You Can’t Out Exercise A Bad Diet

So, yeah, I’ve been working on the Betty Rocker Ninety Day. And for the most part I have been completely true to the exercise program. I have changed some of the days around on the calendar, but I get in four hard workouts (for me) and mostly my yoga. Like everyone else I’ve been struggling with the new normal. Like a lot of people, I am worried about keeping my family safe and our financial future.

I think the biggest impact it had on my everyday health, besides stress was I really let my eating plan just go. In the beginning it was because we never knew what we were going to be able to get in terms of food. A lot more pasta crept into my life. I was eating more bread, often because I just didn’t know what else to eat. What food was safe? What food could we get? And, in the beginning, I baked all the time. Several times a week at least. I’m a freaking awesome baker, so yeah, I ate it. I would just wake up, scour the Internet for recipes and then poof! instant comfort food and inches for my belly.

That is where I can see my bad diet. My arms look pretty good, and my legs are becoming more sculpted. I have gained at least an inch around my middle. I think the rest all went to my face. When I am on Zoom calls I spend quite a bit of time counting my chins. It is a little depressing, because I never realized how vain I was until I had to see my reflection for long periods of time.  So, I have promised myself I will work on my diet. Soon. In the future. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think it is a good thing. Food is becoming a little easier to come by and I am working on eating healthier. I am trying to add a vegetable to every meal and seriously limit my bread. When I was working out hard every day, my formula was protein and a vegetable with every meal, a little fat and some whole grains. I would like to try to go back to this. Two reasons I haven’t are because I haven’t been able to stock the house for this and I don’t always want to.

Lunches are the hardest. I sort of stare into my fridge for awhile. Depending on how hungry I am I can come away with yogurt, nuts and some fruit or some really mayonnaise filled tuna on some bread. This week, I have also been sleeping better so eating healthier feels easier. When I don’t sleep for long periods, that is one of the first things I let go of.  I am very good at enabling myself when I feel sad or like a two year old. I only have two settings when it comes to my self talk. I am either “Aww, poor baby. Here just eat this yummy warm apple cobbler and curl up on the couch.” or “What the ever loving FUCK! Get up off your ass and quit being such a baby! If you would just DO something you would be fine.” Yeah, it’s a definite ward in my head.  But, I’m used to it. I work towards balance, and sometimes I achieve it but never for long periods of time.

Sometimes I get tired of working towards things. Especially lately, when so much is out of my control.  I begin to wonder what the point is. I am scared a lot. Maybe spending too much time in my apple cobbler setting. Days blend together and activities have been harder. I realize I spend much more time sitting. Not just because that is how teach and prepare now, but also because I spend waaaaaay too much time reading the news. Just when I think I can get a handle on something and keep going, some other disaster I just can’t do a damn thing about creeps in and my fear jacks way up. We have been working on getting a puppy. I can’t help but worry that this could literally kill one of us. It scares the shit out of me. It exhausts me.

But then, I saw someone I love deeply recently. (through Zoom)  She goes to the hospital every day. She is working in the ICU. I knew of course that she was working in the hospital, but I didn’t realize where. But of course she is. She is highly trained, amazing under pressure and just super smart. Of course she is in the thick of it.  And I realized that I am not exhausted. I am scared, I am sad, I am even petulant at times because I hate this.  But I am fine. Yes, this sucks. Yes, this is hard. But it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself.

This is life for now.

I am lucky.

Peeking Under the Hood of Fear

candleWhen I was in first grade I had a teacher that told us we could die at any time. I can’t remember the context but I would guess that it was in relation to not sinning since I was in a Catholic school. This bothered me so I took this information to my older cousin. He was in third grade. I think I expected him to say, only old people die. In first grade I was lucky enough to have no experience with death. The only person I knew who died was Jesus and he woke up in three days so it all worked out okay for him. Death wasn’t a thing for me. Until it was. My cousin did not say only old people die. He told me that was completely true. Not only did I not know when I was going to die, but I could come home from school at any time and find my parents murdered in my living room.  This is my first real memory of being afraid, what I think would now be termed anxiety.  This began years of fear of going to bed, I needed to keep an eye on my parents. I was sure that if I let them out of my sight they would die. I vividly remember my mother trying to reassure me as I sat crying in the kitchen. She just didn’t understand. There were nightmares, weeks and weeks of unrelenting nightmares. Not being able to save my parents or my siblings. Once I dreamt my sister stepped in a puddle and disappeared. Once I dreamt my younger brother was carried off while I was trapped in a phone booth. To this day I can hear him calling to me to help him.

But it wasn’t just that. This fear had a child, fear of the fear. I never knew when it would take hold. I was afraid of not just death, but the fear of death. So when I was working in my phonics book and finding rhyming words for read, I would ppicmonkey-1ut my hand over that box in the page in an effort to escape the word it invoked in my mind. I was terrified to go to sleep or be left alone at night. As my siblings slept in the room we shared, I would lay awake pretending I wasn’t afraid. Ashamed that I was. 

