“I believe you” and “I get it” – We need both!

If you’ve been reading along, you know I am an athlete and I have chronic pain. You know that running is both my motivation and occasionally my demise. You probably also know I recently experienced my first running related injury and because of that, I’ve been forced to take my first running hiatus in over a year. This is so hard and painful for me!

Anyway, with the goal of returning to running and combating an RSD flare, I saw a physical therapist about my knee injury. The entire day I was apprehensive; my experiences with physical therapists until now have not been the most positive. When I arrived, I explained my injury and then, hesitating a bit, I explained about my RSD. I shared that, truthfully, for more than a decade I haven’t known and can’t imagine a situation where something hurts and then stops hurting – especially in my legs. I shared that I have a really hard time telling if something hurts or if I am hurt. I mentioned that I have an even harder time determining if something is “bad enough” for me to stop being active (a trusted antidote to functioning while living with pain). I discussed that it’s hard for me to distinguish between “good pain” and “bad pain”. In fact, I noted, I have been conditioned to push through the pain. I said that I’m known to second guess myself and to question if my pain is even real. I said that I usually think I’m making it up or that it isn’t that bad.

My body language must have shown that I was scared too. I am scared! Actually, my fear is somewhat debilitating. I’m scared it won’t stop hurting ever. I’m scared I won’t be able to run or move the same way again. I’m scared it will escalate into something chronic.  I’m scared this injury will negate all the work I’ve done and how far I’ve come. I fear relapse in the face of what seems right now to only be a minor setback.

I have so many questions! When will this associated pain flare end? Will this become my next permanent pain spot? Will I regain full functionality? How will I be able to tell when it is done hurting from the injury and back to normal pain? Is it a bad thing that I can’t distinguish the two pains anymore? I have good reason to be scared and worried about these things – they’ve happened before!

To my surprise, the physical therapist I saw was well informed about my condition and listened carefully as I explained what I was experiencing. After our conversation, he said two important things. First, he said, “I believe you. This is real” and then he said, “It will stop hurting”.  I didn’t expect to hear either of those statements from him.  Especially because “a huge burden for patients with chronic pain and fatigue is not being believed.” That was the first time I felt validated by a medical professional regarding my RSD as an adult. I didn’t have to explain myself or justify my pain. Hearing that simple phrase “I believe you” was so important. For me, that phrase allowed me to reciprocate (in my head of course) with, “I trust you”.

It was a hopeful, positive moment in a span of two incredibly lonely weeks. Since my injury, I’ve been completely unable to do many of my normal activities. I am stuck in my head and in the pain. I’m recognizing and rationalizing my pain constantly. I want to scream all day long. I feel like this is all my fault. I always feel like I’m making it up or making it worse than it really is. In that way, I feel like I can’t trust myself or my perception of my injury.  It’s exhausting to second guess myself and negate my own feelings while coping with a legitimate, real injury.

I’m also sulking about not being able to run. My Pinterest searches for running quotes have skyrocketed! I miss it! I cannot explain the desire, need, to move and be active. I’m scared that I will lose my ability to run if I don’t maintain it! I truly am worried if I won’t be able to start again now that I’ve stopped.  I’m also scared to be active because I am anticipating the pain. In the past, I’ve known it will hurt and learned how to be successful in my daily life and activities, but this new pain feels different. I am angry and I miss feeling like me and feel like nobody wants to hear about it, everyone wants to tell me it’ll be okay, and they wouldn’t understand even if I tried to explain.

Coincidentally, I recently had another differently reaffirming experience recently related to RSD. Two years ago, I was a mentor for a program for teens with chronic physical illnesses called TALC. The program teaches teens leadership and self-advocacy skills in relation to both their experiences living with chronic illness and the typical developmental trajectories of adolescents. My year as a mentor in this program was profoundly important for me. During that year, I was a graduate student and most of the time I felt like I was an impostor. I felt like I had little to offer in any contexts in which I was participating – except TALC. My involvement in TALC was important because I instantly had the feeling that I was in the right place. TALC has an inexplicable way of cultivating a feeling of belonging and like everyone is essential because of what they bring to the space.

