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I’d like to tell you that starting a business has been nothing but sunshine, roses and cash flow. But the truth is I’ve experienced a lot of stress and self-doubts during this wild ride. The good times are aplenty, but so are the worries. “Will I ever be ‘successful’? Does anyone resonate with what I’m creating? I love my business, but does it love me back?”

Starting a business has been an extreme exercise in vulnerability. I mean, hell, it took me ages to even tell anyone that I read tarot – let alone to put up a website, blogs and videos! I pour my heart into everything I do for my business. As much as I can, I try to be genuine and speak my truth in my videos, Facebook posts, etc. And that is a scary-ass thing to do. It basically feels like standing naked in a room and turning around slowly while everyone watches!

A few years ago, I fell in love. I was scared shitless to express my feelings. After countless hours of self-doubt and inner agony, I finally worked up the courage to tell my boyfriend I loved him. And then I had to just…wait. Just wait to see what his reaction would be. What I wanted, of course, was for him to say “I love you too.” Part of me thought I would die of pain if I didn’t get the reaction I wanted.

But I didn’t get what I wanted. He had to hash out his feelings, he had to spend time defining for himself what ‘love’ means. And guess what? I didn’t die. In fact, this experience became one of the defining moments in my life. It made me realize that there is strength in my vulnerability. That I can open myself up, that I can be honest, raw and real – and that I won’t be destroyed if I don’t get the approval I crave. Because I do crave approval – I think we all do. We all want to be seen, heard, validated. Loved.

Eventually, that boyfriend did tell me he loved me – and now he is my husband. That story happened to have a beautiful ending. But what if he had never told me he loved me? I would have been fine. Eventually. It would have hurt for a while. Probably for a long time. But I would have had the deep soul-satisfaction of knowing I expressed my true feelings, regardless of the outcome.

I guess that’s kind of how I’ve been feeling with my business. It’s like by pouring myself into my work, and really committing myself to this, I’ve told my business “I love you.” And I’ve been feeling like I’m then left hanging, waiting to see if it will say “I love you back.” I expressed this sentiment to my husband, and as usual, he had a common-sense reply.

“How does your business tell you it loves you? What does it look like?”

This struck me hard. How does my business tell me it loves me? Before I was asked this question, I guess I thought that making money was the answer. But the truth is money is only part of the equation. My business tells me it loves me by challenging me. By asking me to give more and more of myself. By encouraging me to continue to take risks, to walk my own path. My business tells me it loves me by creating moments where I know that I’m on the path to my destiny. I can feel it in my bones.

My business might not ever tell me it loves me with boatloads of cash. And it’s probably not done causing me headaches, tension and worries. I don’t know if this story will have a fairy-tale ending like the one with my husband. But I have had the epiphany that money is only part of how my business says “I love you, too.”

My business has led me onto my own hero’s journey. I know that I am truly, fully, deeply living my life. I’m more conscious, more grateful, more buzzing with Universal energy than I ever thought possible.

And that kinda feels like being loved in return.

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Yep, I made it. It’s strange to say, but this was much easier than I thought it would be. I figured on the last day I would feel like someone who had just dragged themselves up a mountain, getting bloodied & bruised along the way. But I just feel…even-keeled.

I think this was easier for me than it might be for some people since I already had a healthy-ish diet. I read ingredient labels obsessively. I read Michael Pollan. I buy largely organic. I cook several times a week. I dig green smoothies.

Even so, I like convenience. A few minor annoyances came up during my 30 days with no sugar. One particularly lazy evening, I was looking forward to boiling spaghetti and enjoying it with a jar of pasta sauce that was languishing in my cupboard. And this wasn’t any Barilla shit. It was organic, Whole Foods brand pasta sauce. But when I read the ingredient label, there it was…my sweet and delicious enemy, sugar.

The next day I made my own pasta sauce, which is actually very easy, cheap, and takes about 10-15 minutes. All you need is a can of crushed tomatoes, some fresh garlic, dried oregano and time. Fry up the garlic in some olive oil, add the tomato and spices, and let everything simmer for ten minutes. It tastes a lot better than anything in a can, I promise.