Eventually, I outgrew this, sort of. I still have this almost superstitious need to worry, as though the act of my worrying will prevent bad things from happening. I also have some pretty deep anxiety around driving on highways. This is new in the last few years or so. When I first learned to drive, I wasn’t afraid to drive anywhere. Over the last few years, small worry has bloomed to full on fear and has made my world smaller. I spend a lot of time on google maps finding alternate routes. Recently, I have surfaced this shame because there was no way to hide it. Once my daughter’s friends moved out of state, far but within driving distance, I had to be much more open about it. So what does that look like? Once about five years ago when coming home from Pittsburgh my husband asked me to take over the driving. I was a little nervous but I did it. And everything was fine for about the first hour or so. And then suddenly it wasn’t. Suddenly, I felt panic. I had this fixation on monitoring the speed of the car. It was like a forgot how to do it. My grip on the steering wheel tightened and I was one hundred percent positive I was going to crash and kill my family. I asked my husband to turn the radio off because I thought it was distracting. I stopped participating in the conversation in the car. I’m sure my husband was scared. I was terrified. We made our exit and once off the highway I was able to relax. Since then, I vacillate between needing to get over this fear and feeling as though I am a menace on a highway.

The child of my fear has also grown up. It has developed into a distrust of my own opinions. Is it really not okay to do that, is that really dangerous or is that just my anxiety? What’s the right call here? Should I take my daughter to the doctor? Maybe she is beginning to get strep and untreated strep can attack the heart. Maybe I am over reacting. I have to say, when it comes to my children, I tend to err on over reaction which is not really easier. I live in a world where I wonder if people will dismiss me because of my fear, my previous wrong calls. Maybe I am somebody to not take seriously because you know I am always over the top. And then, maybe they won’t take me seriously at a time when I am right. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Only I am not looking for attention, I am simply desperately trying to think clearly and not allow this to harm the people I love.  Which leads to a sort of social anxiety. I find social situations mostly uncomfortable unless I am drinking. But not all the time. Sometimes, I can wrestle this down for awhile. But normally, if you and I have had any interaction you can believe that at some point I will examine every aspect of that interaction, tone of voice, body language, words in search of what? I have no idea. Probably the proof that I am annoying.

Enter Covid-19. For people like me who are constantly struggling to stay out of a state of fear, this is the worst possible scenario. Everybody is worried, or scared. The problem with people like me is we have little trust in our own judgement right now. I am not sure if I am overreacting or just dong the sensible thing. This is why I push back pretty hard on people saying it is no big deal. Of course it is a big deal. You don’t close state’s worth of school districts for no big deal. I feel as though I am living in the beginning chapters of The Stand by Stephen King. The almost bizarreness of the radio in the background, proclaiming all is normal when the world is falling apart outside my door. Except it isn’t. Everything is the same. Everything is different. More than anything I want to be in one of my over the top moments. But it is harder and harder to believe that now.

So, this is where I am. Everytime I feel as though one of us is in a space that might put us in danger of the virus, I start the clock. Tomorrow marks fourteen days since we’ve been to the Flower Show, but only seven since my daughter has been to New York. Tomorrow marks day one of my son coming home from school. But then, my husband is going to work every day. So, where do I start the clock? For a person who has anxiety, this lack of knowing is terrifying. If you are lucky enough to be one of those people who find this as no big deal, or perhaps even a way to get caught up on your at home projects that’s great. I’m really happy for you. Know that you live in privilege right now, not just because you aren’t afraid but because you don’t have to worry about finances, health care, eating, etc. You don’t have to feel guilty, just don’t belittle the people who are really afraid. Whether we really need to be or not. Trust me, I would much rather not live in this state of constant fear and shame.

Working Out in Weird Times

wordcloudTomorrow we put my son on a bus and he goes back to school. My daughter comes home from visiting one of her best friends and our life goes back to normal. Well, as normal as it can be these days.  I can definitely catastrophize events, so this coronavirus has embedded a stone of fear in my belly. I move pretty freely between we will all be fine and then wondering if we, or at least some people I care deeply about won’t.

I think as a person you get so used to being in the young category that when you aren’t it is a bit abrupt. You keep redefining the definition of young. Few twenty year olds really think of forty as young, but all forty five year olds do. The benchmark of age is forever flexible. Until it isn’t. Until you see something like the coronavirus and you realize how close to the category of risk you are. I nearly fell over in the early stages of this event. I read an article that said the people who were most at risk were fifty and above.  And I was outraged. Because the last time something like this came around (H1N1?) I was comfortably in the “safe” category. I was in the sympathy zone, worried about how this was going to affect those other people. Now I am the other people? The numbers have since been readjusted. So for another dozer years at least, I can lean on the cushion of youth. At least for this one. It’s actually kind of funny because I was insulted. Are you calling me old, Coronavirus?

So, my age has been more on my mind as I work out in the mornings. This week there has been this one move where you start at standing go down to the floor and roll up on your back, almost as though you are going to do a backwards somersault. Remember those? And then you rock forward and stand back up. She says we are ending with something fun. Or have fun with it or something like that. Well, here’s a fun fact, it’s practically impossible for me to get up without steading myself on something, or getting a little help. When the hell did that happen? When did getting up off the floor become part of a workout? Seriously? So she’s busy saying, “Push through the heels.” And I’m squatting with by butt hovering above the ground a little, flailing my arms in front of me as I try to push up. Normally I wind up sort of pushing off the floor with one hand, sometimes I hold onto the bed. Sometimes I curse her out a little bit, because it makes me laugh to do so. I am my own biggest fan of my own jokes, so it keeps me smiling. And she does so often say to smile.