I recently visited TALC and almost immediately upon my arrival the feeling of warmth and connection I loved about being a TALC mentor was reinvigorated. I even had the opportunity to meet a new mentor who shares my diagnosis. It’s really remarkable when I meet people with RSD! Overwhelmingly my experience in TALC could be described as a feeling of understanding and belonging. Sometimes, my connection felt like a tepid “we’re in this together” rather than a fervent “I get it”. However, when I met this mentor and shared about my diagnosis, she was beaming! I am the first person she’s met who shares her diagnosis. I can guarantee, there’s a different kind of reassurance and intimacy that emanates from empathy. It’s been a long time since I haven’t felt lonely and have felt seen with my diagnosis. Feeling totally vulnerable but not scared or exposed was an unexpected, welcomed feeling for me!

I used to think that being believed was enough. I used to hope for more moments where I didn’t have to explain myself or field questioning looks when I shared about my condition. I used to not share my actual diagnosis because I was sure it wasn’t serious enough or believable enough. I know there are people whose struggle is more difficult than mine and whose diagnosis is easier to understand (read: believe) or more serious than mine. Because of this, I didn’t always see the value of disclosing my condition. When I did, I did so because I had to share this information with a medical provider or because I felt very safe and like I could trust the person. Even in TALC, although I could relate well to the teens’ experience I didn’t often share my diagnosis because it felt trivial and insignificant.

Yet, from these two experiences, I learned that folks with RSD need both “I believe you” and “I get it”.  I know now that being believed is absolutely important, but being understood is even more vital! That type of genuine understanding is something I typically only get from my RSD Sisters. I have been so focused on being believed and explaining myself to the world that until I saw what understanding looked like reflected back at me, I forgot it’s critical value. We need to be supported by our friends, families, and medical providers, and we also need to be connected to each other in ways that elevate our successes and potential to thrive despite our pain. We need people who both understand and believe us without lengthy explanations, and know that our individual experiences are personal and unique.

Is your experience limited to “I believe you” and lacking “I get it”? If so, let’s connect because we need both!

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How to Apply To PhD Programs When You Have OCD

I realized I want to be a researcher years ago. Unsurprisingly, on the day of my college graduation, my good friends joked that I’d probably end up marrying my PhD. I protested adamantly! As time would tell, my lack of “real world” experience and my good friend “impostor syndrome” would keep me from pursuing my ambitions to apply to PhD programs. Until now.

That’s to say, I spent the better part of $5000 and the last 6-months entrenched in the process of applying to doctoral programs. Contrary to common perception, good grades and recommendation letters aren’t the top secrets to getting accepted to PhD programs. I can assure you, the process is much more complicated than that! It involves networking, self-awareness, prerequisite courses, tests, patience, and applications! If you can do all that and live to tell about it, you’re ready!

I’ve heard that the hardest part of a PhD program is getting in. While I cannot attest to this fact because I’ve yet to be accepted or start a program, I can concur that this process was grueling, exhausting, and anxiety provoking. For me, this entire process was exacerbated because I have OCD. I didn’t wake up one day and just simply know how to apply to PhD programs and even though I had a basic roadmap and some scraps of details from friends and colleagues, my anxiety made it difficult for me to be in this process.


Here’s how to apply to PhD programs when you have OCD:

Related, Relevant, Program-specific Research

First, read EVERYTHING you can about ALL the possible programs. Record the data meticulously in a spreadsheet with several columns for all the possible variables and information that may be relevant such as funding and research opportunities, potential advisors, and application requirements. I mean it, scour the program websites for the requirements, faculty interests, and the specific language they use to describe their program. Generally, this type of scrupulous research is encouraged; however, if you have OCD I recommend rereading the sites an unnecessary amount of times to make sure you didn’t miss anything crucial to the admissions process – be absolutely sure they don’t require a writing sample!

