No Fat, No Carbs… No Thanks.

Like a desperate hunter setting out into the wild in search of food, I left the office desperately starving and in search of something tasty and filling. I WANTED a cheddar-roast beef sandwich from Arby’s… greasy and dripping with red ranch sauce. But there was a big deadline on Friday’s horizon and a Smoothie King just across the street from the office, so I decided to give that a try instead.

When I walked in the door I was immediately assaulted by an overwhelmingly giant and colorful menu boasting all kinds of things I could not pronounce, let alone grasp what dietary need they would fulfill. A bright-faced boy looking like he couldn’t possibly be a day over 13 leaned across the counter—beaming at me—and enthusiastically asked what I wanted. I cringed. I had no freaking idea what I wanted.

I suppose I wanted something that tasted good above ALL else and something that would make me STOP wanting the greasy Arby’s cheddar-roast beef sandwich dripping with red ranch sauce. But I couldn’t tell Mr. 12-year old, fresh-faced-health-food peddler that. So instead I asked for his recommendation… Which was, indeed, a colossal mistake.

Here is what he SAID: “Well, the ‘Lean One’ is great because it has protein so it helps keep you full, trims the waistline and contains no fat or carbs.”

But here is what I HEARD: “You are fat.”

Here is what I SAID: “Is it going to taste like a diet drink or like an actual fruit smoothie?”

But here is what I THOUGHT about saying as I envisioned myself wagging my index finger in his face and then proceeding to draw an imaginary circle in the air around my mid-section: “You think I am FAT!?! Listen here, String Bean, I may weigh more than you do on your heaviest day, and I certainly won’t be doing any runway modeling, ever… but I am a HEALTHY weight! You don’t know what’s under here. This is a baggy top. I might have a six-pack under here for all you know!”  (I don’t. But he doesn’t KNOW that.)

So now I am stuck. I’ve asked this zygote’s opinion and he’s pointed out that I am fat and in need of some nutritional intervention so out of sheer shame and compliance I ordered the stupid “Lean One” and hoped for the best.

When he triumphantly handed over the cup, certain that he had done a tremendous service in saving me from myself that day, I noticed that the CUP read: “The Lean One enhances fat loss, promotes lean muscle, helps suppress appetite and promotes a healthy heart.”

Now, I’m sure these features and benefits are important to many, many people. But as earlier stated in this entry… I wanted something that tasted good ABOVE ALL ELSE—nutritional value be damned—and something that would make me STOP wanting the greasy Arby’s cheddar-roast beef sandwich dripping with red ranch sauce.

So here is what I THOUGHT as I shuffled out of the store in my baggy top, bitterly sipping my sad little smoothie that definitely seemed like it cut ALL of the culinary corners when it came to taste: “If this doesn’t satisfy me, I’m scarfing down a bag of Doritos. I knew I should have gone to Arby’s.”

The Devil Wears Sweatpants

Today was a day of much celebration and cheer. A moment I have been waiting for — admittedly not all that patiently. The phone rang and on the other end were the magic words I’ve so longed to hear: “They want you to start tomorrow!”

As anyone who has searched long and hard for employment in their field knows… it is a thing of beauty when that call comes. Emotions of joy and relief wash over you as you stand just a tiny bit taller… feeling a little less loser-like and little more confident. You consider, for the first time in awhile that you may, in fact, have something to offer the outside world. And it is a good feeling.

I, for one, could barely contain my excitement. I did the proverbial “happy dance” while shouting THANK YOU at the top of my lungs scaring the hell out of the cat. Then promptly called my mother and counted the seconds until Lee came home. I considered how to celebrate. Hmmm… margaritas tomorrow evening with the girls at my favorite Mexican restaurant? Si. Perfecto.

After sharing the details of the new gig right down to the color of the carpeting and the window-to-wall ratio in my new “cube” I realized that Lee—although excited as well—was indeed weary of the sound of my voice. And perhaps it was time to consider prepping myself for my shift from stay-at-home-do-nothing person into 9 to 5 working gal.

And here is where the story takes a very dark and unexpected turn. No, this is not where I tell you that they called back and informed me that they had mistakenly called the wrong person and that I am, in fact, still a loser. Gotcha’ there for a second didn’t I? No, that has already happened to me so as I stated above… this is where the story takes an UNEXPECTED turn.

