Category Archives: making life way more complicated than necessary

carb loading

I went to the doctor today because my jaw hurt. And because the Internet told me the hurting might be related to an ear infection and the Internet is wise and I didn’t want to  take chances. But as it turns out, the hurting was not related to an ear infection. There is something wrong with my ear, BUT it is not related to the jaw pain. Because it’s important that nothing in my life have cohesion.

So anyway. The jaw pain is TMJ, which I have never suffered with before but apparently I have, and I aggravated it by probably chewing on something. Right. It’s an EATING injury. Of course it is. So I start thinking back to what I ate that might have been a bit chewy or out of the norm last week. Two candidates come to mind: Bacon and bread. On Monday night I was at a reception where there were bacon-wrapped scallops. So naturally, I ate my body weight’s worth.  I think the bacon is the less-likely candidate though. Because on Monday night I wasn’t drinking (actually, that’s not relevant, except it’s kind of the reason I ate so much bacon. Next best thing, you know). But Tuesday I was drinking, and then was at a restaurant with lots of fresh, hot bread. So in my infinite wisdom I ate like, two loaves of bread so the alcohol wouldn’t absorb into my system.

So I think what I have is a BREAD-EATING INJURY.

I could not make this up.

self-esteem

One of the things you hear women in their 40s say most often (the ones who think their 40s are wonderful, anyway), is that it’s great to be 40 because you’re finally comfortable with yourself. You’re free of all the bullshit and nonsense that accompanied your 20s and 30s. You know who you are, you’re comfortable with it, and to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it.

I so want to be one of those women. So it’s led me to really try to understand why I’m not.

I know that I have self-esteem issues. I also have a high level of anxiety. I’m almost constantly stressed out. I know that’s kind of the hallmark of 21st-century life, but I don’t deal with it well, and I really don’t want to live like this. I never really thought about the self-esteem and the anxiety being related at all though, until this week, when someone suggested that I’m anxious because I’m worried that I’m going to do things wrong, because I’m not good enough.

Good enough. Suddenly it all came together. Well of course I’m not good enough. That’s part of who I am, as much as my hair or eye color.

My husband and parents would give me a big “duh” right here. They, who know me best,  have lived with me and get the brunt of my freakouts and moods and temper tantrums, have always answered “What is lack of self esteem?” to the Jeopardy category of  “Amy’s biggest problem.” And while it was a no-brainer to connect with my body-image issues, I wouldn’t have connected it with the anxiety.

But once I started to really think about it, it made more and more sense.  Merriam-Webster’s definition of self esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. I do not have confidence in myself. Generally, no matter what I’m worried about, what I’m stressing about, what I’m anxious about, it can be boiled down to a deep-rooted fear that I’m gonna fuck something up. I made a point this week to, every time I felt anxiety, spend time thinking about why I felt it. Like, why am I worried so much about this stupid work event that I’ve dealt with for 10 years now? There are many, many things about this event that could worry me — people’s reactions to it are at the top of the list. But dig deeper, and I’m really worried that they’ll have those reactions because I’ve done something wrong, something that will cause those reactions. Then I worry that my response to negative reactions will also be wrong. What will I say? How will I phrase the email? What will I do? Stress, worry and anxiety, all based on my potential actions; actions that will be wrong because I am not good enough.

In college I wrote a short story for a writing class, called Good Enough. It’s a story about a girl struggling with anorexia. She’s not there yet, but she’s on the doorstep. She’s constantly beating herself up for not spending long enough at the gym, for going to McDonalds, for not being thin enough or pretty enough or good enough. It wasn’t really autobiographical because even though our thought processes were the same, I didn’t work out as much as she did, or walk away from hamburgers like she did. I wasn’t even good enough to be anorexic. Pretty sure you don’t have to be Freud to psychoanalyze the shit out of that one.

So, go me. I’ve stayed on the path to self-awareness for longer than five minutes without getting bored and drinking wine instead. I think I made some headway into understanding my thought processes and made some interesting insights. The question now is, what the hell do I do about it?

totally not like riding a bike

I discovered recently that a really horrible thing has happened to me. I kind of suspected it might be a problem, but I was unwilling to really admit it until it was right in my face. Once that happened, though, I was forced to acknowledge that it’s true.

I have forgotten how to shop.

