Prepare the Goat Altar

3 May

It’s May.

The entire first quarter of the year is over, folks. Eddie Izzard ran 27 marathons in 27 days, Franky Zapata flew a Marty McFlyish hoverboard for over a mile, and Donald Trump has risen to become the harbinger of the Apocalypse.  How’s it going for you?

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing: sucking. Just sucking really hard.

Last we left off, I set out to make this year count by incorporating a variety of daily habits into my life until magically, by the end of the year, I would rise to the status of casual superhuman. Thus, I embarked on my annual self throwdown: this time to see whether it was possible to develop a host of superpowered daily habits like getting a good night’s sleep, waking up early, reading the news, drinking something hot, and thinking about my day.

Basically, my 2016 challenge is to become the dad in a nuclear family Sunday comic strip.

I’m not entirely sure those people actually exist – the ones who plan their slumbers, rise early like Ben Franklin, make themselves breakfast, plan out their day, send up a prayer of gratitude, and sacrifice a baby goat all before lunch. Maybe Michelle Obama or Beyoncé, but they probably have a staff aide for the baby goat thing.

All that bleating.

As for me, at this point I’ve picked up a good breakfast habit and everything else is a bit shaky. At one point I’d worked up to four habits simultaneously but I had to think and plan and work to incorporate them, and once I got truly busy they got packed right back into my knapsack of good intentions.

I don’t like to fail at things.

So it’s quarter two and I’m running this ship like a business; it’s time to change strategies and dive in.

Now this next part is going to sound like I’m selling something. You know, like when you’re cruising through your news feed and a friend posts a picture of themselves looking fabulous and you go to click that new, awkward “heart” reaction until you take a closer look at the tags and realize it’s a plug for a body sculpting system that ships green goop to your door for a low monthly fee.

You know what I’m talking about, yes? If not, all you really need to know is that one of the names of such hawked product is called Soylent. It markets itself as an affordable, complete nutrition meal replacement. SOYLENT.

 

I would tag the product here so you could know I wasn’t kidding, but I’d rather plug Heston’s public service announcement about it.

 

Anyway this isn’t one of those. That was the point before I got all Charlton Heston on you.

My quarter two challenge is going to be something called the Whole Life Challenge (note to self: such a better title than One Good Thing). It’s basically everything I set out to do this year with my white boards and my tracking systems and my gamification of challenge attempts, but it costs fifty American dollars to do.

“But why would you do it if it’s basically the same, Jackie? Why would you give away your hard-earned nonprofit admin dollars? 

Because I failed quarter one. And it looks like this whole “add a habit at a time and mark it on your white board before bed” thing isn’t working. I have the undereye bags of a woman twice my age. I’m starting to google neck exercises. I’ve even done some of them. It’s time.

Every day I’ll try to earn points by performing basic human functions. I will do this for 56 days. I’m not really sure what happens on Day 56. I’ll probably write a blog post because that seems to be in line with my 2016 consistency.

Sucking. Just sucking so hard.

I could also tend to these daily habits by joining the Amish (#backtothehomeland), but I’m probably going to need somewhere for this to go in quarter three and it’s been some time since I busted out a Lollipop Tuesday.

But let’s focus on the positives, shall we? I’ve begun to regularly eat a healthy breakfast. I’ll have eggs or cereal or toast instead of, you know, whatever strangely-shaped, dusty M&Ms I can find on the bottom of my purse on the way to work.

Four months to remember how to regularly eat breakfast. I had that down at age 6.

Of course back then it was a bowl of regular Cheerios with a mountain of white sugar I spooned on top.

So maybe I didn’t have that down at 6.

Twenty-nine years to get the breakfast thing down. Okay. That’s fine.

I’m going to go get my badass back. It all goes down on Saturday. I’m gonna throw down five Alexander Hamiltons, and maybe one more to snag myself a new set of aviators so I can feel like a boss while I’m drinking water and reading the daily news.

Quarter two. Let’s roll.

The Death of Jabba

1 Feb

I’m christening February with a brand new shiny post. Since that’s the most I’ve written in 3 months, I’m going to go buy and eat an entire pack of Oreos in celebration.

Now – last month I threw down (as I often do) and made much of my obsession with resolutions and goal-setting. It left some folks wondering what exactly I was going to do for the year if I was parading around trying to get everyone else do to things. Behold: the plan.

When I took a nice hard look at my current life approach, I observed some great attempts at superhumanism (Post-a-Day Challenge, Lollipop Tuesdays, Project Fat Ass 365, Completing a half marathon) juxtaposed almost immediately by Jabba The Hut-like life halts. I come, I conquer, I shut it all down. Way down.

It’s all here on this blog – it’s chronicled. Extreme highs and lows. I lose 30 pounds and am fitter than I’ve ever been in my life then I’m half naked on my couch buried in Skittles. I’m a human machine, then I have to attach fly papers throughout my apartment because I haven’t cleaned in so long that my potatoes are self-imploding in the kitchen. I don’t post for three months, I post twice in a row and eat a whole pack of Oreos. For all my self-discipline, I’m unbelievably undisciplined.

Now, granted, I have made some meaningful and real change in my life as a result of sharing my degradation and my paralyzing, anxiety-filled monologue with you all. But in the midst of all these highs and lows and personal achievements, I’ve continually wondered what a well-balanced life looks like.

Are there people who actually meditate every day? Who manage to eat breakfast every day without counting M&Ms? Somewhere out there, are there humans who have drawers of clean underwear and can touch their toes all year? Can balance be learned?

Let’s face it folks – if I can’t do it before the babies start falling out of my body then it will never happen. Because you know what my babies will want to do? Sit around half naked and eat Skittles. I’ll be doomed to live this way forever and to create an entire line of humans who do the same. 

So that’s the ultimate goal for the year: to experience a well-balanced life in order to save myself from sending my defective seed into the future thereby dooming my entire lineage. Now, as you studious jackieblog pupils will recall, that’s not really an actionable goal. We need specifics- things that I can concretely accomplish on a daily basis. Numbers. Expectations. Measurable outcomes. It’s sciencey and stuff.