It was time to approach (gulp) the closet and see what I had in there (double gulp) to wear for my first day at the new office. I feel that here is where I should mention that I have known this day would come. Oh yes, this Day of Reckoning with my closet and my work clothes a.k.a. ALL things NOT made of super-stretchy-love-my-body-no-matter-how-many-bagels-with-cream-cheese-I-pound-and-glasses-of-wine-I-drink elastic and spandex was on the horizon.

I just kept operating in my fantasy world, walkin’ around with remnants of cream cheese on my face figuring “I’ll dust off those workout DVDs and my Ann Taylor pants with absolutely NO give will still look fabulous by the time I get THE CALL” and all will be well with the world. Well… such was not the case. The DVDs are still dusty and the Ann Taylors are still hangin’ in the closet.

This, my friends, is what the sweatpants industry never tells you in their happy commercials where everyone is blissfully snuggling on the couch munching buttered popcorn and watching movies or gathered ’round the breakfast table slamming pancakes. Sweatpants and their seductive cousins Yoga Pants, Pajama Pants, Lounge Pants, Flannel Pants and Fleece Pants are of the devil. Mark my words… they will be the death of your waistline, hips and butt if you spend enough time in them.

You’ve been warned. Your regular pants may be uncomfortable on occasion… but like a parent disciplining their child when they are naughty… they keep you in line. Oh, the waist is getting snug!… or, My ass looks like two pigs wrestling under a blanket in this pencil skirt!… or, I’m about to pop the button on these trousers and bust out a window in the breakroom! are all ways that your “working clothes” keep you from swimming in that murky River of Denial that can only be found deep inside the soft, warm folds of the evil embrace of Sweatpants.

Averse to Adversity

I had an epiphany the other day. I’m not talking about the kind where I suddenly figured out that my new nightly chocolate ritual was beginning to make my ass fat. But the kind that I honestly believe could be life-changing. Or rather…. it WOULD be if I chose to examine it, learn from it and make some adjustments.

Bet you can’t wait to know what it is? Unless, of course, you read the title or drew some sort of a conclusion from the super adorable picture that I just HAD to use to assist in illustrating my point — in which case, you probably already have your suspicions. Anyhoo, brilliant deductions, sneaking suspicions or not, I’ll fill you in. All of my life I have had trouble with… drumroll pleeeeze… Adversity.

There. I’ve put it out there for all the world to see. Or at least the 200 people (give or take) who regularly read this blog.

Websters defines Adversity as: 1. distress; affliction; hardship and 2. an unfortunate event or incident

I know what you’re thinking… Who doesn’t have “trouble” with distress, affliction or hardship? Right? But honestly… I mean seriously… I. Have. Trouble. With. Resistance. Of any kind. And I think in some cases, there is evidence to support the theory that I may actually MAKE trouble for myself.

<< As an aside for any potential, future employer(s) out there who may be reading this and who may or may NOT be considering me for some form of professional position — let it be known that I do NOT make trouble for other people… I actually play really well with others. You can ask any of my references or teachers. >>

I am purely masochistic about this. I only do it to myself. The primary problem being that I suspect I actually LOOK for it in my life. And this is really quite amazing given that I am someone who runs around all giggly and bubbly claiming to DESIRE happiness and merriment wherever I go and with whomever I choose to spend time.

Hello, my name is Joanna and I am EXPERTLY PROFICIENT at making mountains out of molehills.

All my life I have been told to develop a thicker skin. By everyone. By people I love, by people I never thought much of and (in hindsight) by people I have hated. That in and of itself should’ve shown me something. The sheer VOLUME of people telling me that I needed to grow a thicker skin, get over it, lighten up, stop being so serious all the time and to stop taking everything so damn personally SHOULD have had an effect by now. Shouldn’t it?

Yet, as I contemplate my 37 years on this earth—paying particular attention to the last 20 where I have supposedly been an “adult”—a pattern has begun to emerge. I don’t deal well with “distress, affliction or hardship” when it happens to me. If it is happening in someone else’s life I tend to step up to the plate. But when the trouble finds me… when adversity has knocked on my door… I really do take it personally. And oftentimes, I’m ashamed to admit… I freak out.

