How I Transformed In 365 Days of Taking Habit Out and Letting Life In

A Year has passed.

This morning, I woke happy. I brushed my teeth with my homemade toothpaste; it dribbled from my mouth when I noticed sunlight speckling in through the window and smiled too wide in response. Mitra and I took to the streets and I let her lead us on an unfamiliar route. I snuggled dogs I’d never met before and complimented a stranger’s shirt. We lazily wound our way home. It’s my hood’s composting day, so I pulled the bin of scraps from my freezer. To it, I added coffee grounds. I blended and pressed the almonds I’ve had soaking for two days into milk, then added their sticky pulp, too. We headed out again, dropped off the bag, I returned to my desk, and I started editing audio for a new client.

This morning was completely unrecognizable from June 20th one Year ago today.

My Year of Abstinence has ended.

A Year of studying habit removal. Of saying “no”. Of taking out to see what comes in.

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Eyes Up!

 “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” 

Oh my dog, I know that Love Actually quote up there = so cheesy. But what can I say?! I’m a cheeseball nowadays. 

Today, I didn’t listen to a podcast on my drive from CT –> NYC. No book came on the subway, and no tunes or words played in my ears. Instead, I saw trees of green flanking the highways. I called my big sister and learned something new about her life. I chatted with the smiling men who sold me potato chips between my subway lines. I watched kids licking the last drops of 16 Handles ice cream tubs the size of their faces. Observed strangers laughing like friends in random discussion. Saw couples lean casually against each other. Dropped all the single dollars in my worn wallet on hippies playing old music, and desperate faces I wanted to kiss. I swooned over smushy-faced dogs, and snooped the spines of the hardcovers around me. 

And I think to myself: what a wonderful world. 

Unseating the Knight of Swords (or how to be vulnerable when dating with baggage)

Back in October, tarot reader Sasha Graham flipped a card for me live on my radio show and used it to guide me through what my night had in store.

I was not feeling well, and worried about how that was going to manifest on a date with the current gentleman friend. Sasha advised me to envision myself enrobed in the beautiful silver armor of the Knight of Swords on the card in front of me — strong, self-assured, protected — and it worked! I made it through the evening strong in my skin of steel.

Since that reading, I’ve flipped the Knight of Swords at least six or seven times. He’s my totem, my protector, my buddy, my wingman. But I have to let him go.

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No Ex-Gentlemen Friends

This is a weird thing to type out. But the other night, I couldn’t fall asleep and identified a fog in my space by means of the artwork hanging over my bed.

It’s a masterpiece of #2 pencil and one of my most cherished posessions, drawn for me by a man who once loved me dearly. In that moment, a voice demanded that I move it from above me now. Frightened, I jumped onto the bed, felt up the wall to where the wire met the hook, and gently lifted the heavy frame. I slid to the floor and laid it to the side. Back in bed, I quickly fell to sleep. Continue reading

Walk to the River

Tonight, instead of briskly walking a short loop, we meandered. I ate the air — so thick and hot — and howled ever so gently at the moon, happy. We ran across the highway to the river, magic in every nerve and fiber and muscle of my matter. And for just a few minutes, I felt the fullness of my freedom.  

No Eating After Eight

Seemed simple enough given the Challenges of this Year. But somehow 7:35pm hit and I was making cold cream with nothing in the works by way of food. Beeswax pellets and coconut oil were blending with rose water as minutes ticked by… if I started eating by 8 I’d consider myself safe. 

By 7:58, I had a weird tuna fish and potato chip combo worked out. I’m not proud of it. I’m a very bad food writer. I threw a couple of cashews in a bowl for extra protein and fat comfort and sat my ass down. Phew. 

Surprisingly, I didn’t need anything the rest of the night. I’ve fallen back into just a little something of a snack habit at night, with that something being inherited fruit and sweets from my well-meaning mother noshed on while netflixing in bed. So I figured this Challenge would help me view my nightly needs in a clearer lens. And it has, again. Phew. 

Empty hands, full heart, can’t lose!

I went out to dinner and I didn’t bring a purse. 

Wore a denim dress with pockets stuffed with a wallet, phone with earbuds, and chapstick. I threw a poncho over the lot, since the lack of purse strap wouldn’t make it look wonky. 

The experience was delicious freeing. Maneuvering around the city streets, my shoulders felt light; my hands swung casually. It’s not an easily repeatable habit shift — any longer of a trek would require water bottle, pills, snack, books. But for a fifty block trek for a meal… a lightening of the load. A freeing habit. Yay, ladies. 

(I miss Friday Night Lights.)

About Last Night (and the last guy) (and telling lies) (and telling the truth)

A few months ago I went out a few times with this guy. We’ll call him Robo Writer.

