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Bar Method

d37ff42e4d64659ae9a6726e427c0777yesterday, i cried during a bar method class. that’s a sentence i never really thought i’d write. at soul, maybe. soulcycle’s all about letting your emotion out, and it’s a dark room lit by candles. crying (at least, quietly), is almost encouraged. but at bar method, poised and pretty, ballerina beautiful is what it’s all about.

before i go any further, let me say: i didn’t cry because i was sad. for once, i wasn’t crying because i felt out of place, or because i felt useless, or incapable, or that dreaded f-word, fat.

no, yesterday, i cried because i was happy. because i was proud. because lara, an instructor who’s been with me through most of my journey (and lord knows i still have a ways to go), said something so moving, so beautiful, so kind and goddamn wonderful that i almost lost it.

every bar method class starts with arms – shoulders, biceps, lats, then straight into pushups. mid pushup, i felt lara next to me. she repositioned my tuck (bar method terms for rolling your hips forward and squeezing your glutes til they feel like buns of steel), and told me to move my arms back a couple of inches. as i got into the correct form, she pushed her microphone to the side, and said, quietly, so only i could hear, “you’re making room for a body that’s no longer there.”

and just like that she was gone, and i was pushing up, and down, and up, and down, squeezing my eyes tightly shut so i didn’t burst into tears in front of 25 other women (many of whom, i should note, have become friends, and who likely would have been perfectly fine if i’d shed a tear or two).

it took a good five minutes for me to regain my composure, lara’s words reverberating in my head. my form was off because i was making room for a body that was no longer there. a body that was no longer mine. a body i’d worked so, so hard to shed – and a body i still felt (and feel) weighed down by.

when you’re on a weight loss journey (and lord, is it a journey), it can be hard to see your progress. it can be discouraging to step on the scale and see that the numbers haven’t changed as much as you’d have liked them to (especially when you know, deep down, that your body IS changing and the scale just isn’t showing it). it can feel like you’re plodding up a mountain that’s never going to end. i’ve been feeling that particular form of discouraged lately, following a recent annual physical where my weight stayed the same, but my blood work – my cholesterol, my numbers, all my internal markers – were off the charts good. look at my chart, and if you ignore the weight, i’m just about as healthy as a person can be. as my doctor likes to say, “you’re skinny on the inside!”

which is great, fine, well and good. health comes first, right? but in a world filled with body shaming and comparison and the never-ending pressure to be thin, not strong, i don’t want to be skinny on the inside, i want to be skinny where it counts.

every so often, i’ll have a moment – i’ll catch myself in the mirror at bar, or i’ll complete a sprint at soul – where i feel like, yes, i can. i can complete this class. i can keep up with everyone else. i can do this. i do deserve to be here. i do fit in. but those moments are few and far in between, because when you’re scrutinizing yourself every single day, it’s hard to step back and see the bigger picture.

but yesterday, lara helped me see it. she helped me remember where i was when i started, and just how FAR i have come. even if the scale doesn’t always reflect it.

after class, i lingered and waited until she was free, then tapped her on the shoulder and said, “i just wanted to say thank you.”

and she wrapped me up in the biggest of hugs and said, “love you.” and what she really meant, i knew, was, “i’m proud of you and i’ll keep pushing you until you get where you want to be.”

people often ask me why i deign to pay a staggering $250 a month to attend bar method classes. that story above? that’s why.

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guys, i’m totally having a champagne problem. as in, a problem that’s so ridiculous, and so unworthy of attention, that i can’t believe i’m even writing a blog post about it. except that’s sort of my thing: i write about my problems. and my heartache, and my joy, and just about anything else i can think to write about. writing about my life has always been how i process it (ALL THE FEELINGS, ALL OF THE TIME), and lately, i need to process this issue: i am too damn busy. does anyone else feel like the quote above? my brain is just constantly churning with ‘to do’s’ and ‘don’t forget’s’ and all these other silly tiny little things that swim around in my imagination like tiny little amoebas.

i am a creature of habit to a fault, and ever so slightly OCD, which means that once i get in my head that i’m going to do something, i have.to.do.it. as in, if i wake up on a monday morning and tell myself that i’ll get two workouts in, and stay late at work, and wash my sheets and make myself a healthy dinner and catch up on at least one hour of TV, i have to do it all. even when there aren’t really enough hours in the day to do it all. and that’s just the things i do for myself, unrelated to any sort of social life.

