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maderas-crew-3-x-noaviso, i don’t know what it is about this time of year, but i’ve been feeling really emo lately. like, dress in all black and listen to dashboard confessional on repeat kind of emo (hi, high school self). the holidays are over, my birthday has come and gone, and suddenly it’s a year until i’m 30 and i’m feeling all sorts of unsatisfied.

and rather than addressing those issues head on like a grown up should, i’m contemplating how to get the hell out of dodge, stat. i’m craving a beach vacation, a place where i can unplug my devices and recharge my mind and maybe, just maybe, write something more creative than the pharmaceutical bullshit i write day in and day out. i want to dig my toes into the sand and look up at the exploding stars come nightfall, and i want to drink lots of rum and cokes in between.

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and by that, i mean i want to go back to nicaragua. my trip to nica in december of 2013 was one of the best weeks of my life, hands down. and certainly, a lot of the pure bliss i felt while in san juan del sur (a beautiful seaside village known for its surf scene) was due to the fact that i was spending my days with two of the most wonderful, enlightening, beautiful human beings i know – but some of it was due to just how far AWAY i felt from my everyday life, and therefore, my everyday brain.

sadly, my dear friend martha no longer lives in SJDS, but that’s alright, because i’ve got my sights set on a new location: maderas village, a “idyllic boutique resort just off the beaten path in the pacific coastal hills” of nica. playa maderas is about 20 minutes from downtown san juan del sur, and martha and i actually spent a day there during my visit, watching the surfers ride the waves, making friends while drinking beers at makeshift tables, and laying in hammocks, watching droplets of salt water dry on our skin.

i stumbled upon maderas village on instagram, of all places, and fell head over heels. just looking at their feed makes my shoulders sit a little lower, makes my teeth clench a little less. you can practically feel the relaxation oozing out of their images.

so, in lieu of an actual getaway (though i truly do hope to make it back to nica, and specifically, to maderas village, soon), let’s enjoy some eye candy.

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ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | TEN | ELEVEN | TWELVE

next weekend, i’m headed up to vermont for a weekend away in a ski town with a few girlfriends, and let me tell you, as a fall-loving basic bitch, i cannot wait. there is literally nothing i love more than the idea of wearing plaid, drinking a hot chai, sporting a leather jacket, and walking around in places where the leaves crunch beneath my feet. in my ideal fall moment, i’d also want to be simultaneously apple picking, and also wearing a sweatercoat layered beneath that leather jacket (depending on the chill, of course), also those karen walker sunnies above. i’m hopefully carrying that beyond adorable plaid kate spade saturday purse above, too.

did i mention i fucking LOVE fall? i swear, i loved it before it was cool to love it. all those buzzfeed lists about basic bitches and PSLs and all that ish can back off, because i am the original fall loving bitch. i’ve been pinning things like this for years. YEARS I TELL YOU.

anyway, moral of the story is that i just love this time of year so so much, and i cannot wait to spend a week frolicking in the leaves, drinking too much apple cider, sitting in the hottub and marveling at how amazing the foliage is in the northeast in october. october, i love you. northeast, i love you more and i promise i’ll never leave you for the west coast. fall outfits, i love you the most, and i want to spend all of my money on you. specifically on oversized scarves and big cozy sweaters and other things that are far from flattering but offer comfort beyond belief.

so, here’s what i’d be bringing to vermont if money was no object. chances are, i’ll be bringing a few of these things in real life (specifically, a fedora of some sort, a giant leopard scarf, and definitely a baggu for apple picking!), but the rest are on my “wear in my dreams” list.

next up on my packing list: MEXICO!

