30 Days of No Sugar, No Grain.

Pizza, ice cream, and tacos are life’s joys. I love them all so much, but unfortunately they do not love me back. I have been struggling for months, even years with negative body symptoms, which I could not exactly pinpoint the cause. The symptoms are pretty vague and include: bloating, heartburn, gas, joint pain, headaches, phlegm, stomach pain, rosacea, fatigue, and a mix of constipation and diarrhea, etc. The list of sexy symptoms goes on.

I knew my diet could be better, but I just did not know where to start for elimination. In September, I did 30 days without dairy and my symptoms did not seem to relent. So for October, after watching the documentary Fat, both my husband, Paul and I decided to experiment by cutting added and refined sugar (including honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.) and grains (including corn, quinoa, rice, wheat, beer, etc.) from our diets for 30 days to see if we experienced positive results.

It sounds so simple to cut two things out of your diet, but the problem is sugar and grains are in nearly EVERYTHING. Sugar and grains are in drinks, pasta sauce, salad dressing, pre-packaged meals, etc. The list is overwhelming. Trying to find a restaurant that can accommodate these two restrictions was nearly impossible so instead we ate our meals at home. While our grocery bill may have went up, our savings did too because we were not spending money eating and drinking out.

The first few days were rough. This was not only due to craving sugar and the self discipline it took to refuse homemade cupcakes my coworker brought in, but because my body started to “withdrawal” from grains and sugar. The symptoms included stomach cramping, constipation, fatigue and irritability. So basically, nothing I was not already suffering from, but on a more intense scale. The one side effect I was not expecting was a random period. I have not had a period for years due to my Intrauterine Device (IUD) birth control, but switching to a high fat diet can cause a disruption with leptin and luteinizing hormones associated with periods. All the symptoms lasted only a few days for me.

The rest of the month I saw only benefits.

Cutting out grains and sugar was difficult the first two weeks but then it was like second nature. There were a couple instances of temptation. One was at a friends’ party where they made barbecue and multiple desserts and another was at a friend’s book launch where multiple hor d’oeuvres and wine were served. At the first party we were aware in advance and brought our no sugar, no grain sides and sadly avoided dessert. At the book launch, there was hummus and veggies brought out so I snacked on those while pining for the mini cupcakes. Overall, it was not as horrible as I prepared myself for. Paul and I did indulge ourselves for one day when a friend came to visit from Seattle. Oregon is known for its wine so we went wine tasting at a local vineyard. The tastings added up to about a glass. For food, we split a charcuterie board and ate the meats, cheeses, and olives; leaving the crackers behind. I felt deprived the first week, but for the other three I felt myself feeling content.

Staying home was the easiest way to avoid temptation. We only bought compliant foods and did not have to witness the copious amount of options outside of our house. We also made a point to tell our friends ahead of time in case any of them wanted to make dinner plans. After a yoga class when a friend of mine and I went out to eat, we were able to find a restaurant ahead of time that honored my food restrictions. 

On our day of freedom, October 31st (aka: Halloween), we went to my sister’s house which had bowls piled with brightly wrapped chocolates and other sugar filled treats. Paul and I were originally excited to be free from our limitations on Halloween because then we could indulge in the tradition of treats. Paul had a couple beers and I had: nothing. Not even a Reese’s peanut butter cup. I am never one to turn down chocolate (especially with peanut butter) but after 30 days without sugar I did not feel the need for artificially flavored candies. I wanted to save my splurge for something amazing, and I did days later (Danish strawberries and cream cake).

After the 30 days, Paul and I went out for our first NSNG meal with my sister and brother-in-law, who also eliminated sugar and grains for the month. We treated ourselves to pizza. The holy havoc the pizza wreaked on my stomach was unbearable. I laid in bed after dinner, crouched in the fetal position with a heating pad on my stomach for the rest of the night. I have had a few other gluten items since the 30 days without them, and for the first time in my life I experienced acid reflux and still do every time I eat it. Other symptoms I noticed were the achy joints, bloating, including swollen hands. The symptoms from gluten still have yet to abate.