And then there is another move called downward dog flow. You start in plank, then push back to downward dog and then drop your knees to the floor, use your legs to push back up to plank, back to downward dog, etc. I actually like this move, but only after I cut the drop  your knees to the floor business. When I push up my knees sound like they are trying out for a rice krispies cereal commercial. They don’t hurt, and I really don’t know if it’s bad for me, but I hear them complaining so I adjust. If I’m honest, I think my knees have been noisy for years. And it’s not like they got louder. I think part of it is that I don’t feel as invincible. And so now I’m finally doing what I should have been doing for years, being more careful with them. Take notes, youngsters.

I am three weeks into the program and I can’t say I’ve noticed a lot of change in me. I have been taking the pictures and no you will never see them. But, that is another way that I am rethinking things. I know I am getting stronger. And I know that working out and eating better will help to keep me healthy. This is something that is true for everyone regardless of age. I could probably be eating healthier but I am making small adjustments. (Read, my consumption of cheese and wine have remained steady over the weekend.) Right now I am proud that I have been sticking to this program.Maybe next week I’ll say, and I’m ready to be wine free for awhile.

Nah. No need to be ridiculous.

 

 

More than the Body

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 9.05.24 AMSaturday mornings are some of my favorite times. The early morning hours when I own the house, the quiet, the coffee and the day stretched out. All things are possible. It’s the time during the hectic week that I can actually think. Sometimes this means writing, sometimes this means reading the news and sometimes this means staring out the window, watching the sun come up. I always feel late if I wake up and the sun is already in the sky. I love the gray of the early morning. I love to set my intentions, breath for a moment, light a candle. It is in these moments that I try to have no expectations for myself. I owe nothing to anyone This is a short, short moment. Because all too soon either I will begin to create the unrealistic to do list or someone in my family will unexpectedly wake early. And then the moment slips away. I love Sunday mornings as well, but there is more urgency to move and accomplish when you have work the next day then when you have the abundance of time.

One of the places my mind has lived in these moments is beyond the challenges I have with my weight and my body image.  Last week while I was writing I had the realization of how I can’t possibly love anyone fully and without criticism if I first don’t allow that for myself. If you know me at all, you know that this is not the sort of thought process I normally engage in. I was raised with the idea that you don’t let too many things bring you down, you don’t let life beat you up and if it does, well suck it up it happens to everyone. Quit your whining and move on. I believe in that. Sort of. I have a very low frustration level for myself and others when they refuse to work at their challenges. There is a slim line between venting and wallowing and I have no patience for wallowing. Not that I don’t engage in it from time to time, but then I need to smack myself in the back of the head (figuratively, of course) and work it out. I believe in finding solutions, making plans and then actually following through.

So, when I realized that I continue to circle back to what I am terming depression with some anger issues now, but really, I’m not a professional, I couldn’t just sit in a funk. Over the years I have reached out to professionals, but for me never found the right fit. The last time, after a few weeks I felt a little disgusted with myself and the whole process so after a couple of months I ended it. Why did it take me a couple of months? I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But that is another whole issue. I have tried SAM-e to some benefit. This is an herbal supplement and for about a year I really did feel as though it was working. It gave me a pause, that’s all. It just gave me that half a second I needed to question the thought, or reign in the emotion. But then, I decided that I didn’t want to be on it forever and there was a bump when I came off. I was definitely more irritable and that is putting it mildly.  So, bye bye SAM-e.

Recently I have been reading and watching lectures on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. I have known about this or course, but never really learned how it worked or the science behind it. In a nutshell, your thoughts (cognitions) affect your emotions affect your actions (behaviors). This is a cyclical process not really linear. If you engage in therapy, the therapist may have you capture your thoughts in a journal or within a graphic organizer while correlating these thoughts to actions and emotions. I am doing a very bad job of explaining this. But in essence, if you can reframe or change your thoughts, or reframe or change your behaviors there is a domino effect on the other two. One of the lectures around positive psychology spoke of actively searching for the good in your life. Apparently, we are actually predisposed to seek and hold onto the bad in our life.  There is a theory that at some point in our evolution this helped us survive. So if you feel, like me, that your are constantly seeing things from a negative viewpoint and have to actively reframe them cut yourself a break. Maybe we are just excellent survivors To counteract this, we need to intentionally focus on what is good in our life. One way is a gratitude journal. I have tried gratitude, maybe a little half heartedly several times but found it to be a very surface activity. Listing what I am grateful for, leaves me in a bind of making sure I count everyone in, lest their feelings get hurt. Yes, I know it makes no sense but that’s how I’m wired. What if I die and they come across a journal and suddenly realize I forgot to list their name? Geez! The pressure! And then I watched a lecture on positive psychology and realized that it wasn’t really a list. Well, I guess it could be, but what he was doing with his patient was having her find one instance in her day and writing about it in detail. Where were you? Who was there? What was the smell? The sound? The moment? Why was it special? How did you feel? Our moments come at us so fast in the day it is easy to lose the good ones.  Taking time to unpack one really good moment can help us reframe our thoughts, and therefore our emotions and therefore our actions. Another way is to simply write three sentences every night answering these three questions: What moved me? What surprised me? What inspired me?  Full disclosure, I haven’t done either of these things yet, but I am going to try them. Soon. I promise.