(You can hop on board if you want. It’s never too late. That’s a rule here. There aren’t many but the few we have are legit. In fact, check out this rock star over at FattieGettingFit who began her journey on Jan. 27th. It’s not too late in the year, and it’s definitely never too late in your life.)

So here’s the plan.

The “One Good Thing” Challenge

  • Make a list of habits you wish you had or believe that you would have if you were your best self. Make them reasonable and beneficial long-term.
  • Hold each habit at least 7 days. You can’t move on unless you can envision adding a new habit without being overwhelmed.
  • You cannot move on early and all habits must be additive, not subtractive. Not doing something is not a habit. (that’s a good thing to remember for life in general.)
  • Reward yourself along the way at whatever intervals you please and with whatever rewards you find meaningful.

That’s it. Seems like it should work, right?

Here are a few examples of good things I personally think that doing every single day would help make me a more balanced, healthy version of myself:

  • Eating breakfast
  • Flossing
  • Prayer/Meditation
  • Exercise/Stretching
  • Sleep for 8 hours (this is the most unfathomable for me)
  • Moisturize
  • Sending a note to someone I care about
  • Doing something creative

My list goes on. It’s big. I don’t even brush my hair every day.

My rewards list is also big because I plan to kick this squarely in the ass.

I started by picking one and doing it every day, no excuses. The deal is that I have to maintain it for 7 days straight. If I make it to day 6 and miss a day, I start again as if it’s my first day trying to do that habit. It’s okay if I spend half the year making an effort to eat breakfast every day. At least after 6 months I’ll be eating breakfast every day. Once I get two habits in the bucket, I cash in on a reward.

I started at the beginning of January and I’m 3 habits deep.  I’ve eaten breakfast every single day (perhaps a lifetime record at this point), worked out/stretched for at least 5 minutes first thing in the morning, and moisturized every day. I’m working on adding prayer/mediation. So far I’ve discovered the seemingly obvious: that the easier I make it for these things to happen naturally, the more likely they are to happen. I have a yoga mat and weights right beside my bed ready to go so that in the morning all I have to do is convince myself to roll over and start stretching. That usually leads to a little exercise. And that usually leads to me wanting breakfast. Sure – it’s just 5 minutes of movement and a breakfast sandwich now, but by the end of the year, who knows? I could be going for a long morning stroll to see the sun rise, get a cup of coffee and a newspaper (which I’ll presumably make time to read), and make myself Eggs Benedict before work. It will be a page straight out of Real Simple magazine.

I’ve been able to manage all right thus far, but I have to admit I’m having a hard time imagining getting too much farther. Sleeping eight hours every single night hasn’t happened since 3rd grade. That’s on the list. And sooner or later I’m going to have to come to terms with how to make it happen. I’m afraid I’m going to have to let some things go. I do a lot of my work while everyone else is sleeping. Like this blog post which I’m writing at 1AM and auto-scheduling for the following morning. 

So that’s the plan, folks. 2016 is the year I figure out what balance looks like so that in 2017 I can determine whether or not it’s all just a load of horse manure and go back to my night owlish, junk food injecting, willy-nilly ways with no regrets. I’ve got 11 months to go in my next human self-experiment. Yeeeeehaw. 

Psst:  I have a long list of ideas for daily habits, but I could use more.  What do you think is a daily habit of a well-balanced person? Let me know in the comments and help me to abandon my Jabba the Hut-like ways. 

How to Make 2015 Your Final Sucky Year

31 Dec

 

 

 

New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. This week, radio show hosts all over the country laughed haughtily at the thought that America would stuff into gyms across the nation for one solid month, only to trickle off to the actual gym-goers (the ones who were there before the New Year) by February.

 It appears that as a society we’ve become accustomed to making light of our supposed inability to find the time, energy, or resolve to – well – have resolve.

I think that’s a real bummer, man. We’re better than that. And all our sitting around reaffirming each other’s mediocrity isn’t doing us (or the human race at large) any favors. Why do we do that? Probably because it’s cozy. I know from personal experience that it’s far more comfortable to sit on the couch with my fat rolls tucked into my underwear playing video games and eating the entire box of macaroni and cheese than it is to announce my intention to do otherwise and then act on it.

That last part is key – the acting on it part. You usually have to put on pants for that.

This is about more than going to the gym, though that tends to be the most common resolution. This is about taking control of your year, and consequently, your life. If that means gym visits and personal health, so be it. It probably means something else.

How was 2015 for you? What happened?

For me it was pretty terrible, all things considered. It was full of cancer and seizures and suicide. It brought job losses and emotional turbulence and big, difficult moves. It wasn’t a repeater for me, you know, if I have my way and all. But I don’t measure my years by what happened to me; I can’t control any of that. Instead, I measure my years by what I did and how I navigated them. And part of that is whether I accomplished my resolution.

How many times have you thought about what a waste of life it seems to be to work, sleep, and pass away? Have you ever considered that you work your entire life for the promise of retirement and that by the time you retire, you don’t really have the friends, income, or energy to do the things you imagined you’d do? How often have you thought about all the things you would make time for or do or improve upon if or when you have the time to do it?

The nice thing about a new year is that it’s an easily defined point in time. It’s an obvious and complete cycle. It’s an opportunity for you to acknowledge the level of suck you have in a specific area and vow to improve upon it in a concrete way by the next year. It doesn’t have to be a time to mock how we’ll probably never change. It can be a time to authentically reflect on whether you’ve grown as person – and it should be.

You don’t have to declare some monumental achievement. You could try to progressively get better at something (dancing), or take on a specific adventure (go to another country). You could try every day to do one very simple and small thing consistently so that by the end of the year you’ve formed a real habit (eat breakfast when you wake up). Whatever it is, make it something that speaks to the voice in the back of your brain that yoinks at you and says you should do it and that you’d be happier, healthier, and prouder if you did. If you’re not a newcomer to resolution-making, then you should go big. Go scary. Pick the undoable and figure out how to do it. Those ones are my favorite.