I know. It was tough to type it, and even tougher to admit it. It’s kind of like Lance Armstrong forgetting how to ride a bike. Except … well, I guess they say you never forget how to ride a bike, so maybe that’s not a good example. Because this wasn’t one of those things that you walk away from for several years and then come back to and find that, oh yeah, I totally remember how to do this. No. I was just like those people on What Not to Wear, the ones who are handed the $5,000 gift card and then sent into Manhattan’s finest department stores and shops, only to stand there looking like a deer in headlights, searching around them for something familiar to grab on to;  that one item of clothing that they’ll see and say, Oh, yes, I understand that. I know what it is, I know I should try it on and I can envision that it will look good on me. Only that doesn’t happen because nowhere in these shops is a $7 Basic T from Target, which is the one final item of clothing people who lose their shopping skills understand.

I used to mock those people. I used to watch WNTW faithfully, every Friday night. And from the safe confines of my living room I was snarky and catty and entertained by the sheer ineptitude of the fashion victims. Because I knew how to shop. Oh yes. Shopping was my thing. It was my sport, my hobby, my favorite passtime. I spent at least one full day every weekend (and, it goes without saying, a lot of money) shopping. I felt annoyed with the WNTW participants because if I was given a $5,000 gift card and sent into Macy’s, I would ROCK IT. It’s not that I was high-fashion; I wasn’t all runway, Fashion Week, super trendy. But I was pretty freakin’ stylish and cute. I had hundreds of pairs of shoes in all types and heights of heels. Boots – oh, the boots. Every color, including hot pink. And outfits to go with all of them. I had a lot of clothes.

So then, you know, shit happened, I got fat, I got married, I got fiscally responsible. I stopped shopping. For FOUR YEARS. Then last week my mom followed through on her promise that if I lost the weight she’d take me shopping for my birthday. Mom and I used to do some serious shopping damage. We’d tear up the Florida Mall on Black Fridays.  We’d go to New York and put a dent in Macy’s. I could take on an H&M and emerge victorious.

But as it turns out, shopping is a behavior you can forget. I tried to start too big, with H&M. H&M is a hard store to shop, even for the skilled shopper. There’s sort of this pretense of departments, but really there are just clothes everywhere. It takes a practiced hand to know where to go and what you’re looking at. I crumbled within five minutes and headed for my old, safe standby, New York & Co. It was always a place I could find work clothes – some decent pants, a cute top or two. But I ran out of that store practically in tears. It beat me.

It took Ann Taylor Loft to get me in the grove. It doesn’t come much safer than ATL – everything is safe, classic and put together for you. Not much thinking required. I’m not proud, but it was in the safe zone of ATL I was able to get any significant pieces. And then – even safer? Old Navy. Yes. I did the bulk of my shopping at Old Navy. Uninspired and inexpensive, but easy.

We tried the department stores after that, but once again I was overwhelmed. I was like those victims I used to mock on WTNW, wandering terrified through the racks like the chick on the Blair Witch Project trying to find her way out of the woods.

It wasn’t pretty and I’m disappointed in myself. I’m going to have to go back into training. Don’t tell my husband.

how not to diet

So in a rare burst of good sense, I just deleted a post about what a giant failure I am. It was a good vent, and I was really upset when I wrote it, but it didn’t need to be out there for posterity.

What does need to be out there is that binge eating is not a solution for anything, and the sooner I can figure that out and break the cycle, the better off I’ll be. “Sooner” being a relative term, since obviously in 40 or so years I haven’t quite gotten there yet.

It’s a pretty typical scenario. I get depressed, usually about weight or money or, more often, both. Maybe other stuff is added in. Maybe it’s February and I haven’t been to the beach in 4 or 5 months. Maybe the looming 40th birthday has me irrationally freaked out, particularly career-wise – I get terrified that I am not qualified to do any job out there other than the one I’m doing , and what the hell does my future hold if something happens? Even though the whole reason for that, of course, is my own crippling lack of self-confidence.

You know, just general stuff like that.

So the logical response to any of those issues is to eat. Even when you’re spending $40 a month on Weight Watchers and you’re so close to goal you can taste it (no pun intended) and so maybe possibly we can throw “self-sabotage” in there too as a reason for the binging. Because I know, as surely as I know anything, that once I hit my goal I’m going to think I’m fat at that new weight, and stress and obsess and screw up numerous opportunities to lose more weight. Repeat, ad nauseam.

