Outside my comfort zone

My daily muse

My daily inspiration

My life is calling for a little disruption. Things are going a little too smoothly (nighttime antics from my little one notwithstanding).

Since I left my job in November to be home with my little guy, I’ve really managed to reduce my stress, include more healthy habits in my days, and even land a few jobs doing some freelance writing work. Life is good.

But life as a stay-at-home mama and writer can getting a little lonely. And though I have introverted tendencies, I also have a pressing desire to expand my social life and meet new people.

I’ve come to the realization that in the adult world, making friends is can be a challenge. Its not like those beer commercials and formulaic sitcoms would have you believe–twenty-somethings don’t just automatically travel in super-tight friend groups who always manage to grab the exact same seating at their preferred dining establishment. Beyond college, it takes work to get out there and meet people, especially once you have a family and live off the beaten path like me.

I’m OK with the work. The problem for me is my introverted tendencies. I tend to get caught up in my own world and can be awkward in new social situations. I am extremely conscious and overly analytic of my own social presence. And I require an annoying level of assurance that I am not a bother to others.

I know what I need to do is branch out of my comfort zone to meet people. It’s just that my comfort zone is very, well…small. All through my life, things others may have regarded as small changes or bumps in the road, I have viewed as positively earth-shattering. I changed schools twice growing up. When my family moved to a new town when I was a freshmen in high school, I barely left my room for months. But I made myself get out there–I joined sports teams, clubs, and went to parties despite my inner panic at each new experience.

Since then and all through college and my early career, I have challenged myself to do things that terrify me. From traveling across the country, navigating new cities alone, and speaking onstage to a concert arena, I have pushed my limits on a regular basis and  I am a better person for it.

In my new life at home, however, the opportunities to push myself to do things that scare me are more limited. Here, it is easy to remain in my bubble for extended periods, and I am at risk of getting way too comfortable.

This blog is a start for me. I have really had a hard time putting my thoughts out there, but like most things, it get easier the more I do it. Plus, I have been so lucky to be introduced to the amazingly supportive blog community. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read my ramblings and provide encouragement. I may have never met most of you, but you rock.

As far as getting beyond my comfort zone, I have a few ideas on where to start. I’ll be sure to hold myself accountable and post an update soon!

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Veggies for thought

Forming new healthful habits is difficult for a number of reasons: defeating old habits, maintaining willpower, finding the time to exercise and cut up all those veggies. But the reason that I am finding most maddening is also the most surprising for me: staying healthy requires money.

Fruits and veggies

Adding extra veggies, fish, and a multivitamin to my grocery trip this week cost me a small fortune and a gym membership is out of the question; meanwhile, ramen noodles are $0.30, a McDonald’s McDouble is $1, and sitting on my butt for hours is virtually free.

Sure, there are more frugal ways to be healthy. Start a vegetable garden. Clip coupons. Go running outside. But for those already stretched for time and resources, maintaining good habits with any kind of regularity may be a fruitless (pardon the pun) task.  It’s no wonder so many people abandon New Year’s resolutions by January 2, when real life takes the place of our good intentions, and the majority of us are carrying extra pounds and filled with convenience foods.

I’m now working part-time from home and am more fortunate than many because we don’t rely on my income to make ends meet. However, we certainly don’t have the wiggle room in the budget for a bunch of wild-caught fish or organic apples. Plus, after trying to squeeze some kind of  activity into the vast majority of my day, the cheap and easy gratification of a fast food burger is so much more appealing than another hour of cleaning, cutting, and preparing a slew of vegetables.

Of course, I could buy the veggies pre-cleaned and sliced, but I will pay a pretty penny for them. Or I could buy them in a can, but what about BPA? Carrots are easy, but no one in my house will eat them. Screw it–I’m going to the drive-through! Preparing healthful, tasty, inexpensive, and quick meals is so complex it’s almost contradictory. Something’s gotta give.

OK, so nothing groundbreaking here. Life is a constant balance between time and money, healthful choices for long-term gain or quick and easy methods for short-term satisfaction. It just never hit me before how much our culture and lifestyle mangles the message by extolling, and even guilting us with the benefits of health and wellness as a way of life, then encouraging the quick, easy, cheap foods and lazy life choices.

For me and many others, eating better and getting in shape will always be difficult because my human nature seeks the path of least resistance to nourishment. However, the ease and perpetual allure of cheap, quick, low-nutrient consumer foods makes it even more difficult.

And least I know the challenges I’m up against when creating a healthier life are not entirely internal. In order to improve my health,  I will need to battle the culture that sets unrealistic expectations for our eating and exercise habits, then offers a plethora of easy ways around those expectations. And the first step in any fight is to know your enemy.