see, that ridiculous list up there? that was my yesterday. and the average person would say to themself, self, i don’t think you have time for all those things. so maybe just one workout, or perhaps you order sushi instead of cooking red thai curry from scratch. or, self, the laundry can wait till another night. and all of those responses would be totally normal, and totally practical. but my brain doesn’t work like that. instead, it opens tab after tab after tab, trying to keep track of all the things it wants to do in any given day, and when those things don’t happen, or even seem to appear as though they might not happen, my stress levels go into overdrive.

would the world end if i didn’t make it to bar method? of course not. but in my head, not making it to bar method means destroying all the progress i’ve made in the past 3 years. would it matter if i didn’t get to wash my sheets after a somewhat debaucherous weekend? probably not. but in my head, the sheets are dirty, and contaminated, and stinky and must be washed immediately.

these thoughts are, i know, not the thoughts of a rational person. but a rational person i am not, especially to those who know me well. actually, scratch that: when it comes to advising others, i’m actually quite rational. but in my own head? shit is cray up in there!

riding a few times a week at soulcycle has worked wonders to help me clear the tabs in my brain. it’s as though with every sprint i complete, or every hill i climb, i’m closing a tab. single and never getting married? not going to worry about it today. x that one out. didn’t get to clean the apartment and OMG there’s no time and OMG it’s so dirty? CLICK. that can be done tomorrow. am i doing okay at my new job? do they regret hiring me? tab begone. there’s no way to know what they’re thinking, so it’s a waste of my time to hypothesize.

i’m sure if you’ve read this far down, you’re thinking, geez, sarah is a really crazy person. and i kind of am. thankfully, i’m a few other things besides crazy, and i’m not as crazy as the guy who called me a bitch in the subway yesterday for not donating a dollar to his “get more alcohol” fund.

here’s what i’ve learned about closing the tabs: it’s important to know what helps me shut that shit down. i have a tendency to get really wrapped up in my mind, in my worries, in my anxiety of what comes next, or what i haven’t done well enough or fast enough. and over the past few years (and even moreso over the past few months since i’ve started riding at soul), i’ve learned to be cognizant of when i’ve got too many tabs open. of when my brain is on overdrive. and most importantly, of how to close some tabs when things are getting a little like a mosh pit in the region above my eyebrows.

here’s how i calm myself down:

1) make a list. check things off. even things that you’ve done already. it will make you feel accomplished. (type A folks, can i get a hell yeah?) putting everything on paper means taking it out of my head. once it’s written down, i can close those tabs, and move on with my life.

2) take a bath. i used to HATE baths. i thought they were for old ladies, and more importantly, people who didn’t appreciate the importance of truly being clean (who wants to sit in their own dirty water?). as it turns out, they’re for people who want to close some tabs and let it go. (note: as an aforementioned slightly OCD person, i always do my actual showering after my soak)

3) sweat it out. again, i’m going to give a big shoutout to soulcycle here, for helping me get grounded and #leavethedramaonthebike. last night, instead of going to get a drink with coworkers, i went to bar method. and i debated literally until the very last second which thing i should do: be social, and friendly, and a good coworker, or get the workout i knew i’d feel unfulfilled without in. i went with the latter, and by the time i’d left the studio, i felt lighter.

4) make something. for me, it’s usually a baked good – something about turning on my kitchen aid really gets me in zen mode (weird, i know). it’s not even about eating the sweets. it’s about the methodical measuring and mixing; it takes my mind off everything else.

5) when all else fails, call mom. oh my god, do i dread the day when i’m officially too old to call my mother and vent. seriously, when is that cut off? have i passed it already? does it happen when i become a mom myself? my mother is the only person who will listen to my ridiculous ranting and still love me at the end of the day. god bless her.

there you have it. 5 ways i close the tabs and calm myself down. i’d love to know: what do you do when life feels overwhelming and your brain is on overdrive?

