Mathematical Anomaly on Weight Loss Journey

As of today, I have lost both 63.2 pounds and 108.2 pounds, but not 163.2 pounds.

A riddle for the ages, but I’ll explain.

I started my current regiment on September 8, 2016 at a weight of 245 pounds. My highest know weight taken at doctor’s office sometime in 2009 was in the 290s. I don’t know exactly how much, because who wants to think about it when you are resigned to being too heavy because you don’t see another option? Please remember, I’m 4 feet 9 inches tall. Your mental picture should adjust a bit to shorter and more round like a fun-house mirror.

It means something to me that despite my struggles with weight fluctuations since I originally went from 290+ to 217 in August of 2010, I never went all the way back to 290 pounds. (Pro-tip: Get rid of clothes that are too big; Give yourself no where to go without admitting defeat.) I’ve already beaten the odds which say the vast majority of dieters regain what they lost within 2 years. I consider myself to have a leg up in this leg of the journey where the real goal isn’t the losing but the maintaining a healthy weight, reversing and preventing disease, and building my fitness levels. Deep down, I don’t consider “thin” one of my major goals. But excess weight is a health risk, especially when you have the underlying health challenges I do. Weight is also easy to measure.

As of this morning, I weigh 181.8 pounds.

While I don’t advocate for BMI as a measure of health as it only takes height and weight into account, it can be a useful comparison tool. I’m currently 39.2 on the BMI chart. At 290, I was 62.8. At 245, 53.

My goal, because it helps to have one, is 145 pounds. I picked it rather arbitrarily as I don’t have any concept of what my adult body at a normal weight would be like. Plus, it’s half of my highest known weight. It’s entirely possible I’ll won’t consider myself finished at that point, but I suspect it will be time to start working out in earnest

I was around the size I am now (weight unknown) in high school. I am not as muscular in my legs as I was back then when I walked everywhere, but I’m okay with that as part of the plan is *not* exercising in order to avoid bringing up a desire for more food. Since it’s impossible to outrun your mouth, this has proven an effective strategy. Have I lost muscle? No doubt. But what I lost was marbled with fat like a fine cut of steak. Once I reach my goal, I’ll be working to rebuild lean muscles as well as firm and tone which should be easier without the excess me. I have some unorthodox goals but being tasty when grilled is not one of them. Sorry, you are going to have to stick me in the slow cooker with some barbecue sauce.

I have begun in the last few weeks to take walks again. There was a period a few years back when Chris had to drop me off an hour and a half before my shift started so I got in the habit of walking three miles in the morning before work and usually a mile on my lunch. I got to where I was consistently hitting 20 minutes per mile and sometime squeaking out a bit faster. I got addicted to the feeling of that third mile when adrenaline starts pumping hard. I’m not pushing hard these days as my endurance and stamina aren’t what they once were, but it still feels good to put my headphones on and move.

Accomplishments matter. Less to impress others than to convince myself I’m capable. Being able to say I’ve lost 100 pounds and am a mere 37 pounds from my goal is a big deal well beyond the realm of the scale.

UPON TURNING THRITY-TWO

As is my habit, I am composing a post to commentate my birthday and to reflect upon the last year of my life and making plans for the coming year. Once upon a time, I did a similar thing in my paper journals for my eyes only, but as spiral notebooks have given way to WordPress, I publish the results for the world to read if it chooses. I have skipped years under both methods and, with the exception of last year, my words are gone, but here I am having lived one more year.

And a what a wonderful year it has been. Never have I been so busy. Just a few days ago, I told Chris how I often wish I could move up time from all those years I didn’t have much going on to now when every moment of every day seems packed to the gills.

We went from my birthday last year to Dragon*Con Labor Day weekend in the blink of an eye, then on to the holiday season. It was my second in a row working retail and hopefully my last for the rest of my days. Going from sixteen or twenty hours to thirty or more for the holiday season was rough on my body more than the rest of me. In large part, my recent return to working in a call center was based on the need to stop abusing my feet, knees and hips on those concrete floors. But I am getting ahead of myself as I didn’t start the new job until June. In fact, only a few weeks came between my decision to find something and accepting the new position.

The New Year brought one thing and one thing only: sewing. We thought we planned plenty of time for the work we’d committed to in preparation to be the Klingon wedding at Trex Trax Atlanta in late April. We spent almost as many hours telling friends and co-workers it would not be a legal and binding wedding, or at least not on this planet.

