Mind the Grey

dead flower

We broke new ground in my therapy session yesterday. For the first time ever, I was given a homework assignment at the conclusion of my hour: write a blog post on “the grey area of life”. Upon receiving this instruction, I beamed with excitement. Finally, the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what I’ve learned from the session and how I can apply it to my life. Any homework assignment that involves personal reflection and self-expression is one that I will readily take on with open arms. I have always loved to write, as I find it therapeutic and insightful. This assignment proved to be no exception.

If you’ve ever known a perfectionist, or if you consider yourself to be one, then you are probably aware of how invasive the desire for ‘perfection’ can be.  It has the potential to penetrate any number of areas of your life, whether it be your career, your education, your family life, or your romantic relationships. You start to notice distinct black & white thinking. If something isn’t perfect, then it’s no good at all. You choose to remove it from your life as best you can. But herein lies the problem. Nothing in life is perfect. Life is messy and unpredictable. Expectations are not always met, and disappointment is inevitable. When you limit yourself to accepting nothing but perfection, you limit your life to few possibilities. And of those possibilities, the options become even more obscure as life continues to muddy the waters further. Even if something appears to be ‘perfect’, it may not always exist in a perfect state. The perfect person makes mistakes. The perfect flower ultimately shrivels and dies. The perfect day turns into night and then vanishes forever. Perfect is not a reasonable standard. There is room for imperfection. There is room for the grey.

If you begin to compartmentalize the world according to black & white, you’ll soon find that many things do not fit well into either category. A third category begins to outweigh the other two: the grey category. Life isn’t as concrete as we hope it to be, and sometimes all we can do is accept it. I don’t believe in standards being too high, but I do believe that standards can be too extreme. And unfortunately, I’m beginning to think that I’ve set too extreme of standards with little room for imperfection. Maybe it’s in my nature…or maybe it’s from my upbringing.

I remember when I was little (and even to this day), being limited to the types of trash that I could throw in my father’s waste basket in his room. No food, no crumbs, no dirty tissues, and no crumbled up papers. All disposables for that trash had to be neatly folded papers. He was anal, and had extreme expectations for perfection. I remember being warned not to eat a tic tac even 2 hours before dinner since it would “ruin my appetite”. I remember being scolded for trying to draw lines free-handedly on my projects. “Don’t you want it to look nice and neat? Don’t you want it to look like you spent time on it? You need to use a ruler”. I remember being forbidden to ride on a school bus in the rain (on account of the danger), causing me to miss out on class field trips with my friends. I remember coming home from school, excited to share a “B+” grade, only to be asked why it wasn’t an “A”. So maybe it is a bit of nature…but my suspicions tell me it’s nurture.

I have been programmed to strive for perfection, and to look for perfection in everything I do and in everyone I know. And while in many ways this is a blessing, it has also doubled as a curse. I have scared away many good people from my rigid judgements and extreme expectations. I have discounted the good because it wasn’t good enough. I have allowed myself to feel disappointed from people and things that have not even truly been disappointing. I have allowed myself to dwell on the future and fear imperfection, rather than revel in the present and appreciate the now.

So I challenge myself to mind the grey; to accept the fact that the world is imperfect, and that many things in life will not be black or white. I challenge myself to get comfortable with grey areas in my life, and to find the good in even the things that aren’t the exact way I wish them to be. I challenge myself to be mindful, and to seize the moment without the mistake of tainting it with flawed and senseless suppositions of the future. A friend at work once told me of her favorite quote, which resonates nicely with the theme of this post: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. I challenge myself not to.

xx allie

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Addiction Project: Journal Entry 1

chocolate

What’s up guys?! Happy Wednesday! So as you know, since the beginning of this year, I’ve been abstaining from eating all things chocolate, to begin what I like to call my “addiction project”. It’s been a total of 10 days now, so I figured I’d check in and document my progress/experience so far. Here are some of my notes:

  1. Out of the 10 days that I’ve been avoiding the consumption of chocolate, I’ve only caved on one day (which was my 25th birthday party). I justified that day as an “exception day”, and I am STILL feeling guilty for doing that. In the life of a recovering addict, there are NO EXCEPTION DAYS. An alcoholic cannot just decide to drink on ‘exception days’ like their birthday, a wedding, a bachelor/bachelorette party, a trip to Vegas, etc. A meth addict cannot just decide to light up when they’ve had a long/difficult day, or when a group of their addict friends decide to hang out. When an addict makes the decision to go into recovery, there are no loopholes. They are committing to a lifetime of honesty, restraint, and willpower. Although this addiction project of mine is a mock-recovery assignment, I will commit to adhering to my recovering ‘addict’-mindset moving forward. No more cheating. No more caving. No more exceptions. [[not even on Valentine’s Day–the most chocolate-ridden day of them all]]. *sigh*. The best way that I can get an accurate experience of recovery (given that I am not actually addicted to a drug or alcohol) is to do all that is in my power to emulate the struggles and victories that addicts face on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Social Life Crisis: Between work life and grad school life, I love to find time for my friends by meeting them for coffee, late-night happy hour, or ice-cream runs. But I am starting to realize just how many calories I consume in a given week as a means of being social. In these past 10 days, I have had to refrain from pizookie offerings, Baskin Robbins pitstops, mochas & salted caramel hot chocolates, and much more. From choosing to reject all forms of chocolate, I have noticed that my usual lifestyle is ridden with poor eating decisions, and literally NO will power. Until now, I have allowed myself to accept nearly every opportunity of something delicious and sugary, and as a result of this realization, I’ve decided to be more selective in my acceptance of dessert offerings at the conclusion of this experiment. Due to this project, I’ve had to find new ways to spend time with my friends. No more discussion over dessert. I imagine that this would be a very big problem for addicts in the real world, who have likely found friends who enjoy the same vices as them. When all you’ve ever done with your friends is engage in your addictions together, there are few other options when you decide to quit…and chances are, your friends are not on the same page as you regarding recovery. So what does this mean? You lose old friends, and are tasked with the difficulty of making new ones—ones that are a good influence. It is not easy to leave your old life and habits behind and start anew. It is scary and daunting. I imagine this is a big part of the reason why people get stuck in their addictions and feel that there is little way out. The motivation to progress is hindered by the fear of abandoning the familiar and venturing off into the overwhelming unknown.
  3. Pervasive Thoughts & Urges: The first few days were the worst. I never really noticed how often I thought about eating chocolate until I was not allowing myself to eat it. In the morning, in the late morning, after lunch, in the late afternoon, after dinner, you name it. For many years, I’ve looked to chocolate to start my day, and to end my day. I have stashed chocolate supplies in every place that I visit on a daily basis. It’s in my drawer at work, in a jar in my bedroom, in my kitchen, etc. I have used chocolate as a motivation for many things, including as a way to treat myself when I accomplish something (or really anything at all). Chocolate has been my driving force, my happiness, my relief, my depression’s friend, etc. It is my vice. I’ve had to re-train my thinking in the last 10 days, and I’ve noticed that I crave it less and less as time goes on. I’ve thrown away all of my stashes, and have removed any reminders of chocolate (including a little sign in my room that says, “Love is all you need, but a little chocolate every now and then doesn’t hurt”). The best way to remove yourself from your addiction is to remove the things that spur the addiction.
  4. Alternatives: I do still have a sweet tooth, and I do still look for ways to satisfy it. Instead of chocolate, I now try to snack on yogurt, nut & dried fruit trail mixes, peanut butter & bananas, medjool dates, etc. Getting my chocolate fix was oftentimes mindless. I would reach into my drawer or chocolate jar and would immediately satisfy my craving. Now my alternative options take planning. I have to go to the store and stock up on my options, then remember to take them with me when I leave for the day. One of the lessons of the church service I attended last Sunday was that if you spend your life coasting, the only way you can go is downhill. When we get used to doing things mindlessly, we cease to make improvements and progress in our lives. Planning ahead, calculating our day, and making new choices is healthy. Do it.

