Zombie-Mode

How fitting as Halloween approaches…T-minus 2 days until All Hallows Eve!

Alas, zombie-mode isn’t reflective of Halloween. Zombie-mode is the headspace I’ve been in for over 2 months.

Zombie-mode is waking up still tired, after a full 7 hours of sleep, spending the entire day watching the clock tick by, praying for work to be over, waiting to crawl back into bed before you ever left it. Zombie-mode is your body breaching a place where you’re holding onto fat cells, or anything, just to survive, because you’re so starved and can’t remember the last time you had a proper meal. When you’ve been so utterly busy you’ve traded in workouts to get more sleep, and the lack of exercise drains your energy even further.

I’ve been living in zombie-mode since mid-summer, when the Autumn work season picked up quickly (and is now just slowing down). We’re well into Q4 and I had been looking forward to the Winter slump, but with the changing environment at work, I don’t foresee catching a break any time soon.

Stress lulls in waves. It arrives unexpectedly, because you were under the impression you could handle it; after all, you were prepared for everything you were going through. Do your best to keep your full-time job, planning a bachelorette because you’re a bridesmaid in your best friend’s wedding, in the midst of apartment hunting and preparing to move, on top of the layers of complexity of your family drama and other events in your life. Stress feels like the calm before the storm, but the storm never hits because you’re living it everyday, the atmosphere simultaneously unrelenting, but also, oddly fine.

I remember what zombie-mode felt like in school, extremely sleep deprived and worn out by exams, essays, and social activities – it’s obvious, everyone is just as stressed as you are, it’s the talk of the entirety of your 4-year degree. What’s strange about adult stress is, you almost don’t realize you’re stressed until you find yourself crying on your lunch break, crying as you leave your office, or as soon as you hit your mattress at night.

Crying doesn’t take away from the fact that you can still handle it. And if crying is how you get through it, I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a lot worse things than crying. If you’re crying, you’re in pretty good shape.

Stress as an adult feels predictable, yet, mysterious at the same time. It’s like having full confidence in yourself, but still being nervous. You know you’ll make it out of whatever situation alive, but at what cost? To sacrifice routine, sleep, nutrition, exercise, healthy habits? How far will your body take you until you finally keel over or reach a psychotic break?

Maybe we shouldn’t keep pushing ourselves to find out.

The past few months have been insanely stressful with work, with life, with what balance? The last two weeks have especially worn me out. As we endure tough times, we discover important things about ourselves and our world. I believe that this recent onset of stress reminded me how important it is to pay attention to our bodies, the home of our souls. If we strive for health and longevity, we must stay in tune with our bodies, treat them nicely, take the best care of them.

The older I get, the more I understand this type of attention is active and detailed; we must be aware of ourselves everyday. Have we eaten? Are we drinking water? Did we get sufficient sleep last night? These things that seem so trivial, are actually the difference between life and unhealthy inconsistencies that could turn into poor habits. There is a certain amount of work involved in caring for our mental, emotional, and physical health. The older we get, the longer our bodies take to bounce back and the more time we need to decompress.

I plan to take Halloween off work (and the remainder of the week) to unwind and unplug. I need some time to re-coop; I’m sure the boss will understand. It’s beyond necessary. I’ve been living in zombie-mode far too long. Dia de los Muertos is almost here and I’m ready to re-join the living, to be re-awakened from my life as the un-dead.

How Do You Know?

A few years ago, one of my close friends from college texted me late at night. We were catching up and then she randomly asked me “how do you know when you’re in love?”

Naturally, I was caught off guard. First, late-night catching up sessions aren’t usually geared toward philosophical topics. Second, I was recently single (which was most likely the result of lacking any knowledge on love lol). Third, because I didn’t really know how to answer the question.

I took pause. I thought, do I really know what love is? I concluded that I didn’t, in fact, know what love was. I was young, naive, and what quasi-relationships I’d been through could hardly count as experience. However, I knew a feeling…something I would most closely relate to what I thought love felt like. Love feels like joyful sacrifice.

