business, Health, life lessons

THIS IS NOT A STAYCATION

Five weeks ago, while I was lounging comfortably on the white sands of Siesta Key visiting my beloved grandfather, my manager was sending me what seemed like moment to moment text messages about what was unfolding in her home country of France. I didn’t quite roll my eyes, but in full transparency, I thought she was being a bit dramatic and I am confident I said this to her. 

 This was the last week of February. 

Twelve days later, two of my favorite yoga studios close by voluntarily closing their businesses. My initial knee jerk thought was, are they overreacting? I didn’t say this aloud, but I thought it. It was the week of March 11th . My team was looking for me to make a decision. After much discussion, we decided to take on the role of a respite from the outside mayhem. 

We would sanitize, keep clients at reasonable distance, and clean clean clean. Clients needed us. They needed our business to wind down, to relieve stress from the outside world. We would be of service.  Just like we always were in times of grief and sadness of what was going on out there.

Meanwhile, my dear friend from Madrid, began giving me her daily updates. News of Italy dominated the news. We marched forth. After all, if it were really that bad, wouldn’t the leadership of our country or our state be giving more clear and concise direction? One week later, as my 55th birthday fast approached, three weeks ago today, I went out with my girlfriends to day drink to drink our woes away. The news in Europe was dismal. California and Washington State was showing signs of demise. So we did what we do, soothed our worries with some local faire. That night, I went out to dinner with some clients, then out again for some dancing and more drinking. After all it was my birthday weekend. 

On Saturday, I woke up with a terrible feeling that was more than too much wine. Information had changed overnight. It was March 14th. I reached out to my former breast surgeon who is also a great friend and asked her opinion. She forwarded me a letter written by a Boston doctor and I immediately did a 360 degree flip in my thinking. 

We needed to close. But it shoud have been in hind site.

This was not mandated by anyone. This was the decision of collective leadership. Searching for more information, listening to my team, and taking action with the most difficult business choice of my life. It is not easy to close your business not just because of the loss, but of the economics of each woman I employ. Heart wrenching. 

At the time, and it seems like a billion years ago now, we had decided to close for just two weeks. March 16th-March 28th. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the naivety of this with the now unfortunate wisdom of retrospect. I did a self imposed two week quarantine because of my Friday night shenanigans. I had already taken my son shopping for a two week supply of food, more because I wanted to spend time with him for my birthday weekend and since discussion of toilet paper shortages was starting to seep into our brainwaves, I did what most mothers I know would do- stock up. 

Little did I know that just three weeks later, we would be living in what seems like Armageddon. I have watched my business and every other business in my community close, but as I reflect back on the week we closed, when I started my personal mission to tell every beauty business I knew in the country to #stayhome, I am happy that I was ahead of the curve. I am even happier that I got my team of twenty out of harms way. I am glad we didn’t expose our thousands of clients and vice versa. We did our part as responsible business owners. 

Business ownership, when I first started, felt a bit like playing store. But with more and more experience, I realized the depth of seriousness business owning is. Money and economics are certainly a major part of owning your own business. This isn’t a hobby, but it has never been my personal driver.  If I really cared about this as my main priority, I would be a better money manager. I have just never been directed by this. But the fact of the matter is, in order for your business to work, you must have cash. Closing ceases this unless you can come up with something creative fast. 

 I saw the challenges we faced as a country in our struggles with the need for economics. I saw people in the service industry not make the decision because of money and because they chose a different business model that would offer no protection to their “employees” or independent contractors, their decision to stay open was misguided. This has come back to hurt our economy more than we ever thought possible. At least in my situation, my team can collect unemployment because I have paid into it for over twenty years barely using it. This is responsible business ownership, yes expensive, but now as a country we can see the ramifications of under the table and 1099 business models. More on that later.

Information during this unusual time is free for the taking. Yes, it can be confusing, but if you read the paper, and watch the news even in the smallest snippets, you are informed. As business leaders, it is imperative that we stay informed and do not solely rely on our government to make business decisions for us. In this case we all had the information to make informed decisions the first week of March at a minimum. Yet here we are, with certain states seeming to just get the memo (Georgia, Florida, Alabama to name three, instantly) missing a window of opportunity to stave off this horrible disaster. 

In my need to get fresh air, I have seen troves of people at parks and out and about not adhering to the recommendations causing our state Governor, powerhouse ball of Italian fire, Gina Raimondo to have to tell us like we are kindergartners to KNOCK IT OFF as she has tried to give her state residents the benefit of acting like grownups and adhering to the advice. 

We have missed the window. We should have started self imposed quarantines the first week of March at least. We didn’t. Those extra two weeks are going to set us back for months if not quarters. I have spoken to the plethora of women I am privileged to know who continue to tell me that their kids are getting invited to gatherings while school is now virtual. These families are smart and educated proving that a college degree doesn’t always equal common sense. 

I had a meeting with my team, as I have been trying to keep this all as communicative as possible, to begin getting them to wrap their head around at least a three month closure. The fact is, though, that with half the population not following the advice of our heath care organizations, we will be lucky to get back to our work in three months. 

This is beyond staying home now. It is a stark realization that we have a country filled with people who are so distracted, that the thought of being “stuck” inside their homes for two weeks is worse than taking the risk and risking the lives of everyone they come in contact with. Ou health care workers, our police and firefighters, our prison guards, our food bank volunteers and first responders need us to STAY THE FUCK HOME. This is not about an individual’s tolerance level of home confinement. This is chump change compared to the amount of people who will be forced to die at home, alone. 

This shit is real and it is about time we come together as a country and make a decision collectively to STAYHOME. We are individual states with each of their own chiefs and cheiftresses, but for this global health and economic disaster we need to take charge of our own humanity, put on our grownup pants and not wait for anyone to make another decision for us. We are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Lets take our call to action by the name of our country verbatim. Let’s unite and do the right thing. It is not forever, but it could be if we do not act UNITED. You have enough toilet paper by now. 

#Stayhome.

business, Health, life lessons

THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

March 14th will go down in history as one of the most tumultuous days in my already busy brain. In the morning, I was comfortable with my decision to keep my business open, mistakenly thinking that I was providing a “respite” from the outside world. After all we in the beauty business of touch are not large gathering crowds. 

