Turned All My Ls into Lessons

When I don’t know what to do or how to feel, I write. I write in hopes of finding some sort of safety, connection, security. I don’t know if writing has ever helped me figure out what to do or how to feel. But I can say that writing put me at ease. It calms me and strengthens me.

I haven’t been focused on self-maintenance the past couple of years. I threw myself into wedding planning upon getting engaged, and from there I was dedicated to marathon training. After that, selling the condo and getting into our new house. I’ve given myself goals for distraction from the emotional difficulties I’ve faced. Even currently, I’m (half-assedly) training for the Chicago Triathlon Super Sprint.

In all of this distraction, I find a comfortable pace. But somewhere along the way, I collapsed emotionally. It’s only  here with my thoughts that I’ve been at my best. When I can navigate my self doubt, triumps and failures. When I can reminice and remember, smiling at the good and cringing with the bad. But in my head is no place to live. Those moments are memories and are worth moving on from.

So how do I find happiness in the present? I’ve come to terms with the inescapble fact that I will never get closer and may never truly move on. Do we ever, even when the damage is repaired?

So what’s next? Where do I go from here? I’ll turn to the things that I love. I’ll turn to the written word, long adventures with no destination and enabling change. I’ll be busy and maybe it will all just be a distraction, but I know that’s where I can find happiness. I’ll stop trying to fill a gap and start trying to heal.

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Someone Who I Used to Know

Holy fuck, I think I had a breakthrough.

I saw a ghost today at the climbing gym—no, it wasn’t an actual ghost, of a climber who had fallen to their death. I thought I saw someone I used to know. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t her.

While I haven’t seen or spoken to this person in almost five years, I do think about her from time to time. But immediately upon seeing her look-a-like, I flashed back to our last actual conversation. And it reminded me of the importance of letting go and moving on. It reminded me that you have to listen to what other people are saying and just accept it.

I do hope this is a milestone for me when it comes to the “grieving” process, but I’m not convinced it’s over. I still have a long way to go toward coming to terms with my lost relationship and moving on, but I’d like to think I made some progress today.

It’s always easier to give advice than it is to take it. But today, today I had the opportunity to take my own advice. And while I can understand and respect the point of view, it’s still hard as hell to accept.

Let’s Talk About Sex

The other weekend, I was pressured by multiple women in my family to share the age I lost my virginity. They were playing a game of 20 questions and I’d sat down unknowingly. This was not a group I’d choose to tell all to.

When they first asked, as an “initiation” question, I said I’d rather not say. To encourage me, they all eagerly went around announcing their answers. It was back to me. “I’d rather not say,” I told them again.

It’s a safe place, I was assured. It didn’t feel very safe.

We won’t judge you, they explained. I didn’t care if they did.

We told you ours. I didn’t ask.

It wasn’t my age. It was the story. And what they didn’t know was that I’d lost a lot more than my virginity at that age.

But this isn’t about that story, it’s about five women in my family making me feel pressured into sharing.

Today, women are able to enjoy sex and acknowledge it publicly. We’re no longer forced to feel ashamed of our sexuality. And while we’re still fighting sexism and inequality, we’ve made broad strides.

I’d like to think that’s where this pressure was coming from, the false promise of a supportive group of women. But when my discomfort was dismissed for their entertainment, they lost all credibility.

We need to do better

I recently watched Mindy Kaling’s commencement address to the Dartmouth class of 2018 and was both inspired and ashamed. Toward the end of her speech, Kaling speaks directly to the women in the graduating class and encourages them to lift each other up.

We need to do a better job of supporting each other.

And she is so spot on.

I know I need to do a better job of supporting all the women in my lifeprofessionally and personally. My inability to do so has distanced me from family, my best friend and colleagues. It’s inhibited me emotionally and paused me professionally.

While acknowledging this shortcoming is easy, it will take a lot of effort to do. It will take forgiving myself for past mistakes, saying goodbye to a friendship I long for, letting go of the past and looking toward the future, and allowing myself to feel inspired and vulnerable. It means starting over, feeling better and moving on.

I’m not sure how I got here from when I started this draft last week, but I’m glad I did. And I’m ready to start trying.

The Way Things Change

Moving on is hard, and sometimes damn near impossible. For the better part of the past year, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit obsessing over a lost friendship. Funny isn’t it, we always think romantic relationships are the hardest to end. Now, this isn’t the first friendship I’ve had come to a close, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, it’s the only one that ended in an explosive argument. And — at the time — I didn’t realize it was actually the end. I thought she’d admit wrongdoing, apologize, or at least forgive and forget. But none of that happened.

The more time that passed without one of those things happening, the angrier I got and the further I distanced myself from the relationship. Looking back, I realize how that probably just made it easier for her to pull further and further away. In the end, by the time I was ready to acknowledge my wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness, it was too late. By that time, she’d moved past our friendship and was ready to not turn back. Oh my god how that hurts.

Perhaps the hardest part of accepting the fact that “your person” is no longer there for you to turn to is not even having the chance to say goodbye. Not even getting a big “Fuck you, I’m done,” and instead receiving radio silence after a phone call, text message and email. For some reason, as much as that response sounds painful, it seems better than this. Better than a lack of closure. Especially knowing I could have prevented things from going this far.

So, I try to look for the good in things. Lessons learned, frustrations ceased. But in the end, none of that matters. Nothing can replace the person you could laugh with, cry with, bicker with. So it seems the only thing to do is become better. Recognize how to better deal with situations and react to emotions, even if it’s too late to fix what’s been broken.

