Pages

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Asleep at the wheel



Music is one of my greatest loves in life. When people ask what’s the best thing about living now, my answer is always “that I can have music at the touch of a button.” Think about that. Think about the days when you either had to make music yourself, or had to go somewhere to hear music. You couldn’t have a string quartet follow you down the road, or out in the fields. Music had its own place and time. 

Now we can listen to what we want when we want. It really is a miracle.
Some people don’t like running with music. Sometimes this is for practical reasons like the inability to hear what’s behind you, and some just like the silence. Some believe that music restricts their efforts at better run times because of our tendency to run with the beat.

I can run without music, but I find that hamster wheel unappealing. I’ll either get a musical phrase stuck in my head (and I dare you to get “Straight up now, tell me do you really wanna luv me for-ever –oh, oh, oh!” out of your head once it’s there!) or I grab a metaphorical stick and pound away and a metaphorical dead horse. And THAT’S usually about work which is one of the things I really try not to think about when I run. 

I have always lost myself, and found myself in music. Oh and lyrics. The music reels you in, and in some cases that’s enough to catch you, but lyrics, words sculpted into rhythm, that’s the true hook that will keep you on the line.

10 Years is one of my favorite groups to run to. The urgency in their songs lends itself to pumping legs and driving adrenaline, and the under-line, if you get my drift, tends to follow my natural breathing patterns. Oh, and then there are the lyrics. 

Running yesterday the song "Soma" came on. I've heard it a million times, a billion times, but never really heard it. Or at least, never really took the words on board. But yesterday they got through. Yesterday the song hit my headphones about the same time I realized that I’d made the appointment at the vets for that very day even though I knew I was working and that I couldn’t get to the vet’s that day. My dogs’ jabs are overdue and they need them, like, NOW! And right then 10 Years sang :

“Stay asleep at the wheel and never
Care enough.
The crash is coming.
Are we destined to see a tragedy?
Look away.
The crash is coming”

And as often happens when music and lyrics join hands, an epiphany occurs.

At that very moment I realized that I have been “asleep at the wheel” for a long time. Really, that part of it wasn’t like being struck down on the road to Damascus. I had figured out that I was just treading water in my life in a lot of ways long before, but that metaphor of what happens to us when we ARE asleep at the wheel, that was the light bulb moment.

Life is dangerous, scary and sad enough without abdicating what control we do have.

If I am not doing the things I know I should be doing to get out of the situation I’m in; if I’m willing to let things go undone knowing it will be more work down the road, or letting someone else choose my course, then I have no one to blame but myself when the crash occurs. And no one else to blame if, as often happens, others are hurt as well.

It is time to get back to basics. Back to Mindfulness. Back to Thornton Wilder and living life ‘every, every moment while we live it.”  It’s time to wake up and take back control of my life.

Or as 10 Years might put it “Wake up dead fly!”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Scientific - esque trial

Okay, so I’ve had a bit of a zeitgeist here. I’ve read the information. I’ve understood the information, I just didn’t put 2 and 2 together.

I have been part of a Biggest Loser type competition at work off & on for the past year. (The competition has been off & on, my participation has been consistent.) Any road, since not everyone at work wanted to lose weight, and since some of the people in the challenge wanted to boost their weight loss by setting and meeting specific goals, we also have had what we call a ‘lifestyle’ challenge wherein we set two specific goals and then record how we do.

Piece of cake, right? Well, one of my specific goals has been to eat my full 5 servings of fruit and veg. I could do 4 no problem, but sometimes getting that 5th serving was pulling teeth. So I found a way to rectify that. Fruit. Because fruit is easier to eat than veg for the most part. Grab an apple. Grab a peach. Throw some berries in a bowl. Easy, peasy.

Over the past year, my 5 helpings of fruit and veg have become more like 4 servings of fruit and 1 of veg. And over the past year, not only have I NOT lost weight, I have steadily re-gained 20 of the pounds I had already so laboriously shed.

But this week all the nutrition reading and advice and thoughts just percolated in my head and, like that proverbial lightning bolt, I thought, “Hang on!” Fruit is good for you, yes. But fruit has fructose. Fruit has sugar. Lovely fiber, yes, but lots of sugar.

So I started looking into it and sure enough the literature is very clear. 4 veg and 1 fruit is going to do much better for you than 4 fruit and 1 veg.