In March, I took Chris to Seattle to meet my family and George Takei at Emerald City Comic Con. I cannot speak for Mr. Takei, but my family was very impressed with Chris and thrilled he chose to propose at the convention while they could be a part of it. I was surprised at the timing, not the question itself, as it should be. The setting was perfectly us and couldn’t have been more geek-romantic including a video of the moment I innocently thought was to tease our con-going friends who couldn’t be with us.

Being engaged leads to the inevitable question: “When are you getting married?”

We put off those questions for a while with the urgency over getting every detail ready for our Klingon ceremony. Outfitting ourselves from head to (in my case) toe was no small undertaking. I was at the sewing machine until 2 AM the night before the convention and stitched a detail or two on the car ride to Atlanta, not to mention a few missed seams I didn’t find until ironing everything in the hours before the big event. Don’t let me fool you, though, it was better to be busy than to worry about the performance itself.

For better or worse, too, I’d agreed to compete in the Miss Klingon pageant that weekend. And I did. I was awful, but I entered to round out the number of contestants to a robust three Klingon ladies. I certainly hope enough warriors step up next time that I will not be needed next year. I’ve made it clear I never, ever want to see video of the event, but I’m glad I had the guts to do it.

I am far more proud of the costume I tossed together in the last 48 hours before the convention than I am my time on the stage, but admittedly, I am extremely proud to have fulfilled the dream I’d had as a little kid to learn to sew. Chris was instrumental in teaching me how to use a sewing machine and encouraging both my costuming projects and general craftiness. While there aren’t enough hours in the day for all the ideas in my head, for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m allowed to have hobbies even if they require the twin resources of time and money. It doesn’t sound like a big deal for most people, but it’s huge for me.

About that wedding stuff: While it’s very important to us to have a marriage legal here on Earth, not just in the Klingon Empire, I’m not concerned in the least about the details of a wedding. It’s just not something that ever mattered to me for a variety of reasons. We do intend to figure out a time when, at the very least, my parents will be able to fly out for the event. Early next year seems likely, but at present other factors keep us from setting a firm date. Truth be told, the main thing I’m looking forward to is changing my name. It will be the main practical change marriage will bring as it is with so many couples who live together beforehand, but it is of special concern to me. I elected to keep my married name when I got divorced, both because it did not seem worth the effort in paperwork to change twice within a couple years knowing Chris and I were intending to marry eventually and because my ties to my maiden name never went as deep as most since I’d used my step-dad’s name growing up. While I don’t regret that choice, I think it’s understandable I’m ready to shed the last day-to-day reminder of my previous relationship. It’s weird sometimes to think nearly everyone I interact with on a daily basis doesn’t consider the association and after nearly eleven years, I don’t think about it every day either.

As mentioned above, I took a new job in a call center. Chris and I managed to end up in the same training class and we are both working a weird late night shift. It is my personal policy not to discuss work on the interwebs, except to say, work is work and it pays the bills.
I’m grateful to have always been extremely employable. I still, and likely always will, consider the possibility of college, but this fall is not in the cards and likely not spring either, and I’m not sold on my desire to do it like I was a few years ago.

Worth mentioning is the one frustration I can’t seem to get past: Despite efforts – my own and others – I’ve reached yet another birthday without a driver’s license. I was 18 or 19 when I first got a learner’s permit in Washington State, but never actually drove there. Sometime after I moved to Western New York in 2001, I again got a permit and this time actually drove, but I hadn’t driven at all since I left there in 2005. I’ve had more than a few road blocks since I’ve moved here, too. First, my eyesight is now bad enough I couldn’t pass the DMV’s vision test without glasses like I could when I was younger. Now, I have a permit, but I seldom have access to a car I can drive as I’m limited by my height. Plenty of short people are going to see that and claim they can drive anything, but I assure you, the difference between being 5’0 or 5’2 tall and 4’9 makes that not the case for me. Our friend Alex has taken me out driving a few times. I can drive his van, but our schedules, the restriction on permits to driving between 6 am and midnight, plus various other responsibilities on both sides make it tricky to rack up the necessary amount of practice time. It was, however, a relief to find I hadn’t lost the knack entirely in all the years since I was last behind the wheel, but I am not even close to ready to pass a driver’s exam. We are, slowly but surely, saving for another car and hoping Chris’ car (which I can’t drive) will remain on the road long enough to allow us to have two cars while saving for it’s replacement.

