There Is No Switch

lightbulbOccasionally I think the alternate name for this blog could be, “Sometimes I’m an idiot,” because I share a lot of things that are new or revelations to me and imagine people thinking, “Yeah, no shit, dumb ass.” This is one of those weeks. It starts out weight/fitness related, but it it applies to everything in the end.

So the other day I was logging my exercise and reading a fitness/nutrition forum. I can’t even remember exactly what I read, but it was something like, “Of course I want junk food, too, but I want health more.” I could feel the lightbulb over my head. I guess I thought that there were Healthy Eaters and Everyone Else. The Healthy Eaters didn’t even want Doritos or cookies and were content with their sprouts and whatever the hell else they eat and were just born that way. I think I also thought if I forced myself into that Healthy Eater box, that eventually a switch would flip, (this is starting to sound like a particularly odd Twilight Zone episode), I wouldn’t crave junk and healthy eating would be effortless. Honestly, it just never occurred to me that the Healthy Eaters would want junk, too. Oh, I’m sure there are those freaks who are like, “Oh, no! Not me! I would rather have this big bowl of cinnamon flavored air then that big plate of nachos!” But they are the exception.

I don’t think this is solely an issue related to fitness and is true of all goals. We go around thinking a magic switch is going to flip that is going to keep us constantly motivated, give us unwavering commitment, and make us laugh in the face of obstacles. When that doesn’t happen and it’s still a struggle, we figure something is wrong with us and give up. But there is no switch. There is no big moment where we stop wanting to take the easier path. The only difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is that those who achieve have figured this out already. They know the road that leads to the final destination is not flat, perfect pavement, but full of potholes, cracks, u-turns, construction, “bridge out” and “slippery pavement” signs.

It kind of sounds like bad news, but it’s really not. It takes away any invisible barriers we have put up that hinders up from becoming a goal achiever. There’s no difference between us and them. There isn’t really an us and them- it’s everyone. We’ll still crave Doritos, the hardest part of working out will still be putting on our shoes, and it will always be easier stay with the familiar then to venture into the unknown. It doesn’t make us defective or destined for failure. It just makes us human. Keep your eye on the prize, keep moving forward, and realize you’re stronger then almost anything that can come your way.

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It’s The Little Things

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Drawing in progress

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I kept whining about not having an internship? Well, guess who just finished her first two weeks at her shiny new internship? I don’t want to give out too many details, because while I know all my readers are as sane as they are good looking and smart, there may be a few lurking crazies. But what I can tell you is it’s at a non-profit (yea!), unpaid (boo!), and I get to do a little bit of everything (yea!). I think it’s going to be great.

Throughout this whole internship search, I kept running across the quote by Joseph Campbell:

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

I know that should have told me something, but far be it from me to actually pay attention to the signs around me. You know how I live for coincidence? Now you do. Well, in a previous post I told you about how my friend who passed away inspired me to go back to school. When we wouldn’t want to tell customers our real names, we would give them fake ones (I have a tendency to bring out the silly in people). My friend’s fake name is my new bosses real name. It wouldn’t be weird if her name was Mary or Brenda, but it’s something not at all common. Weird, right? Okay, just humor me.

Speaking of inspiring people, whenever I write these posts I’m pretty much writing them for me. I figure if they make me laugh, motivate me, kick me in the drawers, what have you, that they will probably do that for someone else, too. Plus it’s really powerful when you are at a low point to go back and read your own words. But I never think of myself as inspirational. Trust me, if you saw the stack of junk on the coffee table, the sink full of dishes, or the laundry that needs to be put away, the only thing it might inspire you to do is clean your house. So the other day someone sent me a message on My Fitness Pal that said something like, “Your story is so inspirational! I hope to get to where you are someday,” I seriously thought she sent it to the wrong person. It didn’t help that I had just got back from the gym and was sitting on the couch in my underwear eating cheese while watching Dr. Phil (sadly, no part of that is made up, it was super hot and I was hungry).