It’s fine to be worried or afraid. There’s a reason you haven’t been able to do whatever the thing is yet. Maybe it’s hard to find the time or the energy or the courage. But you’re going to. And it all starts with finding the thing, calling it out, and acknowledging that you seriously suck at it.

There are a variety of ways you can go about this, friends, and while I don’t have any failsafe map for you, I do have a few suggestions. I have maps for 1-Day Challenges, 30-Day Challenges, and Year-Long Challenges up there in my handy dandy menu on the right (How to Suck Less). There isn’t any one right way to go about personal growth, but there’s definitely a wrong way and it’s to stay stagnant.  You could make this the year that you rekindle an old, lost friendship. Or the year that you finally sorted through everything in your attic. You could trace your ancestry or join a club.  I’ve used my recent years to conquer crippling anxiety, to do new and terrifying things to make my life more interesting and filled to the brim with stories, and to run 10Ks and half marathons.  I can tell you with certainty that the years that I sought out to do something specific were filled with intention and mindfulness and growth. And the years that I didn’t were dark and dull and wasted.

This may beg the question of what I’m signing up for this year, but I’m going to wait on that. I’ve got my plan and I have every intention of executing it. But for now let’s focus on you. Don’t worry about starting exactly on the 1st, either. Your year starts when you say it does. Take the time that you need to genuinely assess yourself, your inhibitions, and your wants. Find something measurable and set up the goal posts. Then move. Reflect. Move. Reflect. Growth is inevitable.

It’s time you took control of your life, don’t you think? Next year you should tell the story of what you did with your time, not of what happened to you. And don’t worry – if you feel like giving up, think you don’t have the time or energy to keep on keepin’ on, or if you massively fall on your face – you’ve always got my saga here, chronicled in great and embarrassing detail for either encouragement or commiseration.  Start small, or go big. Do you. But certainly do something.

Last year could be the very last year that you sucked. If you want it to be.

See you in 2016. 

 

The Day I Beat the Blerch

3 Nov

Henceforth, let it be known that at 9:00 antemeridian on Saturday, September 26th in this, the 2015th year of our Lord, I catapulted my gelatinous form across the New Jersey tundra – atop pavement, through thick forests, past unicorn-costumes and over miniature boulders, to ultimately cross the finish line in a bona fide half marathon called Beat the Blerch.

I would have told you sooner but I’ve only just now recovered. Praise be. And Happy Lollipop Tuesday!

As longtime followers know, I began this journey all the way back at this blog’s inception with a 365 post-a-day challenge. Then I moved on to a 365 workout challenge that culminated in a 10K . Then, after being fitter and healthier than I ever was in my lifetime, I immediately regressed into a blogless, sedentary, retreating version of myself. I devolved, and recoiled into solitude in what will now be referred to as The Days of Shame.

I have only recently re-emerged. Ever so slowly, I’ve been rebuilding the hot mess that has been the year of 2015 and told myself that even if everything goes to hell, I would accomplish one, solitary thing with certainty. And so, I lunged toward that which sounded the most awful and unattainable: a half marathon.

I don’t like running. I never have.  I don’t think anyone truly enjoys it. In particular, distance running. Distance running means battling the weather, your personal calendar, chafing, eating schedules, constant full-body soreness, and pooping.

Yes: pooping.

They don’t really tell you that. I mean, I guess they do if you know to Google but I consulted several training schedules when race planning and not a single one mentioned the enormous urge for spontaneous pooing in the middle of a run or directly thereafter.

It turns out that if you don’t fuel properly, you can be prone to defecation thanks to the immediate rush of blood back to your digestive system. That’s what gels and energy drinks and all of those weird looking items in the sports and fitness aisles are for. That’s why wiry, solid distance runners often have supply belts around their wastes. It’s to fend off the poops.

The day that I completed my first seven mile run, I went directly to the bathroom to make it my forever home. I wondered if I might find a long enough break between lower body activity to gather some basic tenants of survival so that I could simply stay there the night. After what felt like hours, I finally gave all I had to the sewer gods and attempted to stand up. I required the use of all supporting apparatuses in my bathroom – towel racks, sides of the bathtub, the top of the toilet lid, the sink edge – to do so because merely hours before I had finished running seven full miles with my God-given jelly stilts.

No, I don’t like running.

Life went on in that fashion – working, running, popping energy gels, meticulously planned poo schedules, and a lack of social life – throughout the training period. From April until September I consistently rearranged my life to make enough time to gallop across the Pittsburgh pasturage.

Eventually, details about the race course were sent to participants and I learned a vital piece of information: the half marathon was a trail run.

For the uninitiated, there is a staggering difference between a legitimate “trail run” and running on pavement or flat terrain. One ought not attempt the former when only training on the latter. But I didn’t want to run on trails – just running was hard enough. So I simply carried on. Until the Day of Reckoning.

The race began on pavement just after sunrise with dew sparkling on the fields nearby. I encouraged myself with the reminder that it was advertised as a blend of trail and pavement and that perhaps it was more the latter than the former. I trained for this, I told myself. I’ve got this. I’ll go slow, and I will prevail. After all, it’s a half marathon based on a hilarious digital cartoon. The Oatmeal knows his readers are mostly human puddings, right? I’ve got this. It will be fine.

Dave (who had been my coach throughout training) was serving as text coach and social media trumpet. My phone was full of people encouraging me in my endeavor. If I needed to remember how much shame was in my failure, I only needed to pop open an app or my text threads to see well wishes from those I would swiftly disappoint. The possibility of failure was palpable. I had to get this done.

The first few miles went well, actually. They were flat and predictable and I had trained my brain by this time to think of them as merely a warmup (a task that seemed Herculean to me only months before). The real worry started to set in around mile 4. The race took a turn into a state forest, and I remembered that I, in fact, hadn’t trained for this. I was running  lightly jogging directly into the belly of the beast.

I told myself to just take it mile by mile and that if I could only weather the elevation changes, I would eventually crest the horizon to victory. But the path was steep and skinny and full of rocks and roots. People were falling and getting cut up, and the longer I ran, the more my ankles felt like someone was thwacking them with a dozen tiny ball-peen hammers.

