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the beauty + blindness that come with privilege

Photo Credit: Thomas Brault, Upslash

Photo Credit: Thomas Brault, Upslash

Years ago, a friend of mine, a lawyer working on a stop-and-frisk case, talked to me about privilege. He could be someone who walks the city streets carrying drugs, yet he’d never be stopped, never be given more than a passing glance, because he’s an attractive white male who doesn’t look the part. Doesn’t fit the profile. On paper he’s the poster boy of privilege–Swarthmore undergrad, Harvard Law, and skin as pale as parchment–until he holds his husband’s hand. Until they publicly embrace. Then he’s a fag, a homo, a queer, and it’s as if all the privilege he was able to enjoy before he touched another man’s hand vanished. On that day my friend reminded me to check my privilege and check it often. And while I have to endure the indignities that come with being a woman in America, I have to remember that I’m, by all appearances, a white, educated woman (even if I’m genetically nearly half black and Spanish), and I’m able to navigate spaces where many are denied trespass.

I think about this a lot, especially when I re-read old stories I’ve written where I talk about my hair as a “betrayal”, rather than a piece of my makeup worthy of pride and love. I think about this when I email friends listings of expensive apartments in Los Angeles of which I’m able to afford. Yes, I work hard for everything I have, but I have to remind myself, constantly, that it’s easier for me because for the whole of my adult life I’ve played the part of a white, Ivy-educated woman. I have to remember this when WOC speak cogently and brilliantly on the dangers of whitewashed feminism. And isn’t it tragic that we need a comic, albeit an eloquent one, to remind us of all that we take for granted–all the ways we need to make the world better for those who are unable to occupy our seats of privilege.

Over the past year I’ve been reading scores of articles that invite you to change your life. In this rarified life the word “impossible” is verboten because if they’ve achieved the unthinkable you can too. It’s smart marketing, really, the way in which these stories sell you on an idea, an alternative life you could be living if only you’d make the leap. If only you’d sell your possessions and hop on a plane. But that’s what marketing does–sells you something that’s actually not the thing you’re really buying.

What they’re selling, unbeknownst to them, is their privilege. Privilege has become the unspeakable, the ultimate taboo, because no one wants to hear that their journey to break ranks, regardless of how difficult it seemed to be, comes at lower cost than if someone else attempted the leap. No one wants to feel the guilt that comes with being born into a certain race or economic advantage because perhaps they think it reduces the brave choices they’ve made. It doesn’t, really, but the blindness that the currency built into these choices is a kind that can’t be bought by others, is dangerous.

You may weep into your yoghurt when you read this, but not everyone can wake up one morning, quit their job (and life), and travel the world. Not everyone can drape their tawny body on a beach or sit perched in front of a laptop in Phuket. If that were the case, everyone would do it. We don’t exist in binary states, and those major leaps can’t be copied by all but perhaps they’ll cause a ripple in someone’s life. Maybe those dramatic changes will inspire small, meaningful choices in others.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Photo Credit: Pexels

Two years ago I contemplated a move to Europe (I know, line forms to the left). In retrospect, this was the dumbest idea in which I’ve ever conceived, but back then I was unsettled, unhappy, and I was grasping for something big that could fill the emptiness I’d been feeling. Yet, so many people told me to just do it! I’ll figure it out! Don’t think! At first I was exuberant–why not just put the cat on a plane with a passport? And then I woke to the reality: I’ve six-figure student loan debt that has to be paid or the corporations that hold my debt will sic the dogs on me, and I’ve no doubt they’ve global bloodhounds in their arsenal. I’d no savings. The only language I knew was Spanish and Spain’s tanking economy was out of the question. I had no partner with whom to share my expenses and fears, and I owned a pet that would require nearly six months of paperwork and anxiety attacks to transport to another country. While I wanted to pursue this fantasy, real life logistical questions and concerns put me on pause, yet the whole of social media was intent on admonishing me for thinking logically. Apparently logic erodes delusional thinking.

All this empty talk reminded me of a piece Mark Manson wrote on the steaming pile of bullshit that is The Secret. He writes,

Other studies show that people who engage in “self-affirmations” and are then presented with information that threatens their affirmation (even healthy criticism or feedback) actually engage in more faulty reasoning than people who don’t use self-affirmations.10 In fact, people who indulge in delusional positive thinking ironically become downright angry when someone tries to contradict their wall of airy-fairy thoughts. The truth about their situation just becomes that much more painful to them.