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so, i’m going to let you in on a little secret: my name is sarah, and i’m a bit of a shitty sleeper. even though i need a LOT of sleep to function (we’re talking like 8 or 9 hours), my sleep in our fair city is disrupted at best, and positively terrible at worst. when i’m home at my parents’ house, i sleep like a baby. no waking up to pee, no sirens shaking me out of my dreams. i can easily spend 10 hours tangled in my sheets, with not a care in the world. now, part of that’s how damn quiet it is in the woods of western massachusetts, and i’m sure an even bigger part of it is the fact that i feel undeniably comfortable and safe in my parents’ home – feelings i’d have to admit i still don’t 100% feel here in new york, even though i’ve called the city home for six years now.

new york has also re-awakened in me an anxiety problem that’s bogged me down in the past. lest you think i’m a total crazy, rest assured: it’s nothing too bad – but because life here moves fast, and my life is a busy one, i inevitably spend nights tossing and turning, my mind like a broken record player, skipping from moment to moment, to-do to must-do. if i’m stressed even just a little bit, i won’t sleep well, or even worse, i’ll barely sleep at all. i find sunday nights particularly tough – something about the impending week ahead takes my anxiety up a notch.

i’m also a terrible sleeper when i travel – so much that my doctor kindly prescribed me ambien, something i take only in the worst of situations – i do much better in my own surroundings, or at least, in places i feel comfortable. see, i have a thing about sheets.

let’s back up. since i was a child, i’ve had sort of an issue with sensory stimulation. ask my parents about dressing me as a little girl, and they’ll tell you i refused to wear anything with buttons, anything too scratchy, anything that came too close to my neck (god forbid you try to put me in a turtleneck). i liked things that were soft, stretchy, and easy to pull on and off. i hated loud sounds (the vacuum cleaner was not my friend), too. and forget trying to get me to eat something with a strange texture (seafood was out). a weird child, right? apparently, this is a real thing. and yes, my doctor parents have “diagnosed” me with it.

as i grew up, i somewhat “grew out of it” – though what that really means is that i learned to adapt. to dress in things i could tolerate, to sleep in my own bed most of the time, to be careful what bedding i brought to camp each summer (shopping for a sleeping bag was NOT my cup of tea, and my grandma’s old army blankets were OUT), and to try new things, food-wise.

story time:

my family loves to tease me about a trip we took to france with my best friend K the summer before our freshman year of high school. during our 2 week of travel, we spent a few nights in a historic hotel built into the rock face of a small, picturesque village in the south of france. the hotel freaked me out. beyond freaked me out. everything was dark and scratchy. the building seemed to shift at night. there were spiders crawling on the walls. the bedding felt damp, dirty. it was quaint, and romantic, and beautiful – but all i could see was how the place was going to eat me alive.

i slept on bath towels for the entirety of our stay. i couldn’t bring myself to let my legs touch the sheets.

because my parents are saints and K loves me despite my quirks, everyone just let me do my thing (albeit with a bit of light teasing).

fast forward to the summer after i graduated college. i’d planned a 2 week eurotrip with my friend alex, who was studying abroad in paris. he was going to take the train down to barcelona; i was set to fly there and meet him. we had an entire itinerary planned out.

on my flight over, i sat in front of 2 tiny children who were totally out of control. they kicked my back the entire way to heathrow. i arrived in london bleary-eyed and ate a shitty airport croissant before hopping on a ryanair flight to barcelona. by the time i arrived in spain, i’d slept not a wink in 24 hours. i was totally crazed, beyond exhausted, and wanted nothing more than to pass out.

we spent the night in an adorable little hostel with the typical set up: our room included a series of bunk beds; alex and i grabbed a pair of bottoms. when night fell, alex promptly fell asleep. i climbed into bed and prayed that sleep would come.

but it didn’t. instead i listened to the man above me smack lips with the woman he’d met not an hour earlier. i listened to the streets of barca whirl by me. and i listened to the whirring of my overtired brain, as it scaled through all the reasons i wouldn’t be able to sleep. the sheets felt like paper against my skin. i felt bugs crawling up and down my legs (not real ones, of course – they were in my head). i listened to alex snoring slightly, his chest rising and falling with each breath. i counted sheep. i counted the tiles on the ceiling. i watched as the bunk above me sagged slightly with the weight of the couple above.

but i did not sleep. around 1am barcelona time, i took my international phone out of my pocket and went out into the street and called my mother.

she answered on the second ring.

“sarah? what’s wrong? what time is it there?”