When things haven’t gone the way I planned… When someone is rude or addresses me in a harsh tone… When I don’t “click” with a person at the office… Whenever ANYTHING does not turn out the way that I think it shouldwhich, by the way, is nothing SHORT of sunshine and rosesI cave. I fold like a bad poker hand or I wither or melt. Choose your metaphor. There are plenty. And in this case they are all the same.

Who the hell do I think I am that difficulty should avoid me? It’s rather narcississtic when I really think about it. Perhaps if I can truly begin to recognize that I am not special in facing adversity and remember that everyone shoulders some form of hurt or disappointment in this lifetime, then maybe… just maybe I will learn to freak out less. And I will learn to remain on my feet, keeping my collective shit together while standing firm in my new and thicker skin.

Puttin’ On My Big Girl Pants

In my twenties, when I was as young and stupid as a brand new puppy dog, I had a co-worker who was a few years older. She was a new mother and I often asked her how things were going with the baby.

I’ll never forget her reply one time as it was as funny as it was true. She recounted to me a morning where her daughter (let’s call her Danielle) was sitting at the kitchen table in her high chair and just wailing. Nothing would pacify her, so her mother—as many new moms often do—was reaching the point of exasperation.

She heaved a heavy sigh, looked around the room (that was empty save for my friend and her daughter) and thought aloud to Danielle: “Oh how I wish your mommy could just swoop in and make things all better for you!” It was then that my friend realized that the “mommy” in this scenario—the only one around at the time to do the heavy lifting and the one to be the savior—was her.

As adults, how many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation? When faced with something that seems insurmountable, we look up, down and all around for someone who can save us from ourselves. Be it a knight in shining armor, a fairy godmother or a full-blown cavalry — we honestly hope (if only for a second) that there might actually be an easier way out. But often times this is not the case. Increasingly as we age the only one who can deliver us from the stiff challenges of adulthood is the very one who stands before us in the mirror.

In less than four months, my fiance has lost both his father and mother. And I have been unable to do anything but stand by and watch. Don’t get me wrong, I can lend a listening ear, fetch a sandwich or two and make the occasional phone call, but short of a miracle of biblical proportion, there is nothing else I can do but hold his hand and slog through the muck and the mire right along with him.

There have been numerous arrangements to be made and entire lifetimes of memories to be carefully sifted, sorted and packed away for safe-keeping. Not unlike my co-worker and her child in need of comfort—there is no one else around to do the heavy lifting. There is no knight in shining armor, fairy godmother or cavalry to swoop in and “make things all better” like when we were children. And similar to my friend in becoming a new parent… I’m certain there were no instructions in the handbook on how to do this.

This time there is only him and there is only me wandering aimlessly about in Grownupland. I can wish all I want for someone else to shoulder the burden and do the work. But at the end of the day I am met with the realization that adulthood in it’s purest form is when you’ve looked around and discovered there is nothing left to do but suck it up and put on those big girl pants — however reluctantly.

Anniversary of the Thrisis

I don’t believe in magic and I must admit that there are times when I (a self-professed dreamer) am not even certain there’s such a thing as fate. But there I was at the local library—in the middle of “Fiction K-M”—hoping and praying that the right book would miraculously pop out in front of me, making it’s life-altering, earth-shattering presence known.

Unfortunately, it was not to be… admittedly, as a graphic designer as well as would-be writer, I DO judge books by their covers and nothing was grabbing me. Though I did leave with some lovely, conciliatory parting gifts in the form of an Ernest Hemingway documentary on DVD and an Annie Proulx novel I’d never heard of before.

I’d gone to my local library under the guise of obtaining a card and becoming a registered voter in my new county of residence. Though truthfully I was there for some much-needed inspiration. Wandering amidst endless titles of some brilliant and some not-so-brilliant works of literature, I had hoped that somehow some “Word Magic” would rub off.

You see, today, June 28th, is the one-year anniversary of “Woman In Thrisis” and I had hoped to have something genius and inspired to share for the anniversary entry! But alas, these days I have been cheating on my blog with Linked In, Indeed, Google Maps and Monster.com in order to secure full-time, PAID employment… and I fear that all of the rejection and searching is zapping my creative energy.

