Hurry Up and Wait

Everything was going smoothly–maybe too smoothly: we’d worked our butts off and completed a huge number of home improvement tasks over the course of two grueling, almost sleepless months. The house had been almost entirely repainted and new baseboards installed. We’d done a cosmetic overhaul on one bathroom and nearly a gut renovation on another. We’d sealed and painted the enormous pool area/patio and put in countless hours of landscaping work. Surely now the end was in sight, right?

Knowing that listing the house meant it was serious Go Time, we loaded up boxes and bins and took out a storage unit at our local U-Haul vendor. Packing up the house would serve double duty: moving would be easier if we were already mostly packed, and staging our house to sell would be much easier if there were very few things left to keep clean.

We met with a real estate agent, talked pricing and timeline, promised to complete a number of projects within the week, and scheduled professional pictures and a video tour while she prepared the listing and the comps.

“I have a request for a showing at eleven,” the text read on my phone, only 14 hours after the listing posted. We had anticipated it, but not so quickly. We cleaned again, loaded pets into trucks and disappeared for an hour while strangers walked our house. How many times, we wondered, would we have to do this before we had an offer? (As it turned out, once.)

Anyone who has ever moved–anywhere–can attest to the fact that moving is a stressful experience somewhat akin to a major life trauma. That stress is compounded if you’re selling your home in one location and buying (in my case sight-unseen) in another. Not only are you dealing with different state requirements, but putting logistics into place from thousands of miles away presents an interesting sort of challenge. You are forced to place your trust in complete strangers, which is especially difficult if you are a self-identified control freak.

The closing date barreled down on us as we worked frantically to find a home in our new location, get an offer accepted, get all the necessary inspections completed and line up financing. We had three weeks to make the magic happen. Three weeks until the U-Haul needed to pull out of the driveway and hit I-95, traveling north.

We cleaned, checked all the cabinets and drawers for the last time, and said goodbye to all of our wonderful neighbors. Then we stood in the driveway in the bright morning sun and took a few photos of the house we’d loved so much for the last five years. (I may have ugly cried.)

My gracious in-laws offered to put us up for a couple nights, as our closing happened on a Thursday and our “purchase closing” wasn’t to take place until the following Monday. Not a problem, we thought, it’ll be a day of downtime before we start the drive.

“I’m going to check our financing account,” I told my husband as we pulled into the driveway of my in-laws’ home that Thursday morning. I just wanted to make sure everything was on track, as the loan officer had been assuring me it was for the past several weeks.

Seven new requests for documentation. What was this? All of this had already gone through underwriting according to the loan officer and none of it had raised any red flags. We were in the clear, he’d said. But according to what I was looking at now, almost nothing had been cleared. Some of the requests were almost insurmountable tasks, as we collected schedules and supporting documents, processed approvals, made back-to-back phone calls and sent upwards of 100 e-mails over the course of the next two days.

All of my ducks had stepped out of their row–been pushed out of their row, and suddenly I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed for the next several nights, my mind churning, my heart hammering. The stress was trying to swallow the both of us whole and I thought to myself, “I have never been officially diagnosed as an anxious person,” but in that moment my sympathy for individuals who suffer chronic, intense general anxiety was at an all-time new level of understanding. I couldn’t imagine feeling this way all the time, or even for extended periods of time. The panic level was so intense, there were moments I feared I wouldn’t be able to catch my breath. (Would we live with my in-laws, out of the back of a U-Haul, forever? Try not to let *that* bring on your own panic attack.)

At the end of the day, I know better. I’ve been trained to handle stressful situations and to apply stress reduction measures: nutritious food, a sleep schedule and routine, meditation and/or religious practices, a gratitude practice. But do you suppose I remembered to do any of those things while my heart was racing and I was trying to catch my breath? (Well, I did remember deep breathing, in an attempt to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, but that wasn’t enough.)