But as the day went on and I spoke directly with a dear doctor friend who is soon to be on the front lines of this pandemic, I learned much more. I read a detailed and very concise letter written by an esteemed professional doctor and that changed my mind. 

I closed my business voluntarily yesterday at 5:00pm after painful and deep consideration.What I have seen and heard is the next two weeks is the most critical. I didn’t realize this as I made my way out with the masses on Friday to party before my birthday weekend. I didn’t think about the seriousness of the next two weeks. Like the masses of people who decided to head out to the bars in Newport and Boston yesterday to celebrate the no parade St. Patrick’s Day, I was foolish. 

I am no longer foolish.

Our leadership, federal and state, doesn’t seem to want to say. CLOSE YOUR BUSINESS. Why would anyone want to say this? It is economic suicide not just for business, but for the people we employ. The Federal level has taken action to make it more streamlined for emergency money to help compensate the people we have to layoff for fourteen days. But no one is talking about the impact that my type of business has in the country. Spas, hair salons, nail salons, gyms, yoga studios, wellness- we are all touching people in the most intimate areas every day. We are then going home to our families, to the market, to restaurants. 

In my opinion, now that I know what I know, I would rather voluntarily close for two weeks and ask my team to self quarantine for that time, to help prevent what is happening in Italy and the rest of Europe. This is not a two week vacation. This is a time to self quarantine because the likelihood of exposure is the highest right now. We in the beauty and wellness businesses have likely already been exposed. I am not one to freak out. I usually weigh with much consideration the pros and cons when it comes to making these difficult decisions.

Europe is our countries Ghost of Christmas Future right now. I hope I am wrong and that my colleagues can laugh and point a finger at my for being “overreactive” a month from now. I am willing to take the laugh. Closing my business yesterday was the hardest decision I have ever had to make as a leader in my company and in my community. I am still in shock. My team is in shock. This is no joke.

But at this point, I do feel that it is each of everyone of our civic responsibility to voluntarily make these hard decisions. Hands down- our state leaders should be speaking about the beauty business, one of touch, and finally stop ignoring what a major part of the economy beauty and wellness provides for the citizens of our country.

For my colleagues out there, please voluntarily close. Self quarantine for two weeks and ask your team members to do the same. We are all in this together and if we set the tone for what the right thing to do is, we will be better as a community a month from now. 

Running a business is a day to day tricky business. We must make rough and tough decisions and in this case, we must not be making them from our pocketbooks. I know it is scary to think that income will cease for two weeks or more, but these are all great lessons in our lives to re think what we have, what we need and how we operate when we do get to open again. 

My friend said that he is hoping for a V upturn. Quick dip, quick return. Imagine when we all come out of our homes after this madness, the way the trees and the light will seem. The first delicious meal at our favorite restaurant will taste, the first workout at your gym or that glorious facial at your favorite spa. In the darkness when it seems like light is absent, that little spark of brightness means so much more. I am confident that we will see a business boom like we have never experienced when we get through this. This is not forever. 

For those of you out there who think some of this maybe hype, or politicization, I for one thought this a bit too last week, but when we see France close its restaurants and bars, when airports are closing and borders are closing, I would rather err on the side of caution. The glory of our free country is that we get to make our own decisions, but this is unprecedented and as a community, we have an opportunity to speak up and do our civic duty.

Please voluntarily close your business. Our communities are in prevention mode. Two weeks now could prevent three months later and we have the capability to take action now. I hope we can come together and support each other during this time and I thank you for considering this. And I am sorry to freak you out. I have attached the letter below so you can make an informed decision too.

https://www.alaynewhite.com/closing-update.html

Health, self improvement, Women

NO PLACE LIKE KATHY’S (or aka home gym vs going to the gym)

I bought a treadmill. The purchasing experience was a nightmare, but once I settled down and made peace with my NordicTrack and subsequently purchased a Pelaton bike for spite to NordicTrack (if you don’t know me this will definitely make you scratch your head), I officially had my own workout studio. 

My workout studio. Stunning. In full view of my backyard garden. I figure that each time I work out, it is probably costing me about five hundred dollars a workout. But I love having my own workout equipment. I turn on my Pelaton app and I have a personal trainer all to myself. It is a miraculous paradigm shift in fitness training. If I had a gym or a studio that was part of my lifelong career plan, these type of home workout studios would be make me extremely worried about my business future. 

On the other hand, not everyone has the luxury of space like I have where they can place the equipment in my actual business away from the cluttering of my living room, or down in a basement where I am sure many of these contraptions are used for coat hooks rather than their intended use. 

My true reason, though, for delving into this new realm was two fold. One is that I am picky about how I workout with the masses. I love to walk alone. I love to run at a track, but New England winters don’t always give me the luxury of an outdoor jaunt. In case there was any question, I am not the type of person who will run or walk in wind, rain, sleet, snow. I love to workout, but I also love to sit on the couch and write, so if it is raining, I am not headed outdoors. 

Secondly, when I work out, I have to love the instructor— too much jibber jabber, too many positive affirmations being belted out telling me how much self-love I should be giving myself, too much of anything that grates me equals the last time I am working out with that trainer. I am not there to have my brain mind melded by some thirty year old self proclaimed life coach who doesn’t have the life experience that I do screaming at me that I am, indeed, good enough. 

I would rather walk downstairs and get a workout in- taught by some hot Pelaton chick or guy who won’t take it personal if I don’t show up at the next class. If the class roster at any given day is accurate, they don’t really need alayne50 rhode island, because they have hundreds of ‘mega mammas,’ ‘lovely ladies,’ ‘Minnesota twins’ and all of the other cutesie names Pelaton riders give themselves so as to not give their true identity away, like I did, before I realized that my name would be showing up at every workout I showed up for. 

To be perfectly transparent, it has occurred to me that I could just sign up for a class and take my sweet old time watching Jessie or Brett bark orders at me while I sipped my morning coffee and pedaled like I was ‘racing’ on some lovely flat road in Spain or France somewhere. But then my stats, rather than being somewhere in the middle of the thousands of riders as far as Pelatons’s cadence and resistance goes, would definitely be at the end of the finish line.

 I do have my pride. 

