I’ve been away for awhile. I call it my “putting in the work” sabbatical (I have absolutely never called it that until just now).
Others may call it “workin’ on my shit.”
Maybe “figuring it out.”
It started in the most mundane of ways, following a series of absolutely ordinary life events that wrecked me for a bit. First, the obvious: the world shut down. Then, the normal: I had to find a new identity when the world opened back. Then, the denial: I didn’t want to find a new identity when the world opened back. Then, the acceptance: I found a new identity when the world opened back. Then, the rage: fuck this new identity. Then, the acceptance: I’m putting in the work so I can handle absolutely anything I have to handle regardless of my identity.
The past fifteen months have been gutters and strikes, but looking back at where I started versus where I am now, even my cynical mind has to admit that it looks a lot like progress.
The first thing I did was actually two things at once: I ordered micro-biome testing and started therapy.
Putting in the Work: Follow Your Gut
I ordered the test from Ombre after, yup, seeing it on Tik-Tok. I had been absolutely miserable for so long that I didn’t really remember what anything else felt like. I assumed it was misery from overeating, which I was totally doing, but felt like something was also just wrong.
Four agonizing weeks after sending my sample back, I learned that I had an extreme gluten sensitivity. I also learned that I had no trouble with dairy (though I still think I can’t have a lot of it). As someone whose favorite foods are donuts, pancakes, rolls, and toast, this was a huge bummer. I begrudgingly decided to follow the recommendations for awhile, just to see.
I felt fucking great, of course.
While I really, really miss the gluteniness of gluten, and while I have definitely slipped up on purpose many times, it’s really gotten easy to handle its absence. Sugar, on the other hand…not so much.
Anyway, gut health recovery: check.
Putting in the Work: Talk it Out
I came to my therapist through a recommendation. I was on a months-long waiting list through a traditional location, when I overheard a co-worker mention she was going to get her “energy fixed.” I was fascinated with the phrasing and asked her what it meant. That’s how I came to find my therapist, who is incredible.
It’s kind of new-age and hippie stuff, but I dig it. In the past 14 months, we’ve talked through all the pain and all the truth. I’ve been putting in the work by putting her recommendations into practice. I’ve learned to feel my feelings and compartmentalize in a healthy way. I can detach and recognize what is real and what is emotion.
This has also been incredibly confusing. It led to a lot of uncomfortable moments and arguments. I have completely lost a few relationships and worried about permanently damaging others. But I also learned that the people who are meant to be with you will stay with you.
Putting in the work with therapy got me through a job change and a move. It got me through a great deal of stress with work as we restructured teams and opened a new venue. It helped my communication with my husband and with my stepsons. I also realized that losing a relationship because I spoke my truth did not make losing that relationship my fault. I stood up for myself for the first time, and I’m so much better for it.
Putting in the Work: Listen to Listen
Something else I started doing was listening to a lot of podcasts, motivational speeches, and a series on being an effective leader.
My first and favorite is essentially everything Mel Robbins is doing. The Mel Robbins Podcast is an incredible range of ways to deep-dive into everything that could be keeping you awake at night. It covers anxiety, synchronicities (my personal favorite), grief, and relationships. It’s my first choice and has been such an incredible addition to putting in the work.
The main thing I have learned from listening was…how to listen. I spent a lot of years “listening” to people while really just biding my time to rush in and talk. In the past few months, I’ve been able to realize how much actually listening means I don’t have to talk. The best test in putting this into practice is when I’m listening to someone who is lying to me. I’ve been able to slow down my thoughts, and change gradually over from defensive reactiveness to seeking to understand.
(This is still very, very hard.)
Putting in the Work: #Menopossible
The worst thing that happened to me in the past six months actually started in 2018.
Cancer and chemotherapy at 35 taught me that menopause was going to come to me early. Still, a lot of overlooked lab work and my own determination to live in denial led to postponing the reality.
The truth was that I entered menopause at 42. It took me five more years and asking for some specific testing to learn that I am currently well on the other side. It taught me that you don’t have to settle for the doctors you have, or don’t have. Advocating for yourself does not make you crazy. You know your body; don’t let anyone else tell you about it if you know something is wrong.
When I started gaining weight again six months after taking gluten out of my diet, I got depressed. My body didn’t feel like mine. My midsection was growing. My back seemed to be straightening out and – thickening? My torso felt like a giant loaf of bread. My curves were disappearing.
It was a super big bummer.
Putting in the work with a post-menopause diagnosis started with honesty. I really wasn’t confused about why I gained weight. I gained it because I ate more calories than I burned.
I’m grateful that I don’t have other symptoms, specifically hot flashes. But post-menopause life is still kind of a bummer sometimes.
Putting in the Work: Remembering it’s Not Linear
This is the hardest part of putting in the work for me. I have talked it out, I have listened to podcasts, I have tried multiple tactics. I recognize that I’m making changes for the better, and am proud of myself for that. But gosh, it’s still hard when I backslide.
Progress is not achieved immediately. Perfection is impossible. Even knowing all of this, it’s still hard to realize that there will always be struggles. There is no happily ever after.
I struggle with realizing that people just aren’t going to like me. I fight myself when I fall back into old patterns and try to morph into what other people want. These are deeply-held and very old habits, so it’s natural there will be struggles. Still, though…sometimes I really just want it to be easy.
Having said all of that, I have never been happier with an age than I am with this one. I feel comfortable in my body, I feel equipped to handle emotional upheaval, and I am increasingly able to practice restraint.
Putting in the Work: Writing it Out
The last piece of this puzzle was coming to realize how much I have missed writing. While I’ve been journaling, there’s something about putting together a blog that fulfills me. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of daily tasks or to work too much. I’m kind of addicted to being busy and have been guilty of not pursuing things that stimulate my mind.
So I’m going to write more. I hope some of you are still around and we can get acquainted again. Maybe you have your own putting in the work tips and tricks you’d like to share.
Regardless, hi. Wanna start again?