Cereal is a bit annoying, as well. I didn’t eat a lot of cereal to begin with – I cook myself oatmeal pretty much every day. But I typically have cereal on hand to have as a snack. And guess what? It’s full of goddamn sugar. Did you know there are some brands of cereal that have more sugar than twinkies? Cereal also pisses me off because it claims to be ‘whole grain’ but it’s really flour. That’s a whole different story, though. I think my days of eating cold cereal are pretty much over – aside from muesli. I’ll be sticking to hot cereal – REAL whole grains.

I expected that by the last day, I would be DYING for some ice cream. Meh, not really the case. I’ve eaten a fuckload of frozen bananas in the past 30 days. I blend them up with unsweetened cocoa powder, soymilk and peanut butter, as I mentioned in my previous post. It keeps my sweet tooth at bay and it’s easy – the only PITA part of this is cleaning the blender.

I feel good! My heart is beating at a normal rate. I’m thinking clearly. I’m happy. I feel free. I am not going to be 100% sugar free, but mostly. I think I’ll try having sugar once a week and see how it goes. I definitely don’t feel the need to be eating it every day.

As I talked about before, the best part of this whole experience has been taking another step into living by my values. I’ve been saying I want to cut sugar out for years and not doing it. Lately I’ve been growing by leaps and bounds in many ways – and they all involve finally actually LIVING by the things I say I value. I cut out sugar. I’m writing every day. I quit a job I despised to start my own business. I’m spending every day working on things I’m passionate about. I’m going out of my comfort zone, discovering new ways of living. I have more hope for the future than I ever thought I could.

My life is sweet enough without sugar.

(Number three will make you POOP your PANTS!)

  1. You are jaded from reading too many articles that feature numbered lists. You’re not so sure that complex, life-changing wisdom can easily be condensed into digestible, orderly steps. You think life is complicated and messy. You’re wrong! Any problem can be solved by a rapidly generated content-mill article from the internet!
  2. You’re not cheesily positive all the time. You get cranky sometimes. You’re a little bit sarcastic. Once in a while you vibrate at a low frequency. When you scroll through the titles of articles on the sites you’re thinking of guest posting for, you make fun of them in your head. You are a negative Nancy!
  3. You’d rather look at pictures of LOL Cats. They make you feel more uplifted and happy than the articles on these sites. In conclusion, you are just not spiritual and enlightened enough to write a guest post for an uplifting website.

I managed to make it through a wedding reception, complete with waffles, berry compote, and pretty little gems of cupcakes, WITHOUT EATING SUGAR. I managed to make it through my own birthday (which was yesterday) without eating sugar! Holy poop balls.

There have been, however, a few set backs and itty bitty cheats here and there. Last weekend I went to a festival. Now, I’m already a vegetarian. Picture a small town festival and the food selection it would likely entail. Now picture how many of those options don’t have meat. Now picture how many of them don’t have sugar.

Yeah, the answer is basically zero.

I ended up ordering some steamed veggies with teriyaki sauce, but I was feeling guilty as teriyaki sauce is usually full of sugar. I took a few bites and the veggies tasted like freezer burn, anyway. I threw the whole thing away after choking down two pathetic, soggy flavorless broccoli niblets.

And yesterday I had a bite of ketchup. Just one bite. A little bite. But that ketchup had sugar.

But you know what? Those slip-ups aren’t too bad considering I’m normally a sugar fiend. I DIDN’T EVEN EAT CAKE, OR ANY FORM OF DESSERT, ON MY OWN DAMNED BIRTHDAY. I think that is pretty impressive.

I’ve also discovered/invented a really easy, fairly cheap, and healthy dessert that satisfies my sweet tooth. Take a frozen banana and put it in a blender. Pour in a little soymilk. Add a little cocoa powder and some peanut butter. Blend the crap out of it. You end up with a concoction which is vaguely reminiscent of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

The best part of the past ten days: I’ve been feeling fantastic. Energy. Optimism. No weird stomach flutters. Confidence. Pride. Kind of a ‘holy shit, I can do anything’ type of excitement.