Another factor is time. Because I am picky about who my line leader is, this has basically narrowed my instructors down to one, Kathy, the title of this piece today. First off, she is my age. She is self- deprecating. She talks about potato chips and drinking beer. 

Kathy is one of my most favorite people. Gigantic smile, laughs from the gut, she cracks me up pretty much the entire workout. The only reason that I bought equipment is that I don’t have her on demand. Sometimes her schedule doesn’t workout with my writing schedule, sometimes I don’t wake up in my partner’s bed- a ten minute drive to Kathy’s gym and instead am in my own home- a thirty minute or so drive each way, plus the workout, a big difference in my am routine. 

My am routine is my favorite part of the day. There is so much to do with so little time, especially if I sleep past my usual early wake up time of 5:30. I get most of my creative work done between 6-11am. Whether it is planning something new, or writing, working out, meditating, whatever I can do to encourage creativity and peace, the morning is when I do this. I get shit done in the am. So driving to and from a gym cuts into the precious morning time and I try to minimize this whenever I have the chance. 

I have used my new gym quite a bit. Working out with the hotties of Pelaton is a change of pace. I feel like they are my own personal trainers. Each and everyone of them are stunning, happy, smiley, incredibly fit, young and many have British accents which make for a nice addition to a work out for some odd reason. They play great music. I can pick who I want to work out with, when I want to work out. They have 10 minute, 15 minute, 20 minute and so on so if I need to get a quick workout in, I am all set. 

After spending about two months in my own gym, I headed back to Kathy, though. You see, I love the ability to work out when I want to, but what was missing loud and clear was the camaraderie of the gym. My peeps, the women and few men I have become accustomed to like heading back to summer camp after a school year away. Easy to forget when you are blasting through twenty minute Pelaton rides on a rainy day at home.  I love my workout peeps. I didn’t realize how much I missed them and the gym experience until I made my way back to them where I was greeted and welcomed back like a long lost friend. 

The gym was my safe space before and after both my breast cancer experiences, my surgeries, the recovery. The gym got me ready and the gym brought me back. Kathy’s space is not just any place. Yes it is a wonderful open place to work out and get fit, but it is also a place of connection and friendship. 

The social element to a good gym is something not to be dismissed. I remember the first time I went to a gym compared to now. The gym has changed me. I used to be self deprecating when it came to my body and my fitness level. I am a totally different person now. I find myself describing myself now proudly using the tagline: I am fit. It feels good to say this and even better to know it, to feel it, to be among a tribe of women and men who also feel the same way in the world. 

Health is miraculous. Keeping it strong and constant is one of those mandatory requirements these days now that we all know what we know about the results of it. Like when I see someone smoking, it still it surprises me that people don’t take exercise as seriously as they could. 

Now that I am on the receiving end of the benefits of exercise, mental and physical, there is no turning back. It is ‘quality of life’ security. I may not have a six pack, may not be some ideal goal weight, but what I have is stamina and an ability to walk for miles, climb stairs in Quebec, ride a bike throughout North Conway and on endless trails everywhere my partner and I travel. All because of my consistency with exercise and because of superchicks like Kathy who makes exercise not seem like work ( well that may be a stretch…).

I have written about Kathy before. But in this case, now that I have the luxury of my own home gym, a Pelaton app on my phone, frequent solo walks at some of the most beautiful views in New England to compare to Club Kathy, there isn’t much comparison. The time savings, the outdoor beauty are both a lovely addition, but will never be a replacement for a good old school Kathy Martin work out. The people, the friendliness, the break from the brain that never stops are all some of my favorite extra bonuses of working out at Kathy Martin’s gym. 

I may have my own treadmill and my own spin bike, but I am not planning on giving up my gym membership any time soon. She keeps me in shape in way more ways than a fit body.

#Gratefulindeed.

family, Health

LIVE BEYOND 102 DIET (or the world according to Herb Horowitz diet)

“Herbie, (aka my grandfather), do you eat brussel sprouts?” I asked him this week as I was trying to combine my “clean” eating style with his how Herbie eats style. 

“Not really.” 

“What do you want with your chicken tonight? How about brown rice pilaf?” I asked.

“Not a big fan of brown rice,” said Herb.

“How about if I make chicken pot pie tonight for dinner?” Thinking this would be a sure way to warm his heart and stomach.

“Not too many carrots,” Herb said.

As I stood there, incredulous at his lack of vegetable consumption separating the carrots out of the frozen pea carrot mix, I thought, who has it right here? By the way, there are way more carrots than peas in a frozen pea carrot mix bag in case you ever find yourself making chicken pot pie for a 102 year old man who requests not too many carrots.Are peas even a vegetable? I thought.

As I made the pie using frozen pie crust and two cans of Campbells Cream of Celery soup, I laughed to myself. My grandfather has eaten more processed food than I have likely eaten in my entire life. 

Here is a picture of his pantry and freezer to show some examples.

Pretzels, chips, cookies, crackers, canned soup, muffins, danish, Eggo Waffles, ice cream— it makes my years of Paleo, Whole 30, Vegan, Plant Based, Clean eating turn themselves on their holier than thou head.

Herbie Horowitz is 102. This Saturday will be his 25th leap year alive on this planet. He still takes a receipt home from the grocery store and analyzes it line by line when he gets home to make sure he wasn’t over charged. Herbie will still drive to a gas station further away to save a few cents on a gallon. He was born in 1917 and has lived on a “fixed” income for over thirty seven years. 

a catnap after a thorough receipt analysis.

Organic eggs, milk fruits and vegetables stay right there on the shelves as he makes his way through the aisles of Publix or Costco in favor of what is on sale. “Organic schmanic,” he will say anytime I lug in my $150 of groceries where I barely glanced at a price as I added them to my cart from Whole Foods that make up two bags. “That’s a bunch of crap,” he will say.

He drinks wine every single night and has since I have known him. It used to be a couple glasses of scotch in his “younger years.” He eats Wispread cheese and crackers as an appetizer before dinner to “nosh” along with his two or sometimes three glasses of the red version of “2 buck chuck” that is now six bucks from Trader Joes that he buys by the case and promptly places in the refrigerator, a bottle at a time. 

