To Be Determined


Should I ever want to totally throw myself into a tailspin, it turns out I only need to think about doing two things. One: giving my notice. Two: stuffing the contents of my studio into the back of a U-Haul truck.

Moving and changing jobs: both are right up there on the list of hugely disorienting, major life stressors. On a scale of one to ten, how well do you do with TBD?

This is one of my less lovable characteristics: uncertainty about The Big Stuff makes my need to exert control over the little stuff skyrocket. For someone who is making a valiant attempt to loosen her grip on food and exercise, this is what not what we would call ideal.

I worked myself up into such a tizzy this week. By the time Saturday morning rolled around, the best way I could think to offer myself comfort was to skimp on breakfast and go for a run in the driving rain. As I sprinted through the still-dark streets, soaked to the skin and quivering with cold, I thought: what happened to gentle yoga? What happened to calling a friend? What happened to taking myself to tea? What happened to taking it nice and slow? I cried the whole way home.

Afterwards, wrapped in a fluffy towel and watching water droplets pelt the window above my bed, I thought: it’s probably a little soon to think about making every change ever. Before I think about completely upending my life again, I need to focus on step one: getting my body back to its natural set point. I’m asking an enormous amount of myself by doing just that one thing.

Can I do that from Oregon? Can I do that while continuing to work? Better questions may be: can I add a fan of avocado to lunch without taking away a hunk of cheese? Can I listen to my body and stay home from the gym today?

This is also interesting to consider: what pushed me over the edge this last time? What caused me to revert back to coping the way I used to cope? That’s easy: massive amounts of change at work. So much is in flux. So much is up in the air. And — here’s the kicker — there’s no end date. There’s no projected timeframe for me to cling to and use to just power through. This accelerated pace, this barely contained chaos — it’s the new normal.

I don’t have time to develop systems; I don’t have time to plan ahead; I don’t have time to do my idea of a good job. It feels eerily similar to the turmoil so characteristic of the startup environment I made the concerted decision to leave, when I left NYC three years ago. (Oh, the irony.) For the last year I’ve been telling myself, “it’s OK; it’ll just be for another couple weeks, this is just an especially busy time,” but no.

This is the part that gets tricky to explain. When I’m underfed, I already feel like I’m stretched so thin I’m barely able to hang on. It may look like everything’s fine and I’m doing great, but in reality: help, help, help. Treading water and getting very, very tired.

I think the news that things are only destined to get more turbulent prompted every cell in my body to start screaming, “I want OUT.” This isn’t good for me; this isn’t good for me; this isn’t good for me.

But thinking about leaving hasn’t made me feel better [read: reassured]; it’s made me feel worse. What else would I do? Where else would I go?

During an especially low-low yesterday, I had another thought: I will lose my health insurance if I leave this job. I’m 26 now, and my family has sort of fallen apart, so it’s not so easy to just hop back onto any kind of a “family plan.” We don’t even have a family home anymore. I am alone. I am alone in this. Ratchet it up one more notch: I’m utterly alone — in this illness and in this state.

After a good night’s sleep and a big breakfast, of course that spirally thought pattern feels mildly melodramatic. But the feeling still rings true: I do feel alone and apart. And like it must be awfully nice to have someone to pay half the rent and help with the cooking and spend time with you and just love you. It’s been so long.

You can see the issue as clearly as I can, I’m sure. I need more food in order to be able to function at my best (and have the bandwidth to be able to tolerate more ambiguity), but I also need to minimize the amount of stress and upheaval I’m experiencing in order to be able to do it (in any lasting, meaningful way). When I am anxious and afraid, the urge to restrict rears right back up.

I also return to cracking down on my diet (see also: burying my needs) when I’m sad. The lonelier I get, the more I desperately I want to dial back the feeling — hence, the more I restrict, and the more difficult it becomes to connect with people. It’s strange, though. I’m fine when I’m at work, in one of my two blazers and the pair of shoes that pinches the least. I’m not someone you’ll catch emerging from the third floor bathroom with red-rimmed eyes. But on the weekends, week after week after week, I am a literal puddle. I feel like two different people.

When I put it that way, it’s no wonder I’m exhausted. And it’s not like the weather has been helping. Six straight months of gray skies = enough to dishearten anyone.

I badly want to arm myself with a plan. Things cannot go on like this.

  1. More food. More rest.
  2. More relationships. More practice with, and exposure to, unconditional love.
  3. A stronger sense of safety and security, somehow. (Probably needs to be internal.)
  4. More family nearby. (They’re all awesome, lest I gave you the wrong impression earlier. It’s just that we aren’t all conveniently located in one place.) More really close friends.
  5. More sun. More time outside.
  6. No more cities.
  7. No more studios. (Maybe a break from living alone?)
  8. A more routine job, possibly with fewer responsibilities/less pressure? (But does this mean going back to entry-level? How do I make peace with the fact that I’m neurotic but also incredibly ambitious/so achievement-oriented?)
  9. A shift back away from my old set of values. (Things aren’t so black and white/how hard you work isn’t the be-all, end-all/success looks different for different people/good enough is good enough/aren’t we mainly here to have a good time?)
  10. More fun, laughter, and lighthearted moments. (Hobbies? Come up with a few of those.)