Sometimes we need someone to step in and remind us that things are going to be ok, that terrifying situations are only temporary. It’s difficult to remove ourselves from that panicked head space without the help of someone with a different perspective. In my case, several friends patiently reiterated what I already knew: that everything does happen for a reason, even if I never fully grasp the why. That didn’t immediately talk me down off the ledge, but it helped me to step back for a second and to realize that a momentary stall was not the end of the world. Once again, this was not the end of the story.

Do you have a social network you lean upon for support, for humor, for different perspectives? Surrounding yourself with people who lift you up in your darkest times is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Take the time to find and socially invest in friends who will laugh and cry with you, and even make fun of you when you’re being really ridiculous. It’s these very people who just might be enough to keep you sane during the trials of life.

Wrong Direction

Fresh out of college, I remember the crisp optimism of each new day… The sun crept into the window of the little attic bedroom in our old Victorian home in Jersey City, NJ, always promising bright new things. I was a New York Metro transplant, fresh off the turnip truck from my small university in Michigan. Life was full of promise–I would change the world, one filed story at a time!

Arriving in NYC with a degree in Journalism, the world was my oyster–or so I thought. The problem was that the publishing industry was imploding. Newspapers were no longer hiring at a crazy pace, as web traffic was up and delivery readership was down. (Did I mention that the pay was abysmal?) Ah, but the optimism of youth and inexperience is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? And so I set out to find employment, as the few stabs I’d taken from my newspaper office in Michigan hadn’t met with wild success.

Each morning I’d wake and make coffee in the small galley kitchen, hauling a large cup back up the narrow stairs and into the bedroom tucked under the sloped eaves of our rented home. With sunlight winking through the leaves of the trees lining our street, the air smelled fresh for the first hours of the day.

There were four of us in the four-bedroom space, the fourth bedroom serving as a tight little living room outfitted with a sofa and TV. The kitchen was narrow, with just enough room to accommodate a two-seater table. If you wanted more space you could open the sliding doors to the deck, hardly more than a Juliette balcony.

This was in the days of Monster.com, and each morning I’d review new job postings in publishing and public relations, determined that today would be my day. Then out went four or five faxes, a few follow-up e-mails, a phone call or two.

When a staffing agency called, I reconciled myself to the idea of letting them do the work for me. I’d had only one bite from the dozens of resumes I’d sent out and if the interview wasn’t a success, I’d determined it was time to take the first job I could get. After all, it was a paycheck. This way I could provide a stable paycheck and insurance while my fiance’ broke into the industry of commercial photography.

The interview with a boutique PR firm went swimmingly and I fully expected a callback for a second interview, though I’d already begun interviews organized by the staffing firm. It was grueling and I was ready to be done with it, as there were days I attended four or five interviews, followed only hours later by second interviews, as the staffing firm began presenting offers. This interviewing schedule was no small feat in Manhattan, in heels, in the days before Smartphones or reliable GPS. I asked strangers in the subway for directions. I stopped people in crosswalks. My ready Midwestern smile and long blonde hair startled people and they stopped, kindly responding with the best information they had. Most smiled, saying they remembered their first confused days in the city, rushing nervously from one interview to the next.

The PR firm called me back the same day an insurance broker offered me a job. Could I start next week, asked the staffing director at the PR firm? (I could.) Could they offer benefits to my fiance’? (They could.)

I called my rep at the staffing company to tell her I was accepting a job, and it wasn’t the one she was promoting. She begged and pleaded, touting a detailed offer from the insurance brokerage. I waivered. It was enough to keep body and soul together, however meager. It was a simpler commute. Realistically, it was only going to be six months, right?

At 5:30 on the morning of my first day on Wall Street, I was awake–wide awake. It was already blisteringly hot, and I was up early enough to guarantee I could hit the shower before the three guys in the house. I’d made coffee and packed a zippered tote with walking shoes, my Discman (yeah, remember those?) and the flip phone I’d gotten the week before. I was out the door just a few moments after seven. Work started at 8:45 and leaving just in time to catch a 7:30 train would put me there none too early.

Rushing through Journal Square (one of the roughest stations to be found at that time), I managed to squeeze into a train already packed to capacity. We would make several stops on the Jersey side before whooshing under the Hudson, and I fought to quell the panic brought on by a claustrophobic space as we barreled through the dark tunnels.