I now know gluten is the main culprit of my symptoms. When I choose to eat it I have to decide if what I am about to eat is worth the symptoms that will follow. This mindset allows me to prioritize and only choose the treats worth the aggravation and skip the crappy items like store-bought cookies or crackers (things I would never normally skip) in favor of something delicious. Like minimalism, I get to choose the important things and filter out the rest. I keep the things worth having (aka: eating gluten for special occasions) and avoid the things not worth my time (aka: pie. Not my thing). Just like minimalism, diets and sensitivities are different person to person. Only you can choose what works for you and only you can choose what to avoid.

Rise & Shine: 30 Days of a Morning Routine

morning

Well I have taken quite a hiatus. Nearly four months of one from writing this blog. I would blame it on being “busy” but honestly it is more I have not pushed myself to write. Writing, even though it brings me joy, can be frustrating. It is also like having a second job and there are days (multiple days) when I do not feel motivated and instead of doing it anyway I give in to my lazyness and skip it.

I have had a lot of time to reflect these past four months and have taken time to really sort through my priorities for the life I want. I want to be productive. I do not mean busy. Productive to me includes rest, but it also includes perseverance towards the things that matter. This means working towards goals and sorting through my life meticulously spending my time on what it is important and abandoning what is not. Busy is what I do to distract myself from dealing with emotions or problems. It is also something I do to feel better about myself because social media tells me if I am busy then I am successful.

For me, in order to be productive I have to wake up and get to work. I have a tendency to lackadaisically waltz through life, hitting snooze on everything literally and figuratively. So my goal for the next 30 days is to stick to a morning routine that will set my day up for success and purpose.

I hate mornings. Sounds like something Garfield the cat would say in the Sunday comics section, but it is true. As much as I wish I was a morning person, I cannot seem to motivate myself to crawl out of bed when the sun rises with a smile plastered across my face (looking at you Cinderella….) I certainly envy those who do.

I have tried to set my alarm early, labeling it in my iPhone something cute like “Rise and Shine” (this is pre Kylie Jenner by the way) or even something motivational like “Get up and shower, you slob”. Still, I hit the snooze button, throw my hair in a bun, and then run out the door with hot coffee spilling down my hand and my lunch left on the counter.

I may not love getting up early, but I have learned that it is essential to making sure I can get ready for the day without feeling rushed or stressed. This way I spend the day feeling good, working better, and staving off the inevitable side effects of work stress. The key to being able to start my day off earlier is to wake up earlier. Not rocket science. Nothing starts my day off worse than hitting my “snooze” button multiple times and then realizing I have fifteen minutes to get to work.

The only way to wake up earlier and feel good is to go to sleep earlier than I want to. Again, not rocket science. People will argue that due to kids, work, insomnia, or any other laundry list of reasons, that it is impossible for them to go to sleep earlier than they already do. That may be true for some, but I believe for most the situation is similar to mine. I find excuses to stay up like binge watching episodes of my favorite tv shows or reading memes on my cellphone until odd hours of the night. Instead, I have started packing my lunch and picking out my clothes the night before and setting a bedtime and sticking to it.

For 30 days, starting November 1st, my simple morning routine will look something like this:

  1. Do NOT hit snooze. This one is going to be the hardest part of my day, guaranteed. I obviously lead a very privileged life. Hitting snooze means I am already procrastinating and sets up my day to be the same as my first moments awake. I will be waking up at least an hour before I usually would. This gives me time to complete the below items.
  2. Wash Face. I have never done this until recently. I started splashing my face with freezing cold water in the mornings and it (obviously) works. It is horrible, but it works and it wakes me up.
  3. Drink Water. Every night I will fill up my water bottle and set it on my bedside table. Then when my alarm goes off at its normal offensive morning hour, the first thing I do is lean over, grab it, and just start chugging to replace all the fluids I have lost while drooling and sweating through the night.
  4. Eat Breakfast. Seems so simple, it is literally in the name: break fast. Our bodies need fuel after a long sleep, we have to end the hours we went without fuel for our bodies. In the mornings I will take a breakfast to go or eat at home, regardless, I will eat. Breakfast will provide me enough energy to get through my morning and hold off the “hanger” until lunch.
  5. Meditate/Pray. Every morning I will take at least five minutes to meditate. Five minutes seems like such a short time, but I cannot sit still. Even when I am watching a movie I have to be doing something else. Five minutes to sit in silence can sometimes feel like torture. So I will start with five minutes and work my way up. This five minutes will also be time to pray. My anxiety significantly decreases when I talk to the big guy/gal upstairs and it is a wonder why I forget to do it every morning.
  6. Write. This morning I am awake and finishing up this post. Taking the time to sit and write takes more discipline than I usually provide myself. I keep wishing I was a writer and instead of doing the one thing writers do (write, obviously) I make excuses as to why I do not have the time. This is why I am setting a morning routine and waking up earlier, specifically to write. If I want to be better at something then I have to practice and the only way to practice writing is to write.

