“They can only be carried.”

I read this beautiful post about four times and it took my breath away. Go ahead and read it:


When we received devastating news (almost exactly – Happy Thanksgiving to us!) two years ago I went from numb to feeling out of my mind in fairly short order. I managed to hold it together all day at work and would come home and, almost as if on cue, promptly dissolve into tears.  Ed knew what was going on and after about three days finally stopped asking, “What happened?” and would just sit by me because he knew it wasn’t anything in particular.  Just the grief washing over me.  Or, more accurately, kicking me in the teeth.

I quickly sought help from a therapist I had seen a few years prior due to panic attacks.  I told him what happened and asked him, “So, what do I do about this?”

“What do you mean?”

“How do I stop crying all the time?  I want to feel better.  And move on.”

He was straight-forward but gentle: You can try to power through this, but it’s going to be there.  You need to let yourself feel this and time will help.

“But it may also never completely disappear. What matters is how you choose to cope and live your life.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  My practical, can-do, list-lover side wanted a timeline and a process and some guarantees because my future had been turned upside down and wasn’t I owed some sort of assurances as consolation?

Fortunately and unfortunately, he was absolutely right. The grief has lessened with time and yet it seemed that as soon as I would start to feel a little better there was something new to bring me back to square one.  I grieved for myself, for Ed, for my parents. I would go from a place of peace and contentment to a guilt spiral. It isn’t, as much as my brain wanted this to be, something you can check off a list and move from Phase One to Two and so on.

I was also looking for some sort of silver lining or reason for this.  I desperately needed this to make sense or serve some greater purpose. That seems normal, right?  To try to find the bright side or at least give an appearance of being upbeat.  Basically: don’t be such a bummer.  Assure everyone it’s all OK so no one else has to be uncomfortable with your grief.

My therapist had suggested I talk to a couple of trusted friends about what was going on and ease some of my feelings of isolation. The people I spoke to were (and still are) kind and compassionate and so quick to offer the platitudes the author above references.  In some ways it backfired and made me feel more alone, although I absolutely recognize that was not the intent.  The message I received was, “Your sadness freaks me out and I’d like my funny friend back.” I had to work double-time to convince everyone around me that I was Fine. So fine, are you kidding? It’s a beautiful day!  It was exhausting to expend so much energy making sure people around me felt OK and then go home and let myself be.

It was freeing when I finally allowed myself the space I needed to be alone and pick and choose how and where I spent my time.  The grief eased up; we started making plans to move and I threw my energy into job and house hunting.  I asked my therapist if he thought moving was a mistake. “Are you excited by this? Does it feel like you’re running?  Because it sounds like self-care and like you’re moving forward, which is what you wanted, right? And you know this won’t solve all of your problems.”

It’s been a little over a year since we moved and he – and the author of the article I read – were absolutely right: the grief didn’t magically disappear. It can only be carried.

Don’t Worry, This Isn’t 800 Words About My Hair or Something

It has taken me 7+ years of blogging to recognize that one of the causes of writer’s* block – for me – is having lots of little mini-posts created in the shower or during my commute home just sort of…sitting in my brain.  So while I think my bulleted lists are sort of a cop out, they also seem to serve a larger purpose of clearing the way for something more entertaining (hopefully) so let’s give this a whirl, shall we?  (GOD, CHRISTEN STOP WRITING ABOUT WRITING AND JUST WRITE ALREADY.)

