Life · mental health

Table for One, Please

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Something interesting happened to me this weekend that I would like to share.

On Saturday, I woke up early and drove to Asheville. I had planned to go a few weeks ago, but due to the hurricane, I had to put my plans on hold. Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for a drive through the mountains. The weather was cooler, but still warm. Hints of red and yellow have begun surfacing. providing a picturesque backdrop for my visit. Once I got there, I did my usual thing: Visited my favorite bookstores, browsed through the vintage clothing shops, drank lots of coffee, and ate lots of delicious food. Part of the reason I had wanted to go there was to try a restaurant that I’d been meaning to try (but never remembered to make reservations to).

When I showed up for my lunch reservation the hostess seemed confused. “It’s just you?” she asked. “Yep,” I responded, happily. I know that busy restaurants don’t always like to “waste” tables on solo diners, so I happily offered to sit at the bar. This turned out to be a great idea, because it gave me a great view of all the cooks in action. It was the best view in the house! After ordering my lunch, I happily pulled a book out of my purse and read in between glances at the beautiful plates of tapas being prepared before me.

As soon as I sat down, I caught the glances of a few of my fellow diners. They, too, seemed confused as to why I was sitting in this nice restaurant, with only a book for company. I did my best to ignore those people. I even made sure to smile at them when they caught my eye. I was enjoying my dining experience and my solo day in the mountains far too much to be worried about what those people thought.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. Nor will it be the last. The irony, however, is that only 4-5 years ago, I never would have even had the courage to set foot in a restaurant by myself. I, too, used to be one of those people who only did things with someone else. Eating in restaurants, taking a trip, or going to a movie were things that you did with friends or a significant other. Only weirdos and people who didn’t have any friends went out by themselves. That misguided notion left me feeling bored and lonely for a very long time. Even though I was married at the time, we had very different schedules, which meant that my husband wasn’t always around to do things with. So, I just didn’t go out . Instead, I sat home and sulked over the fact that I couldn’t do all the fun things I wanted. As a result, I missed out on a lot of things.

When I got divorced, I was terrified of being “alone.” Of not having enough people to do things with. Of being stuck at home all the time. Of being lonely. Etc. Then, one day, it hit me. The problem wasn’t doing things alone. The problem was that I had no idea how to be alone and enjoy my own company.

Fast forward to now: I take day trips by myself often. I’ve gone to NYC by myself and have a few more solo trips in the works. I have no qualms about going to restaurants, coffee shops, stores, parks, and movies solo. And the best part is, I enjoy doing these things. Sure, I still do these things with Boyfriend or friends (it’s not healthy to be alone all the time), but I am often content to just do my own thing. Pushing myself to do all these things has made me appreciate time spent by myself. I’ve learned more about who I am – the things I truly like and want, what my boundaries are, how to push those boundaries, and how to enjoy life more. Honestly, whenever people give me funny looks for saying that I did ________ by myself, I feel a little sorry for them. I wish that everyone could learn to be content in their own company or, at least, stop judging others for it.

Are you comfortable doing things by yourself? 

Life · travel

Backwards Wanderlusting: Greenville, SC

Today’s Wanderlusting post is going to be a little different than the previous ones. Rather than write about a place I’m dying to visit, I’m going to talk about somewhere I’ve visited recently. Call it a backwards wanderlust, if you will.

This weekend Boyfriend and I took a day trip to Greenville, SC. I’d heard lots of good things about downtown Greenville before and given that it’s only a two-hour drive from Charlotte, it seemed like a no-brainer that we should pay a visit.

Downtown Greenville is an incredibly charming place with beautiful brick facades, greenery, and that small-city charm with big-city destinations. I fell in love with the place the minute we stepped out of the car.

The main street was lined with fun shops selling clothing, jewelry, kitchenware, antiques, and, of course, books. There were also hotels, theaters, and restaurants and coffee shops galore.

 

We had brunch at this fantastic restaurant I’d been wanting to check out, called Husk. It was a farm-to-table place that specializes in fancy Southern fare. (I had the shrimp & grits, which were sooo good.) Afterwards, we hit up a local coffeeshop called Coffee Underground, which also has a small theater attached where they host comedy events regularly.

