Undercuts and other changes

Last week's post was sort of a downer, so I want to counter it with this happy one :D This particular life season has allowed me to try so many new things and in turn, find some new passions. So for all the tough stuff, there has also been a lot of good too.

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Remember when I became a full-time student and sort-of freelancer back in February? Well It's funny what being unemployed can do for you creativity. It's like mine has been hiding all this time and only came out to play when I was forced to just DO SOMETHING with all the free time I had (because apparently grad school full-time isn't enough HA). Two things in particular stand out:

Painting

I pulled out my acrylics and old canvases from college and began painting again. AND I LOVE IT. I love it so much I actually dream about painting. That's only slightly weird. But I'm happy to have found this creative, artsy side of me. There are no boundaries, no rules, everything is fair game and everything is what I make it. It's fantastic. Right now I'm a huge fan of gouche paints, because they feel like acrylics but behave like watercolors. I'm working on a series of monotone abstract horses and it's so fun to see ink come to life.

I'm also getting into acrylic pouring - there are so many techniques to getting certain types of pours and I can't wait to try them all! Acrylic pouring is definitely a fun entry into art, especially because its supposed to be messy! Pinterest is my go-to source for inspiration, but I also follow some pretty amazing artists on Instagram. I hope to one day create art on their level and maybe even make it a side business of some sort. But for now, #someonefundmyhobbies

@badwaycreative @inventiveroots @poli.bright.art @art_by_mariadruggenilsson @mossandblue @emilyquandahlart @heatherday @martinalenhardt @sarahcaudleart @irinacumberland @racheljennieart

... and sooo many moreeee

Photography

Ben is the master photographer, but since he got a camera upgrade, I've played with his old DSLR and had more fun than I thought I would. I really dislike cellphone cameras, mostly because I've never had a good one, so I never thought I would enjoy taking photos as much as I do now. I recently had the pleasure of working a couple of events, taking photos and documenting on social media for BOOM Charlotte's fringe arts festival. 

It's also funny what happens to people when  you say you want to take their picture. They either get shy or really, really excited. On my end, its funny to see how people react to me when I'm holding a DSLR with a big lens. Suddenly I'm the most interesting person in the room. It's strange.

On a more abstract note,

I've felt more free to try new things - new to me, at least. For example, I'm skateboarding now? LOL. I will sometimes wear hot pink lipstick (that is a whoa factor for anyone who really knows me). I also got an undercut. Turns out that was a great decision. I no longer have a sweaty neck or those little dreadlocks underneath after a hot day.  I was at first concerned about having less hair in general, but my hair is noticeably easier to manage now. Less shampoo and less time to dry and style is always a plus. But honestly, you can't tell I have less hair when its down. In fact, you would have no clue its shaved unless my hair is up. It's a win-win.

 

I'm on energy saving mode

I recently discovered the cause of the fatigue I’ve been complaining about for three years now.

You know that frustrating feeling of knowing something is off but not having the right answer for it? I saw multiple doctors and had many, many vials of blood drawn, but everything came back fine. Even when my doctor thought my hormones were out of balance, they weren’t. Other than “being tired”, I was a model of perfect health. In fact, even my ovaries are “textbook perfect” (maybe someone should pay me to put sonograms of my ovaries in a textbook – any takers??).

Once we moved, I saw a new doctor and had new tests done and wouldn’t you know, I tested positive for mono. MONO. The most basic, teenage illness that almost everybody gets, usually from kissing. I remember sitting in high school health class, learning about diseases transmitted via saliva and other bodily fluids, thinking to myself that I would be in the clear for a long time given my social and relationship standing….

I wasn’t expecting to have mono at 25, let alone having mono symptoms for three years. That’s the key though - mono doesn’t last three years. But the virus that causes mono (EBV virus) does. Basically, once you have mono, you have it in your system for life. It lays dormant, waiting for your body to exhibit extreme stress and autoimmune failure so it came come back to life and make you all tired and out of whack. Most people, and when I say most, I mean like 99% of those who have the mono virus in their system never see it again. It usually takes an already-compromised immune system to take on the mono virus and let it remain in an activated state for so long.