IMG_6298People were passing me in steady waves and the trail was so itty bitty that there was no way for them to go around me unless I moved off to the side or sometimes just stopped altogether. Hills and roots and rocks required balancing acts and such careful placement of my feet that, when approaching mile 9, I was simply too tired to execute. I instead resolved to run everything that I could safely run and walk the parts that would surely send me rolling down a hillside.

At the 9th mile marker, a blistery wind shook the trees throughout the forest and I swear to the wood nymphs that only the ones near me thwacked heavy nuts down on my head. I was in a nut storm. A frustrating, humiliating, kill-me-I-quit-this-is-moronic-why-am-I-doing-this-it-hurts nut storm. I hated everything. The earth. The nuts. The wind. The other runners. My pants. I told myself I would just sign up for another marathon on a flat, predictable surface.  I called Dave on a slight ripple of cell reception to regale him with my failure. He said gentle and understanding things, woven in with subtle reminders that I should do what I could. And that I could probably actually do it if I just mustered my musterness. I said something like thanks but no thanks and sorry I let him down and that I would see him if I managed to not sink into the dredges of Mother Earth and die there in an obscure New Jersey state forest.IMG_6300

Then I started to feel pretty bad. Mostly because he was just so gosh darn nice about it all. And because my phone was full of people who thought I could do it. And because I blogged about how I would and I knew I’d have to come back after it all and write something. And because deep down inside me was chubby 8th grade Jackie, who was always next to last in the soccer team long runs. Suddenly, I wanted to run so hard that my inner thighs would furiously chafe and catch fire and all my jiggle would burn up into the sky and be left there ever after.

 I carried on.

I honed in on this fellow who looked quite fit. The reality was that if he was in my neck of the woods this late in the game, he probably trained on cheesy poofs and good intentions. But I pegged him for my imaginary competition because he kept passing me and then falling behind me for the last quarter of the race. He also had a sweatband. I was tired of looking at the back of his head and its stupid sweatband that magically stayed in place and I was tired of my pathetic, whining, failure of a disposition. I needed a mission and I had one: I just had to beat Sweatband.

I picked up my pace to something I thought sustainable and worked to just make it to the next mile marker. Once I made it to 10, I told myself the last three miles were basically a cool down and that all I had to do was ride it out. I loaded up on Nutella at the last aid station, dammit. I could do this. I probably wouldn’t even have to poop right after it.

And so I carried on. Across skinny, boulder-laiden trails, up glute-busting hills, and past people who looked like they might have trained. As I barreled down a hill in the 13th mile, an early finisher appeared in the clearing, yelling to all the slow motors that we were almost there and the finish line was just through the trees. I was just behind Sweatband.  

The greeter gave him life – he lunged forward and increased his pace. Apparently he had trained to finish strong. That’s a thing they tell you to practice. I could see why.

I pushed off my heels and picked up the pace to match him. As I rounded the bend into the clearing, I saw a bench of finishers that included the friend I had signed up for the race with. I hadn’t seen him since the start. He wasn’t sweating anymore, and he looked like he had a renewed taste for life, so I knew he’d been finished for quite some time. He got up off the bench and began to run beside me, encouraging me. A wave of excitement rose up in me as I searched frantically for the finish with my eyes. I started going into a dead sprint and surged past Headband. My friend kept pace with me, smiling and cheering. My gaze flitted across the field – where in the holy hell was the finish line!? WILL THIS EVER END? WILL I DIE HERE?! I yelled to my friend in desperation to reveal the location of my resting ground. I spotted it in the distance – about a quarter mile away.

You might think a quarter of a mile is nothing when compared to thirteen, but let me tell you: when your ankles are beat to hell, you smell like an adolescent boy’s week-old gym shorts, your sports bra is carrying a pound of water weight, and you’re standing on a sliver of morale that’s been beaten down by nut storms and passed by waves of superior humans, 1,320 feet feels like a lifetime. I knew I couldn’t sustain my sprint that long, so I backed off to a pace I could keep until closer to the finish. My friend’s enthusiasm faded and he promised to meet me at the end. Headband chugged ahead.

I pushed on for the final leg, sprinted into high gear when I was truly at the end, and finished just behind my targeted stranger. The loudspeakers rattled “Congratulations, Jackie!” and someone stationed at the finish line to read off finishers’ names gave me a big hearty smile. A volunteer handed me a medal. My friend handed me a banana and a jug of Mimosa disguised as Tropicana. I downed half of it and stretched. Someone emerged from the horizon dressed as The Abominable Snowman for a photo opportunity. It was a confusing time.

AS

I’m delirious here.

It took me some time to accept that I didn’t run the entire race. And that I didn’t properly train, and that if I had perhaps I could have done the entire course without walking, or breaking down and wanting to give up. I rewound to every missed training run, every clipped completion, and every day I told myself I could just move today’s run to tomorrow.  And then I decided to pack up all of that and throw it all away because regardless of how I got to the finish line, I got there. And doing thirteen miles in any fashion is a gargantuan accomplishment for a jelly-laden lady of leisure such as myself. I had a medal, dammit. And I had bussed, taken a train, a taxi, and another bus to get to a place to run thirteen miles. I was going out to get the best pizza I could find and to go home a fat, happy hero.

When they tell you that if you’re going to run, you need to run for yourself, they’re not kidding. Nothing else is going to get you through such a difficult and rigorous task. Wanting to be skinny isn’t enough to get you through your Mile 9, and I’ll be damned if I ever experienced the rumored “runner’s high.”

When you truly challenge yourself, you need to be doing it for you. And you need a good strong support group who will cheer you on, meet you at the finish line, and even tell you it’s okay to stop when you need to. Nothing else really gets you there.

Except maybe some energy gels.

And the truth about pooping.

Hey: thanks for the support, Interwebz. I couldn’t have crossed the finish without your possible impending shame.

Jackalope, out. 

banana

Please Don’t Make Me, It Hurts

31 Aug

It has been one great rotation of the earth since I have posted.  Where in the holy hellballs did I go?

No, really. The last time I posted was last September,  wherein I said I was “back,” whatever that meant. Apparently it meant that I had sincere plans to dive nose-deep into the pale, sweaty armpits of the Internether and perhaps never return.

