It’s fairly often that I take inspiration from sci-fi/fantasy worlds and apply it to my own real world. I channel a strong virtual character when throwing punches in my workouts, or I pretend I’m flying an X-wing when trying not to completely breakdown during plane turbulence. So it should come as no surprise when I say that for the past month, I’ve been working on something new, inspired by my friend’s own personal reboot, and the new Mass Effect: Andromeda game coming out in the spring.
My Pathfinder Initiative. (This is the first, so it’s a long one. Prepare thine eyes.) When I heard that the protagonist in the new game would be called “Pathfinder,” my brain immediately went to work. Pathfinder. Path-finder. I’ve been so lost this year, amid a sea of despair, depression, anger, and just general 2016 garbage dumpster fire bullshit.
I have completely lost my path in physical, mental, and emotional realms. I am a shadow of who I once was – a result of tumultuous life decisions and one stress-inducing mess after another.
Toward the end of October, I realized that if I didn’t make a commitment to change, well, everything, then I was going to either gain new diabetes abilities, suffer a heart attack, or slip into a very dark place and not come back at all.
And so, I created my very own Pathfinder Initiative. I didn’t want to write about it until I had proven to myself that it was actually happening. Well, internet, here we are today. When Halloween hit, I decided that I wouldn’t wait until January 1 to start making changes. No, it had to happen NOW or it wasn’t going to happen at all. Just like my friend’s reboot, which did absolute wonders for him, I broke up the initiative into several parts, each worth 25 points. The objective is to “earn” 25/25 points every month on the path to bettering myself.
Mission Objective: Lose the weight. BE HEALTHY.
Though I loathe openly discussing it, there’s no hiding the fact that I have gained a substantial amount of weight since my lowest in 2011. Back then, I was working my fitness HARD. I was counting every single thing that went into my mouth, working on a full vegetarian lifestyle, and actively teaching fitness classes 1-2 x a week, in addition to working out on a regular basis. I WAS IN IT. But you know what? I wasn’t even close to being happy. I still thought I was an obese whale, despite fitting into small T-shirts and being physically comfortable enough to wear a tight-fitting tank top out in public as my shirt. I WAS CLEARLY CRAZY. Since 2011, I have gained 80 pounds. Think about that number for a second. That’s 1.5 of my dogs. That’s more weight than my employee is legally required to lift.
Now, 20 of those pounds I gained before I was married in 2012. Work-related stress, I think. The rest came after opening the bar. It’s really difficult to combat an open kitchen full of delicious fried foods, available whenever you want, at your request. On top of glorious fried tater tots and hamburgers, there’s 130 different craft beers and ciders to indulge me. It’s a dieter’s nightmare. I also get little-to-no sleep, suffer weird schedules, and endure incredible amounts of stress that I had never experienced before. (Yes, yes, I knew this going in, and I’m doing it, but it’s still tough.)
SO. After buying even bigger clothes from Walmart (because they’re cheap and accessible at 4 a.m.,) and realizing I had eight drawers, a closet, and two boxes full of clothes I couldn’t fit into anymore, I decided enough was enough. Did I really want to resign myself to cheap bras that cause me back pain because they just don’t fit and support me? No. I was done crying about my body every day, and half-assing it just wasn’t working. On Nov. 1, I started doing what I do best: tracking everything I ate. That started with calories, but grew to macros when I started my new workout on Nov. 7. (Fitting, right?) Since then, I have allowed myself one cheat day (Mondays!) but try to stay away from everything unhealthy the rest of the week. I’ve been maintaining my nutrition and figuring out what I can order at work to stay within my guidelines, while not getting bored out of mind by eating grilled chicken and smelly broccoli three times a day. It’s been a work in progress, and since this thing works by grading, I’ll give myself a 20/25 for logging almost all of my food and consciously making healthier choices.
Bonus XP: I have not had a single tater tot or french fry since Nov. 1. This is an unreal accomplishment for me. There are days I miss it. There are other days where I can clearly identify that this is a borderline addiction with fried foods, and I say no.
