Got milk?

I’ve been meaning to post for ages but instead I sat and watched the days pass me by; valentines day, pancake day etc. I’m going to sum it all in this one post. Last year I wrote a post for Shrove Tuesday in which I discussed what I was giving up for lent. I’m reviewing the post and of course it all largely the same things that I intend to give up this year. Yay for consistency. Nay for never following through.

Anyway, apart from mopping and brooding over my life what else I have been up to? Nothing much, I’ve just been chilling, trying to form new habits and desist from bad ones. For Valentine’s Day, I did nothing but stay in bed and eat a grande bowl of pasta and slow cooked brisket ragu. I was happy and eagerly looking forward to Tuesday, this day being pancake day which really is my own Valentine’s Day. Last year I decided at the last minute to have some pancakes and I got some from the store on my way home. This year however, I was prepared and I got my supplies ahead of time. For breakfast I had fluffy American pancakes and eggs, and orange juice; and for dinner I had French crepes with chocolate, fruit, and ice cream. I was happy and bloated.

That was my last meal splurge and my last experience with dairy for a while. This is one of the main changes I have made in my life, and pretty much the last resort in resolving my skin issues. Even before Lent I had stopped consuming dairy and limited my sugar to help with my acne, and I found that my breakouts reduced drastically. The dark spots are still there of course but my face was not a pimple battlefield as it was before. I did relapse a few times-once when I bought a packet of Rich Tea, and then the next day when I bought a cake. What I realised is what I’ve always known: I have no self control when it comes to food. The biscuits were nice, but the cake was dry as hell yet I devoured it all in one go. The breakouts came back in full force, and they came back as well after my valentines day-pancake day binge fest. I accepted these pimples because all that food was an au revoir to my old life. I’m glad I did it because now I know for sure that diary is the devil’s liquid. It was actually interesting to see my skin change after consuming dairy; the angry pimples and angry red spots. It was a mess. The last of my pimples from the pancake fest are just clearing up. I do hope one day I can go back to consuming dairy in moderation but to be honest if I ever clear my skin I would never risk it by going near dairy again. Plus the dairy free life is alright, and all the dairy free alternatives are pretty good. Of course sugar is also another thing to give up but dairy seems to be the worst.

Without further ado, here are the things I am giving up for lent. I have copied out the things I tried to give up last year for Lent (in italics below) and added my current thoughts.

Reduce my screen-time: I aim to achieve this by reading a book instead, and avoiding mindless gossip. I’m taking this seriously this year. I’m trying to do this by putting my phone down more. The thing with living alone is that I have filled the void with sugar, television, and technology (my phone). I knew I was obsessed with my phone but it wasn’t until I spent Christmas with my friend that I realised just how bad it was. I am literally always holding my phone, even when I dash off to the toilet or downstairs to get my food. She called me out once for always holding my phone and while that ticked me off a bit I knew she was right. I spend so much time staring mindlessly at my phone, even as I am tired and my eyes are burning. There are times when it was past midnight and my brain was fried but I would continue scrolling through Instagram even though there was nothing to see. It was crazy. Anyway I deleted Instagram and I am now trying to wean myself off my phone. I also need to wean myself off of mindless gossip because I really don’t care about any of these things and they do not concern me.

Plan my meals and replace junk with fruits. I must understand that dinner is enough; there is no need to always have a snack. It’s also okay to say no thank you when offered a snack; it really is okay sweetie. Haha I have done a reasonably good job with this lately. Apart from the biscuit, cake and pancakes I have actually been pretty good. I went to the shop recently and there was a sale on Oreos biscuits so I instinctively picked it up. After completing my shopping I had a change of mind and put it back and got some carrots instead.

Fuck milk! I believe this is self explanatory.

Read more: I aim to read three books in this forty days. Back in the day I would have considered this to be rookie number. I will try to read but I’m too lazy and would rather watch television. That being said, three books this Lent seems doable. Let’s go!

Write for an hour everyday-Whew my restlessness is going to make this one hard! Not going to happen. Unless we count the writing I do for work. I will try to write more on the weekends. I actually need to because this is all I want to do. Every time I am doing something else I just want to be in bed writing. Yet when I get the time to write I watch television instead.