Truth be told, I feel defeated by the whole situation and I don’t really see myself ever having the independence nearly every adult in our country takes for granted. Most adults who aren’t licensed drivers have done something to be striped of the privilege, but that is not my situation. No one thought to make it a priority when I was a teenager and, as an adult, it’s been one struggle after another and I just haven’t been able to make it work. It would be one thing to live in an area with mass transit, but living where I do, I am effectively trapped and totally dependent on other people to get around. My choices are limited in so many ways. I can’t take just any job. I can’t make a doctor’s appointment without figuring out who is going to take me. I can’t go to the store by myself unless I want to spend an hour, round trip, walking route with no sidewalks or street lights which only gets me to the closest places. If I really need something, of course, I have more than I few people who would be willing to come get me and I am thankful for that, but the difference between needing something and being able to go somewhere because I feel like going is a large gap. I try really hard not to let it get me down, but it’s hard not to dwell on it when I’m stuck at home on my days off.

Not to leave my post on a downer, though I’ve past my midnight Eastern standard time birthday deadline for publication, I should share my more hopeful plans for the coming year. It is good to remember I have control in a handful of areas of my life when I don’t always feel like I do.

After a too long period of slacking off on proper eating and fitness, I’ve been back on track the last month or so. I bought myself a Wii Fit and while my goal of logging an hour of workout time every single day has proved a bit lofty, I have at least stepped on the balance board every single day. I try to divide my time primarily between yoga and aerobic games. Food-wise, it’s as simple as keeping the house free of problem foods. My big one is bread. I would eat toast all day and often would when I was stuck home alone. Sticking with simple to cook proteins, veggies and fruits and limiting meals out to a few times a week is easy enough, really. I don’t think of it as a “diet” and it only takes a few weeks to remember how much better I feel when I’m taking care of myself. I’ve also started (as of today) a joint supplement which comes highly recommended and I hope to get relief from the aches which keep me from working out as hard and as much as I’d like.

The other area I am looking to make some headway in is various creative pursuits. As always, I’m going to maintain a blog in some form or fashion. You’ll notice, I’ve been more regular lately than I have been in the life of this site. As I always say, blog hosting is cheaper than therapy. I may or may not make an effort to monetize. Certainly, it’s not my main goal with being here or I would worry about SEO and the like.

I’ve toyed with the idea of participating in National Novel Writing Month and even read No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. I don’t know if November is the best month for me to make the attempt and the idea of joining the big group of people who make the attempt every year doesn’t appeal to me. I am too much an individualist to desire that sort of thing. Now, a few well placed friends would be another matter. I still don’t know if fiction is something I’m suited to write, but I do feel I ought to try if for no other reason than to prove to myself I don’t want to pursue it further.

One thing I know for sure having spent many, many hours over the cutting table (okay, actually, the bed with a cardboard cutting mat on it) and the sewing machine is that writing alone is not enough creative outlet. I need pleasure of making something with my hands. Inspiration and gathering supplies followed by the frustrations and triumphs of developing new skills or the calming tedium of tasks like cutting patterns or sewing straight lines all contribute to a sense of accomplishment like I’ve not found in other tasks. I think it is having something concrete to show for my labor, something both attractive and practical, which not just anyone can recreate without some level of skill. I also find a certain pleasure in a project which can be accomplished in a few hours, especially between more time intensive projects. To that end, and because I am a cold blooded capitalist, I’ve decided to open an Etsy store with some small projects. My inventory is still under development, but I’ve had good feedback so far on the items I’ve been working on. You’ll be able to search me under “Nerdbliss” and once I have everything set up, I’ll have a widget on the blog and will bore my few but precious readers with pictures and links. I have no illusions about quitting my day (night?) job, but I wouldn’t mind if it paid for the additions to my stash. I’ve carefully compared prices on supplies so even if my sales are modest, my profit margins will make it possible to invest in more variety of materials with the goal of a modest but steady income.

Before, I write past midnight on the West coast, I should call it a year. It’s been an overwhelmingly good one. Even on the hardest days, I am content with the most important parts of my life. I am happy, but still driven to make my life and the lives of those I care for a little better as we go along. I have opportunities to express myself and be productive. I am well loved and cared for by a diverse network of family and friends. I am both lucky and blessed.