I’ve come ever so briefly out of my little dark whole with the cockroaches and video games – out from the muck and the mire and all off the rolls of fat and shame that have accumulated since my last post. I’ve brought new toons as penance. Once, many moons ago, I asked Sir John Michnya to draw some for me hoping that by the time they were finished, the desire to update would stick my finger into the part of my brain that publicizes my thoughts and pull something gooey out.  Four months later, here it is.

The reality, my friends, is that life has been hard. Like, real hard. Like, “hey, I heard 2014 was pretty nice for you and got you a nice job and appreciation for family and stuff so HEY LET’S THROW DEATH AND CANCER AND HEARTACHE AND AWFUL IN YOUR FACE TO MAKE UP FOR THOSE GLORIOUS GIFTS ISN’T LIFE SO FUNNY!”

It’s all about balance. Seems fair.

All is well enough in Jackieland, have no fear. As well as it can be, given that I haven’t yet been transported to live my real, true life as a night elf in Azeroth. Someday, ducklings. …Someday. In the meantime I need something to make me feel like I don’t suck as much.  So I picked a half marathon.

You may recall that in 2013, my 365 challenge was to work out every day and culminated in a 10K. You may also recall my near-death in that experience, the amount of increase in my tendency to cuss, and a beneficial thinning of my thighs coupled with a promise that I would never, ever put my genetically underdeveloped body in that position again.

But I have a good friend who did the 10K with me and was happy to shame me into running an ungodly amount of miles, despite it being over twice what nearly killed me. The texts he sent me thereafter helped me to envision a dull, dark world where I had walked away from a challenge. They were almost Shakespearean.

This talk of half marathon is not an empty promise, friends. I’m in week nineteen of half marathon training. I can slowly jog more than eight miles in an ugly and haggard fashion.  I have my motivation board up and active, I have enlisted a personal shamer, a personal coach, and a personal cheerleader. The trifecta is in place.

The truth is I don’t really know what else to do. I don’t want to stop trying new things, I don’t want to have a tumbleweed blog, and I don’t want to have space in my brain for all the awful that this year has brought so far. So a really long and painful run is all I’ve got.

I sucked. Life is ebbs and flows of suck.  But what else can be done with it but to put it out there and look it in the face. It just gets bigger and fatter the longer I wait.

The older I get, the more I think that we’re all just flailing in suckery. The good eggs try to correct course. The bad eggs, for some reason that will forever dog them, don’t try. The glory is in the trying, I think.

Here’s to the good eggs. 

Shout out to a fan from the nether who greased up the ol’ contact form and told me to get back at it so that she could have a brief respite from her soul-sucking state job. I’d tell you her name but then the government would assign her a drone. Thanks for turning on the skillet.

The Myth of Balance

4 Sep

You might be wondering how my vegan adventure went and you might be wondering what has brought me to the surface. The answer to the former is that it was easier than I thought and the answer to the latter is that things are pretty bad and this is a cry for help.

I fell off the wagon a bit after the vegan thing. During it I was grand. I had an abundance of friends with diet restrictions and advice to share and an enthusiastic housemate who was so supportive that he actually got excited about Vegenaise. (Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.)

The biggest problem I faced with veganism began when I exchanged my penchant for junk food for a penchant with beer, which was one of my only remaining legal vices. Unfortunately after I finished the veganism, I decided to celebrate with my favorite non-veganism indulgences and didn’t drop the penchant for beer. From the time I set out to be vegan, did an bang-up job, wrapped it up, and returned to unvegan, I gained 15 pounds – a feat that genuinely surprises me.

I felt pretty bad about myself and tried to jump start things with a ride-my-bike-to-work-every-day challenge. It lasted zero days.

Ouch.

I started to revert to pre-blog Jackie. Do you remember pre-blog Jackie? She was a hermity old coot who got winded on the way to the bus stop, left every social engagement early and miserable, and who hated going clothes shopping because she stressed too much over all the unknowns associated with dressing room processes. We were pathetically fond of her for a time but we don’t miss her.

…Do we?

Today's illustration is brought to you by the Dave.

Today’s illustration is brought to you by the Dave.

At times like this it feels like I’m always just trying to get away from that default setting of being out of control. I’m not sure what balance is; when you strip away all the aphorisms we hang around our house and pinterest boards, it appears to mean being fit, seeing people you love often enough, being financially stable, knowing generally where you’re going, having something you’re looking forward to, getting plenty of sleep, and staying well educated and adaptable while somehow also finding time to do absolutely nothing.

You know: that’s all.

I thought the whole thing about balance was that there was a point when it happened – when the energy of a thing transcends its individual parts and achieves a central harmony. There is a certain ease and weightlessness in balance. Grace.

I’ve never once even felt close to this. Has anyone? Is there really someone who feels like there was a time when you were spending exactly enough time doing everything there was to do? Why does it even feel like this magical land of bull hockey should exist? What in the holy hellballs are we thinking?  

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by all these things that I become tired and a little scared and have to muster up the musteriness to keep on. Honestly, it’s just a lot easier and more natural for me to sit on the couch, keep to myself, and try to be occasionally clever. I can do that.That sounds doable and the longer I do it the easier it is to maintain.

This all started to feel familiar. Surely I’ve been here before.  I went hunting through my archives because I thought I remembered a time akin to this where I felt like I was slowly losing control of things in my life. Alas, I unearthed “The Great Filth Festering,” a post in two parts.

An excerpt from Jackie Blog Historical Histories:

“I’ve deteriorated again. I kind of have gotten into the habit of building a domicile of stench and humiliation. I guess that’s just how I operate lately. I’m busy and I’ve determined that one of the first things that can go is my sense of cleanliness and dignity.
 
I was swimming in my stench pool of an apartment this past weekend when I reached a new low in the land of Jackie: I invested in my first roll of fly tape. I almost felt bad about dooming the fools to a sticky, static death by goo but I was trying to take a nap between shifts the other day and they proceeded to swirl and flit and then procreate on me. 
 