Herb buys whatever deli meat is on sale and eats it with mayonnaise on rye bread along with a nice pile of potato chips topped off with a few cookies for dessert. Pancakes, waffles or danish depending on his mood are part of his daily diet depending on what caregiver cooks up for him based on her ability and his mood. He has trouble sleeping, though  I have mentioned that maybe it could be the cup of Tetley caffeinated tea and cookies he has every night before bed. I get the usual response of EHH. Like, what do I know. Touché.

I scratch my head at the irony of it all. In reviewing his daily diet intake with my Aunt today, she reminded me of my other Grandfather who died when he was about 85. He was smoking one of his unfiltered English Oval cigarettes as he did for his entire life when the chest pains started. He called the ambulance, as he put out what would be his last cigarette of his life. My aunt found it that night half smoked in the ashtray where he had left it.

Grandpa Bill used to eat cereal every late morning that my grandmother would put out for him after he would wake up (like around eleven- I guess we could call this early afternoon), pour heavy cream over it and add about a quarter cup of sugar. The white table variety that was a staple on most kitchen tables in most of the twentieth century. 

This all makes me go hmmmm. Is it the food we eat? Doesn’t seem to be in these two examples. Is it the exercise we do? Not that either, since neither of them ever had any exercise routine except that of the social variety on walks. Walks that would take no more than thirty minutes, but would turn into three or four hours with all of the stopping and chatting along the way. 

 About ten years ago, when asked if he had to do anything over again, what would it be, Herb replied, “I would have started at the Y sooner.” He had joined when he was about 80. I am convinced that the- less than twenty- years he spent at the Y could be one of the reasons his heart is still going strong. This and his incredible outlook on life. His approach to people. His notion about doing the right thing, saying what is on his mind (sometimes to a fault on this one) to remembering and constantly connecting with family and friends. All of this seem to be his Herb Horowitz diet for a better life, a well lived life. A long life. 

With all of the constant discussion about what we eat, what we should and shouldn’t be adding to our mouths and our bodies, Herb Horowitz breaks every single rule in the 2020 playbook. He watches the news with breakfast, watches the news with dinner. He drinks this weird pink soda water that looks like it has about ten tablespoons of red dye # 3 in it. I am perpetually speechless when I am here visiting filling his fridge with pounds of organic fruits and vegetables and grass fed beef. 

The older I get with the delightful privilege of getting to still have my very coherent grandfather around, the more I like to think that health is more about living well, making choices in our mental attitudes, staying calm in the chaos that guides a life without illness and demobilization. At least this is the case for the grandparents I have had and still get to have as I approach my definitive mid fifties. 

As we tooled around in the motorized scooter in his new favorite recently opened grocery store, we came upon the oranges native to this neck of the Florida woods and only out for a short spell. 

“Grandpa, look, the Honey Bell’s are out!” I exclaimed. Ready to pile some into the bag to bring home.

“Nahh.. I can’t eat those— too much sugar.” 

Can’t make it up.

Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

WASHING MACHINE HEAD

Does your brain ever feel like it is on the spin cycle of a washing machine?
Some people refer to it as “crazy brain,” but I don’t care for that label. My partner refers to it as crawling out of his skin.

There are lots of reasons for this mind twirl. Full moon, mercury retrograde, too much sugar, not enough exercise, too much on my plate, too many lists, too much time on my hands, too much on the computer or on the phone, not enough fresh air, not enough creative output, not enough go within time.

I know myself well. I know that if I miss exercise for a few days, I am not myself and this creates havoc in my thinking. Exercise is the course correction without fail. Every time. An hour at the gym or an hour outside on a brisk walk in the brisk New England November air grounds me like nothing else and it is a habit I seldom break. But when I do, like this past two weeks of over scheduling, I notice fast.

What I notice is that it is hard for me to stay focused, I wake up after going to bed with a concise list and then find myself wandering aimlessly barely able to complete one item. Perhaps this is the result of an entrepreneurial brain; most self starters I know struggle with spinney head. Just too many ideas, too many sticky notes on a wall and this can be a recipe for feelings of overwhelm therefore not getting anything done.

I am the queen of lists and sticky notes. My brain is a busy one and I enjoy its momentum for the most part especially when I use it for the creative force it directs me to. But sometimes, like this past week when I went to a three day conference and I missed exercising for almost a full week with barely a walk, the ramifications are not pretty.

As I drove to the gym for my first 7:00am workout in a few weeks, I already began to feel peaceful. The gym is my therapy space. Not because I am one of those bad ass gym rats pumping iron and walking around with her abs showing, (these days they just show all the time when I sit down and look down and wonder what the hell has happened to my stomach, but more of that in some other self deprecating piece later). Going to the gym is like a community gathering. Most times it is many of the same people, mostly women, but also some men sprinkled throughout, and there is a familiarity, a comfort as we grab our spots on the floor or the cardio equipment.

I have two go to spots I usually take and they are in the front of the room.
I used to be the person who looked for the furthest back corner, the spot completely away from the mirror as I not only didn’t want to see myself in it as I struggled to catch my breath with every screaming beat to the rap music, but I also didn’t want to see everyone else. Back then when I first started dragging myself to the gym, I was always comparing my inadequacy and lack of fitness to all of the other chicks (usually skinny and blonde driving a Range Rover or something) who seemed much more fit than I surely would ever be.

But then something magical happened. I started feeling incredible. Forget about the shape of my body shifting, the discovery of muscles I didn’t know were there, the definition of muscles from the never ending burpees and planks that began rearing their beauty. I had mental clarity like I had never really had before. It was the biggest surprise from the workout and I started to depend on it as my mental equilibrium. And I began making my way to the front of the room, not so much to look in the mirror, but to stand up front and proud of my climb on the fitness confidence ladder.

There is all kinds of proven research on what exercise does for us physically- it lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and a multitude of other lifestyle ailments. I wish that the prescription of exercise would be one of the first courses of action for doctors to give to their patients complaining of anxiety and depression because for me, this has been a game changer for the past ten years. It is seldom that exercise becomes the go to remedy for the many people who struggle with this type of bubbling mind.

