Friday, January 24, 2014

a perpetual hangover.

If you thought things have been quiet around here this week, you're right.   For the last four nights, I've had to work the dreaded vampire shift - the overnights. 

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, working a freaky schedule really isn't that freaky to me anymore.  I've worked everything from days, nights, holidays, weekends.  For many journalists, it comes with the territory.

Remember this, circa 2010?


My free time - as in the time I'm not sleeping or working - hasn't actually changed at all during this two week stint of overnight shifts.  I simply flip-flopped when I go to work and when I go to sleep.  Instead of going to bed at 10:30pm, I'm walking into work and crawling into bed at 6:30am instead of starting my work day.

By approximately 2pm in both scenarios, I'm awake, out of bed, and not at the office, so I thought I could count on little to no disruption to my life whatsoever, right?


Oh how quickly I forgot how working the overnights feels like having a perpetual hangover:

For the last four days, I've been walking around in a foggy daze.  I feel the kind of exhausted that no amount of sleep will satisfy, and also anxious to the point that I'm second guessing everything from what shampoo to buy to conversations I've had and emails I've sent.  I avoid people, phone calls; hell,  I avoid standing and any natural light.

Yet, despite feeling so out of it, I always find myself downplaying - to everyone - exactly how awful I actually feel, the same way I have after a night out on the town.

"Do you feel bad?," someone will ask. 

"You know, I really don't," I tell them. (Lie #1)  "I actually feel pretty good." (Lie #2)

Everyone who has ever worked an overnight - or had a hangover - will try just about anything to survive it, and no two people approach them both the same.  After years of suffering, I've figured out what tricks works best for me.


For a hangover - hot yoga, Goody's headache powers, cold showers, fountain drinks and greasy food.

For the overnights - melatonin, a sleeping mask, and coming home immediately and crawling into bed while it's still dark. 

Normal, expected actions such as showering, staying awake at work and taking out the trash feel like HUGE accomplishments. 

One day this week, I retrieved my mail and called my insurance company about a bill and was disproportionately proud of myself.  You would've thought I cured cancer or met the Pope.  I'm surprised I didn't blog about how awesome and ambitious I am. 

Exercising - forget it.  I know it would probably make me feel better, but the likelihood that I'll do it after too much tequila or a week on overnights is slim. 

I eat weird things at weird times - black bean chili at 3am, avocado toast and coffee at 2pm ET - but no amount of food will satisfy me and if I happen to eat gross food all day, then it's OK because I worked the overnights/I'm hungover.


I wear insane outfits, apparently to look the part of "I don't care, but I really care."  Last night I wore a sweater vest over a button down shirt that has pockets and forgot to take a picture of how terrible it was because I was taking a walk to stay awake and therefore cannot be responsible for my actions. 

Yep - a two week hangover, without the tasty drinks and fun memories to show for it.  I did crank this out at the week hours, so I guess it's not all for nothing. 

One week down, one more to go. 

A huge shout out for all of the shift workers pulling all-nighters on a regular basis.  Let's find a bar and do this hangover thing for real. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

the power of suggestion.

The last few months of the year are hectic for most people, so I wasn't surprised that I spent the last quarter of 2013 more anxious that usual. The holidays were certainly a part of it; tack on some new babies (my perfect niece!), a couple of showers, and a wedding weekend to the usual shenanigans and it was understandable that the storm inside of me had started to brew. 

Since I've dealt with varying degrees of anxiety pretty much my entire life, I've had to also learn how to manage it – with yoga, medicine, therapy and lots of deep breaths. And sometimes wine.


While staying steadfast with my usual remedies, which helps, I still felt on edge. My therapist said I needed more sleep.  Then she suggested that I start keeping a gratitude journal. 

"Is that that thing Oprah does?," I said, not particularly thrilled. 

"Yes!," she said enthusiastically, as if that would get me on board.  “Every day, you should write down something that you’re grateful for – something that gives you joy.” 