We paid a visit to local bookstore, M. Judson. It was a small, fun little bookstore with a bakery (called Chocolate Moose – love the name) attached. I would have liked a bigger selection of books, but it was still worth a visit.

In the middle of downtown is Falls Park. It was a beautiful park with a waterfall, walkways, art, and flowers. We had fun crossing the rocks and playing in the stream. 🙂

Lastly, we made our way to Springwood Cemetery to take a look. I absolutely love old cemeteries and enjoyed walking through the paths, reveling in the quiet beauty of it all.

It was a fun day trip! I look forward to going back in the near future to check out a comedy show and try some more of the amazing restaurants.

Books · Life · travel

Bookish Wanderlusting: New Orleans, LA

Last time I talked about a place I was wanderlusting over, we talked about Portland, OR. (Ironically, I managed to plan a trip there after writing that post.) Today we’re going to lust after another city that I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time: New Orleans, LA.

When most people think of New Orleans, they probably think about bourbon and Mardi Gras beads. While the nightlife there abounds, there are plenty of offerings for those who love literature and other forms of art.

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New Orleans houses several bookstores, including the famous Faulkner House Books (housed in the apartment where Faulker lived in 1925). There’s also Crescent City Books, Kitchen Witch (specializing in cookbooks), and Beckham’s Book Shop…to name a few.

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There are also a few annual book festivals to attend, such as Book Lovers Con, Tennessee Willliams New Orleans Literary Festival, and Saints and Sinners (LGBT) Literary Festival.

You can even find literary influence at some of the restaurants and bars. Backspace Bar and Kitchen combines Creole food and literary-inspired cocktails.

There are plenty of other things to do in the Big Easy, if you don’t want to spend the whole time searching for literary influence. For example, you can tour the French Quarter with all it’s statues, antique shops, and well-known restaurants (Antione’s, anyone?). Or, you can attend a burlesque show (right up my alley!) or visit one of the many jazz clubs that line the city.

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I don’t see myself spending a ton of time in New Orleans, but it’s definitely on my list of places to check out someday. If not for the beignets, alone. 😛

Books · Life · mental health

Eating/Traveling My Way Back to Health

I feel like an update is in order after last week’s dilemma that I posted about. After much deliberation, I went ahead and booked my flight to Portland! Each of you who responded said that it seemed like I had already made up my mind about which place to visit. You all hit the nail on the head. I guess I did already know what I wanted to do, but just needed a little justification.

Since we’re on the topic of travel, there is something I would like to share. You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven’t been saying much about my mental health struggles lately. That’s because I’ve been doing really well! I can credit my own hard work and 5-6 months of therapy to my success, but there’s another piece of the equation that really helped give me an extra shove.

My trip to New York.

I know, I know. I’ve talked plenty about New York and BookCon already. What more could I possibly have to say? Well, a lot, actually. Part of the reason I came home so giddy and excited was because I found something on that trip that I hadn’t been expecting. Something I’d been looking for for over a year.

I found my appetite again.

Let’s rewind to my college years and the few years after that. I had come out of school with a degree in Culinary Arts (Did I ever mention that I was trained to be a chef?), was running my own dessert business, and had a major love and appreciation for food. I cooked and baked all the time. Not just for the business, either, but for the sheer enjoyment of it. There was always some kind of food experiment happening in my kitchen and ideas floating around in my head. I was adventurous, wanting to try any and everything at least once. Going out to dinner was a fun experience for me. I loved getting to try new places and see what other culinarians were creating, often so I could figure out how to recreate such dishes at home. Food was not just about sustenance for me, it was a passion. Something I thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to.

Then, in the last few years of my twenties, I lost that passion. I went through some difficult things and, as a result, my mental health worsened. My depression and anxiety came out in full-force, determined to ruin my life, one thought at a time. It was only inevitable that my eating disorder followed suit.

