2020 was a good year to change your life.

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Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

It has been quite a year. I know this is true for most people, and for me it has turned out to be a year of transformation amid a global pandemic.

Just because you’re stuck inside and nothing’s open doesn’t mean you can’t get your life together. In fact, in some ways it is the perfect time to get your life together.

In 2020, I overhauled my diet, lost weight, essentially quit drinking alcohol, developed healthy habits, and beat breast cancer. I became a daily meditator and an early-riser. I started a Bullet Journal and a daily writing practice. …

Trust me, you’ll be fine.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Just Stay Home

I have a confession…or a poorly hidden secret, perhaps. Whenever possible, I skip the holidays. I’ve gone many times to Canada for Thanksgiving weekend, where it’s not a holiday weekend at all. I’ve spent Christmas in Vegas with a friend, or even alone in my apartment with some movies and a nice sandwich. If I’m honest, I almost prefer these semi-solitary anti-celebrations to the years when I’ve gone to some kind of gathering with family and/or friends. It’s nice to get together with people sometimes, but the holiday season adds this weird, unnecessary pressure. …

For me, 2014 was worse than 2020.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The Worst Year

I’ve had a few “bad years.” There was 1975 when my parents divorced and my mom was whacked over the head by a stranger with a crowbar (possibly Ted Bundy); 1983 when I lived with my dying grandmother (who then died); 1984 when my mother fell off the deep end and I was essentially orphaned; 1994 when I blew up my first relationship for a quasi-affair with a married man; 1998 when my mother got cancer and nearly died; 2000 when a friend was beaten to death in a random attack and the “dot-com bubble” burst; 2001 when I was laid off and my mother went through a stem cell transplant (oh, and 9/11 happened); 2004 when I got divorced and my dad was dying of cancer (he then died in 2005); 2008 when I got laid off again; 2009 when I got laid off yet another time; 2011 when I took care of a friend who had been hit by a car; 2012 when the company I worked for was shuttered; 2013 when I had to evict a sociopath from my apartment and my life. …

I’m becoming the self-quantifier I never wanted to be.

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Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

The Unquantified Expert

When I first became aware of “The Quantified Self” back in 2011 or so, it was a fringe interest. It seemed to consist of a loosely associated network of Meetup groups interested in tracking biometrics, achievements, and minutiae of daily activity in order to become fitter and healthier. Many came to self-quantification through some kind of chronic condition — diabetes, depression, etc. — that they wanted to manage better.

I became involved in this subculture because of my work. In 2012, I was working for a startup that created a location-aware app. Originally conceived as a sort of personal assistant that would serve up relevant content based on time and place context, we realized early on that one of our key audiences was this group of people who wanted an easy way to keep track of their own activity. …

Not Every Moment Can (or Should) Be Joyful

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I’m part of an online habit-building program that recently focused on building morning routines. I have been getting up early and slowly adding a few habits to improve my physical and mental health: Meditation, yoga, and journaling.

On a recent webinar I mentioned that my new habits have started to feel like drudgery after months of daily practice. I’m quite honestly bored by the thought of meditating at this point, and I just want to do something new and shiny.

Another participant suggested (in all caps) FIND JOY IN YOUR MORNING ROUTINE.

Okay, sure. Wouldn’t that be lovely if I could just access joy during tasks that are good for me but a bit tedious? If I could, you can bet that I would be doing healthy stuff all day every day. …

What happens when you trade in comfort foods for Keto?

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

I’ve known a few people who have done the Keto Diet for one reason or another, and I frankly thought it sounded a little kooky. 80% of your calories from FAT, you say? That sounds like nonsense.

I’ve always been on board with healthy fats. In fact, you could say I’m a fat enthusiast. As a child, I could not be left alone with a stick of butter or I would eat it. My favorite food at age five was an avocado with cheese melted on it. We got fresh milk from a farm, and I sipped the cream that floated to the top. …

It’s like jet lag after a vacation at a semi-topless beach.

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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Stuck in a Time Loop

My 20th and final radiation treatment is on Monday. The weeks seem to have passed quickly in retrospect, but each day that I’ve dragged myself up the hill to Swedish has felt like an interminable repetition of the same day, a la Groundhog’s day.

My commute at least has had some variety. My intention was to walk the three miles as often as possible to keep up may daily walking for exercise regimen, but of course the weather did not cooperate. My first week coincided with the Smoke Monster and Seattle’s worst air quality ever. …

Just me and the robots, in a lead-lined chamber.

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Photo by Vladyslav Cherkasenko on Unsplash

My New Tattoos

Before radiation treatments begin, there is the measuring and marking and scanning. In order to calibrate the machinery that will dose me with invisible rays, I go in about 10 days in advance for CT scans and tattoos. Yes, I now officially have six tattoos on my body, but four of them are pretty much invisible — tiny specks or imposter freckles on my sternum and sides.

I arrive a few minutes early and people watch from the waiting area on the first floor of the Swedish Cancer Institute. The radiation department is right on level one, for easy access, so it is the busiest part of the building. …

How my days and nights changed since I quit drinking.

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Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Drunk Mornings (After Drunk Nights)

I never slept quite right. I might pass out and sleep the sleep of the comatose for a few hours. But I never felt rested, and I usually woke up buzzing with anxiety and dread. I sweated gallons and woke drenched and clammy.

I stayed in bed after my alarm for as long as feasible, hoping to catch any moments of rest that I could. Sitting and standing were unthinkable, so I buried my face in my pillow for as long as possible. Sometimes I felt so awful that I would reach for my phone and text “out sick.”

My esophagus burned and my stomach felt like I would throw up if I so much as brushed my teeth. My head ached and light was painful. I felt dizzy and unstable in the shower, like I might fall over or pass out. I got through my morning as quick and dirty as possible: shower, dress, supplements, meds, lipstick, boots, walk to train. Breakfast was impossible. …

You’re supposed to (mostly) feel bad.

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Photo by Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash

Wired for Worry

The human brain is a funny thing. In order to survive in a hostile world, it evolved to scan constantly for threats and send out cocktails of emotion (chemicals) when threats are detected. When imminent threats are resolved, it keeps scanning. What else might go wrong? What should you try to avoid or change in order to improve your odds of survival and reproduction?

Cortisol (the stress hormone) is constantly nudging us to action. Feeling bored, frustrated, or sad? Cortisol is that voice in your head — or more accurately, that feeling in your body — telling you to DO SOMETHING. …


Kitty Ireland

I write. I think. I manage stuff. I chirp.

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