In Like a Lion

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Missing the soothing waters of the Gulf!

So February absolutely flew by! Between a quick trip to Montreal as part of Sean’s Christmas gift, and my BFF vacation to Mexico, it’s hard to believe that March is already in full swing. I have to admit, I missed having specific goals in February like I did in January. Being busy is good, but the OCD in me loves rules, guidelines, and deadlines!

Coming back from Mexico, I was hit with the infamous stomach bug that travelers often face when heading South to resorts. So I went back on the IR and couldn’t exercise immediately following my return to Canada. This was at first hard to accept because there were so many times on vacation where I’d look at photos of myself in a bikini and be disgusted at what I saw. I hated my stomach. In some pictures it would look OK, but in others all I saw was fat. I was so embarrassed of myself. I thought I had no business in a bikini.

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One of many photos of myself that left me feeling horrible about my body. In hindsight, I realize how foolish I am to judge so harshly.

Whenever I get sick I struggle so much with being “forced” to do things differently. I like to do things on my terms. So when an illness keeps me from running, biking, or eating what I want, it makes me upset. I get down on myself. I start to think I’m going to lose all of the strength I’ve built up. I wonder how many people I will let down. I think about how it means I’ll be awful at the Ride to Conquer Cancer. One morning when I sat on the couch bawling, and saying all of these things to Sean he asked me “why do you keep piling on?! Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Honestly, I don’t know. Anxiety just catches me sometimes and gets on top of me. When I am sick, it’s harder to fight it. It makes it easy to think I will never get healthy again. Then the little voice creeps in and says “what if this is actually some form of cancer? Or other terminal illness?” I become less inclined to challenge my thought cycles. This is why I need to stick to therapy and continue to  get back in the habit of recognizing my destructive thought patterns, so when my defenses are down I can still stand as tall as I possibly can. I can’t let being sick absolutely tear down all of my self-esteem and confidence. Being sick is a reality of life, so I can’t let every stomach ache turn into an immediate death sentence. So right here, right now, I am vowing to DESTROY the month of March!

March Goals: 

  • Try at least one new recipe a week from my new cookbook!
  • Get better at getting up early! (I want to get up earlier during the week to focus more on better breakfasts and possibly even sneaking in some early running)
  • LISTEN to my body! Don’t be afraid to SLOW DOWN (It won’t undo ALL of my hard work)
  • Journal more! (I’ve fallen behind and need to get better at my mood journal and challenging my upsetting thoughts)
  • Get my bike tuned up! (I went to the Toronto Bike Show and am feeling inspired to train hard for the Ride to Conquer Cancer! It’s also made me realize that Spring is nearly here, which means getting outside more!)

I am hoping that having some goals and ideas in mind will help keep me motivated, and continue to force me to focus on other challenges other than just getting in shape. I am also really working to try and shift my thinking in terms of finding “happiness” and “satisfaction”. I need to keep asking myself questions like “Why do I think I look bad in a bathing suit?” “What dictates my feelings about myself?” “Would my life truly be “better” if I thought I “looked better” in a bathing suit?” And so on… so far I’ve started reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” which isn’t a book about being disconnected and uncaring, it’s actually about challenging “positive thinking” and making a case for the beauty of suffering, and carefully selecting WHAT to give a f*ck about. So far I am really enjoying it, and am really using it to constructively think about HOW I value things and why!

To tie this all together – going back to my bathing suit photos. I’ve already started asking myself “Would the vacation have been ANY different if I had looked ‘better’?” The answer is, of course, no! I had an absolute blast in Mexico, and how I looked in a bathing suit, workout gear, shorts, WHATEVER, had no bearing on that. The follow-up question is also one my therapist would likely ask me – if I am so unhappy with how I look; how do I know that my “goal” image would actually satisfy me? If I weighed 10lbs less, would I actually be happier? Would I then say “that’s enough” or would I instead turn my focus to something else to criticize. I think we all know it would be the latter – I’d just continue to find something else to pick on, instead of looking at what I need to appreciate.

And this will be my overall task for March – while I strive to keep improving, I can’t lose sight of what gives my life value and satisfaction now despite whether or not I achieve some of my other goals.

What are you doing to keep yourself motivated through these last final wintery weeks?

Yeah – It’s a Resolution Post. Sorry.