“IT’S 1AM AND I CAN’T SLEEP AND EVERYONE ELSE IS SLEEPING AND I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING AND I’M SO TIRED AND ALL I WANT TO DO IS SLEEP BUT I CAN’T. ALEX IS SLEEPING, THE ENTIRE HOSTEL IS SLEEPING AND I’M AWAKE.”

i lasted about 10 seconds before bursting into tears. i was the crazy american girl sobbing into her cellphone on a random bench, legs curled beneath her under a streetlight that cast washed out yellow light onto the cobblestoned street.

my poor mother, my wonderful mother – she sat on the phone with me for an hour, as i breathed in and out into the phone while she coached me into relaxation.

“deep breath. in, and out. in, and out. in, and out.”

and then i went back inside.

sometime around 4am, i fell into a fitful sleep. i hadn’t slept in over a day.

the next morning, i awoke totally flipped out. i’d had my first ever panic attack, and my entire body was on edge. i felt like i had hives, like i was vibrating negative energy out onto the streets of barcelona. my body was a live wire. i felt certain i’d collapse or explode at any moment.

i made it three days before i booked a flight home to massachusetts. alex and i didn’t speak for two weeks.

i abandoned him on our journey, on a trip we’d been planning for months, because my anxiety (created by my inability to sleep) got the best of me. when i told alex over lunch that i needed to go home, that my mind was out of whack, he put his head down. and told me he understood. and then promptly told me he needed the afternoon to himself. i didn’t blame him, i couldn’t. i only blamed myself.

since then, i’ve been extremely careful about how i travel. i bring my own sheets, because i know if i sleep in bedding i know, i won’t feel spiders crawling up and down my legs. i know that if i bring my eye pillow, i’ll have a little bit of home with me. i know that if i book nice hotels, i’ll have less of a chance of finding a hair in the bed that’ll set my anxiety off like a firecracker.

did i mention that i LOVE to travel? that i wish, more than anything, that i could be that down ass chick who shacks up in a hostel on the beaches of bali without a care in the world? that i could pack everything i needed for a  2 week trip into a backpack and just head out into the sunshine with no worries at all?

my “sleep issues” – or whatever you want to call them – have held me back more than i’d like to admit. there’s places i haven’t been, trips i haven’t enjoyed, because i’ve been too goddamn anxious and tired to enjoy them.

it’s sad, isn’t it?

so you can imagine that even when i’m home, in my own bed, i still don’t sleep all that well. ever since my panic attack on the streets of barcelona, i’ve become a more anxious person. a person whose blood electrifies her veins just a bit more than the average human. that night was like flipping a switch. i’d never really had anxiety. i’d never had a panic attack. and all of a sudden, i was a person who did, who had.

now, if anything is out of whack, i won’t sleep well. i’ll spend the night ruminating over the things i could have done, should have done, wish i’d done.

which is why i’ve developed a serious system for sleeping. a series of 5 things i do, each and every night, to prepare myself for a good night’s sleep (or, as good of a night of sleep as i’m capable of). i’ll be sharing those here tomorrow, with the hopes that they’ll help some other bad sleepers get some shut eye.

if you’ve made it this far in my miniature novel, kudos to you. now, go get some sleep.

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mar y sol beach tote | j. crew studded gladiator flats | illesteva mirrored sunglasses | one truffle travel pouch | fouta turkish towel | revlon lipstain | straw fedora | sandcastle maxi | madewell embroidered tunic | beach tee | cuyana weekender (sold out, fingers crossed it comes back in stock!) | bobbi brown beach body oil | kindle paperwhite |

in mid october, a few friends and i are headed down to tulum for a long weekend, and i kid you not when i say i am counting down the days. every time i want to lose my shit on the subway, or get cranky at work, i take a few deep breaths and picture myself sitting on the beach with a fruity drink (possibly one that’s actually inside a coconut) in hand and i feel a bit better. over the past few years, i’ve come to realize the value of vacations where you’re not really doing anything, except maybe tanning and eating and reading all the books you’ve been meaning to read over the past year.

that’s exactly what i plan to do in tulum, with a swim or a massage and a whole lot of sleeping peppered in.

ahhh, bliss. just for fun, i put together a packing list of what i’m planning on bringing on my upcoming trip. i’m hoping to pack super light, and to put everything in a weekender bag that will qualify as a carryon. that means whisper thin white gauzy pieces that can double as beach coverups and dinner attire, a singular pair of gladiator sandals (i got these on sale at j.crew recently and love them!), some body oil that can double as perfume, a lip crayon for a pop of color, a fouta towel for beachside lounging, and a whole lot of sunscreen. what more does a girl need?

beyond a cracked open coconut from which to drink, not much.