From a bird’s eye view, giving up sugar is not just good for my physical health. I mean, sure. Sugar is addictive, empty calories, blah blah blah. But the best thing about this experience so far has been proving to myself that I can do it. Life is short. I’ve spent too much time making excuses for not living by my values, for not doing the things that I know will make my life better.

And I’m FINALLY breaking past that crap. Giving up sugar isn’t easy, but it isn’t that hard, either. I could die at any given moment. I want to know that I gave this life my best damn shot. Getting rid of sugar is symbolic to me. It shows that I can stick to things, that I can move past all of my resistance and excuses and all of the bullshit I tell myself.

Ahh, liberation. 

Yesterday was Day 2 of No Sugar-ish. I had oatmeal with a little agave for breakfast & scrambled tofu for lunch. I was feeling pretty damn good about myself when my afternoon cravings hit (like clockwork, I want a snack at 3pm). As mentioned yesterday, I’d already planned ahead and bought all the ingredients to make date-oat-cocoa balls. I got the recipe from Whole Foods: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/cocoa-oat-truffles

These are not terribly complicated, but they do involve chopping up dates, which is messy & inefficient (at least if you’re me). When I told my husband I was going sugar-free, he was concerned that I’d be spending more money on fancy naturally-sweet things. I denied this vehemently, but as I whirred together my afternoon treat I silently admitted that he was right. Dates are not cheap. I think they were a little less than 6 bucks a pound, and this recipe uses a whole cup. To ease my pocket-book blues, I replaced about a quarter-cup with raisins.

I know dried fruit is probably not the best thing for me to be eating. It probably has a buttload of calories, and it probably has sugar that fucks up my body, even though it’s natural sugar. But really, it’s better than white processed sugar, isn’t it?

My troubles intensified when my husband came home. “Want me to make eggs for dinner?” I asked.

“Yeah, and I was thinking we should make pancakes, too,” he replied.

“Cool! I haven’t made pancakes in so long! I’ll get a recipe…” and then I stammered off, realizing that I’m not eating sugar. But I dashed into my office and procured the pancake recipe from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and guess what? No sugar. Just a little maple syrup. 

And so I dubiously mixed up a batch of pancakes. Although they didn’t technically have sugar, I know white flour isn’t that hot for my bod. In fact, when I told people I was gonna do this sugar free thing, I got a lot of “you should cut out bread and pasta, too!” And, with a slight lilt, I replied “oh, that’s not an issue. I HARDLY eat bread or pasta. I’m already a VERY healthy eater.”

Which is generally true. I eat bread maybe once a week, and pasta hardly ever. And yet here I was, the second day of eating sugar free, making pancakes. Sigh.

So, things are not going perfectly, but I’m trying. Onward-ho!

For a few years, I’ve had this vague idea floating around in my head that I might try cutting sugar out of my diet. Last Wednesday afternoon, I thought to myself ‘I’m really going to do this! 30 days without sugar!’ That evening, I made oatmeal raisin cookies. Oops.

Yesterday, as I furiously jotted down a grocery list I told my husband “I’m really going to do it. Starting today!”

“But shouldn’t you wait until after your birthday?” he said innocently. (My birthday is the 24th.)

I hemmed & hawed. Dagnabbit, I do want birthday cake. And ice cream. And then I want the ice cream to melt into the cake & it’s so gooey and delicious. (Pardon me while I wipe my drool.)

But then I realized…there’s ALWAYS an excuse. If it’s not my birthday, it’s a holiday, or someone else’s birthday, or a potluck, or an afternoon craving. If I wait, there will always be an excuse and it just won’t happen.

And so, I started yesterday. Even though I don’t feel ready. Even though I love sugar. And even though I might make an exception for one piece of cake on my birthday.

DAY ONE: I had scrambled eggs with potatoes, veggies & cheese for breakfast. Not the healthiest thing ever, but no sugar. I wasn’t too hungry at lunch time, so I had some baby carrots and homemade hummus, plus a few tortilla chips. The problem came when I had an afternoon snack.

I quite enjoy these things called ‘Primal Strips.’ They are vegan jerky made out of seitan/tofu/mushrooms. They are salty, chewy & more delicious than ‘real’ beef jerky (even my carnivore husband loves them). I was happily munching on one when I thought to myself ‘hmm, this tastes pretty sweet.’