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As you’re reading consult your ever-present, always rational friend “impostor syndrome” at regular intervals. It’s their job to talk you in and out of this decision to apply. Their influence will have a pendulum effect. If you wait long enough or engage in a stimulating conversation where someone asks incredibly thoughtful questions about your research interests and aspirations your motivation will swing back the other way. Make sure to repeat this process dozens of times and continually refine your “final list” up until the week before you apply to programs.

Recommendations

When you’re pretty sure that you’re applying to at least one school, start to stress about asking for letters of recommendations. Be sure to wonder if you’re inconveniencing your mentors/professors by asking them to advocate on your behalf and on behalf of your qualifications. If they say yes, be sure to wonder, a lot, about if they actually think you’re qualified and should pursue doctoral studies or if they’re just saying yes to humor you. Recommendation letters are crucial to your applications! By this I mean, scrutinize about whom you ask to write recommendations for which programs. If you know folks who are alumni of the program, snag them! Make sure to vary the people who are writing you recommendations so you have the best representation of institutions and experience. Play the game wisely! And, it absolutely is a game!

As the deadline approaches carefully finesse reminder emails as specific intervals (2 weeks, 1 week, 1 day, etc.) that you’re too afraid to send because you don’t want to badger them or be a burden. Reread, duh, the reminder emails several times for typos and ways to seem less annoying and needy. Then, hastily press send when you’re “ready” so it’s just over and done with. After you’ve sent the emails, reread them in the “sent” folder even though you know there’s nothing you can do about any typos or alternative ways to phrase certain sentences since it has already been sent.

Later in the process, panic, but try to play it cool, when you don’t hear anything from them after these several reminder emails and points of contact. Wonder only irrational things about why they still haven’t submitted your letters at 10 PM THE DAY THEY’RE DUE. It’s probably best if you wonder if they’re purposely holding out on submitting them to seriously screw with you and try to cause you major anxiety. Also consider that they’re doing you a favor by submitting them late and this is their way of gently bringing you down from your delusion that you deserve to be in a PhD program. You should convince yourself that their subtle sabotage is actually doing you a huge favor and sparing you the humiliation of rejection from these programs when the admissions committees realize you’re not qualified. Don’t forget to worry if something seriously bad happened to them that made them unable to submit your letters on time. Since you’re definitely not high up on their priority list, if something serious happened you would probably never find out. Subsequently, you should worry about how you’ll explain your request for an extension to the programs if you need to find someone else to write you a letter because of such an emergency or dire situation.  Panic in this circular and entirely irrational way until they submit them ON TIME. Then, thank them profusely and never, ever mention that their near lateness caused you an absurd amount of unnecessary anxiety.

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Networking

As your list of schools to which you are planning to apply grows (or narrows), start playing the networking game. It goes something like this, “Hey [professor you know] who do you/we know at [name of school] that you could put me in touch with?” If they know anyone ask for a virtual introduction and support to set up a meeting.  You can also muster up the confidence to send some cold-emails and try not to fret about their severely delayed responses. It probably means they’re convinced, accurately so, that they shouldn’t waste their time talking to you. If they reply, schedule a meeting anyway.

Applying to PhD programs is way more about who you know not what you know. Make sure that at least one (okay maybe four) faculty members in the program/department know your name and that you’re interested in applying. Before each informational interview, obsess over your resume formatting (even if the PDF file hasn’t been modified) and qualifications for at least three hours. Be sure to also obsess over the questions you’re going to ask about the program (even if you already have a list of questions with the ones you want to prioritize marked by *). Again, consult “impostor syndrome” to remind yourself that you need to convince them, and eventually an entire admissions committee, that you’re worth their time and investment. Psych yourself out entirely until just before your call/meeting. Then, turn the positive self-talk on hyper drive to attempt to forcefully convince yourself of your credibility and eligibility before you start the call. Attempt to be cool, calm, and collected and ignore the secondary conversation that’s going on in the back of your mind. You’ll have time to ruminate on what/how/why you said whatever you said for hours later. So, set aside several hours of time that you’re supposed to be very productive to ruminate and convince yourself the informational, networking meeting went well (or probably didn’t). You’ll need at least four hours.