I nodded and smiled indicating that I understood what she meant, but walked out of her office with absolutely no intention of following through with the journal.

Full disclosure: I only do about half of the things my therapist suggests.  Our appointments are full of good suggestions for healthy living – sometimes that’s all we talk about. If I followed through on all her suggestions, I would have no time for work or food or yoga or TV. And they’re just suggestions – which is polite, but also annoying. I respond better to angry demands.

Sometimes I want to yell to her from the couch, “ENOUGH WITH THE SUGGESTIONS! JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO TO MAKE MY LIFE BETTER!”

If my therapist told me the journal was homework and she would be checking to see that I completed it, no problem. I’d gratitude journal all day long if I knew someone was checking my work.

That doesn't happen - she, like any "good" therapist, talks me through issues and helps me come to conclusions/solutions myself. And then I pay her. If I didn’t feel considerably better after our sessions, I would think therapy is a huge scam.

My childlike reluctance to follow her helpful suggestions aside, keeping a gratitude journal seemed a bit trite. Too cliche. Not for me.

On the other hand, that Oprah seems to know a thing or two about living well, so maybe there is something to this gratitude journal. I promised my therapist I would give the journal some serious consideration.

And I did. For about an hour.

Then November came, and by Thanksgiving, reading everyone's "thankful" posts on Facebook had started to annoy me (my heart is black), and so I gave myself permission to again dismiss the idea of keeping a journal.

After all, can’t I feel thankful for things both big and small without writing them down?

Then one day, with my anxiety still sky-high, I overheard my coworker and friend Jackie talking about a game she plays with her family at the dinner table every night – each person takes a turn telling the others the best and worst parts of their day.

I loved the idea, as both a conversation starter and a replacement for the gratitude journal. 

So, combining my therapist’s (and Oprah's) suggestion and my co-worker’s dinner table game, I decided to move forward with my own kind of game – one that reminds me a lot of the 3-part game called Bed, Wed, Dead, only a lot less dirty and controversial.    

At the end of the day, I try to reflect and write down the best part of my day, the worst part of my day, and something that I'm grateful for.


Best – my hilarious conversation with Kyle about her pregnancy footwear which has only included Croc flip flops and UGGs.
Worst -- sitting in an hour of traffic on the way home from the doctor (Sidebar: STOP SCHEDULING DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENTS AT 4PM).
Grateful - for the man in line at the post office who let me borrow his pen.


Best – finishing my work review.
Worst – doing my work review.
Grateful – that I will never be farther away from next year’s work review than I am right now.


(A particularly dramatic day.)

Best – finding peace at yoga class. 
Worst – having my peacefulness disrupted after tripping in my living room while carrying grocery bags, skinning my knee and spilling all of my grape tomatoes on the floor.
Worst - no one – including my landlords who live right next door and definitely heard me crashing to the ground - called to check to see if I was ok.
Worst - Jacob did not show me enough sympathy for my injuries. 
Grateful - I didn't die when I fell and spilled the groceries.

Despite him coming up short after the grocery fall, I let/made Jacob get in on the game too.  

Best - remembering how to find the guitar shop without looking at my GPS (um, ok? Boys are weird.)
Worst – stepping out of my car directly into a puddle on the street.
Grateful – for beer in my fridge (A simple guy, that JJ).

Aside from inspiring humorous anecdotes (one day the thing for which I was most grateful was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), keeping a “BWG” journal has done what my therapist suggested it would by helping me get some of the anxiety-producing thoughts in my head, out on paper.
The results have surprised me.

Just like a thermos keeps cold things cold and hot things hot, (how does it know?), this practice has been strangely effective at helping me remember all of the blessings in my life and the best parts of my day, while also forcing me to acknowledge and then let go of the unpleasant ones.    