Love is opening the door for her wherever we go. Love is holding the grocery bags, carry-on luggage, and bear spray so she doesn’t have to. Love is driving around for hours, with a destination in mind or just get away, to cruise side by side – what matters is being together. Love is calling her up because you have happy or sad news, it’s about sharing all aspects of your life with her.

Love is being able to say what’s on your mind without reservation or fear of judgement. Love is sharing secrets and trusting they’ll be kept. Love is asking questions and discovering different perspectives; most times, it is realizing beliefs, values, and core principles align.

Love is an action, not a passive reaction. Love is compromise; love is forgiveness. Love is feeling safety in chaos. Love is effort, love is challenging, love is difficult to comprehend; but, all the while, love is the feeling you have when being with her makes you happy, when you yearn her presence, when being with one another feels so easy.

That feeling, that’s what I think love is. Love is often described as the relationship between two lovers, which may be the first thing to come to mind, but that type of love isn’t alone. Love is so much more than your feeling toward a significant other. There is parental love, sibling love, friendly love, love for passions, for all beings, for the universe.

I told my friend the only truth I knew about love: love probably feels different for everyone and knowing when you’re in love can only be judged by you. Maybe your love is taking him on an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii. Maybe it’s packing him lunches and making homemade dinners every night. Maybe your love is watching curling during the Winter Olympics, even when you think it’s the most boring sport on the planet, but he loves cheering on team USA.

How do you know when you’re in love?

You don’t do these things because you’re told. You don’t do them because you have to. You do whatever it is because there’s a feeling deep within that encourages you to do them, almost like a reflex. You do these things because you want to, for the sake of someone else’s happiness – you act out of love.

I’m not sure what my friend’s love feels like. I didn’t ask because I know love is too complex to describe. We can try to explain what we think love is, but love may not be able to be illustrated with words, maybe it’s something we can only feel.

Earlier this year that very friend reached out again. This time she asked, “Will you be my bridesmaid?”

I think it’s safe to say she found her own definition of love. (I said yes, btw.)

Dieting is About Self Control. Have You Tried Moderation?

It’s Wednesday, I haven’t worked out all week, I’m exhausted. I’ve been working so much, I’ve chosen sleep over exercise, which I don’t regret. It’s times like these, stress used to get to me; I’d end up eating a quart of ice cream in one sitting.

Unfortunately, as we age, our metabolisms slow down – I can attest that mine has definitely slowed way down, almost to a halt LOL. Hence, I cannot sit and eat gluttonous amounts of ice cream when I feel like it. Although it’s sad to say those days have passed, in all honesty, I seldom miss them.

I used to be overweight, not dire, but definitely not fit. A handful of years ago I made a lifestyle change that proved to be immensely simple, with definite results. I’m not talking “I lost a 100 lbs in one year” type thing… No, this was much more gradual, which, I believe, has made it easier. With gradual weight loss comes another proven fact: losing weight slower almost guarantees you’ll be able to keep it off, instead of gaining it all back sometime in the near future.

So, what’s the secret? Sticking to it.

A lot of people begin their weight loss journeys but fail for all the same reason: lack of self discipline. My sister used to tell me “everything in moderation,” which is sort of where my lifestyle change began. So, what’s the change? I know y’all eager to find out.

First thing’s first, I needed to stop eating my emotions lmfao. Then…

80% diet, 20% exercise. You’ve heard it before, right? I began by cutting out chips, fries, and bread (wahhhh! Adios, bagels – cue *crying face emoji*). I made an active effort to buy more fruit at the grocery store. I began this when I was a pescatarian, so I wasn’t eating land animals either. For not eating meat, you’d think I was good about eating veg. Wrong. I did not eat as many salads as you think I would; so, I began fitting salads into my daily meals.