Our last date was a doozy. He joined me at an on-site radio interview. Then we got Chinese food and ate in a park. A few hours of writing side-by-side in the library’s Rose Room followed. Then I stocked up on groceries at the Grand Central market, we slugged on the slow Saturday subway home, took Mitra for a walk to the Hudson, I cooked us dinner, I cleaned the kitchen, we yah know, and then we finally crashed. Or he crashed–I stared at the ceiling all night. The next morning, I couldn’t wait for him to head to work.

I liked the guy a lot. But 80% of that date I’d been lying to him. I’d been feeling oh so f-ing sick. And I didn’t tell him once the entire time.

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God Grant Me…

A lot of hard things are happening in this world right now. Last night, another terrorist attack unfurled upon the city of London, and then the commentary backlash ensued in the U.S. For anyone who feels marginalized — for any reason fair or ridiculous — the world is a challenging place at present.

Relationships are strained. Media and social circles fill with conflict. It’s hard to balance action and restoration. For those of us who are particularly sensitive, staying strong at the core requires even more intent. I’m finding it more important than ever to stay strongly rooted. To look for inspiring people, books, music, movies. To believe in kindness, compassion, morality, and inner strength. And as the only things I can truly control are my own thoughts, words, and actions, I ponder how I’ll want to look back and reflect on myself during this time, months and years from now.

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Every little day, I getta little shiftier

After three-hundred-some-odd days of studying this whole habit removal abstinence thing, shifting it all up is becoming, well… habit!

I don’t feel well. Ugh. And as I hobbled down the sidewalk with the pup in a break from our endless tea and reading (Little Women, happy nerdy lady sigh) and pondered what habit will I shift today? I realized I’d already shifted quiet a few, just for the fun of it. I was using my right hand to guide her withe leash (I’m left handed). I wanted to bring new life to an old pair of comfy fitted pants and, now that I’m down some weight (No Sugar + Zero Waste plus new habits!), I pulled and jostled them into a lower kind of wear (just trust me on this). I had layered some tops together in a not me style, for the thrill of feeling funky on our two-block walk.

I shifted it up, today. Naturally. Score.

Take One and Pass It On

I’m breaking my rules. I told myself this Year’s Challenges couldn’t include adding or buying — abstaining only! But today I decided to do something new. I worked downtown at the library for a few hours and needed a jolt of caffeine before an appointment. But if I indulged in the kick, I’d have to find a way to boost someone else, too — in the moment, organically, without being asked, just by keeping an eye/ear ready. 

Less than two minutes after I had my cold brew in hand, I swiped a guy into the subway behind me. It’s illegal to ask for a swipe, but you can tell the look, the humble… waiting. He was dressed in the all-black of a busboy. With a nod, he followed me. He said his thanks, I wished him well, and we separated to our trains. 

Take one, and pass it on. 

24-Hours of Zero Electronics/Electricity

The day was long. Deliciously, luxuriously long.

It started bright and sweet, with sunlight pouring in. By 2 pm, a gray sky dampened and tinged all with blue. I read, mostly — 300 pages of Little Women in my corner armchair by the window; later, aided by long tapered candles and short tea lights. A friend came over for dinner, and we talked in the dim glow of a barely lit kitchen. I was in bed by 11, marveling at the warmth of my little cave before I blew all the light out of the room, and fell asleep with no fan or white noise to guide me.

No music. No screens. Just listening, reading, dozing, walking, cooking, and thinking. Reflecting on how different being alone and present feels now than it did a year ago when I started on this Year’s journey. How good it feels.

Oh. And writing, by hand:

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Confessions of a Clean Girl

I once got dumped because I clean too much.

Okay, that wasn’t the only reason for the breakup. But on more than one occasion, that particular beau physically removed me from his kitchen stop me from cleaning. In my defense, there was no way in hell I was making us coffee or brunch the next morning before giving every nasty surface a good scrub. Gross.

I may have dumped a few guys, too, because their mess outweighed their merit.

I don’t want no scrubs. Outside of the ones I’m handling with purple rubber gloves.

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One Day of Not Looking In the Mirror

I wake and:

  • Cover my vanity mirror with a cloth napkin…
  • Take down the mirror from my closet door and lean it in reverse against the large mirror in my (small NYC) foyer…
  • Tuck a towel around the medicine cabinet mirror in the bathroom…
  • Tuck away the tiny hanging mirror inside my walk-in closet…
  • And fold down the mirror in my jewelry box.

There seems to now be less light in my space. It’s eight am, and I realize I would have already checked my reflection twice. I have no idea how puffy my morning skin looks. Or if the ensemble I throw on in my sleepy-eyed haze will appear to my neighbors when Mitra and I walk.

But the brush bristles meeting my scalp feel so satisfying.

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