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it’s been established that i’ve been suffering from a serious case of wanderlust, specifically, wanderlust that involves beach destinations. it’s funny, really. as a child, i HATED the beach. i’m an ocd neat freak, and i hated that sand got into everywhere i couldn’t get it out: my discman, the pages of my books, in between my toes. i’m also not a person who generally looks good in a bathing suit, so you’d think i’d avoid the beach like the plague. for a while, i did. but a few years ago (coincidentally, around the time i moved to new york), i began to appreciate the sense of peace and calm that comes over a person when they dig their toes into the hot sand and test them out in chilly, rough waters. since then, i’ve been trying to escape to the beach whenever i can, and that need to escape culminated with my trip to nicaragua this past december – the best week of my life in quite some time. i’ve written quite a bit on here about how my time in nica made me really understand how important it is for me to get away from new york, and to do so in places where i can truly disconnect (ie, cell phones don’t work, no email unless i want to get to an internet cafe). if you’ve been reading for a while, you know that i really, really want to go to tulum, but flights aren’t cheap, and i want to go at a time when i can go with my girlfriends. so it looks like tulum is out of the question for a little – at the very least, we won’t be going this summer. more likely, we’ll head somewhere we can drive; right now, we’ve got our eye on the cape, which will certainly do for now.Image

in the meantime, though, i’m perusing beach house listings like it’s my job, and i came across this one, on the bahamas’ harbour island (also known as where designer india hicks, one of my favorite interior goddesses, makes her home). how adorable is this little cottage? how perfect would it be for a family getaway, a girl’s weekend, or even a honeymoon? i can’t get enough. light, bright, airy, filled with sunshine and crisp white linens, this home has everything you need to really do vacation right. ImageImageImage

adorable, right? you can see the full listing here. calgon, take me away.

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i’m head over heels for this upstate new york home, which is available as a rental in the hudson area. the entire home has been designed in a neutral palette, with lots of whitewashed wood, unfinished plaster walls, and fluffy white bedding galore. the furniture is comfortable and cozy – all of it looks like the perfect place to snuggle up by the fireplace – while the styling is remarkably, beautifully simple.

according to the listing:

set on 1.5 acres of lawns, with mature trees and picturesque stone walls, shipley corner is a destination unto itself, where  cares are left at the door beneath the cool green awnings, and rejuvenation of body and spirit can happen, all in a tasteful, peaceful environment.

when considering the renovation of shipley corner, a spirited 1800’s farmhouse in upstate NY, the owners chose celebrated designers Jersey Ice Cream Company, with whom they had previously collaborated on redesigning their brooklyn apartment. So they knew how the family lived, and that meant creating an attractive, efficient kitchen where family and guests would like to hang out, making cooking a pleasure.

 

just cooking a pleasure? how about the entire home being a pleasure?ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

dreamy, right? a house like this could convince me to leave the city behind…

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ever since my trip to nicaragua in december, i’ve been feeling this insatiable itch to pack my bags and just go. on a whim, to a warm, sunny destination, a place with aquamarine waters and the scent of coconuts and palm trees that swish back and forth in the wind. as a child, i hated the beach. the ocd neat freak in me didn’t like getting sand everywhere – in my books, in my discman, in my bathing suit. but over the past few years, (especially since moving to new york), i’ve really come to appreciate the beauty of the ocean. the open horizon, the hot sand burning the bottom of your feet, the scent of sunscreen and the feeling of slightly crisped skin. there’s something about escaping to the beach that allows all your problems to melt away.

there’s this quote i love – you’ve probably seen it floating around pinterest – that reads, “the cure for anything is salt water. sweat, tears, and the sea.” living in a place that’s constantly go go go (and being a person who isn’t very good at slowing down) has taught me the true value of getting away, and doing so in a place where all i’ve got to do in a given day is sit on the sand, fry in the sun, and read my book.