You heard me correctly. I was attempting to nap on my couch and was frequently woken by the slight itch that accompanies two flies landing on your kneecap and fornicating. If you ever need a confirmation that your life is spiraling out of control and you need to get your act together, let flies bumping uglies on you in the festering filth of your stench cocoon seal the deal.”

I don’t know why it soothes me to read of similar moments of my failure. Perhaps it’s because my apartment is relatively clean right now so it highlights an area where I’m performing well at the moment. Perhaps it’s because I can say with certainty that I got past this particular scenario and it inspires hope. Perhaps it’s just because we don’t talk about it enough and it’s kind of liberating to just admit that I have a hard time keeping up with everything and having clean underwear at the same time.

I kind of wish we would all do it more.

Anyway, here I am. I would like to believe that a status update is the next step in propelling me back into the ring.

So humor me: in celebration of my exodus from the cocoon and in the name of the holy hellballs conjured earlier in this post, tell me a fond moment of failure. What’s your fly tape moment? Hook a sister up with some fellow failures.

You’re all swell. It’s nice to see you up here on the surface. Let me just clear some of the boxes of Cheez Its out of the way for us. 

Vegan Jackie, Reporting for Duty

1 May

Hello lovelies! It’s the first day of a shiny, new month and that means it’s time for me to fire up another 30 Day Challenge. It’s month 5, and so far I’ve tackled Jillian Michaels, an hour of reading every night (readers’ choice), cutting sugar, and keeping a detailed daily food and exercise journal.

Cutting sugar has by far been my least favorite. I don’t like it when my food is messed with. Particularly my sugar food.

I also like to eat animals. I do. I went vegetarian a long time ago after reading Skinny Bitch (I’m sorry, I wish it were more academic, but we do truth tellin’ here), and I only made it eight months. It was a gradual decline. I started sneaking ham sandwiches when my friends weren’t around and told myself they were a one-time thing and then before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving and I might as well have shoved my head directly up that turkey butt (Exhibit 1).

In all sincerity I’ve become much more cognizant over the years about what I put in my mouth (stop it), partly due to my effort to get fit in my 365 Day Challenge, version 2013, and partly because I became aware of how terrible the food industry is to animals, which I love and adore in an Elmyra Duff fashion. I’ve learned to vote with my money and though it has been a difficult budget adjustment for me, I buy grass fed beef, free range chickens, and try to make environmentally- and ethically-conscious choices.

But now it’s time to go hard. Trying to read more and eat less sugar and work out are good and dandy 30 Day attempts, but I can’t imagine any 30 Day Challenge I would hate more than going vegan and that makes it real juicy. I owe a few readers this challenge as well – some of whom have even offered to help me along the way. 

This strapping young lad is Alex Etling, aka @vegantweeter and the host of the posts at iChewsVegan. I’ll be dropping in on him for some veggie-filled truths this month and he’s been kind enough to offer himself as lifeline during my animal-craving fits of rage. (photo credit: Lauren Morrison Photography)

I’m not even sure what I can eat today. I mean, I know what I can’t eat. I grabbed a banana and a granola bar this morning and I’m going to have to read a lot of vegan food blogs very quickly because for a long time my major food groups were Cheez Its, Pizza, Hoagies, Macaroni and Cheese, and Ice Cream.

Those all sound delicious and they’re all off-limits. This is going to be an actual challenge.

There are lots of reasons that this is both the perfect and the worst time to do this. It’s the next natural step in my increasingly healthy lifestyle adjustments, and it doesn’t hurt that a powerful dose of nutrients and body love will help an upcoming photo shoot and summer season look more appealing… but it’s also a month full of food celebrations thanks to a recent job change, and several business meetings at restaurants that will simultaneously test my willpower and my knowledge of what’s safe to put in my piehole. 

The truth is that there is never a “good” time to start anything. There are always challenges. Change, even if temporary, is not easy. For 30 days in a row, I have to do this regardless of guilt I may feel for not eating something homemade, the waste I might incur by not partaking in unexpected and generous food gifts, and the overwhelming cravings I’ll battle when one of my aforementioned major food groups comes sexily whispering into my ear.

I’ll admit that I’m really clinging to two things for panic relief: there’s a kick-butt veggie stir fry offered at the joint down the street, and I know an ice cream shop that pushes vegan offerings.

The premise of Lollipop Tuesdays, 30 Day Challenges, and 365 Projects is to do something that you aren’t sure you can do, that you don’t necessarily want to do, and from which you might learn a great deal. For me, this definitely fits the bill. The timing is terrible, the excitement is difficult to muster, and the reward might be incredible. If you want to hop on board, you can start with your very next meal and count forward thirty days.

I’ll see you on the other side. 

Vegan Jackie, out. 

 

Pasties Make Me Squeamish

16 Apr

Where in the hell have I been?

That’s a great question. I’ve been lots of places. I’ve been to a burlesque show, to Montreal, to court for jury duty, and to market to snag a new job. That’s a lot of things to do and none of them really have anything to do with my absence. It was moreso that I stumbled upon an unintended spring break. As I went longer and longer without posting, the part of my brain that has the ability to write things and push the ‘post’ button began to deteriorate. After a few weeks I was consumed with shame and harbored a modicum of fear that I would be unable to write anything worthy of being posted and thus, failed to post. Week after week after week.

Then I remembered that’s not what we’re about here. If I refrained from posting when I had nothing worthy to say, there would have been about 360 less posts in the year of 2011 and 14 in total in 2012 and 2013. You know this. I know this. And so we will all press on together – worthy or not.

I owe you a post about titties and so you shall have it. Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gents.

I know it’s Wednesday today but dammit, I can’t make excuses anymore. Just pretend this posted on a Tuesday so I can keep the whole bit going.

I went to a burlesque show. I didn’t want to go. But I have a friend with whom I have been quite enamored since middle school and she busies herself with a smorgasbord of ever-changing performance gigs. At the moment, the gig is singing and removing clothes.

There’s more to it than that. I’m obligated to say something or other about how burlesque is rooted in vaudeville and is less a stripping-for-money thing than it is a singing-and-empowering-art-of-costuming-and-teasing thing. 

