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More major life moves

April 25, 2011

It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a few weeks. Now that my head has slowed to a mild spin, I can share some exciting updates. If you recall, a few weeks ago, I endured a superhuman’s attack in which I was asked what my career plan was. As I mentioned, I’d been considering a few options – all significant career shifts. And I’ve finally decided…and accepted a new job!

I’m actually returning to an agency where I was previously employed, but rather than public relations, I’ll be focusing on strategic development and creating content for clients’ websites and social media networks. In short, it’s a much more creative position, with new challenges, in a place whose culture is a complete 180-degree spin from my current (maddening) workplace. Where the employees work hard and are happy. And get along. And have lives outside of the office. Amazing.

On top of the career change and wedding planning (because that’s clearly not enough on my plate!), I’ve begun running. I’m in week #3 of a six-week “couch to 5K” plan, and I’m having a great time, despite aching legs and constant exhaustion. Having a goal and plan motivates me to get to the gym or the trails and push myself, and I love the zoning out that running encourages. It’s forced relaxation, which sometimes I need. I’m planning for 5K races in June and July, then a 10k in November, eventually working up to a half marathon and – who knows – maybe even a marathon some day!

In my three weeks of running, I’ve already realized the importance of a running shoe that fits and cushions the foot properly. I’m heading to a store tomorrow where the salespeople actually put you on a treadmill and analyze your stride, posture, foot position and a whole slew of other factors contributing to foot comfort and health. I’m a little anxious about the sneaker they’ll “prescribe” me.

When I was little, I had to wear hideous little Orphan Annie corrective shoes, because one of my feet turns in ever so slightly when I walk. I remember being at the shoe store, yearning for the cool shoes the other girls were trying on, only to be handed a shoebox of disappointment. (To this day, I attribute my shoe obsession to my early years.) So I have a little hesitation about this. While the staff at this store is very knowledgeable about running shoes, I may have to ignore their recommendation if it involves large, white orthopedic sneakers.

Those could seriously take the recent spring out of my step.

Attack of the superhuman

April 5, 2011

Today, I endured the test that occasionally presents itself to all of us, the conversation that makes you question everything. The attack of the superhuman.

I was on my way to New York City for a shoot with an executive from my company, an accomplished doctor, national spokesperson, mother and wife. But that’s not all, as I learned. As we drove toward the city, she casually asked, out of nowhere, “So, what’s your goal? What’s your plan?”

She may as well have asked me why the sky is blue. It’s not that I lack ambition. I’m just not yet sure what my next step will be. Ask me today, and I’ll say I want to remain in public relations but advance my career by focusing more on strategic development. Tomorrow, I’ll likely respond that I’m considering returning to school to get my master’s degree and teach English literature at the college level. Next week, I’ll probably be contemplating becoming a psychologist. I have a lot of interests, and there is a lot I want to do.

I told her all this, ending with, “Right now, I’m focusing on the wedding. Once that’s over, I plan to figure it out.”

“What about you?” I asked her, in an attempt to get the subject off me and my failure to life plan.

“I’ve known since I was a child that I want to work in international medicine, helping underdeveloped countries develop sustainable primary care systems.” Of course she has.

“I also really want to work on my second novel.”

There was a first? Yep. A piece of fiction focusing on women’s rights in her native country.

“I have a rough outline of the second one, but really want to flesh it out,” she continued. “Then I want to write my memoir.”

Did I mention she also founded an HIV awareness organization for young women? And that she’s gorgeous? And that I just had a birthday, typically a sensitive time for me in which I contemplate exactly the question she asked me???

I had fallen prey to the superhuman.

This rare breed of human has the power to make us successful people feel like total slouches. They are big-time achievers and seemingly require no food or sleep. They can work non-stop for hours on end and remain alert and witty. They thrive on success and acclaim. They remain a true mystery to those who do not possess their power.

I immediately resorted to old habits and began criticizing myself for not having things more together at 31. Then I stopped myself and thought about my current life. I’m successful in my very demanding work. I write a blog. And a style column. I’m planning a wedding. I maintain an active social life with my many friends. I practice yoga. I work out regularly. I may not have a ton of awards hanging on my wall or earn six figures a year (yet), but I’m happy and healthy and have the freedom and means to choose my next path.

When I’m ready.

A possibly life-changing piece of advice

March 24, 2011

My therapist is a true genius. I already knew this, but occasionally, she says something that makes a light bulb in my head go off, and I am reminded of her wisdom. I was in her office, freaking out about my inability to control my eating and wondering why I couldn’t find motivation within myself despite the fact that one of the most important days of my life is coming up, and I’ll be the center of attention in a form-fitting frock. And that’s after a bunch of days on the beach. In a bathing suit. With everyone.

“Take my through your thoughts as you’re eating or about to eat,” she instructed.

“I start craving something,” I explained. “I walk to the cabinet or order it from the menu, even though I know I shouldn’t be eating it. I try to envision myself in my dress. But I still want to eat and feel like I’ll be missing out if I don’t eat it. So I say to myself that I’ll just eat a few. Then I eat the whole thing. Then I feel like crap.”