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So essentially, I have chronic EBV virus, or chronic fatigue syndrome, or some sort of autoimmune dysfunction. They all work in similar ways and present themselves with similar symptoms. While it’s totally possible that I do not have a “disease” per-say, my body is running on fumes. I feel the way that truck looks. Its not 100%. Its not even 60%. I’m sitting somewhere at maybe 40%, I would say.

While it’s great to finally – FINALLY – know what the deal is, it doesn’t help me feel any better. What has helped though, are some fairly major life changes. Through trial and error, a few test results, and willpower, these are the things that I HAVE to do if I want to function like a normal person:

  1. Eat Vitamin B12 like candy. Literally, I take up to five a day because I am deficient, per test results, and they do really help – the complex kind though, not the basic grocery-store brand.
  2. No dairy, no added sugar/artificial sweetner, and NO GLUTEN. This is tough yall. I have been dairy-free since I had C-Diff three years ago (another factor in my health saga) but the gluten thing is like brand new. I have kept a food diary for a number of years and recently noticed that I had major joint pain/inflammation, acne and headaches in the immediate days after eating gluten (which is typical with autoimmune issues). When I didn’t eat gluten, I had none of those issues. So by trial and error, I no longer eat some of the tastiest foods on earth…
  3. SLEEP ALL THE TIME. It’s not a new thing for me to take naps and generally enjoy slow weekends, but I have to set a rule – go to bed early enough to get 10 hours of sleep. Ten hours is my magic number, for whatever reason. Less than that and I can’t function. More than that and I’m pretty out of it for the rest of the day (not to mention more than 10 hours of sleep means fewer hours of productive work time).
  4. This isn’t a rule, because I don’t follow it, but I should – no caffeine and no alcohol. Let’s be honest, there is a very slim chance I will ever give up coffee. Not drinking alcohol is easier, because Ben can’t drink it, but I really enjoy wine… so I indulge occasionally. But alcohol gives me issues similar to what gluten does, while caffeine interferes with overall hydration.

So what is the point to this? I don’t write this to garner sympathy, I just thought it would be a good time to let family and friends know what is going on. I've had some super supportive friends and family (shout out to my girl Katherine, my parents and of course Ben). But I also get lots of comments and remarks when I politely request a gluten free version of something (oh, so you are gluten free now? *snicker*). It bothers me because everyone has a reason for making a certain choice, right? Why do we have to be judged for any of it?

So now you know – I don’t eat gluten because I don’t want inflamed joints and pimples and headaches for days.

BUT ALSO, the real meat of this blog post – the level of mindfulness I have achieved in this season of my life is HIGH. I must be mindful of what I eat, my time management, my attitude through it all... I posted a while back about not having the energy to care so much – it is totally true and totally awesome. It’s tough being too tired to care sometimes, but it has given me a new peace and a new sense of contentment. Sometimes I have to push myself to care more, as it ultimately means using more precious energy, but isn’t caring part of the point of life? Being mindful of how I spend my emotional energy is a life lesson that I’m learning in double time.

I’ve taken to appreciate the little joys in life and especially enjoy the time and energy someone else expends on their craft of choice. For example, art, artfully prepared food, blogs and articles, photography and editing, even technology advances I read about in the news. I have this newfound appreciation for time spent wisely. That doesn’t mean I always use my own time wisely, but I’m working on that.

I would like to close with this: find the time to fully appreciate what is in front of you, whether it is a plate of food, a project, a task, a coffee date – if you are engaging with another person, take the time to really understand them. They might have a lot more beneath the surface and everyone wants to be understood in some capacity. Be that good listener and take the little things to heart. It might totally change your life!

