32 flavors and then some…

For better or for worse, this gluten-free diet is achieving it’s purpose (i.e., making me feel better). My skin and joints are less tender and I find I am less fatigued. I don’t have my scale here to verify, but I am also certain I’ve dropped another few pounds.

Curses!

Actually, all kidding aside, I’ll take it. I am at the point in my life where if feeling better and feeling better about myself  means cutting out warm sourdough bread and buttery pastries and chocolatey cookies and creamy pasta and (sorry, I got distracted there for a moment) ahem…and other delicious, gluten-filled items: I say, bring it on.

Bring. It.

Luckily for me, I am in currently in a town that caters to people with fidgety dietary needs, so the adjustment period has started off as relatively easy. The only really annoying modification is having to make sure to prepare ahead of time for all meals; checking menus on the internet before I plan to go to a restaurant, bringing snacks when I am heading into a long rehearsal. Spending so much time “planning” my meals is probably not an ideal situation for someone as neurotic about food as I am, but I have a hunch that after doing it long enough, it’ll become second nature. I’ve decided to extend my two-week trial run to a full month, to test out this theory around my menstrual migraines. I visited my healer again yesterday and she said the longer you go without gluten, the more health benefits you may notice. She said she was still noticing positive, life-changing effects even a year into her new eating habits. Again, I hesitate to go full throttle, but we’ll see what happens in a month. For those of you who may be considering this move yourself, she also warned that in the beginning, you may go through withdrawl-like symptoms- anything from headaches to digestive to nervous system issues. Knock on wood, I haven’t felt anything but great.

The rolfing is still affecting my body in positive ways as well, though I do take back what I said about it not being either painful or pleasant. In certain moments it can be very, very (I am not overstating here people and I’m going to throw in one more for good measure) very painful. I had to focus on some deep breathing exercises at my last appointment to even get through the session without crying out, “STOP! OH MY GOD, PLEASE STOP PULLING MY LEG OFF OF THE REST OF MY BODY!!”. But, as in life, after a few seconds of incredibly intense pain, she would move on to another part of the tissue that would feel absolutely phenomenal and released because of the previous stretching.

After the first appointment, I felt like I was standing a little taller. After the second one, I feel like my walk is more balanced. My stride has always been someone irregular, due to my left side being shorter than my right. Through whatever method of TORTURE (kidding) she inflicted on me yesterday, I feel like my legs are covering equal amounts of ground and my torso has been elongated because of it. It is a weird, wonderful, and welcome feeling.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In other news, I am acclimating myself back to the hectic pace of life that is required by this city, and remembering the things that made it so hard to leave the first time around. My friends here are just….beautiful. So many beautiful people, all nestled among an overpopulated mass of assholes, pricks, Negative Nancy’s, douchebags, WAY too many cars and not near enough parking spaces. 

This past weekend, I spent my 32nd birthday doing something for someone else. And I gotta say, without hesitation, it was the best birthday I have on record. Actually, one of the best nights of my life, period.

Jarvis was my religion professor in college. I had him for two classes; Global Studies (sort of a religion/theatre hybrid course) and Modern Christianity. To call him a professor is an understatement. This man changed my life. He was one of the first voices to tell me it was okay to go with my gut; to question everything I learned in school, in church, in life and to toss it all out the window if it didn’t set well with whatever was in my own heart. A Christian pastor, who told me it was okay to question everything I had ever been told about Christianity! It was okay to think for myself! This was a HUGE revelation for someone as fragile and conflicted as I was at that age. I learned more about religion (and myself) in those three semesters then I did in an entire eighteen years of going to The Free Will Baptist Church in Corcoran, CA.

Of course, even this over-simplifies all Jarvis is to me. He also was President of Kingsmen Shakespeare when I was working for the company. Him and his wife, Susan, were (ARE) there nearly every show, in a picnic box dead front and center. When you aren’t in a show, they invite you to sit with them. He and Susan are two of the biggest cheerleaders of not only the company as a whole, but all of us individual artists as well. I can’t even tell of all the conversations at the Festival and the after-parties that we’ve had where, without even trying, he imparted some major much-needed wisdom on me. As my friend Barry put it, “sometimes it was just a little thing, but in the long run, the little things are the big things.”