So, however uninspired this may be right nowJune 28, 2012… I felt a Happy Birthday wish was in order anyway! It truly has been an amazing and fun ride so far. I have connected with so many great people all over the world as a result and feel that I have created a tiny corner of cyber space to inhabit and share my musings.

As for this first year “By the Numbers” (not that it matters as much as it IS nice to record)… I have written 195 posts, grabbed (and desperately hope to keep) 180 faithful followers. The blog has been viewed over 43,500 times and had the blissful honor of being “Freshly Pressed” once.

With the big 4-0 sitting out there on the distant (but not nearly distant ENOUGH) horizon, a few years from now… a name change for “Woman In Thrisis” will most likely be in order. But until then… fingers crossed that I will find as much joy and fufillment in year two as I have in this one.

Thanks for tuning in everyone!

“Men Don’t Make Passes…

… at girls who wear glasses.”

Isn’t that how the saying goes?

“Awwwww man!” I cried out from beneath the golden glow of the living room lamp. “It looks better. Damn.” Wondering what all the fuss was about Lee yelled out to me from the computer room.

“Isn’t that what they are for, Joanna?” he questioned in a slightly exasperated but still inquisitive tone. “Aren’t your new glasses supposed to make things clearer for you?”

“YEEEEESSSSSSSSS. But only for when I’m toiling away in front of THAT thing all day long.” I groaned, while stomping into the room he was in and making wild gestures toward the computer screen. “They weren’t supposed to be for reading too. The doctor said so. He said that I was mildly far-sighted and that the ONLY time I needed to use them was while sitting at the computer. Do you KNOW what this latest development MEANS!?!” I whined.

“That you need glasses? That you’re eyes are going bad?” Lee said in a teasing manner.

“Well, yes… THAT. But it actually means that I AM GETTING OLD. When you first liked me, I was a mere kitten at 17… with perfect vision. Now look at the version you’ve got. I’m getting old.” Defeated, I lumbered out of the room—shoulders slumpled, glasses in hand—and plopped down cross-legged in the recliner. As I slid the glasses back onto my face I thought to myself… At least I can still cross my legs under me. That’s something. Isn’t it?

I pretended to read but what I was actually doing was studying the backs of my hands and the tops of my thighs… assessing them for similar signs of wear and tear like my eyes are apparently beginning to show. Thiiiiis is how it starts… I said to myself. First it’s the eyes, then it’s something else.

After awhile of trying to frame the words on the page with my corrective lenses I developed a headache and realized that I’d plowed completely through chapter 18 entirely unaware of what it had said. I sighed, put the book down and headed into the kitchen.

Since I was no longer reading, I slid the glasses on top of my head and proceeded to rinse a few dishes. Peering into the darkness on the other side of the window above the sink I noticed an unfamiliar woman staring back at me. My first thought was of course… When did this happen?

Then the next one came barreling down… even more terrifying than the last… In another 17 years, after losing not only my sight and the ability to cross my once-nimble legs beneath me, I will have lost my mind too. Therefore I’ll probably have one of those chains around my neck, dangling from either side of my face so that I never, ever lose them.

Oh sure, I imagine that I’ll “misplace” them from time to time — searching wildly about the house, turning over couch cushions and scattering tubes of BENGAY and bits of mail from AARP… But of course it will only be a matter of time before Lee walks in (with his superior vision) and points out to me that they’ve indeed been on my head the entire time.

For the sake of posterity… here I am… still young “enough” to be sans-chain.

More (or less) Glamorous?

I still remember the first time I heard mention of More magazine. A relatively new publication in the early 2000’s, it’s name was invoked during a meeting with a publisher I was working for at the time.

“I want our new magazine to have the look and feel of More” he said, scanning the room for some sort of a response from his nearly-all-female editorial and design crew. Being unfamiliar with it, I rushed to the nearest Barnes & Noble during lunch, bought a copy and quickly discovered that it was a women’s periodical aimed at the over-40 crowd.

I hung on to the issue for months while we developed concepts for our newest publication but admittedly… I never actually READ the articles. Personally, I was barely squinting at the big 3-0 on my horizon line at the time so the notion of topics such as wrinkly neck skin and finding the perfect “age-appropriate” power suit weren’t even remotely on my radar, much less my mind. 