Delusional positive thinking ironically generates greater closed-mindedness in people. They must always be vigilant and block out potentially negative feedback or criticism of their beliefs, even if that negative feedback is life-or-death important to their health and well-being.

I don’t have the privilege of parents who could finance my adventures or give me shelter should I falter from pursuing them. I don’t have the privilege of a debt-free existence because how was I going to scrounge up the $40K/year that was the cost of my Columbia education? Do I regret graduate school? Do I regret that I’ll likely pay loans until I’m steeped in earth? Sometimes. But what am I going to do other than deal with the hand I’ve dealt myself and take responsibility for my choices.

But still. These articles, for a time, made me feel guilty. Made me feel as if my life were lacking, that I wasn’t brave enough to make the choices these women had made. Honestly, that was my own shit. That was me realizing that I’m not these other people living their lives with the privileges they have. I’m me. This is my life. And while I can’t teach snorkeling in Borneo, I can make the leaps that feel right for me. The leaps that my privilege + my hard work can afford.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t let these stories make you feel small. Don’t let my story make you feel small. You are the author of your own story. Write it. Live it. Share it with others. Try to help others with their story if you see them struggling, or if they don’t have the equipment or the means like you do.

Or at least acknowledge and feel grateful for what you have.

on defining your dream: the couch vs. the cubicle…or something other?

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

There are two paths in life: Should and Must. We arrive at this crossroads over and over again. And each time, we get to choose.Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small. Must is different. Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. –Elle Luna’s “When You’re at the Crossroads of Should and Must”

Rarely will you hear me talk about the usefulness of Facebook. I have a presence on the platform simply as a means to keep in touch with friends who don’t understand social media or have an inclination to use it. These are friends with whom I went to college or people in my world who don’t “get” blogs, and they rarely have the time to read mine. Strangely, I like this sort of disconnected connection; I enjoy being a voyeur in lives demonstrably different than my own. On any given day, I’ll scroll through engagement photos, pet pictures (brief parenthetical: my friends have excellent taste in furry, and not so furry, creatures), literary, social and political diatribes, where a battle of wits and words are common–but it’s a passive connection, and I walk away from the platform much as I entered it, undisturbed.

However, something recently put my heart on pause. I was reminded by Facebook’s fancy algorithm of a post I shared a year ago, and it put me to thinking about the way in which the meaning of words have the capacity to change based on when you encounter them. The word is the word, really, but its meaning changes form at varying points in our lives.

Well, let’s see. After you decide that I’m depressed, or whatever, you’ll put me on meds, right? Well I know hundreds of people on them and they’re all doing just fine. Really. I’ll go back to work on my new anti-depressants, have dinner with my parents and persuade them I’m back to being the normal one who never gives them any trouble. And one day some guy will ask me to marry him. He’ll be nice enough. That’ll make my parents very happy. The first year we’ll make love all the time, and in the second and third less and less. But just as we’re getting sick of each other, I’ll get pregnant. Taking care of kids, holding onto jobs, paying mortgages, It’ll keep us on an even keel for a while. Then about ten years into it he’ll have an affair because I’m too busy and I’m too tired. And I’ll find out. I’ll threaten to kill him, his mistress… myself. We’ll get past it. A few years later he’ll have another one. This time I’m just going to pretend that I don’t know because somehow kicking up a fuss just doesn’t seem worth the trouble this time. And I’ll live out the rest of my days sometimes wishing my kids could have the life that I never had. Other times secretly pleased they’re turning into repeats of me. I’m fine. Really.–Veronika Decides to Die (film adaptation of Paulo Coehlo’s novel)

Ours was a generation taught to draw an outline and spend the rest of our lives coloring in the lines. Our dream was a photocopy of a bland original with little variation, and we lived under the illusion that we had choice. Choice was really a series of selections within the confined space of how we would define our lives. College. Career. Marriage. House. Children. After a time, we realize we’ve boxed ourselves in, and the dreams we once fastidiously pursued have become internal prisons. Because what happens when you’re 40 and you haven’t found the great love? What happens when your womb doesn’t ache to be filled? What happens when you’ve been sitting in this one chair in front of another chair for the whole of your life, and you wake up one morning and decide instead that you want a view. You think maybe you want to hurl the chair out the window. What then?

Have you failed because you didn’t follow the plan and achieve your dream? Or maybe you had the wrong dream all along and you didn’t know it. Or perhaps you wanted something different but felt pressure to conform to what you should do, what is logical, what makes sense.

