Once upon a time, not that long ago... there was a girl who was, among other things, a storyteller. Every day, all the time, life was an adventure full of meaning and magic and characters and unseen miracles.
That girl faced adolescence and it was hard - because the real and gritty world of school curriculums and expectations and long days at hard metal desks and tired, overworked parents began to suffocate her free-spirit. Life was not an enchanted forest, after all, it would seem. There was pain and deceit and betrayals and crime to reckon with.
That girl adapted, though she always longed for her secret garden. She dug into life and figured out the methods to their madness - these very much the same kind of people.
Keep your truth inside, memorize things, repeat them, and be polite. Do as you’re told.
That girl became a young woman and broke free, for a time. She adventured and experimented and tried things and laughed and lived hard and broke hearts and walked early morning hallways and nursed hangovers and sang her heart out, or so she tried. For a good long while.
That young woman was sick and tired of being broke and desperate and she changed. Intentionally.
She read. She moved back home. She put herself through college, on her own dime. She worked retail, thanklessly, for years. She excelled in school, because she wanted to be there, because she had earned a truer voice, because she had some things to say about life. And being here. Because she had been to the bottom and Knew that the climb was worth it. She’d seen both.
So got a 4.0 and writing awards, despite doubt all around her. She went further. She earned a Master’s Degree in Information Sciences and Archives/Records Mgmt. She ate Wonderbread sandwiches, did laundry for money, ate her share of ramen, and shot cheap pool on the weekends... earning a chance to qualify at regionals for 9 ball. She never went. She chose studying and caution and keeping on task. But it was nice to be recognized for her skill.
Soon, she finally found work in her field: at a local historic site. Not long after she found herself at home in her career: full-time, full benefits, easy commute, fulfilling work - helping people to make the world a better place. Surrounded by stories, every day.
Not long after, she felt the call of the creative bubbling up, again. By now, she was settled deeply into work life, favorite TV shows, Take-out food, motherhood... and she reached out, one lonely 3 am, on Twitter.
Claire Cook, who wrote one of her favorite books, Must Love Dogs, had kids. And she wrote books, too.
“How do you you do it?” The woman asked, with sour breast milk staining her shirt, cracked and bleeding nipples, a snoring as-of-then-husband, her eyes now dry from crying frustrations out, a baby finally sleeping, and a chest full of journals - a past life, now so far away - filled with magic and wonder and stories and songs. Wondering if she’d ever feel free again, yet knowing she had dreamt of being a mother for her entire life, and wept at the gratitude that she was finally there.
And Claire Cook said, “I write when they’re at swimming lessons. Sports. Anytime I’m in the car, waiting...I write. It’s possible. You can do it!”
And somewhere in the suburbs of Long Island, at 3 am, a woman sighed. And began to believe. in more, again.
And so, that girl was me. And there’s so much more to this story. So much more beneath, that hasn’t been shared yet. I’ve written two books, and I’ve barely begun.
And I type out this update, on my iPhone, as my head bobs up and down, watching my incredible kid doing the backstroke...at his swimming lesson.
He’s six now. More independent now. He likes his time to play and imagine, and guess what? So do I. And it’s good for both of us.
I spew this all out for the tired mothers: who know that they are more than bleeding nipples and stretch marks and delirious feedings and working half-asleep and feeling unsexy and exhausted and numb from being milked and poked and worked and judged and snickered at and condescended to... for simply knowing that there is more.
Motherhood is a blessing, a gift, and our children teach us beautiful and life-changing things. Like sacrifice. Devotion. Unconditional love. Awareness. Time management. Budgeting. Survival instincts. The importance of health and wellness. The importance of compassion and humility.
When you become a mother, you become a world - for a tiny human being that is completely dependent on you to survive. And it rocks your world, it turns you upside-down, it changes everything. It should, it’s supposed to.
But the baby years aren’t forever. And you’ll get yourself back again. I promise you will. Let the baby years have you, and put everything else into Next. It all comes back around.
I breathe in the chlorinated water and roll my shoulders back. I watch how far my boy has come in his skill, his practice. And I know that he is a person, with his own story, and his own lessons to learn. And I can be here. Listen, intensely. Love him, profusely. Comfort him when it’s scary and encourage him when he’s shaky. And I can marvel at his life - his choices and how life will teach him and hurt him and help him and show him how things are. And I can’t prevent or control all of that, but I can be his home. And I can give him the space and time to explore his emotional experience, his creative output, however he wants to. He has a beautiful lens, and it’s a bit different than mine. He’s a science kid.