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Last year I wrote a post, Existential Ice Cream Crisis (a spectacular band name, in my opinion), after experiencing a breakdown over a social event at work. At the time I wrote that post, I had been teetering on the edge of an eating disorder relapse. That negative voice – the one that likes to tell me I’m not good enough, that I need to be perfect, and that I need to lose weight – had been slowly creeping back into my life for some time. In that post I expressed my frustration with those negative feelings and an envy towards those who had seemingly “normal” relationships with food. Despite not wanting to fall back into my old habits, I kept teetering, until eventually I slipped and fell headfirst. The next 7-8 months were hell. I became obsessed with food again, but not in a healthy way. Instead of appreciating and enjoying food, it became my enemy. Deciding what to eat for dinner was enough to send me into a tantrum, because I couldn’t handle the stress over what to feed myself. I was hungry all the time, but my brain told me not to eat more, or else I’d gain weight. I didn’t lose too much weight during that time, but it didn’t matter. My brain and body weren’t receiving the proper nourishment they needed. As a result, I was feeling quite unhealthy, both physically and mentally.

When planning my trip to New York I did research on all the possible restaurant options I might want to consider. Given how big New York City is, the options are endless! I found places that spoke to me and my inner foodie. My eating disorder tried to retaliate by saying “No. Why are you even considering these places? Look up the healthy options instead.” But, for the first time in a long time, I shut that voice out. I was going on a trip and I was excited about it. I was not bringing my eating disorder along to ruin it for me!

So, I left my eating disorder here and went to New York. And I ate. I went to the restaurants and bakeries I had researched and improvised when necessary. I ate when I was hungry and ordered what I (not my eating disorder) wanted. As a result, I got to try some amazing food. And you know what? I enjoyed every bite of it. Never once did I go back to my room and stress over what/how much I ate. I simply let myself be content.

On the last night of my trip I called Boyfriend on the phone. I gushed over all the fun things I did, about BookCon and meeting V.E. Schwab, and about all the things I ate. I told him about the awesome French-Asian patisserie I found, where I got a white chocolate-matcha cream puff. Gotham Market, where they had amazing tacos and a delicious dessert waffle place. The Indian restaurant that had some of the best chili chicken and garlic naan I’ve ever eaten. The dim sim place where I ate…who knows what. It sure was delicious though.

During that conversation I said something along the lines of “It’s nice to be able to just eat and enjoy food again, like I used to.”

In which Boyfriend replied, “Good. Bring some of that home with you.”

I did bring it home with me. When I got back, my eating disorder was surprisingly MIA. I’ve been eating what I want again, cooking more, and playing in the kitchen. Last weekend, I was invited to go out to dinner with a few girlfriends to try this restaurant they’d been telling me about. Rather than hesitate or have to look up the menu first, I agreed to go. I ate what I wanted that night, including some foods that would have sent me to tears six months ago. And you know what? I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Food has become my friend again. Not only am I eating better, but I feel so much better. I have more energy, am less cranky, and have an easier time focusing on things. My mental health, overall, has been significantly better. It’s amazing what can happen when you actually give your body the things it wants/needs.

I know my eating disorder and other issues are still there, buried deep down. They’ll show up again at some point, whether I am expecting it or not. The next time it happens, I’ll remember to read this post and remind myself of the things I’d be giving up if I let the eating disorder stick around.

For the record, it has not been invited to Portland. I have too many doughnuts to try there!

Books · Life · travel

A Decisionable Dilemma

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Last week I talked about Portland, OR and the fact that I’ve been dying to go there for quite some time now. I had actually been planning to save up money and, on top of another trip to New York next summer, pay a visit to Portland in the Fall of 2019. Yesterday, on a whim, I looked at plane tickets to Portland for this Fall and was surprised to see that ticket prices are ridiculously cheap right now. So cheap that it almost feels stupid to pass this opportunity up…

I had originally been planning to spend a night or two in Charleston for YALLFest in November. The festival sounds like something right up my alley, plus the trip itself would be cheaper since I can drive there. But, despite the fact that Charleston is supposed to be a lovely place, it sounds a little boring. It’s a beachy city on the water. There’s some historical stuff and (supposedly) good food, but other than that it doesn’t sound like there’s much to do. Portland, on the other hand, is supposed to be a major hipster city on steroids. (Plus, Powell’s Books is there!)

I don’t think it would be super impulsive of me to book a trip to Portland, especially considering how cheap the airfare is right now. I’d also have a few months to save up some spending money. At the back of my mind, however, there is that little voice that’s making me doubt this decision. Yes, I have medical bills that I am still paying off and there’s the ongoing kidney saga, but still…you only live once. What if I try to schedule a trip next year and it’s way more expensive?