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over the past few years, i’ve become somewhat of a workout nut. i’ve talked a bunch about my love for bar method, and more recently, my obsession with soulcycle (the only thing that’s helped me lose weight pretty much ever), but i haven’t given an update on my workout sitch in quite some time. during my first few years in new york, i was an evening gym-goer, but once i got into the ad industry, i quickly realized that the nights of leaving at 5pm were O-V-E-R, and that if i wanted to ensure i got a workout in, i had to do so before i went into the office.

three plus years later, i’m totally an early morning convert. on the days i wake up groggy and cancel bar method, i regret it. the mornings i don’t work out turn into days in which i simply don’t feel as good. i’m less awake, less motivated, less happy…there’s something about starting the day with your endorphins pumping (something i experienced today with an 8am soulcycle class) that just makes life easier. i’ve learned that i don’t have as good of an experience at bar method if i go to an evening class. getting zen before work, and letting the day’s worries evaporate before i even walk out of the studio, makes a huge difference in my day to day stress level.

with soul, i love a good morning class to get pumped up for the day, but i also love riding out my stress in the evenings. soulcycle is so high energy that you can’t help but leave invigorated, even if you walk into the studio tired. i’ve fallen into a bit of a rhythm with soul and bar (something i was struggling with when i first started riding): mondays, i do AM bar and PM soul. this means i start out off my week zen and end my mondays (which are always rough, in my opinion) feeling relaxed and ready to take on the week ahead. tuesdays, i’m AM bar (no soul). wednesdays, i’m AM soul (no bar). thursdays, i’m AM bar (no soul), and fridays, i’m AM bar and evening soul. that equals out to four days of bar method and 3 soul classes a week – then i sometimes add an extra bar or soul class in on the weekends.

i’ve been lucky to make friends at bar method, and to bring friends to soulcycle, which means that i’m often able to turn my workouts into a social excursion as well. at this point, i’m past enjoying working out (something that was a BIG hurdle for me when i initially started classes at bar method) – i seriously look forward to my classes, especially because half the time i know i’ll be burning calories alongside friends. last saturday, my friend lisa and i (who i met at bar method) took a 10:30 AM class, grabbed some breakfast, then spent the afternoon shopping in soho. i literally couldn’t have asked for a more perfect saturday. again, there’s something about starting your day with a workout that just feels amazing – as the quote above says, it makes me feel alive. i especially feel this way at soulcycle, when i’m mid sprint and want to give up, and–thanks to instructor motivation–manage to push through, taking my body to places i thought i couldn’t go. there’s really no better way to feel alive than to challenge yourself and come out on the other side.

in short, i feel more alive than i’ve felt in a while, and perhaps more importantly, more balanced and connected with my body than i’ve been in a long time, maybe ever. and that makes the above worth every penny, and every minute of my time.

the one downside of all those morning classes? it means i carry my life around with me pretty much 24/7. my ‘work bag’ is enormous, and also carries either my outfit for the day or my workout clothes, plus my makeup, hairbrush, clarisonic, facewash, bar method socks, spin shoes…the list goes on and on. this generally means there’s no room for my lunch (which i try to make myself the night before), so i carry that in a mini lululemon bag (why hasn’t someone designed a cute yet adult lunchbox yet?). Image

WHAT’S IN MY GYM BAG

for shits and giggles, i thought it might be fun to put together my workout essentials: the things i can’t get through bar method/soulcycle without. my standard outfit includes lululemon wunderunder leggings (my absolute fave, they’re worth every penny because they last forever), a lulu racerback tank, an old navy sports bra (inexpensive at just 16.50 a pop, and they’re often on sale!), and bar method grippy socks. if i’m at soul, i swap the bar socks for regular socks, and add my shimano spin shoes (also an investment, but again worth every penny, they paid for themselves after a few months of spin classes – soul charges you $3/class to rent shoes that someone else’s sweaty feet have been in). i also carry around all natural spray deodorant, blotting papers for the times i can’t shower, and of course, my water bottle, which i legitimately could not live without. it’s pretty much an extension of my arm – which is why i’m contemplating splurging on this adorable heart BKR bottle (glass, BPA free!) that i actually gave my friend kim for christmas (but really want for myself!).

my one other must-have is something i actually haven’t tried yet – no sweat detergent. it was recommended to me by someone at soul this morning; she swears by it to get that sweaty smell out of your workout clothing. i hate to admit it, but even with regular washing, my soul clothes are beginning to smell a bit musty. i don’t think it’s anything anyone else would notice, but i certainly notice them when i put them on. i’ve tried adding a cup of vinegar to my wash (something i read online), but that didn’t quite kill it. my new soul source tells me the no sweat detergent is the real deal, and makes a big difference in how her clothes smell – especially when you can’t wash them right away (which, let’s be honest, is pretty much always the case…my sweaty clothes sit in my hamper for a few days before they make it into the washing machine. gross, i know). i have high hopes that no sweat is going to be a real lifesaver when it arrives on my doorstep!

and that, folks, is my healthy living roundup. what i’m doing, when i’m doing it, and what i’m wearing when i do so. end scene.

