Changes, fresh starts, do overs. Even small tweaks can be very helpful. Over the last few years, I’ve been looking at my life and slowly addressed things that were not working for me. Everything from what I eat, how I dress, where and how I live are all things that I have the ability to change. What I realized recently, too, is that these last 3-4 years have been a quiet and gradual life transformation for me. Without really intending to do so, I have created a simpler and calmer life.
Change of Address
In 2019, I sold my house that I owned in Hampden for 20 years. I had once loved this little house. I do miss the old wood floors and the backyard. That’s about it. (Oh and I really miss having a bathtub, but that can be in my next place, wherever that may be.) It just became really overwhelming taking care of the house by myself. I am not particularly handy, nor do I want to be. And my single non-profit salary can sometimes be challenging. So, I decided to make a huge change and sell and start over. My new apartment is exactly what I needed at the time — and it still is, after signing lease #3. With this move, came a lot of weeding out of stuff. I loved getting rid of things I really did not need. It felt so good. My apartment is roughly 2/3 the square footage of my rowhouse, so the change was significant but not terrible by any means. My place is cozy and feels like home. I have just enough space for myself and can definitely see myself going even smaller. My dream is to find a little tenant house somewhere in the country (but not too far country…I’m thinking Greenspring Valley, you gotta dream, right?) where I can have a little green space and some quiet. But those places are expensive, so who knows. For now, I’m very happy where I am.
Next up, deleting my Charm City Cook Instagram a few years ago. That was a big one. My friends were like, really? Yes, really. When I started out on IG, I never ever thought I’d get to 18,000 followers and with a bigger following comes a lot of noise, along with so many opinions, expectations and assumptions. In the beginning it was just so much fun seeing what food was out there, what people were cooking, meeting creative people and seeing snippets of people’s lives. Being in the influencer scene allowed me to have some really wonderful experiences and I’m extremely grateful for that. But that feeling of gratitude gradually changed to disdain, I was enjoying it less and less. Before I had even thought about deleting my Charm City Cook IG, I started a personal IG that was less focused on food (though, food was still a part of it) and I really loved the free feeling it gave me. So, then about a year and a half later, I finally deleted my original Charm City Cook account. In hindsight with COVID and everything my friends and favorites in food/beverage/hospitality endured and are STILL dealing with, sometimes I miss the bigger audience and the reach I had. But, you can’t go back and you shouldn’t go back.
Keeping Things Interesting
I made one other adjustment relating to Instagram. About a year ago, I unfollowed about half the accounts I had been following since starting my new personal account. Not because I didn’t like them or care about them, it was just that my feed was still about 75% food content. And besides food, I unfollowed accounts that didn’t make me happy. (ie: no joy sparked.) I needed a break, I needed to try and get some of that joy and fun back that I had at the very beginning. Slowly, I have followed back a handful of food accounts (especially locals) and others and I’m glad that I have. Now my feed is kind of equal parts plants, food, animals, flowers, tiny houses, beautiful kitchens, New Orleans, Paris and personal friends. It’s nice.
Going With My Gut
Dairy-free loaded baked potato soup via The Wooden Skillet – one of my favorite IGs
And then there’s what I’m eating. I took a food sensitivity test in the spring of 2021 to see if what I thought were my trouble foods are in fact my trouble foods. I knew dairy was an issue but what totally surprised me was that my top food I was sensitive to was eggs — both whites and yolks. So, I cut eggs out completely for a month and then tried them again and I got sick so knew the test was accurate. After about 10 months of trying different dairy-free and egg-free foods and also limiting gluten, I have had almost no stomach discomfort. What I have realized is that if I have a little bit of dairy (like a piece of cheese) or a little bit of gluten (hello, La Cuchara bread), I’m pretty okay. I just can never eat a ton of dairy or gluten all at once. I avoid eggs altogether and have found a new favorite plant-based mayo with great texture and taste. So, I can make chicken salad or tuna salad or Caesar dressing with that one easy swap and I can’t taste a difference. I am not vegan or vegetarian by any means, I still love roasted chicken, a big juicy steak and tons of other proteins. All this is is to say, really is that my body is very happy with the changes I’ve made this past year. It took a while, but it was worth it.