But it made me think about who we admire and why. We tend to put those we admire on a pedestal and think everything they do should be inspirational. “They way they took out the trash was a triumph of the human spirit!” That’s where the saying, “Don’t meet those you admire” comes in. People rarely act like we expect. I follow artist and author Austin Kleon on Twitter and one day he posted something like, “Is there any great artist who WASN’T a philandering douchebag? #disappointed” I’ve heard rumblings that Ray LaMontagne had a particularly disappointing meeting with his inspiration, Bob Dylan. We have to give each other room to be human and realize that our inspirations, just like us, don’t always have it together. We all fall short of our own expectations at one point or another. But I think we also cannot forget that it’s the small acts of kindness that sometimes mean the most to people. You never know how a smile or hug or some sincere words will effect someone.

Wouldn't this look awesome on a t-shirt?

Wouldn’t this look awesome on a t-shirt?

Okay, so you know how the Mumford & Sons song, “The Cave” has inspired me over and over throughout the last few years? Well, they are having a contest to design a t-shirt for their summer tour. Now, I know as a designer I’m supposed to be all against spec work and blah blah blah, but, hey, MUMFORD & SONS! In addition to getting your design on a shirt, you get $1000 and I am poor so that would be awesome. I was so excited when I first saw this contest, but then I totally forgot about it and had to repurpose a design and format some type quickly. Allegedly voting starts sometime today (5/31) and is open only for a week. You don’t have to register for anything, because it looks like you can only vote using Facebook and Twitter. If you could spare a moment and vote for me once voting opens,  I would so appreciate it. There are some excellent designs and competition is going to be fierce. Vote here

UPDATE! Voting is now open and you can use Facebook, Twitter, or text 9S88MZ to 75572.  

Beth’s Guide to Weight Loss…or Something

underweight

I realized I’ve lost 70 pounds. You would think that would be a little hard to miss, but if you’ve read here before then you know I’m not always on speaking terms with obvious. What made it less obvious is that it was slowly over a lot of years and had many stalls and restarts and twists and turns and jumping off one path and on to another…and I’m still not done. I’ve got about 30-40 pounds to go. But slowly is better then never and time is going to pass regardless.

I’ve always been somewhere between chubby and sideshow fat lady (with my Greek genes I’m just glad I’m not the bearded lady) and have tried just about every weight loss plan known to man, both healthy and not so healthy. Really, if you want to know how to lose weight, ask a fat person, because we’ve tried them all- for a few hours at least.

If I could impart one bit of wisdom to those who want to eat healthier or lose weight it would be this:

WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU ARE EATING. 

Most of us are eating way more and way more junk then we realize. When I first started this whole thing, I went to Weight Watchers (which is a great program) and the weeks that I had the biggest losses were weeks that I religiously wrote down every single bite that went in my mouth.

I’ve recently been using My Fitness Pal, which is a website and app that helps you record your exercise and calories/food to achieve your fitness goals. I was only using it to track my exercise and one day thought, “Hmm…I should put my food for a few days just to see.” Dear God! No wonder I haven’t lost any weight lately! Low carb/high protein works best for me and I was hardly getting any protein and my carbs were TWICE what I thought they were. Now I’m trying to kick my 2 a day Kind Bar habit because I was getting a ridiculous amount of carbs from that alone. I guess it shouldn’t be shocking- the good ones are all coated in chocolate. See what I mean about me and obvious not always getting together?

Another little bit of wisdom I wish someone would have told me years ago:

Just because you are working out, don’t expect to lose more weight. 

Maybe it’s just me, but when I exercise my weight loss slows to a crawl. I have no idea why, but it happens to me every single time. But take heart! There is a way to still see some progress without using the scale. Take measurements! Waist, hips, chest, calf, arm and thigh- or any part you are interested in and measure every one or two weeks. Since I’ve started doing the weight machines, I’ve already lost an inch off my waist and a half inch off my hips. Considering I don’t have much of a waist, that is huge for me.

