Finding Nemo

I have to go to the dentist. I hate the dentist. I try to get sympathy from a co-worker – Caitlin. I expect her to say, ‘Yea, me too’, but no.

“Oh my God, I love the dentist. I would go every day if I could.”

Are you kidding me? Who says that?

“Why do you hate the dentist?” Because it hurts.

“Do you floss?” No, but I brush my teeth three times a day!

Caitlin stares at me, dumbfounded. (She also gives me a look that tells me I’m a complete moron, but I don’t take it personally because she looks at most people this way.)

“Brushing your teeth doesn’t do anything. You need to floss.” But my gums bleed! It hurts.

“Yea. Your gums are going to bleed. You need to floss every day. I love flossing my teeth.”

Of course you do.

I call to make my appointment, hoping they won’t be able to fit me in for another month or so. Unfortunately, there’s an available appointment in one week. Shit. I need to start flossing yesterday. I hang up the phone and promise myself to floss every single day leading up to my appointment.

Before, when my gums would bleed while flossing, I’d think that was a bad thing, but this time, as they start to bleed, I realize that it’s a good thing. Don’t ask me what changed, except Caitlin telling me that, “Of course they’re going to bleed. They’re not healthy.”

But the more I floss, the stronger they’ll be, and the less I’ll bleed. By the third day, I’m actually enjoying it. I like seeing the blood. It’s working! By the last day, they’re still bleeding – not nearly as much – AND they’re not nearly as sensitive as they were a week ago.

Still, I haven’t been to the dentist in 10 freakin’ years. One week of flossing and Listerine is not going to make up for all that time. And the fact is, my gums are still bleeding, my one tooth in the back hurts, and I’ve chipped my front teeth from clenching my jaw too hard.

The dentist is 20 minutes away and as I’m driving there, every time I remember where I’m going, my stomach drops. I really hate the dentist.

I fill out all the paperwork. I don’t have a history of anything bad, but when I come to the bottom of the page, I find myself checking the “yes” box for a lot of bad things: Do your gums bleed when you floss? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? Do you have pain in your mouth? Do you grind your teeth?

Can’t be a good sign. 

The girl at reception is very friendly – it’s called Friendly Dental, after all – and goes over the different options for paying without insurance. I’ll think about this when I know what I actually have to pay for.

Another young woman retrieves me from the waiting area. Brianna makes me feel very at ease, complimenting my glasses and asking where I got them. We then talk on and on about glasses and Warby Parker and how she finally got a really nice pair of purple Gucci frames, only to have someone steal them out of her car. That’s just mean.

When she then asks me what’s going on, I easily launch into my fear of the dentist and my TMJ. According to WebMD, “TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint: a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear. It lets you move your jaw up and down and side to side, so you can talk, chew, and yawn.”

I’m sure that I have TMJ because I clench my jaw during sleep. Every time I open my mouth wide, it clicks on both sides. It doesn’t exactly hurt, but it feels sore and makes my head hurt if I chew a lot – that’s why I stopped chewing gum. I don’t think I have ever had lock-jaw – but I do have a fear of it (naturally). Sometimes I actually think that it has happened before, because I’ve dreamt it so often.

A lot of people with TMJ get headaches often. I do not, but I do have awful neck and shoulder pain that I have always attributed to stress/anxiety. Now I’m rethinking this, because it says that other symptoms include neck and upper shoulder aches.

Brianna takes my X-rays. Everything is so different from the last time I was at the dentist. Times have changed. This room is open and airy with lots of windows and a radio station playing catchy songs of the 2000’s with Brianna singing along. The last dentist’s office I was in was like a windowless closet, and the only sound was the hum of an air conditioner and the air-sucky thing in my mouth.

Next, the hygienist comes in, her face covered in one of those masks so I can only see her eyes. Instead of saying hi, she just says, “OK, we’re going to do some poking and prodding.” Oh, great. I can’t wait. Before she goes in, I feel my whole body tense up, bracing for impact. Courtney must sense my apprehension. “Don’t worry. I have a soft touch.” Brianna then lets me know, “We’re looking for 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s.”

I have no idea what this means. Courtney dives in, going from tooth to tooth, each time saying three numbers. “2-1-2, 2-2-2, 5-3-3, 3-4-3.” I catch on. 4’s and 5’s are bad. All around, my numbers aren’t too too high, but’s I’ve heard enough 4’s and 5’s to worry me. I still have no idea what she just did. All I know is, she had a sharp metal thing on my teeth and gums, and it didn’t hurt, so this is going swimmingly. Also, she knows I have TMJ, so she didn’t make me open my mouth too wide. Dentist’s in the past have not cared in the slightest about my TMJ or pain in my jaw (or maybe that’s just how I prefer to remember it).

Next up, the actual dentist, Lynette. I met Lynette, waiting on her at the restaurant where I work. She’s a little older and very pretty – with very nice teeth. We get to talking about yoga and realize we go to the same studio. I soon find out that she’s also a dentist.

I just so happen to be looking for a dentist. Do you have a card?

She gives me one. I haven’t been able to figure out where I want to go or how to pick a dentist – there are so many – but I like this lady. It makes my decision easy.