The end result is quite simple: eat more produce and less processed foods / carbohydrates. Fiber is key. What shocked me was that I would occasionally reject the diet thing and eat a cookie, or a scoop of ice cream, or drunkenly go to McDonalds after a night out with my friends. That one cookie, or that one large fry, didn’t harm the weight loss agenda. Because those instances occurred in moderation, I continue to lose inches even with the occasional binge.

But, that’s when I realized that my diet doesn’t depend on moderation, my whole life does (especially my drinking habits haha). Dieting isn’t about limiting yourself to what you can and can’t eat. Dieting is about self control itself. I learned so much about health and fitness on this journey, but I’ve also learned a lot about life.

I learned stuff like sometimes you can put a shitload of effort in, but time is still needed to see results. I learned that you can fall off track but what matters is pulling yourself back in line. I learned that moderation doesn’t just keep us healthy, it keeps us alive.

Moderation, by Merriam Webster definition means avoiding extremes of behavior or expression: observing reasonable limits. Observing reasonable limits.

Reasonable limits.

To me, that’s exactly what moderation is – understanding that we are human. Humans have limits and we must respect those limits. There is inevitable danger in extremes.

It’s been about 3 years since I implemented this whole “lifestyle change.” Those 3 years taught me that my stomach, my energy, my time, my metabolism all have limits. As I’ve lost inches (and now at a figure I can maintain) I’m comfortable with eating bagels again (thank god!) and other foods I had cut out originally.

But, I only indulge in moderation.

My final words of wisdom on the weight loss thing: you can’t expect one change to produce mass outcomes. Big change is followed by many little changes, a lot of small gears, turning to move the machine. With weight loss, diet is a pretty large change in itself; yet, exercise, rest, and mental stimulation all contribute to the greater goal. I wrote a previous post about how exercise literally does wonders to the human brain and why we need it for our sanity – you can read it here.

(As a disclaimer: everyone has different body shapes and metabolic types; thus, not every diet works for everyone). What works for you?

Quarter Life Reflection

It’s August 17, 2018 and I’m driving to the airport, Salt Lake City bound. I’m off on another trip to celebrate my birthday, reflecting on my 24th year of life, looking forward to turning 25. When I was younger, I used to think about what my life would be like when I was “all grown up.” The strange thing is, I would fantasize life at 35 to 50, sometime when I was old, wise, established. It’s funny how as you age your perception of old changes, when 35 doesn’t seem so old anymore, when you’re 10 years away from being established, wise, old.

I’m alarmed I’m turning 25 because I never imagined I would ever hit my “mid-20s.” Life moves so quickly that I couldn’t picture my life at 25 because I was so engrossed in being 24, 23, 22, or so on. As your teen years pass, quick as they may, you stumble into this really influential period of life. It’s this era of your twenties, when even a single year exposes you to quantum experiences, and decisions you make now have the ability to define your immediate future, or the rest of your life. You’re changed in leaps and bounds, exponentially…until you hit your mid-30s or 40s; then, life seems to settle down.

I felt like my 20s proposed a choice: I conform and live as I was raised or how I think society would accept me…or I choose who I will be for the rest of this life, free of predisposition and fear of judgement.

This is the threshold between who you used to be and who you choose to become.

That’s a pretty big decision to make. It took half of my 20s to figure this out. What’s even more alarming is: the older I get, the more unpredictable life seems to be. I thought I’d age, and things would become clearer, when, in fact, I feel as if navigating life has become increasingly more difficult.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m afraid to age. Actually, I’m rather fond of growing years older, because with each passing year, I am a better version of me than my previous self. What I’ve been through changed me in ways I wouldn’t even want to predict, not knowing is half the fun of living. This uncertainty is exciting, refreshing, enlightening. What I am most certain of is life’s infinite uncertainty.

the only constant is change

The older I get, the more I understand the only constant is change. We’re in a constant state of change. We’re constantly trying, failing, learning, experiencing, transforming. I don’t know who said it but I wish I could give credit to whomever once quoted “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” If one thing dawned on me during this quarter life reflection, it would be that.