Washing machine head, my brain on the spin cycle, goes away from one hour of exercise. It never fails me. I always feel better after I exercise. My mind is clearer, my heart is happier. And this doesn’t have to be from an hour at the gym, it can be a walk on the beach with the wind blowing into my lungs; it is just movement, off the couch, away from my computer, my phone, my desk work and up and out.

No matter how much wine I have had or sweet dives into oblivion and all of its effects on my brain with the fogginess it creates, an hour of movement clears the cobwebs. Exercise saved me when I had breast cancer too. I am convinced that because I went to the gym, my recovery was as strong and solid as it was because of my fitness level before hand.
I used to think, “I am the fittest and healthiest I have ever been, why did I get breast cancer twice?” But when I saw my resilience and my fast recovery, I knew I had to shift my thinking to gratitude for the fitness FOR and TOWARDS the recovery.

As a matter of reflection, the gym was part of my recovery because it became a goal for me to get back there as soon as possible. I had missed its silent camaraderie among my fellow gym chicks. We are friendly with each other, saying our morning hellos and our quick goodbyes as we run out to start our days in our sweaty workout clothes, but we don’t spend time chatting. We are all there to feel better. To roll our eyes when Kathy, our fearless trainer, barks another order out at us and says at the same time, “This next move is going to suck.” Yes, she says this and she means it and it does suck. But we all do it because we can.
Because we can. To me this is the significance of exercising regularly.

Because I can.

And as long as I can I will. Missing days makes me miss them now, not the other way around. In the past I would miss them because I didn’t feel like it, these days I only miss them because work or a too jam packed schedule didn’t allow the workout time. I am really going to make a conscious effort to improve that. I may not always be able to get to the actual gym, but there is always a walk on a blustery day to shake the garbled brain to a more serene one, movement is so important as I approach my real life mid fifties.

My partner, who is 72 goes to the gym every day. Every day. I am not kidding. He is my role model and my mentor for gym attendance and its value on the soul. When we went to Quebec a few weeks back, we both didn’t realize the stair factor. If you can’t do stairs, you can’t enjoy Quebec- that should be their tagline because to take the stairs is to really appreciate the landscape. As we blasted up and down the stairs for a solid week, as fit as I am, I still had a quickening of my breath. Not my partner, he flew up the stairs and I didn’t hear one speck of short winded huffing.

If that wasn’t a reminder to me that the gym is fitness security, nothing is. What I love about movement is that there is no time like the present.
All we have is the present.

Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

OUT OF MY CONTROL

“Does that make you crazy?” My partner’s niece, Ashley, asked me as we were discussing her new nursing career and I was telling her that I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis when I turned forty.

Her lovely and young thirty year old self said it so matter of factly, I brushed it off and replied that it didn’t and that I really had no side effects from this diagnosis fifteen years later.

“I have heard some people really get manic crazy with that diagnosis,” she said.

Mmmmm. Manic. Crazy. Not me, I thought.

But a week later, I started really thinking about this whisper of a comment that I dismissed so quickly. First off the word “crazy” and “manic” are not the first two words I personally want to associate with as descriptions of myself. I pride myself on doing “the work” and knowing how I tick. I understand the sugar and alcohol roller coaster rides I have taken and still take knowing full well that a few days later I will be off the rails. But it is my own choice, I say to myself as I can’t get her comment out of my head.

I have been loosely seeing a thyroid doctor since that initial diagnosis when I was a mere forty and since my bloodwork always comes back normal and my thyroid hasn’t taken over my neck like some hideous goiter, we just watch. I have never had to go on synthroid, the thyroid replacement medicine. In fact, the last time I was at the doctor’s I asked him how he even determined the diagnosis and if he could reconfirm it since I never really had any symptoms.

The thing about your thyroid though is that it is like the main controller of your entire being. Picture Captain Kirk in Star Trek in his Captain’s chair looking out from the Enterprise at the entire galaxy and think about him as your thyroid gland. At least this is the way I understand it. The thyroid needs fuel to produce the thyroid hormone. Like the Enterprise needs fuel to maneuver through space, the thyroid needs direction and it gets this from your pituitary gland, often referred to as a Master Gland. Think of Kirk as the pituitary. The Enterprise can be completely fueled, ready for its bad ass launch into the galaxy, but without the supreme direction of Captain Kirk, it sits there waiting.

As Ashley’s random comment sat in my brain this past week I started to consider my up and down behaviors over my lifetime. Full throttle into some things and then at a moment’s notice, not interested. I have often equated this with full moons, my birth sign, mercury in retrograde among other reasons I have written about endlessly. Spending money buying cars impulsively, not to mention my latest typewriter obsession all started to roll like the credits at the end of a movie.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto fifteen years ago, but I wonder if this is something you develop or if you are just born with it. I can’t believe I never have asked this question. I also can’t believe that the emotional ups and downs I have spent my life in therapy with could partially be attributed to Hashimoto? Maybe all of this wackiness is OUT OF MY CONTROL. And to think that I can master it with food and meditation practice is only partly the solution. I also can’t believe that my doctor never asked me about this.

A random comment from a brand new nurse offered more to me than the endocrinologist I have been seeing for fifteen years. For the love of nurses, surely. They are often the brilliance so underrated behind the scenes. What are the options though? I certainly don’t want to go on Big Pharm to regulate. Maybe just knowing that it isn’t me all the time, but instead a physiological malfunction causing all of this mayhem in my brain all these years is enough.

How convenient. Disturbing too, but I must admit it is nice to think in terms of releasing myself from the constant battle in my brain that I just don’t have the willpower necessary to overcome some of these ups and downs. There is so much we don’t know about our bodies and what kinds of mind fucks different problems cause. Our minds are still the wild frontier of so much to be discovered. Star Trek was way ahead of its time “boldly going where no man has gone before,” and if we think about the galaxy as our brains, we still have so much to discover.

Health, life lessons, self love

ON A BENDER

A slight bump in the road occurs, occasionally, when I go off the deep end and slide into sugar and wine oblivion. Sometimes it is just a slight curve and I put my hands on the wheel and do a quick course correction. Then there are the times when I head straight down the bank and end up in a ditch hoping someone will find me before it is too late.