A foray into sustainability

I have decided to add my voice to the call for ethical and sustainable living, particularly when it comes to consumerism. I want to delve into topics like fast fashion on this blog and address the staggering amount of waste and trash, particularly plastic, in our culture. Fast fashion and plastic are probably the most abused and the most harmful to our earth. 

Before we move one, a little PSA: My thoughts are not meant to judge or complain or criticize your choices. I definitely know what it is like to be on a budget and buy that $2 shirt on sale at Forever 21! But I can't ignore the facts. Cheap clothes like those from Forever 21 and similar stores use cheap labor that invites a cycle of poverty. It is just not fair. And also, I'm of the mindset to buy from local, U.S.-made shops to support our own economy. 

But to introduce this series, this current post is going to be as helpful as possible. I'm not going to rant over littering and save the trees; I want to share helpful tips on how to reduce waste and live more mindfully - tips that I've heard from other mindful people and that I've personally tried and found success with. So here we go!

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Tip #1

Drink out of a reusable bottle. A lot of people do this already and its a simple trick to help decrease the amount of plastic that gets used once and thrown away in a landfill. 

Tip #2

Carry re-usable shopping bags, or ask for paper at the checkout line. Some people will argue that asking for paper is just as bad for the environment as using plastic bags, but I am of the opinion that paper will always be better than plastic. If you are like me and forget to bring reusable shopping bags, keep a stash in your car for the next time you go shopping.

Tip #3

Switch to metal straws. This is a game changer for me personally - I almost exclusively drink through a straw. I don't know why, I just prefer it. But plastic straws are terrible for our environment! Some quick math - if I use a straw everyday for the rest of my life (let's say 70 years), that would be 25,550 straws from ONE person that end up in a landfill or in our oceans. So I recently bought a pack of 8 metal straws online and use those instead. I like them just as well!

Tip #4

Recycle!!!! I used to live in a town that did not offer recycling services, so let me tell you, its not always easy. But most other U.S. towns offer recycling services and I encourage everyone to utilize them. I was told by a blogger friend to go to the local dump and ask where all our trash goes. Usually, the answer is enough to push anyone to begin recycling as much as possible.

Tip #5 

Donate and re-purpose. In my quest for minimalism in my home and closet, I ended up donating bags and bags of clothes, books, pieces of furniture and other household wares. Not only do you get a tax write off for donating, you help someone else in need. Look for organizations or centers that don't necessary get a profit from reselling your donated things, or who are in desperate need for donations. Additionally, I began making an effort to re-purpose things before buying something new. It helped me distinguish want from need and has overall saved me money.

Tip #6

Compost - now this is something I haven't yet started, but I will in the near future. Composting is great for those who have gardens as you can use your rich, composted soil to grow healthier plants! There are a few rules on composting, such as how to set up your composting space and what can and cannot be composted, so do some research before you begin. But if you find yourself throwing away a lot of produce and food scraps, you may be able to set up a prime composting space and have super rich soil for future plants in no time!

Tip #7

Thrift - I understand that some people enjoy thrifting more than others but there are some serious gems that get donated or put on consignment. I have found a lot of essential basics and a few statement pieces when it comes to clothing at my local thrift stores. My most favorite denim shirt ever is from a thrift store and I wear that shirt once a week, at least. Furniture can also be thrifted and if you are really serious about it, that same thrifted furniture can be sanded and painted into a brand new piece that fits your space. My husband and I had a thrifted breakfast table and two chairs and that set was our favorite piece of furniture ever. We ended up donating it when we moved to North Carolina for someone else to enjoy, but my point is - you may easily fall in love with a piece from a thrift store, so give it a chance!

These seven tips are ones I practice regularly (with the exception of composting, at the moment) and I'm excited to see what other tricks I can uncover and share with you all. the meantime, what kinds of sustainable living tricks do you like to use? Do you have any questions on practicing mindfulness in a consumerist society? Let me know in the comments below?