I am celebrating life at a quarter century. I’m looking forward to my half century reflection. I hope we all make it to 100!

Weak This Week

Monday morning I drove my friend home because she stayed the night. I arrived late to work. When I was off, I drank a beer at the Whole Foods outdoor bar, while I facetimed my close friend, who recently moved to SoCal. By the time we were done catching up (aka when my phone died) I went home to dive into all the sleep I lacked Sunday.

I woke up naturally because I forgot to set an alarm the night before. I was late to work again Tuesday, but I left the office around 1 pm to help my manager prep for a retirement celebration. I was late because we spent the morning texting about what “resort casual” means and “no, I couldn’t wear jeans to dinner.” I spent 30 minutes deciding which slacks “I would wear at a resort in Hawaii” and even packed two extra shirts (if the original one I planned on wearing didn’t gain approval from my manager). Set up for the celebration took an hour in the baking Los Gatos sun, the evening was pleasant and clean up took another hour. I didn’t get home until 10:30 pm, in which I knocked the fuck out.

I wasn’t late to work Wednesday but I slept in an hour longer than I would have. After work, I ate too much with my mother at dinner so we spent the remainder of the evening on a stroll. Once again, I was home around 11 pm and immediately fell asleep.

Let me back up.

I have a strict schedule because I’m a grandma, where I’m in bed by 10 pm, so I can exercise at 6:30 am, before my full time job at 8:30 am. This routine has kept me alive for a while so I figure I’ll hang on to it…or do my best. It’s weeks like these that I find myself far off track, coming home at (or after) my bedtime, sleeping in instead of hitting the gym, and paying the price.

It’s weird how the human body works, actually. I work out 5 days a week, take 2 days of rest, but go absolutely mad if I skip proper exercise for longer than 3 days. I literally feel like my life is in shambles and the lack of endorphins is detrimental to my physical and mental health. I’ve felt so weak this week. In addition to not exercising, I’ve been eating out, food I wouldn’t normally eat. This combo has just created a feeling of grotesqueness and instability…which is why I’ve backtracked these last few days, looking for any sign of normalcy, in search of when I first strayed so far from my routine and why I haven’t got back to it.

I slept in last Friday. I had every intention of skateboarding when I was off work, but once I got home and laid in bed, there was no getting up. Saturday is usually my rest day. I spent the day at the beach on Sunday. That brings us to the beginning of this blog post. Therefore, it’s been exactly 7 days since my last sweat sesh. It’s Thursday. I just got home from spending 2 much-needed hours at the gym.

It’s really weird how the human body works, actually. Only 1 exercise session and my brain already feels as if it’s re-entering my body from a week-long vacation. I feel as if I’ve come back to life, or have been reawakened from an out-of-body experience. Did you know your brain releases chemicals when you exercise? Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) all keep your brain and body working properly. A natural dose is all I needed to feel better and get back on track.

Life is hectic. There are times when everything occurs simultaneously, when we’re too busy to enjoy usual activities, then we’re too tired to hit the gym. Life passes us by like this, where it’s one thing after the other, and hours pass like days do, then we realize a whole week flew by and we’ve been slammed by so many festivities that other priorities fall by the wayside. I get it. That’s how this week felt. And last week. And the week before.

Juggling everything at once is what life is all about. But sometimes our brains don’t get the dosage of chemicals needed to keep us happy, alert, focused, refreshed, motivated, alive. Sometimes, we lose our minds along the way. It may seem a little contradictory, but it’s times like these when we’re living at twice the speed of life, that what we really need to keep us going, is to get up and moving. Even a little exercise is better than none at all. Being active rids depression, provides motivation, keeps us healthy, but, most importantly, keeps us sane.

My mind goes fishing (well, my mind goes somewhere) on continuous days without working out. Then, I feel as if my whole life is out of whack. I’ve realized the quick and easy solution to get my life back is exercise. Hook, line, and sinker.