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

I’ll tell you the dream I had when I was 19. I was going to graduate college with honors (I did); work in an investment bank (I did); marry by the time I was 30 (oops); buy a house, but not in Long Island (still renting); have a child, possibly two, please not a girl (oops, again); press play, repeat and watch my children do the same (not likely). Never once in the narrative did I ask myself what kind of person I wanted to be. Never once had I considered there was nobility in living a life of your own design and making. Never once did I allow for a deviation, a margin of error. What I’d written down were facts and my job was to architect a roadmap to get me to varying points on a map, to the facts.

And then something happened. I hated banking. Like, really hated it. Like brawling with my manager during a performance review, hated it. I was good at it, found it easy, but I’d come home from work and feel…empty. At 24, I did the equivalent of pulling off the road and nearly crashed into a guardrail. I told myself, I’ll make a tiny adjustment to the plan. Different career but the rest will stay the same. This is okay, I thought. I’m fine.

And then I met a man before I was thirty (so close). We fell in love, looked at rings and spoke of our life together. For a time we were awash in sepia, we were our best photographs. And I think we fell in love with the idea of love, and as quickly as we’d come together, we unraveled at the seams. I loved him but I never let him in, all the way. Not the way he wanted me to. Our break was a photograph worth shredding and I haven’t loved anyone in that way since. I’ve met people but no one who challenges me, takes the breath right out of my mouth and holds it in his hands. My once great love is married now, has two beautiful children, and I’m happy for him. That he found the love he was looking for. I’m still searching, and that’s as far as I’ll go with it here.

So I returned to the career narrative with a ferocity which, in retrospect, was frightening. I published a successful literary magazine, a well-received memoir, and, within four years helped build an agency from the ground up. I was made a managing partner in this company, given a fancy title, a credit card, and equity. I made a lot of money and bought fancy things, but how was it that I felt, at 37, the same way I’d felt at 24? Empty.

I looked at my outline and thought, what the fuck happened?

I resigned from a job that had been slowly killing me and felt like a failure. After, I was offered more jobs like the one I had and I kept turning them down. The idea of sitting in a confined space for five days a week, the reality of being shackled to a desk and forced to endure an endless parade of meetings, conference calls and emails where no one believed in removing everyone from copy, was unbearable. I got sick just thinking about it.

What if who we are and what we do become one and the same? What if our work is so thoroughly autobiographical that we can’t parse the product from the person? What if our jobs are our careers and our callings? –Elle Luna

Last year, when I read Elle Luna’s piece it occurred to me just how much I was compartmentalizing my life and how it wasn’t working. I thought, well I’ll have this writing thing over here that doesn’t make money and I’ll have this food thing here because I enjoy it and it keeps me sane, and then I’ll have this marketing thing over there because that’s the ticket. That’s the stuff that’ll make me money and keep my cat in the lifestyle to which he’s become accustomed. Obligatory photo of said cat:

felix the cat

I realized I was pursuing the wrong dream. And not only that but the strategy I’d employed to pursue this new dream was also wrong.

I realized that all I wanted to do was WRITE. All I wanted to do was work with people who were insatiably curious and cool. All I wanted was to be itinerant. I started to realize that creativity can’t be found in the confines of an office or holed up on a couch. I had ideas while walking in the park or having brunch with my best girlfriends or alone at home or sometimes in an office surrounded by smart people. Good ideas percolate everywhere and I’m finding it’s my job to move where the good energy moves. And I’m still trying to sort out this writing business as it pertains to the pragmatic I have real bills that need to be paid but I want to create ALL. THE. TIME.

Do you know that I actually get EXCITED to write posts for this space even though I don’t get paid for it? Even though I don’t have sponsors or a donation bucket or anything that will bring me money even though I know it costs A LOT of money to publish stuff here. But I don’t care because I enjoy it and it allows me to exercise another kind of writing apart from my fiction, apart from my brand work.

Right now I’m trying to piece it together. Trying to draw a new map. From scratch.

I’m 39 and I don’t want to own a house. I don’t want (or need) a lot of money. I don’t want to have children but I want to fawn over my friends’ children. The great love? Working on it. Offline. The great life? I suppose I’m still working on that too.

