Monday, January 13, 2014

the story of a girl's journey to Wellness

I've never been one for exercise routines. It's not that I'm sweat-averse or a total baby about physical exertion -- I just don't think it's fun, and I'm a doer of fun things. I also don't get the epic adrenaline rush some claim to have when exercising (Is that really a thing?). Annnnd there's also the issue of me liking food . . . A LOT. People who are thin or fit think big eaters lack self control, which may be, but is not always, the case. It's assumed that people who claim they like food and don't like exercise are just lazy and gorge themselves on fast food and junk food while they sit on the couch watching Idol. And who even watches Idol anymore anyway?

Let me set the record straight. I like food. No, I love food. I consider the creation and consumption of food to be a hobby of sorts. Like all hobbies, overindulgence effects our relationships, time management and bodies. I don't sit around eating junk food. In fact, it's a seldom occurrence that I even purchase junk food. Just in case my roommates ever read this and try to contradict me, I will say that I do purchase it, but I do not buy snacks when grocery shopping. Sometimes, on my way home from school, I'll think, "Man, I'd really like some _____." I then go to the store and purchase just that item. It's a bad choice altogether to think you can have a cupboard full of Oreos and Fritos and trust yourself's self-control. If you know someone that claims to be able to accurately follow the portion size count on the box, I'd like to meet them and shake their hand. Because of this, I simply don't keep it in my house.

So when I say I love food that's not junk food, what am I talking about? I love carbs. Not cheap, greasy, fast-food carbs; but, expensive breads-and-cheeses carbs. Give me a hunk of Pecorino Romano and I'm yours. Hand me a loaf of yummy, pretty bread as a housewarming gift and I'll invite you over for parties for all eternity. My mother tells me that in the highchair, I would reach up my open palm and like a little Oliver Twist, imply, "Please, [Ma], may I have somemore?" She had to start telling me no for the sake of my digestive health. I just love good carbs. I'm also a sucker for good pizza. Not cheap, take-out pizza (although, that's good, too, sometimes); but good, exotic pizza. Since my Italian adventures, I have a deep appreciation for pizza when it's treated kindly. You don't need a tub of lard to melt on the top, people. I can close my eyes right now and picture the perfect pizza: Thin, slightly-burned, crackerlike crust, lightly sauced, small chunks of melted mozzarella; portabello mushrooms; fresh and clean arugula; sometimes, seafood pizza; OR pesto instead of tomato sauce; OR tartufo. Is your mouth watering yet? You people will never understand what fresh ingredients are. And if you ever are blessed with the experience of going anywhere outside of the United States, you will be stunned the first time you bite into an apple or slice a tomato. America serves you complete crap, I tell you. C.r.a.p. They spray it with glorified bug spray to deter the worms and then shine it real good with God only knows what kind of apple lotion and VOILA, here is your American, shiny, poisonous, poor-tasting fruit. Enjoy!

My point is, I overindulge on things that in my mind, are "better" for me. Less preservatives and transfats do NOT equal less calories or fat consumption. So when I'm overindulging, I'm overindulging, plain and simple. That being said, I've started a wellness kick, which I hope will soon be a lifestyle change. I don't believe in New Years Resolutions because I'm pretty good at recognizing when I need to make a change and doing it, no matter what day of the year it is. So this is a January 12th Resolution, I guess? I started P90X yesterday and it was the most discouraging thing I've ever done. It was only upon reflection that I realized it's not meant for someone who's rarely active, to say the least. It's too high-intensity for someone who's starting over, as the HUGE pinched nerve that's currently under a heating pack on my back will tell you. I'm not going to stop doing it, but I'm probably not going to do it daily. Instead, it's going to act as a supplement to my running routine.

I think wellness is physical, emotional and a state of mind. I am a firm believer that everyone should be reading constantly. It's food for the mind and there's always something to learn from reading. I've always been a reader but my schedule and life have made reading impossible; or at least, the last thing I want to do when I get home late from work or school. Anymore, I only binge-read. After a semester of not reading anything besides textbooks, I read 3 books over the break: An autobiography and 2 novels. I'm not even really proud of that -- it's just sad. SO I'm going to get back on the horse (figuratively) and read regularly -- although, who can say what 'regularly' even is? Current read: This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. I'll let you know how it goes.

Physically? Diet, exercise, blah.