Personal Statement

In the meantime, expect to write at least 25 drafts (if you include every draft you changed a single punctuation mark) of your personal statement. Forget about calling it a “statement of purpose”. You know you have no “purpose” pursuing a PhD Send it to everyone you know, trust, or even just sort of like to request their feedback. Because you don’t trust yourself or your writing qualifications (even though you’re a paid freelance writer at several reputable sites), attempt to incorporate everyone’s feedback in some way. Do this because you know their intuition is better than yours. Make sure to doubt yourself during the entire process. If you forget to doubt yourself, check back in with “impostor syndrome” to see if they think you’ve convinced anyone of your credibility or qualifications yet. Resolve to believe that you probably never will.

As you get closer toward the deadline, expect to be useless for all tasks except rereading your personal statement. Expect to read it on a word doc, then save it as a PDF, find a single error, go back to the word doc to correct the mistake, resave as a PDF, and start rereading from the beginning. Do this anywhere from once an hour to seven hours straight. You can try setting limits on the amount of time you can spend or the number of times you can read it aloud or resave as a PDF, but just know you won’t be done until you can recite your statement verbatim. Depending on the number of programs you’re applying to, this process can be very rigorous, exhausting, and time-consuming. Your compulsions will absolutely get the best of you and even if you’re aware it’s happening, you won’t be able to stop.

“The Portal”

Check “the portal” (i.e., the online platform where you submit your application) constantly. Make sure that your submissions on “the portal” align with your progress checking on the aforementioned spreadsheet and myriad of lists you’ve generated to keep you on track. When you’re in the application process, check that your “required uploads” are still uploaded and legible every time you log in. Read and reread your address and name each time upon logging in until the letters are blurry and you have to articulate each letter individually to be sure you spelled “Gmail” correctly. Do this from the beginning, every single time you log in. Once you’ve “submitted” (CONGRATS!) constantly check that everything is “complete”. Review that all your uploads are there in “the portal” and everything that’s required was submitted. For a few days after, be sure to keep checking that the status still says “submitted”. You know there won’t be any decision overnight, but this is to be sure you actually applied and didn’t skip that critical final step by accident.

Oh! Here’s the most important thing of all!

Talk about your applications, hopes, and dreams incessantly. I mean it – nonstop! If it’s the only thing you can think about, make sure everyone in your life knows that. Of course, be sure to follow up your statements about your aspirations with an ample dose of self-deprecating talk. It’s definitely useful to discredit yourself and all the things you shared about the process with something like, “but I probably won’t get in.” That way you don’t seem too pretentious or confident. Confidence isn’t a good look. Make sure to worry, often, about if you seem too confident. If you do, consult “impostor syndrome”.

Got it? Good!

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So, you’ve applied and you’ve made it look easy to everyone around you! Congrats! You fooled them again. Everyone thought you totally had this under control even though your mind felt like a frenzied, chaotic place and you felt like you were going to implode.  Then you realize, this grueling process is only the beginning! You realize you’re willingly signing up for 4+ years to this internal struggle. You’re exhausted, but also feeling energized by all the possibilities (and probably anxiety)!


In all seriousness, this was an incredibly challenging process for me because of my OCD. I can poke fun, and in hindsight, some of this is really quite quirky and laughable, but it was also very difficult and overwhelming.  The good news is, my applications have been submitted! Now, I wait…

I didn’t run for a week and here’s what happened…

Being a runner and having an injury is the worst! An injured runner is someone you don’t want to cross. Injured runners are even scarier than runners who have a case of the “taper crazies”.  Anyway, my most recent taper week was challenging to say the least. There was even a point where I crumbled to the floor in my apartment and whined about how badly I wanted it to be race day (pathetic I know!).