My therapist pointed out that I was “should-ing” all over myself (gotta love Carrie Bradshaw) and criticizing, which gets no one nowhere. And the bridal dress visualizations? Too far off to be a true motivator.

“You have to find something right then and there, that instant, that will stop you. And you have to understand why you’re eating.”

“Okay, what is it?” I asked. “How do I do that?”

“You need to figure that out.”

As I began questioning the bi-monthly payments I give her and decided I’d have to get comfortable with the idea of eventually wearing muumuus and spending my days in a chair, watching reruns from my “glory days,” she proffered: “You can first try cheering yourself on instead of criticizing yourself. Imagine you had a friend struggling with this problem. What would you say to her? Say it to yourself every time you’re struggling.”

A seemingly obvious piece of advice. But I heard a click in my brain.

“And the less you numb yourself with food, the more you’ll start feeling,” she continued. “It will soon become apparent why you’re eating.”

Today is day #2 of my self-cheerleading, and damned if it isn’t working. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. All the self-criticism and bad feelings I was stacking on myself every time I wanted to or did eat were weighing me down more than I realized. And by telling myself I shouldn’t eat something, it was actually making it more attractive, more desirable to myself.

By taking the focus off the food and instead reminding myself I’m a strong woman who can change my life, who can get healthy, who can feel better, I can’t help but choose to walk away from the unhealthy foods or just take a bite.

I’m still amazed. I’ll let you know how it continues to go!

Bridesmaid black-out

March 10, 2011

It started innocently enough. An appointment with my five bridesmaids for them to try on dresses, get their measurements taken and put down deposits. It all went off without a hitch. The girls decided which dresses they’d wear easily, and we were in and out of the packed bridal shop within an hour—just in time for happy hour.

We decided to grab drinks at the venue where my bridal shower will be held—a gorgeous lakeside restaurant with a cozy bar area. And $5 double martinis. Two each later, we were all feeling a little giddy and headed back to my house to hang out the rest of the night.

As I cooked dinner with my friend, my maid of honor got progressively drunker, swigging from a large bottle of vodka. By dinnertime, she was black-out drunk, speaking a language similar to that of Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story, when he’s beating up bully Scut Farkus.

One of my bridesmaids and I surreptitiously hid her bottle (probably a little too late, as it only had about two drinks’ worth left in it) before beginning a board game. As we played, my MOH watched, frequently erupting into Tourette Syndrome-like outbursts.

“Benches, bitches!” she slurred, her eyes half closed. “You need to sit in benches!”

“Let me sheeeee it! Let me sheeee it! She said my dad was shtaring at her butt, but he washn’t. I’ll never forget it!

“She ruined my life! I blame her! Ish all er fault.”

If filmed, it could have actually been an effective anti-drinking PSA for teens.

Out of nowhere, she began yelling at one of the other bridesmaids about failing to return her calls and ignoring her advice about how to deal with a difficult relationship. My poor bridesmaid, caught completely off guard, was silent throughout her tirade, then retreated to the bathroom for an hour before driving home.

We are all used to my MOH getting drunk—she’s usually the first one at parties to be speaking too loudly or saying something out of line. But it’s rare she gets this out of control. The next morning, it occurred to me that this could be a major issue. Would she be screaming at a relative during my bridal shower after pounding down some spiked punch, getting kicked out of the club at my bachelorette party or slurring through her speech during our reception?

I called another bridesmaid in a panic, who assured me that she and the other bridesmaids wouldn’t let that happen. We made a pact that if either of us saw her drinking too quickly in the future, we’d dilute her vodka with water—or just replace it altogether. It’s a shame that I have to do that, but, sadly, she doesn’t care enough to watch herself. I’m a little bummed and wish I’d realized this before choosing my MOH.

Soon after, she called to apologize, admit she’s the “worst maid of honor ever” and offer to make me a gourmet dinner as a peace offering.

I’m a little calmer now, but you can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on her drinks in the future and employing some 007 action when needed. The name’s Bride. Freaked-out Bride.

My big break in Vegas

February 20, 2011

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic. I had a load of time-sensitive work to do the week before last (and heaven forbid I was given any help), then was in Las Vegas last week for a social media conference. The conference ended up being my saving grace. Before boarding the plane to go, I was on my last, frayed nerve and had just endured a week of exhaustion and panic attacks.

There had been work stresses, I was having trouble staying motivated in my quest to get healthier (I gained three pounds the week before despite staying “on point” on Weight Watchers); my workouts weren’t happening; I found out I was getting less back from my tax return than expected (translation: less wedding funds); I was worried about the migraines my fiancé has been experiencing for the past month; and I was growing increasingly frazzled by wedding costs and coordination.

