How I Transformed in 365 Days of Taking Habit Out and Letting Life In

Today marks the end of My Year of Abstinence

This morning, I woke happy. I brushed my teeth with my homemade toothpaste; it dribbled from my mouth when I noticed sunlight speckling in through the window and smiled too wide in response. Mitra and I took to the streets and I let her lead us on an unfamiliar route. I snuggled dogs I’d never met before and complimented a stranger’s shirt. We lazily wound our way home. It’s my hood’s composting day, so I pulled the bin of scraps from my freezer. To it, I added coffee grounds. I blended and pressed the almonds I’ve had soaking for two days into milk, then added their sticky pulp, too. We headed out again, dropped off the bag, I returned to my desk, and I started editing audio for a new client.

This morning was completely unrecognizable from June 20th one Year ago today. It was so because My Year of Abstinence has ended. A Year of studying habit removal. Of saying “no”. Of taking out to see what comes in.

At the start of this journey, I was sick, single, and broke. One magical Year later, and those parameters haven’t changed. I’m just as broke and working my ass off to make ends meet now as I was then. If I’m truly honest with myself, my chronic illness is not as bad as it was on June 20th, 2016… it’s worse. And despite having logged plenty of hours on dating sites and juggling dating three gentlemen at once for a short period of time, I’m still single.

But…

I’m at peace. I’m calm. I’m happy.

I’m broke and I’m happy.

I’m in pain and I’m happy.

I’m single and I’m happy.

And when I’m freaking out about being broke, single, and alone, I have tool after tool learned through this Year to help me tackle those real, human, justifiable fears. I don’t suppress them, eat or drink them away, or sooth myself with a superficial purchase or hollow reward.

How did this happen?

It wasn’t planned. But in “taking things out to see what comes in,” the in part introduced me to my best myself. When I took out shopping, I saw the kinds of clothes and makeup and candles and whatever I actually used up and, therefore, liked. In response, I started to shed the things I clearly saw had no true personal value. When that Challenge ended, I continued to only take in things that bring me joy in a reverse-Marie-Kondo modus operandi: Heavy vintage ’70s drapes replaced the cheap navy ones I bought online and never loved (for $10 at my town’s huge tag sale!), I reveled in my “three yellow sweaters” find, and I invested more money in far fewer beauty products of better quality. In removing negative thought and replacing it through channeling the strengths of women I admire, I explored what triggers my anxieties and the attributes that best defeat them. Slowly but surely, the honor, grace, badassery, kindness, and unapologetically sloppy love of my TeleWonderWomen seeped genuinely into who I am. After studying Zero Waste for two months, I thought I’d never take the time to repeatedly make toothpaste or almond milk again, but there I was this morning, so…

Major revelations happened with every Challenge. One Year later, I know what I love, value, need, and want more than I ever have before. The smoke and mirrors, the rose colored glasses, the veils I didn’t even realize I wore? They’re gone.

Today over lunch, my dearie-darling friend Erin described the change perfectly: These parts of my personality — this grounded sense of self — were already a part of my puzzle. It’s just that the puzzle was loosely put together. The pieces needed adjustment here and there, and a final click together.

I pondered a celebratory something to mark the achievement of this Year. A massage? A piece of jewelry? Taking the day off and going to a museum?

But I don’t need a celebration. I’ve come not only to learn but to truly feel that the process is the reward. Moving through my day — brushing my teeth, making the almond milk, reading books, having lunch with a friend, doing work I enjoy, and then shifting things up by writing this in a coffee shop while sipping an iced tea (in a glass) — and being present with every human I see throughout! — I’m rewarded over and over again.

So for my final Challenge, I’m abstaining from the “reward”. Instead, I’m observing and/or practicing all of the Challenges I studied in the last 365 days, and enjoying one moment to the next. I’m enjoying this moment.

(Typing that, I smile. Reading over it, a smile again. And again.)

And as far as the single-sick-broke trifecta goes?

I am standing on the precipice of something big. I know it. I don’t know what it is. What’s coming in work, love, or health. But when it comes… when they come… when pieces of all of those three puzzles start moving and clicking into place… they will have come because I’m now ready for them.

I already feel them moving on the periphery. They’re floating in the air.

I’m ready because of this Year.

— Thank you. —


Thanks for reading! This project is now in development for a book with Ixia Press called The Me, Without: My Year on an Elimination Diet of Modern Conveniences, out Dec 2018. For more information, keep tabs on www.wordsfoodart.com and www.myyearofabstinence.com.