Cheesy Ch(y)earnings

I don’t like rules. “I’m beholden to nobody”. I just don’t like people telling me what to do. Even myself. So when it comes to eating food, particularly foods that have had a negative affect on me in the past, I give myself an “out”. I say, if you want it then have it.

So I do.

I discovered years ago that I’m lactose intolerant. I stopped drinking milk. I stopped eating milk products, especially cheese. Only certain dairy products don’t make me feel sick.

But cheese, oh salty delicious cheese, I love you so much. It was so hard letting you go.

Just a taste. That’s what I tell myself. Who cares. It’s self imposed. I made the rule so I can break it any time I want to.

And I do. I eat pizza. And cheese sticks. And cheese sandwiches. And immediately I feel a headache coming on. And cramps. And discomfort. And horrible stomach bloating.

But who cares, I say. The symptoms will pass. In the meantime I get to eat my beloved delectable cheese.

And I’m not trying to lose weight anyway, so again- who cares.

Apparently, I do. More than I thought.

This morning on the treadmill I started at a run and felt horrible after a minute. Like I was dragging my 500 pound body up a hill. Definitely not good.

All that cheese. And bread. And donuts. Mmmm donuts.

Self imposed rules can definitely be broken. But there’s another option- stick-to-it-ness. What if I made a rule for myself and then didn’t break it? Cool, huh.

Logically, if something makes me feel so sick I shouldn’t be eating it. But my palette doesn’t understand logic. It understand the “taste good, want it now” motto.

But explaining to myself how I know it’ll make me feel afterwards and how bad it is for my body and how crappy I’ll feel on the treadmill helps just a little bit towards helping me live a healthier version of me.

Do I promise to never eat cheese again as long as I live? Absolutely not. Do I wish my body could stop disappointing me and create the damn enzyme needed to break down the cheese? Absolutely. But is there ways that I can learn to respect my body more and work with it to get what it properly needs- and avoid the things it doesn’t? Of course.

Oh cheese. I’ll miss you so.

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I want to write

I want to write but it’s hard for me to explain. I don’t think you’d understand but maybe you do. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I underestimate your abilities or your experience. Maybe you’ve been where I am now, maybe you can help but I’m shutting you out because I feel all alone here.

I want to write but it’s so hard for me to tell you how I’m feeling. How some days I just wish I would disappear.

I want to tell you what a horrible feeling it is to be ghosted. When I’m kicking myself because I feel like it’s my fault, like I made a mistake, because I called this person one too many times when they asked for “space” and inevitably came to realize I was blocked. That I can no longer express myself because they won’t let me.

I’ve recently learned about “cognitive errors”, where your brain tells you something that isn’t really true, that sounds entirely convincing and accurate, that serves to reinforce all the negative things you already believe about yourself. My goal is to catch myself in this thinking and “reframe” it- to train my brain to think more positively or realistically. But it’s so damn hard.

It’s hard to not believe that I’ll be alone forever, that the brief contact I’ve had that ended was my last chance for that.

I’m scared that my mom is dying. I think I’m just really really scared of being alone.

So how do I write about that, dear reader? Or maybe I just did.

Do you want to know that I’ve gone to the gym 6 times this past week and 5 times the week before that? I’ll tell you. My brother took me for a drive and I cried and I cried and I cried at how scary everything is for me right now, how horribly lost and confused I am trying to figure out how to create a life for myself, how sad and hurt I am because I was ghosted.

He told me to pick one thing. Just one. So I started going to the gym. Whether I’m doing it for me or because I want to be beholden to someone, I’m doing it. The first day there, I cried on the treadmill. Since then, I’ve fallen into a routine and I already feel my arms and legs getting stronger, as well as my abs beginning to form.

I have many ideas to share and things to write about but somehow when it comes to sitting down and writing, I push it off. It’s too hard. And then it comes down to this: my feelings. Because somehow if I share it on here, they’re real. I’m validating them. Does it make me weak to talk about my feelings all the time? I don’t know.

I’ve taken a break from Facebook because I didn’t feel like it was helping me at all and I was posting just for the comments and likes. It’s hard to be genuine when you just want to get reactions. But isn’t that what blogging is about too? Is it the same if you don’t think anyone is listening?

I’ll be ok, I really hope I will. I keep promising myself that it’ll get better. I don’t know if that’s true. But I need to believe something. Right now, it feels like I’m at the bottom of a really steep hill pushing a really large boulder and the only way I can get up the hill is to just. keep. pushing.

So I will. I don’t know if I’m trying to reassure you or myself, but I’m really just trying to get through this difficult part to hopefully more sunny tomorrows.

Thanks for listening.