Here’s the deal : If you are giving your body sugar, whether it’s sugar straight from fruit or sugar derived from fruit (or cane or beets or a chemical lab) or whatever, then your body is using that quick sugar for energy and never has to tap into your fat stores. Why bother using that stored fat when you keep feeding it all the quick sugar it needs?

So. I am going to do a scientific-ish trial. Over this weekend I am going to start the transition to 3-4 veg and 1-2 fruit servings a day. On Monday, 26 May, I am joining Running World’s streak challenge to run at least one mile per day from the Memorial Day holiday through the 4th of July. That Monday will be the start of my trial as well.

I am going to measure, weigh, and take pics at the start. Then I’m going to continue to eat as healthily as I have the past year, with the only changes being that flip to more veg and less fruit, and if I DO eat 2 servings of fruit, one of them must be accompanied by protein to help slow the effects of the sugars. (nuts or yogurt with the fruit, for example)

To help on this, I am going to check in here weekly with all results.

I really (REALLY, REALLY, REALLY) hope this is where the problem is. If not, I’ll keep searching, but one trial at a time!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Using my head



In Tai Chi we teach that we "Use the yi, not the li" which means to use your head, and not to react to things with brute strength, or without thought. 


In commenting on someone’s page today that thought came to mind, and it makes me think about how often we eat in response to something. About how much we eat is in response to something. Although not a big emotional eater, I have let the cold weather around me be an excuse for poor choices lately. “Ar, it’s freezing out. Have another cookie!”


There is a meme going around Facebook, a quote really, by Heather Morgan, a life coach and nutritionist. It says, “Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.”


This one really caught my attention. Deep down. Not just a passing thought. We’ve had a few health crises around here over the past few years. As many of you know, my husband’s colon exploded nearly three years ago, putting him into ICU for three weeks. His reconnection surgery didn’t take so he was back in the hospital two years ago for another extended stay.  Fortunately, last May he was able to be put back together again and is doing well. 


While we were going through all this, my son-in-law was diagnosed with testicular cancer, my mother went into the hospital, first with blood clots in her legs, and more lately with blood clots in her lungs.


Now, I know that not all of this is a direct link to what we eat. My mom has a genetic disorder that pre-disposes her to blood clots, for example. But the fact that she started just sitting around and not getting up and exercising made that propensity a reality.


My husband’s colon had some physical problems, and we will never know how much of that came from poor food choices over the years. Eating better could have save him that ER and ICU visit, however.


And cancer? It just sucks the big one.  There still seems to be a lot of debate about the correlation between food and cancer, but I will say that the better shape you are in, the better your body will be able to tolerate the cancer treatments.


This thought is haunting me a little. Not in a bad way. I’ve written a lot on here about choice, about will, about taking charge. Since reading that quote, every time I start to cook or eat something I stop and take a second thought. I do not just make something because it is simple after a long and stressful day. I use my yi : Will this meal feed disease? Will it nurture the dark side? Or will it help me fight off any potential for disease? Will it keep me strong? Will it add to or aid my fitness?


I want to be fit to live my life. I want to be fit to face the future. I want to be fit for me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Nature of Habit



What is it they say? If you can do something for 28 days it becomes a habit and is easier to continue? 

Last year I decided to create a Gratitude Jar.The idea is to write down, every day, something for which you were grateful, fill this jar and have something visual to remind you of all you have to be grateful FOR, and at the end of the year, spill it out and go through it as a memory of how great your year was.


 

Although notoriously bad at journaling, I thought this was a good idea. Every night before bed (so the last thing in my mind was a positive thought) I would scribble something I was grateful for on a snippet of colored paper, and drop it into a quart-sized Mason jar.
I will admit, to my shame, that there were days when the best I could be grateful for was my dogs or having a roof over my head. My problems are definitely first-world problems and feeling like there just wasn’t much to be grateful for without straining made me feel guilty and bad. At that point I expanded the scope of the jar and decided to include good things that happened that day: positive things that happened, which is always something to be grateful for in the end.

THAT worked! And my jar filled. And filled. And filled. I ended up with smaller and smaller pieces of paper and ended up shoving the slips in, but there they are. I only missed a few days out of the entire year, and I have to admit I feel pretty good about that.
I have yet to turn last year’s jar out and go through the slips. I know that was supposed to be part of the project, but for me, keeping tabs of my days, well, keeping tabs on the BEST bits of my days was what became the important part of the exercise. 

Then came 2014 and a decision. I hadn’t emptied the jar on 31 December. Did I want to just keep cramming paper into that same jar? Start a new jar? Put those 2013 pieces of paper somewhere and then use the now empty jar? Or did I want to give up the practice? Make it a one-year thing?