So in 10 days, I feel that I’ve already gained a good deal of insight. It’s just the beginning so far, but I am confident that I will continue to learn more about myself and this process and I am excited to share my findings. Stay lovely folks.

xx allie

2017 Reflections

reflection

Luckily, I had much to be grateful for in 2017. This past year was a year of personal growth. I spent a good deal of time and effort bettering myself and working on my shortcomings. It was a year of recovery from depression, personal psychotherapy sessions, reading self-help and psychological novels, and coming to know more about who I am as a person and what I am looking for in a future. I have come to acknowledge and accept my weaknesses, and have discovered the potential I have to be a great therapist nonetheless.  Because even therapists are not perfect. Because even therapists do not have all of the answers. We are all human, and we are all susceptible to the obstacles inherent in being alive.

Through trial and error, and hardship and hurt I learned about what I am not looking for in a relationship, and consequently the things that I value most. I learned that no amount of love for a person supersedes compromise or respect. I learned that not everything can be fixed, and that sometimes letting go is the best, albeit the hardest, solution.

I learned that people who block your path to betterment and success are better left behind…not with anger or hatred, but with compassion toward their self-set limitations. When you are ready to let go of the people who are holding you back, beautiful things begin to happen.

After letting go of my last relationship, I was able to divert misused energy and passion to something that truly mattered: my education. Gone were days of tears, anger, bewilderment, and betrayal, and instead came feelings of self-fulfillment, gratitude, and pride.  A sense of completeness came over me, as I felt more whole on my own than with anyone else. Nothing had the power to upset me now. Nothing had the power to knock me off my feet, except my own exhilaration and momentum in life.

I started graduate school in August of 2017, and began to surround myself with anything and everything that steered me closer to my goals. For the first time in years, I found myself sitting down to write papers at coffee shops on weekdays—my absolute favorite thing to do. I could immerse myself in the topics and literature that fed my passions and left me itching for more. Everything felt right again. Everything felt purposeful. I completed my first semester with nothing but ‘A+’s, and I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and countless hours that I devoted to earning those grades. Nothing came before school. Nothing served as a distraction. For that, I feel lucky.

In 2017, I was able to adhere to a good routine involving a number of various exercises per week. I lifted weights, took Zumba, played tennis, and became a new member at Studio Barre in Newbury Park. The community at Studio Barre, paired with the physical challenge, kept me coming back and actually looking forward to it. Exercise ceased to feel like a hassle, and therefore I kept it up. This year I experienced less “phases” and more of a hard-wired lifestyle.

I have managed to hold on to all of my best friends, despite occasional tiffs or disagreements. Again, I was graced with another year of proof that my friendships are solid and shatterproof. The health of the ones I love is, for another year, pristine. There is nothing that is more of a blessing to me than this.

Wealth has entered into my life in many forms. But monetarily speaking, I cannot say enough great things about the cryptocurrencies that I’ve invested in during 2017. I feel that good earnings will continue to come, and I truly encourage people to educate themselves on these types of investments and join in while they continue to rise!

It is true that 2017 brought with it a few unforeseen endings. However, with endings come new beginnings…and I can’t say enough about how excited I am to embark on the new beginnings that have recently entered my life. I feel good vibes heading into the new year, and I am excited to be carried by life’s waves of spontaneity and good grace.

Happy New Year to all. Let’s make it the best one yet.

xx allie

 

 

The Addiction Project.

sugar.jpg

To my knowledge, I’ve never had a true addiction to anything. But, if I had to choose one thing that I’m definitely hooked on, it’s chocolate…without question. I simply cannot think of the last day that I went without some amount of chocolate, or even the last morning that I woke up and did not crave it. Chocolate is a staple for me, in the same way that maple syrup was a staple for Will Ferrell in the movie, Elf.

While enrolled in my MFT program, I have come to discover that a class during my next semester will arrive with the ultimate challenge. Since I will undoubtedly be working with individuals who struggle from addiction in my practice, I will be given the task of giving up something that I feel addicted to in my own personal life. I will (in theory) gain first-hand of experience of what it feels like to quit an addiction. This hiatus from my addiction will last the entire duration of the semester, and I imagine I will be writing a paper or presenting on my experience of weening off my addiction at the end of the class.

In preparation for the commencement of this assignment, I have been attempting to get EVEN MORE addicted to chocolate than I already am. Not only have the holidays been a good excuse to turn into a sugar gremlin, but I wanted to get the most accurate experience during this little experiment [without having to start smoking or heavily drinking], by making it as difficult as possible for me to quit my chocolate craze.