This I know for sure- 5 Ways to get over the “Funk”

A lot of times in life I grapple with doubt and confusion- about myself, about the world, about my own mind and feelings.

I don’t like living in doubt. It scares me. I forget what I’m doing. I lose a sense of who I am and where I’m going.

There’s a support group I started going to recently for people who are affected by mood disorders. At the group, people talk about their “wellness program”. This can be anything that works for each individual. They like to say it’s tools you can keep in your back pocket and pull out as needed.

It looks different for each person. For me, when I remember to actually use coping skills instead of letting go and falling apart, here are some things I find that works:

1) Classical music can be very calming. I found this out the hard way. My father joked that someone stole my car and returned it with the classical music station on. I was driving home late at night and found myself in lots of traffic and stuck between two trucks. Flipping through the stations, I discovered the classical music station and Jeff Spurgeon’s soothing voice. Now, I will choose that over loud pop when I just want to calm down.

2) Playing with my nieces and nephews makes me happy. For the most part. In small doses. I’ll go visit them if I’m having a bad day, and relax and forget about stuff for a while.

3) Eating and watching TV both help me get out of my mind and forget my anxiety. But I see them more as numbing agents rather than vehicles of coping and healing.

4) Going for a walk, sometimes while listening to music, can help me get out of my funk.

5) Sunlight! And sitting by the water. That’s where I gravitate when I feel overwhelmed or just generally sad.

Going into winter, with the weather getting colder and the evenings getting darker, it is inevitable that SAD- Seasonal Affective Disorder will begin to set in.

For me, I’ve found that I can create small periods of time, pockets where I feel like I’m afloat and not drowning in feelings. The goal is to try and expand those times so it becomes the majority rather than the exception.

The key is to remember- Oprah likes to say, “What I know for sure”. I say, this I know for sure- you are in charge of your own wellness. It is hard to remember that. I go to my therapist and get upset if I don’t see progress. He tells me that time can be my friend. Some things just take time.

But sometimes I also truly forget the things that I can do to help myself feel okay.

It’s up to me. This is my life and it’s my job to do the best I can to manage my own health- physically, mentally and emotionally.

What are some coping skills you’ve found have helped you in hard times?

Mr. Right- or Wrong?

Nobody wants to see their darkest qualities laid out in front of them, exposed. Here it is. Your faults. The many ways in which you’ve failed yourself, failed life, failed everyone around you.

I’d like to believe that when I meet the man I end up marrying, it’ll just feel right. That there won’t be any need to compromise, take a hard look at myself, or feel exposed for the fraud that I am.

A friend recently said to me, make a list of the top 10 qualities that you absolutely need in a man. And then she said, if you don’t have those qualities, how can you expect that kind of man to want to marry you?

I’m not saying things like, good with money, funny, responsible, etc. Although those can be important qualities to some.

Let’s say, selfless, giving, communicative. These are important to me.

Am I a selfless person? Rarely. I keep saying, in some ways I feel like I’m still trying to take care of myself, like there will never be enough time to focus on anyone else as long as I need to be sure that I’m okay.

Am I giving? Sometimes. Grudgingly. Depending on the day.

Communicative? I try. I really do. I’d like to think that I’m a good communicator. But I don’t know. You’d have to ask the people who I speak with.

What I’m thinking here is, how can I have a relationship when I’m so incomplete? When I struggle every day to keep my moods in check, when I’m not quite sure how to make sure I’m fulfilling someone else’s needs, when I think I’m communicating but really I’m just talking- telling someone what I want or need, what I expect from them, how I’m feeling, instead of listening to them and hearing what they need and want too?

My real question is- suppose there’s nothing horribly wrong with me. But if I don’t work on some of these things, is there a chance that I’ll never have a normal relationship? That I’ll end up sad and alone forever? Or that I’ll have an unhealthy and toxic relationship if I don’t first fix what needs fixing?

Am I delusional in thinking that one day some guy is just gonna breeze into my life and it’ll just feel right?

Fairy tale, you say?

Lost Home

In Ireland they say, ‘safe home’. When saying good night after a drink at the local pub, when departing from their friends in the street.

Safe home. Get home safe. Be safe. Stay safe. Drive safely.

We wish these upon each other with the hopes that we will all get from point A to point B with no harm. No bodily danger, no accidents, no assaults. No pain.

But what happens when you have no idea where point B is? Or how to get there? What if you are stuck and you are not safe? Or you don’t feel safe?

It’s after 11 pm and I’m remembering why I moved out of NY. I don’t miss the subway at all. I’m slow. You can tell I’m not from here, getting in people’s way on the subway platform, not walking fast enough. I stand out, despite the fact that I grew up here and lived here the majority of my life. But I’m no longer a city girl. I’m a stranger now.