I book an appointment at Friendly Dental and request Lynette as my dentist. When she walks in, I immediately remind her of who I am – I’ve only waited on her twice. Whether or not she remembers me, she goes with it, and soon we’re back to yoga. Then we get down to business.

I tell her about everything. My TMJ, my 10-year hiatus, my new love of floss and bleeding gums. She takes a look at my teeth. “Well, for not being here in 10 years, you look pretty good.”

I have two cavities. Not too bad! And everything else seems to be OK. Today is supposed to be X-rays and a cleaning, but it’s decided that before the regular cleaning, I need something called a Full Mouth Debridement: “the removal of plaque and tartar that is so prominent in the mouth that removing it will take a considerable amount more effort and time than in a typical cleaning.” Basically, my mouth is disgusting, and they need to remove some plaque and stains immediately. By all means, please, go ahead.

So today, pre-clean. Next appointment, three chipped teeth in front and the regular cleaning. The following appointment, both cavities, and take impressions to fit me for a night guard (to prevent grinding my teeth).

This is the real reason I haven’t been to the dentist in ten years. Who can afford it?? But that’s why I’m here. I finally can afford it. (And by afford it, I mean put it on my credit card and pay it off later.)

Morning Glory

The Early Morning Wake Up Experiment

It was Steve’s idea, but I’m so on board. We agree on a 7am wake up call for one week. (Steve sets his alarm for 6:57am and immediately jumps out of bed to shower. I set my alarm for 7am and hit the snooze until 7:10am, then slowly roll out of bed, put my glasses on, and continue to wear my pajamas.)

I realize that 7am isn’t exactly early for most people. But it is for me. I’ve worked nights my entire adult life. I’m not even home yet from work when most people are going to sleep. Now that I’m only working at the restaurant on the weekends, it’s still hard to wake up early during the week, just because I’m not used to it. Also, it’s really easy to sleep in when you don’t have to be up for anything. 

We start on a Wednesday and head to bed relatively early on the Tuesday before. Since going to bed early and actually sleeping have little to do with each other, I fall asleep after midnight. 

Steve and I live on the 11th floor of our building. There’s free coffee on the 8th floor Monday-Friday from 6-9am, so usually what happens is, Steve sets his alarm for 8:45am and goes down to get us coffee before it closes. After he comes back, I eventually wake up to enjoy my double espresso (I fill the rest of the cup with almond milk because they don’t have any on the 8th floor).

This week is different. By the time Steve showers and I put clothes on, we’re ready to head down together at 7:30am. There’s a lot of stuff on the 8th floor besides the coffee bar. Outside is the pool, tennis/basketball court, ping pong table, grills, and a bunch of outdoor seating. Inside are multiple areas for lounging and doing work, a couple pool tables, shuffleboard, a computer room, and a fitness center.

As we head to the coffee bar, a few people dressed in sweaty workout clothes get on the elevator. I turn to Steve.

Oh my God, those people already worked out. Steve can’t help but roll his eyes. “Yea, most people have to go to work.”

I know. It’s crazy.

We order our drinks and find a place to sit. It’s quiet. If any people are here, they’re sitting at the coffee bar. We sit away from the bar, by the window. I write morning pages in my notebook while Steve reads a book on his kindle. After about an hour, we refill our coffee and head back up to the apartment. I can’t believe how much we’ve done and it’s only 8:30am!

Day 2, when I wake up at 7am, I find it very hard to believe that it’s only Day 2. Haven’t we been waking up this early for at least four days?? Weird.

We didn’t give ourselves any restrictions on drinking this week, but we’d be fools to get carried away when we know we have to get up early. So we opt out completely on Wednesday and Thursday.

Today is Friday. I wish I had something to motivate me to get up as soon as my alarm goes off. Something to look forward to. It can’t be coffee because coffee is available until 9am. Maybe just the feeling of being up early. There’s something about it that I like. It’s quieter. The sun shines differently. It’s the start of the day and anything’s possible.

I never wake up immediately. Brushing my teeth and putting on fresh clothes helps a little. Opening the blinds is a big one. All I need is sunshine. When it hits my eyes, I’m awake, and I wonder how it’s ever difficult to wake up.

I’d say 8:30am is my typical wake-up time. Or maybe 9am. Or 9:30am. But I’m liking this 7am thing. I get more writing done in the morning. I feel more accomplished by the afternoon, and I’m actually tired by 10pm – something I’m definitely not used to. I’m still having trouble falling asleep, which is annoying because I’m so tired and I know that I have to wake up by 7, but still, I’m getting at least six hours of sleep. 

The weekends are always more difficult because of work. Steve knew I’d have a long night at work on Saturday, so he encourages me to sleep in a little. I don’t want to cop out of the experiment, but it’s very easy to be persuaded to go back to sleep in the morning when I’m only half-awake, so I drift off until 8:15am. We go for a very long walk at 11:30 – we must walk for almost two hours. It’s a gorgeous day, and we love to enjoy the nice weather, but I am so exhausted when we get home. 

By the time I get home from work around midnight, my feet and shins are killing me. Steve is ready for bed, but there’s no way I can go to sleep right now. I’m hungry and I want to wind down, i.e. wine and TV. I wish I’m not so hungry when I get home and I wish I’m not so wired. But I am. I drink two glasses of wine, eat salami and crackers followed by Cheez-its, and watch the first episode of West World. I go to bed just before 2am.