In the process of feeding my addiction to chocolate, I’m sure that I’ve gained upwards of 8 pounds….but I honestly don’t know, because I’m afraid to look. I can see a difference in my arms and stomach (luckily, its winter so I can layer & bundle), but what I can’t see concerns me even more. I’m sure that my health and body are not thrilled with the extra sugar I’ve been indulging in. It has been somewhat sickening how little I have tuned into my subconscious lately and resisted the willpower I’d normally exercise in making food choices. Mind you, I have continued to work out 3-4 days per week despite my increased chocolate intake–but it appears that the chocolate diet is winning nonetheless.

Come January, I plan to begin my withdrawal. Although I don’t formally begin the new school semester until Jan. 17th, I think it’s time I begin. Gone will be the days of chocolate consumption, and I have no doubt that my body will feel like its suffering. Although, I feel certain that my conscience will be clearer and my mind more at ease. I plan to undergo some setbacks (as most addicts do), and I’m certain I will have moments of weakness….especially when the peer pressure kicks in. At the end of this experiment, I hope to be able to better empathize with the struggles that addicts face in weening off their vice. From what I understand, addiction can be an atrocious demon. It is truly not a condition to emulate — unless it is for the greater good of yourself and/or others….and in this case, I like to believe that it is.

5 more days of sugar, then more updates to come.

Wish me luck.

xx allie

December Faves

402718306-december-wallpapers

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Hope everyone is having a good day.

I just got demolished by a final…but it’s okay–time to study for the next one! I forgot how draining it is to study for finals. I’m done with 3 of 4 now, and I swear, I’m not cut out for this. My brain is slacking on everyday things this week, as I’ve been diverting all of my mental energy on psychopathology, research methods, family systems therapy techniques, and psychotherapy theories. Help.Me. I am counting down the hours until I’m done with tomorrow’s class and I can finally celebrate the Winter break and my birthday weekend! No more school for another month! WOOHOO.

Anywaysssss—

This Christmas season is an unusual one for California. As you might be aware, it’s been a white Christmas season….and I mean white with ash. If you live in an affected area, then you have probably seen the ash layering the streets, your car, your roof, etc. This makes me so sad. There are many people I know that have lost their homes or have been evacuated as a result of the fires. I, for one, truly miss FRESH AIR. Tempted to take a hiatus from California and head to Washington for a nice, long weekend. I could really use some forest beauty and R&R. I’ve always wanted to be spontaneous one day and just UP and GO. Maybe I’ll do it this winter break….

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for A WHILE, and unfortunately I have not had the time to sit down and just DO IT. But today, since I am braindead from my final a few hours ago, I figured I’d sit down and finally write one before getting back to my studies.

Happy December Folks! Here are a few of my DECEMBER FAVES!!!

  1. ADVENT CALENDARS: If you know me at all, then you know this is a Keyser Family tradition. There is no December without an advent calendar. Why do we love these so much? Because you’re guaranteed chocolate every day. Also because it’s a countdown to Christmas. Need I say more? I get mine from Trader Jos. They never fail.img_8074-e1513225042235.png
  2. WINTER SCENTED CANDLES: YES YES YES. The one I’m burning this precise moment is “Evergreen” scented and it’s from Bath & Body Works. It literally smells like a forest of Christmas trees in my room right now. They have a ton of different scents to choose from, and it’s so much fun to explore them all! I always aim for the Soy wax candles..since they emit a healthier smoke into the air than just your average candle.
  3. HOT CHOCOLATE: I don’t feel guilty about drinking empty calories if it’s during the holiday season (or lets be honest…pretty much ever). If I enjoy the drink…then no regrets. If you’re in the market for a fan.tas.tic hot chocolate, then look no further then Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate drink. (disclaimer–you don’t even have to like caramel to LOVE this drink)
  4. CHRISTMAS MOVIES: This might be the only time that I recommend Hallmark movies…but if you’re going to watch them at all…then I guess it’s permissible in December of all months. You must also watch “The Grinch”, “The Santa Clause”, “Elf”, and “The Holiday”. I just purchased a 50 inch HD 4K tv for my room, so you can bet that I’ll be spending my entire winter break snuggled up binge watching everything that exists.
  5. BABY CHRISTMAS TREES: Trader Jos comes in clutch with these too. I bought a baby  tree for my room, equipped with silver confetti sparkles for decoration. It is literally adorable on a bedside table and doesn’t take up much space at all! I think mine cost about $3…but they have a special “Grump” tree that is SO freaking cute. I recommend it.

grump tree

6. STRING LIGHTS: These add the perfect holiday touch to any room. I found mine at Target for only $5 (batteries not included). They are super cute, perfect length for my windows, and have little rose gold bells attached.