PRIDE

Iconic rainbow flags, rainbow socks, rainbow unitards, rainbow tutus.. blouses.. headbands.. pants.. dressesrainbow-everything flicker my eyes in different directions. Rainbows fall from clear-blue skies; rainbows sprout up from underneath Market Street; endless colors adorn me me gaily. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco.

I step off Caltrain with Giants fans heading to AT&T Park in jerseys, baseball caps, and black-n-orange with a mix of colorful and eccentrically dressed parade-goers walking the opposite direction. As I get closer to downtown, people in face paint, boas, and flags used as capes become more plentiful. I’m wearing the same tie-dye sports bra I made for last year’s parade with black high-waisted velvet pants. Pink, gold, and purple glitter shines above my left eyebrow down to my cheek bone, accented by transparent sequins. Face jewels are enough to draw interest from strangers and a couple people ask to take pictures with me. Of course, I oblige – “Happy Pride!” [our salutations].

Searching for my friends in the crowd is only challenging because I’m distracted by beautiful people and the fun everyone is having marching and/or onlooking. One of my best friends is dancing  in the middle of the block with a crowd of her colleagues, all wearing uniform Tesla pride t-shirts. A talented Tesla employee DJs on a podium at the back of a hand built trailer, pulled by the Model X. As we approach the start of the parade, we jump aboard the make-shift stage, our bodies in unison with the rhythm of the music.

The trailer emerges on Market Street and we jump higher from the energy of the crowd. We didn’t even make it one block. The front wheel of the trailer breaks from everyone dancing too hard, so we jump ship. Not being on the trailer allows us to run, skip, dance our way down the street, hollering and shouting, waving to the people pressed against the barricades on the sidewalk and handing them mini rainbow flags.  Paper confetti shoots out the back of the car and I truly feel like a celebrity.

Pride month means a lot to me. I used to love attending the parade as an ally to the gay community. I’ve trekked a long and [at times] unforgiving road through self-discovery; eventually, surrendering my resistance to whom I was forcing myself to be, to who I actually am. It’s hard to explain to straight people that “I didn’t know I was gay until I knew.” In fact, the topic has so many layers of complexity I could write an entirely separate blog post about the epiphany of my sexuality (and probably will sometime in the future). At first, I didn’t want to be known as “The Lesbian” to my friends or strangers. I was under the impression that the term would be the only descriptive feature one learns about me during first impressions, as if it has an undesirable connotation. Yet, in time, I realized that being gay is such an integral part of who I am as a person that being “The Lesbian” isn’t something I should shy away from, but be proud of.

As much as I’ve overcome obstacles, being gay is still difficult (maybe only gay people understand how I feel), which is why Pride is such an important event in my life. June is the month that this community shines in a spotlight, as if we are allowed to creep out of the shadows discrimination. Sometimes I feel estranged or lonely because I’m different, almost like alienation (most of my close friends and others I know are straight). I love this particular weekend of the Pride Parade in San Francisco when I can take public transportation without a shirt, glitter all over my face, and not receive confused or distained looks. Above dressing up (or down) and the superficiality of what everyone is wearing, Pride Parade brings together people just like me. I am surrounded by openly proud and extremely gay strangers, but they make me feel connected; these are my brothers and sisters. I feel less alone.

This is my third year attending the parade as a self-accepted lezzer but the first I was able to march the entirety of. This parade is not just a march, it’s a massive city-wide celebration. This is a fucken party to rejoice in acceptance of ourselves and revel in the support from our allies. We celebrate how proud we are to be who we are, or what makes us different than the remainder of the population. To me, this is more than a two-day bender just drinking and dancing in the streets. Being here is the reason I’m alive; it’s times like these that keep me alive; this is a lifeforce.

Dancing in this year’s parade isn’t happiness, no, better…this is NIRVANA.

Dykes on Bikes

pride.JPGWomen in bright t-shirts stand in front of barricades blocking the streets surrounding Dolores Park. The green of the grass is almost unseen as people stumble over blankets, bottles, umbrellas, beer pong tables, and popup tents covering the field between 18th to 20th Street. A female MC, with a soft afro and denim overalls hooked on one shoulder, introduces the next guest on a small stage near the lower west side; speaking into a microphone, her voice hardly travels to the middle of the park over the music, the commotion, the party.

