2 Things I’ve Realized While Being Sober in 2020:

1) When you’re sober during a crisis, social media starts to look like a really bad, really desperate reality TV show (you know, the kind I love to watch).

As a society, we rely on booze like the comforting friend most of us are taught to look to in times of trouble, and social media is their highlight reel. Being sober in 2020 feels like peering into a whole news feed full of inside jokes you just don’t get anymore. Scrolling starts to feel like a voyeuristic maneuver to spy on a club you quit – a sorority you told your friends “wasn’t for you.” It’s like waking up and choosing to take the red pill over and over again, sometimes because you know it’s the better choice, and sometimes out of morbid curiosity. Maybe social media has always been like this – a big, long booze commercial starring nearly everyone – and I just didn’t notice before because I did my best to avoid scrolling. And before that, I was in on the joke.

Instead of feeling left out of the club, I feel good. I’m now an observer rather than a subject. I escaped a cycle that looks like fun, constantly reaching out with magnanimous hands offering relief and ease, but it fails every time. It’s a bully, a mean girl – after a night on the inside you somehow feel worse, until it comes around the next day promising to fix the problems it created. Get in bitch, we’re staying mildly cloudy at all times to avoid reality! This abusive cycle becomes particularly obvious when you’re no longer participating. Booze fixes problems just as well as Regina George values feminism (before she got hit by a bus and had an awakening).

I read an excerpt on social media that I screenshot about the differences between the underlying fears in George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. After doing some basic research, I found the quote as part of a forward in a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness, by Neil Postman. I’ve never read it. It was written in 1985. I’m surprised no one in journalism school mentioned it.

“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no big brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think… What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

It’s been years since I’ve read these books, and plan to reread them again soon. After becoming sober this analysis seemed to resonate with me and pair beautifully with my reality TV theory. At this point I believe booze and social media work concurrently to produce the results Huxley feared, because no one is forcing us to partake, we choose the numbness for ourselves, and it takes work to escape it. Now, my challenge seems to be more in the looking away from the booze-induced denial fest, but we’ll delve into that topic another day.

2) Your brain off alcohol and drugs is capable of some crazy shit; good luck sorting that out. AKA: Everything is now an existential lesson in living… yay.

Seriously. There has never been another time in my life where I have gone through a significant amount of life-altering experiences and been sober enough to observe how I feel and respond in that moment, and then remember enough to be able to reflect on it later. It’s unsettling how much introspection and time is lost to alcohol consumption. I go to weekly therapy, workout about five days a week, eat healthy food and take vitamins. I don’t even take an Advil unless the situation is dire. You’d think my brain would be clear, my memory vivid, and my understanding of reality better than when I was drinking or taking anti anxiety drugs. Well, in some ways it’s not, but my recognition of that fact is new.

This is probably confusing, so I’ll attempt to explain using a recent example. When I got the news that Humboldt County was issuing a stay at home order and my business would be mandated to close, I literally do not remember much of the next three months. I remember staying late to work on one last client, packing up my car with all my retail products, and driving home. After that, it goes blank, or at best, spotty, until I started working in person again on July 1st.

That shit is confusing as hell.

In the past I would’ve chalked that up to nightly alcohol consumption. No big deal; it happens to everyone. Things got blurry; life was stressful. I drank more to cope with my crushing new reality. Now I look back and am forced to reckon with something much more complex – I get to unpack what stress does to my brain, how I react and respond, and what implications that has on the rest of my life. Awesome. So while things get clearer, they become more confusing. Instead of wallowing, scrolling social media aimlessly and letting my business die, I did the exact opposite. I used 100% of my brain capacity (ask my husband, he could probably tell you what actually happened during my three month out of body experience) to grow my business during what continues to be the most challenging time for me as an entrepreneur. But I don’t remember three months of it.

I think the lesson I’m taking away from this realization is that we are complex beings in a complex universe who understand very little, but without booze I’m awake enough to really think about that.

Monthly Resource Collection: October 2020

I’m losing focus. I can tell when this is happening because I feel scattered, ungrounded, and become obsessed with work. October has been a whirlwind for my business (all good things, coming soon) but that means that during my “down time” I do less learning and more zoning out. Tuning out. Which ultimately leads me to feeling unsettled and unfulfilled. I go from work to distraction, from distraction to work. I’m in constant movement.