I was doing great this week. I was a perfect little WeWa-er. I ate what I was supposed to, in its healthiest forms. Protein, complex carbs, limited sugars. Small glasses of red wine at night. Exercise. For four days. And the scale showed it, proving that if you just do what you’re supposed to, it works. So naturally, I fell apart in spectacular fashion. I binged. And I binged on what was in the house, so I binged on healthy food. Whole-wheat pasta with tuna added in because it’s important to have protein with every meal – even when your meal is about 6 serving sizes. A full tub of fat-free Greek yogurt with Swiss Miss mixed in for that chocolatey goodness that will make you forget to miss ice cream. Dark chocolate, because if you’re going to have a little chocolate, dark is much better for you, and if a little dark chocolate is better for you, a huge slab of it must be really, really better. A bottle of red wine. God, just think of the antioxidants coursing through my system.

So if you’re going to do shit like this, you want to be sure to save the worst of it for the night before weigh-in. That’s when, after a day when you cried more than you didn’t, you want to go OUT to dinner and make sure you get there in time to have three glasses of happy-hour wine, and since you’re splitting an appetizer-sized flatbread with your husband, who is at goal and will probably still be there tomorrow despite this, you should also order the bisque. Because nothing says Weight Watchers like cream- and butter-based soup. And then, just to be sure your weigh-in will be an utter failure, you should split a dessert the size of your head.

And just to ensure a complete meltdown on the scale, you should get on the treadmill to do a run and break down crying two minutes in. Crying does not earn activity points, sadly enough, even when done on a piece of exercise equipment.

What the fuck, people? What the FUCK? I can’t even get on that scale tomorrow – it’ll be up a good 5 pounds and I can’t even think of the tailspin that’ll throw me into.

celebrating my annual identity crisis

I’m not sure at what point in life one is supposed to cross over into adulthood and send out your own holiday cards, rather than having your name tacked onto your parents’. I’m guessing, however, somewhere around 40 is a reasonable time frame.

As with most things relating to maturity, I have been solidly behind the curve on this. I think I sent some cards out once in my 20s, probably because I was drunk. And maybe again the year I got married, because I actually had an up-to-date address list and I was deluded into thinking that being married meant being an adult. But this year I’d moved on past such foolish rituals and was happy in my “no-responsibilities” holiday season. No kids, no shopping to do, no cards to send. No stress. It was a good plan. I should have stuck with it. But then a friend made a comment on Facebook (another age-inappropriate highlight of my life) that “if you knew how excited a 6-year-old gets about seeing Christmas cards in the mail, you’d send them.” OK, guilt button pressed.

So the Sunday before Christmas I pulled out all the boxes of cards I buy every year in my after-Christmas, half-price shopping spree (oh, the yards and yards of wrapping paper and garland I own … never mind that I neither wrap presents nor have a tree) and found my wedding/address list file, and went at it.

Holiday cards are really fucking complicated.

I had two boxes of cards. One was completely non-holiday specific, and one was funny but said “Merry Xmas” on it. So clearly, the Jews needed to get the non-specific card. However, the more religious Christians couldn’t get the Merry Xmas card because of the whole Christ/X thing. And then there was also the fact that Hanukkah was like, three weeks ago, so I had to craft my message carefully so it was obvious that I was really just sending best wishes for the new year, oh, so you happened to get this the day before Christmas … is it Christmas this week? I hadn’t realized. I spent the next two hours doing the kind of analysis into people’s potential religious beliefs that should only be attempted by historical scholars on a civilization that’s been extinct for 1,000 years.  I even had to go to the store and buy actual New Year’s cards for the extra-Jewish folks on my list, because apparently my neutral card wasn’t neutral enough.

So I put the damn things in the mail and proceeded to spend the rest of the week worrying about who I’ve offended. Did I write something stupid? Did I send the wrong card to the wrong people? Did I accidentally mention “Christmas” on a Jewish card? What about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons? Are they even allowed to get cards? With glitter?

Why did I do this? Why? What business do I have sending cards to celebrate a holiday when I’m not even sure what holiday I’m celebrating? Even if there are cards for Christmukkah (and I’m sure there are) you just can’t send those to everyone, and the ones that are really multi-religion and “embrace all faiths” imply some religion and/or faith, which I do not so much have. On December 25th I celebrate the birth of Jimmy Buffett by eating turkey and pie, and wish I still believed in Santa. And really, the only reason to send cards anyway is to assuage guilt about not being in touch with people all the rest of the year, and HELLO, that’s what Facebook is for.

Next year, I’m totally back to being one of “the Turners.” Happy holidays.