Mission Objective: Clear the mental crap. BE POSITIVE!
I’ve always struggled with maintaining a positive mindset. Depression, anxiety, and anger bubble beneath the surface and successfully infect most of my days. Like a sponge, I soak up the emotions and moods of those around me, for the better, but more often than not, for the worse. It was when I was on vacation earlier this year with friends that I realized I wasn’t doomed to staying in the dark. I found myself happy, relaxed, and generally upbeat about everything. Maybe the break of “vacation” distracts my mind enough to forget about being negative or self-deprecating for a moment, but I can revert to the childlike, charming, she-has-her-crap-together version of me. But why limit that to vacation?
If I want to survive the stressors of 2016, running my own business, running it with my husband, and raising two puppies on a workaholic’s schedule, then I need to shape my mind the fuck up.
So how does a chronically negative, anxiety-ridden individual shape up? The easy answer is, there isn’t one. I’ve been working on this objective this month, and while I’ve seen some changes, it definitely hasn’t stuck. I often doubt myself, or let the little fires in life that pop up immediately derail my progress. To combat this, I started using Headspace, an app with guided meditations to help you focus your mind and breathe. Stress is my top killer, and if I’m not careful, I’ll worry myself into an aneurism. Headspace starts with a 7-day meditation “tutorial.” I’ve only been able to get through the first five days, but that little amount has already made waves.
I’ve identified my mood changes a little more clearly than before. Sometimes I can even take a step back and mentally calm myself away from my usual reaction. To my surprise, meditation has been REALLY HARD. My mind runs a million ideas and concerns through itself on a constant basis. If you know me in person, you know that I’m always multi-tasking, always having my own thoughts interrupt my previous ones. It’s been a difficult, but rewarding challenge to change this. It’s also helped me focus on positivity, and just trying to smile more to the sky, the trees, and myself; taking a precious second to be truly thankful and happy.
Still, I need to work quite a bit on this mission, so I’m only giving myself 3/10. I hope to have the meditation tutorial complete by the end of December.
Bonus XP: Meditating has helped me (5% or so) to combat the stress of puppy barking and early a.m. wake-up times to accommodate their play schedules. Taking a moment to center myself has given me the strength to wake up and take care of them. This extra time has resulted in extra tasks accomplished, and a better, overall daily plan.
Mission Objective: Better thyself, outside and in. BE CONFIDENT!
Confidence may come from within, but mine starts with the outside. I’ve struggled with acne and problematic skin my entire life.
I’m now 30 and tired of being embarrassed about having to cover up half of my face with concealer just to feel human.
I’ve tried so many OTC washes, cleansers, creams, and spot treatments. I’ve tried organic, too. None of it worked for me. Enter Curology, a virtual skincare service that caters a medicine specifically to your skin with the help of a licensed dermatologist. It’s only $20/month (less than I was spending on everything else) and you can cancel at any time. I took the requisite selfies, sent them off, and waited patiently for my prescription. My custom medicine came quickly, and now I am well into week 3 of my Curology treatment. I remain cautiously optimistic about the results, but so far, I think my skin is starting to get its act together. It takes roughly 6-12 weeks to get through the “purging” process and make sure the system is working. So far, I’m willing to stick it through to success. (Look at that positivity!) I’ve changed up my skincare routine to incorporate micellar water in lieu of makeup wipes, and have condensed my daily use to four items: 1) Gentle Fragrance-Free / Simple Face Cleanser, 2) (Day Only) Fragrance-Free Moisturizer and Sunscreen, 3) Micellar water (to remove makeup only), and 4) Curology treatment.
Because I’ve made a commitment to my new skincare routine, I’m going to give myself a 8/10 on this one. I’ll gain the extra points when I learn to clean my makeup brushes more often …
Bonus XP: While bartending, I was carding a customer who was saying how old she was (always.) I laughed after checking her ID and feigned disgust that I was older. Shocked, she replied, “YOU’RE LYING. WHAT! You’re 30? But you have amazing skin!” Yeah, that one kept me feeling great for quite a while that day.