For the month of November I am going to see if the hype of a morning routine is all it is made out to be. While waking up early for me is a challenge, I want to improve my life and one way to do it is being more productive. To be more productive I have to stop laying in bed and scrolling through Instagram wishing my life looks like other productive peoples’ lives. If you read about successful people, one thing that consistently comes up is they wake up early and get going. I intend to test the theory and hopefully not cry in the process.

Check On It.

Yes, the title of this post is a Beyoncé song and it was fitting for my post content, but not at all related to the song. A few days ago, I was lost down the “rabbit hole” of social media and decided to “check up on” some former friends to see the going-ons of their lives. I already knew it was not a good idea, but did it anyway because if there is one thing I lack it is self control. There is a quote I scrolled past while on social media urging “stop checking on people that are not checking on you”. It could very well have meant physically checking up on people but I took it as checking up on people via internet “stalking”. I should have heeded the advice. Instead, I leapt face first into my former friends’ social media lives and came up gasping for air and feeling like a complete failure. 

One of them had posts highlighting the fact they had their dream career after graduating from a Master’s program and were able to buy and renovate a house and buy a new car. The other one had posted about recently graduating with a doctoral degree in psychology while living their dream in Southern California. 

Instead of feeling happy for their success I felt horrible about my own perceived lack thereof. I sat there ticking off the list of things they had succeeded in that I had not. For me, my lack of education was a huge hit to my feelings of self worth. I am very well aware that there are very brilliant, successful people without advanced degrees and plenty of people with advanced degrees who are so stupid it makes me question how they were ever able to pass kindergarten let alone obtain an advanced degree. However, continuing education is a sore spot for me. I am currently working so my husband, Paul can go back to school for a career in the medical field, which means I currently do not have the means to go back to school myself to obtain a doctorate or master degree. This makes me feel really behind even though I am grateful to be able to put Paul through school . I know this season of life will pass but seeing other people who are more successful right now hits a particular nerve. 

I brought my feelings up to Paul and he replied “You do not know anything about these people anymore. They could have thousands of dollars of school debt or just be pretending to love their lives. They only post on social media what they want the world to see”.

Touché. People only post on social media what they want others to see. Let me repeat that for my own benefit: people only post on social media what they want others to see. People do not (usually) post their bad marriages, insecurities, failures, debt, or hatred for their jobs. I certainly do not post those things (except here, obviously). There may even be people who look at my accounts and think my life is anything but a clusterfuck, so maybe I need to listen to my own advice and stop posting just the highlights of life…..

I could go delete all my social media accounts to spare myself from comparison but there are people that I do find inspiring that do not make me feel as though I am not enough. I follow accounts that promote art, comedy, zero waste, puppies, minimalism, Golden Girls, intersectional feminism, and body positivity. All these accounts inspire me and therefore I want to go on social media to see them. Instead of purging all social media I have decided to purge all the accounts of people who spark feelings of failure or insecurity. I am going to Marie Kondo my social media and rid myself of accounts that do not “spark joy”. Does that mean I am ridding accounts of anyone successful? No. If someone posts they trained hard and put blood, sweat, and tears into running a marathon and finally did it then I want to see that success. If someone posts pictures of their perfect house, life, marriage, kids, career and claims they have it all because they are #blessed, then yes, I am blocking them. 

I am also going to block people I am no longer friends with, not to be a bitch, but because the chapter of my life is closed and I do not want to keep rereading those stories when I could be creating new ones.  They are allowed to be successful and post about it, but I am no longer going to allow myself to be subjected to it. I am going to be kind to myself and this means I am going to stop checking up on the past and focus on the present and the future. I am going to do what Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness does and not worry about what everyone else is doing and just keep focusing on my own thing (and keep dancing in my kitchen). 