Susan and I have grown really close over the years, too, and she has also been one of my biggest supporters in….well, life in general, I guess. I could really gush on and on about both of them, but for brevities sake, I’ll just say they are two of my all-time favorite people. And though I’ve always suspected as much, I learned this past weekend that I am not the only one who feels that way.

You see, Jarvis is sick. Really sick. And I can’t go into too much detail about it without having to stop and cry for a good hour or two, so let’s just leave it at that, as I feel like I’ve been weeping on and off for the past four days straight.

Susan and I, along with a handful of other people, worked to throw him a surprise party- to celebrate his life and let him know how much he is appreciated. I should mention here that Susan’s birthday was also this past weekend, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she numbers this as one of her best ones, too. Not only did we completely and totally surprise Jarvis (with way over 100 people! How is that even possible in this day and age?!), but there also was so. much. love. in that backyard that one could not help but feel it creep into their veins at the party.  I think we were all the best versions of ourselves that night, and I am just humbled and blessed to know so many good, beautiful, gorgeous people and share in the love that was omnipresent at that party.

Of course no evening could go by without my negative voices creeping in, trying to ruin anything good. When I got up to speak about Jarvis, I was already in tears before I started. And as I was speaking off the cuff, I said two (just two!) stupid things that in hindsight, I wish I could have taken back. So, my voices arrived instantly at the front of my brain (before I even stepped away from the microphone) to remind me what a worthless, stupid, selfish, egotistical, bad,ugly person I really, truly am.

I spent a while teetering between embarrassment and all the other emotions I was feeling, before telling myself, “Enough!”  and reminding those terrible voices “This isn’t about YOU!”

I refuse, I REFUSE,  to let my negative voices ruin anymore memories by telling me lies. When it comes down to it, that’s what they are: lies. We are, all of us, imperfect. Why have I demanded such perfection from myself for so long? It’s fucking exhausting. If I demanded the same amount of perfection of my friends and family that I do from myself, I wouldn’t have anyone left in my life! It’s high time I exercise the same amount of forgiveness and patience with myself.

So, first day of age 32, and I already learned a new lesson: namely, not to be so hard on myself when I do something stupid, and to keep in mind that I am pretty damn awesome in a host of other ways.

I really, really am. 

I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year. There is love everywhere, and I’m really starting to take some of it with open, accepting (and completely proportionate!) arms. Which reminds me, have you told someone you love how you feel about them lately? Try it. It feels awesome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here are my most favorite pictures from the party. They are each worth a thousand words, as they say.

I, of the beholder

Ever since I decided to start taking compliments at face value, I’ve been humbled by the sheer volume of times people have stopped to tell me, unsolicited, that I am beautiful, or gorgeous, or striking, or lovely..or whatever else. People have mostly remarked on my winning personality (ha!) but some (like seriously, more than a handful in less than a week!) have specifically remarked on my physical appearance…positively. Has this been happening all along? This many people? This many times? Even if beauty is only in the eye of the beholder, if there are enough people out there who are saying nice things about me, I must not be as hideous a monster as the voices in my head would have me believe. Right? It is only really hitting me now: this has always been the case, hasn’t it?

This has always been the case.

Wow.

I don’t know if the molecules of my skin are actually moving around and shifting. Does a self- kind heart have the ability to morph your physical appearance?  Maybe it is all in my mind. But…I actually do look different, don’t I? When I’ve  looked at myself in the mirror the past few days, there isn’t a scared girl staring back at me through sad, weary eyes. There isn’t a shapeless, pale, masculine, hunched, drained loser. There is a beautiful woman there. A tall, curvaceous woman. With kind eyes, and a bright smile. With…something else, too. What is it? A spark? A fire? A strong, interminable conquering spirit?  All of the above?

