extremely healthy, it is yet another phase in my wellness journey.  For example,  I never thought I could go a single day without a nighttime snack of dark chocolate or popcorn, and I've realized I could!  I will likely reintroduce them into my diet in moderation, but I’ve learned that a sweet potato is a much better nightcap than chocolate.  I swear to you, it really is! 

March 10, 2013

The Bird-Hand Analogy: Which are you?

Since reading this compelling piece on the Bird-Hand relationship analogy, the premise being that in every relationship, one person is the Hand, and the other, the Bird, it has made me realize how fundamental this balance is in relationships.  According to the writer, in an ideal relationship the Hand is the provider, the one who is grounded and stable, while the Bird is the more free-spirited, adventurous one.  Hands are generally content with the simple life, while Birds are stimulated by new experiences and the possibility for adventure.  In a relationship where there are two Birds the relationship might lack stability and trust, especially if the Birds are constantly flying in different directions.  Meanwhile, if there are two Hands the whole thing can become overly routine and mundane, boring, even.  For this reason, one of each is key to a satisfying and mutual bond. 

I know, and have always, known that I – even apart from an assumed role in a relationship – am a bit of a Bird.  It’s true that I don’t jump out of planes on a regular basis, I am not a crazy party animal, and I am actually perfectly content being at home on a Friday night, but I am a Bird by way of needing my space and freedom, a steady amount of stimulation (both intellectual and physical), and new experiences and adventures.  Having enough of this all keeps me balanced and fulfilled.

Though I’ve been attracted to other Birds (obviously – Birds can be a lot of fun!), what is particularly appealing to me – and quite honestly what is best for me – is a Hand to be that stable provider that I crave and need.  In the one or two times I've dated other Birds in the past I felt I had to assume the Hand role (perhaps because I was the less flighty of the two Birds in the duo), and it made me feel like the nagging mother that I was not comfortable being.  And seriously, there is nothing worse than feeling like the mom in a romantic relationship. 

As a Bird, I pride myself in being the cool chick who encourages her man go on fishing trips with the guys and to venture off for an impromptu trip to Boston to catch a Celtics game.  Why I do this, of course, is because I want him to warrant the same kind of freedom to me.  I would not be happy otherwise.  But if he were also a Bird, I have a feeling I might not be as encouraging, because let’s just be real: two Birds don’t make a right.  On the other hand, in platonic relationships I gravitate toward other Birds, and for some reason, that dynamic works supremely well.  I love my Birdy friends!    

What’s most important about this Bird-Hand analogy is the balance that a romantic relationship requires.  Just as Birds need to fly around (some species more than others), they also need to tend to the nest, to be on the ground grabbing grub.  And when they do come around -- hopefully more often than they are flying around in the sky -- the Hand, reliable and stable as he/she may be, is there to accompany them, to listen to their ideas and dreams, to hold and take care of them.  And when the Bird gets all aflutter with either a brilliant or outlandish idea, the Hand can see the forest for the trees and either support or help bring the idea to fruition, or to say that it’s just a shitty idea, which is sometimes necessary!  Meanwhile, when a Hand gets overly consumed with all that’s practical, pragmatic, and routine, the Bird coerces the Hand to try new things, to push through its comfort zone, to fly around in the sky for a while.  In this way, the Hand needs the Bird just as much as the Bird needs the Hand, and the two together are a match made in heaven, as they say.

So, what are YOU -- the Bird or the Hand?