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have i told you guys that my feet (well, really just my left one) are falling apart? they are. i broke my sesamoid (a teeny, tiny little bone in the bottom of your foot bed) earlier this year, and spent 6 weeks in a hideous grandma-style orthopedic shoe/boot/sandal hybrid that pretty much resembled the tevas i used to wear at camp…on crack. and my foot got a little bit better, but not much. i then dropped $500 on custom orthotics (ouch, credit card bill), only to find that they didn’t make much of a difference, and they only fit in my sneakers. which would be fine, except that i hate sneakers. see, i’m about as un-athletic as they come, despite my love for bar method and recent affinity for soul cycle. i legitimately did not own real sneakers (besides rainbow sequin converse…) until i hurt my foot. and then i went out and bought a neon pair of nikes. and while i like them, i guess (they’re okay, for sneakers), i don’t love them. i don’t want to wear them. i don’t enjoy looking at them in my closet, nor on my feet.

but you know what i would enjoy looking at on my feet? these babies by new balance. they’re from the retailer’s collaboration with heidi klum (random), and are pretty much as cool as i think sneakers could get in my book. black, gold and coral? SIGN ME UP. and for less than $90 buckaroos, these have “birthday gift to myself” written all over them.

Happy Thanksgivingi don’t know about you, but i’ve got a whole lot to be thankful for.

1. my family. they keep me sane, and prop me up when i can’t stand on my own.

2. my friends. they make me laugh, cry, and keep me on my toes.

3. my cat, penny lane. she is the best kitten i know.

4. my health. my body enables me to work hard, to stretch, to push itself to the extreme. i am in better shape than i’ve ever been, and i feel so thankful for it.

5. my job. i love what i do.

6. the work i do outside my job. i write for others on the side. i keep this here blog. these things keep me from experiencing too much writer’s block, and challenge me to up my game and perfect my craft.

7. my home. it took many years, but it finally feels like home.

8. my city. new york may knock you down from time to time, but it always picks you back up.

9. my exercise routine. i have finally found not one, but TWO places to sweat it out. to let all my worries melt away, and to get in shape while doing so. thank you, bar method, and thank you, soul cycle.

10. inspiration. this city is full of it. my job is full of it. the internet is full of it. i rarely lack for inspiration, and for that, i feel quite lucky.

what are you thankful for today?

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do you guys remember this video? hokay, so, here’s de earth. chilling. damn, that is a sweet earth you might say!

about halfway through the video, the french guy says, in a ridiculously french accent (in response to an impending missile assault from the US) but i’m le tired. this video came out way back in 2008, and yet, to this day, whenever i’m feeling really overworked, or, let’s face it, just really freaking sleepy, i say to myself, in a french accent, but i’m le tireddddd….

and guess what? i’m le tired. like, really le tired. i’ve got myself on a semi-exhausting schedule, and every time i tell myself i need to slow down, i don’t do it. or if i do do it, i only slow down for a day or so, and then i get back on the horse and continue pushing myself forward.

i read an interesting article about accumulated sleep debt a month or so back, and it got me thinking about my accumulated lack of sleep. i used to think of myself as a morning person ( i think i still am a morning person, just an overtired one), but lately, i feel like that pop in my step that i used to feel when i woke up early is gone. and by lately, i mean, ever since i started this job a year ago. here’s how i see it. before i took this job, i slept till around 8am every morning. soon after i accepted my job at draft, i realized there was no way i’d be getting out at 5. not even 6, really. which meant evening bar method classes were out of the question, unless i wanted to kiss my social life goodbye and get home at 9pm every night. which i didn’t. so i started taking morning classes at 7:30, which are great – but they mean waking up at 6:30 every morning five days a week. which meant that i lost 1.5 hours of sleep each morning, or 7.5 hours of sleep a week. multiple that by the 60ish weeks its been since i took the job, and you’ve got a whole of sleep lost. it’s no wonder i feel more tired now than i did a year ago, right?