Emotionally? Not sure yet . . . I'm really stressed about all the grown-up decisions I'm going to be faced with at semester's end. I wish I had my grandpa to talk me through it like only he could. I don't know where or who to look to for emotional health anymore. What do you do? Where do you go? I'm open to suggestions!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

the day we

My roommate and I got into a deep conversation about where our lives are headed, our view on relationships, the upcoming end of college for the both of us, etc. I told her the thought of getting married made me hyperventilate because I feel so unready for that. Her answer was one that I've been thinking about ever since:

"The problem is that we have been raised to think of our lives as a series of big moments:

the day we walk for the first time
the day we start kindergarten
the day we ride on our first airplane
the day we learn to drive
the day we lose our virginity
the day we can vote
the day we graduate
the day we leave home for college
the day we graduate again
they we start our big-kid jobs
the day we get married
the day we have a baby
the day we retire
the day we have grandbabies

Life would seem so much less scary if we would stop thinking of life as a series of big moments we can't get back but instead, treat each day like a small adventure."

I've been thinking of how often I've done just that. I've invested all my energy into getting excited for graduation, which is 9 whole months away! That's 9 months that I could be living. It may not be huge, mindboggling, exciting adventures; but it's not something to just skip over or fear.

"My whole life I've been telling myself 'don't be afraid.' And it is only now that I'm realizing how stupid that is. Don't be afraid. Like saying 'don't move out of the way when someone tries to punch you' or 'don't flinch at the heat of a fire' or 'don't blink.' Don't be human. I'm afraid and you're afraid and we're all always going to be afraid, because that's the point.
What I should be telling myself is 'be afraid, but do it anyway.' Live anyway."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

be my lobster?

I googled this once: "Do lobsters really mate for life?" The answer, not surprisingly, was no. There are other animals that mate for life but Phoebe, of course, missed the mark on this one. It's a nice thought, though; and anyone who was ever even slightly invested in the Rachel-and-Ross saga, wanted to believe in those lobsters, myself included.

My friends and I have asked ourselves this question many times: Are there things such as soulmates and if so, how does it work? Any romantic would hope that a soulmate is delivered by fate or providence and consequently, hand-crafted and uniquely perfect for you. But is it like that? Republican, Moderate, Democrat, whoever you vote for, one of my favorite love stories is of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. He was married before but once he met Nancy, he never looked back. He wrote her the most precious letters and always talked of her and looked at her with such longing. After years of Alzheimers that robbed him of all their memories together, it was her eyes he searched for as he drew his last breath. I don't know anyone like that; and that makes me so sad.

I have always wanted to believe that there was literally one person in the world for me. That if I lost him, that was it. No hope, no searching, just loss. Because God would want that kind of rarity, right? I wanted to know that I was looking for someone specifically carved for me -- that he'd embody the right amount of humor and creativity but enough levelheadedness to bring me back to reality. That he would love me something rare and unruly. We would follow each other wherever life took us -- places far and alone but it'd be okay, because we'd be happy and whole.

Then I thought about people I love who have lost their spouses. Are they finished? I'd like to think they're not. What if I found my lobster when I was 20 and he died at 25? Am I really destined to never find love again? I don't think that kind of cruelty is the love God had planned. But then, the thought of God not having some bigger plan means that we're all left to chance and that seems so unromantic.

Basically, I want a real-life lobster.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Love, Vivien Leigh

In lieu of my friends deciding to get hitched simultaneously, my mind's been wandering to nuptials and that pre-martial bliss that I've heard tale of. I won't bore you with the details of my life as a suffragette/bra-burner but I just don't understand what the rush is all about. Now I realize that our 22-year-old biological clock is ticking away and that our eggs are slowly killing each other off, but I feel like we have a few years to play around before we need to get serious about marriage.

I was actually thinking today that the idea of getting engaged sounded kind of sad. Stay with me, here. So in this really precious 2 minutes or so, the man of today's dreams is on his knee, telling you how awesome and hot you are, how lucky he is to have found you (I can paraphrase, right?); and for a split second, you think he's actually starting to look like Clark Gable, Justin Timberlake or [insert sexy man here.] You're so impressed that he was articulate enough to be that charming -- Is his shirt tucked in?? And then you realize, this is the only time in our past/present/future that a situation forces him to be irrevocably honest about his feelings. What if he never dotes on you again? That was it. That was all the wooing he plans to do.