This sounds dire. I sound like there is a cause for an intervention. It is not that bad. Really. Because the one thing I know about me better than anyone is my own slippery slope. I used to blame it on PMS, but I can’t do that anymore since there is no more of that. There is definitely a time limit on using the C word too, coming up on two and half years already, I think I have used that excuse for going off the deep end enough. “Enough already,” I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head say.

So what is it? Why do I have this constant yo-yo where I can feel so incredible and unstoppable, not drinking any wine or eating any sugar that it causes me to almost self-sabotage, like there is some force greater than me saying, “Oh yeah? You feel this good? We’ll fix that.” I know every time I break my flow with “just one glass of wine” or “just one brownie,” I am off and running. Before I know it, I have eaten like an entire cake and drank way too many bottles of wine on the front porch.

Why does this happen? A normal person (if there is such a thing) would say, “Well, Alayne, if you know this is your pattern, then why must you incessantly rewind, repeat?” Sounds so simple. I am a smart successful and generous entrepreneur. I “live life to the fullest” following my brother’s instructions from his death bed like there is no tomorrow. I know better. But yet, I slide.
I have worked incessantly on myself for years trying to understand this pattern of mine.

The funny thing about twists and turns is that I only realize the ‘why’ part after the deep dive. During the dive, when it would be most advantageous to catch myself, is too late. I am ALL in. Whipping up blueberry cake, chocolate babka and cheese-ladened Mexican lasagna filled with dairy that surely would make my breast cancer doctor wince with estrogenic pain.

What I have realized with this last wild ride is that this happens when I am stressed. It is not some self sabotage at all. In fact, I like myself, I am happy with my world, why the hell would I need to sabotage this life I have made with my own two hands? But yet here I am. The weekend after too much wine and too much babka.
Stress.

Cortisol.

High stress=High Cortisol levels.

High cortisol levels=constant fight or flight mode. But there is no fight and there is no flight except to the refrigerator and thus the fatigue subsides as soon as the first sip of wine or the first bite of cake.

It is immediate. And it is satisfying- this temporary fix that no amount of self talk can persuade otherwise. Cortisol is pure power. It is what has made humanity sustain itself. But humanity, these days, is not the same as it was when survival was literal. Survival these days is dealing with the stressors that our bodies and minds could never be prepared for. On top of this, there is the constant brain workings of my mind with thousands of ideas and trying to execute many at the same time.

My mind holds the ideas, but what I lack is the reality of how much time each idea is really going to take. This is where my stressors are. So much work, SO little time. I am convinced that as much as we talk about nutrition as being a precursor to cancer, my gut tells me it is cortisol’s constant production in my system. This is why I exercise and meditate- to attempt to create tools to wind down this overactive brain of mine. And it really helps.

But sometimes I just need to eat cake and drink wine. This really helps too. Except that after a few days of it, my heart starts to race and my head starts to think negative thoughts that were definitely not there before I did my deep dive. The effects of meditation and exercise and healthy eating are cumulative. The effects of wine and cake are immediate and sometimes I just need immediate.

Health, self improvement

PHONES DOWN, EYES UP

After a ridiculously fun night out on the town with live music, lots of dancing and three gigantic scoops of ice cream to top it off, the morning followed. And it wasn’t as fun as the night before because the night before also included wine. Needless to say, “Not Drinking Today,” is taking a brief hiatus. Only for a few weeks, though, as the town I call home is July fourth festive almost 24/7 and wine is once again part of my nightly party.

Part of the morning after of the night before, is the morning bathroom. Without getting too detailed, (even I have my standards), I headed in for a much needed bodily function. On the way, I passed by my phone that I had made a conscious effort to leave face down since I woke up, and unconsciously grabbed it to take in with me. I’m guessing here- for the purpose of multi tasking. I can’t even believe I am saying this aloud. Multi tasking in the bathroom? Have I lost my fucking mind? Part of the routine of a night before is to load up on fat and carbs with a fervor. I hopped on my bike to get to the bagel shop at the speed of light and as I was waiting for my order found myself standing next to a woman also waiting for her order. She had her phone on the counter and was scrolling through messages missing the order taker’s repeat question of “What size did you want your coffee?” I finally answered for her, “Medium,” I stated because my waitressing skills from thirty years ago never seem to disappear.

My answering, “Medium,” caused the distracted woman to actually look up and quickly apologize confirming her request for a medium sized coffee. The young girl getting the coffee for this lady barely looked concerned as I am sure this is a regular occurrence at the counter in the morning with all of the sleepy customers ordering bagels coffee with barely a glance up from their phones for eye contact. Have we all lost our minds?

I recently heard a statistic that people are spending more time on their smartphones than television and this number is supposed to keep rising. Besides phones being phones, phones are now our cameras, video recorders, computers, radios, education, movies and television all wrapped in one small little, carry with us all the time even to the bathroom, package of convenience.

People are looking down at a rate that frightens me. From a physical perspective, our heads are perpetually down without moving our heads up and back for the counter balance of our poor necks, and from an emotional perspective, the lack of eye contact and smiling at one another. We are capturing every waking moment of every waking thing as part of our daily routines that is unprecedented in any human experience we have seen in our lifetimes.

What I notice about my own use is how sidetracked I can become in a nanosecond. I am a typically sidetracked person anyway, so clicking and moving around a screen is probably not helpful to my very sensitive brain. I wonder how much all of this bluescreen is negatively affecting my body. When I pay attention to the way I feel, it is usually a bit fragmented and staticky after a run with the screen for too long. Physically, mentally, spiritually, these elements of who I am, are hyper challenged when I am on the screen too much, not to mention the disconnect I feel in this false sense of connection.

I was at the beach yesterday and watched, between the parade of non stop thong wearing booty, hundreds of young people from middle school to college, looking down at their phones as they walked together. It used to be that we just walked the beach with a Dels Lemonade in one hand and the other hand free. Now every single hand has a phone, mostly iPhones, easily each one a minimum of a thousand dollars.

As I left the beach, I walked by adults on this packed hot pre July 4th weekday also on their phones, reading, texting, scrolling, trolling and some outright personal phone conversations like their beach spot was their own private phone booth. It is not. Everyone can hear the one sided conversations. Everyone can hear the bings, the swirls, the dings, tings, pings and every other distracting and inconsiderate noise polluting sound these tiny three by six inch lifelines make. Without so much of a deeply considered thought, we seem to have adopted these machines as an additional member of our families. Phones have taken the place of our time away to be with our thoughts alone.

