COMING CLEAN: The Challenge of the Challenge: Weeks 3 & 4

For most of my life, I’ve danced along a duality. I’m biracial — my father is black and my mother is white.

I’m an editor and a writer, and have always been unsure of which mind rules me. I love cats and dogs equally (except when Ladybird gets into the garbage). In high school, I was in the band (I played the flute), then the next year I signed up for the volleyball team and hung out with the preppy “jocks,” only to see my grades fall the next year when I associated with the wrong crowd (I rectified it senior year by studying hard and joining the Pep Fest committee). Yes, that’s common with teens in high school, but it illustrates my point: I shun definitions and labels, and don’t choose to declare myself as one thing or the other. It seems too limiting.

I will, however, resound a classification when it comes to seemingly immovable aspects of my life. If it’s been too hard to change, I give in — I throw up my hands and say, oh well, I guess I’m always going to be the one who is tardy. I’ll always be the one that is a little bit messy. I’m not going to be the stylish one or the thin one or the artsy one or the one that sings well. Accessorizing is too complicated, working out and eating right all the time is too hard, crafts take too much time to make and singing along with Rock Band doesn’t help me get onstage.

So with last week’s Take Action Challenge, to start and end our days well, I felt defeated even before I began. Why? Because I am not a morning person. I can definitively claim that. Anyone who has ever lived with me can agree, and my husband in particular knows to keep his distance in the morning. He, on the other hand, rises chirping and singing and practically skipping into the day, which amuses me until it infuriates me because I don’t feel the same. Give me an hour and I’ll be in a better mood. Maybe two hours if it’s raining.

Yes, I enjoy life and am generally positive and look forward to what the day entails, but my first thought upon waking is that I enjoy sleep more. I’ve always savored a good long night’s rest — always eight hours or more — and don’t find that I “ease into” my day because I’d rather continue sleeping. I must set an alarm clock, even on weekends, because when I don’t, I’ve easily clocked the hours of a small child.

vintage photo sleeping toddler

Me at 2 1/2 years old, too tired to even finish eating. Sleep wins!

I knew I’d struggle with the mornings, as I inevitably did, because I sighed and admitted that it’s just not me. I didn’t allow myself to realize that I’m capable of change, that if I want to become something that I’m not — in this case, a morning person, or at least someone who is tolerable in the morning — I need to believe that I can and will do so. And I need to acknowledge each step toward change to stay positive and continue moving forward.

With that in mind, I looked to my evenings instead. I tend to favor leisure-bordering-on-slothdom after work, either by watching hours of television or paging through magazines. But I do do a few chores, organize my files and thoughts, and begin to “shut down” an hour before bed, a weekday cue I take from my mom, who
for years has had the ritual of switching to “comfy clothes” when it gets dark. I felt good about that, but have found that the duration of my nighttime ritual has shrank dramatically in the past few months — or worse, gets postponed so that my bedtime gets later and later. I squeeze a lot into my evenings, and generally find myself back to work until the wee hours. Or I’ll start a chore that is too large to finish, and end up cleaning until I can barely keep my eyes open.

The good news, though, is that I’m watching less TV.

Looking ahead on the calendar to Week 4 of the Take Action Challenge, I assumed I would have to cut back on the hours I spend staring at the boob tube — a term that definitely applies based on the outrageous and ridiculous shows I often watch, usually to appease the voyeur in me and to completely escape a stressful day by gaining distance from that which is normal or sane. Do I really have to give up The Real Housewives of New York City? How can I possibly NOT find out who Ali picks on The Bachelorette? Who’s going to be The Biggest Loser? And Heidi just got all that plastic surgery — if she and Spencer get divorced, how’s she going to pay for all that?!

Yikes. Maybe I do need to stop watching so much TV. Or at least watch more educational programming to balance the guilty pleasures.

Luckily, this week is all about transforming your TV habits (vs. giving it up altogether). The main objective was to avoid snacking with activity during commercial breaks. I usually don’t snack when I watch TV (if I have, say, chips and salsa, I portion it out in small bowls) and on occasion, when I know I’m hungry but want to watch TV, I’ll grab an orange, the slow process of peeling delaying how fast I consume it.

But activity during TV? It’s a little contradictory — the whole point of watching TV is so that I don’t have to do anything — but it does seem like wasted time, well, at least for how much (and what shows, in particular) I watch. Activity seems like the perfect way to combat that overindulgence! I own a yoga mat, weights (both 5 and 10 pounds), a kettlebell, a stability ball, even an ab roller and mini stepper. We also recently purchased a used elliptical machine and, although I don’t use it as much as I’d like, I have been on it when I’m watching TV. I enjoy listening to music, so that I feel like I’m “dancing to the beat” as I slide my legs and swing my arms back and forth (kind of like the running man), but prefer to stare at the TV in closed caption to pass the time. (I’d really like to read, but find the print in books too small to focus on when I’m active. One of my coworkers uses an eReader so she can increase the text size for the purpose of reading on the cardio machines. Good tip.)

So how well do I do with being active during the commercial breaks? Do I skip all snacks and drink my water? Check back later for my report.

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