After I torch the outline.

a minor fall, a major leap: a major announcement + life change

OTOÑO EN EL PANTANO
Photo Credit: Alfredo Miguel Romero

Because I want to feel something again. Because I want to come down to my knees and feel the earth beneath my hands. Because I want to be itinerant. Because I saw Tiny and said, imagine that. Because I want to do something with my hands other than type. Because I’m tired of a city where death had undone so many. Also, I’m tired of cities. Because I seek an unadulterated sky. Because I wrote a novel about a family living in the West and who knew I’d write myself to where I plan to be? Because home isn’t a place, rather it’s the people to whom you return.

For now, let’s call my project Four Points West. Come September 2015, I will spend 3-4 months in Sante Fe, New Mexico; Helena, Montana; Seattle, WA and San Diego (or Santa Cruz, haven’t decided yet), California. I placed pins on a map and said, this is where you’ll fine me. This is where I’ll lay down my head to rest.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve never left the confines of New York. Sure, I’ve traveled to India, Ireland, Taiwan, Italy, UK, Prague, France, Spain, Russia, Mexico, China, Korea, Thailand, Australia, Fiji, Aruba, Bali, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Cambodia, Vietnam, but I’ve never made another place my home. Next year I will make four unexpected places my temporary home. I’ll stay in AirBNBs. I’ll retake the road test since my driver’s license expired years ago. I’ll take my cat with me. I’ll sublet my home in Brooklyn or let it go altogether. I’ll sit in a place of uncertainty, inconvenience and discomfort because it’s better than this recognizable disquiet.

I’ve a lot to plan between now and then, but I’m exhilarated. I plan on documenting the entire journey, treating each place as if it’s a new territory, a foreign country. And while I hope to continue consulting in brand and consumer marketing, I like the idea of also doing work that requires me to do something with my hands. I guess I want to feel something more than what exists right now. I want to see how far I can go.

Admittedly, I’m terrified. I’ve $150K in graduate loan debt. I’ve credit card debt. New York is easy in the sense that most of my work is here, even if I don’t have to venture into an office. I’m leaving the comfort of all I know in pursuit of something that may be a disaster, financial or otherwise.

But another part of me, a small voice that was once a whisper has grown to a shout, and it says, why not?

More to come…

roasted fig, kale + chickpea salad and cauliflower coconut curry + a silent call to leave home

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Truth be told, I rarely re-read what I write here. I write for the rush of it, the joy of it–the words come from a compulsion to make sense of a situation, find clarity, and once that clarity has been found I move on. However, amidst all this food, amidst a stove that resembled a bonfire, I kept re-reading this post. And one of the questions I keep asking myself is this: Why am I still here? This isn’t a Montaigne why-do-we-exist ontological argument, rather, it’s why am I still in New York? Before you talk about a hoard of writers who never grew up in New York yet pen dreamy essays about leaving old New York, my story is less about a place and more about a desperate need to sit in discomfort. A need to lay down my head somewhere else in the world for an extended period of time–beyond travel.

This place is my home. I went to Fordham when I could have gone to Boston University or Brown. I went to Columbia when I could have applied to Iowa. I watched so many people I love move away, start new lives in different states and countries and it’s only now that I have a sense of longing. A realization that my home has become my barnacle, a place to which I’ve been unhealthily attached. My mother still lives here. My pop lives here. All my memories are tethered to this place, and I want new memories, new places. I posted something on Facebook and one of my very sage friends wrote this, which put my heart on pause:

Come up with an eccentric plan and give yourself to it. For example, resolve to live on every continent for 3 months to a year (okay, not Antarctica). Or live in a different country for a year for 5 years in a row. Or live on an island for a year. I’ve found that it’s very, very hard to will a change out of the swirling lights of one’s soul, but it’s easy to react to a change you believe has already been made for you. We move in a week if our employer makes us, but if it’s up to us, we’ll linger for five years making excuses and riding the wave of inertia. So find some way to externalize the impetus for the change, and then don’t question it. Just get it done. Pretend an employer is forcing you to move. Pretend anything. Oh, you could live in four states, each of which abuts a corner or edge of the US: say, Traverse City, Michigan; Bangor, Maine; Austin, Texas; and Portland, Oregon. You get the idea. You could also plan a book and live along some route that you would create art/photos/writing about. I am not thinking about money here, of course, so the daydreaming is easy. But I’d say daydream hard first, and you’ll figure out the money.

