2013 and I Are Almost Through (Or Life is an Amazing Accident)

Don’t hate me for saying this, but it’s almost 85 in LA today. It’s just a little gift from God to make up for the gridlock, the hoards of hipsters littering Hollywood, and the astronomical rent we pay to sip in all kinds of smog every day.

So, anyway, I’m blogging from Peet’s Coffee Shop this afternoon like some sort of college student, and it makes me feel more alive than I’ve felt in months. I miss periodically staring out a window, surrounded by a never-ending bustle of strangers coming and going while I write. It’s sort of an accident I’m here, really, but it’s a happy accident. I was rushing out the door for yoga earlier and I accidentally went to the wrong studio. I didn’t have time to drive to the right studio before class started so I’m in the valley with my computer killing time until the next class. Today is about lovely accidents, but isn’t life?

I mean, I  just had a brief and amusing conversation about Latin with the stranger who rescued the contents of my purse from under his chair. I felt the need to explain why baby wipes, coconut chips, and fingernail clippers had ended up under his feet by quoting the Coast Guard motto, “Semper Paratus.” It means “always prepared,” and wouldn’t you know? He knew Latin too. Four years of declining nouns and conjugating verbs reached its maximum utility in a coffee shop in LA, folks. (Actually, it really may have had its greatest moment when I impressed a pack of drunk frat boys by translating the motto carved into the Psi Upsilon fireplace when I was 19, but whatever. Either way, Latin crops up in lovely and strange moments for me.) We ended up smiling before he went back to his book, and I went back to writing this post.

This is all terribly random, but I’m wrapping up quite a year of unexpected stuff, so the lack of focus in this post seems appropriate somehow. This year was truly an epic curveball  in so many ways, and I’m OK with it. (I kinda have to be since I can’t really change any of it anyway.)

This year my mentor died suddenly as did my stepbrother, and I fell in love for the first time in like forever, so 2013 certainly was one for the books. I went a little Paleo, a little crazy, and I gained about 7 pounds partying like a college kid last spring. I finally lost the weight, shed the regret, and along the way I learned it’s OK to cry in someone else’s arms. I got baptized in the wrong baptism pool by a boy who was so rattled he could hardly dunk me. I danced on the patio of The Bungalow on Easter with one of my best friends even though there’s no dance floor there, and I held some of the most amazing people I know while they cried in my arms. All in all, 2013 was just a whole lotta holy s#*!, but I’m still standing, so there’s that.

I’m wrapping up 2013 by consulting with an Ayurvedic doctor, and her analysis of my constitution has yielded tremendous insight into my ailments — both mental and physical. I will write more about it later, but essentially I learned I’m the rarest constitution on earth because I’m equally influenced by all of the natural forces that manifest physically. I’m something called tri-doshic, and my type only makes up 3% of the population. Tri-doshic individuals are more affected by the seasons and the people around them than any of the other types. We’re almost like human lightening rods for others’ emotions, and it may explain why friends, strangers, and family members have been telling me their deepest, darkest and most painful secrets most of my life. I guess it’s because  I seem like I can relate? Or something?

Whether you buy into this sort of thing or not, I will say this: discovering my type put into words what I’ve always known somewhere in my soul… I’m wired in a super weird way and that’s OK. (Aren’t we all, though?)

It might explain why I’ve always felt like there were two different people fighting for airtime inside the same body or it could just be the story I needed to accept who I am. I’m equal parts Meghan and Anika, and that’s just the way it is. I’m as comfortable on a horse wearing a cowboy hat and singing Luke Bryan at the top of my lungs as I am in pearls hosting a charity event. I’m just as likely to be screaming at football players on TV as I am peacefully doing a down dog in a yoga studio. I’ve never been able to comfortably fit into any mold. I was one of the few sorority girls in film school (there were seriously like six of us — I’m not kidding), and I have always been friends with a diverse array of individuals who have almost zero overlap between one another.

I’ll never make anyone listen to Hank Williams Jr. followed by Busta Rhymes if they don’t want to. I’ll probably always wander off and do my own thing for a while because I can’t be confined in any way, but I’ll always come back home. It’s the way I’m made. Some of my makeup is my Bumpa’s wandering, dancing, making-friends-with-strangers blood in my veins. Some of it is my disciplined, buttoned up, deer-hunting, perfectionist father’s genes. Some of it is my mother’s louder, more extroverted (but also perfectionist), quick-witted, sharp-tongued DNA. It’s also as much my Aunts’ sweetness and softness as it is my Uncle’s outrageousness and artist’s soul. It’s all of it. I’ll write more about the new age-y Ayurveda stuff later. I really need to turn off the Jo Dee Messina blaring in my headphones and head off to yoga.