However, as I constantly have to remind myself, this is a journey. I’m always going to be a work in progress. Maybe that’s why I jump into so many things with such passion but then they seem to fade away, like my hard core workout program and being vegan. I have always felt a little ashamed about this. As though my passion was only surface and this is evidence that I am a somewhat unreliable person, always moving from one thing to the next. But what if that isn’t true? What if instead of being brief lived passions they are stepping stones? What if my time being vegan served its purpose and opened the doors or paved the way for the next thing? What if instead of saying I get really enthused about something and then lose interest, I say I jump in and allow myself to become filled with all that one thing has to offer and then after saturating myself, I take what is valuable to me and jump to the next one thing? I am not giving up, or losing interest, I am growing. Can I hold onto that?

Maybe that is part of the appeal of the ninety day challenge. It has an end point. It is a beginning and I can reuse it, but I don’t have to. Or I can use it how I want. That’s a hard one for me, because I feel as though if I don’t do it exactly then I am failing. I have to work on that. For now I am working on being over fifty and trying to be okay with what I see in the mirror and who I am in life. Small words that have so many big emotions and thoughts. So I am hoping that small changes in my behaviour and my thoughts help bring big changes in my feelings and self image. For today, I am going to do my workout and try to live in the idea of abundance, gratitude and grace.

And maybe some wine. I mean, it’s Saturday and I’m not a saint.

Rocking It

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After what can only be described as a slow decline in my workouts and my attitude, I am finally trying to work my way back with the Betty Rocker 90 Day.  To do this I have had to come to some hard truths about who I am, where I am and what I can do. The first thing I needed to let go of is what I could do just five years ago. For reference, five years ago I was running seven miles and working out six days a week for about an hour or so every day. I did HIIT and cardio in the form of running and biking. I was out of bed every day by four thirty and then four to get to the gym. My eating was on point and I felt (mostly) amazing. I say mostly because I was eternally sore. In my mind, if I wasn’t constantly pushing myself, always going a little longer or a little farther than I did the day before I was failing. It was a really militant lifestyle and it became the center of my world. If I wasn’t sore I was backsliding.

I like to say when my appendix burst my whole plan blew up but that would be a lie. Even before that I was already losing my will in my workouts. They were less joyful and more of a grind. Having to get to bed to so early made me lose time with my family. Making this the center of my life, meant that other things that I love were pushed out, mostly family & friends. Not that I didn’t spend time with them, but I worked them around my workouts as opposed to the other way around. I began to resent this. So, slowly, I started losing will and grit. It meant that my runs became first slower and then consequently less far. Or I would have to run more time to make up the distance.  I also hit menopause pretty hard. Sleepless nights, intense hot flashes and just rolling emotions will sometimes just wreck my world.  And my IBD began to flare more and more often with more intense episodes. So I would miss workouts, I would feel intensely bad about myself, I would refocus and create an unattainable plan, which I would fail to complete, which would cause me to feel bad about myself. During all of this I was going through stretches where I would get little to no real sleep. I would get  three or four hours of broken sleep for four or five nights in a row. During the day my head would buzz, I felt fragile and by the time the weekend came I wanted to fall to the floor rock and cry.  I could actually picture myself doing that.

Eventually this lead me to the only place it could, an unhealthy life in all aspects: mind, body and spirit. There were of course other contributors to this lowpoint, my son going off to college, challenging experiences for my daughter, my own natural wonderings of who I am and what I am doing with my life. Pretty much common everyday stressors that I was struggling with and berating myself for the struggle. This is where I was when a friend at work shared that she was doing this Thirty Day Challenge. Fifteen minutes every day for thirty days and she was raving about it. My first instinct was to scoff at the idea. For someone who use to work out well over fifteen minutes, I didn’t believe that this would work. I was at the time trying another program to help keep me on point and I was finding it a drain and a drudgery which of course in my mind meant it was working.  I was also trying to maintain my running which was continuing to spiral down.  So at first, my skepticism kept me away. But then I watched her commitment to the challenge and then start the ninety day challenge. She posted pics every day she finished one of her workouts and I could see the transformation. At the same time, notices of my own  accomplishments from years ago would pop up in my feed as though to mock me from my past.

Finally, I decided to quietly try the Thirty Day challenge. I say quietly because I couldn’t face publically failing at yet another thing. So I did it without telling anyone. And if I am honest, to the letter, I did fail. I only completed twenty nine workouts and I did not do it in the thirty day period. I got the flu and was out of commission for about seven days. This left me with workouts stacking up in my inbox. But here is what I did right. I kept going I just kept knocking them out and it was hard after missing a week. I noticed my arms were getting more definition and my legs were coming back. I was still trying to fit in short slow runs but I wasn’t beating myself up if I missed them. That was the most important thing I did right. I gave myself some grace.