Last night I vacillated between this comment and my post, and I realized I keep asking questions that go unanswered because I’m afraid. It’s easy to talk about New York and how much I hate it, how much it’s gone to blight, overflowing with long-term tourists who call themselves New Yorkers. I lament that so much of the danger, art and energy I loved as a child has been whitewashed, excised. Everything feels pedestrian, done by rote, and the discomfort I feel is more akin to waking up to someone whom you thought you knew for the whole of your life to realize they’re actually a stranger. The discomfort I want is the feel of the new, the unsettling that comes from uprooting yourself and planting yourself somewhere else. I want quiet. I want land. I want solitude. I want slow. I want simple.

My god, I’ve lived a complicated, often difficult, life in a place that’s frenetic. I want to slow down and breathe.

So I’m following my friend’s advice and using the next 12 months to put my exit strategy into action. More details to come.

Now, my questions are when and how?

INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS FOR THE CHICKPEA SALAD: Pre-heat an oven to 400F. To a large roasting pan, add figs, quartered; handfuls of curly kale; 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained; salt/pepper/olive oil. Toss the figs, kale and chickpeas so they’re evenly coated in olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the kale is crispy and the chickpeas are browned.

INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS FOR THE CAULIFLOWER CURRY*: 2 tbsp coconut oil; 2 cloves of garlic, minced; 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced; 1 large cauliflower head (1 lb) cut into florets; 2 tbsp curry powder; 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes; 1/4 tsp cinnamon; 1/8 tsp ground coriander; pinch of sea salt and coarse black pepper; 1 14oz can of full-fat coconut milk; 2 tbsp almond butter.

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the coconut oil and garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant, add the bell pepper and cauliflower. Stir the vegetables to evenly coat them in garlic + oil.

Add all of the spices and toss to coat. Add the coconut milk and almond butter. Mix to incorporate.

Cover the pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is softened. Taste for seasoning + add more salt if needed.

*Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen.

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my food journey: week two (I have so much to tell you!)

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I have so much to tell you!! Every session with my nutritionist, Dana James, has been a lesson in awareness. Although it’s only been two short weeks since I made the choice to be completely present in my life, especially with regard to the food I put in my body (nourish versus numb, remember?), I feel as if every day is, at turns, an awakening and another bandaid being ripped off.

Rather than rehash the past four years, and why I made the choice to stay in an environment that bred competitiveness, insecurity and self-contempt, I’m focusing more on repairing the damage that was done as a result of walking into an office every day, knowing that every hour spent was an hour stolen from me. Over the past year I’ve returned to former self, have reestablished a confidence that had been trampled upon, and have set mindful boundaries when it comes to achieving a balance between the work I do and the art I create. As such, I am meticulous and methodical when negotiating contracts with new clients, being really specific on the time I devote to a project and the what will and won’t be achieved within those defined hours. I think this self-care was really the impetus for me seeing Dana, because I started to feel that something wasn’t right with my body when everything else in my life was right.

After my weight, water, BMI, PBF, and muscle composition readout (and yes, I’m losing weight, steadily), Dana talked to me about the damage I’ve done to myself at a cellular level over the past four years. And that damage, surprise, surprise, has contributed to a host of food sensitivities, mainly gluten, mostly carbs. Let’s chat about the below image:

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Part of my weekly meetings with Dana includes an analysis of my body composition, body water balance, and segmental lean analysis. We talk about the weekly results in the context of my food diary and my emotional state. What you see here is today’s Segmental Lean Analysis, which is a measure of my muscle mass (weight and % to ideal for my height, age and body type). Ideally, you want to be over 100%, although for a woman, that’s challenging in your trunk area unless you are ripped. You’ll notice that I have a very strong upper body, an almost-there lower body, but the trunk, the trunk is interesting.

I’m not ripped, people. I once had a tiny waist, but we won’t dwell on that. WE WON’T. Comparing this number (101.1%) to my water % numbers (which have gone down minimally, interesting since I’ve taken gluten out of the equation), and a gently feel of my midsection, Dana suggested that I’ve accumulated a considerable amount of yeast buildup in my gut over the years, which has made me constantly bloated. I have a great deal of muscle all over, but it’s literally covered in carb-induced fat and bloat. As a result, we’re trying an experiment where I’m swapping out my morning probiotic in favor of taking Candida Control six times a day. We’re looking to dramatically reduce the amount of candida in my gut. The combination of taking these supplements + being mindful about my diet will make a significant change in my body over the next month.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to hear that the issue has nothing to do with my workouts. The muscle is there, the strength is there–it’s just covered in waste accumulated over the course of four years living a life of extreme stress. Are you skeptical that stress doesn’t have an impact on your health? Well, hello. I’m Felicia, your case in point.