  • Like everyone else in your mom’s book club, I recently finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I have to say that unlike a lot of organizational books, it’s a pretty easy and practical way to approach paring down your belongings.  Instead of demanding you toss anything you haven’t touched in a certain arbitrary time period, she asks that you simply assess whether the item in question “sparks joy.”  If yes, it stays.  If not, it goes.  No shaming around the quality or price or obligation surrounding the item.  I do think part of the success is due to the fact that I’m constantly shrieking, “DOES THIS SPARK JOY?” at Ed, who is bound to grow tired of these shenanigans soon, leave me, and take all of his stuff with him.  Hey look!  Now my place is half-empty.  MAGIC, INDEED!  #KonMari
  • My mom is on assignment in Omaha, Nebraska for the next six-ish months and as someone who hates humidity, being cold, and steak she’s not doing too hot right now.  Her company will pay to fly me out to see her so we’re looking at dates for me to hang out and hopefully I can help ease some of her homesickness.  If anyone out there has any ideas of fun stuff to do in Omaha (more like OmaHA! amirite?) please tell me because so far our plans include watching movies and wandering around her local Target.
  • Over the weekend we were driving through our neighborhood and Ed spotted a guy trying to get in front of us in traffic.  “Don’t you dare pull out,” he said.  Me, without skipping a beat: “That’s not what your mom said last night.”  He remained silent and continued driving.  I think this exchange sums up our marriage perfectly.
  • I’m wearing white pants today and ate lunch that included a red sauce without spilling on myself and seriously I might actually be invincible.
  • Despite all evidence to the contrary in terms of my actual behavior, I am apparently at an age where anyone younger than I am assumes that I know what I’m doing and asks my advice.  Sometimes this is career-related but usually it’s of a more personal nature.  This has got to be highly amusing to anyone who knew me from 1992 until, oh, today because I’m hardly the poster child for some sort of “If you do ABC then you’re guaranteed success” type of formula.  But maybe that’s the genius here: if I came out the other side happy, healthy, and relatively unscathed despite the stupid decisions I made, you can too?  Maybe I’ll write a book about this: Dare to Wear White Pants While Eating Red Foods. Best-seller list, here I come!

OK, I feel better now.  I’m sure you do, too.

*I am by no means putting myself in the category of a “writer” but “blogger’s block” sounds dumb.

Over 700 Words About My Skin

Hey, you know what we haven’t had around here in awhile?  A good, old-fashioned rundown of what I’m putting on my face only to wash said things down the drain 12 hours later!  Who’s with me?

*Usual Disclaimer: I am not being compensated in any way and everything has been purchased with my own money. I am not an expert but merely a woman with an opinion and an Internet connection. Use anything here at your own risk, don’t sue me, etc.

A little background: my skin/complexion has always been My Thing.  A combination of good genes and near-obsessive application of sunscreen and anti-aging creams since I was in high school meant that for all of my dorky awkwardness I at least had “good skin” going for me.  Fast-forward to my 30’s. Thanks to months of popping Clomid like Skittles with a chaser of progesterone (natural AND synthetic because variety keeps life interesting, you know?) my skin lost its fucking mind.  Chin acne, rashes, dry patches, and – at the all-time high point of sexiness – my skin actually started splitting apart.  Admit it: you’re turned on right now.  Luckily it started to slowly sort itself out again once I stopped pumping myself full of hormones, and the situation downgraded slightly from “I’m Not Leaving the House” to “This…Isn’t Great, but I Need to Go to Work.”  During the peak of Skinaggedon, I had started slathering my face and neck with anything and everything I could get my hands on.  Not the smartest move, but desperation rarely leads to good choices in my life.

Once everything had somewhat normalized I had a realization: if I wanted to look like I did when I was 16 (minus the oversized flannel and look of disdain for anyone over the age of 25) I should start using what worked way back then and simplify instead of piling on everything that came in that month’s Birchbox and hoping for the best.

So now my morning routine is as follows:

  • Cetaphil: An old favorite since I was 12, probably?  Gentle and cleans well and I can get a huge bottle at Target for $9 and it lasts foreverrrrrr.
  • Purpose Moisturizer, SPF 15: Another product OG that can be purchased at any drugstore. Yes, please!
  • 100% Pure Eye Cream: A fairly recent addition to my all-star line up and I’m digging it.  Seems like anything that smells like coffee would have to be great, right?  Yes.