Finally out on the other side, we trundled our way to the 33rd Street stop. This was my transfer, and I rushed through the turnstile in the reeking humidity of the subway. I needed to catch my next train quickly, to the Wall Street stop. This train was crammed, my face wedged into the armpit of the nearest strap-hanging stranger. When the train screeched into the stop the cars vomited hundreds of people as we surged up the stairs and onto the sidewalk, clogging crosswalks, filling sidewalks and spilling over onto the streets, all on our way to our respective buildings.

Only a year earlier, this would have been a much simpler commute. I’d have taken a train into the World Trade Center and walked down Broadway, up nearly to where Broad and Wall Streets intersected, to find myself quickly at work. But as 9/11 occurred only months before my graduation and relocation, the inconvenience of a terrible commute was mine, and everyone else’s, to bear. I didn’t have much to complain about, I realized, as the steaming, smoking pile of rubble that was the World Trade Center was a daily reminder to those still alive to see it.

The dress code was strict and severe on Wall Street. (This was Manhattan in the early aughts, which I realize has not changed, perhaps with the exception of Goldman Sachs.) You did not wear open-toed shoes. You wore a suit to work every day, or VERY convincing separates if you wanted to climb the corporate ladder. You wore stockings, under pain of death, lest a bare knee lead your boss into temptation. And for the love of God, keep the camisoles in the bedroom, because you were clearly a fallen woman if you ventured into garments consisting of silk or satin.

Over the next few months, the pool of assistants were divided up, reassigned by some Almighty Unseen Power, each of us matched with a senior agent who could do with us as he or she saw fit. For some that made life a living hell, and the most common response to the early morning alarm was the descending feeling of dread.

What do you do when you hate your trade? I practiced avoidance. There were days I was consciously aware that I was trying NOT to absorb the information that would have made my professional life so much easier. Why did I need complete knowledge of personal insurance contracts? After all, I was going to be a foreign correspondent, or perhaps an award-winning writer of deep, thoughtful columns in one of the remaining newspapers. But wait…was I?

What do you do when life doesn’t go as planned? Can you survive the drudgery and keep the faith alive? Do you schedule Dream Job interviews into lunch breaks? Do you pursue your passion in every spare minute, praying it’s enough to fill your soul? Or do you become bitter and cynical? Do you allow yourself to sabotage the dreams of others, to foment trouble and dissent, to crush the confidence of the Bright Young Things?

Now I look back on the plans that disintegrated, the job interviews that didn’t work out, the stresses of financial struggle in one of the world’s most expensive cities, and the stresses of a job with numerous responsibilities and no position of power. I can see how each piece was part of a larger picture and purpose, and I’m thankful the story isn’t yet finished.

All work on this site is original and proprietary. Credit to other authors is given in recognition of their cited works. All rights reserved pertaining to copyright laws.

 

Vegetarian Conversion

brown highland cattle on field of grass

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

You’ve decided to cut out meat to see if your health improves, and your brain is drawing a blank as to how to plan meals. How will you get enough protein? Will you be hungry all the time? What will you put in the place of meat so you don’t feel like you’re missing out or penalizing yourself?

Having grown up vegetarian, this was something that never bothered me and I laughed when people asked me “What on earth do you eat?” The answer was simple: Everything. Everything but meat. Of course, this was horrifying to my pediatrician, who insisted upon every wellness visit that iron and protein levels be tested. Miraculously, as my mother cooked whole-food, plant-based meals for us, my brother and I always tested within a perfectly normal range.

We’ve been trained to think it’s ok–even normal–to eat more wheat, or maybe oats, in a day than we do vegetables. Some people tolerate whole grains just fine, and if you feel that you need them in your diet for balance, keep at it. However, as with any diet, it’s wise to be mindful of how and where we’re getting the bulk of our calories, protein and carbs. Are those sources are processed (and pumped full of additives), even if they are organic, and is there any nutrition available beyond a factory-added B vitamin?