add onto that my undiagnosed but definitely in there somewhere slight OCD (which means that if i get it in my head that i’m doing something within a certain time period, i have.to.get.it.done, no matter how late it means i stay up or how tired i am or how unnecessary it is that i do it right now) and you’ve got yourself a hot mess. for example, last night, exhausted from a rough class at soul cycle (my second of the week, on top of my 5 a week bar method schedule – why am i not skinnier with all this working out?!), i had intended to go to bed early. but i had also told myself that i was doing to do my laundry, because i’m seeing vampire weekend tonight at barclays (!!), and it needed to get done.

it took longer than expected to get home after soul, so before i knew it, it was 9pm and i hadn’t showered, cooked, or put my laundry in. so i proceeded to do all of the above, and didn’t get to bed till almost midnight.

now, a normal person would have said to herself, this laundry doesn’t need to get done tonight. it’s almost the weekend. leave it, and go to bed.

but not me. no, i’d told myself i’d do it, and so i was doing it.

it sounds crazy, right? but i won’t be able to sleep if i haven’t checked it off my to-do list. never mind what happens on days when my to-do list is too long to conquer. enter anxious sarah.

every morning, at the end of bar method class, the instructors have us sit, cross-legged, facing the front of the room. we place our hands on our knees, palms to the sky, and we close our eyes. and we take two long, deep breaths, in and out, in and out. and every morning, i wish this moment would last just a little bit longer. that i could slow down, just a little bit.

i love my life, and i love all that i do. but the frenetic pace of new york city and all the exciting opportunities that come with it mean i’m constantly running from one thing to the next. from bar method to work. from work to soul cycle. from work to dinner. from work to run errands. from work to my apartment to do more (freelance) work. from my apartment on the 10th floor down to the basement laundry room and back again.

why do i thrive on this busy pace? especially when it’s running me ragged? am i so afraid of my own thoughts that i won’t allow myself to slow the fuck down?

because, really, that’s what i need. to slow the fuck down. pardon my french, but it’s the truth.

in december, i will fly to nicaragua, to a sleepy surf town, for a full week, where i will have no choice but to slow down. there will likely be no internet, no phone, no instagram or facebook or twitter or anything to keep me plugged in. and so i’ll have no choice but to unplug completely.

here’s hoping i come back a changed woman. only 3 or so months stand between me and that freedom. let the countdown begin.

tea kettles

now that it’s getting cooler outside, and the sun is rising later and later, i find myself craving a cozy mug of tea in the morning. and by mug of tea, i mean travel mug, tea consumed on my morning bus ride across 23rd street to the 6 train at park avenue. i’m the type of person who drinks iced chai until it gets really cold out, like, 40 or below, but once it does, i’m a daily hot tea drinker. i love a good cup of steaming peppermint in the early mornings, when the air is so chilly you can see your breathe spelling out shapes in the sky. from late fall through early spring, i wake up before the sun does, and trek down to bar method before the rest of the world is fully awake. this requires a little bit of extra motivation; it’s no small feat to rise in the darkness. hence, a morning cup of tea.

it’s come to my attention, however, that my tea kettle, purchased a few years ago for less than $10 at tjmaxx, has seen better days. and since i’m entering high tea season, i thought it might be time to purchase a new kettle. i rounded up a few of my favorites below. i’m torn between the copper and the mint. which would you pick?

TheEverygirl_SarahJacobson_13

every so often, there’s a site, or a book, or a magazine article, or a blog post out there that makes you stop and wonder, “why didn’t i think of that?” the everygirl is one of those sites for me. it’s such a great idea that pretty much every time i visit the site, i have a, why didn’t i think of that? moment.

when i first moved to new york, i remember telling my mother that i was terrible at managing my finances (still sort of true, though i’ve gotten better over time). she recommended i subscribe to money magazine. so i did. except that money was for real adults with real money – and things like IRAs and roth accounts and stock market players – all things that were decidedly out of my financial reach for the time being. and i remember thinking to myself, why isn’t there a money magazine for people in their twenties? why isn’t anyone giving financial advice to young adults?

hold that thought. take it back an inch or two. why isn’t anyone giving GOOD advice to people in their twenties?