I have stayed more present and have felt, even if just for the five minutes it takes me to complete a day’s entry, less anxious and more at peace.  And talk about perspective - for several days in a row, the worst thing that happened to me was worrying about stuff happening to me.    


So why, then, all of my anxiety? 

Well, I still don't know.  I may never understand why I have it; why on a random Tuesday at work, I can feel like I'm about to deliver a speech to 10,000 strangers, which is the best way that I know how to describe what my anxiety feels like. If history is any indication, though, I’m probably stuck with it for life, so finding ways to cope is the only way I can think to keep on keeping on.

Feeling edgy is the symptom.  Staying present, feeling (and expressing) gratitude, recognizing joyful moments throughout the day and breathing through the bad ones and then surrendering them to the universe - they are the cure. 

And if keeping a gratitude journal helps me stay mindful of all those things, well then, Oprah, that's game I'm more than happy to play.  

Thanks for the suggestion.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

balancing the new year.

Is it still appropriate to say Happy New Year on January 10th?  Well, I don't care, I'm saying it anyway.  Happy Freaking New Year!

I'm sure you can gather by my silence here that my resolutions for 2014 aren't exactly off to a great start.  Per usual, I laid out some pretty lofty goals - to workout everyday, get more sleep, write meaningful, life changing blogs that would go viral and change people's lives . . . and . . .

Then, I had to go to work.  And then it got cold.  And then I had to finish season 3 of Homeland marathon style and other super important things like Bravo and naps and, well, here we are.

January 10th.  

I'm disappointed in how little I have accomplished in the first ten days of this year, but refuse to get discouraged.  I still have 355 days to get it together and get back on track to make 2014 a happy and productive year.

On a positive note - I finished 2013 succeeding in one of my goals to get out of debt by paying off my credit cards AND my car.  I'm now the title holder of a 2007 Toyota Highlander.  She's far from a luxury car, but if you don't know already, allow me to tell you - a joy ride in car that is paid for is extra joyful.

Proving I still have some work to do in the realm of financial responsibility, I promptly celebrated my accomplishment by buying myself a pair of leather pants and booking a New Year's trip to New York to see Phish play their 30th anniversary at Madison Square Garden.


New York for was a whirlwind of music and food, two of my most favorite things.  I spent quality time boogieing with old friends and even met some new friends while ringing in the new year.  Phish does it right.  

 photo 3(3)imagephoto 1(3)

Yes, that's me (and my new friend) and yes, I'm wearing a fur coat.  I also wore my new leather pants and sequins, because it's Phish and I do what I want.


After four days of overdoing it, I returned home to Atlanta to (literally) hibernate for three straight days, watching enough TLC and HGTV to convince myself I do deserve a $20,000 wedding gown and this is the year when I'm finally going to buckle down, buy a house and act like an adult.

Stay tuned for that.

Based on how I ended 2013, I'd say I still have a lot of work to do on last year's resolution to find balance.  I still live like I'm on a roller coaster, usually operating on the extreme sides of my personality, rarely some calm place in the middle. Months of financial responsibility blown in two weeks.  Four days of go, go, go, followed by three of stop. stop. stop. 

It's not the way I want to live.  So, once again, I aim to find balance in 2013.  For real this time.

As in, instead of just aiming for balance - a high-minded and overwhelmingly vague resolution - I want to identify what feeling balanced means for me and then execute specific actions that will make it a reality - and not just a nice mantra.   

Other than trying to pick up after myself a little each day so as not to require a 9-hour house cleaning once a month, I have absolutely no idea what such actions might be, so for all of you people out there who feel like they've figured it out, I welcome your suggestions.

On the writing front, I'm dedicating 30 minutes a day to uninterrupted writing sessions.  I hope that this small time commitment will lead to more, but committing to a half hour is extremely doable and a vast improvement over the writing binges and hiatuses I've taken in the past.

Baby steps.

Alright, now my new year has official started.  Break out your party pants (leather, optional).  Let's do this, 2014!