30 Days of No Shopping.

Spoiler alert: I like to shop. Similar to a lot of people with shopping problems I like to find deals. As I have stated previously, I love the hunt, to dig through the racks of vintage or used clothes and find cheap treasures that otherwise would have cost me a small fortune. The irony is that I spend money on things I do not need or sometimes do not even particularly like because I think I am saving money….. The problem with shopping-especially thrifting-is that I wind up with a bunch of excess items because they were a “good deal” or I saw something cute and felt I might “regret it” later if I didn’t buy it. The photo above is a great example of a thrift find I purchased because I worried I would regret it if I did not buy a white sequined dress from the sixties, you know, a very reasonable closet must….

There are things that do not go together like toothpaste and orange juice or minimalism and a shopping problem. I recognize that in order to work towards a more minimal and meaningful life I have to give up some stuff, literally give it away and get rid of it. There are mental things that weigh me down but also a lot of physical things, like clothes. Clothes for me is the biggest issue, it always has been. I buy items to fit the person I want to be instead of the person I am. Fit is both literal and figurative. Clothes I buy can be for the size I wish I was as well as for the personality I wish I had. I will see some bohemian goddess wearing a floral jumpsuit and I go hunting for a floral jumpsuit because I want to be a bohemian even though I do not really like jumpsuits. It is almost as if I forget that just because I wear the outfit of a bohemian goddess does not make me one. Just like wearing a pantsuit does not make me Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or wearing crop tops with heels make me Jonathan Van Ness. My ultimate goal is to stop and figure out my style and only buy what fits my current body and what I actually like and need, but for now I just need to take a step back and just stop buying altogether.

These next 30 days I will not be buying any unnecessary items. These include:

  1. Clothes, obviously.
  2. Home Items: artwork, dishware, linens, knick-knacks, furniture, etc.
  3. Fast Food.
  4. Beauty products: Duplicate make-up, nail polish, face-masks, etc. (This does not including needs like shampoo, sunscreen, or toothpaste if they run out).
  5. Media: Books, movies, apps, etc.
  6. Misc: Soveniers, candles, or any other items I see at TJ Maxx and convince myself I need to have…

Things that I am allowed to buy are necessities like shampoo or the items mentioned above, groceries, or gas. Other things that are not included are experiences. Paul decided to join me for this 30 day challenge and we agreed to not exclude experiences as part of the 30 day no-buy. This includes going out to eat or drink (if with friends), concerts/live shows, movies in the theatre, surfing/snowboarding, and weekend getaways. We gave ourselves a pass because we have a friend’s birthday coming up that includes a weekend getaway and the whole purpose of this shopping ban is to stop buying frivolous things. I believe spending time with people you love and spending money on experiences over things is not frivolous, it’s valuable.

This 30 day ban is really going to test me. When I feel sad or stressed I go to thrifts shops and wander around, buy things and then it makes me feel better. This is the reason shopping can be an addiction. It gives you a pick-me-up, a feeling of euphoria until the second you get home and realize how much you spent. Then the guilt comes calling. The same is true for thrifting. Am I really saving money if I am buying things I don’t really need? If we are not testing and pushing ourselves then we don’t grow. So in the next 30 days I fully expect to grow like a redwood.

30 Days of Less Waste.

The last 30 days have been all about waste. I have made it a point to really focus on all the unnecessary waste I create while living as a middle class person in America. When I really paid attention I was disgusted with how much I, a single human, can create.

My goals for the last 30 days were to focus on five areas where I could reduce waste. They included: not buying new clothes, bringing my own reusable coffee cups to coffee shops, bringing my own bags to the grocery store, creating less food waste, and bringing my own containers for restaurant leftovers. 

Out of the fives things I did there were three things I did great at, one I did okay at, and one I failed miserably at. As much as I would like to give myself credit for the things I did well, there is always room for improvement.

I will review the things I did great first because I should be kinder to myself and highlight triumphs verses failures. As Lana Del Rey in her song Blue Jeans says “Whether you fail or fly, oh shit at least you tried”. Overall, I improved my carbon footprint and was more mindful of my choices and will continue to improve moving forward.

  1. Buying Clothes Used/Thrifted:

I love thrifting. I love the hunt and findings deals. I make a list of what I need and I go “digging”. When I find something I need for a deal it is like finding gold. With websites that sell used clothing and an abundance of thrift stores in my area, buying clothes used was something I succeeded at and enjoyed doing. For 30 days I did not buy a single clothing item new. This saved resources like water, fuel, fabric, other natural resources, which includes (all) costs of labor. It also kept the clothing out of a landfill and more money in my pocket. My next focus will be not to shop for clothing as I have a thrifting addiction…..