7. STOCKING STUFFERS: Stockings are (hands down) my favorite part about Christmas morning. It’s so much fun to explore your stocking…because every goody is such a surprise! Some ideas for stuffers: nail polish, face masks, little gift cards to Starbucks or In-N-Out (if you’re Californian), chocolate, fuzzy socks, lip gloss, hand creams, etc.! Be creative… and maybe even a little quirky.

Okay that’s all the time I have for today guys. Keep your eyes out for more posts….as I am about to have SO MUCH MORE TIME!

xx

allie

Meet Me at the Barre…

barre.jpg

What’s up guys!!! Happy tuckin’ Wednesday!

If you’re like most people on this earth, then chances are you have been indulging in some delectable treats this holiday season….AS YOU SHOULD! One of the greatest pleasures in life is food, and there’s no reason why you should restrict yourself from the occasional pumpkin muffin, salted caramel hot chocolate, or hunk of peppermint bark. Enjoy yourself, and don’t be so hard on your eating decisions…you won’t be expected to wear a bathing suit for the next 6/7 months anyways!

However–everything is better in moderation–so here’s a lovely workout suggestion to help you balance out your caloric intake this holiday season.

Ever heard of barre? I’m not talking about the kind where you order vodka sodas or adios mother f*****s. This barre is the no-guilt kind. You won’t be waking up hungover….or with a stranger by your side…lol jk…(but not really).

Barre is an up-and-coming form of exercise that combines pilates, dance, yoga, and functional training. Not flexible? No worries…I can barely do the butterfly stretch, and yet I’m chillin’. Every class is perfectly choreographed to upbeat and motivating music. Every instructor is literally A++. How is that possible? I have no freaking clue.

During the exercise, you use small workout balls, free hand weights, resistance bands, and the like. Every class is unique, and no two classes are ever the same. And just when you think you’ve gotten the class down…NOPE! They switch all of the choreography every few months to keep it challenging and new.

And the absolute best part? I guarantee you that during the class, you’ll think of nothing else in your life outside of that room (stressful work issues, recent breakup, impending assignments…nope, nada). You literally cannot do two things at once, and this class is no exception. Enjoy the unique and invigorating opportunity to be truly, 100% MINDFUL, and in the present-moment. It’s the ultimate stress-relief activity.

So if you’re in the market for a new & improved exercise regime…look no further than your local barre studio. For the first time ever, you’ll look forward to your workout and enjoy every minute along the way. Plus, you’ve never felt your muscles burn quite like this before…I can assure you.

While these classes can be somewhat expensive, more often than not you can purchase special packages that will decrease the cost per class! Or, take advantage of student discounts…always.

If you live in my area, I highly encourage you to check out Studio Barre Newbury Park. This place is everything.

Any questions? Shoot me a comment, and I’ll be happy to answer!

That’s it for today folks, hope to see you at the barre! 😉

xx allie

Black Friday Consumes Thanksgiving

black friday

Happy Tuesday everyone–it’s almost Thanksgiving! I hope that everyone is excited for turkey, Martinelli’s sparkling cider, and good ol’ pumpkin pie. We all know that year after year we consume over 5,000 calories in that one Thanksgiving meal alone! Only this year it’s different. Thanksgiving itself is being consumed. Hide yo kids, hide yo wife.

If you’ve done your research at all on the Black Friday specials of 2017, then you may have noticed that the major door-busters begin at 6pm on Thanksgiving night. 6 PM!!! What in the name of Christopher Columbus?! I thought black Friday starts on Friday?

Isn’t it true that Black Friday used to start at precisely midnight following Thanksgiving?!