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After, we dove right into my visual food diary, which I’ve come to realize, is a document that makes me more accountable to myself than I initially thought. On paper, my meals sound fantastic, however, in practice, I’m still not incorporating enough veg in my diet. Look at you, covering your large portion of legumes (good carbs, but carbs) with kale (Exhibit A: the steak with roasted chickpeas and kale). I see what you did there, was the gist of my chat with Dana. The tacos + rice gnocchi (bottom corner image, at right) were fine since that was my splurge meal (but even so, can you throw in a salad beforehand?). While the chicken + beef koftas on greens were a win, I could have added more color to the plate.

I can’t explain to you enough how seeing what’s on your plate makes you more aware of what you’re actually putting in your body.

Oh, maybe that potato was kind of big. Maybe I’ve been dialing down the veg thinking I’ll make up for it in the next meal. Life doesn’t work that way. You never make up for it. You need to practice this mindfulness when you sit down at your every meal.

Who knew this whole dissection of my food diary was a segue to the big news I received today: Dana and I work to slowly wean me off carbs over the next month. This isn’t complete or extreme elimination, this is more about allowing my body to repair itself, overcome my extreme sensitivity to gluten (I finally get my detailed blood work next week and I’ll post it here!), and allow myself two wonderful carb meals a week. Granted, fruit is still in play — we’re just talking about my predilection to reach for rice and potatoes. Notice that in this week’s food diary? Dana sure did. And I kind of did, too.

Here’s to a second week on this incredible journey.

Key Tips:
* Nixing my probiotics for two weeks. Instead, I’ll be taking 6 aforementioned Candida tablets a day.
* Take two tbsp of chlorophyll in the morning (I love this brand), with my smoothie as a chaser. I really love how chlorophyll makes me feel. The smoothie + shots are a one-two punch, and I’m actually finding that I don’t need coffee in the morning because I have so much energy.
* My snacks don’t need to be so rigid — they can be meal leftovers. Dana loves the adage, make once, eat twice.
* I’ve devoted 2 hours on Sunday to massive meal prep. I have tons of tupperware and labeled Ziploc bags for salad starters, meat seasonings and easy meals that I can put together quickly. Now, I have lunch in 3 minutes and my dinner takes 30 minutes, flat.

Note: My journey (and FOOD DIARY) are meant to inspire you, not as a means for you to directly emulate. My supplements and food plan have been completely customized for me, my body type and my health goals. In short, what might work for me may not make sense, or work, for you.

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Great interview with my food coach on belly bloat (eh-hem, Felicia)!

savala island, fiji

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There’s a scene in the movie Psycho where Janet Leigh’s character makes small talk with Anthony Perkins. Perkins asks, Where are you going? I didn’t mean to pry, to which she responds, I’m looking for a private island. After a time, after the rain has receded and the parlor where they make this exchange is cold and damp, he says, You know what I think? I think that we’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and, and claw, but only at the air, only at each other. And for all of it, we never budge an inch.

I think about this scene often. I think about Perkins’ eyes, wide and black, his face merely a mask, a ruse, obscuring something darker. A daguerreotype of a seething. In the film, he moves as we imagine a bird would — calculating, sharp and violent — and I think about how we are sometimes content in being comfortably uncomfortably. We accept our lot as it is; we leave comments on blog posts coveting the things we want, the things our eyes see. We have our excuses filed away and logged, pulled out like sheets of looseleaf paper at the ready. We say we have these obligations; we blame our fear of pursuing something other on time.

It seems to me that nobody ever has time.

Really? We have time watching and live-tweeting those television shows. We have all the time in the world anesthetizing ourselves over a meal we conveniently call brunch, but really it’s a means to mask getting drunk during the day. We make time for our disquiet because it’s familiar. We can navigate it. But imagine if we made time, if we made it our business to experience our own private island, albeit for a day.

Today I spent the day on an island the size of a New York City block. When we arrived, it took me all but five minutes to walk the perimeter of it — we were literally miles from civilization. Seven hours on an island without a book, a task, or something to occupy my time. It’s a strange thing, this time, how we try to make such efficient use of it. We’re machines that way, I think. And this puts me to thinking of the opening scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and then I settle into the fact that it’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to settle with yourself, in your thoughts. It’s perfectly fine to be as you are.