This was not part of the plan. I’m disappointed in myself. I wake up Sunday at 9am. Head to a 10:30 hot yoga class. It feels amazing and I feel so much better. If only I didn’t eat and drink late, and then sleep late. I try not to beat myself up. Working nights at a restaurant is so detrimental to my healthy habits. It’s not an excuse; it’s just something I need to work on.

I work from 1:30-9:30pm, get home around 10. Again, I’m hungry and want to wind down. It’s a little earlier than the night before, so I at least have that going for me. I eat some leftover vegetable lasagna – not too much – and drink two glasses of wine while Steve and I watch a documentary.

We head to bed around midnight. I think I’ll listen to my book, but when I snuggle up to Steve to say goodnight, I end up falling asleep in his arms, with the lights on.

Monday morning, Steve’s alarm goes off at 7am. I can tell that it’s going to be easier for me to get up this morning – not as easy as Steve, of course. He gets our coffee, and I’m up before 7:30. Not too bad. I’m happy with it and I love being up this early. 

It’s going to rain all day. All field hockey games are canceled, which means our practice is canceled. Hurricane Irma is coming through. And by coming through, I mean some heavy rain and light wind. Good thing everybody in Charlotte stocked up on cases upon cases of bottled water (insert eye roll here).

Tuesday is the final day of the experiment. I guess this was more of a true experiment for Steve. He stuck with a strict 7am wake-up time for seven days. I kind of just got up earlier every day. Still, it was great. We both loved our productivity in the morning and going to bed early.

Moving forward, no more 8:30am alarms. It’s 7am Monday through Friday (which for me, really means setting my alarm for 7 and getting up at 7:30). On Saturday and Sunday, I’ll give myself little more leniency. I used to like working nights because I have always hated getting up early. School was the absolute worst. But now I’m really looking forward to the day when I don’t have to work nights as all. Because mornings are lovely.

The Mighty Ducks

We’re a couple weeks into the season and won our first game, 4-1. What a rush. I am so incredibly pumped. Every day I come home from practice and Steve asks me how it went. I launch into it, talking his ear off about the girls, my struggles, little victories, and everything else in between. I’m already starting to see little improvements with a lot of the players, and that feels so good. We have a long way to go, but I feel so lucky to be coaching this team.

The more the season goes on, the more coaching feels like a part of my being. It feels right. I agonize over what to teach them at practice and how to make practice run smoothly. I take forever to figure out which position each player should be playing and what makes the best fit for us to be successful as a whole. Sometimes, it’s too much. Just a touch too much OCD and trying to plan every single move. Because it doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, it mostly never goes to plan.

Today is our second game. The weather is not looking good. It’s raining when I wake up in the morning, which is fine, but it says it’s supposed to thunderstorm all afternoon and evening. Rain is fine to play in. Thunderstorms are not. Terry sends out a message to all us coaches that the games are on. If you see lightning, call it on site. Otherwise, we are good to play.

Steve joins me for the game. (He came to the first game, too, and since we won, the girls have decided he’s good luck and should be at every game. One of my junior captains, Berkley, even told Steve that he should sit on our side by the bench during games.) He’s such a great sport. Even in the pouring rain, he wants to come out and support.

We arrive 15 minutes early. No one is out on the fields. It’s dark and pouring. People sit in their cars, deciding when and if they should bother getting out. I told the girls to be here at 3:30, one hour before game time, so at 3:30, I get out of the car.

As I’m walking to the field, my phone rings. It’s Terry. She’s calling to let me know that the team we’re playing – Hough High School – can’t make it because they’re stuck in really bad traffic and don’t know when they can get here. I have no idea how far any of these schools are from us, but I’m surprised. If anything is going to stop this game, I thought it would be the weather.

Terry puts us on a three-way call with the other coach. By this time, my team has started to gather around me. I don’t want to have a win because of a forfeit, but you better believe I will take a win because of a forfeit. My girls are here. They’re ready. But, of course, yes, if we can reschedule, let’s do that.

The other coach hangs up, and Terry lets me know that if we want to stay and use the field to practice, we’re more than welcome to. I almost laugh. Yea, right, like my girls are going to want to stay and play in the rain when there’s not even a game.

When I hang up the phone, I let the girls know the situation. One of my sophomores, Clare, isn’t ready to leave. “Can we just hit around, since we’re here?”

Ummm, yes. Yes, you can. You want to stay and play, even though we have no one to play against. Yes, yes, yes, we can stay and hit around. I’m floored. It’s not that I thought my team didn’t love field hockey. It’s just that, given the circumstances, I thought that everyone would want to go home. But they don’t.

We walk out to the field with a bucket of balls, and the girls mess around, shooting at the cage. I can hear them talking about reverse chips and lifts and I can’t help but tell them, how about you work on your forward drives first? You know, the ones you actually use in the games, all the time? I try to remind myself that they are out here of their own free will, and to just let them have fun. But I really want to teach them the basics, always. Get good at that first. And then, when you’re good at the basics, get great at the basics. And then, way down the line, fine, work on stupid reverse chips. I get it, they’re fun. They look cool when you do them well. But scoring and winning is way better than one cool hit.