Over the years, black Friday has continued to creep closer and closer to Thanksgiving night. Last year I remember that a lot of the doors opened at 9 or 10 pm…. and even that was pushing it. BUT NOW 6PM? If you’re like most Americans…then chances are you are just sitting down to eat your Thanksgiving feast with the fam at this time. And now what? Instead of enjoying and appreciating quality family time, we are all supposed to be running off and finding the best deals on expensive items? Blasphemy.

What about everyone that must show up to work at 6pm on Thanksgiving, just so that people can barge their way through the doors and save money on a TV or game system? Hath America no soul?

At this rate, I would not be surprised if Thanksgiving goes extinct in the coming years. Black Friday will become Black Thursday, replacing Thanksgiving once and for all. I digress..

I honestly refuse to be at the door-buster sales this year, and I highly encourage all others to do the same. Instead, I will be embarking on a CyberMonday shopping spree from the comfort of my own home. In fact, I am hearing that CyberMonday is supposed to be even better than Black Friday….so there.

This Thanksgiving…don’t lose sight of what is truly important. Family, friends, and thankfulness. ❤

…and if you do decide to shop this Black Friday, then may the odds be ever in your favor.

xx allie

 

 

Starbucks vs. McCafe

starbucks_holiday_drinks

Hey guys, Happy Wednesday!

Today I am going to be discussing Coffee. Why? Because without it, I would undoubtedly spend 24 hours of each day sleeping. So I figure it (more than) deserves it’s own post.

I’ll start by saying that I have always esteemed Starbucks Coffee as my default go-to, for a few reasons.

  1. I like the variety of drinks available
  2. I like the ability to customize your drink any which way (yay for kids temp!).
  3. I love that they recognize the holidays and alter their products accordingly.

But, although the coffee/sweet drinks are choice, there are a few things about Starbucks that aren’t. For one, the price isn’t always right. I used to be able to justify spending $4-7 on a Starbucks drink once or twice per week, but now that I’m in grad school I basically visit a coffee shop 5-6 days per week. So if I spent $5, 6x per week, then I would be spending $120 per month on coffee drinks. While I do love coffee, $120 is a little steep. That’s more than half the price of my monthly car payment, and over 2x more than my gym membership. If guilt didn’t exist, then I would continue to pay the price without giving it a second thought. But, as the careful spender that I am, I cringe with guilt every time I purchase a drink for $5, which I always finish in 5 minutes.

For this reason alone, I found it necessary to explore my options. Although I almost NEVER choose to visit a McDonald’s for anything else, I had heard that their coffee was tasty and affordable. I decide to give it a (expresso) shot. 🙂

Much to my surprise, they too offered holiday drinks! On the menu, I noticed flavors like toffee latte, peppermint mocha, peppermint hot chocolate, vanilla latte, etc. McCafe is steppin’ it up!

mccafe

I chose just a simple hot mocha, and was pleasantly surprised by how smooth, rich, and perfect it tasted. In fact, I gave it a 10/10, as opposed to Starbucks mocha drink which I rate a 7/10. Starbucks makes their mochas SUPER sweet and chocolatey (even for a major chocoholic)–I always have to ask for them half sweetened. *The only thing that I didn’t like about the McCafe Mocha was how HOT it was. OH MY GOSH. I definitely burned my tongue [a few times]. If possible, ask for it much less hot than it comes.

The major perk though? The price! Each size was over $1 less than its Starbucks counterpart. So let’s do the math again with this new price. If I were to spend $3.50 on a McCafe drink, 6x per week, my total for the month would be: $84. So much more reasonable than Starbucks!

Let’s be real though, McDonalds is really only an option for coffee on-the-go. I’m simply not going to bring my laptop, books, and assignments to a booth at McDonalds. It’s obviously not the best hangout place, and doesn’t account of students looking for comfortable seating and plenty of outlets. So when I’m looking for a location to do work, it’s worth the extra price for me to choose Starbucks over McDonalds.

BUT–if you’re ever on the go, needing coffee, but aren’t trying to spend top dollar for your fix….then try out a McCafe. You might even find you prefer it…

Have a beautiful rest of your day ❤

xx allie