In the end, my taper went as well as expected and I was pumped for my race. I did pretty well too (within 5 minutes of my goal time!) especially considering I got injured in mile 6.  After my race, I was in a lot of pain, and when I saw the doctor her diagnosis of my injury was a right LCL sprain. The prescription – no running for at least 2 weeks. I was supposed to “rest”. I actually cried after I left.

recovery-ecard

Runners HATE not running! In fact, before this week, I hadn’t taken more than 3 days off of running in over a year. For me, running is just about as productive and useful as therapy. I need it. It’s a part of who I am. I am a runner.

So, naturally, I’ve been a little out of sorts for the past week. Because, instead of pushing my body beyond its limits, I actually didn’t run for a week. I am training for a marathon and want to be healthy for my race. So, I followed the doctor’s orders, and I’m craving running so badly I want to scream! Is it possible to be addicted to running?

Anyway, here’s what happened when I didn’t run for a week:

Monday: While icing my knee at work, I bought the Brooks thermal running jacket I’ve been eyeing. I knew I couldn’t use it for a few weeks, but all I could think about was running so I broke down and bought it! After work, I went for coffee and then I came home and played games, drank wine, and ordered sushi with my roommates. I had hours before I had to go to bed! My first night off I socialized.

Tuesday: I came home and called a friend. Then, I cooked dinner – roasted veggies and chicken to be specific. I ate dinner at the table while gossiping with my roommates. Then, I poured a glass of wine and watched Grey’s Anatomy. Spoiler: I’ve watched three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in the past week.

Wednesday: I went to the nail salon after work. I spent a few hours listening to music and relaxing at the salon. Then I came home and ate dinner. Next, I went out to work on a song I’m writing with a friend. I stayed out late because the next day was a holiday and since I am injured there no Turkey Trot for me (cries!)!

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Thursday: Thanksgiving! I woke up late and got dressed to go back to my hometown. I enjoyed my favorite Thanksgiving tradition – High School Football! After an afternoon of relaxing, we had a nice family dinner. I didn’t overeat to prep for a long run over the weekend, I didn’t overeat because I “earned” it during my Turkey Trot, and, importantly, I didn’t undereat because I didn’t run. Then, we went shopping until 2 AM! I didn’t have to worry about getting home or to bed to run the next day.

Friday: More shopping, napping, wine drinking, and Grey’s Anatomy watching. I browsed Amazon for deals on running gear and ultimately bought myself a new running watch. I cannot wait to hit the road again and try it out!

Saturday: I woke up early and did laundry! Surprisingly I had less laundry than normal (duh!) so I even had the time and patience to wash my sheets and sneakers! I made coffee and breakfast at a leisurely pace and, of course, watched Grey’s Anatomy. Later I had a long lunch with a friend and went to the movies. Saturday was the hardest because it is normally my long run day. In Boston, it was 55 degrees in the afternoon and I spent it inside! I was so angry and agitated. It felt like the smallest comment could set me off into a spiral of never-ending anger. On the flip side, it was nice to spend time with my friend and get important “adult” things done.

Sunday: I woke up early (again) and made some coffee. I walked to Whole Foods to buy ingredients to make brunch. It was nice to go for a walk! Putting on my sneakers gave me a little jolt of energy. When I came home, I made two quiches – broccoli cheddar and spinach, tomato, and mozzarella. After brunch, I worked on finalizing my applications for graduate school. I took a short nap in the middle and then worked on this blog post. Soon, I’ll be off to rehearsal for my a capella group!

Tomorrow will be Monday again and officially one week of no running. I am both proud of the strength I exhibited to take care of myself and incredibly anxious to lace up my shoes and get back on the road. Tomorrow after work though I’ve planned to have dinner with a friend from college and do some PiYo or yoga. That will keep me busy!