**Ps. My husband, Paul openly mocked me for taking photos of my thrifted clothes that I laid out on the floor for this photo.

2. Reusable Coffee Cup:

I went out for coffee/tea four times in the last 30 days. I usually make coffee at home to save money, but I traveled for work during two days-which meant it was easier to get coffee from a shop vs the Keurig (aka an environmental disgrace) in my hotel room. I also went out for coffee once with my husband as a treat, and one day I just really wanted a matcha latte with macadamia nut milk from a really good local coffee shop just because (and also because I am a millennial and love my fancy milk and fancy tea). Every time I got coffee I brought my reusable cup. I went to Starbucks one time and they used a plastic cup to make my drink and then poured it into my reusable cup and threw the plastic cup away. Therefore, I did not go to Starbucks after that. The other, local coffee vendors made my drink in a steel steamer cup and then poured it into my cup. All vendors gave me ten cents off my drink for bringing my own cup. I kept a clean reusable cup in my car so I would always have one ready for any impromptu coffee stop. Good for the environment and my wallet.

3. Reusable Grocery Bags.

During my 30 days of using reusable bags, my hometown banned single-use plastic bags in retail stores over 10,000 feet (3040 meters) in size. The ban went into effect nine days ago on April 1, 2019. For smaller businesses, the ban will go into effect September 1, 2019. This ban is a huge step towards a more sustainable environment! The past 30 days I have made sure to bring my reusable cloth bags every store I have made purchases, especially for groceries. Some grocery stores even gave me 10 cents off every reusable bag I brought in. In order to be successful, I kept the bags in the back of my car and the moment I got home after shopping I emptied the bags and put them right back in my car. I even got Paul to start using reusable bags before we even knew about the plastic bag ban. Getting him to bring reusable bags to the store I would say was my biggest accomplishment of the 30 days.

4. Less Food Waste.

Food waste was one thing I did okay at improving. I really tried to buy fresh foods that I would be eat before they rotted. I did really well in the beginning. When I noticed there were vegetables in the fridge starting to turn I added them to soups or cut them up and froze them for later. I stored food in airtight jars so it would stay fresh. I even tried to clear out the fridge to avoid missing food and it expiring in the back. One time I cooked a chicken in my Instant Pot and saved the broth leftover to use for another recipe. There were a few times I missed items like a red pepper in a container that was half chopped and got slimy, a moldy container of (unrecognizable) leftovers, a sweet potato that was wrinkly and growing extra sprouts, and a carrot that was hidden under a bag of apples that was shriveled up. Otherwise, I really focused on eating up leftover foods to avoid them going bad and was more mindful about not overbuying items that would not get eaten quick enough. There is room for improvement, but I am getting better at improving my waste. I even am going to purchase a compost bin for food scraps so I can turn it back into nutritious dirt for my garden.

5. Reusable Takeout Containers/Utensils:

I did terrible at remembering to bring reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers. I did not even do it once. I had a reusable container in my car ready to use and still did not manage to use it. I went out to dinner a few times in the last 30 days. One time I went to a restaurant that had a bunch of food trucks lined up, but we went in Paul’s car so I did not have the container. I saw everyone was using paper plates so I figured I would be fine, but unfortunately the food truck I chose had styrofoam containers (aka satan’s takeout containers) instead. Another time, I was out of town for work and ate most meals out. One of the times I ordered what I assumed was a light breakfast, but ended up being a feast. I did not want to waste the food, but I had forgotten to bring my container on the trip so I asked for one. It was (of course) styrofoam. Then a few days later I went to visit my friend who was sick and she had ordered us ramen to be delivered to the house before I got there. The food arrived in plastic containers with plastic utensils and in a plastic bag. The only time I ate out that did not require a container was when I had a friend eat the leftovers because I had been in Paul’s car and had forgotten my box (again) and did not want to waste takeout containers. Needless to say, I sucked at this one. The only perk was I kept a fork and spoon and reusable napkin in my tote bag so any time I needed one of those items I had them handy. When a coworker wanted help eating their takeout I pulled my own reusable spoon out to use. When I needed a napkin for my snacks at work, I used my own.

