Not another cliche New Year post

A friend of mine, someone I’ve known basically since birth – we used to “perform” very elaborate imagined productions in our neighbor’s backyard, and then we got to actually perform together in high school drama club productions of varying quality, and now we volunteer together and also habitually eat delicious food and drink delicious cocktails while gabbing about anything and everything, and really, how rare is it that someone you’ve known for multiple decades persists into your adult life and you still somehow have shared interests and passions after all this time? Anyway, I digress. The point is, he’s a friend I’ve known forever and whose ideas I respect, and he recently pointed out that years are these totally random things that someone decided on a really long time ago, and so why do we invest so much meaning in them?

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I didn’t tell Brian I was stealing this screencap, so, sorry, Brian. If you like this particular brand of irreverent witticism, you can follow him over on Twitter at @brianmdudley.

I definitely feel where Brian’s coming from with that. I joined everyone else in bemoaning just how truly and completely terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad 2016 turned out to be, and I’m cautiously optimistic that 2017 could be a year of positive growth in my life, but I’m also not jumping into January 2017 declaring all the new resolutions and life-changing decisions I’ll be making to turn this year around.

Two songs have been playing in my brain these past few days: “What a Year for a New Year,” by Dan Wilson (I first heard this when it was included on Maybe This Christmas compilation released in 2002, which apparently does not legally exist anywhere on the internet, and I’m opposed to embedding YouTube videos that are 100% not authorized to be sharing the song, so you guys can go ahead and google this one), and “Lights and Buzz,” by Jack’s Mannequin (thanks for coming in clutch here, Spotify – give it a listen).

Dan Wilson may have had a premonition about what life would feel like, come 2016, when he wrote this song, though I suppose the early ’00s had their fair share of problems. The song opens, “What a year for a new year / We need it like we needed life, I guess / The last one left us lying in a mess / What a year for a new year.” It’s the bridge, however, that really rings true for me this year: “Hope we’ll forget about this place /  Let it go without a trace /  Wipe the teardrops from our faces.” I cried a lot in 2016. I cried too much. I don’t want to cry as much in 2017. Let’s work on that.

The Jack’s Mannequin track is gorgeous, melancholy, honest. Andrew McMahon wrote this song while battling cancer – specifically, it was the first track he wrote after receiving a stem cell transplant from his sister, which saved his life. The song opens, “I’m coming home from my hardest year / I’m making plans not to make plans while I’m here.” 2016 wasn’t my all-time hardest year, but it’s certainly worthy of an honorable mention. If nothing else, this year felt relentless, like I could never quite catch my breath before the next universal bitch slap descended.

That second line of “Lights and Buzz,” though, that’s the attitude I’m taking into 2017. I’m making plans not to make plans. I’m trying to free up space in my life for life to happen to me, in the hopes that perhaps the tides will change. I can’t get into specifics here, but there have been some positive developments that I hope will come to fruition in the next few weeks, and they’d bring about major shifts in my life.

The biggest change is one that I can share – I’m moving next week. While my cousin is in India for the next two years, I’ll be living in her condo, in a great neighborhood. I’m so excited about this change. I’ve been living at home and haven’t put myself first in a really long time – especially over the past year – so it will be really good to have some distance and space for myself. My family will still be only a 20 minute car ride away, but to not come home to that every night will be so freeing. I feel guilty saying things like that, but it’s the truth. I get to prioritize myself first, and I’ll have the room to do so.

So that’s the theme as we enter into this arbitrarily chosen span of time we call a new year – creating space, giving myself time, and not making plans. Letting things come as they may, and I’ll make the most of them. No expectations, either high or low – just openness and willingness to experience life as it happens.

Bring it on.

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Cardio survival strategies

Over the past year I’ve made some major shifts in my approach to working out. Incorporating a weight lifting routine into my workouts has been eye opening – turns out I love barbells. Who knew?! I’m also seeing major changes in my body composition, which is super exciting.

But here’s what I’ve figured out: no matter how great the weights are treating me, I still need to keep cardio in my routine if I want to see the scale move in the right direction. And I hate cardio. So much. I love SoulCycle classes, but I’m already investing a hefty chunk of cash in my gym and Crossfit memberships, so it’s really hard to also swing SC on the regular. I try to save it for a treat class when I really feel like I need that particular brand of cardio catharsis.