A quick scan of the ingredient list told me that they contain ‘evaporated cane juice.’ Google told me this is basically a more marketing-friendly way of saying sugar.

FOILED, on day one.

But my enthusiasm wasn’t dulled. I made scrambled tofu with kale for dinner. And then to satisfy my raging sweet tooth, I had a mixture of unsweetened peanut butter, unsweetened cocoa powder, and a little maple syrup.

The ‘Primal Strip Incident’, as it will henceforth be known, forced me to clarify for myself what ‘no sugar’ means to me. Here’s where I stand as of the moment. No sugar = no white sugar, no brown sugar, no powdered sugar, no cane sugar, no natural cane sugar, no artificial sweeteners (but I never have those nasty things), no high fructose corn syrup, no evaporated cane juice.

Yes: fruit, maple syrup, agave, honey. Yes-ish to fruit juice (but only a little bit to thin out smoothies, I never drink it plain). Now, I hear that agave is not that much better for you than sugar, but I like having a little in my oatmeal in the morning. Maybe eventually I’ll try to wean myself off it, but NOT YET. I’m also aware that fruit juice has no fiber and is basically sugar, but I only use it to thin out my smoothies. One step at a time.

Today is day two, and I’m armed with a recipe for sugar free date-oat-cocoa balls. Because I love to talk about myself, I’ll be popping on the blog now and then with updates.

I usually steer away from talking about ‘Mmmbop’ when I mention Hanson. But today is ‘Hanson Day’ – marking the 17 year anniversary of their big break. This song was a phenomenon – coming out of nowhere and plummeting three blond pre-pubescent boys into the international spotlight. Young girls everywhere swooned – including yours truly. In the eyes of mainstream culture, Hanson disappeared from the scene as quickly as they appeared, and they now look back at ‘Mmmbop’ with cringes and laughs. In their minds, Hanson is forever frozen as the chipper young boys (insert ‘but weren’t they girls?’ joke here).

 

 

But Hanson has never gone away. To this day, they maintain a rapidly devoted fanbase. We have watched them release five brilliant albums after the ‘Mmmbop’ hype. To us, this song is just a blip of the multi-faceted musical ride we’ve been on all these years. Hanson formed their own label in 2003, and have been recording independently ever since. They’ve toured the world time and time over, often playing sold out shows. They’ve spent the past seven years raising money to drill wells, donate shoes, and fund AIDS research in Africa. They’ve even released their own beer!

I’ve had passionate affairs with many bands over the years (Our Lady Peace, Rilo Kiley) but the others peaked and faded. Hanson, though, they’ve been there through it all. They’ve been with me since we were all awkward, pre-pubescent blondies. They’ve been there through the friendships that have risen and fallen, the graduations, the heart-wrenching break ups, the jobs and the travels. Hanson has become a core part of my identity. There are very few things in my life that have brought me as much continuos joy as this band.

The fact that pop-culture at large has frozen them in time often pains me. I wonder what would happen if ‘Mmmbop’ had never existed. People would listen to Hanson with a fresh ear (the hipsters would love them) and perhaps they’d get more of the recognition they deserve. But the ‘Mmmbop’ stigma is also a crucial component to why I identify with Hanson. They keep going. They ignore the haters. They do their thing, engage with their fans, and consistently release wonderful music. You can’t stop them. They’ve inspired me to be strong, to brush off my critics. Hanson has helped me to be unabashed about being me.

Even though Hanson is so much more than ‘Mmmbop,’ this song is a hallmark of their career. The lyrics are ironically apt: “you have so many relationships in this life, only one or two will last. You go through all this pain and strife, then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast. So hold on to the ones who really care, in the end they’ll be the only ones there. When you get old and start losing hair, can you tell me who will still care? No, you can’t, cause you don’t know.”

(The acoustic version linked above – recorded in 2012 – shows that ‘Mmmbop’ has stood the test of time.)

I am among the ones who are still there for Hanson. They are among the ones who are still there for me. And that’s something I will hold on to.