AIRING LAUNDRY

The refrain of “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” might be passe in modern America. We’ve moved beyond talk shows into reality shows where instead of sitting on a stage talking about their problems, people invite cameras into their homes to get high def footage of the dirtiest of dirty laundry. I am not a fan of talk shows which serve only to parade guests’ dysfunctions or reality shows where the most outrageously messed up examples of humanity are the most popular. Certainly some of my distaste for such programing is the deep sense of privacy and propriety I was brought up to model.

But not all airing of dirty laundry is created equal.

As I have been thinking about being more honest as a writer, I have been thinking about things like gossip and the airing of laundry in public. It does not get more public than the internet, does it?

I happen to know, during the time I spent in Seattle in 2010 recovering from events which ultimately changed every facet of my life, my situation was discussed, literally, coast to coast. For the most part, the participants cared about me and my happiness. I understand what I went through and the decisions I made as a result weren’t always easy to watch from the outside. It was doubly hard from the inside and I removed myself from the “public” life I have cultivated on the internet as a result, no doubt adding to fuel to the flames.

I don’t hold it against anyone who may have had something to say during those troubled times, but I do wish more of the conversations had been with me rather than about me.

The experience does make my mission to write honestly a bit scary.

One of the influences I didn’t mention in my last post might be the most important in all my determination to blog more intimately about my life. The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast hosted by Paul Gilmartin has both entertained and fasionated me since I discovered it in late 2011. I went back and listened to every single episode. Each one features Paul interviewing someone – mostly creative folks – about their lives, hangups, addictions, and fears. Sometimes I nod as I listen and sometimes I think “whoa, I’m pretty normal compared to that hot mess” – most often during the same interview. I cannot say enough good about the podcast for anyone who’s interested in mental illness and creativity.

One thing Paul always makes clear as he and his guests talk about their pasts is they aren’t out to blame anyone, that most people in their lives haven’t been malicious, but have done they best they could. We all have family, teachers, friends, romantic partners, doctors, classmates, bosses and all kinds of people who affect us in ways both good, bad and, worst of all, complicated. The other person doesn’t matter, really, but examining the relationship does matter in figuring out where to go from the point of saying, “I have some issues.” After listening to 50-odd episodes of Mental Pod, I’ve come to see how my fear of “airing dirty laundry” has severally curtailed my ability to write about my life.

While I’m pretty awesome, I’m also get tangled up in patterns of thinking that started long before I was aware of, well, anything. Getting untangled is why I’m driven to write and why it’s the first thing I go back to when something bad happens. For a change, I’m in control because my life is freaking fantastic. Not perfect, but oh so good. I’m still me, there are some knots to fuss with, and I’d rather do it here than in a therapist’s office.

One thing I know for sure is dirty laundry needs to be aired in some form or it will fester, mold, mildew and ruin lives.

Balancing truth vs. privacy vs. not throwing people under buses is something I’m going to have to learn as I go along. I do not even think my life and past is all that scandalous, but it is the foundation of who I am. Nor is every post I’ve been too afraid to write primarily about my life. I have never been much for commenting on political or social issues on my blog because I do not want to stir the pot. As someone who does care about the world at large, I have opinions I’m passionate about. I admire people – agree with them or not – who are willing to state their beliefs publicly. Discourse is important.

My voice is important, or at least as important as every other yahoo with a modem, and my fear of being judged for thinking one way or another isn’t nearly as important. I know, deep down, what Dr. Suess says is true, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”

TO TELL (MY) TRUTH

I haven’t been honest in my writing. I have avoided the truth at every turn, written about safe topics and superficial feelings. It’s easy to write book reviews or answer silly quizzes or post pictures of craft projects. Those are perfectly reasonable things to post on a personal blog, but alone it is not all that personal.

I sometimes scratch the surface of deeper things; daily struggles, health and physiological issues. But I hold back, never cutting beyond the skin. Talking about the fact I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression isn’t hard. Telling my readers, today I was frozen by anxiety with irrational fears running through my head is terrifying. Equally frightful is the prospect of explaining happiness and joy.

Hell, I often don’t admit to myself how I’m feeling, but instead keep pushing forward.

Pushing forward is great. “Doing” is a strategy I fully embrace. For 2012, I made a to-do list rather than resolutions. Sitting around thinking is about the worst thing a person like me can do, but a busy schedule isn’t a cure. Nor, ironically, is a happy life. Is that annoying or what?

