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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A Year Studying Abstinence Hasn’t Reset My Habit Loop. It’s Shattered It.

Earlier today, I received a rejection. The kind you wish you could poker face your way out of, but that has you immediately reaching for a crutch instead.

“I want a cigarette.”

I haven’t had a cigarette in many months. I question the desire: Yep, I really want one – just one – to suck in while I ponder. My hands are shaking, and my heart too. Instead, I grab Mitra’s leash, leave the phone and wallet, and head outside.

I’ve broken my Habit Loop.

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Friendship — Like a Vacuum Cleaner — Is Not Easily Disposable

On Day One of this Challenge, while pondering why I wanted to give up product packaging for sixty days, I wrote:

Side note: I think this also comes from an emotionally-rooted issue of worrying that I’m a disposable person — that I don’t matter to others and so they feel they can easily dispose of me. I don’t want to be that. I want to be a person of value. I want to matter so that people think twice about losing me. Ouch. That’s a big thing to admit.

Last night, fifty-five days in, I sat on my bed and opened up a journal I’d started eighteen years ago. Folded inside of it, I discovered a seventeen-year-old letter from Ben, who’s still a dear friend and now my radio co-host. Lost somewhere on the second page, I found the following sentence:

“…You are 300% wrong about being replaceable…. There will never be another you.”
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Happy Despite!

I can’t stop smiling on the inside today. Which seems silly, considering that nothing has changed .I’m still sick, single, and broke.

I still had a breakdown last week, accepting how sick I am now. I canceled going to yoga three days in a row because of how much pain I had to manage, and how exhausting managing it was. I’m scarily behind on deadlines.

But I’m smiling. Continue reading

You’ve Gotta Really Want to Change

Today, I’m functioning from bed; nursing a migraine that made itself known as soon as I opened my eyes. I’m planning the next Challenge, which starts Monday, and I am so excited for it. It’s gonna be hard. Technically, it’s gonna be the hardest one I’ve done so far. It means giving up one habit that breaks into a thousand small habits. It takes research and planning. I’m nervous. But I really want to do it, and I’m itching to start.

That’s what every Challenge needs to be.

Removing television… wasn’t. Continue reading

Articulating Christmas, and the No Gifting Challenge Complete

I’m having a hard time being a human right now.

I sit at my desk back in New York City, and various body parts hurt: hip joints, neck, head, entire digestive track. Things burn and throb and cramp. The entire sack of flesh and spirit that makes “me” is tired.

She has been for days. I do not know exactly why. I do not know why I wake thinking, “Today is going to be better”, and then symptoms get worse. I know this string will pass–it always does. But as I’ve attempted to wrap my brain around what Christmas has meant in my head and heart, all I land upon is, Why am I not a better “sick person” by now? Continue reading

Hard Candy Christmas Eve (Eve)

December 23rd: I love this evening, every year. 

New York city softens. She quiets down. Except for when laughter ripples through my building, welcoming whichever new family rolls their suitcases in to stay, the air is emptier.

I spent much of the day playing with images and quotes and rereading passages and smiling at god knows what, then buckled down for hours of focused work, forcing myself to sit until a large task was through. Chinese delivery for dinner, laundry, fifteen-minute clips of cheesy Christmas movies, cleaning for my short trip home in the morning, and here I am: tipsy and tired, with all clean and quiet around me, muted orange light outside my window and the pale glow of colors within. I am happy. Content. With nothing to give tomorrow other than my time, and me. Continue reading

Absence of holiday loot, absence of sugar, absence of concern…

Yesterday morning, I walked Mitra and pondered how something feels missing this Christmas.

I’m listening to the music, watching the movies. The apartment has been cheerfully decorated since just after Thanksgiving. I hosted the dinner party, my table bedecked in red and green and gold. Hell, I even had a fire going while the snow fell Thursday and I was working at the family office in Connecticut.

But I haven’t yet made a single Christmas cookie, and I don’t think I will at all this year. There’s the obvious lack of gift giving because of the current challenge. And there’s a self-imposed Dickensian period ahead, best summed up in one of my favorite of holiday flicks, A Muppet Christmas Carol (don’t mock, it’s brilliant):

“I was often alone. More time for reading and study. The Christmas holiday was a chance to get some extra work done. A time for solitude.”

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Winter, Christmas, and What I Want from Life Beyond 2016

It’s cold and gray this morning.

That kind of December day in New York City where you wake to dripping outside, and I can feel the temperature by how the cold is resonating from the exterior wall of my apartment. But at the same time, the steam radiator is making it deliciously overheated in my bedroom, so I burrow in bed with Mitra and a too-thick down comforter, on the verge of being too hot.

It’s just right, right now. Were there another body in here with me, I’d be steaming and sweating and my bones would be on fire and in pain. But this morning, I’m blissfully cozy, and only rise to write. Continue reading

37 days later, I drink wine… and it hurts.

My head is fuzzy. And not in the good way.

I drank two glasses of wine last night. 37 days after I’d gone off of sugar.. A crisp, delicious Vermentino, at my favorite tiny Italian wine and oyster bar in the West Village,

They were a crisp Vermentino at Virgola, my favorite tiny Italian wine bar in the West Village. I slurped down oysters with a dear old friend, laughing about love and commiserating about work, thoroughly enjoying my divine white. I wasn’t tempted to order a third, and no irrational desire to gorge overtook me. I went home with a slightly spinning head, my tolerance obviously changed. But I thought, “Fun! No harm done!”

Then… sleep. Continue reading

From Craving to Cleaning Out… Three Weeks of Sugar (almost) Gone

Figured I’d pop this up here a day early since tomorrow is THANKSGIVING and I’ll be spending it driving, cooking, crying at the parade, and then soaking in family time.

Ironically, Thanksgiving was a big reason I chose November for this challenge. And I think tomorrow is going to be a rather anti-climactic one regarding avoiding sugar. My mom is the best with the roasted veggies (this holiday really is a tribute to our northern farmer family side, so it’s simple and loaded with stuff from the earth), she’s been getting a turkeys from organic farms for the last x number of years for me, and we’ll be packing it all up and eating with Nan in the rehabilitation center on paper plates, which is about as low-key as you can get regarding reaching for some unachievable ideal of holiday perfection. Family and food. I can do that.

So the rest of this week… Continue reading