Imagehad i been more resourceful, or more motivated, or better connected, or who knows what, i may have had a germ of an idea that ever so slightly resembled the everygirl. but lord knows i wouldn’t have come close to the gem of a site that danielle moss and alaina kaczmarski have created. those two girls…hot diggity damn, they’ve made something amazing. the everygirl is a lifemap for women in their twenties, and holy hell, do i wish it had been around when i first graduated. i could have used a whole lot of help, and motivation, and inspiration…all of which is present on the site today.

in short, i pretty much bow down to danielle and alaina. i think they have a whole lot to be proud of, and i think they have turned what may have once been a baby of an idea into something spectacular. ladies, you are killing.it.

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with that being said, it’s no surprise that i was pretty darn excited, and shocked, and amazed and embarrassed and a whole lot of other emotions, to be featured on the everygirl yesterday for my career. yes, you read that right. this girl has a career. i mean, say WHAT? if you had told me that i would have a thriving career at a large ad agency and would be featured for said career five, even three, years ago, i would have laughed you straight out of town. and then i probably would have cried, because i wasn’t where i wanted to be.

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but you know what? i got there. we all get there, eventually – even if we don’t take the road we think we’ll travel on, and if it takes longer than we expect, or if “there” ends up being somewhere totally unexpected. we all get there.

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and at the risk of sounding like a bragging asshole, you guys, i’m kind of proud of myself (except for the fact that i look preggo in the picture above. oh well, can’t win ’em all!)

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i mean, i’m on pinterest. as in, images of me are on pinterest and are being repinned by people. WHAT WORLD IS THIS!? i can’t even believe it.

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so thank you, to danielle and alaina, for featuring my humble little career story, to kate ignatowski for making me look and feel like a real celeb, and of course, to my friends and my family, for keeping my chin up on bad days. and a little special shoutout to noelle and jo (who probably don’t read this, but just in case they do!) for believing in me enough to hire a green little wannabe writer, and for making me believe in myself.

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Lou Mora

{photo: lou mora}

the last time i took a vacation, a real vacation, was after i graduated college in 2008. i met my friend alex in barcelona, proceeded to have my first-ever panic attack (classy, sarah) (too many changes at once, i guess), and ended up only spending 3 days abroad before packing up and heading back home to regroup. since then, i’ve taken little trips, here and there – to florida for thanksgiving, home in the summers to see my family and eat too much herrell’s ice cream, to boston or san francisco. but a real, longer than a week vacation…that, i haven’t done in years.

this occurred to me yesterday as i was sitting at work, counting down the minutes until i leave for a long weekend in rhode island, feeling utterly burnt out and like the crevices of my mind were the edges of fraying sweater. for the past year, i’ve been regularly waking up at 6:30am to get to bar method by 7:15. i’ve been leaving work, for the most part, between 6:30 and 7, which means that, if i have no plans, i get home around 730. then i have to unpack my bag, repack for the next day, pick out my outfit, feed penny, make dinner…and by the time i’m sitting on my couch with a bowl of stir fry in hand, it’s somehow 9pm. and so while it’s by choice that i wake up bright and early, and work hard enough to be at the office late, lately, it’s been feeling like a lot. add onto that the fact that i freelance on the side, and that i’ve been promising myself that i’ll keep up this here blog, and that i mentor and i volunteer and i’ve been trying to exercise more and it just feels like life is so.damn.busy. and that’s not even including my somewhat meager social life!

people talk a lot about finding balance. about striking that perfect equilibrium between work and life and all the things in between. and you know what? it’s HARD. i do all the things i do because i like to do them – but when i write it all out, i do a lot. too much, maybe. i go to bar method 5, maybe 6 days a week. now i’m attempting to add 1-2 soul cycle rides to that schedule. i work approximately 9-7 each day, then i go home and do more (freelance) work. through my work with big brothers big sisters, i’m supposed to see my mentee every other weekend (this never happens). i try to volunteer every so often as a “floater” with kitty kind. i’m a part of not one, but two, book clubs.