Every woman thinks her man is the exception but they can't all be, right? What happens when Clark stops being romantic or even a little sentimental? In the movies, they joke about the husband that forgets anniversaries or birthdays. But what happens when that happens? Does life just go on birthdayless?? All I'm saying is, take a little extra time to look for Clark.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I feel weird. Imbalanced, kind of. I all of a sudden don't care at all about class and being perfect at school. I just want to stop. I haven't gotten to catch up -- on school or schedules or life. I haven't even gotten to sit and relax. I'm returning from Spring Break, which usually means that, if nothing else, I've slept. I haven't. 

I think about him all the time and when I'm not thinking about him, I feel guilty. He's the kind of person that deserves to be thought of. I was driving and honked at a slow driver. When I passed him and realized it was an old man, I started sobbing. When I was at a restaurant and saw a man eating alone, I had to fight back the mist that was starting in the corners of my eyes. When I pulled over for a funeral procession, I started crying. Anytime someone asks me about how I'm doing with those knowing eyes, my mouth draws up and I know it's coming. 

I never thought of myself as the emotional type. I'm the hard one. But anything and everything that reminds me of him being gone initiates a reaction from me. Yet, I think more than anything, I just misunderstood what this should feel like. I thought it'd be this heart-wrenching sense of emptiness but really, I feel like he went to run an errand and hasn't come back. Like he's just absent. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

the funny thing about death

I've never understood the grief associated with loss because it's always been irrelevant. I've never known how to react to others that I'm trying to comfort. I've never been sympathetic enough. And I know that now.

In the fall 2011, I had to move home from Norman. I was crossing my fingers that I would get accepted in OU's Italian abroad program in the spring but didn't want to be committed to a lease so I moved home. Moving home is hard for students. You get used to your space and being alone. You like solving your own problems. You like being able to make a Walmart run at 12:30am if you need to without anyone asking questions. You like it when no one's there to ask, 'do you have homework?' You like not having someone noticing the enormity of junk food you consume during test weeks. Moving home means a lot of eyes and comments. That being said, I consider my relationship with my parents to be pretty normal. We call each other, I ask for advice, meet up for coffee, whatever. But when I move back home, the dynamic shifts. We suddenly need to discuss everything I do: "Is this your dish you didn't put in the dishwasher?" "Why are your shoes by the back door instead of in your room?" "You should probably go to bed, right? Since you have a big day tomorrow?" "So what internship do you have lined up for the summer?" "How are your grades?" "What'd you make on that test?" Etc. This particular semester, I was back home and hattttting it.

My parents were fighting again and I was furious with them for it. My parents come from a long line of ignorers. I constantly have to fight the innate urge to blow people off when they disappoint me because it's in my blood, I swear. I was angry and tired of it and started packing my bags. It's a funny thing when kids get it in their heads that they want to leave because so much of our lives are financially dependent on our parents. In the heat of the moment, we think: "Cut off my cell phone? PUH-lease. I don't need a phone -- I'll survive. Take away my car? Yeah, okay, I've lived without one long enough -- I can do it again." Don't be stupid, kids. In today's society, you can't live without your phone or car. Stop being dramatic. With my bags packed and my face full of angry tears, I found my car in my grandpa's driveway. It was 10:30pm and when they answered, they held a crying Courtney, stroking her hair for over an hour while she complained about her 'terrible' parents, their children. At the end of my rant, my grandpa simply said, "You have the best daddy, I've always known it. He loves you. It's going to be okay. Meanwhile, stay as long as you'd like." I stayed at their house for four days until I ran out of clothes and I went home like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs.

What I want you to take from this story is this: 1) My maternal grandfather loved my dad. Here I was, telling him about my parents inability to get it together and instead of showing favoritism towards his daughter, he reminded me that he loved my dad and my dad loved me. Then he gently showed me that in my anger, I had to remember the good in others. Because, after all, we are but human. 2) My grandpa took care of me on many occasions but this one time was really memorable. How many people do you know who will take you in after normal daytime hours to let you cry on their couch? It's a great memory for me to have of him because he was constantly teaching me lessons without meaning to -- that's why he was one of the few people who didn't irritate me when he talked about God. Because he really walked with Him.