There were many things I improved upon in the past 30 days to decrease my impact on the environment and some that could use more work. While I chose to focus on these five, I incorporated other things like using reusable bags for my snacks instead of ziplocks, buying a shampoo bar and bar soap instead of ones in bottles, and even remembering to turn off the lights for every room I left in the house. These are small changes, but if every single person could make similar, small changes the world would see a big impact. I am motivated to experiment and consciously make more eco-friendly choices because as the philosopher Albus Dumbledore once said (and because I want to end on a Harry Potter quote) “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

30 Days of Yoga.

The goal for living a life with more meaning in 2019 is to complete different goals for 30 days at a time. The month of January was for yoga. My intention was to do yoga every single day for 30 days and to see if it added any value to my life. For the past 30 days I have stuck to that goal and practiced on my mat each day.

I did not go into January thinking that yoga would alter my life significantly. I had done it previously and knew it was a great way to unwind and a decent workout. I was not expecting the immense change that took place in just four weeks. What changed was gradual, sneaking up on me like a predator to its prey. There were days in this challenge when I REALLY did not want to do it. I had days when I had so many other things going on that it was hard to find time. Yet, I made the time. Even if it was 15 minutes instead of the 30 minutes I was planning. I promised myself that I would stick through something for 30 days and I kept it.

At the end of my 30 days, after completing one of my yoga videos, another video started playing (typical YouTube) and it was about the science of yoga. Almost instantly, I became enthralled in the video and watched it until it cut out and told me I needed to sign up on their website to get the rest of the video….(not very yogi in my opinion, but whatever). The 20 minute clip solidified what I felt had changed in my body, mind, and spirit. I felt lighter, happier, and (let’s be real) like less of a bitch. After the challenge was over, I had time to reflect on what things had changed:

  1. Less Anxiety. By the second week in, I noticed I was less anxious. My feelings of panic hit me like a freight train, usually at night, and it can keep me from being able to come back down. I start having shortness of breath, I lose focus, and terrible thoughts consume me. Throughout my yoga practice, I noticed I was having less panicky thoughts. I felt calm and able to relax both during the day and at night and took things as they came instead of instantly freaking out if something felt out of my control.
  2. Better Mood. Prior to yoga, I felt like it took very little to set me off. I could feel perfectly chill and then something inconsequential would happen and I would lash out in rage. I felt despondent; all I wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep. Little tasks or work was enough to send me to tears. While I did cry one time at work during the 30 days, I know that it would have been more frequent without yoga. At week three I could feel myself waking up happier, a sense of calm over me as I tackled the day. A sense of peace washed over me on my way to work that felt foreign and it has continued with me since.
  3. More Self-Esteem. I have not always felt good about my body or my abilities. There are times when I feel so fat or ugly that I want to stay home and times when I feel so incompetent and out of my element that I break down. I am very hard on myself. I still have those insecurities, but yoga helped lessen them. The more I practiced, the more I saw improvement in my strength and flexibility. I noticed my body could do things it was not able to previously and I felt a sense of strength. The more I spent time connecting my breath to my movement, the more I reflected on how lucky I am to have a body that can move the way mine could and I started looking in the mirror and seeing a strong body instead of a flawed one.
  4. Improved Flexibility and Strength. I sit on my butt for the majority of the day at work. This causes my legs and hips to be extremely tight. I have also been told I have the strength of a nine month old baby by my husband because I cannot open jars on my own. No joke. With each day I practiced, I felt my hamstrings, hips, and quads loosen up and I was able to touch my toes by the end of 30 days without pain. When I was young and did ballet, I could go into splits no problem. By the end of the 30 days I was back to being able to do it. I may still have trouble opening jars, but I noticed improvement in my arm strength (and legs) with the 30 days and started to even see definition in both.
  5. Improved Sleep. Not to be Garfield the cat or anything, but I hate mornings. I have never been an early riser and I could not remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed. It may have to do with my problem looking at memes on my phone all through the night, but also I felt burned out with work and life, which made getting up hard to do. Just 30 minutes of yoga a day improved the way I slept. I went to bed feeling relaxed, was able to fall asleep and stay asleep, and after week three I was waking up at 6:30 on the dot awake and ready. This did not mean I did not lounge in bed until after 6:30, but still, I felt awake.