Every time I catch my reflection, I have been making myself say something nice- even if (especially if) I don’t feel it. I know it sounds cheesy: looking in the mirror, repeating mantras that sometimes you, yourself, don’t even believe…but oh my gosh…can it be? Is it actually…working? My dad gave me a Christmas card several years ago, and in it he wrote “Life is always beautiful and so are you”. I keep it, nestled in a flap on the visor of my car. The other day, out of nowhere, it fell in my lap, wide-open. Like a sign from the universe. I have been repeating that to myself every time I look in the mirror. Every time I have an ugly or hard moment. Every time.

And sometimes, it’s almost as if I beat myself to the punch. Like there are multiple positive voices emerging from underneath the skin of the molting unkind ones.

Voice One: You’re so beautiful, Haley.

Voice Two: Hey! I was gonna say that.

Voice One: Beat you. Gotta speak up quicker next time.

Voice Two: You’re on, buddy.

sigh.

Can this all really be as simple as adjusting what you hear and what you say?

Last weekend, I visited home for a couple days. As much as I was eager to see my friends, family, and awesome (if I do say so myself) apartment, I was equally anxious to get on my scale. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve gone so long without a weigh-in. I got in to Fresno at about one in the morning. First thing I did was head to the bathroom, empty my bladder and step on the scale. I’ve lost four pounds since coming to LA. But really, no surprise there. I’ve been taking better care of myself. I’ve been physically active.

I didn’t let myself step on the scale the rest of the trip.  The weird part is, after I got over that one withdrawal-esque, compulsive “need” to weigh-in, I didn’t really even have a desire to get back on. How is a number of my body mass any reflection of what I have to offer the world? I must remember this when the urge strikes.

These seemingly minor changes are probably invisible to the naked, untrained eye. But I am really beginning to feel them in my body, my soul, my consciousness. It helps, too, that I started seeing a health practitioner who specializes in rolfing. I bet a lot of you haven’t heard of it, so I’ll explain. Rolfing is a holistic bodywork that uses manipulation of the body’s soft tissue to realign and balance the body’s myofascial structure, started originally by a biochemist named Ida Rolf.  The idea is that not only can it directly improve your posture and other general body habits, but it can also bring long-term relief for all-over aches, pains, and tenderness, as well as improve breathing and increase energy.  For those of you who are familiar with the Alexander Technique, it is very similar in approach and theory- only much more hands on. It doesn’t exactly feel good, nor is it necessarily painful, but I do feel like I am standing taller and walking straighter. I know that this, too, must contribute to the positive, evolving reflection I’m seeing in the mirror, because my bad posture has long been a top issue of self-loathing. As far as rolfing goes, I’m not gonna lie; it ain’t cheap. But I decided a while ago, that when it comes to my health and well-being, it’s worth it.

After hearing me list all my health issues, my healer told me that she thinks my symptoms are all tell-tale signs of a gluten allergy. I’ve wondered this before and just sort of hoped it was not the case. When I went to the allergist, they found I was allergic to so many plants,animals, and indoor allergens, they remarked that my food allergies seemed relatively minor in comparison. I think at the time, I just sort of hoped that was my get-out-of-jail-free card. But I think it may be time to at least give my body a few weeks of strict non-gluten eating, just to be sure. I have only a few weeks without my favorite carbs to lose, and everything to gain. Again, when it comes to my health and well-being, it’s worth it to try.

I hesitate, as always, with any dietary restrictions. Not only do I worry about hyper-vigilance, but if I want to keep up my vegetarian lifestyle, adding gluten-free goals to the mix sure isn’t gonna make my life any easier. But as my healer said (she has a gluten allergy herself), “It just got to the point where it was much more important for me to feel good than to eat what I wanted.”

Word.

I am so there.

I know the next couple weeks will probably be hard for me. I’m sort of diving in head first. I asked my friend Kristeina for advice (she deals with a gluten allergy herself), and she said the best way to do it is to just get rid of all the gluten you have in your house and go cold turkey for a few weeks. She said you should feel better by the end of the first two weeks, and (unfortunately) much worse if and when you do cheat. So, I’m just gonna start there. Two weeks. And we’ll see what happens. Of course, I’ll be checking in.

Hope everyone is having a glorious September. It is the best month of the year, you know? 🙂

My friend Gabi posted this on her Facebook page the other day. I love it.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 22 other followers