My biggest fan passed from this life on Thursday and it's been the weirdest series of emotions I've ever encountered. Here are a couple of things that I've learned in the past week:

1) You will always, always be surprised by the people who comfort you and the ones that don't. My family has been dealing with a lot of hurt, not only in the last 2 weeks, but in the last 6 months. My grandfather found out he had lung cancer last August. His cancer was much larger and incurable by the end. There was only a 6 month fight and to the bitter end, he just knew he could beat it. His mother lived to be 101 years old and both of his sisters, Marie and Noni lived into their 90s. He was only 78 and told me on more than one occasion that he thought he had 10 more years left. So in his last 6 months of life, while he was fighting for his life, I was really disappointed in how little everyone seemed to care. The people we thought would be comforting and present were no where to be found. I'm a pretty strong individual so the first emotion I felt when this was happening was anger. Where are you? I need you and you're not around. My mom, though, is a tender spirit and I know that some of this absence was disappointing to the core of her bones. I wish for her sake that people would have been different. 

2) Death of a patriarch doesn't encourage the family to get over past conflict and comfort each other -- things stay the same in that way. I've never been remotely close to either side of my family. If you ask any member, they will all give you a different reason why. I've been called a snob, I've called others the same, and sometimes, it's just a matter of siblings who don't get along perpetuating the cycle with their own children. When you have a mutual interest in a godly, intelligent, special man like my grandfather, you assume that his death will initiate a certain level of togetherness - of deep-rooted loyalty. When that doesn't happen, it's a little heart-wrenching. There goes the only tie that bound us together and now we no longer have anyone to force us to inhabit the same space. I think I've always had serious insecurities with regard to family. I'm worth it. I'm worth knowing. I have opinions. I have humor. If you would give me a chance, you'd like me. But instead, we glaze over each other's faces and don't talk. He would be disappointed.

3) Burial is silly. As we were packing up to leave the grave site, I couldn't help but feel so empty about being there. I think you assume that resting a person's body would make you memorialize the spot. But I just thought, "If he can see this, he's probably rolling his eyes." There's no spirit in there. He's wherever you go after. We're taking him and burying him in an expensive wooden box, putting a massive stone on top and crying over this aged and broken body. We're theatrically disposing of what will soon be dust. I believe in honoring the dead and I wouldn't have you disrespectfully dispose of his body but I think I left very certain that I want to be cremated. 

Me and my grandpa became really close when I started college. I don't remember why -- it was kind of sudden. I think it was my grandma's stroke that made me realize time was short. My grandpa started looking tired before we even knew he was sick but looking back, it has become more obvious to me in retrospect. His eyes changed and he frequently had coughs and perpetual colds. But I really don't know what made me begin my weekly trips to his house. I think I felt better there with them and began becoming such a regular that when I skipped a week, I got a call asking if everything was okay. 

There was a period of time when I didn't have a car yet but I was starting school at OU and couldn't be without one. I borrowed my grandpa's car, a '88 Honda Civic with peeling paint and an awesome personality. He was consequently named Charles (Charlie) because he reminded me of a rough-around-the-edges war vet with a raspy voice. My grandpa was a fit of giggles when I named him Charlie, and took no time at all to adopt the name, too. When I was in Italy, grandpa posted a comment on this blog, signing off as 'Owners of Charlie:'

They sold Charlie last week before grandpa had even died.

Last fall, while he was undergoing treatment, he sent me a text that said, "Go check out Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address." I watched it and was so moved. Grandpa knew I was confused about the future and what I wanted to do with my life and he said it would help me figure it out. In the address, Steve says, "You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle." He knew I needed to hear someone say that but after watching the address, I knew he took a lot from it, too. Steve had battled pancreatic cancer and spoke of death in the video. He said, "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away." 

After watching that, I knew he meant it for me but I knew he also meant it for him. I wondered how he felt about death. I know he went through stages of fear and anger but I think that was mostly because he couldn't imagine even heaven without the rest of us that he loved. I think he still had things to show and teach us, which is what hurts most of all. After that, we would periodically send each other messages about Steve Jobs, an undeniably brilliant man who brought us both a little comfort. 

I think most of all, I wanted him to know that I loved him and had come to value him as a friend. I needed him because he was a constant and a mentor. I needed him to live to see my graduation from college that he'd heard me complain so much about. I needed him to watch me walk down the aisle and marry my best friend. I needed him to meet my babies so they could fall in love with him, too. 