People talk about loving themselves, but then often go into self flagellation mode as though that is a form of love. It isn’t. Beating yourself up for things that you do or don’t do, the way your body looks or the very unique way you move through the world is not love of yourself or others. On the flip side, liking who you are, being proud of your accomplishments and reveling in the weirdness that is yours alone is not conceited. You really are the one constant in your life and you can not make true deep connections with others unless you make them first with yourself. If you love yourself in a way that you always find yourself wanting or wrong (and let’s face it, that is not love) you can’t possibly love anyone else any other way. So, love freely, openly, fully and, as my friend likes to say, fiercely.

I am now finishing the first week of the ninety day challenge. I am doing the intermediate program. It takes longer than fifteen minutes a day but never more than thirty five, so far and mostly I am done in about twenty to twenty five minutes. I could probably make it faster by working through the exercises without the videos but the videos not only keep me motivated they help me to remember my form. It’s funny that it seems the very thing she is talking about is exactly the reminder I need in the moment. It is hard. But it is doable. I do find myself struggling to complete the third round but I keep pushing forward. I think this is because it is the last round. I have moved my rest day from today to tomorrow, so after this I will be doing my final workout of the week. But that is the only change I made. I am trying to keep to the eating program, but not allowing myself to get shaky from hunger just to stick to a plan. That’s a pretty big leap for me.

I feel pretty good about myself right now. And I am really grateful to my friend, Keisha, for bringing this program into my life and for supporting me through it. Even when I kind of wanted to be invisible.

For me, I am happy with this program. I try never recommend gyms, programs or anything a person has to pay for on this blog. (Ha! Ha! Ha! As though I have swarms of followers to worry about,) I do share what I am trying and how it is working for me If you are in a rut, if you really want to try something to get back in shape or more importantly become healthier, try the Thirty Day Challenge. It is free. It is literally risk free. So I am really excited about this and I am recommending at least try that if you are looking for a plan.

I am hoping to revive this blog the way I have revived my workouts. So, I’ll keep you posted on the Ninety Day.

Still Trying

This morning I found a blast from the past post in my feed. I’d forgotten how faithful I used to be to this blog and how much it helped keep me accountable. I started reading through some old posts and was so glad I did. Another thing I’d forgotten or maybe romanticized in my mind was how hard this always was. This is important because I’ve been feeling for a long time that I just can’t do it anymore, that it is too hard. And it is hard. But not too hard. I can do this. I just have to remember that there isn’t going to be a time when it isn’t work. That’s the point, right? I mean to put in the work.

But that wasn’t the only thing that was stopping me, or rather paralyzing me. I was completely overwhelmed trying to do everything I thought I was supposed to be doing: cardio, strength training, core work, yoga. How does someone fit all that in? You know people with jobs and children? It seemed if I was hitting one I was losing another. I constantly was worried that if I was doing cardio I wasn’t maintaining strength and flexibility. Or if I added in core work, how would I also get to yoga and the required amount of cardio time to lose weight? It was all so daunting. When I tried to keep it up I found myself exhausted. And I wasn’t doing what I enjoyed, what made me feel good.

This was all further complicated by menopause. Sleepless nights, anxiety, some depression, frustration and let us not forget the hot flashes. Eternities of moments where I become drenched in sweat and feel as though I can’t breath I’m so hot. It’s like my own personal sauna. It seems whenever I take a scheduled rest day I can count on several nights in a row of sleepless, sweaty anxiety filled hours. I can hear the blood pulsing in my ears as I toss and turn. I’ve tried meditation, reading, yoga. Nothing works. I simply have to let it happen. This means days of a brain filled with static, missed workouts as I try to get some sleep so I can be somewhat human, so I can make it through the day without feeling as though I am going to fall apart.

In the past two years I have disappeared from myself, from everything. And I am so tired of people telling me how to fix myself. Which I’m sure is karma, since I know I’ve done that to others. When I am in a good place I tend to think everyone can be there if they just push a little harder. That’s not always true. And I realize now that all that well meaning “encouragement” simply makes me feel like more of a failure. Everyone has to start where they are and find their own way. Or should I say ways, because it’s often more of a recipe than a single solution. I guess it’s good to know that others have been where I am, but the assumption shouldn’t be that your path will work for me. There is no twelve step plan. There is only the me plan. If you really want to be there for someone, just listen. Don’t give advice unless it is asked for and even then know when to shut up. Don’t assume mastery of someone else’s life.

For me, I have been continuing to try. Recently, this took a major shift. I am fifty two years old and tired of so much of my life being about how I look. No matter what I do I am going to get older. Every day I see new reminders of that marked on my skin. I don’t need a tattoo, I have lines, stretch marks, crepe skin, scars and cellulite to mark the moments of my life. This isn’t a hallmark movie where I say I have found the joy in these little mementos of age because they tell the story of my life. Fuck that, I wish my skin was smooth and vibrant and my waistline small. That’s just the truth. But here I am so I work with what I have.  What I wanted was to feel strong again. And for me that means running. So, I found my running watch, a realistic running plan and started from there. To be honest I thought I was done before I even started. The first workout included running for twenty five minutes straight. I haven’t done that in months. I have been running for three to five minutes with walk breaks. I have been doing some Sean T strength training, with lots of breaks. I decided I would do what I could.