Mission Objective: Get things together. BE ORGANIZED!
They say that clutter can do a number on your mental and physical state, so it’s no surprise that this is one of my missions. Living a chaotic life between the bar and home (80 hours a week) has definitely damaged the organization of my life, car, and house. To be blunt, our house is a disaster area, full of boxes from failed organization attempts, a dozen plastic containers with missing or mis-matched lids, and bags of “things to do later.”
We are a mess.
As a result of having to buy clothing in my scaling body sizes, I have an obscene amount of clothing, and it’s everywhere. But while I LOVE purging our house and just tossing out / donating everything I can see, my husband gets frustrated by my insane attempts (akin to a Level 2 Cleaning Hurricane) which makes me frustrated, and then we’re back at Square One. Because I just don’t usually have my shit together, I’ve made a moderate effort this month to change that.
With the help of the app Habitica, an RPG-themed To-Do list, I’ve been able to restructure my mornings and get daily habits done on a regular basis. This program has been 90% responsible for my success on this mission so far. I absolutely love the program, and even though it’s free, I pay to upgrade because they deserve every dollar I can donate. And while personal organization seems to be improving, my house, car, and work are still havoc. I have been trying to figure out what to say as far as a plan of action for this, but I don’t know yet. I will just keep trying to find a solution and make so many things less, well, many.
My house and life are incredibly cluttered, so I’m going to give myself a 5/10 on this one for mostly sticking to my habit app, but not yet getting on board with cleaning up everything.
Bonus XP: I have created a daily habit of focusing on positivity, posting regular marketing content for work, and more. Did I mention I have a bad-ass flying unicorn mount, and a bunch of amazing armor? Yeah.
Mission Objective: Exercise your talents. BE CREATIVE!
Ironically, this objective has been the toughest for me. I’m a workaholic, and I have a really hard time allowing myself “down time” because there’s always another deadline or task waiting on the horizon. Why take a break when it has to be done, right?
I’m a creative person who has always needed to exercise that desire through writing, song, painting, or crafting of some sort. Working 100-hour workweeks isn’t conducive to that.
So in November, I started a new thing at work called “Crafts & Drafts.” It’s a paid class, usually within an event, that consists of a pint and a small craft project. Last month, we crafted Harry Potter-inspired wands for the Fantastic Beasts party. This month, we made little soot sprite ornaments for our Studio Ghibli party. Even though the class is only for a couple of hours, it has allowed me to sit down, take a breath, and just have some fun making something silly.
It’s helped me realize just how much I miss being creative on a daily basis, which was way easier for me as a housewife. So this leads me to my goals for this objective. I want to write more. I have dozens of blog entries that I started and just never finished. No. I. need. to. write. And secondly, I want to create more. I’m talking about going above and beyond the normal for our themed work events, and creating projects at home, for us to enjoy. I have a handful of song parodies that never came to fruition because I don’t prioritize their time over my job. I have a craft room full of DIY projects just itching to be touched. When creativity becomes your job, it’s apparently harder to retain it for your personal use. I’m going to work on that, and now I know the key is having the peace of mind and heart to allow myself freedom to create.
Grading! Final objective … I’m giving myself a 4/10 because I started this entry on Dec. 4 and am just now finishing it. However, I did sit down at both crafting events, and – gasp – had fun, so I gain some points there. (Hey, look, bargaining has already begun!)
Bonus XP: I don’t have much, but I can say that we made a solid attempt to put up our Christmas decorations this year (skipped last two) despite being incredibly busy. We made the holidays a priority, and I am so, so happy we did. Even my village is up!
Mission Score: 20 / 50
So that score averages out to failing, and that doesn’t make me happy with myself. However, it’s 20 points I earned by making solid changes in my life, and there’s something to be said for that. (+1 Bonus XP for positive mindset!) Maybe this grading thing isn’t for me, but I’m my own worst critic, and next month will be better. Thanks for sticking with me through this obscenely long entry. The next in this series will be much shorter, and much more successful.
Cheers to positive, forward movement. Shepard out.