Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Look Back on Intentions

I've been thinking a lot lately about how far I've come in the past year or so.  I've decided to re-start Stratejoy's Joy Juice journal prompts from the beginning and, one of the first questions I'm journaling about asks me to examine the ways in which I'm spending my time.  I already know that the answer to this question is so telling -- how we choose/agree to spend our time says so much about our intentions in our lives and our commitments.  Do we choose to work 24/7, perhaps because we intend to have a very comfortable lifestyle that requires wealth and privilege?  Do we choose to surround ourselves with the great outdoors, maybe because we intend to live as organically and in-tune with the natural world as we can?  There are so many variations of these answers, each as revealing as the next.

A year ago, I was drowning.  I was drowning in my own lack of self-worth, my need for approval, my fear of disappointing the people I cared about.  I was desperate for something, anything, that would get me out of the situation I found myself in and, though I knew it, I was too afraid to act on the fact that all I needed was some courage.  I was spending my time doing something that made a toxic mess of my days.  I was zoning out on TV whenever I could just so I could sit and stare off into space and not have to actively participate in my own life.  I was pulling away from people, going inward, and wondering how I got there in the first place.

When I go back to those first Joy Juice prompts from a year ago, my intention was clear: I intended to suffer through every hour as the responsible, stable, dutiful girlfriend/daughter/sister/employee rather than step up and take charge of my life.

This is one of the reasons I love Stratejoy so much.  Because at the near-lowest I thought I could go, this positive corner of the internet helped me to realize that I wasn't alone, that this wasn't a new feeling, that other young women were experiencing exactly what I was experiencing, and they were making changes.  I realized that it was possible to change without my family, my relationship, my reputation, the world falling apart all around me.

Fast-forward to today.  I can barely think of a single toxic thing in my life right now.  True, I don't have a job, but my days are filled with so much, and that so much is so right, that I find it hard to complain sometimes.  I've found a passion I didn't know I had, made wonderful new friends when I thought I had no idea how to even make friends, and I'm exploring creativity in ways I've always wanted to.  I'm concentrating on my health -- all aspects of it -- and I'm giving attention to Nate and the community we've built together.  What's even better is seeing how my choices have changed, how the primary questions I ask myself now when faced with difficult decisions (like whether or not to apply for a job or take an unpaid internship or invest my time and energy into something) aren't, "How will this look?  What will so-and-so think of me?" but rather, "Is this right for me?  Is this who I am or want to be?  Will this make me happy?"

My intention in this new year was to live a fearlessly authentic life, and I think I'm living up to that well so far.

But I think there's an even greater lesson I've learned from this year of change and reacquainting myself with authenticity, and that's to accept where I've been.  I was ashamed for a long time about the person I was and the choices I made in the past few years.  I thought it showed how weak or flighty or foolish or stubborn (yes, I realize flighty and stubborn are somewhat contradictory) I was.  But I'm just not sure I think that anymore.  Without those moments, those choices, would I have ever gotten to where I am now?  Would I be moving in the right direction today if I hadn't gotten so turned around back then?  Who can really say?

Isn't it just better to acknowledge -- and maybe even celebrate -- the path that lead you to where you are?  Who are we to question the universe?

[Photo source: quote from]

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

[Girl♥Health]: It's Baaack... (Pun Totally Intended)

If you've been reading my G♥H posts for a while now, you may remember that I've been experiencing some back issues in the past few months.  Truth be told, I'm currently going through my third episode of crazy back pain in the past year.  If I had to describe it, I would say that it feels like a thick band of tension across my lower back, with most of the pain focused on my lower left side, right at my hips.  When I move my legs in certain directions, I'm rewarded with acute pain near my spine.  I can't rotate at the hips or bend toward my left, nor can I straighten my posture -- I'm sort of stuck in a hobbled over position leaning towards the right.  The only time I'm comfortable is when I'm laying down with an ice pack.

I was finally able to see a chiropractor yesterday to get some x-rays and an evaluation.  After talking to me for a few minutes, Dr. Eric thought this seemed like a classic case he's seen many times: I've essentially locked my ilium (hip bones) into a misaligned position to my sacrum (fused lower back vertebra).  This in turn causes inflammation at those joints and, in order to protect itself, my body has me favoring one side (the right) so as to keep weight off the focus of my pain (my left hip joint). 

Then I went in today to go over my x-rays and the story got a little more complicated.  Hey, I'm a complicated girl.

Apparently, on top of this misalignment, I also have a spine anomaly called a lumbosacral transitional vertebra (LSTV).  What this means is that the last vertebra of my spine can't decide whether it wants to be a vertebra or part of the sacrum. Being so indecisive, it has an "accessory articulation," which is a fancy way of saying it looks like a vertebra that's grown wings which sort of mimic the look of the sacrum.  "But don't those wings mean you have extra bones along your spine?" you ask?  Why yes, yes it does.  And these extra bones taking up all that extra space makes it impossible for me to bend or rotate like a normal human being. When I try to, stuff like this happens.

