Sunday, September 14, 2014

honest living, without jessica alba

Like every Angeleno without air conditioning, I’ve been slammed by the heat these past couple of days. But it took me a while to notice. I’m the kind of person who will wear shoes a size too small and wonder why she couldn’t walk five miles. I.e., overly cerebral, self-blaming, not very mindful. By the end of the night last night—despite having a really fun time at Lori’s birthday party—I was kind of a mess. Crabby, over-heated, under-caffeinated, mad at myself for not doing more that day and every day, and especially mad at myself for eating two vegan donuts* and a piece of birthday cake on top of the cupcake my writer friend Sandra bought me earlier in the day.

At Lori’s house, I flipped through a lifestyle book about “honest living” by Jessica Alba. It was surprisingly sane and encouraged readers to give themselves one day a week to eat whatever they wanted. But I don’t think that works for people with addictive personalities and a history of eating disorders and cancer that feeds off fat cells.**

I hope that somewhere in the book is a really “honest” paragraph in which Jessica Alba credits her ghostwriter and the makeup artist who made her and her family look so gorgeous in all the illustrations. Another pro tip for healthy, honest living: be filthy rich. It’s not everything, but it helps.

Have a cup of green tea. Do not have four desserts.
I believe in honest living and honest writing, which is not to say strictly factual, but I want to put my energy into getting at something real, not ignoring what’s scary, not repeating old habits or lazy linguistic tropes just because I want them to work.

AK and I have been doing a lot of processing (which is to say arguing but in a constructive way) lately, and she thinks it’s good. I think it’s good that she thinks it’s good. Today she made potato tacos for her work party this afternoon, and I sat on the kitchen steps, sweating and lamenting my exhaustion.

“Why don’t you go somewhere cool?” she said. “Not just as a short little reward for spending the first part of the day working and sweating, but, like, for a long period of time.”

What I heard her saying, applied more broadly, was: Don’t try to force change; create a kind and healthy space for yourself, and change will happen.

Oh, MacDowell. Those were the days.
The composer who inhabited the cottage down the meadow from me at MacDowell talked a lot about how he had to trick himself into working on the hard parts of his composition. He’d give himself an easy or fun task and ease into the tricky bits.

If I want to have more energy and better eating habits, and not be such a bitch to AK, telling myself to just try harder is probably not the best approach. Instead, I want to check in with myself—am I hot? Tired? Hungry? Not hungry? I’ve been getting better at doing that emotionally, now that I don’t view anxiety as so terrifying it must be stomped back into place the minute it rears up. My fears are just my fears. A day I feel all grouchy and wrong might be just the heat, and not proof of my failure and not a reason to eat four desserts. Thinking you control the world with your mind, even when it manifests as a lot of seemingly humble hand-wringing, is the biggest ego trip ever.

Dogs are all about honest living.
Second to mindfulness, I’m going to experiment with changing my surroundings—not in the sense of place, but time. This is going to be really boring, so feel free to skip ahead to the part where I talk about movies, but if you’re like me and kind of fascinated with other people’s day-to-day, minute-to-minute lives, here’s my plan: Instead of waking up, drinking coffee, working, then drinking more coffee so that I have the energy to write or work out, I’m going to try flipping my day.
  •      Wake up really early, read on the train, drink coffee and write at Philippe’s or somewhere else that’s open early. Or work out.
  •      Work; stay a little later and stack the stuff that takes less energy at the end of the day, when I will not be drinking coffee.
  •      Walk home on non-workout days.
  •      Spend a little time each evening cleaning, so the house doesn’t feel like such a daunting, failure-inducing time-suck every weekend.
  •      Remember that this is just an experiment. If it doesn’t work, or if it takes time to work, c’est la vie.

One of the better movie posters I've seen in a while, too.
On Friday, AK and I saw The One I Love, a flawed by really interesting movie about a couple (Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass) who are trying to put their marriage back together after an affair. I won’t give away the twist (although it comes early), but by injecting some magic into the plot, writer Justin Lader makes a story about a long-term relationship tested in ordinary ways feel high-stakes and exciting and true. Not enough movies even try to do that. The story gets messy and confusing, and I had trouble figuring out the film’s ideology, but their core problem as a couple seems to be that he wants to move on without processing, and she wants to fixate without moving on.

The movie also pits their real selves against their idealized selves—and perhaps romantics against idealists, although I couldn’t quite make that read work. Their best selves dress well, do sit-ups and are prone to heartfelt monologues. Their real selves wear sweats, eat bacon and fail to thank each other for the sacrifices the other has made for the relationship. Except for the bacon, that sounds about right. Here’s to trying to be better, but keeping it real.

*At first I just wrote “donuts,” but then I added “vegan” to make it sound healthier. But sugar and oil are completely vegan foods.

**The type of cancer I had eats estrogen, which lives in fat cells. So I have more of a stake than most people in not having more fat cells than necessary. The fact that this didn’t stop me from a carb binge terrifies me a little. Also, at first I wrote “the type of cancer I have,” and now I’m feeling really superstitious that it was a Freudian typo. What do my fingers know about my health status?? (Probably nothing, but they may know plenty about my fears.)


Claire said...

I will gladly trade weather with you. Bring on the shorts weather!

Tomorrow's high here is forecasted to be 59. That's like winter for you, right?

Chilly for here too. Messing with what I wanted to do.

Cheryl said...

That is not just winter, but the dead of winter. But it's a deal--I'll trade! Have our 100 degrees!