Talk to someone (family/friends) at least twice a week-I snuck this one in at the very last minute. I was going to write everyday but I chickened out. I do need to talk to people-other than myself. It cannot be healthy to go a whole week without any meaningful conversation. Hmmmmmmn I don’t know about this. I would rather text.

In short, this Lent I will cut out diary, reduce my reliance on my phone, and seek to be healthy in body and in mind. So help me God.

Lent update+Book Club!

Forty something days ago, I made a post stating my goals for Lent; what I intended to give up and take on. I was actually quite (cautiously) optimistic about these goals and for a while they did seem possible. Then the lockdown went into effect and everything went to hell. Yes I will blame this on the pandemic. I was going to reduce my screen-time but in fact my eye has been twitching relenting due to the unprecedented screen time (unless I am sleeping I am staring at a screen; laptop, phone, telly). I did manage to reduce my junk food intake and this is one aspect in which the lockdown has helped. I simply do not stock up on junk when I do my shopping and when I start getting cravings (quite rare to be honest) I simply go to bed. I have also managed to interact more with family and friends during this period which is truly remarkable.

One of my main resolutions, if you can call it that, was to read three books in the forty day period. I know that is a amateurish figure which makes it even more shameful that I did not achieve this. I read the first two quickly enough but then the lockdown began and my zeal fizzled out quickly. Usually I read on the commute to work and I find it almost impossible to read at home, not when there’s Netflix and YouTube.  I did try to start a couple of other books but they just could not sustain my interest. I did however watch quite a few films and TV shows, some good, some utterly forgettable. But first the books!

The two books I read are:

Something to live for by Richard Roper

I first came across this book in the newspaper and was immediately drawn to it as it dealt with loneliness which is my favourite topic. I bought the book with the expectation that it would end up the third book in my loneliness trilogy, the others being The Lonely City by Olivia Lang; and Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman. It did not live up to the hype but it was not a complete waste of time. Strange thing: I looked up reviews of this book online and apparently it also goes by How Not to Die Alone

The book follows Andrew, a 42 year old loner who works for the Ministry of Death.  He has no friends, save a few online fellow train enthusiasts,  and barely any meaningful human interaction. A misunderstanding 5 years ago during his interview becomes a full blown fake life that he has to maintain and live up to which proves rather hectic.  Then one day a new employee begins work and Andrew’s life slowly starts to change for the better.

His job involves clearing out the homes of elderly people who have died alone. He checks to see if they have enough money to cover the funeral costs and if they have any kin. In most cases there are no loved ones and the person is buried in a lonely ceremony with only Andrew in attendance. His job serves as a foreshadowing of what his life would very likely be like in the future.

As I said, the book was not a waste but I couldn’t connect to any of the characters and I did find it a chore sometimes. I struggled through some parts, was glad to make it to the end, and  once I dropped the book I was done with it and that’s that.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I don’t remember when I first heard of this book but I must have because I was immediately drawn to it. Apparently this won a Booker prize (or was it a Pulitzer). I picked this up in the kitchen at work; people brought in books which were anyone’s to take as long as one made a voluntary donation. 50p later the book was mine.

5 seconds in and I was regretting picking it up. I struggled through a whole speech on “Fuku” and just when I was about to give up I realised that was just the introduction and I shuffled on wearily to the real beginning. The story follows the Cabral family across three generations and two countries; detailing the tragedies that befall them which is supposedly due to the curse or Fuku which has haunted them for decades.

Needless to say, the title is a misnomer as there is barely five wondrous minutes in Oscar de Leon’s miserable life. Oscar is  self proclaimed fat (and continuously expanding) virgin nerd who spends his whole life (literally) trying to get laid (hell, just a kiss even!). In the end Oscar is not even the main character of the book (in my opinion), and his story pales in comparison to that of his mother Hypatia Belicia Cabral (Belis). His mother’s story, starting with her parents, sticks more with me and that is what I remember the most. We are first introduced to Belicia through the lens of her children and she seemed to me to be an overbearing person and mother. Then the story moves on to her upbringing in the Dominican Republic and my opinion completely shifts. We get to see her as a person in her own right, not just a mother and it was hard to not be sympathetic towards her. I was lost in Belicia’s story and when the narration switched from Belicia to Oscar, I groaned internally and just trudged on until we could get back to her. Goodness gracious, the suffering she had to endure and she was not even given the courtesy of a happy ending. Spoiler: there are no happy endings in this book.