By now I no longer know what time it is. My phone is dead. Which was fine, when I knew where I was going. But now I find myself at Port Authority and the guy behind the counter looks at me like I’m an idiot when I ask him how to get the train home- he says, go to the train station, this is a bus terminal. Give me a break, I say. I’m not from here.

I search in vein for an outlet to charge my phone. You’d think in a place this big there would be an outlet of some sort somewhere. But no.

I try Starbucks, asking politely if I can charge my phone there, after looking around surreptitiously and seeing no outlets on the walls. They must be hiding them.

They tell me to try Hudson News Stand. Score! There’s an outlet right at the entrance. But when I ask the guy behind the counter he says no, try a charging station ‘down that way’. I see no charging station ‘that way’.

I ask a cop passing by. He says he doesn’t know.

I stop by the information desk, by now on the verge of tears. It’s been a long day. I’m tired and sweaty and my dinner consisted of a black and white cookie and a bag of chips. I just want to go home.

I ask the lady by information if she knows where I can charge my phone. She says to try the building next door. At this point I begin to cry, hating New York and all its inhabitants. The woman asks me if I’m ok. I tell her no, my phone’s dead. She says, looking at me like I’m a child, (I don’t blame her), that’s not a reason to cry.

Through my shuddering breaths I say, “I don’t know how to get home.”

She asks where I live. I can’t talk for the tears. Finally I stutter out, Rockland County. She has no idea where that is. Taking pity on me, she offers to take my phone into the booth and charge it for me. Finally! Some kindness.

I calm down and read a book, standing in exhaustion leaning against the booth.

I did eventually get home. Around 2 am. So the story has a happy albeit exhausting ending.

The scariest part was being without my phone, not knowing how or who to ask for help. Even though I knew where my home was, that it wasn’t very far, that there was a likely solution to be found, I didn’t feel safe. I felt like curling up in a ball and crying and crying, waiting for someone to come save me.

Safe. We take that for granted. Some people never feel safe. Some people don’t have a home.

I’m blessed to have a home and feel safe most of the time.

It’s the lost feeling that gets me. The sadness. The anxiety. The uncertainty. Where do I go next? What do I do? How do I put one foot in front of the other and keep walking?

By the time I collect my phone from the nice information lady and it’s at 35%, I am calm and composed. She wouldn’t know I was the same woman crying outside her booth like a little child only a short time ago.

And I pulled myself up and walked to the train station and managed to figure out how to get on a train and go home.

But in the times when my anxiety gets to be too much and everything is making me scared and I’m almost certain I’ll end up alone forever, that is when I wonder about the God I abandoned, and if He’s listening to the words I’m not telling Him. If He’s collecting my tears and storing them away for later. If He even has a plan and knows what will be with me.

Because I certainly don’t. I’m not saying that faith is everything, but lack of it can be scary. It can make you feel unsafe and uncertain a lot of the time.

I don’t want to be alone forever. I really don’t. and I hate that my inborn faith makes me beg and plead with the God I left behind for something and someone good to come along for me. I hate that I have to ask. Like He doesn’t already know. Like He hasn’t seen my suffering this whole time. Getting a kick out of it, are you?

I want to feel safe, just like everyone else. I want to find my way home, wherever that may be, into the arms of the person I love, and be secure in the knowledge that I’m truly okay.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I’m aware
Believe me
I’m aware of how disgusting it is to drain fluid from my mother’s lungs
How some days it will be yellowish red
And some days reddish orange
I’m aware of how much weight she’s been losing
How she jokes and says that cancer’s the best thing that ever happened to her.
I’m aware of how much time it takes to get from our house to the hospital for appointments,
Of where they leave the wheelchairs for us to borrow when she can’t walk because she lost muscle tone in her legs
Of how my mother sounds when she tries to breathe but gasps for air.
I’m aware of how exhausting it is on me. And yes I know I’m not the one with cancer, but I’m suffering too.
I’m aware of what breast cancer can do to a body, wither it away until only the flesh is left- the muscle atrophied into oblivion.
I’m aware of how frustrating it is to get her to eat, telling her she needs her strength- when she just doesn’t have an appetite.
Mostly, I’m acutely aware of the tears leaking from my eyes as I sit in the bikur cholim room having come to look for food, finding none, and crying silently at the table as a man restocks behind me
Trying to figure out what to do because I had plans tonight but somehow my life is in hold
I’m aware of all the phone calls and emails back and forth with her doctors, of pushing off my own appointments over and over again,
I’m very aware of the words “I’m sorry” we hear from the doctor every time we come for an appointment and end up with a hospital stay.
Yay.
Breast cancer awareness month is just that- awareness.
Get the testing. Get the screening. Keep a lookout for any lumps or suspicious tissue.
But there’s nothing that really prepares you for the long term journey that is cancer itself.
Cancer is no longer a scary word. It’s a part of our lives.
My father still calls it “yene machla” meaning, “that disease”, as if saying the actual word will bring bad things upon us.
It’s too late for that.
It’s here, and it’s here to stay.
Now we learn to deal with it, educating ourselves educating the doctors,
Fighting for my mom’s right to be alive.
So please please please
Don’t ask me to spread the word about breast cancer awareness month
Don’t ask me to post a pink ribbon
Let me be selfish in this one
As I already claim cancer on my resume.
By relation.
By being the daughter of a woman with cancer.
And all that that entails.