Ahhhh. Decisions, decisions.

What would you do in this scenario? Is it YALLFest or a trip to Portland? 

Books · Life · travel

Bookish Wanderlusting: Portland, OR

Fridays are typically reserved for First Impression Friday posts, however, I don’t feel like I can participate this week. For FIF we’re supposed to discuss our initial reactions to a book we recently started reading. Given that I’m doing a re-read of Neverwhere, I feel like I’d be cheating if I took part.

Since I’m breaking away from my usual repertoire, this seems like a good time to break out a new blog feature that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my desire to travel and see more places. (You can see that post here.) There are so many places in the world I’d love to visit someday, especially bookish places. Places with unique bookstores, literary history, and book-related events galore. Reading and writing at home is great, but sometimes you need to just get out and find inspiration elsewhere.

One of the top places on my list is Portland, Oregon. Home of Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. From what I hear, Powell’s has multiple floors of new, used, and rare books. *wipes drool off chin*

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Outside of Powell’s, there are lots of other (smaller) independent bookstores to check out, such as In Other Words, the all-feminist bookstore, and Broadway Books (just to name a few). There are also bookstores dedicated solely to children’s literature and several comic book stores to help you get your geek on.

For a fun family activity, you can check out the Beverly Cleary sculpture garden or do a walking tour of Beverly’s neighborhood.

For the Whovians (like me!) there’s a fish and chips restaurant with a TARDIS bar in the back! (I hope the bathrooms are bigger on the inside.)

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And of course, we can’t forget the annual literary festival, Wordstock.

In addition to all the bookishness, Portland is said to be a major mecca for hipsters. Now, I don’t call myself a hipster, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t drawn to a lot of hipster-type places. (Does that make me part hipster then? *sigh* Maybe it does.) Portland is home to vintage shops, bars and breweries, art, music, restaurants, and, of course, coffee. Apparently, they even have a tour specially dedicated to the local coffee scene. There are tons of fun things to do!

I don’t have the money to go right now, but I’m currently saving up so I can go there. I’m hoping to go next Fall when Wordstock is happening.

Where are some bookish places you’d like to visit?

Life · travel

Wanderlusting

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You may not be hearing from me much the next few days. There’s no need to be alarmed, I am not going on hiatus or disappearing for very long. I’m just running away to the Keys for a couple of days. My best friend lives there and I am beyond excited to get the chance to celebrate my birthday with her. By the time you’re reading this, I may even be on the beach already with a margarita in my hand. 😉

Speaking of traveling, I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. After last summer’s trip to Canada I began to lament the fact that I’m going to be 30 and I still haven’t been anywhere. Sure, I’ve been on a handful of vacations in my life – Mexico when I was 13, a few places in the Caribbean, and Disney world – but nowhere else. Don’t get me wrong, these places are lovely to visit (Especially Disney! Who doesn’t love Disney?!), but that’s not something I want to do all the time. As I get older, I’m finding that there are places I enjoy far more than the beach, places that are more me. I’ve taken short trips to Asheville, Raleigh, and New York City this past year. And you know what I found each time? How much I enjoyed getting out and exploring new places. I don’t know about all of you, but I grow bored and restless quite easily, especially when I am stuck at home. Getting to escape, even if it’s just for a day or two, really does wonders for my mental health.

I know I’ve already talked about it a few times, but I had such an incredible time in New York at the beginning of June. Not only was BookCon a blast, but I loved everything about that trip, as well. I loved staying in the little apartment I rented, trying a bunch of new restaurants, going to the museum, walking around Central Park, and simply navigating my way through new territory. All by myself, I might add! Truthfully, it was by far the best thing I’ve done for myself this past year.

There are so many places in this world that I want to visit. I realize that the only way I’ll get to travel more and see all those places is if I make it happen on my own. Sadly, I spent most of my 20’s waiting for other people to get the travel ball rolling, which didn’t work out in my favor. I’m not going to do that anymore! It’s time I make shit happen. I won’t be able to just hop on a plane and visit Europe next month. Big trips like that will require a lot of planning and saving. But, in the mean time, I do have some closer places in mind.

Stay tuned for future posts about some of the places I hope to visit in the not-too-far future.