Another team has been here for about the same amount of time as us. The coaches are hanging out under a gazebo while the players warm up. I jog over to the coach – Sarah – who I’ve coached with previously at camps. I suggest that if their opponent doesn’t show up, we scrimmage each other. I start to walk back over to my team, but they’re all heading off the field, towards me.

Apparently, someone yelled at them to get off the field. I’m sorry, what? Who? Where? A couple of referees in yellow jerseys. Sarah jogs over to speak to them. They are soccer referees, officiating the game on the next field over, and they heard thunder. Fortunately, we don’t have to get off the field for thunder – only lightning – and anyway, they have no business telling us what to do.

Another team starts to slowly trickle in – the opponent for Sarah’s team. OK, that’s it. Time to make moves. All my girls are here. No one has tried to leave, and there has been no lightning. I start splitting them up into two groups. I told all of them to bring their practice pinnies, so when I tell some of them to “go white” and at least five of them don’t have their pinnies, I’m pissed.

I give them some grief about it, but I have to let it go. Fine. Who doesn’t have a pinny? OK, you’re all in black. I continue to divide up the girls until I have two teams. We are going to scrimmage full field with each other, 9v9. If anyone needs a sub, Steve will come in for you (I know he’d love to play).

We jog out to the field. God it feels good to be on a real turf field, with real goal cages, and field hockey lines. It’s a rainy dream. I blow the whistle, and it’s on.

I don’t even realize that as we’re playing, both of the other teams leave. Why? I have no idea. And I don’t care. I’m immersed in the scrimmage in front of me. Also, a small crowd has started to form. I assume my players’ parents – I’ve met some of them but not all. We’ve got a real game going here!

Yesterday’s practice was a bumpy one. I was on my own, and had been very excited about working on corners. But, as it sometimes go, things did not go to plan, and everything I was hoping for, was not what I was getting. I was a little disheartened coming into this game today. But now, watching the girls play, I can see so much individual improvement, so much more aggressiveness and confidence that I haven’t yet seen in some players, and most importantly, a real sense of team. They’re really playing together, or at least, trying to. They’re on their way.

After about 20 minutes, I call them in. It’s a downpour, and I’m wondering if we should leave or stay. I put it to the girls. It’s up to you guys. Do you want to go for a little longer or be done? It’s an overwhelming response of, ‘Let’s keep playing.’

So we do.

Bring It On

I can’t believe I’m coaching again. It’s crazy. I’ve been able to help out here and there with some clinics and camps over the Spring and Summer, but now this is my team. A first-year team and a JV level. We are the Providence High School Area team. It’s the “Area” because it’s not just Providence – it’s surrounding schools that don’t have field hockey programs.

I’ve got 23 girls – freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. I’m a little nervous but very excited to be out on the field with my very own team. And 23 girls! It’s so many, and I mean that in the best way possible.

The last team I coached was in New York City. I may have had 14 girls. If someone decided she didn’t want to play, I had to practically beg her to please, play. If a girl didn’t show up for a game, we were screwed. We barely had enough girls to field a team.

I was afraid the same was going to happen this year. We were struggling to get girls to sign up. For most of the summer, we only had nine players. Then all of a sudden, two weeks before pre-season, we had to have a waitlist. So the number is 23.

Up until a week before pre-season, I also didn’t have an assistant coach. Terry, the athletic director at Charlotte Ambush, found one for me, but I’ve never spoken to her and we’ll be meeting for the first time today, at our first practice. Coach Seymour is a middle school coach, so she can only be my assistant part-time. She can be there the entire first week of pre-season, but after that she’s only with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

So it’s the first day of pre-season, and I pull up to the field an hour before practice to set up. A few weeks earlier, I helped coach a camp here. It’s a beautiful turf field. It’s lined for soccer, but that’s OK. The surface is amazing. Practice starts at 3:30. At 3pm, I have all my cones set up for drills and I’m pumped.

Then, a team of boys start walking on to the field. Soccer players. I stop one who looks like a coach.

Are you guys practicing out here? “Yea.”

I have the field from 3:30-5:30. “Uh, yea, us too. But I’m not the coach. I’ll call him and see what’s up.”

OK, great. I don’t need the whole field, if you want to share. “We have JV and Varsity.”

Oh. OK, I’ll call my person, too.

Shit. Please tell me that I’m not on the grass field below the turf field. That patch of grass without ANY lines. I call Terry. Hey, Terry, I’m at the field. Are we on the turf field???…Or the grass field? “The grass field.” My heart sinks. And now I have to move all my cones and set them up somewhere else. I have no time for this. I thank Terry then hang up, rush to collect my cones and head down to the stupid grass field.

My soul is crushed. It would be different if I hadn’t thought that the beautiful turf field was ours to practice on. It would be different if I hadn’t been dreaming about our practices on that field. But I had. And now I’m down here, looking up at those stupid boys kicking around a soccer ball on turf, as if you need a turf field to play soccer. It’s ridiculous. (The boys aren’t stupid and it’s not their fault. I’m just having a moment.)

The grass is bumpy and thick. It’s not the worst field I’ve ever played on, but did I mention there are no lines?!? Do you know how difficult it is to set up drills and stations without any lines? It’s very difficult, and very time consuming.