Vegas and the surreal, chaotic surroundings it offered me for three days ended up restoring my sanity. Ironic, right? But I’ve realized why:

  1. I took it easy on myself. Instead of criticizing everything I put in my mouth and pressuring myself to work out more and harder, I ate what I wanted (within reason), and I made peace with the fact that I wouldn’t be exercising for a few days.
  2. I made time for fun. I saw two shows and even volunteered to let David Copperfield make me “disappear.” And I posed for photos with “Elvis” on the street. Sure, he was pacing and talking to himself, and I may have risked my life approaching him, but the resulting picture was worth it.
  3. I took a break. While I was there, wedding planning took a backseat, as did blogging, bill-paying and the many other things I load onto my very full plate daily.
  4. It got me away from my workplace. I admit, I let my work situation get to me way too much. But the place is freaking ridiculous.

So in addition to learning more about reaching my target audiences via Facebook and Twitter, I learned a lot about what I need last week. I need to give myself a break once in a while, because I can be pretty hard on myself. I need to make sure I spend time doing things just for fun. And I need to leave my workplace behind when I leave each evening.

In the spirit of Vegas, I’m going to be a betting woman and say it’s going to be a big—and difficult—change, but I know I can do it.

I not only survived – I’m victorious!

February 4, 2011

I’m not going to sugarcoat it—it’s been the week from hell. I had a pile of time-sensitive work to complete, I got a cold and…More. Frigging. Snow. I really can’t deal with one more icy road, an iced-up car or the idiots who insist on driving their usual above-80mph speeds on the roads, despite these treacherous conditions. It’s just more stress on top of an already existing, heaping mound.

But here’s the thing. I survived the week, and emerged victorious!

I got through my to-do list, made the big announcement I’ve been planning for months (I work in public relations) and just secured a story in the Boston Globe. Not too shabby. Then, I received a call from an industry peer who is interested in my providing some freelance PR and writing support for her marketing department at a major museum. Considering I’ve been questioning my skills, thanks to a micro-managing, lunatic of a company president who thinks he’s a communications whiz, all of this was exactly what I needed to save my waning confidence.

The cold…thanks to Cold-Eeze, generous amounts of ibuprofen and a lot of sleep, I’m feeling much better. I have an incredible immune system—I’m never sick—but when I get super stressed, I become a bedridden, sneezing mess. I’m prescribing myself a lot of couch camping, chick flicks, some gym time and relaxation this weekend to ensure I stay healthy.

Lastly, the snow. Absolutely no control over it whatsoever and, guess what? Another blizzard coming this week. I’m just going to staple snow shoes to my feet.

But the biggest victory of all this week is I stayed on point (I’m on the Weight Watchers PointsPlus plan) and found that I’ve dropped a pants size! In the past, the setbacks of this week would have sent me right to the store for cookies, or I would have stuffed my sorrows with pizza. And during office hours? Chocolate fest at the desk. Instead, I remained focused on my personal goals and put myself first. Not only a victory, but a true miracle!

Now, I feel like I’m on fire, like nothing can get in my way. Granted, I have a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be, to a point where I’m comfortable with myself and take care of myself. But for the first time in a long time, I can see myself getting there. And that’s pretty exciting.

Sticker shock

January 30, 2011
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We’re nine months away from the wedding, and in pretty good shape. We’ve selected all our vendors (we’re doing a destination wedding, and good vendors are limited, so I’ve been on a mission to get my wedding date on their calendars before another bride scoops them up!), put down the necessary deposits and can now begin the fun stuff—the cake flavors, floral designs, etc. Being the type A, organized bride-to-be that I am, I took it upon myself to create a wedding budget sheet this weekend, complete with costs for each item, deposits and balances. I now know exactly when our balances are due, who each of our vendors are and how much—or how little, really—is in our savings account, all by simply consulting this handy sheet. Thanks to this handy sheet, I now also know that our simple, 60-person beachside wedding will cost a lovely $22,000 (at the very least) when all is said and done. Actually, make that $22,003.33—I left out the urgent Xanax refill I picked up today.

Armed with this knowledge (knowledge is power, right? Right????), I put together a savings plan. Then I had a panic attack. Twice. “Middle-class problems, babe,” my fiancé commented. He has an amazing way of putting things into perspective. And he’s right—poor me, the wedding of my dreams on the beach is expensive.

But here’s the thing. Coupled with the fact that we’re not rolling in dough is that I’m a people pleaser. And I’m asking my friends and family to come to a wedding 1,000 miles away, which means asking them to spend quite a bit of money on airfare, hotel, rental car, food…so I want to make sure they’re coming to an amazing wedding.

This weekend, I let the stress get to me. I was panicky, anxious, had strange wedding dreams and found myself clutching a bag of chocolate chips, shoveling them in by the handful—a behavior I’ve spent the last year gaining control of, or so I thought. But rather than feel crappy about myself and lament that I’ll never lose weight, be happy, wah, wah, wah, I worked out twice. After the second handful of chocolate, I through the bag in the trash and filled myself up with water. And (sniffle) I’ve decided to shelve the wine for a bit, as it makes me crave sugar, and after a few glasses, I can’t be responsible for what crap I put in my piehole.

The wedding will come and go and my bank account will empty, then slowly build up again. But I’m confident that the progress I’m beginning to make in taking care of myself, of putting myself first, will remain a constant. And you can’t put a price on that.