If I look at just the first item on that list: I’m doing it, yesterday’s slip aside. It’s been two and a half weeks with more food at every meal. I feel both better and worse, which is to be expected. It is hard to notice the changes on my body, even if they’re only small now. I know they’ll be much more jarring soon. But here’s what I keep telling myself: it’s not like starving myself skinny led to me to all the love and happiness I ever wanted. It’s clearly time to try something else.

I don’t know how life is going to feel in bigger pants — whether it’ll be better or worse than it feels right now. But it’s a relief to just keep thinking about letting go, and to push myself to do it as often as I can. I have no control over what my healthy, adult body looks like. I don’t have much of a say in whether or not someone will find me attractive someday. When it comes down to it, there are so many outcomes that truly are out of my reach. It’s useless to hold on so tight or try to steer things one way or the other.

With that knowledge: either things will get better at work or they won’t. It’ll either become easier to think about moving on or it’ll become more difficult to think about walking away. But I don’t have to make any capital D decisions today.

My decisions today are small. Yes: add avocado at lunch. Yes: unfollow that wellness blogger on Instagram. Yes: spend 60% of the afternoon on the couch. Yes: flip the full-length mirror around for right now. Yes: make this salad. Yes: make this chicken. Yes: buy the chocolate. Yes: read this article. Yes: fill out these fill-in-the-blanks. Yes: reach out to people. Yes: accept (and exchange) virtual hugs. Yes: let the bigger questions remain TBD.


“Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying.” -Matt Chandler

“Find someone who will love you with the lights on. Better yet — challenge yourself to do the same.” -Noor Shirazie

“The end result of kindness is that it draws people to you.” -Anita Roddick

“I want to be the best version of myself for anyone who is going to someday walk into my life and need someone to love them beyond reason.” -Jennifer Elisabeth

“I did think, let’s go about this slowly, this is important. This should take some really deep thought. We should take small, careful steps. But, bless us, we didn’t.” -Mary Oliver

“Sometimes it’s easier to tell a stranger something very personal. It’s like there’s less risk, opening yourself up to someone who doesn’t know you.”-Linwood Barclay

“Maybe we begin to help our friends become unhaunted when we let them know we’re not afraid of their pain. When we ask to really know them. When we ask to see inside. When we do our part to go beyond the distance and the smile, deeper to ‘Who are you?’ and ‘How are you?’ and ‘Are you okay?’” -Jamie Tworkowski

“One of the first signs of love is the moment you realize someone is trying their very best to understand you.” -Jonathan Carroll

“The best people all have some kind of scar.” -Kiera Cass

“Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.” -Audre Lorde

“It’s easy to do nothing, but your heart breaks a little more every time you do.” -Mark Ruffalo

“Remember what to do when you’re at the bottom of a hole? You’ve got to stop digging.” -Carolyn Mackler

“Don’t fall in love with your sadness. Let it be something you kick out of bed in the morning. ” -Emery Allen

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection — or compassionate action.” -Daniel Goleman

“I believe in growth — the kind that hurts and the kind that heals.” -Alexandra Elle

“There are times when it is hard to believe in the future, when we are temporarily just not brave enough. When this happens, concentrate on the present. Cultivate le petit bonheur (the little happiness) until courage returns. Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine. Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow.” -Ardis Whitman

“Life isn’t like musical chairs, where the music turns off and you’re screwed if you can’t find a chair. Paying too much attention to big turning points and numbers and landmarks is always a bad idea. All you can do is be very clear about what you want in your life, and take tiny steps every day to get there. Sometimes a tiny step is just reading a great book or vowing not to think negative thoughts first thing in the morning. I think I’ve taken a million different tiny steps along the way, and I’m still constantly readjusting my life so that I’m living in a way that’s true to what I believe and true to what I want for myself. It’s healthy to keep looking closely at what you want and to keep recalibrating, past 30 to 40 and 50 and 60 and beyond.” -Heather Havrilesky

“I think you need an adventure, one with a wild laugh.” -B.E. Barnes

{PDX bridge via @stand_five, rainy bus via @thomasguy, Cape Kiwanda via @megaguire, wave via @eklundgriffin, PDX hills via @portland, Mt. Hood #1 via @gettyphotography, Mt. Hood #2 via @ dobrean.a, Black Butte Mountain via @mr0tt, Horseshoe Bend via @islandinthesky — all on Instagram.}


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