Daydreaming used to be this pause in our busy lives. Now I find that when I do give myself over to daydreaming, as a thought enters my mind, instead of allowing it to move around the way day dreaming does so magically, I often interrupt its flow with the need to Google an idea.

Here is an example. I was sitting looking at my garden and watching the birds and bunnies forage for food, peaceful and quiet as I nursed my subtle hangover waiting for the bagel carbs to kick in. A question popped into my head. “If I could make a radical change in my life, what would it be?” The desire to sell everything and have a minimal life is always nagging at me. I like the extremity of this thinking. As I begin to consider the small rv I would need to get, I think about my friend’s little van she just reconstructed with a bed and some shelves and how handy she is. This thought leads me to thinking about if I could possibly figure out how to set up my own little space in a van and that lead me to thinking about where I might find someone who could do this for me. My brain immediately thinks, “Google it, Alayne.” And I have to fight the temptation. But like a pint of ice cream in my freezer, the call to Google beckons and I have to work at resisting. This would have never happened ten years ago. I would have just thought about the idea and let it flow the way ideas are supposed to. Then later, when I made my way to my office, maybe if I remembered, I would look up the how’s on the computer somewhere.

Phones have changed our human condition. Humanity has changed and simple day dreaming has become melded with technology where every click, snap, and search feeds the illustrious algorithms of big tech information about us so they can make our lives “easier.”

“Easier” seems to be the go to tagline to get humans to perform like circus animals. I remember when I was a little girl and TV dinners came out right along the time where kids were getting mini black and white televisions for their rooms and their own phones. Getting my gourmet cooking mother to buy a TV dinner for my brother and me took a lot of convincing. She had her standards, thank goodness, in retrospect. I also remember begging my parents for my own phone. It was a big deal when I got one and my father limited the amount of time I could spend talking on it because back then there was no call waiting in the seventies. If my father tried to call, there would be a busy signal and he would not be able to get through. This would not make my father very happy causing the threat of complete disconnection from my new phone. Leverage was what he had and most times I obliged the rules.

As I watch more and more people, especially our young people, with their heads down in their phones rather than a book, as I think about the future of actual television sets and going to the movies as a possible relic in the future, I feel worried about humanity. Will people actually stop trying to capture every moment when they realize they are actually missing every moment?

Humanity and technology is an awkward dance. Like the invention of the washing machine and dryer to make the washing of clothes much easier, we cannot imagine living without them. We have become dependent on their convenience and the thought of going back to using a washboard and a tub to clean our clothing seems ludicrous to our modern American way of life. This is the same with technology now; there seems to be no going back. Our entire lives are on our phones and I am afraid because of this, we must figure out how to co exist and still have human connection beyond a text.

Human connection feeds my sense of well being. I love a good deep hug, a serious sensual kiss, dinner in the garden, a dance on the front porch, spontaneity. I enjoy a beautiful book from the library trying to give my busy mind over to it on a breezy afternoon without looking at my phone for at least an hour. I am finding more and more that this break from technology must be a new habit I have to work on.

I know I do not need a phone by my side at every waking minute. I have to sometimes force myself to remember this as Apple would not want us to ever be away from our phones. I need to remember to look up, put my head all the way back in the opposite direction that it has has evolved into, downward like the pictures of the evolution of humans over time- head bent forward looking for food.

This time though, instead of feeding us for survival, we are looking for the human connection, but what we seem to have forgotten is that it is right in front of us if we would just remember to look up at the person standing right next to us.

Health, self love, Women

NOT DRINKING (TODAY)

We drinking chicks love our wine and our cocktails. We love our rituals of choosing the perfect bottle of Proseco knowing that the front porch on a warm summer eve calls us at 5pm for that first sip of sparking delight. What is it about that first sip, the tiny sparkly bubbles headed from your tongue to your throat that automatically cause a big happy sigh? Or a robust red on a cold winter night after a long day sitting by fire recapping the events from work or life with your partner?

For so many women I know, drinking and its box of rituals have been the norm. We talk about it, we plan around it , we gather together to imbibe with it. Cocktails take the edge off. Off of what? I don’t know because in my circle of acquaintances for the most part, the edge we speak of is life coming at us. Besides the inevitable twists and turns that make up what life is, our edges our pretty mild.

We, of course, have our struggles, but no one said life was supposed to be anything less. Struggles are what make us rebound, strengthen and stand taller. No one wants them, but for a majority of the pain give or take extreme situations, we usually can look back and say the struggle was worth it. With the exception of losing a child, or a person in your life who is far too young to die there aren’t extremes in the world I get to live that causes a pain so deep one can’t climb the mountain. But this is me. And most of my friends. We were raised resilient and we power on.

I have had my share of struggles and have had my share of wine. I have quit drinking on more than one occasion and one time I quit for a full seven years. This was one of my proudest accomplishments because it wiped all of the cobwebs from my foggy brain that I didn’t know what foggy and allowed me to think clearly about my future. Drinking puts a (pun intended) cork in the ability for me to flourish and make serious decisions. Drinking alcohol allows me to put off those decisions, keeping them at bay and removing the emotions that sometimes have to come with those decisions. But none of this is even in my radar at the time. I only have this wisdom when I cease and desist.

I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. – Winnie the Pooh

You know when you have a plugged drain? But before it gets to the point when you have to call the plumber, you see that the water is taking more time to leave the sink and go down the drain? You let that happen for a few weeks hoping that it will miraculously just go down with a few plunges or some Draino. But we all know that this is highly unlikely. At some point the problem of the clogged drain will need to be solved or else you simply will not be able to use the sink. The residues of toothpaste and face cleanser will leave a circle of film in your sink and the need to clean it will become an almost daily grind because you didn’t take care of the clog when you first noticed it.