So I passed the day sleeping under a hut fashioned out of coconut leaves and trees. I sampled local barbeque. I kayaked out into the ocean against some pretty rough current that had me scared for a bit, but then I returned to my breath and everything was set to rights. The shoreline came into view. I swam in salty water and made small talk with the two people who live on the island, and I envied them their quiet. Only for a minute. And then I suddenly became grateful because I’ve spent this year, perhaps so many years too late (!!!) making time. Trading in handbags never worn for experiences. Making less to feel more. Focusing on the content of my character rather than how my jeans fit.

Admittedly, this is hard as I live in New York, and it’s a city that isn’t always kind. I used to know a woman who said to me once (after I had gained a little weight), nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I think about the woman now, and how she’s frightened of her own solitude. How she’s the master purveyor of things, and instead of thinking something negative (which is so very easy to do), I silently send her the strength that she will one day find her own private island.

This is the yoga, I think. Cultivating experience that you wish onto, and bring to, others. This is the work, and it’s constant.

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there is so much magic in the world, still!

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The clocks are sometimes tricky, always cruel. Sometimes they’re fakirs, whispering about time, how much has passed, how much of it is running out, and you start to believe the voices in your head until it’s all you hear. And then you succumb to the fiction and live your life trapped by voices that convince you that as time passes the magic fades. All the beauty of roots breaking ground, of water getting caught in our eye, of tumbling in the green with the one you love, of the we’ll never know another day such as this, of watching pink skies settle into the ocean, of tickling feet, of singing from the rafters — all of this, we’re told, suddenly dulls as we grow older. It loses its luster, becomes grey and cold, a photograph worth shredding. But I’m telling you that it isn’t. Whether you’re five, thirty-five, fifty-give, one hundred and five, there is magic in the world, still. You just have to open your eyes to it. You have to find it.

Two years ago I stood in front of the Indian Ocean and took this photograph. Back then I was obsessed with doing the maths. How much time I spent grieving a mother who was my first love and hurt, how much time I lost trying to ruin everything it was that I had, and so much time, so much of it, trying to figure out who that woman was — that woman who kept staring back from looking glasses each and every day. I was a house of regret, and all the while I was fixated on the losses that had been mounting, I didn’t open my heart to all that I had gained. In front of ticker tape of blue, grey sand and billowing trees, I could only see the magic, partially. All because I was determined to keep some of the dark in the kaleidoscope that was my heart, my life.

Funny how time sorts things. Undoes it, rips it apart, builds anew.

Today I found myself hugging my friend, telling her that she deserved this great happiness, this great life after so many years of loss and heartbreak. You deserve every moment of your happiness, all of it, I said. I thought it was a common thing to say, until I looked at my friend who blotted her eyes with tissues. Here was my friend, weeping with joy, and I was present to witness it. This is magic and a few simple words, unbeknownst to me, created it.

And I found myself coming back to this photograph and I can finally see it. Thirty-seven years later and I can see it as if I were newly born.

Two months ago I resigned from my job, and I don’t know what’s ahead of me, But I know this — I can finally see.

love.life.eat. of the week: inspiration, everywhere

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Can I tell you that it feels as if I’ve been in a deep sleep from which I’ve only just woken up? All bleary-eyed, arms outstretched and groggy, I’m feeling my way through this new, strange world, trying to make sense of it. Trying to bring it all into focus. So imagine the magic that I’ve recently uncovered only because I’ve open my eyes to it.

When I was small my world was the anthesis of magic, so I would close my eyes and try to knit together a fantastical world that inspired. From Canadian pen pals to collecting colorful Lisa Frank stickers to writing stories likening my mother’s voice to thunder, magic was solely of my invention. I had to seek it out. Decades later I’m realizing that this is true too. You have to do some of the work to ferret out beauty, but when you find it, it’s truly a site to see.

love.: I always complain about going “uptown”, but I shut my trap and made the trek to the MET, and it was worth it. From the Matisse and George Bellow exhibits, to marveling over digital photography, my day was an invigorating one, and today’s post has a few of the photos from my visit.