So, in summary, I'm currently suffering from a spinal subluxation (misaligned, pinched nerves) -- probably a result of me not knowing I had an LSTV and trying to do things my spine is unable to do -- which has caused painful, limited range of motion, joint problems, nerve problems, acute muscle spasms, pain at the sight of the subluxation and pain radiating from the sight of subluxation.  Because of all this, I am also in phase 1 of spinal decay, where I'm experiencing a loss of spinal curve,  narrowing of disc spacing (that plastic-y sort of substance between the vertebrae) and impaired turning and bending.

Dr. Eric suggested a treatment plan for me that requires regular chiropractic adjustments, but that's something I'll have to think about.  Being without a job also means I'm currently without health insurance and, in this country, getting back to healthy is not cheap.

Until I do get this straightened out (Hah!  See what I did there?), exercising is definitely on a back burner.  Whatever I decide, I'll post an update here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Once Upon a Rainy Weekend

Every couple of weekends, Nate and I (and, okay, mostly just me) will get an itch to leave the city.  Maybe it comes from growing up in the country, maybe it's just human nature, but I'll start feeling claustrophobic, closed in, a little on-edge around all the buildings and people and noise and crowds, and I'll know that it's time to get out.  These trips aren't usually a huge deal -- they can be a short drive to a trailhead, or a day trip to Yosemite -- but they go a long way towards restoring balance in my little world.

So, given the craziness of the past month or so and the excitement of Friday night, Nate suggested that we go on a daytime date this past Saturday to Tomales Bay for a nice drive and some fresh oysters.  I said, "Where do I sign up?"  Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for us and, after waking up to the torrential downpour that ended up drenching these parts of Northern California the entire day, we decided to postpone the oysters for another day.  Instead, we pointed the car towards the coast and just drove.

In the end, plan B for our daytime date turned out to be just what we needed.  Because of the weather, there weren't too many people out and about in Point Reyes, so that's where we ended up.  As odd as it sounds, I love beaches in bad weather -- everything becomes so moody and tempestuous and a little romantic too.  Makes you want to curl up with some hot chocolate and spin stories, doesn't it?

We topped the day off with a late lunch at Sol Food, a Puerto Rican restaurant in San Rafael.  The food is really good -- Nate's a huge fan of the habichuelas rosadas (pink beans with Spanish olives) and I had the bistec encebollado (steak with sliced onions) -- but the restaurant itself can be super busy pretty much all of the time.  Still worth it though.

We hung around our neighborhood on Saturday night, caught up with some friends, had some pho, and I finished watching the second season of Downton Abbey at 1 a.m. (I've been using Downton Abbey to keep my mind from obsessing over The Hunger Games, and that would have worked out great if I didn't end up obsessing over Downton Abbey too).

On Sunday morning, as a nice way to end the weekend, we headed to East Ocean Restaurant in Alameda for some dim sum.  Being half Chinese, Nate's fairly picky about his dim sum, and this was the first time we were trying this restaurant.  It definitely did not disappoint.  Friendly staff, huge variety, and the desserts were especially yummy.

Unfortunately, I spent the rest of the day in pain bed dealing with some reoccurring back issues.  I'm seeing the chiropractor later this morning to get a massage, some x-rays and a chiropractic evaluation, so hopefully we can get to the bottom of what's going on because this is just not okay.

I hope you all had a great weekend too!

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's Friday, and May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

Guess who's seeing The Hunger Games tonight!  THIS GIRL.  

So, a couple of confessions before the curtains go up: 
  1. I have been really strangely resistant to reading these books.  I bought the first book about 6 months ago when my book club read it and, for some reason, I couldn't finish it.  I stopped right as Katniss runs out of the Cornucopia at the start of The Games and just couldn't muster the desire to pick it back up again.  Then I tried listening to it on audiobook during my workouts and while on the road trip with my sister, but on audiobook this thing takes like, 11 days to finish or something.  Didn't happen.  But then my friends decided that they were going to see the movie on opening night, and I really wanted to go because the trailers look great, so I pulled the book out on Tuesday night and finished it on Wednesday.  At 3 a.m.  And now I'm wondering what the heck was wrong with me all these months.
  2. Are we doing teams for this series as well?  Because if so: Team Peeta.  Everyone else can suck it.
  3. Finally, I'm obsessed: The soundtrack for this movie is SO GOOD.  They've completely got the tone of the book down in terms of music.  Folksy, country, sad, intense.  I'm in heaven.
Knowing my personality, I'll be completely destroyed at the end of the movie and will be able to think of little else until I finish the next two books.  It's a cross I bear, getting too emotionally involved with fictional characters.  