Instead of reading, I watch TV. Instead of learning, I scroll. Instead of being grateful, I shop. I notice these patterns and try to give myself a certain amount of understanding when I’m feeling overwhelmed, however, the irony is in the realization that the behaviors I tend to revert back to during times of intense change or stress only increase my feelings of anxiety. And on we go.

I’ve put safeguards in place over the years to prevent the spiral – a solid morning routine, work boundaries, fitness, meditation, healthy eating, mindfulness, and less media consumption. Since the start of shelter in place I have participated in more media consumption than I’d prefer. Much more. But it saved my business, and serves a necessary purpose. However, after coming off of a month-long digital declutter, resulting in my claim to be a digital minimalist, the subsequent use of constant tech is taking its toll. My mind felt clear and awake before. Inspired. And now it feels loud, cloudy, and distracted.

The reason why I bring this up is because I’ve gone from reading at least several books a month, no none. Suddenly. And I know exactly why. It’s not that the time suddenly disappeared, it’s because I’m falling into old time wasting patterns that do not serve me. And I do not want my priorities to change. I’m much happier when I’m learning, taking time for introspection, and living a quiet life. I’m not doing that right now, and I feel it.

This month’s resources consist of the few podcasts I managed to focus on that I think are currently relevant. Most are from Code Switch by NPR. I also included a couple episodes from the true crime genre (another one of my favorite types of podcasts) that discuss important social justice cases, therefore, making them relevant here. I imagine that between work, the election, and general holiday chaos, it may be a struggle for me to conduct interviews for my guest features, or even prioritize reading books. I’ve come to terms with that as my temporary reality.

So in January, I plan to completely step out of the media world once again to find my footing and build on the progress I made before the world changed.

Notable Podcast Episodes:

NPR Code Switch

– “Is Trump Really That Racist?” Code Switch, NPR, 20 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000495497006

-“Let’s Talk About Kamala Harris.” Code Switch, NPR, 13 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000494674687

-“Is it time to say R.I.P. to ‘POC’?” Code Switch, NPR, 29 Sept, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000493048421

-The episode I found most interesting: “The Latinx Vote Comes Of Age.” Code Switch, NPR, 27 Oct, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/code-switch/id1112190608?i=1000496309010

True Crime Podcast Notable Episodes:

“The Death of Kendrick Johnson.” Weird on the Rocks, 3 Aug, 2020. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/weird-on-the-rocks/id1453938390?i=1000487067103
Continue reading “Monthly Resource Collection: October 2020”

What if Our Cycle is an Advantage Rather than a Liability?

As a thirteen year old girl in the eighth grade I was taught that my period was something unfortunate I had to deal with. It was a miserable curse bestowed upon me once I was old enough to get pregnant – a shameful experience. I was taught to keep quiet about it because it would make others uncomfortable, especially boys who thought it was “gross.” I learned to internalize the emotional and physical pain because I was taught it was unavoidable, and there’s no point in discussing it, since I couldn’t be fixed. I was taught it was messy, uncomfortable, painful, and ultimately a sign of weakness.

My period was a gateway to my unrelenting and unfortunate tendency as a female, toward emotional and irrational thinking and behavior. An inconvenience for potential partners. It would overtake me each month, turn me into a weaker and angrier version of myself, and this narrative would justify every societal and personal subordination I would endure in life. Until I hit menopause, when we’d intensify the emotional roller coaster and subtract the period and the impossible task of being a presentable sex object 24/7, that never shows a sign of actually being a woman in her physical body.

I was 31 years old when I learned that bleeding is only one of four phases of my cycle, and that almost every bit of what we’ve learned and internalized about ourselves and our periods isn’t true. On some level every woman (and some others, I’m sure) know that simplifying the female reproductive system down to period and able to make babies is ridiculous. The fact that a woman’s body is powerful enough to create life seems to be more complicated than that. When you zoom out and start to look at how complex, intuitive, and strong women are, we are forced to confront the uncomfortable reality that the only parts we learned about our physical bodies from public education and some of our parents are the parts that have to do with the immediately external. Things that affect men or the people around you. Things that define you as either a baby maker or a non-baby-maker, someone who needs to be controlled because we hold the power to control the ultimate outcome.