My last little bit of wisdom:

You can only get what you want by moving outside of your comfort zone.

I am so guilty of this and I know I am not alone, because I see it all the time in the gym and life in general. We only go so far and then it’s like we hit an invisible barrier. “Eh…that’s good enough” and stop. Some book I read said something like the most effective leaders are the ones who are comfortable going into the unknown. Because that’s what it’s about really, isn’t it? That fear that we might fail or, God forbid, succeed and then what? Will people cheer us? Or abandon us? Or maybe they’ll expect us to always succeed and what if we can’t live up to our own new standard? So it seems easier to remain where we are. But if you really want something, the only way to get it is to tell those voices to cram it, push forward into that unknown and take it. It’s hard, scary and takes commitment, but if you want it bad enough then that’s what it takes. It is the rare person who is handed everything they want with no work. Besides, you don’t want to be that person, because everyone hates those people and we like you!

Have a great week!

The Gym Is Not Always Torture (But It Sorta Is)

Juvenile-Harrys-Ladder-to-Learning-66I love my gym. Oh, I still hate working out about 75% of the time,  but my gym is non-stop entertainment. It’s as if Wal-Mart had a gym. In general I try to keep my head down, avoid eye contact  and be as completely unassuming as possible. I figure I don’t want to anyone judging me, so I try not to judge anyone else. We’re all there for the same reason, because we want to workout and are poor and/or cheap. But sometimes it’s hard not to notice the, um, “eccentricities” of the other exercisers.

I always wonder if the world is full of weirdos, if I just notice all the weirdos, or if eventually we are all the weirdos. Yesterday when I was using the torture chamber known as the overhead tricep extension machine (seriously, look at this thing, why did I think it was a good idea?) and repeatedly hitting myself in the head with the handles while trying to adjust the weights, I’m pretty sure I was the weirdo. But at least I wasn’t the guy who never uses any equipment, wanders the entire perimeter of the gym (in jeans) over and over while swinging his arms like a windmill on the loose during category 5 hurricane. I can’t take my eyes off him because I keep trying to figure out if there is a pattern to his flailings and he’s on to some new super arm workout that the rest of us haven’t caught on to yet. I don’t know how he hasn’t knocked anyone unconscious.

My gym is divided up into four sections, which I’m guessing is probably the same as most gyms: the cardio area (treadmills, ellipticals, etc.), strength training machines (lat pull, thigh abductor, etc.), free weights (dumbbells, weight benches), and a big open area for things like kettle bells, those big stability bouncy ball things, and whatever other lunacy personal trainers are inflicting on people these days.

Until recently I never ventured out of the cardio area, which has it’s own form of crazy. Like the girl who runs on the treadmill in flip flops, the guy who randomly yells out, “WHOOOOOOO!!!!” on the elliptical machine (and looks like a forgotten member of an 80’s glamrock band), or the guy who cranks the treadmill speed up to 15 mph, lifts himself up on to the side rails and just touches the belt with his tippy toes. Closely related to him is  the 75 year old lady who puts the incline up to 900% (approximately), the speed up to 88 mph (approximately) and then hangs on for dear life like she is going to shoot off through a hole in time and space. I wouldn’t even have noticed her except for the fact that she glares at everyone like we were trying to steal her man. I accidentally made eye contact with her once on the way to the locker room and she gave me such a, “Bitch, what is your problem?” look that I was both horrified and impressed.
workout-gym-losing-weight-breasts-cry-for-help-ecards-someecards
I’ve lost over 50 pounds (it’s not as impressive as it sounds, I’m still chunky) and need to firm up. So, I broke out of my cardio comfort zone and into the strength training machine area. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, then you know that I am scared of everything new. But I psyched myself up and did it and actually love it (I blame all the blows to the head from the tricep extension machine). I’m an Amazon who puts muscle on fast. In old-timey days, I would have been prized on the farm (my parents could have got 6 cows, a spinning wheel AND a goat in exchange for me) and if I were born on the East Coast or was smart enough to go to an Ivy League school, I’d have been perfect for a rowing team. I guess strength training should have been an obvious fit, but sometimes it takes me and obvious a while to hook up.