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and i love all these things. i’m obsessed with cats, i love to read, volunteering makes my heart feel bigger, my freelance work inspires me to push harder at my day job, and my blog keeps me sane.

but with all that, sometimes it feels like there’s very little room for me. not just room in terms of hours in the day, but in terms of space inside my brain, inside my heart. space for me to sit on my bed and read the elle that’s somehow been sitting on my dresser for 2 months now. space to eat gummy bears on the couch and watch a marathon of orange is the new black (which, let’s be real, is all i want to do right now). space to spend an evening browsing h&m, or pinning dream homes to pinterest.

my mother called last night on her way home from work. she was in the car, driving home from her office, at 9pm. and when the phone rang, i thought two things:

1) i’m watching pretty little liars and i’d like to screen this phone call

2) it’s 9pm and she’s just leaving work. what has the world come to?

my international friends always joke to me about how hard americans work. how we’re obsessed with being busy. how we don’t know how to relax.

and it’s true, isn’t it? it’s why i keep saying yes to book clubs, to volunteer gigs, to weekend trips and dinner dates and drinks – when all i really want to do is sit outside in the woods somewhere and read a book with a nice glass of white wine and my cat curled up at my feet.

i love this city, but sometimes i long for something simpler. i long for the kind of life where it’s not just accepted, but encouraged, to leave at 5pm each day. to go home and truly unplug, to revel in the making of homemade tomato sauce, bright red fruits bubbling up from the pan.

but then when i have that kind of life, even just a taste of it, i long for new york. for the fast pace, the crazy frenetic energy that makes me feel alive.

i guess what i need is balance. there it is again, that elusive beast.

in the spirit of the end of summer and hopefully soon, the beginning of my favorite season of all, i am going to try and find my balance – by doing the things that make me happy, by learning to say “no” sometimes, by not beating myself up for wanting to stay in and be alone with my thoughts on a saturday night. i need to learn to just be, and to be okay with that being.

i started finding my balance last night with a very simple step. at 5:15, i left the office. and i didn’t allow myself to feel guilty, to scold myself for leaving when others were still there. i just left. and i got on the subway down to chambers street, and stepped out onto the streets of tribeca and took a deep breath. and then i clicked into my bike at soul cycle, and for 45 minutes, i closed my eyes and rode along to the music, and i let my fears, and my worries, and my bad day dissipate into the steamy air around me. and when i was done, i took my sweaty self to whole foods, where i stocked up on good for the soul foods like tofu and fresh strawberries, shrimp and mixed greens. and then i hopped in a cab up the FDR and i stuck my head out the window and admired the view.

when i got home, i cooked myself a nice dinner. and i cuddled up on my couch with penny and watched pretty little liars and i didn’t turn on my phone, or my computer, once. i just let myself be.

and you know what? i slept better last night than i have in ages.

balance…i’m comin’ for you.

Soul Cycle Quoterecently, my friend lisa introduced me to soul cycle, a cult-like spinning studio that’s been transforming regular new york women into crazy, sweat-soaked pedal pushers for the past year or so. i met lisa at bar method, so i can’t fault her for thinking that i might be interested in another fitness class. lisa is tall and lithe and likely has never carried extra weight around her stomach in her life (except perhaps when she was born). god bless the girl. that must be the life!

unlike me, who has, since the age of 9, carried a tub around my middle that seems to haunt me like a nasty shadow that simply won’t cut it out. tubby as i may be, i decided that the worst possible thing that could happen during a 45 minute soul cycle class was this: i could pass out, and someone would have to unclip my limp, probably sweaty feet from the bike, and carry me out past the soul cycle scented candles in the center podium and deposit me in the lobby. and to be quite honest, i thought there was a pretty good chance of that exact scenario happening. thanks to bar method, i’m in relatively good shape, but cardio has never exactly been my forte. i can’t run to save my life (literally, i think if i had to run for my life, i’d be a dead woman), and i haven’t ridden a bike in years (unless, of course, you count the indoor bikes i’ve been riding at soul cycle). so you can see why i was ever so slightly scared to take soul cycle on.

also, it didn’t help that i’d heard the cyclists at soul were uber intimidating; new york power women outfitted in neon spandex – the sorts of women who look good even when they’re sweating so hard they’re tasting their own salt water.

i generally prefer not to taste my own sweat, thank you very much – but i’ve been looking for a way to amp up the results i’m getting at bar method and really drop the pounds. (i know, i could eat less cookies, but what’s the fun in that?). so, to soul cycle i went. lisa and i signed up for a 10:45am class at the union square studio on a saturday morning a few weeks ago. our instructor was a ripped gay man named danny who was known for his kickass tunes and his motivational manner.