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New Year, New Me! Let the memes begin! As Christmas wound down, we began to see all those memes either proclaiming inspirational quotes about the year to come – or jokes about how quickly you’ll break your resolution. To me, the idea of resolution is a double edged sword. After all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life, your health, or just expanding your horizons. However, the downside being you either set yourself up for failure, or just don’t apply yourself and wind up making the same promises next year – and possibly, start a cycle of guilt year over year.

I try not to make resolutions. I try to pick up new hobbies, make goals, or eat healthier all year. But there is something cathartic about starting over along with the year; especially after the overindulgence that is the holiday season. The winter months can be devastating for a lot of people, myself included at times. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and can have a very drastic impact on people’s lives. (If you suspect someone you care about suffers from this, I highly recommend reaching out. Take them for coffee, a walk through a path, or out skating on an outdoor rink. Outside activities are often best, as our bodies need the extra Vitamin D to help regulate our moods. Take advantage of the limited sun we get here in Canada during the winter). Resolutions are in some way meant to help ease our trudge through January, February, and March. They get us through the dark times, so we can relax, kick back, and enjoy the warmer weather, proud of ourselves for “being good” all winter.

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So while I would love to sit here and ramble about the psychology of resolutions and weigh their pros and cons, quite frankly, I think it would be hypocritical to sit here and denounce them, when I myself have a plan for January. But – in my defence, the key word here is “plan”. It’s not a resolution for the entire year, but rather, some specific goals I have for the month of January. Maybe I’ll try to start new goals each month; or most likely, I’ll just aim to do a little better all the time. Either way, rather than trying to sit here and say “NEW ME!”, I’m trying to think of it as “Me just less lazy”.

Goal #1 – “Somewhat” Sober January

Going completely alcohol-free is, admittedly, difficult for me. Not in a “OMG I NEED MY BOOZE” type of way, but more in a realistic way. I firmly believe in not depriving yourself, and so the idea of being out for dinner and not having a glass of wine, or trying a new beer just doesn’t seem fair on myself. What I am promising myself is to do the following as a comprise: 1) No drinking at home. 2) If I am out or we are hosting guests, observe a strict 1 drink limit.

The reason I want to do this is three-fold. I wanted to refresh my body after having a lot of alcohol over the holiday season. The second reason is I am curious to see how much weight I can lose within a month if I really cut back on alcohol, especially beer. The third reason will be explained later.

Goal #2 – Exercise 5x a Week

I am pretty good at working out at least 4 times a week, but I’d love to try and do a month where I workout at least 5 times a week. For a lot of people this is an easier goal to manage – twice on the weekends, and just three times during the week. One disadvantage I have is that I get up early on weekdays, and I have no appetite for getting up earlier to work out. Also, because I tend to workout at night more often, I like giving my body a full 24 hours rest. Combine that with a busy social life at night, and I sometimes have weeks where it’s tough to get 4 workouts in. But maybe I need to ditch that “excuse” and drag myself out of bed at 5am instead of 6am to squeeze in a run, quick HIIT session, or even just riding the indoor bike. Again, this is highly motivated by curiosity to see if the combination of dropping booze, and ramping up the exercise is enough to kickstart even more weight loss. It also ties into Goal #4….

Goal #3 – Practice More Mindfulness Exercises

This is something I have really begun to neglect over the past year or so, and it’s starting to show. My negative thoughts run away, and sometimes I have a hard time calming myself down. Once a week I’d like to try a new exercise, and see how it works for me, and then try to practice it a few more times. By the end of month, that means I’ll have five new exercises in my toolbox for fixing my anxiety.

It also means if I am setting aside time to do these exercises, it’s less time on social media, idling flipping by photos and memes. I can then spend the time to do more journal writing, and relax more.

Goal #4 – Stop taking Anti-Depressants

January 2017 will mark two years since beginning Pristiq. I feel I am ready to come off the drugs and attempt to deal with my anxiety through therapy, mindfulness, and other at-home exercises. This goal scares me the most. I am so worried about the side effects of withdrawal, and how my body is going to behave. This is also one of the primary motivators behind avoiding alcohol as much as possible. I figure my body will be going through enough changes without me adding alcohol to the mix. Same with the exercise – I am hoping the positive effects of working out will help balance the chemicals in my brain.

But I am really unsure if I will even go for Goal #4. My fear of coming off these drugs is just that real. All I know is prepare for more blog articles if I do start to come off the drugs, as I am likely going to be needing a lot of support, reassurance, and have A LOT on my mind.