In the process of venturing into a new area, there’s a whole other world of odd. Like the man who does one rep on every single machine or the lady who wore a full prairie skirt, poncho, Olivia Newton-John “Let’s Get Physical” headband, and metallic silver high tops on the thigh abductor. By the way, how absolutely awesome a name is “thigh abductor”? It’s like it’s going to steal your flabby thighs and leave nice toned ones in their place, like a super fit Santa from Heaven.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that this strange phenomenon of people sitting on the machines. I don’t mean resting between sets, I mean just sitting there like it’s a loveseat at Costco. If it were only one person I’d think they needed a longer rest, but over the last few days I’ve seen about 6 people, who, unless we are working out at exactly the same pace, are just sitting at the machines, not using them at all. What are they doing? I can only check Facebook and fake text so many times and after about 8 seconds I’m out of things to do between sets.  Nothing that calls itself a “seat” at the gym is comfortable (they all seem to be designed to go up your crack and/or correct spinal alignment), so I can’t imagine sitting there when I don’t have to. There is no view of the TVs or even really anything except other machines.

We can see the free weight area a little, but if there is any spot I try to avoid even looking at, it’s the free weight area or as I call it, “The Yard.” There are a few guys who I am pretty sure honed their physiques at the finest correctional institutions and, based on the faces and noises they make, should add more fiber and water to their diets.  On the rare chance I see a woman over there I think she is either a super tough chick like in a Quentin Tarantino movie and could kick all our asses five ways till Sunday or needs to be rescued and I should secure a safe house. So, barring anymore strength training machine blows to the head or daring rescue attempts, I’ll be staying out of The Yard.

Designer, Heal Thyself or Sometimes I’m a Dumb Ass

acrobat-girl-vintage-image-graphicsfairy007dI have a few hard and fast rules. One is never wear socks with cropped pants. Another is that when people say, “How are you?” that unless I am in need of immediate medical, fire or police assistance, the answer is always a version of, “I’m fine.” Of course there are exceptions, but 97% of the time people are asking to be polite and no one wants to get cornered talking to that person who, when they are asked how they are doing, actually tells you. I will  politely listen, but this is playing in my head the whole time (I crash into something at the end?).  I also try to remember (but usually fail) that everyone is a teacher and there are lessons everywhere.

Because of the one-woman pity party I’ve been throwing the last couple of weeks it didn’t even occur to me at the time that when one of my classmates blurted out- in great detail- how they are doing that it was a larger lesson I needed to hear.

What happened was I was sitting in class, halfway through eating my Kind Bar when, let’s call her Marie, called me over with a question about our assignment. I don’t really know Marie and have only had maybe one conversation with her the entire semester. She’s a nice woman with a smile that brightens her face and while she’s clearly been overwhelmed with this class, she’s made huge strides this semester. Anyway, I answered her question about the assignment and she said, “Hey, is that a Kind Bar?” I said it was and I eat an obscene amount of them (I buy at least 12 each week and they are usually gone by Sunday afternoon). This lead into a conversation about how she just started to workout and it’s really hard to keep going and eating right. Marie went on to tell me that it is sort of like school, she’s embarrassed and ashamed that she’s not at the same level as everyone else and it takes forever to see any sort of payoff. The struggle makes her question if any of this is worth it. Like I said, we don’t really know each other, but I guess she just needed to get it off her chest.