Having indulged—for almost two decades now—in Glamour as my go-to guide for style, advice and articles to which I can relate, I remember sitting in my office (on my perfectly-sculpted, gravity-defying derriere) and scoffing at the idea that I would ever want or need to refer to “that” particular periodical in order to find some form of common ground in printed media.

However in the last two years, whilst flipping through issue after issue of what appears to be an ever-growing population of 20-something models of perfection, I have begun to notice a few disconnects between myself and my Glamour

For one, the faces peering out at me from between the pages look younger and younger with each passing month. Also, when I see a color, outfit or style that I like my first thoughts are NOT… “How can I re-create that look?” Or… “How can I get my hands on that?” But rather… “Could I even pull that off? And if I could somehow manage to pull that off… would I look ridiculous like I’m trying to be 25 again? Where would I even find it?” And… “How much does it cost? Couldn’t I buy a nice new piece of lawn furniture for that price?”

Another clue indicating that perhaps I am no longer Glamour-girl material is that the articles are increasingly failing to meet my editorial needs. Instead of learning how to properly exfoliate, get him to call the next day, manage a monthly budget or balance a checkbook — I’d like to know how to keep the skin around my knees from sliding any further toward the floor, help him to appreciate the true value of feng shui living and effectively manage a 401k in a volatile market.

See what I mean? Disconnects. Me and my not-so-much-gravity-defying derriere are no longer scoffing. For we are slipping further and further from the carefree, I’ve-got-my-whole-life-ahead-of-me-so-who-cares-if-I-make-a-few-stupid-mistakes-and-poor-decisions, youthful grasp of the bronzed, toned, air-brushed zygotes now gracing the pages of Glamour and slowly—but surely—being beckoned by the section of the newsstand that houses More.

THEN…

… AND NOW?

Slow Learner

I rolled my eyes in bitter disgust at my reflection in the rearview mirror. I was, as many women do, taking in one final overview before heading out.

And let me tell you that yesterday’s “overview” was not so bright. In fact, if ever there were a day to Photoshop one’s own face… this was it.

With one blemish on it’s way out but still lingering over the threshold of my cheek and a brand-spanking-new shiny one announcing it’s rude and unwelcome arrival, I was not in the greatest of moods.

Add to those two little dermatological gems the half-inch evidence mark of what is now being referred to as the “curling iron incident” from two days prior and yes… I was disgusted.

Really? I am 37 years old. I am starting to get laugh lines and on occasion, a few grey hairs at my temples. I SHOULD NOT still be getting pimples and I most certainly SHOULD know how to handle a searing-hot hair implement by now. In fact, shouldn’t there be a law that zits and wrinkles NOT be permitted to occupy the same space? I know I’ve brought up that issue before! UGH.

Strolling down the center aisle of the local drug store I spotted a former classmate I’ve not seen in at least 18 years. I immediately became entranced by a bin of $4 DVDs — sifting through them with great care and reviewing the plot summaries with unbelievable laser-like focus.

Once he passed by I moved down the aisle in search of what I’d come for. “THAT was close!” I said to myself and pressed on. “Hopefully I can slip out of here unnoticed and spend the remainder of the day locked up safely in the house, praying for the pimple cream and neosporin to work their medicinal magic.”

On my way to check out, a woman about my age caught my attention. The first thing I noticed about her was her height. (Standing at a whopping 5’2″ I am intrigued by any female over 5’7″) The second thing I noticed was the manner in which she was holding her head up high as though searching the store for her spouse or child.

It wasn’t until I got much closer that I noticed the skin grafts. They covered her entire face. I was quick to look away as I did not want to stare, but as I turned away I felt heat spreading up through my neck and cheeks as I flushed at my own ridiculous vanity.

“Reality check girl.” My inner voice then said to me. How dare you be so self-absorbed and obsessed with a few stupid temporary blemishes that no one would even care enough to notice when it could—in reality—be so much more than that!

I’ve shared posts similar to this one in the past… but obviously I am a slow learner. I’ll likely never know her story or her name, but hopefully the image of her standing tall, head held high and fearlessly facing the world around her is one not soon to be forgotten.

“Youthful beauty fades with time, but, with cultivation, inner beauty grows richer.”