Frankly, I don’t care about any of that. I hated it.

I came prepared to like it. I have a few lady friends who frequent burlesque shows and told me they can be empowering and lovely. I’ll admit that initially, there was a part of me that was a little inspired by seeing so many unique female bodies. It reminded me that beauty takes many forms and that there is no need to be ashamed of all things that jiggle and are not magazine-esque.

That was where the magic ended.

First, for those of you who have yet to attend a fancy titty dance, let me give you the lay of the land for this particular event. There was a stage, there were seats, there were two male emcees that said silly and distasteful things between acts and sometimes participated, and there were lots of beautiful, bendy, talented women who would either dance together in a group piece that stripped down to pasties or a solo act that stripped down to pasties. 

Pasties are the goal line, it seems. 

Once upon a time I thought myself the kind of gal who would be able to go out with the guys to a strip joint, laugh, put some singles in some panties, and have a great ironic time. I don’t know why I thought that. That person was stupid. I don’t like seeing women take their clothes off, by their own choice or not, while people hoot and holler at them. It makes me feel gross. Maybe that makes me a prude. I’ve been known to be prudish and I’m okay with it I guess because there’s no denying something deep and animalistic was fighting against the experience the entire time my cheeks were in the seat.

Admittedly, I may have made a few choice errors. Firstly, that I sat in the front. But with Lollipop Tuesdays, you go big or go home, kids, and so I took the front seat and prepared to be dazzled. Dave offered me a drink (because one must try to bring a Dave to a Lollipop Tuesday when one can) but I refused. I wanted to see the glory stone-cold sober.

Front row, sober. Mistakes perhaps. 

Back in the day, I would go so out of my way to save myself from discomfort that eventually I stopped doing uncomfortable things altogether and just flatly rejected any situation or potential for a situation where I might not be at ease. Now that I’m a seasoned veteran of Lollipop Tuesdays, I actively seek out those very situations so that I am forced to either change my perspective on them or to decline from somewhere other than a place of ignorance.

I was once the queen of comfortable ignorance. But no more. Now, I dislike burlesque because I went and I saw and I squirmed. I am now an educated objector.

I suspect the second piece of the show was what did me in.

The premise of the first piece was that a man had found an island of she-beasts who prepared to cook him up and eat him while he unknowingly delighted in the view. Yadda, yadda, pasties.

The second piece, however, was a line of women from one side of the stage to the other and one of the male emcees moving from right to left, asphyxiating, smothering, or otherwise incapacitating each of them and then proceeding to take advantage of their lifeless bodies.

That one didn’t end in pasties. Or maybe it did but I was just blinded by rage. 

This particular piece may have changed the way I saw the ones that followed it. I had a lot of conflicting feelings during the time I served as audience and many of them would have led me out the back of the theater if I hadn’t been bound by the honor system I so rigorously enforce on myself for this very blog. 

It was like this except there wasn't any fire. See those pasties that give you an experience not unlike seeing her actual breasts? That part makes me real squirmy.

It was like this except there wasn’t any fire. And don’t worry – those are pasties, not nipples. I’ve been told it’s a notable difference.

 

During intermission, Dave bought me a drink. It was a wise choice; he’s a good man. In the future, I shall view objectified women in pasties only when tipsy. There is no other way.

So maybe it’s fair to say that I could have entered this show, sat in the middle three sheets to the wind and I might have enjoyed it. Probably not. I suspect that the feministy things that stew in my belly cannot be removed by sheer force of alcohol. No, I suspect that would just exaggerate things for me. But there’s my disclaimer.

I was a good sport and bought a key chain and waxed academic with the dancers after the show. They were all lovely and part of me admires the courage, physical strength, choreography, and costuming artistry of what they do because they are fellow performers and the work should not go unnoticed. They are thoroughly impressive ladies. But beyond that I’m girdled with the belief that people should be nude behind closed doors. Blame Baptist school if it pleases you, but I’ll stay home next time.

Whew. There we are. That’s a whole post right there. Now I just have tales of Canada, jury duty, and the regular drum of my exaggerated life experiences to go. I’m back on the wagon, ducklings. Happy Spring. 

By the way, I’m still doing 30 Day Challenges all year for 2014. So far I’ve conquered the ever-present Jillian Michaels, forced daily reading, and sugar restriction. This month, I’m keeping a food journal. Perhaps it will help me identify all the things I will miss when I attempt to go vegan later this year. You can join me any time by doing anything at all for 30 Days. Click here to learn more about the beauty of self-torture and sweet release.

Boobs! Canadians! Patriotism!

12 Mar

This week I’m dropping in to announce two super important things. 

One: the little boxes under “How to Suck Less” ——> over there

have been updated to take you to an actual “how to.” So if you’d like to grow a pair and try something new, do something for 30 days, or go all in and try a 365 Project, there you go. And if you don’t want to, let those little boxes be a constant nagging reminder of the human you could be.

No pressure.

As promised, I’m working on a little hall of fame for the folks who have tried and completed a Lollipop Tuesday, 30 Day Challenge, or 365 Project. I can’t do everything, people. Not all at once, anyway.

The second announcement is that I realize it’s been quite some time since I’ve regaled you with stories of my attempts at conquering fear in my Lollipop Tuesday series. But I’ve got ’em in the queue. There’s all sorts of newness happening – a burlesque show (watched, didn’t perform thankyouverymuch), a trip to Canada, and if I prove myself to be a worthy enough patriot, even jury duty. Boobs! Canadians! Patriotism!

I’m struggling with my feministy feels on that burlesque one. Maybe I shouldn’t have sat in the front row. 

So! Good things are here, and good, potentially distasteful things are coming.

Glory, hallelujah. 

Death Is a Pink-Faced Fat Man

20 Feb

I have seen death, and it’s a pink-faced fat man.

megabus man

It was approximately 10:00pm on Monday, February 17th when it first occurred to me that perhaps I frequent the Megabus too often to be able to statistically avoid certain death. I was on a return-trip from Harrisburg where I had spent a long weekend with my niece and nephew and I was slated to arrive in Pittsburgh at 11:30pm but thanks to relentless white sheets of snow and wind, would perhaps never arrive at all. It was late, I was worn, and I was very aware that I did not want to die under my current circumstances.