Some of the girls start to arrive and I don’t even remember if I say hi to them, I’m so stressed out, trying to set up the field. I also have like, 14 cones. That is not a joke. This will not do. I make myself a note: Buy cones.

Coach Seymour arrives and introduces herself. She is way too calm and mellow for my state of being right now. (I will quickly learn to be incredibly grateful for her demeanor. Because I am always a total spaz.) I don’t remember practice. It’s a blur. But I get through it. Tomorrow will be better. It has to be better.

With 23 girls and a part-time assistant coach and no lines on my field, I feel like my head is going to explode sometimes. Every day, I spend almost an hour before practice setting up the field. Some days, we’ll be practicing, and I look up at the turf field and realize that the soccer team already left, or maybe they were never here to begin with. I quickly yell to the girls that we’re moving to the turf, but now I have to set up all the cones again, AND, the girls have to carry the cage all the way up to the turf. I mean, practice is only 90 minutes long. It’s exhausting trying to get anything accomplished sometimes.

I text and call Sarah and Courtney often for advice, help, or a vent session. It feels good when I’m struggling with something to know that I’m not alone. West Deptford is an established, great program (if I do say so, myself), and Court and Sarah face some of the same issues that I do.

Besides being stressed out and frazzled, my God, does it feel right on this field. I was playing for a little while in California, but it was such a commute and we only played on Sundays. When I started picking up Sunday shifts every week at the bar, I told myself that the field hockey part of my life was just over. I really didn’t think there was going to be a way for it to come back into the picture, because I thought I would never leave California. I also thought that acting meant more to me than field hockey.

Now here I am, back on the east coast, living in Charlotte, North Carolina, coaching a high school team. Summer has been amazing and too short. I want to hang on to the warm mornings and warm nights as long as possible. I’m not ready for the Fall, but I’m definitely excited for it – it’s been six years since I’ve had a proper Fall. Bring on the crisp weather and vibrant colors, field hockey and football, and all things pumpkin.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Another experiment.

My friend Jaime is a health coach. I get emails for her newsletter and a sugar detox catches my eye. The 7-Day Guided Sugar Detox. I’ve been wanting to try no sugar for a while now. In the past couple years, I’ve done my best to cut back on sugar. Because in case you didn’t know, sugar is in everything. So I check labels and try to steer clear. In most cases, but not all.

The skinny on sugar is that it’s basically poison. So I wonder what would happen if I cut it out completely. Would I feel better? Would I sleep better? Would I wake up easier? I’ve been curious about this, but I know that it will be hard. So when Jaime’s email pops up, I’m intrigued. By signing up for the detox, I get access to recipes for sweet alternatives, I get to have guidance  and a group so that I don’t feel alone, and I get to support my friend.

Jaime is an amazing person. We met in Writers Group, and from Day One, she has been so kind, generous, empathetic, and supportive to anyone she comes in contact with. A few years ago, I came to her for help with my health. I forget why, exactly. I was feeling bad about myself. I was drinking too much. And while I thought I was being sort of healthy with my food choices, I was in complete control mode. Trying to eat healthy and not too much during the day so that I could splurge at night.

Jaime agreed to meet with me before Writers Group one night, to sort of go over my health profile and see what steps I might want to take. She asked me about my diet. I can’t remember what I told her, except that wine and Cheez-its were a big part of it. She asked if I’d be able to cut back. I told her no, I didn’t think so. And that was the end of that. I wasn’t ready to make any changes.

I’ve come a long way since then. It seems like perfect timing. Almost kismet that this email should stumble into my inbox. I call Anna Rose and ask her if she wants to do it, too. When I was in California, AR was always asking me to do this kind of shit with her. Once she asked me if I wanted to do this exact thing. Seven days, no sugar. She asked me, like it was the best, most exciting idea in the world. I looked at her with no hesitation and said, No. That sounds awful.

Of course, AR is on board. We are doing this! I thought it was going to be very strict with absolutely no sugar, but you can actually eat fruit. Natural sugar is OK. I’m not really a big fruit person – except for dried fruit. I love dried fruit, especially on the go.

Here will be my struggles with no sugar – alcohol, bread, and condiments. Those are the big three. Three things I love. I’ve done a week no drinking before, so I know I can do that, but I eat bread and condiments every day. And without alcohol, it makes me even more want to eat delicious foods that have sugar in them. I deserve it!

I am shocked to say, the first three days are cake. But there are a couple reasons why. First, I had drank too much over the weekend, so I was ready for a break from alcohol. Second, I just started pre-season last week. Which means three hours out in the sun coaching in the late afternoon, and no working at the restaurant at night.

Oh, that’s right. I got a job. And it’s amazing. This awesome, adorable wine bar only ten minutes from my apartment. I’ve been working non-stop, but during hockey season, I’m only available on the weekends. So my schedule just changed. No more late nights getting home during the week. I get to be home from practice by 6:30 every night, and eat a healthy, homemade dinner by 7:30. Working in a restaurant, you never know when you’re going to eat. More often than not, I don’t get to eat, and am starving when I get home, and so I have to eat a late (but hopefully light) dinner.

In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg says to make one, tiny change in what you’re doing, to see the effects. My no-sugar is coupled with a big change in my schedule, so it’s not exactly a fixed variable. Oh, well. I’ll get the next experiment right.