A Safe Space

There is a place in which I’ve spent a considerable amount of time throughout the course of my 37 years. And it is the only place I have never felt afraid.

When I was a small child it was the playroom for my sister and me. Painted bright yellow and full of toys, I spent hours in there pretending to be a doctor, a veterinarian, a mommy, a school teacher and eventually an artist.

As a teenager, when my parents converted it into their bedroom (farther away from our rooms upstairs… probably so they couldn’t hear all of the screaming) it was the place I went to beg, borrow or steal my mom’s favorite sweater, red purse or pair of heels.

As Empty-Nesters, my folks moved back upstairs while my sister and I built lives of our own… She just down the street and me on the other side of the country. Whenever I visited—heavy luggage in tow—it was a sanctuary as the “guest bedroom” and always a chance to take a deep breath and a step back from the ledge I was currently standing on during some silent but turbulent times.

At 31, after receiving a devastating blow followed by a mediocre severance package in the boardroom one day, my sanctuary 2,000 miles away suddenly became my new home. Falling from a spacious, ammenity-packed condo with mountain views to a single room overlooking our backyard, my father swiftly installed a new ceiling fan, lighting fixtures and cable connection to make me feel more at home in my humbling new digs.

Ever a victim of wanderlust and clueless to the nose dive our economy would soon experience… A voluntary but hasty adventure west and back again at 33 ushered in what would soon become a ten-month stint in what had officially become my “home” when I was homeless.

And now—whenever I want to visit from my new “home” two hours away—the room is always waiting for me. Like right now… as I type these words in front of the open window. It is quiet here. There is peace here. There is love and laughter here. There are sweet memories here. There is comfort here. And there is always… ALWAYS a good night’s sleep.

Cardboard Time Capsules

Unpacking after a move can often feel like the opening of a time capsule. There are pictures, clothing and miscellaneous items—all from another time in history—packed into boxes you long forgot existed. When you inevitably uncover them you find yourself transported back to that moment… that week… that summer… that period in your life when things were vastly different.

Perhaps they were better times, perhaps they were worse. Perhaps you are overcome with feelings of nostalgia, joy, surprise, grief or even relief that you are now sitting exactly where you are sitting at this particular moment in time. No matter the emotions that may wash over you, one thing will almost always be certain: Life looks different than you thought it would back then.

This week Lee brought in some boxes from the garage where we are still storing and sorting through my things. One of them contained a photo album, several envelopes with loose photos and a few cards and letters. He asked if he could look at the album and of course I said yes as I pulled my chair along side his in order to get a good look myself.

It was an album I put together of the summers I’d spent working on a dude ranch in Colorado during college. I was happy to see that although the photos were nearly 17 years old, I didn’t look radically different than I do today… minus a few laugh lines and crows feet. But the thing that struck me the most was the fact that Life hadn’t really touched me yet. In those images, Life and Circumstance had yet to ruffle my youthful feathers. Or trip me up and skin my knees.

Back then I operated under the naive assumption that the worst that could happen was a bad hair day, a rained-out horseback ride, accidentally calling a guest by the wrong name or a few broken dishes. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. Though I wouldn’t trade my then child-like idealism and ambition for anything. I would learn soon enough that the world wasn’t fair and sometimes bad things happen no matter how hard you work to avoid them.

We all do, eventually.

After we got done looking at the album and he got up and turned his attention to something else, I lingered over that box of photos and letters—this cardboard time capsule—and I looked at more images of times when I was younger, thinner, prettier, tanned and toned. And honestly, the thoughts and feelings they conjured up have been tumbling around in my head for days. Only now are they coming out through my fingers on the keyboard as I share this with you.

Truth be told I envy that girl and yet I remember that EVEN SHE occasionally thought (waaaay back then) that she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or good enough… yet. She thought that ONE day—when she was older—she would come into her own and everything would be perfect. Everything would be just as it should be.

Well, here she is. Here I am. That “one day” has arrived and you know what? I’ve decided after peering inside of my time capsule, that since I can’t go back and fix her unattainable aspiration for perfection… I can fix mine. I can live in THIS moment, enjoying all that I have right now, promising to always try and stay present. But most of all… no matter how many more time capsules I uncover in this lifetime… to stay grateful for all that has been and currently is.