In many years of self-examination, I have found I don’t figure out anything by thinking. Talking, even to my nearest and dearest, doesn’t do the trick either. I can’t tell anyone what I don’t know or understand. Since I was a kid, I have articulated myself to myself best by writing. My journals from those years are gone, paper and pen are no longer my native tools. A keyboard is where, if I free myself, my thoughts flow best. I don’t know what is coming before I start typing which in itself frustrates me. I crave a peek at the big picture.

Opening a Word document, keeping a journal on my computer like I did on paper off and on for most of my life, would be one solution to working out what’s on my mind and heart. No doubt, it would be helpful. There have been times I have done just that and certainly in the course of my life I will do so again. But that solution only solves half of the problem.

What I’ve realized lately is being a chicken shit blogger has more consequences than a boring blog and low traffic. It represents giving up on my dream of being a writer. I have accepted easily the fact it’s harder than ever to break into traditional publishing. I don’t care one lick about being on the New York Times Bestsellers List or even on Amazon’s list. I care about filling a blank screen with words destined to be read. Without the second part of the equation, it’s literary masturbation. It’s a dichotomy; one writes for oneself, because it’s necessary, but putting the words away in a shoe-box under the bed doesn’t satisfy the writer’s needs. Writing is a conversation as much as sitting across the table talking is a conversation.

In staying safe, I have failed as a writer. The truth is the only thing worth reading. That is as true in fiction as in personal writing. As a personal blogger, I aspire to the best of autobiographical essays. I aspire to challenge readers, but not half as much as I challenge myself.

It is not in isolation I have come to these conclusions. As I find to be the case when I’m struggling with something I need to do but don’t want to do, life, the universe and everything puts signposts in my path too bright to ignore.

First, I must credit my cousin Sarah, better known under her pen name, Ivy Marie, who’s been writing her heart out for a while now online, has published a book, and is brave enough to tell the truth, even when it’s ugly, scary or unflattering. Not only has she found her voice with no formal training, she’s managed to make money doing it. I am inspired by her persistence and the sheer volume of words she’s written since she began her first blog.

After that, in no particular order, are some bloggers I deeply admire for the traits I want to infuse into my blog. Jessica Gottlieb wrote this post. The Gal Herself who chronically her life with such honesty it’s easy to forget she does it anonymously.

Dan of Single Dad Laughing writes bravely about the very meaning of life and happiness. Seriously, his top posts page has something for everyone or start with Who’s Life is It Anyway.

Of course, and always, there are writers who have influenced me for decades. Issac Asimov and Madeleine L’Engle top the list which includes so many fine, brave writers. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them, nor would I hold the dream I can’t shake loose (I’ve tried) of walking in their footsteps.

I am afraid of the consequences of digging deeper, but I am also afraid of the consequences of silence. If I’m honest, I am more afraid of the consequences of silence. Not sure what’s coming as a result of this honesty I vow to pursue, but I know it’s necessary.

SOCIAL INTROVERT

I’ve been searching out memes and writing prompts in more free form than the typical quiz format. I have fun with those and have met a ton of blogging friends participating in them over the years, but they do not allow for a ton of creativity. One of the weekly prompts I found is Friday Question at ilaxStudio, the book of a pretty cool lady named Kim. I’d encourage my meme loving friends to check it out. Oh, and, I still think of it as Friday until I’ve gone to bed.

Today’s Friday Question: What is your definition of introvert/extrovert and which characteristics do you identify with more (introvert, extrovert, in-between)?

For most of my life, I considered myself introverted. Growing up, I didn’t have much of a social life. I really had no social life most of my school age years. Some of the problem was how often we moved around when I was a kid. If I was lucky, I had a friend from school who lived close enough to hang out after school, weekends, and summer vacation. Otherwise, I had my younger brother, books, and Barbies. In high school, things were a little different, but not much. I had a few friends, but still no social life or extra curricular activities. I read and wrote constantly mostly in my room listening to music primarily recorded sometime before my birth. Yeah, I was cool.