Day 7: Writing Retreat Wrapup

This afternoon I head back to Chicago. If there’s one thing I’ll take away from this week’s trip, it’s that I need to start making writing a part of my everyday life more consistently. Even when I haven’t had much to say, it’s been therapeutic to force the process. I sat for awhile this morning trying to debate what I should work on and decided to contribute to a new project I started yesterday, thanks to a friend.

So, was this writing retreat a success? I think so. I wish I had done more actual writing for my novel. However, I did complete two weeks worth of planning in just one week. So that’s something. I also got to spend time exploring a new city, taking in the culture, and listening to the locals on advice for where to eat, drink and people watch. It was inspiring and rewarding.

I also learned a bit about myself. Aside from work, I’ve never traveled alone. Not like this. I was a little anxious at the start of the trip. But, it turns out, traveling alone is pretty great. Don’t get me wrong, I love exploring places with friends and family, but a solo trip is something very different. You’re on your own schedule. If a shop looks cute, you can just walk in. If you’re ready for bed at 7 p.m., you go to bed. You can wake up 5:30 a.m., turn all of the lights on and start writing, without worrying you’ll wake someone up. I think I gained a bit of independence and confidence in myself this week, and I’m pretty proud of that.

Today, I spent time writing the first post for Chicago Beer Club, my new project. Head over to ChiBeerClub to check it out!

Day 6: Writing Retreat — Binge Culture Part 2

Almost immediately after publishing my last post, I realized I hadn’t answered my first question on this topic: Why do we binge?

What I really want to know is what the science behind it is. Why are we drawn to addictive behavior? Let’s find out…

Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s difficult to find research on binge behavior that isn’t dedicated to binge eating or drinking specifically. But there are parallels between these, including an addictive and compulsive personality.

Addiction is complicated. It is one of the most pervasive and least understood of maladies. It’s not that we don’t understand addiction per se, but our understanding is controversial. Is it biological? Is it inherited? Is it a disease process? Is it psychological, or psycho-social, or cultural? Is it a characterological disorder or just pervasive poor judgment?

The Continuum of Addiction and Addictive Personality

Personality traits of someone who is inclined to participate in binge behavior can include:

  • Obsessive compulsive
  • Stressed, lonely
  • Passive aggressive
  • Socially isolated
  • Deceptive
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Ashamed

However, these characteristics are generally used to define an alcohol or drug addict, rather than someone who has an obsessive personality that results in compulsive behavior. So, is there even a link between different types of binge behavior? Is it even something worth exploring?

According to Greatest, yes. Binge behavior is the result of coping with negative feelings that are caused by either psychological, chemical and sociocultural factors. And you can binge on just about anything — food, exercise, shopping, sex and so on.

So, how do you cope with this addictive personality if it starts to become a problem? You should first solicit the help of a professional, who can let you know if it’s the result of a mental health issues. But if you’re using binging to cope with your stress and anxiety, you may be able to self treat. From meditation to writing to acknowledging, there are plenty of was to ensure you’re leading a healthy lifestyle.

Day 6: Writing Retreat — Binge Culture

From excessive drinking to “Netflix and chill,” binge culture is consuming a generation. But, what are the risks in a binge lifestyle? The term “binge” is negative, traditionally referenced to discuss those with binge eating or drinking disorders. However, with the introduction of platforms like Netflix, Amazon Video and HBO GO (the list goes on), binging has just become a normal pass time. Honestly, it might have actually started with DVD boxsets of our favorite television series: The Sopranos, Sex and the City. And, recently, even NPR got in on the fad with the release of their podcast S-Town, a seven-part series that was made available in full earlier this spring. (If you haven’t listened to S-Town, I highly recommend it. The great story telling from Brian Reed pushes the line between art and exploitation.)

So, what are the risks related to this binge culture we’ve created? From anxiety to depression, the introduction of smartphones have brought with them a plethora of health concerns, providing users binge access to anything, any time. And our binge-focused entertainment industry has it’s own set of health-related issues:

  • The lack of movement can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity
  • Addiction: It gets in the way of our plans, much like people’s addiction to smartphones, drugs and alcohol
  • People who partake in binge watching are often isolated and more more likely to suffer from depression and loneliness; they are also likely to lack self-control

Our binge viewing is even changing television programming. Many consumers are now opting for “à la carte” television over traditional cable and scheduled air times. And Americans aren’t the only ones making this shift, people around the globe are embracing the binge culture. While it doesn’t look like binging is going anywhere, research does indicate better storytelling will be another result of this lifestyle shift.

Are you a binge consumer? Probably — 70 percent of us are. Netflix defines binge watching as consuming two to six episodes of a show in one sitting — generally this amounts to two or more hours. Smart TVs and streaming devices are making it easier than ever to binge, whether on your commute, at the gym or from your couch. And, Netflix has found that different types of shows are binged at different rates:Netflix Binge Scale

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of binge entertainment — from podcasts to TV series. But, as someone who experiences anxiety when I can’t access information immediately (via my smartphone), I think it’s valuable to acknowledge and recognize the risks related to our binge culture. Are you putting off errands? Are you staying up all night when you have an early morning meeting? If so, it might be time to reconsider your habits. Or, at the very least, take a break and don’t remain sedentary during you next marathon viewing (that’s why I like Hulu, the commercials provide an easy opportunity to get up and move!).