For now, I will leave you with this. It’s a beautiful song I discovered in yoga this week. May it inspire you to do something bold in 2014. I know I said I was going to keep these philosophical posts on the other blog, but I really was trying to talk about food when I sat down to write. This just came out instead. #oops #happyaccident

Happy New Year, ya’ll!

Am I Over Thinking Food? (Or I Go Paleo. Sorta Kinda.)

So, you might have noticed I’m super hard on myself and I tend to over think absolutely everything.

And all of this thinking? Means it’s difficult for me to make a decision. Because there are so many possibilities.

And possibilities? Means I could be wrong. The “what ifs” and the possibilities can make you mad if you’re not careful —  particularly if you also happen to be a perfectionist — because you want to make THE PERFECT CHOICE.

But what is perfect?

Can I even define THAT?

This fascination with possibilities combined with a need for perfection has manifested itself in some problematic ways for me over the years.

For example?

I’ve messed with my “diet” 92 different times.

I bought into the low fat craze.  And the low carb craze. And the starve-yourself-on-25-points-a-day Weight Watchers craze.

Then when I found myself miserable, obsessed, and heavier than I was before I started worrying about any of it, I threw it all out the window and just ate what felt good to my body — and didn’t feel like excess or depravation. I found that over time the excess weight just naturally came off when I stopped over thinking it.

But all of this “listening to my body” has meant that my weight fluctuates within a small range constantly throughout the year. And this makes me crazy. Because I can’t shut off my head, and because I absolutely need to figure everything out, I recently decided it was time to check my “go with what feels good” against some nutrition theories. I wanted to see if I could stop this cycle of OHMIGODIHATEMYJEANSANDMYLIFE to EVERYTHINGISAMAZINGIAMWONDERFUL every six months or so.

I started doing research on the Indian philosophy of Ayurveda as well as the blood type diet to see if my cravings were aligned with those philosophies. Then I read up on the Paleo Diet because it was very similar to the diet recommended for my O+ blood.

And here’s what I discovered.

Most of my cravings were spot on. My body was actually leading me in the right direction. My cravings, the overlap of the Ayurvedic diet and my blood type diet, and the cravings I had as a kid are all fairly well aligned with one another. It turns out I probably had it right when I was a kid and not worrying about how I looked.

What I needed then is what I still need today: rigorous exercise, tons of fruit and vegetables, and a lot of protein.

The reason I haven’t gone fully Paleo or anything else is that I recognize the danger for me in adopting an extreme position. In the first few weeks of my research, I caught myself starting to worry about going out to dinner with friends. I would look at menus in advance to make sure the offerings were in line with my new eating habits. I was starting to get irritable, and I was telling my body what it needed instead of calming down and listening to it, so I had to take a step back from the “perfect” ledge.

So basically after all of my research, I have decreased salt, gluten, cheese, and sugar, but I’m not cutting anything out completely that I really, really like.

Because truth be told?

I’d rather die than forsake my whole milk lattes.

So anyway, I’m decreasing some stuff and I’m also changing the ratios of the things on my plate.

And now my Mexican food looks more like this:

Healthy Nachos from Dogs Dishes and Decor

These “nachos” are primarily comprised of oven roasted vegetables, homemade salsa, and hormone free chicken cooked in lime juice and jalapeños, served with flax seed tortilla chips, a dollop of refried black beans, and a bit of cheddar jack cheese.

Than this:

Big Juan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This was Big Juan. My San Diego skiing buddies and I ate him at Big Bear last spring. He epitomized excess. And he was delicious.

There’s still room in my life for a bit of Big Juan every once in a while, though, because life is just too short for too many rules.

New thing I’m over-thinking now? Is that maybe my body doesn’t really want to lose that seven pounds I think it should and that’s why it keeps coming back….

Or… it could be that the weight tends to fluctuate with my erratic work schedule so it could just be stress screwing with my metabolism…

GAWD.

Please shut off my head.

If you want to read more about Ayurveda, you can check out Deepak Chopra’s site here. The test to determine your type is here.

For information on the blood type diet, check out Dr. D’Adamo’s site, and for information on the Paleo diet, see Dr. Loren Cordain’s site here.

Is It My Birthday YET? (Or Meghan and I Plan ANOTHER Party)

In case you don’t remember, I went a little mental before my birthday last year. I was having this meltdown because I felt like many of my best friends were gone, and I was trying to have the PERFECT Peter Pan party. I was freaking out I didn’t have Danielle to do my flowers, Nicole to make me cocktails, and you should have seen the panic I had over the melting mascarpone frosting on my strawberry cupcakes! If you missed that mess, consider yourself lucky.

See, I sort of lost sight of what was actually important as I’m wont to do. I often get so wrapped up in perfection that I take all of the pleasure out of the process. I have always loved my birthday, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not about people celebrating me. It’s about having all of the people I love in one place.