Inspired by these 10 Essential Feminist Texts (Maxine Hong Kingston’s classic is a must-read). Friends have also recommend Karen Russel’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman, and Sheryl Sandberg’s much-hyped Lean In. Forever an ardent evangelist of literary fiction, I’m starting to creep out of my comfort zone by tackling smart non-fiction (btw, Reading Going Clear {an expose on Scientology} is infinitely more frightening than any horror movie).

life.: Karina’s simple + vividly fashioned post on taking risk; Frankie’s glimpse into the magic that is Marrakech; Windward’s post on magic, visualized; and the journey of one lawyer to travel writer and nomad is awe-inspiring.

eat.: My doctor gave me some woeful news: I have to cut down on carbs. But! But! What will I eat? How will I live? He responded to my usual dramatics with reasoning. Don’t cut them out completely {of course!} but just balance. A coworker pointed me to this yummy Turkey Quinoa Meatball recipe. I’ve also learned about Underground Eats {exclusive haute dining experiences}, City Grit {a store that converts to a culinary pop-up} and Cook + Go {culinary classes for the newbie cook}. This is what happens when I open my eyes and my heart to new friends and experiences.

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prepare yourself for the giant…

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Do you know who I am? I’m alive you understand, the life, the life, the life…Are you prepared for the atom bomb, are you prepared for my aching arms? Are you prepared, are you prepared? Are you prepared for serenity, are you prepared to disagree? Are you prepared, are you prepared for meThe Bird and the Bee’s “Preparedness”

We were a family of lottery players. We sharpened our pencils, selected numbers at random, and stood on a line that snaked the length of a city block, because we believed that all we needed was a dollar and a dream. Come nightfall we’d sit on the stoop, still wet from the johnny pump and the spray of Colt 45 that matted our hair to the backs of our necks, listening to the elders trade stories of what they’d do if they hit it big. Sadie said she was going to buy me a house where all the white people lived. Promising us that she’d stand on her lawn, defiant, knowing that they couldn’t get rid of me, even if they tried. Some mused about giant boats settling sail in a blue ocean. No one had ever seen waves swell, seen the beauty of them rise up and warble like a long note held. No one bore witness to the descent, to the waves crashing onto the shoreline. Back then the only water we’d seen poured out of spigots and sprayed out of pumps on the street.

Others hatched plans about taking a trip around the world although they secretly knew that the whole of their world would always be Brooklyn. Their prison was a ten-block radius, yet once a week they’d shuffle to the market with their dollar in tow, plotting escape.

Back then we were naive to believe that money bought you freedom. Back then we wanted the life we saw on our black and white television sets; we raged war with the wire rabbit ears to bring this life into focus. Back then we wanted the giant.

Recently, someone upbraided me for my decision to abandon a comfortable life. Think of all the money. Think about what you’re walking away from, she warned. Shaking my head I sighed and said that what I was running toward was infinitely richer. It was the ticking that was the bomb. Granted, I’m being smart about things. I’m squirreling away as much money as I can. I’m buying only what I need. I’m ridding myself of the unnecessary, the things that only bring me anxiety rather than sustenance. I’m making my preparations for the day when I’ll walk away from security to something other. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t worry about it, fret over my decision, a little. I’m pragmatic, cautious, but then I recall a conversation I had with my friend Kate a few years back. I considered renting a more expensive apartment than the one in which I’d lived, but worried that I wouldn’t have the money to pay for it in the long run. Kate told me that I should always bet on myself. I was my biggest investment and that I should nurture myself. The rent line would be stable and my potential could only grow — all things being equal, of course.

Ever since then I try to remind myself to bet on myself. To believe in myself. To know that I am the ticking that is the bomb. To know that money is actually the prison, not the thing that sets you free. To believe that I can break from third person and rush to first. That I can be the giant.

All this while having lunch at Campo de Fiori.

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love.life.eat. of the week

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love: Alexander Stille’s take on memoir writing: After all, in writing about my parents, wasn’t I something of a body snatcher? | The world through a child’s eyes: Bianca Giaever asked a six year old friend what her movie should be about, and this is the result | Alice Munro’s heartbreaking, soulful story collection, Dear Life | The glee I feel embarking on a book-buying blitzkrieg: Lawrence Wright’s exhaustively researched book on Scientology, Going Clear (read his New Yorker article, which was the impetus for the book), Matthew Sharpe’s You Were Wrong, because Matthew is our new Don DeLillo, and Ali Smith’s There but for the, because her writing is surprising and always puts me on pause.

life: my extraordinary life change | Discovering Frankie Thompson’s blog, an ex-Londoner who decided to leave it all and travel the world | Design Sponge’s really smart round-up on social media etiquette, do’s + don’ts.

eat: chocolate profiteroles with passion fruit | brown butter rosemary sage cornbread | white chocolate coconut banana s’mores

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