The public rager continues to attract more festive attendees as the Saturday afternoon progresses. By 4:30, the park is lightyears past maximum capacity as people spill over the sidewalks, pour onto streets, drunkenly flooding the three blocks along Dolores. This is when the rev of motorcycle engines begin to roar and echo off houses between the Castro and Mission district. I throw on a neon-yellow safety vest and follow the sound, lining up along a bus disguised as an old-fashioned trolley. Behind me is a street-wide banner held by countless women and a crowd behind them, holding signs, blowing whistles, spreading love and cheer.

Believe it or not, this beautiful pandemonium is a day-long rally ending with a march known as Dykes on Bikes. (Hence the motorcycles).  The Dyke March spans Valencia to Castro Street and a couple blocks in between. This year, I volunteer as a safety monitor, keeping an eye on the jubilant crowd. Volunteering is not new to me; I began volunteering at a young age, an experience I love for being “hands-on,” and sharing my time with people, communities, and organizations in need. What I love most about volunteering at events by myself is the opportunity to meet new people.

Since it’s my first year volunteering at the Dyke March, I’m paired with a volunteer-veteran named Emma (if you’ve volunteered for a few years, you’re assigned a walkie-talkie and headset). We monitor the crowd and I stay on Emma’s left side so she can hear the communications on the headset in her right ear and hear me with her other. She explains what to look out for and the other duties we have as floaters.  As we walk the park, Emma tells me about experiences she’s had being trans and about how the Trans March doesn’t get as large a turn out as the Dyke March, but (of course) always loves going. We make it to the perimeter of the north side, where a vintage firetruck is parked and a small crowd of pedestrians and firefighters in uniform are gathered. Emma says “there’s the Fire Department recruiting every year at the Dyke March…they’re looking for strong women,” I giggle in agreement. Emma repeats a new report on the headset, a child has gone missing. As the safety team, we search. Luckily the missing child was found shortly, playing in the sandbox. After this tense bit, we retreat to the volunteer tent to take our break, resting our feet and snacking on pizza.

My second volunteer shift I’m paired with an energetic twenty-year-old named Kaleigh, who exclaims June is her most favorite month. Why? It’s Pride Month (duh, she adds). Kaleigh and I roam the park, each holding one side of a giant bucket with dollar signs written with thick sharpie. Kaleigh enthusiastically informs people that the Dyke March paid eleven grand to clean up the park after last year’s kick-off; we raise forty-six dollars in donations in merely thirty minutes. I’m not sure if it’s encouraging people to clean up their trash or Kaleigh’s slogan that drew money out of people’s pockets…She went around shouting “if you’re not gay, you owe us a dollar!” Some may not have donated, but they definitely laughed. If we aren’t collecting money, at least we’re entertaining.

Volunteering allows me to walk at the front of the parade to maintain order (what little order there is at an enormous gathering for gays). This, by far, is the best feeling, dancing in a line of volunteers, waving to the crowd, and being part of the human race, who have so much in common, but the immaculate similarity here is positivity and homosexuality. Accepting myself has been one of the most challenging aspects of my young life, but now I stand as an integral member of the lezzer community. I’ve never been so proud to be myself, never felt more connected, than I do now marching.

This is what happiness is. Spending the day volunteering for an event, which supports a cause I am deeply passionate about. These are the moments I live for; meeting and gathering with people who extinguish the feeling I have of being the alone or different. We are all one in the same. These moments are so exhilarating that I’m drained! Although I’m completely exhausted from all the walking (26, 003 steps in total), the amount of joy that fills me witnessing such amazing support from the LGBTQQ community and our allies gives me life. I have enough adrenaline to walk another five blocks to Mission. Nachos and cerveza replenish my body for the journey home and an even larger fiesta the following day…