Women’s bodies have been politicized all over the world for centuries, but this is not what this post is about. This post is about the knowledge that can liberate you from the seemingly hopeless period drudgery, and from the negative mental loop many of us grew up teaching ourselves was normal – to hate what our bodies are capable of. Learning about the four phases of my cycle has opened up an entire world of possibility and has inspired me to flip everything I thought I knew on it’s head. I now look at my cycle as an opportunity to wield my power as a woman, connect with nature, and optimize my life in all areas, outside the masculine “efficiency” paradigm. Men teach how to optimize your life within 24 hour cycles. Why are women working so hard to conform to this strategy when we would be better served to “optimize our lives” working on a 28 day cycle? Because the world is set up to serve the patriarchy, and because no one taught us how. Imagine what our life could have been like if we were taught as girls that our cycles made us stronger? That they were an advantage, rather than a liability.

I plan to write about this topic more as I advance on my journey to essentially “biohack” my cycle to improve every area of my life. It’s extremely complex and I imagine I will be working on this daily and improving it forever as I learn and change. Today’s post builds the foundation by very briefly explaining the behavioral aspects of the four phases and giving you resources to do further research – I’m sharing the information I wish I had years and years ago. Once I had this basic foundation, I was fascinated by how much more I could learn.

I gravitate toward this form of “self-improvement” because it’s empowering – it does not ignore or omit my femininity altogether, or label it as an unfortunate side effect of my existence as a woman – it treats every aspect of your cycle as an advantage, as it should be. Woman as center. I feel like in the last eight months of close observation, I’ve already been able to make small changes with big impacts. It may seem silly to alter and plan my workout routine, my foods, my work schedule, my projects, and my social events around my cycle, but I think that is the key to unlocking your feminine power. It only sounds silly because we’ve been taught that our emotions, empathy, and intuition make us weak, when the opposite is true.

The Four Phases:

Follicular

Duration 7-10 Days

Season: Spring

Women Archetype: The Virgin Warrior

Moon: Waxing

This phase begins after your bleed ends when hormones are at low levels and slowly begin to increase in concentration. This is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts, openness to new things, and creativity. This is the most productive phase of your cycle. Brainstorming and creative capability is high so this is a great time to start new projects, go to events, or try new hobbies or things at work.

Ovulatory

Duration: 3-4 Days

Season: Summer

Woman Archetype: The Mother/Lover

Moon: Full

During this phase there is a dramatic rise in estrogen. You may feel more social and your communication skills are on point. This is the time in your cycle when your intuition and awareness are at an all time high, and you have extra energy to burn.

Luteal

Duration: 10-14 Days

Season: Fall

Woman Archetype: The Enchantress or Wild Woman

Moon: Waning

This phase is marked by steady and declining physical energy levels as your body prepares for the Menstrual Phase. You may begin this phase with high social and physical energy but may feel the need to turn inward as it progresses. Your connections with other women feels stronger, however your need for introspection may increase so this is a great time for writing, journaling, and working on projects alone. Your brain chemistry is optimized for organization, task completion, and detail orientation at this time At the end of this phase anxiety levels may begin to rise as well, so holding boundaries and protecting self is important.

Mentrual

Duration: 3-7 Days

Season: Winter

Woman Archetype: The Wise Woman

Moon: New

This is a time of new beginnings, and a perfect phase for reflection and looking inward. This is a great time to rest (since physical energy levels are lower) and spend time reflecting on the last month and everything that worked and didn’t work for you. Objective decision making should be done during this phase because your ability to analyze situations and intuit what needs to be done are both strengths. Strategize for the month ahead.

Cited Sources and Further Research for Beginners:

In the Flow, Alisa Vitti

My FLO App

Expanded Podcast With Lacy Phillips, Episode 80, “In the Flo with Alisa Vitti, Female Hormone and Functional Nutrition Expert.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/expanded-podcast-with-lacy-phillips/id1419732648?i=1000464207886

Limitless Life Podcast With Melyssa Griffin, 9/24/20, “How to Use Your Menstrual Cycle to Plan Your Life.” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/limitless-life/id1251824599?i=1000492348580

FemmeHead YouTube Channel, 3/22/18, “Make the Most Out of the Phases of Your Cycle.” https://youtu.be/4PJgCLsnF_o