In the last week, we've heard encouragement from a lot of people who knew my grandpa. Two people have unknowingly said the perfect things. One was my grandpa's hairdresser up until he was bald, who told my dad, "Ron used to always talk about his texts with Courtney. He was always talking about how much he enjoyed hearing from her. He loved her so much." And the other was D Weaver, who said, "In the months preceding his death, I used to talk to Ronnie on the phone and he'd say, 'Courtney's been there for it all and before. She's my girl.' He loved you sweetie, hold onto that." There's no greater validation than knowing that he valued me. Because, God knows I valued him. 

I never knew when our last conversation would be and that made me really nervous. Two short weeks before he died, I was staying the night with him and he was really quiet. He got that way towards the end. He had texted me earlier in the day with a simple, "Can't wait," in anticipation of our little slumber party.  His body was worn out and he'd try and stay up to talk but he knew I didn't mind if he slept so he'd drift in and out. He tried to get up to greet me but stumbled into the doorway and stayed there, unable to move. I hugged him there and grandma helped him back to his recliner. Those moments were hard to stomach. I waited till grandma went to the kitchen and I went and sat by his feet:

Me: I need you.
Him: I need you, too. You've been there since the beginning.
Me: I love you, a lot.
Him: I love you, a lot, too. You can tell when people love you because they grieve before you're gone. Whatever happens, I just want you to be happy.

I cried in his chest for few minutes while his tired hands ran through my hair. That was our last private conversation and I think I somehow knew it was going to be. It was the next Sunday that I tried to call him and there was no answer. He had been admitted to the hospital and I didn't know yet. I hurried there to find him cut and bruised. In the week since I last saw him, he had been falling a lot and grandma hadn't called us. There was a knot on his forehead and a gash on his arm. He was just so tired but tried to talk to us as much as he could. Before I left I turned over my shoulder and said, "Sassafrass." He said, "Root-n-tootie," our old farewell from my childhood.

Over the next 2 weeks, he deteriorated to nothing but a comatose state. He would focus on your face long enough to respond but then the morphine would take over again. He came out once long enough to tell Robert and Richard that he thought he was going to make it, a fighter to the end. 

Thursday, at 5:46, he left us with a tear in his right eye. My mom was alone with him and I was glad. I thought it seemed like a beautiful thing to behold -- such a respectful, reverent moment for a daughter to witness. But I can't seem to decide what the tear meant. I knew he didn't want to die but was the tear sadness? Because I'd hate to think he was sad. Was it pain? Because I hope he wasn't hurting. Or was it because he didn't want to leave us? Because I hope he didn't. 

"To lose someone you love is to alter you forever. The pain stops, there are new people but the gap never closes. This hole in your heart is the shape of the one you lost - no one else can fit it." -Jeanette Winterson

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What do you want?

For my whole life (and the whole lives of most women out there), we've heard jest of women's inability to just commit already. I don't mean commit to relationships, because most women find that rather natural -- I mean commit to a decision or course. "What do women want?" There's even an entire Mel Gibson rom-com that addresses the question! To an extent, I can see how this could be a fair question. Indecisiveness can be infuriating, I understand.

But on behalf of women everywhere, I've got to ask, What do MEN want?

We've been told by the sensitive psychologists of the modern generation that subconsciously, a man needs to be needed. He doesn't want to feel disposable or unwanted. Yet our histories and our stories want to depict men as these hunters who will fight for something if they feel the risk is worth the prize. Our mothers and grandmothers taught us not to be easy -- that we were worth all the playing-hard-to-get and ambiguity that comes from not knowing. So this annoying game of cat-and-mouse has ensued where we try to be mysterious and guarded and somehow expect men to chase.

The thing is: Men in my generation don't chase. They expect an equal if not more persistent woman to ask THEM out or show the first sign of vulnerability. I always swore that I wouldn't be that girl because it "isn't supposed to work that way." Men are "supposed" to chase us. One of my friends in high school used to get so frustrated with me: "Why don't you just tell him you like him? I'm not saying you have to ask him out -- just let him know that if he did, you would say yes. That's fair, isn't it?" And I suppose that it is. I guess at the end of the day, neither sex wants to put themselves out there -- it's scary. So if they do, not only have they proven that they're very interested, but they've shown that you're worth all the courage it took to ask you out.

So should I be mysterious, obvious, blunt, passive, relate-able, delicate, what? What do you WANT?