I was feeling much better and had my makeup done for a friend’s wedding.  The 25 year-old who was matching my foundation told me that I had “skin like butter” so I guess my plan worked.

In an exciting twist I’ve added some new items to my evening routine and my skin has actually gotten better.  Oh, you want to hear more?  WELL OK THEN.

  • Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Melting Cleanser: I was skeptical of the claims that this melts your makeup off so thoroughly but this shit is no joke.  It also includes Vitamin C so I can skip serum and my skin doesn’t feel stripped and dry.  Sold!
  • Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream: Somehow a sample of this made its way to me (I honestly cannot remember from where – Sephora? Birchbox? My mom just randomly gave me something?) and I was hooked immediately.  Downside: no sunscreen.  But!  That makes it perfect for nighttime and it smells so nice but without an actual scent, if that makes any sense?  Sort of like how I imagine a rich person’s bedroom would smell.
  • Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant: So here’s a youthful habit I have thankfully ditched: scrubbing the ever-loving hell out of my face with the harshest thing I can find. I think we can all agree I’m lucky that ranks among my dumber moments, right?  Anyway, you mix this powdery scrub with water and rub it all over your face and rinse and oh hey your face isn’t bright red.  Apparently your face shouldn’t look like you took a belt sander to it after exfoliating.  Live and learn.

I know “low maintenance” is probably not what you think after reading that list but this is pared way, way down from what was going on at the height of my (totally not a) crisis.  Which, in retrospect, was probably not helping anything but throwing money at problems is my jam, apparently.  Next time I’ll try throwing common sense at them, but don’t hold your breath.

*ETA: I somehow forgot a product: Dermalogica’s Ultra Calming Mist.  I apply it before moisturizing morning and night.  It adds another layer of moisture and sometimes when my skin is a little irritated I spritz it throughout the day and it seems to keep itchiness at bay.

Friday Afternoon’s Alright for Blogging

Hey, remember when blogging was sometimes just posting lots of little random thoughts and then Facebook and Twitter made that possible so now you feel like you need to have a “real” post with some sort of substantial message or something?  Me too.  So I’m bringing back the old school stylez.  You’re welcome.

  • I’m on a major Tina Turner kick lately. I’ve listened to “River Deep Mountain High” about a billion times today and holy shit her voice is startlingly beautiful.
  • Speaking of music, I really have to hand it to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack for introducing a new generation to The Runaways.  My heart leaps when I hear my brother singing “Cherry Bomb.”
  • A new requirement in any friend of mine is to agree that James Spader was straight-up hot in Pretty in Pink. A complete and total asshole to be sure, but I can’t help but think that would be some fantastic cocaine-fueled hate sex.
  • Wow, this list is a real testament to all my hot takes on not-so-current pop culture.
  • I had new passport photos taken today and came incredibly close to paying extra for a set of me making, like, duckface, and show it to Ed and see if he said anything.  But the woman taking the pictures was so sweet and I felt weird wasting her time just to play a (probably not even funny to anyone but me) prank on my husband.  Is this what it’s like to grow up?
  • Rather personal question: if your workplace restroom is one of those multi-stall deals, do you have a favorite?  Because I found that I was feeling rather put out lately when the stall I frequent is taken so I’ve been trying to switch it up a little.  But my real pet peeve, it turns out, is when I’m the ONLY ONE in our large and rather well-appointed ladies room (baskets of tampons in each stall! music piped in! floor-length mirror!) and someone else comes in and takes the stall right next to mine, despite DOZENS of other options.  Which makes me circle back to maybe everyone has a preferred stall and I just happen to be next to it?
  • OK, I have literally devolved to potty talk.  Talk about circling the drain.  *rimshot*

What are we all up to this weekend?  I’m envisioning a nap, outdoor cocktails, and possibly cleaning out my closet because, hey, I like to goof off, too.