The book is confusing in parts as it switches between time periods and narrators and point of views. One minute we are reading about things from Oscar’s point of view and the next Oscar is being spoken about in third person and I have to figure out who is currently speaking. The pages also feature long footnotes (some of them almost cover the entire page) in which the author provides explanations and historical facts for a reference made in the text. The book is heavy on colloquialisms and slang (Spanglish) that may leave you lost as a non Spanish speaker or maybe even as a non Dominican. Sometimes I googled the words but other times I couldn’t be bothered and just read on. There’s also lots of Sci-Fi/Anime references that I did not even bother exploring further. There is the gratuitous use of the N word with an er which was a bit jarring at times.

The book taught me quite a bit about Dominican history, particularly the dictator Trujillo who I had never heard of before. I also learned of the Mirabal sisters who were assassinated because of their daring opposition to the regime. The parts about Trujillo got my blood hot! I detest dictatorships; it is so unsettling how one person, unremarkable in every way, can hold an entire nation to ransom. I always think that this one person is only powerful due to the system supporting him, he himself is nothing. If the police and army and really everyone could have said fuck you and stood with the people instead, he would have been gone a long time ago. But things are never that simple.

Fuku or  family curse is a running theme as it is credited for all the evil that befalls the family; from Oscar’s grandparents to his mother’s unfortunate life and his own consistent bad luck resulting in his untimely demise. There is also a lot of violence, so much that I had to skip over some of the descriptions.

It is a good book, well written and it stayed with me. There is a lot of depth to the characters which is perhaps why the book is quite memorable. The book is not perfect but it was a pretty good read. When I think of the book it is Belicia that I remember, not Oscar and his jargon. My favourite parts of the book are the chapters that took us back in time to the DR and I did not care much for the New Jersey part. That’s interesting; I liked Belis as a young woman in DR but did not care for her as an adult (and mother) in New Jersey.

That’s all folks! I hope to read more books but that seems less likely everyday. There is just so much to watch on TV.

PS: I googled the book to see what others thought of it and was surprised to learn that the book is narrated by Yunior- a character which was introduced randomly (I thought). He is Oscar’s roommate at some point and his sister’s on and off boyfriend. I guess that explains the vulgarity and explicit nature of the narration.  

 

 

The year of realising things

The great modern philosopher Kylie Jenner declared 2016 the year of “like, realising things”. At the time the detractors laughed, but she turned out to be right (Trump, Brexit). 2020 is also shaping out to be another year of realising things, for me anyway.

I started this post a few days into the new year, I’m sure by now 2020 is a year of realising things for everyone!

Sometime in 2018, I started breaking out heavily. I have never had spotless blemish free skin, but this was ridiculous. As always I ignored it for a few months, hoping it would just go away. When it persisted I started blaming the breakout on everything; stress, lack of sleep, hard water, towels, Nando’s peri mayonnaise, makeup, evil people. It just was not fair; I washed my face twice a day and never ever slept with makeup on. I did not deserve to get so much acne. Every day there was a new pimple on my face, and in its wake was a dark spot. I stopped eating certain things, and in a particularly low moment I actually bought Proactive. Nothing worked.

Fast forward to Christmas 2019 and I am on holiday with my family. During the short break my skin miraculously improves and I even get compliments about how my face is glowing.  Holiday ends and I return to my normal life, high on life and full of positive energy for 2020. Almost immediately my skin starts to break out again! What the hell? I took the time to review what was different on holiday

*music scratches* It was at moment that I realised the root of my problems.

See I did not eat much junk food on my holiday. I slept in till mid afternoon, ordered room service, went out to eat, and rarely ate any sweets. Then I came back home and immediately resumed my routine of devouring  sugar custard doughnuts, chocolate chip muffins, chocolates, and cakes. It was then that it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, my problems were due to sugar.