This is what drinking is like for me. I come from a family of alcoholics as so many of us do because drinking is just so much damn fun. It is so much easier to pour a glass of gorgeous Brunello instead of sitting on a mat and meditating. Life is short, right? Enjoy the wine. Fuck all these self imposed rules and regulations, right? Just eat the cookie and drink the frickin wine, right? Well not so fast, though I have a lot of friends who can just have one glass of wine and sip it slowly, this is not my gig. I wish it were. My grandfather has two glasses of red every single night at five pm. Without fail. And he is 101. Some people can just have the wine and call it a day. For me, I have the wine and I want more wine. Then the next day I want it again. And the ritual turns into a self talk garble and each day I get foggier and less clear about my purpose. The cobwebs re-enter at a slow barely noticeable pace until one day a few weeks in, I just don’t feel good. I feel imbalanced and emotionally unsteady. I find myself questioning my core. I never do this when I am not drinking alcohol. So I decided the day after my son’s 21st birthday, that I would apply the one day at a time mantra to giving up drinking today. My friends say, “are you drinking or not drinking?” Instead of the black and white yes or no, locking me into the corner,  I say instead, “I am not drinking today.”

Because this is true. Today is all I know. And what I know is that when I don’t drink alcohol I feel a sense of inner power and direction that allows me to get the creative juice ideas headed in the right direction at the speed of light. With no detours and dead ends. I feel good, great, better when I don’t drink. So I am not drinking today. And as life comes at me and the universe tells its story to me the way it is supposed to I come across the article yesterday about this “movement,” this new “thing” called elective sobriety because God forbid everything doesn’t have a branding possibility. Women are consciously not drinking alcohol and cutesy names are popping up all over the place. Mocktails. Soberinstagram. Sobercurious hashtags and websites and pop up gatherings are apparently now a trend. Because in our world we live in, everything seems to need to be something. But in this case, I wholeheartedly agree. Why do we feel the need to escape from our luscious brilliant selves? As Glinda the Good Witch said, “You’ve always had the power, my dear.”

The more we connect with our own true selves and learn who those selves really are, we march forth rather than stay stuck. Sometimes staying is stuck is necessary as it is part of the discovery process, but drinking for me keeps me there. Keeps my foot in the quicksand and the other foot trying to run ahead.

So for today anyway, I make my own mocktails, drink my hot tea by the fire and figure out ways to enjoy the festivities of holidays and gatherings without feeling the need to mute the edge. Because when my edge is sharp, it makes cutting a tomato way easier than trying to use a dull blade. I like the sharpness the gift of not drinking gives me. This alone is what makes the day be the next one and the one after that. So for today, I try again because I have always had the power.


This is the article I read that prompted this writing today. Great post. Thank you @Virginia Sole-Smith

https://elemental.medium.com/the-rise-of-elective-sobriety-8989550afbcb

Health, life lessons

INSTEAD OF THE GYM

The days that come our way in little staccatos during our winters I refer to as tease days. Those luscious days after a freezing cold spell where the temperature magically climbs to 35 or 40 degrees causing elation and jubilance among fellow New England comrades. It is not unusual to see an immediate surge in the roar of motorcycles, convertibles out and about with their drivers wrapped up like they are headed on an expedition to Mt. Everest. Shorts and an extra pep in the step of people who had previously thought they were hunkered down for the long haul and bike riders trying to appreciate the glorious bonus day of some added warmth and brighter light.

We New Englanders so willingly get sucked into that tease. When the slightest increase in temperature makes it feel positively balmy outside almost making us want to pull out the gardening equipment to clean up the yard. But we seasoned souls know that this is only a lure of nature, playfully provoking us to think that this is a reliable temperature. We shut down our heat, open our windows, change the sheets on our bed and lean full force into what we know is temporary. After all, it is February and though we have not had even a drop of snow, we have been here before. That year not too long ago when we thought we were home free, barely a snow plow bill and just like that- snow in record amounts every day for almost an entire month. Mother Nature as usual made fools of us. It is we who choose to live in this environment rather than a larger space of a state offering sun and fun most of the year.

I have been on a mission this year to pepper my fitness routine with bouts of nature. Hikes, walks, climbs, outside no matter the temperature instead of the gym running like a hamster on a treadmill among the tribe of the fabulously fit. My love for the crazy gym workouts is still pure, but I have found my body desires less of that potency and more of outside walks so I honor this as often as I can. Walking to the library to return my latest read and hoping that another great book awaits fills my soul as much as fifty burpees, (well maybe 20 burpees).

Because I have the luxury of two spaces I get to call home in two glorious locations, both near large bodies of water, the beach is easy access especially on my way from one to the other in the early morning light. Recently I have been stopping at the beach, leaving my phone in the car so as not to be distracted by feeling the need to take it out of my pocket every five minutes to capture a picture that will never look as good as the real one in front of me. The sound of the waves, the tide, the shrieking of the seagulls, the wind in my hair and in my lungs and that deep smell that wakes a very tired olfactory system up from its dormancy that has been locked up in forced heat and closed windows makes my heart open wide.

I make my way from the parking lot, locking my car and feeling the change of scenery in my shoes as they move from pavement to sand and I am home. The beach is my happy place. I have figured out much about my life and who I am in these tender moments. I have released old stinky stale thoughts and welcomed new bright sun-filled ideas that seem to pop at rapid fire. Problems solved, anxious thought cast out to sea, heart rocks avail themselves at every turn and nature bathes me like a baptism. Outside never disappoints and whether it is freezing, blustery, humid, baking, misty and everything in between, the beach right in my backyard in a fifteen minute drive is a reward beyond pushups and ab crunches. Though my body may not be as rock hard as those pesky movements create in my muscles, the deep breaths, the contemplation, the change in scenery and aroma in my hair is enough to compensate.

As I walked yesterday in what seemed like a 60 degree rare day in February, I did a lot of soul searching, I sat on a piece of driftwood that had made its home from goodness knows what journey and meditated for a good fifteen minutes breathing in and out at the pace of the wave. When I opened my eyes I looked ahead, I looked to my right and to my left and I was the only one on the beach. My private moment deep within witnessed only by me and I smiled at my good fortune and appreciation that I was able to veer off my course and take a right into the parking lot instead of saying I will do a walk when I have more time. Because really what does this even mean, how do I know that I will have more time? How does anyone know this? The power is in the present moment. We just forget to look. Yesterday I didn’t forget and today I will try again to remember the gifts of every time I do.