It was when I was eighteen that I found my seemingly extroverted side. I’d gone back for my senior year of high school and soon after got hired at Payless ShoeSource. It was my very first job. People don’t think about it this way, but it was a sales and customer service job. I had a great manager who did most of the logistical work of running the store allowing his staff to focus on selling. Something about being given a task and a name tag lifted the vial of shyness. No surprise. For a people pleaser like me simply wants to meet the goals my teachers and now my boss set forth. Following recommendations on my technique, I learned to be the smiling, outgoing sales girl the position required. And I loved it. I loved connecting with a customer as a person. I loved convincing someone to buy an item based on my recommendation. I even loved the horrible customers. I loved talking down an angry customer or getting complements on how nice I was from a truly grating customer. I learned so much about interacting with people.

Only once in the intervening dozen years have I worked in a job that didn’t involve working with the public. I worked as a temp for couple weeks in a factory, light manufacturing. It was awful in large part because I was lonely. No one who meets me would assume I’m introverted or even shy. I love to talk, meet new people, strike up conversations in the grocery line. But I still sometimes felt socially awkward and essentially felt like an introvert inside, wanting to be alone or with someone I was comfortable enough with to be silent much of the time.

So, the question in my mind became: Was I always an extrovert who was simply socially stunted?

I didn’t understand my own duplicity in the area until I read the blog post John Scalzi wrote on the subject, Portrait of a Closet Introvert. I could relate and, most important, he defined the reasons I seemed extroverted, but wasn’t.

Introverts recharge alone. Extroverts recharge in social situations. Plan and simple.

It’s not about liking or disliking people or socializing. I love people. It’s just I need a break to think about what happened when I was out with people before I can handle being with them again. I need to turn off the social part of myself and turn on the intellectual, critical part of myself without distraction. I need to write, read or listen to music. Once I am filled up again with those things which make me feel whole, I can face, even enjoy, just about any interpersonal interaction. Okay, not conflict. I’d rather walk in front of a bus.

Kim, our meme host, posted a great article and quiz (scroll down for quiz) about introverts along with her response to the question. I scored 16 out of 20 for introversion. Extroversion was not tested. I tend, in most physiological tests, to score close to the middle so it is possible I would score moderately extroverted where both traits were considered. Still I am certainly more introverted, but a far happier introvert when I have regular socialization.

A YEAR IN SOUTH CAROLINA

A year ago today, I set foot in South Carolina for the first time and moved to South Carolina all at the same time. I’d signed a lease by mail and made plans to stay as much as a lifelong nomad such as myself ever makes such plans. A couple suitcases and two months living expenses were all I brought with me.

It was a leap of faith at best. At worst, an insane risk doomed to failure. I figured somewhere in the middle to be closest to the truth. Following my gut and my heart (after running ideas past my brain) is usually the way I make the best decisions. My prayer during the planning phase was simple, “If I’m not supposed to do this, throw up roadblocks. If I’m supposed to be there, clear the way.”

My reasons for coming aren’t the same reasons I’m happy to stay, but I’m where I meant to be. Again, saying a lot for someone who has lived as many places as I have. I could easily make this post about my relationship with Chris – we meet the Thursday after Dragon*Con (Labor Day weekend, for the non-geeks) – and other people with whom I cannot imagine my life without as they are central to why I am here. Location has never been as important to me as people. Everywhere I’ve ever lived has it’s good and bad points, but mostly you go about the business of life similarly regardless of where you live.

Still, my new hometown deserves some love. I live in Simpsonville, South Carolina. It’s a good sized berg, home to over 18,000 people. It’s right up against Greenville, the largest city in Upstate South Carolina. Along with Spartanburg, it makes for a pretty impressive metropolitan area. After my last two long term hometowns, Farmington, Missouri and Sheridan, NY, being extremely small and rural, it’s a treat to have a plethora of shopping, dinning and cultural events within twenty minutes of my doorstep.

I have found the area to be less of a culture shock than I anticipated. It is, after all, The South. I have found four years in the rural Midwest to have cushioned the effect. Plus, the area is full of people who came from all over seeking jobs, low taxes and a mild climate. I have learned to call a shopping cart a “buggy” or at least not giggle when other people do. I am fascinated by the wide range of accents I hear from people born and raised here. Those who appear to be without, those who hit certain words and show their roots, and a few people I can hardly understand. People are friendly and polite in a genuine way.

The climate was my biggest worry. I do poorly in the heat. But, you know what? I’m a geek. I stay inside as much as possible anyway. I’ve spent the summer in air conditioning and it’s all good. The pool at our apartment complex is open until 10 pm, so I get my swim in without getting overheated or sunburned. I have enough sense to stay hydrated and I’m perfectly fine. Now, if I was the outdoor type, the transition may have been harder. Winter was a breeze. We had snow on Christmas – just enough to be pretty – and a week of icy, snowy crud in January. If it got colder than 30 or so degrees, I didn’t notice.