I already suspected junk food was not my friend due to my weight gain and dental issues. Despite my brushing twice a day without fail, I developed a cavity and had to get a filling. At the time I also bemoaned the unfairness of it all, but I have since had to accept that maybe I do consume too much sugar. In fact, I am eating more junk/sugar now than I ever did in my entire life. Growing up I did not have easy access to sweets and chocolate, seeing as I had no money of my own and couldn’t take myself to the store, so I had those in moderation. Nowadays I literally always have a treat every single day, and I always made sure to have something sweet at home to nibble on after dinner.  On my way back home on Fridays I would stop by the stores to stock up on junk for the weekend: chocolates (not my faves but still), pastry, candy, juice e.t.c. Looking back at it now, it is actually ridiculous, but at the time I did not think anything of it. I have now developed a habit of looking at the sugar content of the stuff I buy and Mon Dieu! There is so much sugar in everything. One pot of sticky toffee pudding has 42g of sugar-I would have two. Even the healthy options such as fresh juices have a lot of sugar just I would drink them like water. Speaking of water, I was struggling to drink more than a few glasses a day. This was my life, go to work, stop at the store on the way home to buy rubbish, go home and eat nonsense till I fall asleep.

Then I had my second realisation.

It all comes back to loneliness. I spend so much time by myself, alone in my room, that I have nothing else to do but to eat and watch TV (and procrastinate on all the productive things I could be doing instead). Spending Christmas with my family away from home made me realise that I have fewer junk cravings when I am with company. To be honest I don’t have that much cravings anyway, I just eat because it is something to do.  Plus I know that custard doughnut tastes good so I buy it and keep it eating it until it is all gone, regardless of whether I am actually craving it. Having snacks around is another problem; I have zero willpower in the presence of sugar. I can resist temptation when the temptation is still in the store, but once it is in my vicinity I have to eat it.

Of course I was aware that people eat out of boredom, but I did not extend that to loneliness and to myself until now. Boredom and loneliness can be entwined and sometimes they are one and the same. When I am around friends and family, I am sated by the conversations and laughter and arguments and silence; and I rely less on food and internet to do that. But when I am by myself with no one to engage with, food and TV fulfill that need.

The effects of loneliness are pervasive and truly astounding. The first step is realising you have a problem and then taking the necessary steps to mitigate said problem. For Lent, I tried to replace my addiction to food and phone with more productive things, and it has honestly been touch and go. Still I have definitely been better with the sugar intake and I can see this in my skin. The trick is to fill the lonely moments with more productive things-reading, writing. cooking (ha!), colouring, creating a scrapbook/vision board. My goal is to fill the loneliness with something more tangible, to replace the snacks with creativity, and to make something more fulfilling. The real test will be saying no to sweets that I am offered, but sadly I have not reached that level yet.

What have I realised in the first week of the new decade? Something I have always known: I eat junk to fill the boredom, and it is wreaking havoc on my skin and teeth.

I am excited for all these lessons and realisations, and despite how raggedy this year is turning out, I am still looking forward to ending this year a better version of myself.

What’s pancakes got to do with it?

I am aware that there is a pancake day every year. There is a day for literally everything, it seems; World Happiness Day, World World Day, World this and that day. So I just thought hey, here is a day to celebrate pancakes, and why not? I would never have assumed the day had a religious significance.

Yesterday I got a notification that Today was Pancake Day, and I happily mentioned it to my colleagues who then remarked that they couldn’t believe it was almost Lent. My first thought was huh? what does Lent have to do with this? Thankfully I have learnt to google first, ask dumb questions later, so I googled it and turns out pancake day is actually Shrove Tuesday, which preceeds Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent which is the 40 days culminating in Easter. I learn something everyday.

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day which comes from the old English custom of using up all the fattening ingredients before Lent, so that people were ready to fast. The fattening ingredients that most people had in their houses were eggs and milk, hence why people began combining them with flour to make pancakes.

In case you were wondering what Lent is:

Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.

In summary, Lent is a period of self reflection in which Christians abstain from certain foods and activities. Shrove Tuesday is the day before in which people historically indulged in the things they will be fasting from, more or less. Read more here.