Not running for a week was difficult! I worried about a lot of things. I was afraid I’d lose my speed and endurance. I was fearful that I’d gain weight (thanks, social media holiday posts!). I ruminated about how I could possibly be so hungry even though I wasn’t working out. Subsequently, I fretted about if and what I should eat since I wasn’t running. I felt disappointed when I picked holiday sweets and also felt like I was losing momentum on all my nutrition goals. I was so mad, and I was angry about being so irritated. Truthfully, there were days where it felt like rage was radiating from inside me and that I was going to be stuck in anger forever because my only outlet for my anger was running. And, I didn’t understand why I was so tired! I suspect the persistent worrying and anxiety was part of the culprit! So, although I had a full, engaging week I was actually a mess.

Yet, I survived and nothing that terrible happened. Needless to say, this week has had a lot of ups and downs. Unsurprisingly when I wasn’t allocating time for running I had time to see friends, relax a bit, catch up on my shows, finalize my applications, get my nails done, do laundry, and cook nutritious meals! That’s a lot!

Even so, I missed running every day. I snapped at people who told me “you’re fine” or “don’t worry”. I felt jealous when people sent me ‘Snaps’ of their running adventures. I felt like an impostor because I didn’t do a Turkey Trot or take advantage of the unseasonably warm weekend weather. I spent hundreds of dollars on running gear because all I could think of was running. I convinced myself that my passion justified the expenses. The good news is, soon I’ll be back at it, and I’ll pick up where I left off with marathon training!

Speaking of which, I am currently a mentor with an organization called Dreamfar High School Marathon. Dreamfar High School Marathon challenges high school students to reach their full potential—physically, socially, emotionally, and academically—through a mentor-supported marathon-training program. Dreamfar offers students a judgment-free, non-competitive environment in which they can test their physical, social, and emotional limits. With incredible team unity, unyielding support from dedicated mentors, and unequaled amounts of fun, Dreamfar students learn to believe in themselves, forging a lifetime memory that lives on in their attitudes, actions, and self-image forever. Dreamfar reaches out to every student in a given school because we truly believe the mix of students from across different cultural, academic and socio-economic lines coming together to accomplish one goal creates a very special and rich experience for all involved.

I didn’t run this week, but I’ll be back logging miles and pounding pavement soon enough. If you’re able to support my running journey and the Dreamfar program, please click here to donate!

See you on the road!

I’m a ‘Real Runner’ because…

Identifying as a runner is complicated.

When do you go from being someone who runs to someone who’s a “runner”? Is there a moment, a milestone, a decree? Is this status a personal badge of honor or one that’s attributed to you by someone else who’s a “runner”?  Are you a ‘real runner’ when you splurge for your first running watch? Does your status correlate with how much lingo you know and use correctly? Do you have to race to be a ‘real runner’?

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Contrary to the quote above, an experienced Boston Marathoner once told me, “you’re not a real runner unless you run in the rain”. Well, today I ran 13.1 miles in the intermittent pouring rain. I did the mental work to overcome the mental barricade of running in the rain. I was energized and determined. The weather didn’t inhibit my excitement or derail my determination.

So two hours and eighteen minutes later after completing my fourth half marathon, am I finally a ‘real runner’? Was I not before?

I was.

I know I’m a ‘real runner’ because:

  • I lace up my shoes and fully commit to each run.
  • I trust myself and my abilities by using mindfulness techniques and developing an improved sense of self-awareness during the miles I log on the road.
  • I turn in early week after week so I can wake up for training runs, and I triumphantly complete training plans even though I live with chronic pain.
  • I mentor elementary and high school students (as well as my friends!) to run distances that seem impossible when they first start.
  • I own four pairs of running shoes and I’ll gladly spend money on running gear before business casual attire for work.
  • I pack my running gear when I go on vacation. I think it’s the best way to explore a new city.
  • I often contemplate if I can get somewhere nearby by running instead of driving, and I’ll check the “walking” directions to compare the time.
  • I don’t run for “health” reasons (read: weight loss).
  • I’m part of a larger running community filled with people who “get it” and also love this sport!
  • I nearly lost my mind during taper week because running makes me feel whole.
  • I RUN!