I said, “Believe me, I know it’s really hard, but just keep at it. Look how far you’ve come this semester. Your last project was loads better then your first one. Those babysteps add up and before you know it, you look back and can’t believe how far you’ve come. As for working out and eating right, on my first day here I was red-faced and winded after walking up the three fights in the SRC. I started working out in February 2012 and last semester I caught myself running up those same stairs. It takes time, but it gets easier and it’s worth it. I swear. Be easy on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect every single moment of your life. One screw up doesn’t equal complete failure. You can always change course, but just keep moving forward.”

Okay, everyone can see the irony in this situation. Everyone, that is, except for me. Because I’m a jerk who was a in a bad mood for 2 weeks (okay, maybe more then 2 weeks, let’s just call it “a while”) I walked back to my desk thinking, “What was that about? Who am I to give someone advice? The way I feel I should be walking around wearing a black cloak and carrying a sickle. Did I really confess that I sometimes eat 3 Kind Bars a day?”  Then I continued to be a ray of gloom for a few more days.

Fast-forward to yesterday and I am driving home from the gym (all my good ideas come in the car, this is why I am a shitty driver. That is what I tell myself, anyway). For some reason this conversation with Marie popped into my head. It finally hit me* that she is me two years ago. She’s putting so much pressure on herself that she can’t see really anything else except what she perceives as her shortcomings. Her own goalpost is so high that it feels like why bother because it’s unreachable anyway. Lately I have been putting so much pressure on myself that there is no way I could measure up to my own impossible standard. I’ve been clutching on so tightly to what I think should be that I couldn’t let anything else in. Sometimes I have these dreams where I am walking and the path becomes almost a vertical wall and the only way I can get to where I need to go is to climb straight up. It does feel that way sometimes (a lot of the time), but in the dream I always make it to the top and get to where I was going. That’s probably something I should remember, too.

The website isn’t quite up 100% yet, but if you want to, you can check out what is up at bethbrousil.com.

(*the sound effects website is going to keep me entertained for the rest of my life)

When Do You Give Up?

The Cave lyric

Two years ago, almost to the day, I lost my job and took the plunge to go back to school and change careers. As I’ve said a billion times, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. That first two weeks were fairly awful on many levels and more then once I sat crying in my car after class (I’m a crier). But I kept going back. One day it wasn’t as bad, then it was pretty good and eventually I realized that I sort of loved going. Every day was not perfect (by a long shot), but it definitely made those first few weeks of uncomfortableness worth it.

But lately I’ve been asking myself if this is the right path. How can someone not have doubts when your classmate hardly comes to class, completes half the assignments, and what they do complete they openly tell you they do it in a few minutes before class starts and then gets a full time job in your field- all while you’re busting your ass on two hours sleep to make sure your assignments are perfect all while never missing a class, trying to network and get your stuff seen? It’s even worse when you like the person and they come to class excitedly showing you what they did on their first day of their awesome new job. “No, these aren’t tears of rage! They are tears of happiness…for you! I’m not lamenting every single bad decision I’ve ever made at all!” Pile that on top of all the internship rejections e-mails (and those are the nice places that don’t keep you in limbo) and several incredibly bad class critiques (“It looks like a gravestone” and “It just needs to be different, better,” are my favorite two comments…and those were from my teachers), it’s hard not to question what the hell I’m doing.

This got me thinking, when do you admit maybe you reached too far and fell off the cliff? Is it ever okay to just stop trying? I’m on Tumblr  and every day my feed is full of inspirational quotes in hand-drawn typefaces over washed out photos saying things like, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”, “It’s never to late to be what you might have been,” and “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”  Oh and Steve Jobs quotes. The Tumblrverse freaking LOVES Steve Jobs quotes. So according to Tumblr, no, it’s never okay to quit. But Tumblr is like the internet version of the arty hipster friend who never has any money, wants to crash on your couch, eats all your food and is always begging people to fund his Kickstarter project. In other words, who can trust that freak when it comes to goals? So I went to Google. If Google were a person you know it would at least have a job, it’s own car and maybe a girlfriend, but for some reason I see Google person being a total hobag who flirts with your friends right in front of you.