It was also even more poignant to me because for the first time ever, I was actually looking forward to Lent this year. Lent is religiously significant as it is the period of 40 days before Easter, but for a lot of people it is also a period of abstinence from one thing or the other. Like everyone else, I made some New Year’s resolutions and 2020 was going to be my year! Then I promptly resumed my routine of watching Netflix and Youtube until my eyes bleed.

Sometime ago, I read somewhere that it takes about 40 days to form a new habit/drop a bad habit and I feel Lent could be a perfect period for me to try this out. There will be other people observing lent, and it is a relatively short period of time with an end.  When the going gets tough I can just count the days till the end.

Now that I have decided to change my life for Lent, I have to decide what exactly to give up. The most obvious thing will be to drastically reduce my screen-time, and I mean drastically. Ever since I got my Samsung phone with the wide screen, my brain has gone to mush. I stare at my screen for hours; from when I wake up to all day at work, on the way to and back from work, when making dinner, while eating, while doing my nighttime routine, in bed waiting to sleep, and first thing when I wake up. My phone makes it worse because now I can easily access YouTube and Netflix, and Amazon video, twitter, instagram without even getting out of bed, where in the past I would have needed to turn on my laptop which was less convenient. Sometimes I find myself just staring at my phone, clicking on random videos on YT, clicking the same random posts on instagram, reading random news headlines on google, just mundane uninspiring stuff. I truly believe that I could be leading a much more productive life if I just stayed off my phone more. I have at least ten books that I have not read, so many things I want to write, plans to make, places to go (okay that last one is a lie). I wake up on the weekends, full of optimism for the productive day to come, but oh let me just check my phone for a minute and before I know it the clock strikes midnight and it’s time to go back to sleep. There are literally days when I pause and look at myself and sigh at what has become of me; my laptop is open to Amazon video, Netflix on the TV,  youtube/instagram on my phone, news app on my work phone. What the forkkkkkk? How is my brain not fried? Spoiler: it is.

So yes, it would be nice to reduce my screen time, but how? I already put the timer warning on youtube but I just ignore it whenever it comes up. I was going to leave Instagram for the whole period but where will I post all my pictures of trees and sunsets? For sure I want to stop wasting my time on mindless gossip sites that do nothing but drain me of my will and soul.

I don’t just want to give up something however, I also want to form a new habit. With all the free time I get, I want to read more. I used to be a big reader (in my mind I still am), and I cannot stop myself from buying new books. But ever since ze internet took over my life, I have not read as much. I have only read one book this year (I started two others but they were so meh). It would be nice to read some of the many books I have,

I also want to write more, both on here and offline. The truth is that all I want to do is write. All day at work I fantasise about coming home to write. Then the moment I get home I am immediately glued to the screen.

I was also thinking of giving up junk food- this may require its own post. Long story short, I realised that I was maybe filling up the loneliness with food. Everyday on my way back from work I stop by the stores to get some junk for the evening. In my mind, I need something to eat after dinner. This may or may not be the cause of my skin problems but I really do not need to be eating nonsense everyday.

Now of course the whole purpose of Lent is to become closer to God and work on oneself. I am hoping that these new habits will help me in this regard, and I am looking forward to this. I don’t want to get all excited and make resolutions I cannot keep, and then feel bad when I inevitably break them. I have therefore tried to make it easy-ish for myself.

So in summary, for Lent 2020 (February 26th to April 9th) I am going to:

Reduce my screen-time: I aim to achieve this by reading a book instead, and avoiding mindless gossip.
Read more: I aim to read three books in this forty days. Back in the day I would have considered this to be rookie numbers.
Plan my meals and replace junk with fruits. I must understand that dinner is enough; there is no need to always have a snack. It’s also okay to say no thank you when offered a snack; it really is okay sweetie.
Write for an hour everyday-Whew my restlessness is going to make this one hard!
Talk to someone (family/friends) at least twice a week-I snuck this one in at the very last minute. I was going to write everyday but I chickened out. I do need to talk to people-other than myself. It cannot be healthy to go a whole week without any meaningful conversation.

So help me God.

Oh and yes I did have pancakes for dinner.