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Keep Me Honest

Okay, so I am lame and am going to use a #hashtag to track any social media posts I make about my attempt to have a ridiculously healthy and productive January. So, follow my #JanGoals! Also look for my equally “basic” Instagram posts to match the blog.

As of right now, I plan to blog a lot during January. Not only is Bell Let’s Talk coming up on January 25th, but I plan to use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable for completing, or attempting these goals. I want to document my ups and downs with all of them. I am hoping that by doing this, I will motivate myself to keep improving, and maybe we can start a conversation where we support each other through the twists and turns of starting new habits, or breaking old ones.

So look, love them or hate them, you can’t argue against trying to better yourself through a resolution. I guess the thing I want myself, and others, to remember is – it’s not about changing me entirely. I don’t need to start from scratch. I am good person, who tries hard, and attempts to do my best. It’s more so that there’s smaller things I can do better, to make a larger impact on my life.

And PS – for the record, I didn’t start this until January 2nd, so don’t go too mad at yourself if you’ve already “broken” your resolution.

Stay tuned a little later for a recap of my first week attempting my goals!

Live Band Rankings 2015! Part One: 40 – 20

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Tis the season! Another year of concerts has come and gone, and it’s the post you’ve all been waiting for!

For those of you who only read my anxiety ramblings, this is my yearly ranking of each and every band I saw live in concert this year. Who exceeded my expectations? Who bombed? And who was just MEH…. LET’S FIND OUT!

NEW THIS YEAR: Have no idea who some of these bands are? Want to hear some tunes? Check out my Spotify playlist where you’ll find each and every artist featured here!! (Except Taylor Swift… her stuff isn’t on there).

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40. Milky Chance (Day Two, Osheaga, August 1 2015)

I was the only person in 2015 who hated their song “Stolen Dance” and Osheaga proved this because I was literally the only person in a sea of thousands of people who looked miserable. Hearing it live did not alter my opinion.

39. Young the Giant (Day Two Osheaga, August 2015)

Sean & I saw these guys last year open for Kings of Leon, and I don’t know what it was, but their set list just didn’t jive with me. They’re not a bad live group, but they were really overshadowed by many others that weekend.

38. Rah Rah (Mod Club, November 2015)

I have to say I was really looking forward to checking these guys out, as they have an impressive touring resume. However, and this partly isn’t a fault of theirs, but the sound at the Mob Club that night really prevented me from enjoying them. A lot of their vocals sounded distorted, and quite frankly, I was a little underwhelmed.

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Rah Rah @ The Mod Club

37. Guster (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

Honestly, I didn’t hate this group, but there wasn’t much particularly memorable about them as the year went on. I did enjoy, though, getting to sit in the grass, under a tree, and chill out to their tunes. It’s too bad I couldn’t rank them higher – but this year is a tough list! (Sorry John and Val!)

36. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Day Three Osheaga, August 2015)

I know. I thought I’d be ranking these guys in my Top 15. But honestly, I really didn’t like their set. Up until they brought up a wheelchair-bound fan and his buddies, I was bored and thought they sounded awful. The only saving grace was the aforementioned gesture. Also, they didn’t just bring him on stage – he CROWDSURFED to the front. It was pretty cool, and the band were awesome with their guests.

35. Catfish and the Bottleman (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

Again, like Guster – these guys aren’t bad! They just didn’t blow me away. They also, unfortunately, were the first band of the weekend for me so by the end of it all, they were lost in the haze of it all.

34. Ryn Weaver (Day Three Osheaga, August 2015)

This chick has pipes, and she is going to continue to grow as a live artist. She’s only ranked so low because I feel she has a lot of room to improve. The next time I see her, I expect she’ll be even better. Check out her debut album if you can. It’s a great pop album.

33. Iron & Wine (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

I feel like I am cheating a little putting them on my list, as I mainly listened to them while I stood in line for the washrooms, and then a drink. BUT, they did sound fantastic. I just wish I had been able to sit on the hill, and actually enjoy my drink while listening to them. Rather than desperately waiting for a port-a-potty.

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Chillin’ at the “Tree Stage” for Guster

32. James Bay (Day Three, Osheaga August 2015)

So we learned at Osheaga that James Bay is the dream boat of indie rock, because the ladies FLOODED to the stage for his set. Sean & Will napped a lot through this set, thankfully I was able to take some of it in. I hope to catch him again so I can have a better judge of him though.

31. Grace Potter (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

I really liked this girl! She’s a real throwback to the great female vocalists of the 70s & 80s. I loved her energy, and really enjoyed her set overall and hope to see her again.