Perhaps Toning Down References to Sketchy Fictional Characters Will Help My Situation

While I’m pretty proud of the fact that I am good about maintaining friendships over the course of my life (seriously: you cannot shake me) I know I need to work on initiating friendships in the first place.  My overly trusting and eager nature has screwed me over in the past and I, despite having met many lovely people in my 20’s and 30’s, have some trust and rejection issues.  When a potential new friend asks me to grab coffee my first instinct is to check the rafters for a bucket of pig’s blood. Then I assume that I am lame and bothersome so I rarely ask people to hang out, which makes me appear disinterested and aloof.  And then I bitch that I have no one to go shopping or happy hour with me.

I’m a real treat.

A blogger I’ve read and admired for ages, Emily, reached out to me to hang out and I took her up on her invitation.  She had a last-minute meeting near my office and wondered if I was free for lunch.  I said yes, even though I wasn’t wearing the perfect outfit and hadn’t picked a place in advance and was feeling sort of shy. I had a wonderful time and am so grateful for that little act of kindness.  We had a great time (at least, I did, but she didn’t block me on gchat or anything so I think it was mutual) and she didn’t seem totally freaked out by my million questions about her life.

So, I’m going to make it a goal to a.) not display the social skills of Boo Radley and b.) initiate plans with the people around me because it really shouldn’t be this challenging for a grown women to find someone to get coffee or a drink with her.

Wish me luck.

It’s Not a Tumor

Alternate Title: Why Ed Shouldn’t Go to Sleep Before I Do Since I’ll Just End Up Cruising WebMD

A short list of things I Googled/decided I had after a leg cramp didn’t go away:

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Gout
  • Avian Bone Syndrome
  • I’d like a really tasteful memorial but also there should be an open bar
  • Well, at least I’m not going to die in a changing room trapped in a too-tight dress. Or chained to a wall in a sex dungeon.

The more logical reason(s):

  • Tweaked something doing a lunge
  • Got up from the floor kind of weird while holding my friend’s newborn
  • Dehydration
  • Am old
  • OK, Christen, go to sleep now


37 Is the New 17

Like most nightmares, mine started with a trip to the mall.

Well, not the mall, exactly, but while shopping.  For the first time since adolescence, I feel really, for lack of a better term, self-conscious about what to wear.  I don’t mean what to wear for an interview or black-tie party (not that I’ve ever attended a black-tie event.  I’m not married to Bruce Wayne) but on a daily basis.  And it’s fucking annoying because I’m 37 years-old and have the means to buy nice things but I wander around stores unsure of myself and wondering if I’m too old to be in a certain store or if I’m required to shop at Talbot’s and look like Emily Gilmore and this is truly the dumbest thing to think about all the time and yet I cannot stop.  Maybe it’s not having a super strict work dress code for work so the lines are blurred between Business Christen and Weekend Christen so I can pretty much wear the same thing on a Tuesday and a Saturday?  Kind of like when I was a kid.  Maybe it’s working and making friends with people who are younger?  We go shopping and they suggest things for me and while my initial reaction is usually “Yeah, that looks good” I panic that I’m going to look like one of those women who is desperately fighting her age and clinging to youth and that is most definitely not a good look.

An additional issue: in the last eight months or so I’ve put on a fair amount of weight.  The combo of longer work days, happy hours with new fabulous coworkers, the abundance of food and snacks in the office, socializing which generally revolves around food (and wanting to explore new restaurants), AND not finding a new running group has resulted in a slow but steady creep.  I have started a new, sustainable workout routine and have been making better choices about food and portion control, but it’s going to take time to get back into a fair amount of my clothes.  In the meantime, buying new clothes has become a necessary chore because I can’t come to work in yoga pants. So I’m shopping in the middle of an identity (midlife?) crisis and not exactly psyched about it, or the body I’m dressing.  What could possibly go wrong?

So, yes: I am basically reliving my adolescence, only I can stay out as late as I want and buy my own booze.  Yay?