So, South Carolina, on this date – our first anniversary – I’ve got to say, I’m liking you a whole lot. Even though I’m heading out the door momentarily for Atlanta, I’ll be home right after Dragon*Con.

BEEN PUTTING OFF POSTING ON PROCRASTINATION

I am so darn good at procrastinating. Take, for example, what I have done since typing the first to sentence of this post. I got up and made tea, watched a bit of a Star Trek: TNG with Chris, replied to a text message from Alex, checked Twitter and Facebook including a group I participate in, drank tea and ate a packet of Lance Toast Chee. To make it worse, I went and found the links to insert in the above sentence rather than finishing the post first. I managed to do so with minimal web surfing, only stopping to read the latest in my Twitter feed and click the “Like” buttons on the Lance website. Who doesn’t like oddly named crackers?

There is a point to explaining all those little tasks which kept me from writing. Writing, particularly blogging, is something I enjoy. When the words are flowing in full screen mode, it is a delight to watch the blank space fill up. As the length of my posts shows, I am seldom at a loss for words once I get going. While no writer, or artist of any kind, is ever totally without apprehension at calling a piece finished, I’m relatively satisfied with the completed product when I hit publish. I am, essentially, delaying and denying myself a great source of pleasure and positive feelings.

Blogging, is, of course, not the only thing I put off in impressive feats of procrastination. Housework, work-work, making doctors appointments, shaving my legs, and even going to bed at night. I am, if I do say so myself, a world class procrastinator.

I am enabled by a world more filled with distractions than ever. Of the things I did during the writing of the first paragraph, most of them include technology not available in my days as a young procrastinator. Even worse, I count all of the things I did as valid things to do. Facebook and Twitter, text messages and Netflix are all important parts of my life both for entertainment and keeping up with friends and family. Social networking is an aspect of blogging even because otherwise I’m talking to no one. See, the other part of procrastination at which I excel is justifying my stalling tactics.

My skill at procrastination is never far from my mind. At the end of the day, I often wish I’d accomplished more. I suspect modern life with endless revolving must-do and want-to-do lists makes the feeling common. Still, I know it must be possible to make better use of my time.

I was reminded of an article I’d read in Psychology Today when Renee commented on a quote I used in my post about starting a new diet. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” is one of my favorite principals from The Happiness Project. (By the way, Kate, I think I’ll be ordering you a new copy rather than returning the one you lent. Not today, but I promise not to put it off forever.) The article on the link between procrastination and perfectionism could have been a case study in my worst traits.

In a nutshell, the perfectionist fears falling to meet her own impossibly high standards, therefore avoids the task and risk of failure. See why “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” is so important?

Applying the principle back to blogging, I’ve read thousands of blog posts in my years in the blogging community. Some so good I feel I’d never live up. Some so bad I fear even one person thinks as poorly of my writing as I do of theirs. I don’t worry so much, for example, about spelling (thanks to spell check) or grammar (I’ve got this whole English thing down). I worry more about coming off as boring. Or too wordy. If I don’t write the post, it can’t suck. If I don’t blog at all, I don’t have to judge myself by my standards of how I ought to be as a blogger. Obviously, with writing, the judgement is subjective. I want to be interesting to people I find interesting. I want to make my ideas clear. I try, at my best moments, to make sure enough of me comes through what I write so people who like me as a person, in real life or online, will also like my posts.

In the name of both blogging and fighting those perfectionism-procrastination tenancies, I have my next post planned as a sort of live blog of a procrastination test from Psychology Today as my next post complete with commentary. The original plan had been to include it in this post and while I’ve no intention to tackle my problem (if it’s a problem) with overly long posts today, even I’m hesitant to push past a thousand words.

Ironically, one of my favorite ways to dink around on the internet instead of doing whatever it is I ought to be doing is taking quizzes. Oh, Blogthings, how you get me every time. Hopefully, the test is more revealing than discovering what flavor ice cream I am.

And, hopefully, I won’t put off doing it. As they say, stay tuned to find out.

ON THE FIRST 365 DAYS OF MY THIRTIES

Happy birthday to me! Much enjoyed dinner and cake with my dear friend Reecie and her seven year old daughter.