And I love that. I just can’t wait to see what he does. And I also know I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for all of it, even as I make room - for those deeper parts of me to keep coming up for air - to see the light. Again.
Today in the car, my son said that, “if Earth was any closer to the Sun, we’d burn up. Any farther, and we’d freeze! But we’re right here at the perfect place!”
We sure are, babe. We sure are. What a ride so far.
Life, I’m in. Just happy to be here. ❤️
It was a fun afternoon, watching my son’s name lit up on the leaderboard - in his first-ever Pinewood Derby. He had fun, and got a taste of competition and sportsmanship.
And he went back to his Dad’s place, and I came back to this large house, with the idea that I would write.
First off, I’m super grateful for the cool place to stay, as I house/dog sit. Amazing accommodations. And I’ve had so much downtime to veg out and relax. However...I found the remote.
Loafing on a sofa with a dog that loves company - and binging shows on Netflix - is not natural for me. Not anymore. But I got hooked.
I’m someone who seldom watches TV. I write, I go to concerts or live music venues, I dine, I hike, I walk beaches, I walk the city, I drive, I roadtrip, I make acquaintances, I hang with friends, I mingle, I chat. I move around, and I love that.
And I’m damn near getting bedsores. I’m a busybody and laying around should be a relief, a rest. Peaceful, and it has been. But I feel stir-crazy.
Thank goodness there was someone else here today, to have some long chats with. Some new perspectives. New insights, new takes on old issues. And in between Moments of interaction, I dive into my phone and get sucked into the void. Scroll, scroll, wait, read, tap, scroll. More TV. More scroll. Repeat. And I start to feel like a zombie in a way that I haven’t in quite a while...
And I feel a bit desperate, trapped, wanting to run outside and look at the sky. Breathe deeply. Expand my awareness, once again, out of this box - of constant entertainments and illusions and advertisements. To breathe cool night air and feel the wind bite my skin and the cold grass tickle my ankles. Alive, my heart beating, and a part of it all. I long for the outdoors.
And it blows my mind how much of my days used to look like this: constant numbing and distracting. Hours of TV a night, endless eating, computers all day, and scrolling in-between. Few sincere exchanges or conversations. Always plugged in, all the time. Numb.
And how much more alive, present, aware, interactive, alert, energetic, and engaged I’ve become in my life. Little by little, over time, as I began to challenge my habits, one at a time. And I’m grateful for those changes.
It’s so easy to see how deeply we can fall into digital media, when we aren’t actively engaged, otherwise. It’s a window - outside of ourselves and our environments. A peek. A glimpse into other lives, other moments, that seem more interesting, perhaps.
Years back, I decided to make my own life more interesting, instead of gazing outward. That’s how Wild Horses and Mistakes was written. By throwing myself into raw experiences, places I’ve never been before. To feel things I hadn’t felt in a long time. To join with Life, to become it, to love it, to LIVE it. To experience it all, unfettered, with my senses and my notebooks to jot it down.
And to be submerged, again, as it were... into wormholes of content and media and aimless ingesting and absorbing and auto-play for so much time... really provides a great contrast for me.
It’s such a subtle thing; a change in energy. Absorbing information, instead of sharing it out. Consuming, instead of creating.
And it makes a world of difference in the psyche, even if only for a weekend.
It’s good to be reminded. To remember.
How precious and raw and real our lives can be, when we have the audacity to live them fully. I appreciate rest and contemplation as much as the next person, but creativity begs for connection, immersion, and inspiration. And a numb mind takes us further and further from those things.
Around and around we go... 💫
So. 30 days without: dairy, processed foods, wheat/gluten or any grain, really... beans/ legumes, added sugars, alcohol...
This was my 2nd attempt. The first time, I couldn't stand the emotional upheavals of sugar withdrawal. (It's that addictive, yeah.) I bailed after 2 weeks, telling myself some story... that I was choosing a "Whole 15" and that for me, that was enough.
That was the first of many lies I had told myself about this program. The truth was, I didn't want to get too uncomfortable, I think. I didn't think I could do it.
So, to catch you up: I work full time as a reference librarian. I write books on the side. I'm a single Mom (co-parenting - I do get days to myself.) And I am a recovering productivity junkie. I realized this as I geared up for this program, around holiday time in December... I looked back on my life, on the last 4+ years, and saw that my health goals had stalled completely, as I wrote through things, over and over.