Mending My Body and Mind
Acupuncture has been an absolute game changer. I’ve had lower back problems on and off for my whole adult life and just sort of dealt with them. I’ve done physical therapy and that worked some…but after starting acupuncture a little over three years ago, my back generally feels very good. I try to go Community Acupuncture (in a big room with other people in comfy recliners) once a week and then, when I can afford it, (usually once every 4-5 weeks), I go for a One-On-One session. I go to Mend at Remington or Quarry Lake depending on my schedule and my go-to acupuncturist is Marissa. She also makes tinctures for me (herbs in a liquid form) that I take almost daily for pain, tiredness, inflammation and more. The tinctures are pretty amazing. Acupuncture can help with everything from sleep and headaches to general aches, menstrual issues, anxiety, depression and more. And, I’m technically afraid of needles but acupuncture needles are super small, relatively pain-free and the relief and relaxation they provide are so, so good. When I leave Mend, I feel peaceful and recharged at the same time.
ps. You can use your HSA account and many insurance plans cover at least some part of your treatment cost.
A Calming Presence
One thing that makes me feel more relaxed is living with plants. I had gardens at my house filled with lots of perennials, veggies, my favorite flowers (hello, peonies!) and I suppose since my focus was outside, my plants inside never really thrived. I think I was also a chronic over-waterer. Now that I only have indoor space, I tend to my plants a lot. My space is pretty small, so I can see all of my plants pretty easily — that helps me not to forget to check on them. And, what started as about four plants is now about 45 plants. Looking at them makes me feel calm. I love them so much! The deep window seats in my apartment are the perfect place for clusters of plants. I’ve only lost three plants over the last two years, I’m pretty proud of that stat! Now I clip and propagate them all of gift the new growths to friends. Big thanks to Liz Vayda at b. willow. She is the best. Even though IKEA and Home Depot can be tempting, please make a point to buy your plants from a local grower or seller.
Less is Definitely More
A few weeks ago, I did a huge closet purge. If I didn’t love it, hadn’t worn it in a few years, it no longer fit, etc…it went into a pile. The pile was then organized by things I’d sell and things I’d give to charity. What I didn’t really realize was that I have been dressing from a “capsule wardrobe” for the last several years and now capsule wardrobes are a thing…along with minimalist wardrobes. LOVE IT. That is all me. I hate thinking about what to wear and definitely have favorite things I wear over and over, so this totally works for me. If I ever get bored, I switch up my jewelry (I love shopping on Etsy) and play around that way. So, now my closet is easy to navigate and getting dressed is no longer stressful. I don’t know what’s happened to my brain but last night, I did laundry and instead of leaving the clean clothes in the basket until I felt like dealing with them, I took them directly to my closet and hung them up. However, I still don’t make my bed everyday and I’m okay with that.
Bye, Girl, Bye.
I took a month off from Facebook. And when I signed back on, I took the app off my phone. I was able to finally do this because after 15 years of managing social media for my employers, I’m done! I am starting a new job in a few weeks where I will have very little to do with social. The thing about trolls is that they are ten times worse on Facebook than IG. I deleted my Charm City Cook Facebook page about two years ago after being really, really unhappy managing it. Every time I’d post about a restaurant, the opinions would roll into the comments and I really didn’t care what they thought. I’d post about a restaurant closing and there’d be “that place sucked anyway…” or so many other lovely sentiments. I try to make my own social media posts and sentiments as positive as possible. I wish others would, too.
Here, Kitty Kitty . . .
Emmy, the cat — I have a cat! I’m such a dog lover and I always had severe allergies when I was around cats, so I wasn’t really thinking of a cat. When I lost my sweet Magnolia (senior rescue dog I adopted in January 2020), I took a little pet break. Living in an apartment can make dog ownership complicated and I was sure I couldn’t commit to that again, so I started thinking about a cat. I went online and started researching breeds and looked at Petfinder just to get an idea as to the various rescues and shelters around Maryland. I saw Emmy’s photo and was instantly hooked. She was down in Montgomery County at a private rescue and once I was approved as an adopter, they invited me to come down and meet her. Funny thing, Magnolia was from Montgomery County, too. I met her and we immediately bonded. I brought Emmy home that night. While I was considering adopting a cat, I asked a friend of mine about natural allergy meds and she told me to try RhinAllergy…and it works beautifully. So happy about that! Emmy is equal parts independent and lovey. She’s been such a comfort and I am so happy to have opened my mind, considered a cat and found sweet Emmy.
I guess what I’m saying is simplifying is really good for you. You don’t have to make huge, sweeping changes. Go slow. Find little ways to make yourself happier and your life a little gentler.