IG And Me

IG

Imagine having social anxiety when not among other people. When alone, in your bedroom under the covers late at night when you should be sleeping and instead are doing the one new thing you know will cause mental distress. Surfing Instagram.

I didn’t know that surfing Instagram was a thing. I only have a few “followers” and only follow a few, and barely ever post anything. But thanks to the ingenious ‘search’ button, you can scroll and scroll forever and never come up for air.

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There’s a beloved children’s book called “Messes of Dresses” about a girl named Gittel who lives in a tree. She owns two dresses- the one that she wears and a spare in case she gets the first one dirty. She is happy and content. Then, one day her friend Sara Saks from Fifth Avenue comes for a visit, bringing with her many beautiful colorful dresses for Gittel to try on. And suddenly, she finds herself surrounded by so much excess that she cannot even see her space, everything is covered and surrounded by dresses. Until finally she learns the lesson taught in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with their lot.”

Are we happy by virtue of innocence and ignorance? If we never go to clothing stores, will we not know that there are items out there that exceed our budget and simply cannot be had, or more so are not needed? Is it better to live with blinders and not see what you can’t have, or see- and be happy with you have anyway?

While surfing Instagram last night I came across a picture of a girl I once knew in elementary school. We started out pretty much the same, religious wise- growing up in the same system, going to the same schools, dressing the same. In Jewish Orthodox circles this means for females, covering elbows and knees, wearing only skirts- no pants or leggings without covering up- wearing modest looking clothing. And here this girl, whom I haven’t seen in years but is recognizable to me, has posted pictures of herself in a bikini, wearing pants and short sleeves, or no sleeves, while also posting about cooking for the Jewish New Year known as Rosh Hashana.

To me, that presents a dichotomy. Observing parts of the religion, but not all. But what strikes me as fascinating is that she appears so happy. So carefree, confident. She is living a life she chose, different than the way she was brought up, without any guilt.

It causes me confusion. A bit of jealousy. A touch of anger. A whole lot of judgement.

Because I want that to be me. Not the bare arms and pants clad legs, not necessarily. But the smile. The ease. The being comfortable in your own skin. Choosing your life, writing your own story instead of having it written for you.

So why is it so hard for me to do that for myself?

My present life is half-lived. I’m in hibernation. Partly because I’ve come to a point where I see no clear way forward, and partly because the way forward may be difficult to navigate.

And I keep asking myself, what is it that these people have- these people being the ones on Instagram in their glam dresses with their perfect looking husbands and beautifully dressed children, the “Mommy Bloggers” and self-proclaimed entrepreneurs, authors, photographers, foodies, “Influencers” (I put that in quotes to show my scorn for the term), what do they have that make them tick, that causes them success and publicity or even contentment and happiness that I don’t have?

The answer I’ve come up with is- nothing. Besides for the fact that I don’t know a lot of these people, there is no discernible difference (other than, perhaps a better camera than I have), between them and I, besides for the fact that they are out there, doing and being and having, while I sit at home thinking and talking and complaining.

So I have no reason to feel the way I do, and I should probably take my therapist’s advice and get off social media altogether.

But somehow I’m still here, and I’m still trying to find the answer to the question of, “What’s my purpose?” What am I meant to do? What was I created for?

I think many people use social media for different things: some people want to stay connected, some want to share their stories, some want to feel better than other people.

But whatever the case, the lesson I’m choosing to take from this is: don’t look out there to see what it is you are missing, or think you need in order to survive. Finding out you are lacking- and believe me if you take everything you see on social media personally, you are lacking in every area of your life- will only hurt you. It won’t help you grow. It will turn you into an envious jealous green judgmental little monster, one who lacks anything to give back to society.

Instead, focus on what you have. What you have that you can share, what you have that you actually need, what you have that you can enjoy, what you have that keeps you alive.

Then turn off your phone and shut the light and maybe stay off Instagram for awhile.