In a huge display of ego, I traditionally have written a blog post on or around my birthday discussing the year that was and the coming year. My old blog is no longer around, but I do have the posts archived for my own reference (there is nothing – NOTHING – wrong with plagiarizing yourself), so I took a look to see what I wrote last year. Can’t say I was surprised to discover I hadn’t written about my twenty-ninth year. It was, in all the big ways, a pile of frelling dren. And around my thirtieth birthday, I was preparing to make huge life changes I was unwilling to discus with the world at large. Fully aware I could have fallen on my face, I followed my gut and prayed like crazy.

A year later, I’m thinking I should have skipped my twenties. Gone straight from nineteen to thirty. Of course, I think enough about alternate timelines and the butterfly effect to understand the importance of the intervening years.

So how did I spend the last year?

I moved twice. Once across the country and once within the same apartment building.

I traded one full time job for two part time jobs. I don’t talk about either on the internet.

I started a new relationship. I got divorced. The order of those sentences is accurate, but the details cannot be explained in two lines. Somethings are best left unblogged.

I went on vacation and took overnight trips more times than I’ve have in the rest of my adult life.

I discovered I’m more a social creature than I believed myself to be. My friends and family, local and faraway, are the amazing. I feel like I fit in.

Life is good, busy and happy.

Times flies when you’re having fun. I had no idea how true the old chestnut can be. I suspect before long I’ll be back here writing my official thirty-second birthday post. Maybe I’ll even write a few posts in between.

WHAT’S MISSING?

 

I’ve got to say: My life is grand.
My best friend Kate sent me home from her house with a The Happiness Project to read on the flight home. In the book, Gretchen Rubin takes readers along as she spends a year exploring happiness with scholarly zeal and scientific curiosity. It’s a good read and got me thinking about happiness without feeling like a self help book. Her point wasn’t cultivating happiness as a cure for clinical depression. By her own admission, her life was good when she began thinking about happiness. Her project wasn’t about changing her life, but about being happier in life.

 

One concept from the book I latched onto was how happiness unexamined is less valuable. If you don’t think you’re happy, how can you be happy? The other side of the argument is if you have to ask wither you are happy, are you?  For me, thinking about happiness and what works or what doesn’t in my life is important. I’ve been some scary places ignoring unhappiness and depression. I’d plugged away at life. I’m not in that place anymore, but I’m ever aware of my relationship with happiness and stress. I think of it as being mindful – checking in with myself as if to ask “does this make you happy, Tina?”

I’d really love to read the book again, take some notes and share some thoughts here on my blog. I’ve subscribed to Gretchen’s blog, but haven’t played with all the toys and tools on her website yet. I’m undecided as to wither I intend to start my own formalized happiness project anytime soon. I’m busy and happy. My life fits me.

I have only one nagging concern – one missing and neglected piece. I don’t write anymore. It’s easy to see from my blog, I haven’t blogged. I’ve barely even Tweeted. I don’t have a notebook in my purse or nebulous bits of poems in my head. The idea of writing fiction seems as lost a dream as going to Harvard. Reading about Gretchen, lawyer turned writer, talking about doing what you love, but also working through frustration doing things which lead to long term happiness struck a cord. Writing is great… after it’s done. Or those rare times words gush before I’ve even thought about what comes next. Otherwise, it’s work.

I had been thinking on a blogging comeback – and blogging has always been a writing exercise for me – for a while before I took the trip to see Kate.

The question I began to ask myself: Why do I still think I ought to be writing?

The Happiness Project helped me find the answer: I go back to writing when things are bad in my life. Without fail, I look back on every traumatic event immediately followed by the purchase of a new notebook. When I’m happy, I’m busy living. Too busy to slow down and cultivate what is important to the deepest parts of myself? Seems to be a flaw in my logic.

The worst part is how difficult the process becomes when you haven’t kept up. Practice makes perfect. I know full well without discipline comes first in any creative endeavor. Typing out this post has been excruciating, to be honest, and I’ve taken much longer than I intended. What I’m pushing toward is publishing because once I have hit the button, posted to Facebook and Twitter that I have, I’ve accomplished something. One step at a time, I intend to blog consistently enough to call myself a blogger again. I’d love to build on blogging to make words my profession in some form or another.

First, I’m going to go ahead and hit publish.