I soul-searched and journeyed and meditated and connected and found my beautiful glittering soul and loved her and pressed her into me, blissfully. I mantra'd. I ohm'd. I shavasana'd. And then I traveled and I rocked out and got doe-eyed and swoony and re-found pieces of myself that I thought were long dead. Nope, not quite. All the while, I was feeding my passions, my joy-meter, my ease, and my mental wellness. No one dared tell me no, to anything. I was on a mission.
Well, a few years out, book two is finished and making its way out into the world, and I chose, purposely, to NOT dive deeply into another project. I would dive deeper into me. I would wrangle my own health, I would master my day-to-day life and priorities, I would organize the place, redecorate some things, reinvent some things. It was all physical. And I tried to do it all for a while... day job, motherhood, organization, novel notes and writing for future projects, a meditation practice, meal planning and fitness and well, I got burnt out again.
So, when an old school friend announced her Whole 30 Challenge on Facebook, it was kismet. I pushed everything off my plate that wasn't home, motherhood, work, and wellness. And I went hard for it.
I kept a journal, but otherwise... no looming writing projects. My free time was spent searching up recipes, cooking, meal-prepping, setting exercise routines - and sticking to them. My own wellness became the obsession. All my lights had been turned inward, right back onto me, and it felt strange at first. Really strange. "But, so and so needs this," and "this one should have that," and I "should do this for that one..." But, I let it all go. It was me-time. I was being selfish. But it wasn't really, not in a bad way.
Because the Why was still there - "build a better world for my son, and for all of our kids." How? Educate, inspire, connect. With What?
So. Whole 30. I committed to a modified version... I knew my allergies well, I just wanted a firm and consistent reset.
What did I eat?
Breakfast: Bulletproof Coffee - fresh espresso, blended with tbsp Kerrygold Butter, 1 tsp MCT oil, 2 scoops collagen protein (I did better with some steady protein in mine, and it took a while to sort this out), and I "cheated" and threw in a Splenda sometimes.
Lunch: big-ass salad... e.g. a few handfuls of greens, 1/2 a cucumber, steamed asparagus, 1/2 sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, sauerkraut, olives, 1/2 an avocado, oil and vinegar, leftover protein (usually chicken breast or hard boiled egg. Sometimes beef. Sometimes no-sugar bacon.) No croutons, no bread, nada. Just the veg.
Snack: If I needed it... a Lara Bar or a Quest Bar. Lots of water. Green tea, maybe. At peak sugar-craving times, I made modified "sweets," like keto brownies or almond flour donuts, with Swerve and but flours and other approved keto-style ingredients. I fed the indulgence, but staying on track with my goals. Win-win. And it was only for that 2nd week, really. The cravings passed.
Dinner: protein, veggies, 1/2 avocado. Berries on the side, sometimes with coconut cream. (OH MY GOD, COCONUT CREAM.)
That's about it, for 30 days. Samesies, every day. The result? Food became a fuel, and not a pleasure fix or a thing to do or a mindless diversion. I ate what was best for me, intentionally... I have iron-anemia and hypothyroidism. And after over 10 years of experimenting, I now know for sure that I do best on a higher fat, low-carb diet with animal proteins and very low amounts of grain. Most of my carbohydrates come from plants.
I returned to lifting weights... just a few times per week, and lots of cardio: aerobic dance, walking, and just maximizing ways to stay active throughout the day. Every day. I moved every single day, somehow.
SO the results?
So, it was absolutely worth it, all around. I may allow some cheeses in here and there, some whole grains, maybe, like quinoa or oats... but for the most part, this is how I'll be eating. And it's probably how I always should have been eating. It just makes sense - it's so simple and natural.
Am I at my goal? No, not yet. But I'm damn proud of my success after just a month. It feels really, really good to take care of yourself and insist on that time: to run, to workout, to go to a yoga class, to cook a slow meal. It feels really good. And too many of us don't fight for it. It's hard, to let go of the rest and focus on yourself. It's really hard, you fear missing out on things, losing things, but really... you're not. And the more you focus on your own well-being, the more you realize that YOU are what you've been missing out on, while you put everyone else first, for so long.
I've decided to never take myself for granted again, if I can help it.
© 2019 - 2020 Stacie Hammond