Anyway, Google brought up some interesting stories of people who didn’t give up. Walt Disney was told he lacked imagination and had no good ideas, Dr. Sesus’s first book was rejected 27 times before it found a publisher, the Dyson vacuum guy tried over 5,000 prototypes before landing on the right one, Steven Spielberg was rejected three times from the USC film school, and Colonel Sanders was rejected by over 1,000 restaurants before he was successful. But I’m not them. I’m just a lady trying to land a job I don’t loathe.

Ultimately I think it comes down to what you can live with. If you can look yourself in the mirror, really know you did every single thing you possibly could, then that’s okay. Sometimes things don’t work out. But if the thought of giving up makes you sick,  you find yourself applying for internships through tears and in spite of yourself (what are you looking at me for?) because there is still that teeny bit inside you that knows you have what it takes and knows that if someone just gave you a chance that you would do every thing in your power to make them know it, too, and that knowing will absolutely not let go no matter how much doubt tries to push it off the swings, then you’re not ready to give up.

A little bit of exciting news- next week or the week after (depending on how generous our teacher is with due dates) I’ve got a brand spanking new portfolio site coming! Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere and it won’t really effect this site much. They’ll be linked together, but it will be a better way to display my design work and photography.

Till next week, enjoy the song, Sifters by Andrew Bird. It’s gorgeous and we all could use a little more gorgeous in our lives.

Hourglass Wines

hourglass_label_onlyThe last post was a little maudlin, but this one will be fun. A few weeks ago I teased a new project for a beverage label. Our teacher expanded it to pretty much anything liquid in a container, because projects included salsa and hot sauce. I wanted something fun, flirty, and appealing to both men and women. I briefly entertained the idea of putting a scalloped boarder around the label or a lace background behind it, but I couldn’t imagine a man walking into a party carrying a bottle of wine with a corset and a scalloped lacy background.  I kept it simple instead and think this works better.

I originally had a whole line of wine with names like Plush Pinot Noir and Zaftig Zinfandel but there was a bit of an incident with the wine bottles. Saturday afternoon I wanted to be lazy and didn’t want to scrub the label off of a bottle. So I just plunked the bottle in a bucket of water thinking the label would just mainly dissolve and I wouldn’t have to scrub much. After about 10 minutes, I heard what sounded like something hitting the side of the bucket. That kachunk noise was the bottle exploding! I still haven’t figured out how it happened but the inside of my bucket looked like I was cleaning up crime scene.

But wait! It gets more awkward.

Now I needed a new bottle because my label was designed for that specific one at Trader Joe’s. We hardly ever go to there because it’s not close and when we go I stock up on their butter. I don’t know what they do to their butter, but it’s the best freaking butter ever.  So, we go up to the register with 3 pounds of butter, a bottle of wine, and candy (I cannot escape that store without $20 worth of candy) and instead of making whacky conversation with us like the cashiers normally do at Trader Joe’s, ours was strangely silent. Then she just bursts out, “Three pounds of butter and a bottle of wine? What are you folks up to tonight?” Oh my God. I turned bright red and laughed so hard! My husband said, “It’s for a project.” She just said, “Uh huh…” We could practically see the thought bubble over her head saying, “Project? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” hourglass

Here’s a shot of the bottle in question with the label attached. It initially printed like ass on normal paper, but my teacher graciously let me print on a sheet of her Red River pearlescent paper. World of difference! I didn’t think I could get results like that without going to a printer. The photo hardly does it justice and I’ll probably reshoot it at some point. The other day I realized that I have just about every project I’ve ever printed at school- the book jacket, the water bottle, the coasters. It’s really satisfying to see things as they’re meant to be used. I can only imagine the feeling of seeing something you’ve designed on the shelves.

Last time I left you with a super depressing Ray LaMontagne song, so this time I’m going to leave you with awesome one with the awesome line:

Just because you knock a man down don’t mean that you got him beat.

Have a great week!