It’s a weird mindset to be afraid of a run. I mean, really, what is going to happen if you don’t make it? You just have to find a way to keep trying. But I am often afraid of runs. Because I’m a freak. Anyway, I just promised myself I would do the best I could and keep it very slow. And I set up a route with mostly flats and downhills, figuring that would help. And it did. I ran an eleven to twelve minute mile and was able to run for twenty five minutes. I was ecstatic. And then a few days later I ran for forty minutes straight. Yep, just under three and a half miles.  And then today I ran for twenty five minutes again, and it wasn’t any easier and my watch doesn’t think I’ve worked hard enough but I know for me it is a huge victory.

So is it a beginning? No, I think like everything else, it is the middle. But I am still trying.

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New Years

Recently I was at a party and a person mentioned how much she hated the winter. There was simply nothing to look forward to. I can totally understand this. As someone who celebrates Christmas with a passion, I have to steel myself for the letdown that inevitably follows. I am sad when Christmas is over and the lovely long break comes to an end. It reminds me of time passing and all the spaces in my life where I am not where I want to be. This year is harder with my son going back to college, my weight at an all time high and feeling as though I am ineffectual in my own life.

But I don’t hate winter. I am at the point in the holiday season that I am looking forward to taking down the decorations and reclaiming my space. Winter gives me the permission to stay inside and move more slowly. I find winter to be the best time for reflection, self revelation and connection to my own spirit. This year in particular that feels very necessary as I wonder if I am struggling with clinical depression. Winter gives me permission to grieve and cleanse in a way that seems obnoxious in the spring and summer. And, I do set myself up with things to look forward to such as Valentine’s, the Philadelphia Flower Show, planning a new garden and the eventual reality of spring.

I actually love winter. I love creating new plans towards health for myself, setting new goals and seeing where I can actually follow them. I am always going to try something new and then probably become deeply enmeshed and passionate about it only to either grow bored with it, or find that it isn’t what I had hoped. I am a perpetual teenager in that respect. But I am tired of apologizing for it. I really like that about myself. I love that at fifty one I can still become enthusiastic to the point of exuberance around something. And everything that I become super passionate about leaves its mark in some way permanently in my world.  I like that as well. Things that don’t grow die.

So, I am ready and excited to try a new plan for myself. This fall I have spent a ridiculous amount of time trying and failing to bring myself back to running form. The reality is I don’t love it the way I use to so it is time  I readjust. Not that I am giving up on running entirely, I just can’t and won’t continue to use that as my barometer for success. It has become a negative spiral. I have also become a terrible eater. Trying to maintain a calorie restrictive eating plan has made me both tired and mean. But I like to have a plan, something to follow. I feel a little lost in this since I can’t afford either a nutritionist or a personal trainer. As with everything I have taken to scouring the Internet for myself.

As far as eating, I know that anything that eliminates any type of whole food is not really a plan for life, unless a person has an allergy or sensitivity to that food. I am leery of taking oats completely out of my diet, or lentils or anything like that, even though they are high in carbs. However, I am willing to try any plan to kick start myself. So, it is with a little trepidation that I am trying paleo. Mostly because it is a plan that my husband wants to try and food harmony in a house is a good thing. But also because at it’s core any diet that removes processed foods, flour and sugar is going to help. I can also modify it so that it isn’t a meat fest. Because that is just gross. I don’t believe in the wonky science behind most diets, but I do believe that sugar, processed foods and flour are bad for the body, and the mind. I have recently starting taking SAM-e for my feelings of deep sadness and anger and it has helped a lot. But I am hoping to control this more through diet.

I also found an exercise plan on line that I can live with. I like this plan because it spirals up from beginner to advanced. Three months at each stage gives me both long and short time goals. I am starting an Instagram account to track my progress in pictures and challenging myself to a full year of fitness which will start January 2. That gives me the first week to practice the workouts at home before I try them out at the gym. I can also do most of the workouts at home which means I don’t have to wake every day at four. Woo Hoo!!

 

Tinkering With the Big D

In the past few months I have found myself once again flying around in a million different directions trying to fix myself. I constantly feel at a loss as to how to overcome the many ways in which I feel as though I am failing. My weight continues to skyrocket, I roll over in bed when the alarm goes off. It is not just that I don’t want to go to the gym, I don’t want to get out of bed. Period. I just want to be left alone and sleep. “I’m just tired” or “I’m doing the best I can.” are phrases that continually flow from my mind and mouth. This is a state of being that continues in my life. Sometimes intensely and sometimes I feel as though I am getting the upper hand. My house is a total disaster which leaves me in a state of perpetual embarrassment. Every time I see an ant amble across my counter, I take it personally. What kind of mom allows her children to room with bugs? The unending pile of laundry, the orthodontist appointment I keep forgetting to make, the mammogram I continue to blow off. Just barely getting by.