Yoga is not the cure all for all of life’s problems. It was not the sole cure for really any of my problems. It is an outlet for me to connect my mind, body, and spirit; to nourish them. For me it is time set aside specifically to stay in the present, to connect with God, to strengthen my body, and to calm my breathing. These are all ingredients that in combination help improve my outlook and attitude and sticking with something for 30 days even when I did not feel like it made me stronger. If you are willing to give yoga a try, please ease into it and stick with it because the rewards are so worth it.

Toxic.

Less than two weeks into the new year and I am still going strong on my resolutions to:

  1. Be kinder and
  2. Take steps to create a more purposeful life.

In order to have a more meaningful life sometimes you add things to it and sometimes you take things away. This includes: people. You can still love and care about someone, even if they are toxic. Just because someone hurt you or does not add value to your life, does not mean you cannot care about what happens to them. In order to grow we need to let go of what is stunting us. Some relationships fill us up and some drain us. In the recent years for me, letting go of toxic relationships has pertained to friendships.

In all honesty, there are times I have been the toxic friend. The friend that is super negative, co-dependent, or too self-involved, even the friend that ditches out on their friends when they get into a romantic relationship. I have been the bad friend, the one who did not really listen when my friend needed me or did not stand up for them when I should have or even talked badly about them behind their backs. I wish I could say that I have never been a bad friend, but that would be a lie.

People have kicked me out of their lives, and rightfully so. I have gone through many phases in my almost thirty years on the planet and not all of them were good ones. The way I learned how to be a good friend was when I lost nearly all of them in High School and did not have any for a time. I learned to build friendships from the ground up. I have had many years to reflect and learn how to be a good friend as well as when to recognize when someone is not being one.

More recently, I had the unfortunate task of telling a friend that I was distancing myself from them because I felt their actions were hurtful, inappropriate, and overall toxic. As a lot of women I am sure, I was taught to “be nice”; To “play along”, “not make waves”, and not hurt people’s feelings- even if meant they trampled all over mine. This was grilled into my brain from a young age and is still ingrained into American society. Society sees a woman who stands up for herself as a bitch. When really standing up for yourself and others is the opposite of being a bitch, it is being kind. The truth can be hard to speak, but when we are honest with ourselves and honest with others it lifts this invisible weight from our shoulders.

As much as I love the idea of honesty, I hate the idea of confrontation. Confrontation is like a pap smear: really uncomfortable, but necessary. Also, once it is over it gives you a peace of mind. There is nothing I worry more about than hurting people I love, which is why I do not want to have to tell them the things they are doing are affecting me negatively. On the flip side, if I was hurting my friend and I did not know because they did not tell me then I would feel worse.

Being vulnerable and bringing up uncomfortable topics is hard. Staying quiet and being treated poorly is also hard. Sometimes we have to make a choice of which hard we are going to deal with. We should always be honest, but let us not interchange being honest with being cruel.

There is never an excuse to be cruel, even if the person “deserves it”. When opting out of a relationship that is depleting, telling a person how you feel should be well-intended. Nothing is more hurtful when someone says a cruel comment and then follows it up with “I am just being honest.” The person you may be revealing your feelings to may not even know that what they are doing is affecting you, so why be a dick about it? If you are a good friend then you should be able to reveal your feelings from a place of love. Being able to say honestly what and why something is bothering you with intention instead of frustration will clear the way for either a relationship to be mended or for a clean break. If the response to your heartfelt feelings is silence, defensiveness, or continued bad behavior then it is your cue to walk away and move on without that person.

I am done apologizing or making excuses for people’s poor behavior. The fear of toxic relationships in my life outweighs my fear of confrontation. If someone is doing something to harm me or others, I am going to speak up. If nothing comes from me revealing my feelings in a heartfelt way then I do not need to feel guilty for not bringing that person into the next chapter of my life. There is the cliche saying that “Life is too short.” Well it is. It is too short, too wild, and too damn precious to waste on someone who drains the joy out of it.

Sometimes working on the relationship is what is best and sometimes letting go is. Minimalism is about rigorously selecting what we take into our future to create a better life. This includes shedding the things and people who create a negative environment instead of a supportive one. Friends are of the few choices in life we get to make, so let us choose wisely.