I start the detox on a Wednesday. So Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I’m in good shape. No more fried egg on toast for breakfast – my go-to. Now it’s scrambled eggs with sautéed onions and maybe some other veggies, or an Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin with butter. Both are very tasty and satisfying (but nothing beats my fried egg on toast).

For lunch, I do something like, canned chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, avocado, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with Mary’s Gone Crackers. Otherwise, I just mix whatever veggies I have with whole grain brown rice or scrambled eggs. When I get home from practice, Steve and I either do salmon or grilled chicken with a side of rice or vegetable, or make a stir-fry.

Jaime has sent out some sugar-free dessert options, so on Friday night, Steve and I make banana ice cream – it’s frozen bananas, almond butter, cacao powder, vanilla extract, and a little almond milk all blended together. It is SO good. So good that Steve wants to serve it as dessert at our next dinner party.

And then comes the weekend. On both days, I work from about 1:30-10:30pm. Long shifts. I prepare myself. I pack a stir-fry with rice, a Larabar, and some nuts with dried fruit. That should be plenty. Around 5pm on Saturday, we have our line-up. This is when everyone gathers in the back to go over wine and food specials. I knew this was coming. I planned to do that thing that some people do when they taste wine – just spit it out. But now that I’m here, and a glass is placed in my hand, I know I can’t do that. I smell the wine. I smell it a lot. And then I just hold it. After the explanation is over, I hand my glass to Greg – one of my co-workers. Greg is very reserved and professional with his long red hair in a tight bun, but when work is over, he let’s his hair flow and looks like a lion. I’m sure he’ll drink it for me.

Another co-worker, Matthew – a young teddy bear with a thick southern accent – looks at me, annoyed. “You better drink that wine.” I laugh. No. “What, are you hungover?” No, actually, I haven’t drank in a few days. “Are you PREGNANT??” No! I am not pregnant. “Lindsay, you’re pregnant?” Matthew, no, I’m not pregnant. I’m just not drinking this week (I know, so hard to believe).

A second glass of wine is handed out. This is just mean. Again, I smell the shit out of it before handing it off to Greg. Now, it’s on to the food. Sometimes they don’t even have anything for us to taste. Of course, tonight, they have two specials. One is a delicious-looking bruschetta, and the other is little fried hog snapper po boy sliders with house-made pickles, slaw, and remoulade. You’ve got to be kidding me. I rush out of the kitchen to check on my tables. That was tough, and it’s only 5pm.

Matthew approaches me again and asks me to please get pregnant, for him. Steve and I really deserve to have a baby. …People in the south are so weird.

The night gets super busy, and while I find time to eat my stir-fry, I don’t have time for anything else, so I’m starving when I get home at 10:30pm. After a long, busy shift, all I want is a glass of wine. But I can’t have that. I also want something delicious, like a fried egg on toast, but I can’t have that either. I settle for a bunch of cherries and grapes. I’m really not used to eating this much fruit. I feel like it’s not exactly the healthiest thing to be eating, because even though it’s natural, it’s still a lot of sugar at night, but it’s better than eating the bad sugar, I guess.

Sunday is more of the same, except that work is a little more laid back on Sundays. I have more time to eat when I’m hungry. I pack the same food as yesterday and eat all of it throughout the day. I’m still hungry when I get home. I suppose I could try to write, to see how my body really feels, but after working all day and not being allowed to have sugar, I just don’t care. So I make the banana ice cream again… and then again the next day. It’s so unnecessary. But it’s the feeling of deserving something delicious. Besides, I’m allowed to eat it. No sugar.

Monday and Tuesday are the home stretch. I talk to AR on the phone. She’s so proud of me for sticking with it, especially at work. It feels good to have her support. I wake up Wednesday morning and it feels like Christmas. I can eat sugar today! I am so excited!

How do I feel after the seven days? I feel good. I know that I could feel better. Last night I watched the most recent episode of Game of Thrones and my God, it was a nail-biter! I ate way too many pistachios and dried mango. I felt bad afterwards.

If I were to do a sugar detox again, I think it would be more beneficial if I cut out fruit entirely. Because I don’t really eat that much fruit, anyway. Still, I didn’t drink for seven days, which is always a victory in itself. I didn’t eat any bread or condiments. Or cheese. I missed cheese, too.

I don’t really feel like I slept any better. It was still difficult to fall asleep and difficult to wake up – maybe because I was eating too much fruit at night!

Moving forward, I think my best bet is to stick with moderation. Making a conscious effort to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. That feels the best. But I’m still glad I did it. Another experiment in the books!

Six Days Seven Nights

THE LATE-NIGHT SNACK EXPERIMENT – PART 3

Friday, June 9, 2017

DAY 6 9:30am

I keep expecting something to happen with this experiment. Like I’m going to have some big realization or revelation about myself. But I don’t know.

Wednesday night we didn’t drink. We ate dinner around 7:30pm and went to bed at midnight. I didn’t write because I didn’t get hungry or even tempted. Last night was even easier. Maybe because we didn’t end up eating until about 8:30pm. After dinner, we split a bottle of wine. I was a little nervous that it would make me want a snack. It sort of did, but again, not to the point that I needed to write about it. I was totally fine. I’m also surprised that I’m not more hungry as soon as I wake up. I just thought, since the last time I eat is 7:30pm, I’ll be starving as soon as my alarm goes off.