I know people feel this way all the time. But added to all of this has been a deep sense of sadness. So deep that it pulses like a physical pain in my chest. I keep thinking if I can just get ahead a little bit, if I can just get a second to breathe, it I can just take one weekend to reset. But I can’t. I don’t. I don’t know.

Recently it became so bad that I started investigating anti-depressants. I did this without really thinking about depression. Although an obvious pairing – the word depression being in the cure I’m seeking, I pulled away from it. I have no problem with you being depressed. But that isn’t me. I can’t, won’t take on that label. I refuse to be broken. Because my life is awesome and I should be happy and more grateful. I don’t deserve to be depressed. What does it say about me, as a human, if with such a great life I am depressed.

Except I think I am. I think I might have struggled with this for a really long time and just assumed I wasn’t good enough. I pull away from family, friends, everyone because having them find out just how screwed up I am scares me. And please don’t come up to me if you read this and tell me you love me. Because, and don’t take this wrong way, it doesn’t matter. I mean, it does, but until I figure this out, all the love in the world isn’t going to fix me. I know I am loved. I’m just pretty certain if you knew me you would know better. So there it is. Nothing you do or say will change that. I have to.

I have looked into seeing a therapist, but right now can’t find one that I am willing to trust. I’m just not ready. I have also looked into natural anti-depressants and have been taking SAM-e for a few weeks now. I will say that it definitely helped immediately. I take 400mgs once a day in the morning. It has helped me to pause before I bite off your head. You’re welcome. I am already considering stopping it. But we will see. I have a lot left. But it is really expensive. Plus it might be a placebo effect. I think I have decided that if I notice a downward shift I will bring it back. The problem is I’m not sure the exhaustion I have started feeling in the last few days isn’t an effect. Plus my nails keep breaking. I know that sounds stupid, but it bugs me.

I am also listening to How to Get Back Up, A Memoir of Failure and Resilience.  It is an Audible book I am really enjoying it and think I might start to listen to it all over from the beginning because I keep forgetting everything I want to remember. One thing I’ve learned after listening to this and reading some on depression is that when you concentrate on happy or positive things you can reshape your brain. I know that sounds obvious, but I think about how often my own thoughts turn negative or surly. I want to change that, and research says I can. So I am committing to writing twenty minutes everyday for twenty consecutive days about things that make me happy. I realize that I often turn to journaling when I am sad or angry or feeling overwhelmed. I am providing, and deepening those sad pathways in my brain. I can reroute my brain by focusing on positive and happy things. The same parts of your brain that are activated when happy or positive things happen in your life are activated just by thinking about them. Writing things down or journaling helps reinforce this, I think. I have my own mini data control from when I journaled about how well I thought I was doing when I first started working out. Every day was a success and I wrote it down. The truth is some days as I was writing there was a little voice inside that insisted that I wasn’t successful and I was kidding myself. But I pushed forward and congratulated myself anyway. (By the way, this isn’t the positive writing).

I have also started making to do lists again. First, I want to be honest with myself about how much I actually expect myself to get done. I’m not sure my to do list is humanly possible. But I am setting some goals and then chunking them. This is part of the Buckets idea I also got from book. The idea that we have so much time in a day and how am I spending it. I want to put myself on a mini reward system. Small short goals, small rewards. I haven’t completely figured that part out yet.

Also, I wrote down what makes me happy and how I actually spend my time. Some things are non-negotiable. I have to food shop, I have to go to work, etc. But I need to prioritize better about how to spend my time. Another thing I don’t have worked out. I feel better when life is less messy, literally when my house is clean. But I can never seem to get to everything. How do I fix that? How do I make the things that make me happy non-negotiable?  I am working this all out as I go.

 

New Narratives

This past week we dropped my son off at college. It was an exciting, heart wrenching and surreal experience. He was definitely more ready than I was. In addition to the feeling of loss, I also found myself a little jealous of his new opportunities. He is just over five hours from home, knows nobody and has the ability to be whoever he wants. Of course, I hope he stays true to himself blah, blah, blah, but is is also the chance to live outside of the narrative others have created for and about him. This is such a rare opportunity and not granted to everyone.  His biggest challenge will be letting go of the script that he has followed for himself, the narrative he may have co-created or allowed to be written for him. Letting go of the voices that hold him back.

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I thought about this a lot this morning as I once again tried to reinvent myself as a runner. Over the last two years I have progressively lost more and more of my stamina and my ability to run. Some of this has been because I was getting (and still do get) pretty sick when I run. But there was also the feeling of being lost in it all. As the build up continued to my son leaving, as my daughter began to move ever closer to being a true middle schooler I found myself lost. I wasn’t sure how I fit into their lives anymore and really what my job was. I also found myself lamenting any time that I didn’t spend with them. This included all the time I spent working out.  Honestly, they didn’t miss me at all, because that is the nature of growing up.

So who would I be if I had the opportunity to reinvent myself? It is almost a scary thought. One thing I know, I want to feel strong again. Whatever shape or form that takes, I want to feel as though I have stamina for days. I also don’t want to feel sorry for myself. If I am honest, there is a part of me that is thrilled he is there and happy because now I can stop worrying about that and spend more time and energy on things that I like. Baking, football, writing, running, reading and biking. I do feel a certain sense of peace and joy. I love the school he is attending and he seems to be doing great. (Five days in, I know it’s early but all signs are pointing up!)