So instead, I end up spending a LOT of time on stationary bikes and treadmills at my gym. Which is kind of the worst, to be honest. I have a very no-frills gym these days and there aren’t TVs at every machine, but I’m not really much of a TV person in the first place, so I wouldn’t use them even if they were there. I also can’t manage to flip pages on a magazine, no matter how many tempting copies of People and Us stare at me from the communal magazine rack. Instead, I’ve been trying to find some alternate ways to pass the time, and I figured I’d share the wealth with all three of you who regularly read this ole blog (thanks, guys. sorry I’m so boring.)

I wasn’t kidding about the magazine thing… flipping pages while on the treadmill inevitably ends up with me tripping over my own feet because I am just not coordinated enough to walk and move my arms at the same time. Texture solves that problem for me. This subscription service comes with a TON of magazines that you can download to your tablet to read, and flipping the page is as easy as tapping the screen (aka about all I can handle most days). The magazine selection is amazing and includes a lot of great content that I’m way too cheap to actually subscribe to (looking at you, New Yorker). I also love that it’s super easy to screen shot pages — I do this a lot when I’m reading food or cooking magazines, so that I have a quick reference to recipes for future kitchen experimentation. That link above will take you to a 14 day free trial, and from there it’s either $10 or $15 per month, depending on which level you choose (the more expensive level includes more magazine options). Honestly, this is my second most treasured monthly subscription service, after Spotify – I get a ton of use out of it and definitely feel like I’m getting a great value.

I also like to use my cardio time to indulge my love of trashy romance novels. Secret shame time – I will DEVOUR these horribly embarrassing books like it ain’t no thang. Thank you, Kindle, for making it possible to do this without any judgment from the people around me – for all they know I’m reading about Dickens instead of, well, dicks. (I’m not even sorry about that last one, I couldn’t help myself.) I never pay for these books – I rely on Bookbub to help me find free Kindle downloads so I can comfort myself in the knowledge that at least I didn’t spend any money on the trashy novels. Through Bookbub, you choose your favorite genre(s) for reading material and your preferred e-reader platform, and they send you a daily digest of free or deeply discounted books (think $3 or less). I mostly use it to stock up on free romance or detective novels, but I’ve also scored some bestsellers or less popular works by popular novelists for awesome prices.

There are definitely still days where reading on a treadmill is just more than I can handle, and on those days I turn to either audiobooks or podcasts. For Audiobooks, I use Audible; my favorites are memoirs that are read by the author, because it really just feels like they’re telling you a story. Rob Lowe’s first memoir is shockingly good, and it’s great to hear him tell stories about making The Outsiders or his time in the Brat Pack. I also downloaded Holly Madison’s autobiography and marathoned it during one recent drive to New York, though, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt – I will devour any and all pop culture.

Lately, though, I’ve been listening to podcasts nonstop, both during my cardio sessions and when I’m driving. I’m getting all of my election updates through podcasts because I can carefully filter out the crazy. Keepin’ it 1600, the political podcast produced by the Ringer network, is hosted by former Obama staffers and is my current favorite option, but I also highly recommend the FiveThirtyEight Elections Podcast for information on polling and generally intelligent, higher-level info on the current state of politics. Intelligent commentary shouldn’t be that hard to find, but, well, it’s 2016 and Donald Trump is running for president, so that’s our new reality.

My two other favorite podcasts fly directly in the face of what kicked off this post in the first place – namely, that I can’t just zone out to TV while I’m cranking out the cardio. I’m completely obsessed with The West Wing Weekly and Buffering the Vampire Slayer, two podcasts that delve deep into two of my favorite TV shows, episode by episode. I’m terrible at keeping current with what’s on TV now, but if you want to have an in depth discussion about an episode of TV that first aired in 2002 and is now on Netflix for your binging pleasure, WELL, I am your girl. I am LOVING revisiting two of my favorite shows through the podcast lens, and these totally distract me from how much the stationary bike makes me want to die.

So that’s what’s getting me through the cardio grind lately – what are your survival strategies? Any podcasts I should be listening to? Hidden gem trashy romance novels that I should add to my reading list? I love suggestions 🙂