It isn’t until you’re in white out conditions late at night uncomfortably squished beside sweaty frat boys and no working seat belts that you realize maybe a ten dollar ticket to go across the state  really has some obvious weaknesses. On that particular evening, I was aware of them all.

It began when I noticed that what used to be a 4 hour trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg for less than the cost of a turnpike toll has now been converted to a 5+ hour trip from Pittsburgh to State College to Harrisburg (and then on to Philadelphia). This may seem a minor change, but I assure you that when you’re crunched up against a girl who brought a life-sized pink teddy bear on the bus because her boyfriend gave it to her over the weekend and she could only check one thing, every hour counts. It also means that instead of stopping at a reasonable rest stop on a major interstate featuring several restaurants for dinner, we stop at a convenience store named “Tom’s”, which results in meal arrangements including but not limited to Cheez Its, a family size bag of fruit snacks, and a king sized Kit Kat bar.

It was not my finest hour.

As if my experience at the shining American establishment that was Tom’s was not enough, my bus driver was kind enough to note that we should all return to the bus at 8:15pm and did not himself return to the bus until 8:30pm. I’m not one to get in a mess about a 15 minute delay, but given my proximity to pink bear girl, the bathroom door, and the (open) door to the outside, I was keenly aware of every extra minute needlessly spent in a three-layer sandwich of teddy bear stuffing and cold and poo.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time, only months ago, when my trip from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg was a cost-savings stroke of convenient genius. I’ve frequented the Megabus so often that I’ve pinned it down to a beautiful science. I arrive exactly at the right time to be the first in line so that I get the absolute best position on the bus, I nest in my seat of choice with a pashmina and a Netflix binge, and I check out until I fall asleep.

There are a variety of typical concerns when traveling via Megabus. One of the most pressing is that if you get on at a pick-up point, you’re going to have a terrible time. That’s because everyone at the starting point has formed a nest already and is asleep by the time the pickup point is reached. Many seats are full and the spaces that are vacant of people are instead consumed by bags, legs, and teddy bears of various unreasonable sizes.

I am convinced that the true test of whether one is an asshole or not is how they handle the pickup point transition on a Megabus. It can be tantalizing to pay only a few bucks for a ticket across the state that affords you power outlets, comparatively decent leg room, a panoramic double-decker top view if you’re first in line, and, if you play your cards right, two seats to yourself.

There are a variety of tactics one can employ to ensure they get to enjoy their seat in solitude. The most common one is to sleep or feign sleep at a pickup point and to have a back or a body part across the adjacent seat so that someone will have to wake you from slumber to sit down. Others will just put on headphones and put a bag there to help deter people from asking while saving themselves from guilt by being polite and lovely if they do.

My preferred method is to leave the seat empty but to get out a bottle of lotion and obsessively rub my hands until all passengers are seated. It’s a perfectly innocent act, but when done with the right amount of intensity, is incredibly effective at inspiring strangers to wake up a sleeper rather than sit with me.

Over time, however, I have experienced pick up points with enough frequency that I ditched the lotion bit altogether and simply open the seat and take my chances. I’ve been that poor, wandering soul too often, and the choice between a 3-hour seat partner who is mad that I woke them up, annoyed that they have to ride with their bag on their lap, or showing indicators of homicidal tendencies is one I wish I didn’t have to make.

But those days are long over. I’m not afforded choice in my return trip anymore, my dinner is at a gas station, and my ticket time has increased. Especially in light of the insta-blizzard.

I remember texting Dave around 11:00 to let him know my bus would be late and that the weather was bad. He asked me how bad, and I said I was worried enough to move to a seat with a working seat belt. The snow was coming down so quickly and the wind so harsh that, looking out the windshield, I was fairly certain the bus driver was just hoping he was still on the road. I didn’t see how he could possibly know for sure.

I told myself to just go to sleep and that when I woke up I would be home, but it’s nearly impossible to sleep through the possibility of death. Having viewed the safety video no less than forty times, I thought it prudent to locate my emergency exits since at first glance I looked like the only human capable of assisting during a crash. To be fair, the teddy bear may have been able to also lend a hand.

From time to time I can harbor some Nervous Nelly tendencies so I tried to calm myself in spite of our crawling down the road like a half-squished slug and to watch House of Cards. That was when the Jesus music came.

Apparently our bus driver had concerns too, because just two hours after instructing us to relax and sleep until Pittsburgh, he put on his finest Jesus album to get him through the storm. Though artistic liberties beg me to say it was “Jesus Take the Wheel”, I am disappointed to admit that it was far worse than that. It was the repetitive kind that even born-and-bred-Baptist folk like me get grumpy over. One of those ones with a repeating chorus that goes on for 10 minutes in various iterations of someone speak-singing over a gospel choir and then riffing on a plethora of glory notes.

There’s nothing like waking up to a blizzard of snow and a choir of people yelling for Jesus to draw them close to really scare the daylights out of you.

I took to Facebook to announce my perhaps-impending doom and asked that instead of dying-by-Megabus, I would prefer my story be adjusted to something more eventful like “death by honey badger joust.” And just then, the storm cleared, the white curtains were parted, and the gospel choir was silenced. 

We were cresting the summit that reveals the Pittsburgh skyline at 1:30am and it was a glorious sight to behold. I hugged the life sized bear beside me in jubilant relief. It was a 7+ hour trip from a snowy day in hell and I was pleased to not have to leave my obituary to those who survive me. 

Take note: should I find myself in similar circumstances again, you can just go ahead and let this serve as it instead. Until then, I’ll be looking into planes, trains, and a new automobile. ♣

PS – My 30 Day Challenge for February is well underway. Thank you to everyone who voted for me to read books and not for me to have to hang out with humans every day for a month. Going vegan was a close second but is still certainly a contender for the coming months. In the meantime, my biggest struggle is in finding an hour to focus where I don’t fall asleep. Maybe my next challenge can be 30 days of real sleep? 

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