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in nica, my phone didn’t work unless i had wifi (which was hard to come by). there was no email. there were no text messages. there was no beeping, no buzzing, no ringing. there was just the hot air tossing my hair around my shoulders, and the sun waking me up each morning, and the feeling of total and utter freedom. my week in nica gave me back a piece of myself that i think i’d lost in the past few years in new york. the piece of me that couldn’t care less about shoes, about clothing, or makeup, or material things. the piece of me that appreciates natural beauty, and the art of just being, of good conversation and friendships that make my heart grow a few sizes bigger each day. i love this city, but anyone who’s lived here knows it’s a trial to do so, and that new york can drain you. it’s such a shame that vacation is a luxury that only some can afford, because it’s oh so important to get the fuck out of the city and out of your head every so often. going away for the week taught me that, now that i’ve been blessed with a salary that allows me to escape, i need to do so. often.

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i’ve got a trip planned to LA the last week in april, but i’ve still got the travel bug crawling through my body – the urge to cut myself off from what i know and get back to the basics. so much that i actually considered splurging on tickets back to nica for memorial day weekend. this post, from grace atwood (who has, in the past few months, become my favorite blogger – i like to think she and i would be friends if we were ever to meet in real life), featuring shots from her latest trip to tulum, has me dreaming of that turquoise water and a stay at playa papaya. i also happened to look up flights to tulum for memorial day, but they’re uber pricey, sadly. i’m secretly hoping they’ll go down last minute and i can hop on a plane and be touching down to sunshine and sand in just a few hours. i’ve never been to mexico, but grace has put tulum on my list, big time. it looks like my sort of place, the kind where it’s not just optional to disconnect, it’s mandatory.

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a few nights before i left nica, my friend martha’s friends (locals), drove us down a long, bumpy, winding road to a secluded beach where baby turtles are rescued, raised, and released back out into the ocean to find their lives. 30 minutes through the woods, through waters and fallen trees and into the black, we came out the other side. a short walk away was a beach unlike anything i’d ever seen. white light hurts the turtles, so there was no light to be seen. all there was to lead our way to the water was the moon, and the stars (along with tiny little red flashlights we could use to ensure we didn’t step on any of the babies, which were approximately the size of a reese’s cup, if not smaller). i tell you, those turtles may have been tiny, but i’ve never felt so small. the sky stretched higher and wider than any i’d seen, and i swear the stars in nica are the brightest stars around. the natural beauty literally vibrated around us, the silence elevating the enormity not just of the beach itself, but also of the moment. it was a magical moment, and one that i think reawakened in me my desire to see the world, to go. Image

we need to be reminded that we are small, and the world is large. and the best way to do that is to travel. tulum, here i come. also on my dream list: istanbul, santorini, the dominican republic, and marrakesh.

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remember how i’ve talked about how un-outdoorsy i am? well, that un-outdoorsy-ness extends to winter sports, like snowboarding and skiing. so you might find it a bit funny that i decided to accompany my friends on a ski trip upstate to hunter mountain over new year’s. and even funnier that this was my second year in a row participating in said ski trip.

here’s the thing: i love everything about ski trips, in theory. except, really, the skiing. i like the big comfy sweaters and the cozy nights spend snuggled up on the couch drinking spiced cider (this year, we spiked it with fireball. it was delicious!). i like the constantly crackling fireplace and the hottubs that fit ten people with no problems except some criss-crossed feet. i like beautiful scenic country roads, their pavement streaked with snow. i like rosy cheeks and drinking too much on new year’s and being on vacation, away from reality, in general.

truly, i like it all. except the skiing. so i don’t ski. but this year, i did go snow tubing, and let me tell you, that shit is F.U.N. i used to go tubing in the lake at my camp every summer, and while i was scared shitless of being dumped into the water while going 80 mph, there was nothing like gliding along the water at top speed. snow tubing is the same, except you’re going down a giant snowy hill instead of going across the top of the water. you spin around backwards and the wind whips around your face, and even though you’re freezing, you feel so freeleave it to me to prefer an activity that’s designed for children over one that’s designed for adults. Image

$500 worth of groceries for 4.5 days. EEK. 

so while my friends trekked up and down the mountain, i walked around the tiny town of tannersville, buying silly things like overpriced chocolate malt balls and maple sugar candy. i sat by the fireplace and plowed through allegiant, and generally, had a dandy time. one of my best friends, maddie, joined us this year, which was wonderful, and the entire trip went off without a single moment of drama (a record for our group of friends, as much as i hate to admit it).