Because I think I should be hungry or maybe because I deserve something, since I still have that mentality, I’ve been popping five apricots as soon as I come downstairs in the morning. Today was the first day I didn’t, because I really want to honor my hunger. And I’m just not hungry yet. I don’t feel any different, physically. But it’s only been five days. I do feel a little better, mentally. Because after Day 1 I was afraid. I thought I might not be able to last a full week. Now I’m thinking that this might have to be my new way of being. 

But tonight will be a challenge. Steve and I are going to a friend’s birthday dinner. It’s a late dinner – we’re not meeting at the restaurant until 8pm – so like Tuesday night when we had Steve’s parents over, I know that I will not actually be hungry when I get home tonight. It would be different if I didn’t eat enough at dinner, but I won’t do that. I love going out to eat.

The factor that worries me is the drinking. I’m sure that I will have at least three glasses of wine tonight, and at most four. I’m giving myself a limit. I truly never need more than four glasses of wine, let’s be serious.

My plan (because my plans always work out so well) is to head right upstairs when I get home. Gotta get through that kitchen. I’ll immediately get ready for bed. Once in bed, I’ll write if I’m feeling anxious. I’ll even put my notebook right next to my bed before I leave. But I have to stress to myself, again, that if I write for a bit and I still feel hungry, I am allowed to eat. Even if I don’t think I should be hungry after such a late dinner. This should not feel like deprivation or a diet or punishment. If I write and I still feel hungry, I can eat something. Then I can see how I feel about it the next day. This is an experiment. This is learning. Whatever happens is OK – as long as I write first.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

DAY 7 1:15pm

Last day of the experiment! Feeling good. Last night could not have gone better.

Steve and I split a bottle of wine at home before we leave for dinner. During this time, I tell him my reservations about the evening, the anxiousness, and my plan to go straight to bed when we get home. As always, Steve is completely supportive and understanding.

At dinner, there are 10 of us, and there’s a lot of talk and catching up before we finally sit down to dinner. I’m almost finished my first glass of wine, which is really my third, and feel too hungry. And starting to feel a little drunk. I reel it in. I slow down. I stop drinking.

Steve orders me another glass of wine, but it sits there for a while. I take my time with the first one. We all split a bunch of appetizers, then Steve and I split an entree and an appetizer. I eat the stuff I really like, and don’t finish the stuff that is just OK. Eventually, I finish my second (4th) glass of wine, and it’s a little after 11pm. Time to go home. I feel fine. Not fine, I feel good. Not drunk, not overly full but still full, and a little tired.

Once home, Steve asks if I’d like another glass of wine. Sure, I say, before heading into the bathroom. While I’m in the bathroom, I realize that I really don’t want another glass of wine. When I get out, Steve is sitting on the couch, watching the basketball game. Did you pour the wine yet? “No, not yet.” Oh, good. I don’t think I want a glass. “OK, I’ll just have a beer.” Steve grabs a beer while I head upstairs to change and get ready for bed. I come back down to watch the rest of the game with him. I’m very aware of the fact that I’m not hungry and I don’t want a snack. But I am tired. We go to bed as soon as the game ends.

I did it! And it was easy! Even after four glasses of wine! I really can’t believe it.

This morning, I wake up easily when my alarm goes off at 9am. Steve and I go to our respective gyms for a 10:30am class, and I feel great.

But today is another drinking day. We’re going to head down to the pool around 2:30pm to drink in the sun. A perfect Saturday afternoon. Then we’ll make dinner together and probably go to bed early. I’m a little nervous about the late-night snack attack, but only a little. I’m not terrified of it anymore. I think the thing that has been the most helpful is that I’m not depriving myself. I haven’t once said, I’m not allowed to eat anything after dinner. I know it’s totally mental, but it’s taken so much weight off me. Knowing that I will honor my hunger and eat when I’m hungry is such a comforting thing.

At the beginning of this, I was really hoping for some kind of revelation. For something inside me to break open and for me to realize, all along, this is why I’ve been doing this. That it would all make so much sense.

But there has been no moment like that. No revelation. From the beginning, Steve said that it’s just a habit. I tried to explain to him that yes, it for sure is a habit, but it’s more than that. I still believe that it is much more than just a bad habit, but it seems that the power of habit can be an incredibly strong thing.

My success this week has been thanks to writing down my feelings (vomiting them onto the page, really), honoring my hunger, and the support of my incredibly loving boyfriend. I haven’t seen any physical changes, but mentally, I feel so much better. Stronger. Hopeful.

Similar to how I can’t go back to dieting, I don’t think I can go back to mindless late-night snacking. I think that this experiment will become a life practice. It feels a little daunting, but exciting.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

2:45pm

Well, I made it. Seven whole days. Yesterday Steve and I drank by the pool in the late afternoon.

We have dinner at about 7pm, and then at about 9pm we have some dessert. There’s a couple bites left each of the Jimmy Fallon Tonight Dough (ice cream), so we go bite-for-delicious-bite on that. We have leftover carrot cake in the freezer, so we decide to have that, too. Steve gets it for us while I set up a movie for us to watch.