Really, you should have seen me after I read Romeo & Juliet for the first time.  I don't think I spoke for three days.  ;)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Last Few Weeks: Part Deux

There's little in the world that's more important to me than my sisters.  They are my best friends, my favorite people, a constant source of fun, support and worry.  I'm the middle child, smack dab in between a sister three years older and another three years younger.  Our big sister is a rock.  She's someone I know I can count on to take care of something if I can't do it.  I can just lay whatever burden I have down at her feet and she'll handle it, no question about it, no problem.  Our little sister is our baby.  She's young and funny (she's always making me laugh) and it's been this insane privilege watching her grow into this responsible young woman who doesn't need us to baby her as much as, perhaps, we need to.

But, of course, we still do.

So when her life took an unexpected turn and she needed to move from Texas to Hawaii earlier this month, I hopped a flight over to San Antonio to take on the first leg of the trip with her.  Our route:  San Antonio, up through El Paso, stop in Albuquerque, head over to the Grand Canyon, stop a night in Lake Havasu City, drive through the endlessly boring Central Valley (I'm sorry if you're from the Central Valley, but you have to know what I mean, amiright?) and end back here in the Bay Area.  At that point, my older sister would fly in and spend a few days with us as we went sight-seeing around Big Sur, and tried to sort out sister, dog and car, then they would all take the next trip -- sans me -- back to Hawaii.

This all happened in a week.  A week of subsisting off of M&M's, Chex Mix, sodas and fast food.  A week of rest stops and driving in a straight line for hours.  A week of realizing my baby sister is all grown up.  And a week of incredible country, most of which I've never seen before.

The thing about the desert is that you think it's all the same.  You do.  I mean, it's brown, right?  Dirt and sand with small shrubbery?  That's it, isn't it?  That's what I thought until I spent so much time staring at it, and until I drove through four states' worth of desert.  As it turns out, it isn't just brown.  It's a million shades of brown and tan and red and orange and white.  It's different in Texas, in New Mexico, in Arizona and California.  And it's beautiful.  I wish I took more pictures, of the desert, the trains, the red rocks in Arizona, the hot air balloons rising above Albuquerque in the early morning light, the Sierra Nevada's.  Of everything.

And the Grand Canyon is...well, humongous.  It's wide and deep and unlike whatever I thought it was going to be in my mind.  It was one of those moments in my life where I felt small, but not in a bad way. I felt small in a kind of awestruck way that was sort of...humbling, and definitely comforting.  It reinforced for me that life is so much bigger than me and whatever I was thinking was a huge deal at the moment (i.e. the fact that I was hungry, that I had to pee, that my legs were cramped in the car, or that I was tired).  No, life is BIG.  So much bigger than me.  And I should try to live it as big is I can as well.

We also saw wolves while at the Grand Canyon.  It made my day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Last Few Weeks: Part One

About three weeks ago, things started getting busy.  Like, abnormally busy.  I didn't realize it then, but it was going to be a good almost-four-weeks before I could take a breath, let my mind clear and just relax.  I was about to embark on a whirlwind Southwest roadtrip with my sister, spend some mad dervish days here at home preparing that sister for the second leg of her trip, host a birthday party, attend a film festival, throw my back out and, apparently because I was bored?, redesign my blog.

Sigh, c'est la vie.

I'll get to most of that other stuff in the coming days but, for now, I just really wanted to share with you all the beautiful pictures my dear friend Serena took when we went on our first "California Appreciation Day" hike a few weeks ago.  It's days like these, when you can go for a walk in a tank top along the coast in the dead of winter, that make appreciating the Bay Area not too difficult (even if it is because we're destroying our planet through climate change).

Our day started with a drive around the Bolinas Lagoon and estuary, and I'm so sad I didn't take any pictures of it because it really is one of the most peaceful places I've been to.  If you're ever in the area and it's a nice day, I would definitely suggest checking it out!  When we got to the Palomarin Trailhead, after a winding drive along the coast (not loads of fun if you get car sick like me), we headed out on the 4 mile trek to our destination: Alamere Falls.  The trail down to the actual falls, which empties on a beach, is a bit sketchy in some places -- and by "some places" I mean the part where you have to use a rickety old rope to scale some scraggly cliffs -- so my friends and I decided to go down about halfway and stay there, just above the beach.

I can't begin to express how breathtaking this place is.  From our perch, we could see the coastline stretch down the way we had come and up all the way to Point Reyes Station.  We could watch the waves come in and swallow up the beach as the tide rose, and we could listen to the stream bubble it's way into several pools before hitting the falls and the sand below.  While there was a boy scout troop down at the beach while we were there, it was still a really quiet and restful place to be.

A perfect way to spend the day with great friends.  And a very nice start to more California adventures!

[Photos courtesy of Serena Quiroga]
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