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you can’t imagine how many takes it took to get a good picture out of the two of us

when i first saw our house online, i balked. i believe the wording i used was “it looks like the sort of house where SVU murders take place.” but i ate my words; after one night in my (admittedly uber creaky) bed, i was sold on our little log cabin (the upstairs, at least. the downstairs was not really my jam). just a hop, skip and a jump from the mountain, and closer to the town of tannersville than the one we’d stayed in before, the cabin was the perfect choice for our group, and i’d stay there again in a heartbeat.

all in all, it was a wonderful way to ring in the new year. 2014, here i come!

Imagehave i mentioned that i’m not exactly the outdoorsy type? if i haven’t, now you know. this pin rings quite true to me. i’m not a fan of camping. i hate the scratchy feel of sleeping bags. i don’t enjoy a good hike. and yet, “hiking” (if you could even really call it that) was exactly what i found myself doing on my penultimate day in nicaragua. see, martha had mentioned that the view from the jesus christ statue that overlooks san juan del sur was out of this world. we couldn’t miss it. it had to be seen before i departed and flew back to new york. but the only way to get there was to walk up – and i mean up. 

up a series of ridiculously steep streets (my calves have never burned so intensely), and then up about 50-100 even steeper steps. when martha first mentioned the hike, i waved it off, and i’ll let you in on a little secret as to why it’s not just that i don’t like hiking, it’s that i’m afraid i can’t do it. afraid my body can’t handle it. afraid that i’m too overweight, too out of shape to conquer the heat and the hills. so when martha first mentioned the statue, but said it was ‘quite the hike,’ i said i’d think about it.

and then there we were, on my second to last day, trying to squeeze every bit of amazing out of our vacation, and she brought it up again. and this time, i couldn’t back out. so i told myself (and she reminded me) that we could take breaks if we needed to. we’d just walk slowly.

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so off we set, walking along the beach, over a miniature foot bridge, and into the residential streets beyond the bars and the hostels and the little shops in town. before long, those residential streets turned into steep as hell hills, and my legs began to burn. i felt sweat trickling down the small of my back, pooling in my sports bra, dripping down my hairline. i looked over, and both martha and sara were sweating too. that made me feel a bit better. i wasn’t the only one who thought it was practically sauna-like in the sunshine. every moment i felt like i needed to stop, i heard my soul cycle instructor’s voice in my head telling me, that moment when you feel like giving up? that’s not the end. that’s just the beginning. 

after about 45 minutes of walking, we were almost there. we stopped to take a picture by an insanely gorgeous view. and then we kept walking. soon i saw the steps – on such a steep incline that i had a moment of sudden paralysis (what if i fell off?!) – we were so close. at the end of those steps was the statue, and a view of san juan and all that surrounds it. Image$10 later and a GIANT downed water bottle later, we were there. and though my heart was pounding and my skin was sticky with perspiration, i didn’t feel sweaty. i didn’t feel out of shape. i didn’t feel anything but proud. because i had done it. i’d walked, then climbed, all the way from the edge of the beach in that image, to the giant statue that looked over it. little old out of shape, overweight me had done it.

Imageand as i stood there looking over the edge to the town below, i had a thought: maybe little old me wasn’t so out of shape anymore. maybe all those spinning classes have given my heart and my legs an edge. maybe i’m finally turning into a person who doesn’t have to turn things down for fear that she can’t keep up.  Image

on the walk down, i turned to martha, and i said,  i think i’m having a bit of an epiphany. i was so worried about doing this, so afraid i couldn’t do it. but i could. my body could. my body does so much for me. it can do so many things. it’s so strong, so powerful, so amazing. and yet all i do is complain about how it looks. 

it sounds silly, doesn’t it? ridiculous, even. but body acceptance, for me, is a huge thing. and i don’t think i’m there yet, but climbing that mini mountain was yet another step on my journey to acceptance. and that was a beautiful thing.

martha, in all her infinite wisdom, simply wrapped me in a big hug, and said, i’m so happy you’re having this moment.

and you know what i thought? that despite the fact that i was sweaty, and looked like an overheated piglet, so was i.