This year I caught myself complicating matters again. I was devising a plan that involved ocean kayaking, a beach potluck, and a Sunday brunch at Shutters. I was trying to pick out the perfect Paperless Post invite for the occasion and realized I couldn’t even explain the weekend without multiple invites, linking it all to eventbrite, etc.

When your party is too complicated for Paperless Post?

It’s a problem.

So, I put a pin in the plan and put everything on hold until something less complicated inspired me. Saturday I was feeling like I needed a change of scenery so I headed down to the South Bay. I’m trying to write something that has been hard to make sense of because it comes to me in pieces. I knew I was trying too hard to force it, so I figured I’d head to the beach and wander without a plan. I decided to let life unfold and just inspire me.

And that’s when I had this lovely, magical day. I started taking pictures of things that moved me.

Like chalk drawings.

photo-401

And houses.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I love the New England look of this house. I imagine eating lobster rolls and clam chowder on the patio of this place.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I love the stone work on this house. It almost feels like it belongs in Texas. Like you could host amazing football parties here, complete with some serious barbecue.

I wandered all of the way up to Manhattan from Hermosa taking photos and thinking. I even got a pic of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 beach pad.

Beverly Hills 90210 House on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Like, Donna Martin lost her virginity here and stuff.

The wandering continued for a long time until I came upon an absolutely massive house that caught my eye. It wasn’t the size of it I loved so much as the lines — and the stone work.

I had to keep backing up to get the entire house in the frame. I kicked off my flip flops and kept taking steps backward, trying to get it to fit.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

All I could think when I saw this house was, “This place is perfect for massive family dinners with friends, complete with dart tournaments and impromptu dance parties on the patio!”

I heard a voice behind me say, “Sure, take a picture of my house.”

“It has such great lines!” I replied excitedly without looking back. I got the shot and finally turned to face a group of men sitting on towels and drinking beer. One of them brought his phone over and asked me to take a picture of the group for his daughter. “She’s in New Hampshire this weekend. I want to send her a picture of the guys.”

“That’s sweet,” I said as he handed me his iPhone.

I took a few photos and they invited me to sit with them. They offered me a beer — and a chair. It was draped in a navy and yellow striped towel with the name, “Caitlin” embroidered on it.

“I’ll be Caitlin today,” I said as I sat down.

“That’s my daughter’s towel,” the man with the iPhone told me.

“Yesterday I was Meghan.” I said as I took a sip of my Pilsner Urquell.

We talked for a long time about architecture, writing, economics, my complicated feelings about Ayn Rand, and everything else. “Meghan, what do you do?” One asked. “My name’s not really Meghan,” I said. “It’s actually Anika.” This led to jokes about how I didn’t look like an “Anika.”

“My mom wanted to name me Meghan,” I explained. “I use it at coffee shops when I don’t feel like spelling my name. I actually went by Ana for a while in college because I got sick of being different. Then I realized I wasn’t me without a weird name, so I went back.'”

See, in some ways I am Meghan. She wears Ralph Lauren, serves on the advisory committee for a sorority, and she likes pearls. She wants to sell real estate and join a country club. And in others, I’m Anika. She goes to Furthur concerts, studies Ayurveda, and has been know to lay on the floor listening to Purple Rain on repeat while trying to write really gut-wrenching stuff. I mean, I have had my nose pierced since I was 19 and I still can’t decide if it’s really ME or not. I’ll take it out for years at a time and then just put it back in for no reason.

At my 25th birthday party, one of my more sensitive and artistic friends from college was taking in the chaos all around. There were former football player/frat boys doing shots from an ice luge and a super drunk reality TV personality eating dip straight out of the bowl with her hands. He turned to me and asked, “How can you be friends with people like that and someone like me?”

I shrugged, but he continued.

“I mean, who are you more yourself with?”

“I’m myself with everyone,” I replied.

It’s true. I am. And as I make my birthday list this year, I’m thinking about the great diversity among my friends. The only thing some of them have in common is me.

And yet?

What they also share, what I can say without a doubt, is that they are all people who have done what they said they were going to do more often than not. People who listened. People who cared. People who stepped up for me when I needed it. People for whom I have done the same.

So, I’m going to bring them together this year for whatever unfolds. I’m getting a hotel room in Hermosa and inviting everyone to come down and hang out when they can. My friends with kids can bring them in the afternoon. My single friends can come later and hit up a few pier bars with me. Anyone who doesn’t feel safe to drive can crash on my floor. It’s going to be SIMPLE.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t created a Pinterest Board for my birthday. I mean, I’m still ME.

And I love my friends. For who THEY are.

By the way? That big house did not belong to the guys. Some billionaire owns it, and it’s sitting empty in the wake of his divorce. It makes me really sad it isn’t filled with fun-loving people coming together for a really good time.