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‘Real runners’ are courageous. They run toward and into their fears instead of away from them. They fervently chase their goals and realize that conquering them takes persistence and dedication. In fact, ‘real runners’ are some of the most dedicated, driven people I know. ‘Real runners’ appreciate each day they get to run and embrace the running process.

‘Real runners’ commit to building a thriving running community! Here’s an example, I was running through the rain today, and I was losing momentum. I hurt my knee, but I was determined to finish the race! An older gentleman came next to me at mile 11 and held my hand. He said, “let’s do this” and ran with me for a bit until I regained my stamina! ‘Real runners’ support each other on and off the course. They know how much of a privilege it is to move with purpose and intention. They know camaraderie and co-misery too!

So, today I ran 13.1 miles in the rain. I hobbled through mile 10, and got energy from my fellow runners on the course in mile 11. I finished smiling, and I’m ready to do it again soon! I almost met my time goals, and I learned a lot in the process! I feel proud!

I am a ‘real runner’!

What attributes do you think resemble a ‘real runner’? Complete the sentence in the comments section: “I’m a ‘real runner’ because…”

 

What’s Cooking?

“What’s cooking?” Get it? It’s a pun!

As a general rule, I don’t cook. I don’t cook unless I’m preparing a meal for someone or someone else is cooking and I’m watching (usually drinking wine!). In fact, me cooking is such an anomaly that when I do cook, my roommates are genuinely surprised.

However, I recently had a breakthrough! I realized that my go-to, everyday foods (read: safe foods) are all cold (i.e., things I don’t have to “cook”). Well, coffee is hot, but that’s an exception. If I could have it my way, I’d eat the same, cold food every day. I don’t like to think about food and I don’t like to deviate from my routine! I’m working on changing that.

My breakthrough was timely because it’s getting cold out and warm food is (apparently) satisfying and seasonally relevant! In fact, in Melissa A. Fabello‘s recent Beauty School newsletter, she reminded us that in the winter our bodies crave heavier, warmer, and calorie dense foods. All this is great, but what did that mean for me?

This week, I set a nutrition goal that was way out of my comfort zone. I set a goal to have chili as a planned dinner meal to rotate in with my usual tuna wrap and veggies.

Easy right? Wrong!

Before I could make chili, there were several things that needed to happen. Primarily, I needed to find a recipe and gather the ingredients. I decided that Using a Crock-Pot seemed like a good idea because once the ingredients are in the slow cooker there’s not much maintenance. I did a Google search for “easy vegetarian Crock-Pot chili” and after a bit of scouring through recipes, I found a recipe that seemed possible for me.

chili recip

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My Asexuality Archive!

Hey Friends! So, as it turns out, I’ve written a lot about asexuality and what it means to me. Rather than write something new (although there’s plenty bubbling up in my brain!), this Asexual Awareness Week I’m sharing some of my favorite pieces that I’ve written about asexuality!

The first piece I wrote on asexuality answers The Top 4 Questions I’m Asked When I Say I’m Asexual. [Psst! It was also my first piece that I was paid to write!]

In this piece, I answer a big question: “what are the differences between aesthetic and sexual attraction?” [Side note: It’s more than semantics!]

Demisexuality is a common sexual orientation that many people do not know about. I demystify it here and later my article was syndicated on HuffPost!

After a few heated conversations about Aces’ place in the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup, I wrote a piece On Coming Out As Asexual.  I write a lot about belonging in LGBTQ+ spaces and what that means to me. You can read more about my perspectives here, here, and here.