Paying attention to balance, in any diet, is really important in order to avoid deficiencies. For vegetarians, and even more so for vegans, this takes a little extra work. If you have children in your household, pay especially close attention to B vitamins, as kids can easily suffer irreversible cognitive disability due to deficiency.

Virtually every cell in your body has a receptor for Vitamin D, making it obvious that we depend upon a sufficient amount for innumerable functions.  What goes hand-in-hand is a bio-available form of Vitamin A (taking a clean cod liver oil is a two-for-one win, as you get a bio-available A and D).

Last but not least, especially if you’re vegan, you might wish to consider a complete version of vitamin K2 in order to handle proper calcium distribution. Of course, supplementation should be used sparingly and doesn’t fix a nutrient-poor diet. A multi-vitamin isn’t going to make up for French fries and ice cream for dinner three nights a week. The best place to get your nutrition is from whole foods, as these are more readily absorbed into the body and at a dosage your body understands and can easily process.

Your body will tell you what it thinks of your current diet and it will tell you what it thinks about any changes you may incorporate. Listen carefully and monitor how you feel. If you feel tired, weak, or lethargic, you may need to add in more complex carbs. If your stomach is upset by legumes, don’t feel like that’s your only option as a protein source. (Nuts, seeds, veggies, eggs, bone broth if you’re willing to take it that far–it adds up if you’re paying attention to it.) If you find that dietary changes are really sapping your strength, talk to a professional. See a functional medicine doctor for testing and talk to a nutritionist about how to build healthy, balanced meals. It may be that you’ve made too many changes at once, or unwittingly put yourself on a self-inflicted version of the Autoimmune Protocol.

So where to start? As it so happens, there are thousands of recipe bloggers in this day and age (God bless the Internet?), and you can find numerous blogs devoted to all manner of lifestyle/health choices: gluten-free, AIP, GAPS, low-FODMAP, low-histamine, grain-free, vegan–you name it!

I’ll give you links to some of my favorites here. (Most of these happen to be vegan or vegetarian, but you can add meat or cheese to just about anything if that’s not your bag. Because come on, how many things have you met that weren’t improved with cheese?)

Love and Lemons • Somewhat recently relocated to Chicago, this blog boasts great vegetarian recipes and gorgeous photos. Jeanine has two cook books under her belt!

Detoxinista • Megan is a trained nutritionist–that was enough for me! She has “specialty” recipes if you’re vegan or following Paleo.

Pinch of Yum • A vegetarian blogger hailing from Minnesota (God bless her frozen fingers), Lindsay has a personable writing style and some great recipes!

Oh She Glows • A Canadian blogger, Angela’s plant-based blog is one of the first I started following years ago when trying out a vegan diet.

Cookie and Kate•  Based in Kansas City, Kate whips up awesome vegetarian recipes and sweetens the deal with adorable pictures of her dog, Cookie.

A Saucy Kitchen• Sarah’s got it all together! Looking for gluten-free? Low-FODMAP? She’s your girl.

So this may be the part where I confess that after 39 years as a vegetarian (some of those years involved complicated forays into a vegan diet), we are no longer vegetarian. This has been a struggle for me, as I never developed an appreciation for the taste or texture of meat. (Remember how I wouldn’t eat anything that had a mother? I swear the animals look at me differently now.)

We don’t eat a great deal of meat and haven’t ventured beyond collagen powder, pasture-raised chickens, wild-caught fish or organic, pasture-raised beef or chicken bone broth. With some attention to what we’re putting into our mouths (and yes, we take beef liver capsules–gag), I’m confident we’re pretty well balanced on average. Keeping the focus on fresh, whole foods is something we’ve really ramped up in the past year and we’ve noticed many benefits of this improved diet: weight loss, mental clarity, improved healing from injuries and no more aching joints! In my book, that’s reason enough to keep doing what we’re doing, but always being willing to accept new information and incorporate it if it makes sense. That’s all we can do, right?

Go forth today and conquer, all in good health!

All work on this site is original and proprietary. Credit to other authors is given in recognition of their cited works. All rights reserved pertaining to copyright laws.