Sunday, January 31, 2016

In which I was a teen psychic

Last week, my mom had me go through some boxes of my stuff from junior high and high school to get rid of whatever I didn't want anymore (apparently my parents' house doesn't have infinite space?) In the process, I found something bizarre. Something glorious. Something I had completely forgotten existed.  It was....the Man in a Can!

So, the Man in a Can was an activity we did for my church Young Women's group when I was 14. We cut out pictures of wedding dresses, color schemes, and rings, made lists of attributes we wanted in a future husband, and picked out names for our future children ("So, basically pre-Internet Pinterest," says my brother). Then, each of us sealed up the contents of our wishful wedding planning in a Number 10 can, to be opened only when we had become engaged.

So here I was, face to face with my DIY Pinterest Time Capsule, opening it a year and a half late. I remembered the activity; I also remembered having a really bad attitude about it. I'm pretty sure I sat in the corner with some of my friends griping about how it was dumb, and styles were totally going to change between now and whenever I got married, and what if some of us never got married, and I wanted to go rock climbing for our activity but no, we didn't have the budget for that. But I eventually sucked it up and clipped a few things out and put them in my can, and I think at some point I actually started enjoying it. 11 years later, I was a little bit anxious. What if I opened it and saw a picture of the perfect dress, and had regret about the dress I actually wore at my wedding? What if I had found the perfect color scheme back at 14, and all the time I spent agonizing over my wedding colors had been completely unnecessary? Who knows what kinds of long-buried expectations and newly discovered regrets this tin can would stir up?

Still, it had to be done. With Aaron's help, I opened the can, eager for a glimpse into my own adolescent mind.

The first thing I learned was that as a teenager, I had way different taste in jewelry. Here are my prototype wedding rings:


They're just so...boxy and clunky and...eugh. Not my cup of tea. And diamonds aren't really my thing either. Here's my actual wedding ring.


Next, I looked at my wedding dress choice. Teenage me was actually pretty close to adult me in this choice. I really like the bodice and the overall shape of this dress. And it doesn't actually look much different than the one I ended up going with.


But then I pulled out my list of attributes for my future husband, and it got really weird. 

Most of these are pretty generic Mormon/teenage girl answers. Who doesn't want a partner who is loving or patient or smart or respectful or sensitive? All of these apply to Aaron, but that just means he's a good guy. Then I started to notice that some of these were a little more specific: "Spontaneous and fun-loving," "funny," "loves music." Again, still nothing highly unusual. But then I noticed two things "will sing to me" and "brown curly hair would be nice." Whaaa? First, Aaron sings to me almost constantly. It's possible we sing to each other more than we talk to each other. And I mean...brown curly hair? Aaron is literally the only person with brown curly hair I've ever been romantically interested in (besides like...Josh Groban....) How did I call that as a 14 year-old?

The only conclusion I've been able to come to is that I had latent psychic powers as a teenager. How else would I have known that I'd marry a music-loving, curly-haired man, and wear a drop-waist, butterfly sleeve dress for the occasion? It's spooky, man.



Saturday, January 30, 2016

In which I feel the burn

This year, I set a New Year's resolution that I've been trying to bring myself to set for a few years. I decided that I would lose 20 pounds by the end of the year.

For the past three years, I've been skirting around the issue, pretending I don't care, and basically doing nothing. So what that I'm almost thirty pounds heavier than I was five years ago? Bodies change, man. I was training for a half marathon five years ago, and I sure don't have time for that now. I would tell myself that the only healthy outlook was to love myself as I was, which meant accepting those extra thirty pounds as a welcome part of me. I told myself that trying to lose weight would only lead to extreme dieting, anxiety, and probably profound disappointment. I reasoned that it was just too hard, I couldn't do it, and it would make more sense to just accept my new size as normal.

And I was ready to leave it at that, except that I couldn't. It kept nagging at me. This extra weight doesn't feel like a part of me. I don't love how I look, I've had to say goodbye to some of my favorite clothes because they don't fit anymore, and I'm just not comfortable. A few months ago, my weight finally crossed from the "healthy" BMI zone to the "overweight" zone, which was kind of a rude awakening. I have a family history of serious health problems caused and aggravated by obesity, and while I'm healthy now, I'd rather not have to deal with any of those down the line. Further, I've realized that my weight gain is a symptom of some really unhealthy eating and exercise habits that I should probably work on regardless of the numbers on the scale.

Most of all, I've realized that yes, loving someone means you accept them and love them where they're at. But it also means that you support them in their goals for self-improvement. You don't enable them in stagnation. You encourage them to be better. I can love myself and my body and still set goals, change my habits, and get healthier.

A lot of my friends who have been successful in losing weight have done so by enrolling in exercise programs, following a strict dietary regimen, and otherwise making drastic changes in their lives. While I respect and admire their tenacity, I'm almost positive that approach wouldn't work for me. I would burn out within days and jump right back into eating ice cream for dinner every night. So I'm going to focus on making small, sustainable changes and turning them into habits. Right now, that means only eating sweets on the weekends and exercising five days a week. When that becomes easy, maybe I'll pay attention to the kind of exercise I'm doing or work more fruits and vegetables into my diet.

Even though the changes I'm making are tiny, sometimes they feel so. so. hard. It physically pains me when there's a package of cookies up for grabs in the faculty room and I'm munching on my carrots instead. In the middle of a Utah winter, it's really difficult to convince myself to go running when I could be on my couch watching Netflix. But there's a kind of a satisfaction that comes when I do make these choices. In a yoga class I went to the other day, the instructor talked about the concept of tapas. Tapas literally means heat, and refers to the friction generated by going against the grain of what is easy. It's a purifying fire generated by letting one's will rule over one's desires. In an LDS context, it might be described as allowing the spirit dominion over the body. My instructor described tapas as "a fiery discipline" that allows people to transcend themselves. And every time I turn down a brownie, change into my running shoes, or eat an apple instead of a bowl of ice cream, I'm cranking that fire up just a little bit hotter.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

In which I'm back

Well, you may have noticed that my Johnny Karate blog series lasted exactly one post. I'm not going to make any apologies or give any excuses for that. But after a seven month blogging hiatus, I think I'm ready to start writing again. I don't know what shape this blog will take or what purpose it will serve. It used to be a journal of sorts, a place to vent my thoughts when I didn't know who to share them with. I have an unprecedented level of support in my life now, and my mental health is much better than when I was blogging the most, so I don't need this blog to be therapy for me anymore. But I do know that I miss writing.

I know that these days blogs are supposed to have a theme or a niche or some unifying feature. For the past seven months I've been trying to choose an angle: do I want this to be a lifestyle blog (whatever the heck that is)? A blog about living in Provo? A religiously-themed blog? A blog full of stirring essays about my deepest inner feelings? I have no clue. And while it's hard for me to choose a specific angle, I think the title of my blog provides the closest thing I've got to a unifying theme. I am alive, learning, and growing, and I want to share my thoughts and stories. You can come join me, if you like.