Finally, there are countless resources online that helped me learn more about the incredible diversity of asexual-identifying people, the intricacies of the asexual community, and also more about myself. If you’re looking for more resources on asexuality, here are some of my favorite particularly informative pages:

 

 

Photo Credit: The Trevor Project, 2017

 

When Midrash Comes Alive – Sukkot 5778

I’ve heard the midrash, interpretation used to explain Jewish texts or customs, at least one hundred times. It’s the one where Abraham and Sarah’s tent was open on all four sides to welcome travelers from all directions. In the Torah, Abraham even goes as far as to interrupt G-d at one point to welcomes three approaching strangers, who he later learns are angels, and offers them the generous hospitality of his home (Genisis 18). Abraham simply accepts them. That’s important! The rabbis and the interpretation identify this story as the derivation from which one of Judaism’s values – Hachnasat Orchim  (the virtue of welcoming strangers and offering hospitality)– was originated.

In many ways, Abraham and Sarah’s tent and actions are emblematic of, ideally, how inclusive our communities could be and how enthusiastic we should be about welcoming folks we do not know. This example is the standard to which we can hold our own hospitality and measure our intentions and actions. Ideally, every person would be welcomed in the spaces they want to reside without their identities and their “belongingness” being questioned. Although, lately I’ve recognized that so many communities are more divisive and exclusive than united and inclusive. I’ve observed this both within and across the various communities or identities with which I ascribe and align myself. However, one community I am a part of, a social justice infused Jewish community in Boston, is defying this pattern of fractured, inefficient attempts at unity and oneness. Admittedly, we have a lot of work to do, still, to make sure we are accessible to everyone who wants to share our community, but overall, we’re unique in both our efforts and our effect as it relates to welcoming everyone and being inclusive.

Perhaps I can best exemplify this statement with a story…

One recent Shabbat our community shared Shabbat services and stories. I enjoyed the brief moments of peace – which always feel like time is literally stopping – during our service. We all enjoyed the refreshingness of both the natural light and the breeze from the open windows. It was one of the first nice days in a while. The reprieve from the rain elevated our spirits and our voices. Near the end of the service, a new person in the room shared with us their appreciation. Adam said that he decided to take a detour on his way home and follow the sounds of the birds. His meandering brought him close to our house – to our ruach (energy/spirit) and kavanah (intention) – and he decided to come inside. He shared the he wasn’t Jewish but couldn’t resist exploring the beauty that he heard radiating from the house. And, he mentioned that he was so appreciative to be welcomed into our space. Adam stayed late into the night conversing and sharing more songs and energy. At the end of the night, Adam thanked us for welcoming him. He reiterated how beautiful the singing and the evening was for him, and he even said this was the best night of his life.

I can’t stop thinking about this experience. Perhaps it’s because in this space it’s so intuitive for us to welcome people, and it’s something I’ve always felt was so special about our community that I hadn’t seen as explicitly until now. Perhaps it’s because often people do not share, initially, how the feeling of being welcomed impacts them – it’s an incredible feeling. Perhaps it’s because in so many other places, this type of acceptance and irrevocable, unquestionable, immediate inclusion is just not salient or attainable for everyone. Perhaps it’s because it’s so inherently “Jewish” and the best example I’ve experienced of how to embody the values of the midrash about Abraham and Sarah’s tent and the values of Sukkot.

Themes of hospitality reoccur in Judaism throughout our rituals and texts (e.g., at Sukkot and during the Passover seder). Fundamentally, Hachnasat Orchim is a mitzvah (commandment), and therefore could even be considered an obligation of Jewish people.  Therefore, it’s undeniable that welcoming all people, welcoming guests, is a Jewish value that imperatively needs to be capitalized on.  To me, this mitzvah is more significant and relevant now more than ever! We must continue to critically evaluate our spaces both to recognize how we are impacting and including others and where we can continue to improve. Importantly, as we strive to welcome newcomers in our community let us always reflect on whether we’re opening both our doors and our hearts. 

On this Sukkot, I urge you to welcome something or someone new into spaces within which you dwell – your home and your heart.