30. X Ambassadors (Day Three Osheaga, August 2015)

Were they overplayed this summer? Yes. Was their set bad? Ehh…. I found their song choices a little odd. They have a limited catalogue but I thought they picked a lot of their slower songs, versus some of the great rock songs they have. Overall, a little disappointing.

29. Weezer (Day Two Osheaga, August 2015)

I found Weezer to be such a random addition to Osheaga but it was a lot of fun hearing some of their classics. It was especially cute when Rivers’ kids came out on stage with him.

28. The New Pornographers (Danforth Music Hall, February 2015)

The long-time darlings of Canadian indie rock. They’re a well oiled live music machine. I struggled the most with them as far as where to rank them. They’re a really great band live, and sound fantastic, but I feel it lacked an overall charm or charisma with the audience.

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The New Pornographers 

27. Vance Joy (Rogers Centre, October 2015)

He was the second of two openers prior to Taylor Swift hitting the stage, and I found him to be such an odd pairing considering her audience. BUT it was a win for myself & Val because I was really looking forward to hearing him live. He has a great charm in concert, and I really wish I could have seen him in a better venue. His style doesn’t suit the poor acoustics of the Dome. But I felt he did a great job overcoming that, and I don’t care if everyone hates it by now – I still love “Rip Tide”

26. Kendrick Lamar (Day Two Osheaga, August 2015)

This was such a bizarre scene. Thousands upon thousands of chicks just absolutely going nuts for Kendrick Lamar and rapping along with him. I had to stand on a picnic table to see over the huge crowd! He’s a great showman, and as much as I am famous for hating rappers live, I really liked Kendrick. You can see why he’s so beloved, and why 2015 has been his year.

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Looking behind me, during Kendrick Lamar

25. The War on Drugs (Day Three Osheaga, August 2015)

Their 2014 album has been on steady play for me. I had high hopes for these guys. While their set wasn’t bad, it never had that WOW moment like a lot of other bands usually do for me. However, that isn’t to say they aren’t great musicians or that the singing sounded bad. I just feel their overall performance lacked a little charisma.

24. St. Vincent (Day Two Osheaga, August 2015)

The first few times I listened to her album, I wasn’t all that impressed and quickly moved on. However, she was an outstanding performer and it gave me a whole new appreciation for her sound. Sean also developed a small crush on her, so it’s been fun bugging him about it.

23. Hey Rosetta (Danforth Music Hall, February 2015)

I loved Hey Rosetta! They were one of my surprises of the year, and I’ve nearly worn out my copy of their latest album. They were fantastic live, and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for some new music – especially if you’re into the folk/indie rock mix.

22. George Ezra (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

If you don’t own his debut album, you’re missing out. His set was one of my favourites from Osheaga. It was so much fun, being out in the sun, and just dancing along to a lot of his songs. He is still so young, and still figuring out who he wants to be on stage, but it’s going to be exciting to see him progress.

21. Dear Rouge (Mod Club, November 2015)

One of my top 10 bands from last year – the only reason they’ve been bumped down this year is quite simply because this was a jam packed year. Also, again, I really found that something was wrong with the speakers at the Mod Club, which took down my enjoyment. But it’s so awesome to see this band playing to larger crowds, as they really are one of the best new bands this country has to offer.

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Somewhere in there is your #20 

20. Taylor Swift (Rogers Centre, October 2015)

My first time attending a big-time pop concert. First things first – I do not like seeing shows at the Rogers Centre. It’s too big, and I think the sound quality needs a lot of work. BUT, it was pretty awesome to see everyone wearing their light-up bracelets, dancing along to Tay-Tay’s hits. My biggest critique is that I didn’t hear as many of her older songs as I would have liked. But, since I do love her latest album, it was great to hear most of the songs live. I appreciate that she sings live also. I do miss watching her also perform instruments (I worked her show at the ACC years ago, prior to all the dancing and glamour). BUT come on, you can’t beat hearing “Shake It Off” live! Val & I had a blast, even if it took about three hours to get home thanks to the traffic jam afterwards.

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OK so who made Top 20?! Who’s Number One?! Only my excel spreadsheet knows!! Stay tuned – in the coming days for the remaining artists – including Sam Roberts, Tame Impala, Florence + The Machine, The Darkness, Stars, Ben Harper, and SO MANY MORE.

Again, if you want to take a listen – check out the Spotify playlist I made featuring every band on this list!