as we walked in, my first thought was, omg, these are real athletesthese are people who like to work out. and they’re really fucking good at it. i felt, not for the first time, fat, dumpy, and totally out of place. as the door to the studio opened, i felt my heart lift just a little bit: class would be conducted in the dark. by candlelight. lord knows everyone looks better by candlelight. a peppy soul employee checked me in and got me a pair of clip-in shoes (which, for the record, are really weird. i get that it’s important to be clipped into your bike, but walking in those babies is a semi surreal experience), then showed me the locker room downstairs.

once i’d changed into my soul shoes, i hobbled back upstairs and waited alongside the hardcore cyclers as soul employees cleaned the studio. cyclers who had just completed their class stood around, chatting with one another and looking positively drenched in sweat. good god, i thought, what have i gotten myself into? i had the distinct sense i was about to humiliate myself in front of 50 uber-jacked guys and gals who did.not.mess.around.

lisa chose this time to tell me that her first soul cycle class was so rough, she almost pooped her pants.

great, as if i wasn’t petrified already. i was going to die in there, i just knew it. would my tombstone read, “RIP SARAH. SHE HAD SOUL BUT SHE WASN’T A SOUL CYCLER”?

then it was time to go into class. i had smartly chosen a bike all the way in the back corner, where i could hide out. of course, if i passed out and needed to be carried out, this bike was a bad choice. a soul employee helped me clip into the bike and adjust my settings. note: i’m still terrible at clipping in on my own. apparently, it’s just like skiing. except that i don’t ski, so that frame of reference isn’t exactly helpful.

and then all of a sudden, it was time. danny was perched on his very own bike on a pedestal in the center of the room, whipping his head back and forth, his arm muscles practically protruding from his body (the man is RIPPED). techno music was blasting so loud i could have sworn i’d accidentally stumbled upon the electric daisy carnival. there wasn’t anything to do but start pedaling, so pedal i did.

before i knew it, i was sweating. a lot. like, more than i’ve ever sweat in my life (and let me tell you, i sweat HARD on the subway when it’s 101 degrees outside and the platform is like the 9th circle of hell). but i was moving. my legs were pumping, and i was in the rhythm. danny was playing a house remix of an old school red hot chili peppers tune, and yelling that it was time to stand up on our legs, lift our tired asses out of our seats, and SPRINT. i looked over at lisa, and saw that she too was sweating – and grinning, hard. as in, i’m pedaling so motherfucking fast that i think i can touch the sky hard. for a second, i thought i might die. but i didn’t die, and i kept on pedaling.

soon my ponytail was wet. i stopped reaching for my towel and just let the sweat take over. and then danny was telling us to close our eyes, and to let go of all the bullshit we’d carried into the studio with us, and just ride. and while i’d have cackled hard at a statement like that just 20 minutes ago, i was so in the moment that i felt it. i swear to god, i found god. i mean, i don’t even know if i believe in god. but it was like i found jesus. the music was so loud, and i was working so hard, and pedaling so fast, and my eyes were closed, and it was a moment of collective effervescence; the entire room was in this fast-paced meditation moment, frozen in time together.  i could feel everyone else letting go, and so i did too.

and for that moment, i wasn’t fat. i wasn’t out of shape. i wasn’t the most unqualified person in the room. i was just riding my bike, and admittedly, yes, tasting my own salt water (kind of tastes like the ocean!), but i was there. and it was a magical thing.

and so it goes without saying that i’ve been back multiple times since then. and i still can’t clip my shoes in, and i still sort of feel like the fattest girl in the room each time i enter the studio – but i think if i keep going, that just might change. and in the meantime, i can close my eyes and ride to the music, and that’s no small thing. and yes, my butt hurts afterwards (those seats are ROUGH! and i have a lot of extra padding!), and yes, i sweat more than i’d like to admit. but man, does it feel good. it’s even opened my eyes to the idea that maybe sometimes house music ain’t so bad.

ps: i owe the confidence and guts i needed to step onto the bike to my beloved bar method. without the soho studio, and the instructors who have made me feel strong, and pretty, and just as worthy of my lululemons as the next girl, i’d never have set foot inside soul.