Running, for some reason, makes me feel strong and accomplished. So as much as I tell myself that I don’t need it anymore and I can let it go and maybe I should as I am over fifty, I just can’t. So I really did start from scratch. Last week I started running for one minute and walking for two. I did this for an hour. And I only did it twice because last week was so busy. That was something I realized over the summer. I was cutting myself a huge break constantly. That attitude led me to be about five pounds off my highest pregnancy weight. Whoops! Oh well. The good thing about that is, the more you weigh the harder your body has to work the more calories you burn. Silver lining! The bad thing is, well I  fit into absolutely nothing. So yeah, that’s a problem. Getting dressed is a nightmare and I never feel good about myself. Which is another area I really need to be honest about with myself. How I look is important to me. I don’t want to feel unattractive and at this size I just do. In the interim though, as I work towards better health and a better self image I am going to buy some new clothes that fit. It will make me feel good to dress better and breathing again will be an absolute joy!

Today I ran two minutes and walked two minutes. I thought about my son starting his classes this morning. I thought about my daughter going away with her sixth grade class next week.  And I thought about how much I was enjoying the running walking combo. For the first time in a long time I feel inspired. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Chasing Youth

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©Kaityn Podulka June 25,2018

I love this picture. My daughter took it while we were out for a walk. What she didn’t capture is that behind these runners is a much older man also running. The difference between these young runners and the older man was striking to me. They ran three abreast, shoulders straight, their arms pumping, legs stretching out and pulling up high almost as though they were galloping. He was more hunched over, his head down, the efforts so apparent on his face. His steps were smaller and his feet did not come near as far off the ground. When they looped back he was still behind although much further. They were still laughing and feeling strong, he was struggling, his face red his steps smaller. But he was moving. He kept moving. And they were completely oblivious to him. It strikes me now that as opposed to looking at it as chasing youth I could also interpret it as what is coming up behind them, age. Eventually even these strong people will be older and will slow down.

I have been thinking a lot more about age because I have been feeling my age more. Not that I feel old and creaky, I just often feel as though I am the oldest person in the room. And this bothers me. I don’t know why. I think I feel less relevant and yet also I care less about what people think so maybe relevance is less important. But I have come to understand something else about aging. People age very differently. I have taken to binge watching Grace and Frankie, a Netflix show. Part of the reason I started watching the show in the first place is because the age of the characters. I am tired of watching people who have no connection to me or where I am in life, so this show appeals to me. What I love most about it is how vibrant they are. There are jokes about forgetting things but they are still so active. And this is a reality. All of the main characters are actually in their mid to late seventies. At one point in a show, Jane Fonda lifts her leg and washes her foot in the sink from a standing position. She doesn’t fall or even wobble. I was awed by this. And it might have been the inspiration for my starting yoga. Her balance and agility at age seventy something is better then many twenty year olds. All of this is to say that I am realizing that I don’t have to assume that menopause or peri-menopause is a reason for me to stop or even slow down. It is harder but that doesn’t mean it isn’t doable.

I am realizing something else. For quite some time all of the bike riding and running helped me mentally. It kept me even keeled. But I’m not sure it so much helped as just left me too exhausted to care. I think that can only last so long before you need to deal with shit that crops up. For me, besides the age or maybe in addition to the number is the reality that my son is hitting adulthood. He is moving away to college in two short months and from there he is truly in the transition of moving out permanently. I don’t think I got the truth of this until he went away for a week with his friends. I would not yet call him an adult but he is on his way to independence. I know this is a good thing and what I want for him, and I am immensely proud. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t grieving this as well. There is a part of me that aches for a childhood gone by so fast. And I see my daughter rapidly following as she continues her journey through middle school. Our house is clearing of toys and letting go of myths such as Santa Claus. It is all natural but somehow feels so sudden. And it hurts. I found myself in a negative spiral that was infecting my running and biking. I just felt too tired to care. I also wanted to hold onto every second that I could squeeze out with my kids. This isn’t healthy. So I’m dealing with my shit.

One of the ways I am doing this is through meditation, although I won’t lie. That is harder for me. It is too much stillness. It is sometimes wonderful but often painful for me to try to concentrate on just my breath. I have also started reading The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron again and committed to working through the twelve week process. I tried this before but didn’t stick with it. I do know that the morning pages, one of the tasks in the book, really helped me tremendously. It has a way of quieting my brain so I can listen for me. I know it might sound hokey or ridiculous, but if you are struggling and can’t or won’t see a therapist I highly recommend this book.

I am trying to find a way to be happy in me, in all of my numbers: the scale, the measuring tape and the age. It is hard because I feel as though it was all so much easier when I was younger. But there were times that were harder too. I don’t want to be one of those people that needs to be younger, whether it is lying about their age or trying to look younger, to feel good about myself.  I am fifty one years old and pretty happy with who I am right now. But I’m not going to stop ever trying to be the best me. Maybe this isn’t me chasing youth. Maybe this is what youth chases and tries to understand.

Oh and it is Tuesday and I have biked and run a little over thirteen miles so far this week. So far…