Steve starts to walk over to me with one tiny plate of one tiny piece of carrot cake. Are you serious? We’re sharing? Steve laughs at my reaction. “Yes.” We’re sharing that tiny little measly piece of cake?! “What, you want your own?” Yes! Of course I want my own. “You only need a few bites.” I know I only NEED a few bites, but I WANT a whole piece. “Do you want me to get you your own piece?”

I practically growl at him as I take my fork. No. This is fine.

I rarely eat dessert unless it’s a special occasion. Tonight we were both in the mood for dessert and it felt especially warranted after a somewhat light dinner of homemade chicken caesar salad. So since I am having dessert, I want to go big.

But it’s true, I don’t need to. Infuriatingly, Steve is right. Four bites of ice cream and four bites of cake is a perfect dessert. Physically, I’m perfectly content. Emotionally, I want to throw a temper tantrum because I didn’t get as much as I wanted.

Steve and I settle in to watch a movie but 30 minutes in, Steve is out cold. I’m wide awake with my last glass of wine 10:30pm, so I stop the movie and continue the show I’ve been watching on Netflix: 13 Reasons Why.

I watch for about two and a half hours while Steve continues to sleep peacefully on the couch. I think about opening another bottle of wine, because I’m still so awake, but decide against it because I have yoga at 10:30am. And besides, I must be tired. Even if I don’t feel like it.

I also think about a snack. But a quick check-in tells me that I’m not actually hungry. Plus, if I want a snack, I have to write first, and I really just don’t feel like it right now. It’s also helping that Steve is here, even though he’s asleep. If he went upstairs to bed, I might.

So I continue to watch TV a bit longer, and finally feel tired. I wake up my sleeping Steve, and we go to bed.

…The Late-Night Snack Experiment was a success!

Primal Fear

THE LATE-NIGHT SNACK EXPERIMENT – CONTINUED

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DAY 3 9:54am

Good morning, pages. Last night wasn’t so bad. After I finished writing last night, I ate some mixed nuts, two dried apricots, and a cup of tea with honey and almond milk. It felt like a normal snack. I didn’t feel like I overate, at all, but now it sort of feels like the act of eating late at all feels like it’s just for comfort and not for hunger. Maybe I’m looking too much into this. It was a successful night. I felt so anxious all freakin’ day, but I did it.

Tonight we’re having Steve’s parents over for dinner and I’ll be drinking, so it won’t be a typical night. But even though I’ll surely be full when they leave, I might still want to eat something. I can say for sure that I probably won’t actually be hungry then. So if I do still want to eat something, I’ll definitely write.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

DAY 4 10:06pm

Well, I’m not hungry, so that’s good. I still wanted to write. We ate dinner at 7, and after that I had half a glass of wine, because it’s all that was left in the bottle, and then a cup of tea with honey and a splash of almond milk.

Last night was not my finest moment. Exactly what I thought was going to happen, happened. I drank too much, and after Steve’s parents leave, I walk over to the cabinet where the snacks are and open it. Steve is doing dishes. He hears me and looks at me over his shoulder. “What are you doing?” Making a snack. “No.” He is almost laughing as he says it. “You can’t be hungry. You need to write.”

I immediately turn to the emotion I know best when I’m feeling embarrassed or ashamed – anger. I slam the cabinet door shut (as much as I can – they’re those cabinets that automatically slow down as you close them so it really sucks for the moment) and stomp upstairs to the bedroom. Steve basically just told me to do what I told myself I was going to do this morning. But now I’m drunk and I don’t care.

I’m not sure how long I’m upstairs for before I come down again. Steve is still doing dishes. I open the refrigerator and pull out the tupperware of leftover broccoli and cauliflower from dinner. I open it. Steve looks over at me, incredulous. “What in the world are you doing?” I look over at him with a look of sheer disgust. I don’t even say anything. I just slam the lid down on the counter and again, stomp up the stairs.

When I tell Kelly about it the next day, she tells me that the way I was acting is how an addict would act. Yup, because I’m an addict. I’m a late-night snack addict.

When Steve finally comes upstairs, I apologize. I couldn’t say anything when he called me out because he was completely right. All I could do was be pissed. He accepts my apology, but in the morning I feel so bad. I apologize a few more times and a little more in depth.

And I’m so sorry I didn’t even help you clean the kitchen. But I couldn’t be IN the kitchen. I had to go upstairs.

Steve doesn’t care about the cleaning. He just cares how I reacted. “And then you didn’t even put the broccoli and cauliflower away! You just left it on the counter.” I can’t help but laugh about it now. Now I thank him so much for not letting me eat.

I really appreciate you. “You’re welcome. It was so weird because normally you’re so… sane.”

I’m so embarrassed, but I finally don’t have shame wrapped around it. Because I have Steve with me. I couldn’t do this without him. I try to explain to him. I have a real problem. You’ve never seen me like that but I’ve seen that version of myself many times, and it’s not pretty. Being able to write out my thoughts, and having Steve hold my hand along the way, is the only way I can do this. 

It’s 11:20pm and we’ll probably go to sleep soon. I’m not hungry and I don’t want a snack.

Clearly, alcohol is not my friend during this experiment.