“All of the sudden, everything just changed in a day,” my boyfriend said, shaking his head. “Even the cat’s on a diet.”
To be fair, I switched the cat to canned food because she was throwing up the raw stuff, but that’s another, messier story.
These changes were a long time coming. It’s hard to know what triggered them, but I think most of them were related to having a shitty Christmas back home and being “advanced maternal age” with another birthday coming up. I was unhappy and frustrated with a lot of stuff in my life: being broke, having credit card debt from all our amazing international adventures and cross country road trips, my clothes falling apart, feeling bloated and schlubby all the time, and feeling like my life and career had no clear direction. I was channeling a lot of that into my relationship, and I didn’t like how I was treating my boyfriend. I didn’t like how I felt about myself and other people who I thought were prettier and more successful than me.
I finally had enough of feeling like crap. I set up an appointment with my counselor, and, since he couldn’t see me until the next week, I started looking around for other stuff to pacify me until then.
A few months ago, one of my friends told me about the job board sent out weekly by The Actor’s Fund. In order to receive it, you have to attend a free Career Orientation where they tell you about all the free programs they offer, which are all awesome. I finally asked her for a link to the calendar and went as soon as I could. That led to me taking their Career Assessment workshop, where I learned a lot about what I want in a career and met a fellow job-seeker who offered to meet for an asexual breakfast to find out if I could fit into any jobs he’d found.
I did an hour-long yoga class from YouTube one day, went for a jog the next day, did the Cirque du Soleil 6 minute ab routine the day after that, and went swimming with a friend a couple days later. I made an effort to wear things in my closet I’d never had the courage to take out before, even though my boyfriend found them confusing, “I’ve always had a thing about that hat.” Okay… I’m going to wear it anyway.
I’ve been on the InfoList.com mailing list for months, and one of their emails offered a free, on-camera seminar that weekend at an acting school I’d never heard of. I attended and signed up for twice a week classes at a rate that I later discovered was really high.
With a sudden hefty recurring monthly charge, I completed a bunch of website work I’d been putting off and, lo and behold, it was the amount I needed for the first month of classes.
I started waking up at 7am, even when I had nothing scheduled for the day. After a week of this, my body did it automatically today, Saturday morning, after going to bed at 12:30am. Awesome. No, I really mean that. You can get a lot done in the mornings!
I pumped up the tires on my dusty, rusty Burning Man bike, strapped a mad dog mask to my helmet, and biked the five mile round-trip to my new acting class. It was exhilarating to feel the wind on my face, and thrilling to pass cars stuck in traffic. Parking in front of your final destination in Los Angeles is one of the best feelings in the world, and with a bike, it happens literally every time.
Since I was blaming a lot of things on my relationship, I thought this trend might be connected to the codependent tendencies brought out by my former marriage to a narcissist. I searched the Los Angeles Public Library catalog for self-help books and found You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. I knew my card gave me access to digital resources, but I didn’t realize you could listen to audiobooks in their native app! I downloaded OverDrive onto my phone and started listening to Jen non-stop: while I was jogging, driving, cooking, and working. When the book ended, I started it over again so I could pause and do the exercises.
I told friends about the audiobook, and was surprised to hear them say they already thought I was a badass. It’s all about perspective, I guess. I knew I could achieve more, and that was bothering me.
And the cherry on top of the recent self-help binge was the Whole30 diet. For years I’ve had chest/back acne and gut bloating. At one point when I was living in Chicago 12 years ago, I had a bunch of testing done, my butt examined, tried different diets, and even irrigated my colon daily. Tests came back negative, and no one found any lumps, so I just accepted that I would never have a flat stomach and I would always have to use medicated acne washes and let the lather sit on my chest and back for five minutes every time I showered for the rest of my life. That’s crazy. If someone says you have to do anything other than eat, sleep, breathe, poop and pay taxes the rest of your life, find an alternative solution.
My cousins did the Whole30 diet last year and raved about how great they felt. I like any diet that doesn’t require buying a bunch of weird ingredients and supplements, and this one seemed straightforward enough: no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no preservatives, no added sugar. Just lots of veggies, eggs, and meat. Since I was eating ice cream before bed every night, I figured it would be great to break out of some bad habits. I’m now on Day 4 out of 30, and I was starting to feel like I’m spending half of every day shopping for groceries or trapped in the kitchen.
Then something amazing happened last night as I was listening to my audiobook while making a dinner casserole and prepping a breakfast one: I felt happy to cook. Normally I rush through cooking as a minor annoyance: “I really should be doing something to further my life instead of wasting time making food.” The diet gave me permission; it was part of my life now to make healthy food from scratch.
I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. I felt awesome about myself and all I had accomplished in the past couple weeks. I didn’t feel like I should have been anywhere else, even though it was Friday night. I was happy to be carmelizing onions in nitrate-free bacon grease and giggling over Jen’s spunky metaphors.
Hopefully I’m still happy after being on this diet another 26 days!
I write all this in the hopes you will be inspired to start stuff you’ve been putting off. I had the tools to do this all along: I had heard about the job board months ago, there are acting classes every minute of the day in LA and most of my friends are making great progress in them, I already had a library card, I had been struggling to complete my web design job for months, I felt like my body was mediocre for years, I had been unhappy with my judgemental thought processes about myself and others since I was a teen.
Do yourself a favor today and take one step. You’ll feel better immediately. And then, take another step…