The entire month of January passed with me faithfully scribbling on little slips of paper and dropping them into the pen-holder on my bed table while I tried to make a decision. 

The truth is, I had trouble dropping into bed without taking that moment to reflect and find something good out of my day. Even one of the WORST days I’d had in a long time, when I was feeling pitiful and angry at bedtime, I was able to find something for which I was grateful, something which had made me happy. And if I DID lie down and pull up the covers without filling out a slip? I felt edgy and had to sit back up and do it. 

But the slip of paper thing was bumming me out. I’m not sure why, but maybe because I knew when it DID come time to look through 2013, I’d have to dig and sort and shuffle to go from January to December. So for 2014 I’ve decided to move this newish habit into something I thought I wasn’t good at : Journaling. 

I bought a little journal. Just a little one. I don’t PLAN on writing more than the snippets I did for 2013. But on a very good day (and this is still a gratitude/good thing journal) on a VERY GOOD day, I may write a little more, and a new habit may be born. 



I’ll let you know in 28 days.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Humanity



       It was a secret. We had just discovered the truth. A baby. We were going to have a baby.
       Back in the old days, (old days: a mere 35 years!) There were no home-pregnancy tests, and to discover the truth you had to wait until you were two weeks beyond your missed period before going to your doctor. Then you waited for a call because the test itself, even at the doctor’s office, took a good two hours for results, and often it was inconclusive and you had to go back to the doctor and start the process again. So in those days you were lucky to know for absolute fact that you were pregnant before being eight weeks along. We had just hit that mark, and had told no one.
Al’s sister, Martha was down from Ithica, N.Y., visiting a friend for Russian Christmas in Lake Orion, Michigan and invited us to the party. Al and Martha were close, yet not close, as so many siblings are, but we knew she would be the first to hear our news.
       The log cabin sparkled through the snow with lights and conviviality. There was laughter and talking, and there may have even been music, but I don’t remember that now.
       Being somewhat introverted, I sat a bit apart and watched. I was twenty, but young with it. That was really the first party I had attended as an adult. So I sat and watched and thought about the life within me.
       On the sofa facing mine sat two young mothers, their babies asleep beside them. One in a stroller, one in one of those Moses baskets I desperately wanted.
       One mother tapped her friend on the knee and pointed upstairs to the bathroom. Her friend nodded and watched her go to stake out her place in line. In the way of babies everywhere, as soon as Momma was gone, she started fussing. The friend who stayed moved to sit between her baby and her friend’s and rocked the Moses basket, making shushing noises, but it soon became apparent that this baby wasn’t going to settle so easily.
       The friend picked up the baby and began to sway and hum, but the baby began to fuss more, and to pull at the woman’s shirt. Without a thought, without a look around, the woman put her friend’s baby to her breast.
       In that moment the world tilted a little, and I became a mother. Or maybe I should say I became one of the collective.
Of course I knew that all people were one. I was fortunate in having a mother who believed in equality for everyone; I was fortunate in having two gay ‘uncles’ whom I loved, and in having grown up in Southern California in the 1970s, where I had friends of many races and backgrounds.
       I do understand anger, and I do understand resentment, and hatred and I know how awful the world can be, and that that the world is bigger than a group of people at a party.
But it was at that moment, sitting at a party among strangers, hugging to myself the knowledge of the life growing inside me, as a young, black mother put her friend’s white baby to her breast, that I felt that core-deep connection to humanity that bonded me to mankind for all time.      
We are one.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Welcome 2014


This blog was meant to be a tribute to John Denver and all he means to me on what would have been his 70th birthday, but it turned into something else, so I've had to come back and look at this again. To be sure, I made a note that his songs, his singing, his voice gave me my life back, and in many ways what else is there to say?


I found it impossible, when I first sat down to write this, to move my fingers. For someone who has been able to shape words to her bidding, I find that words fail to hold form when I try to express how much this one person has meant to me.


The grief of losing this voice that kept me afloat when all I wanted to do was sink is so deeply hard-wired into my soul, that sometimes it overwhelms me, even sixteen years later. 

To say John Denver saved my life is an understatement, but it is the truth, and the thing is, I meet people over and over with a similar story. 

Like many others, John Denver helped pull me out of a morass, and put me on a path to living a good and honest life, where helping others and the environment is part of that life. The times I have deviated from that path have proven disastrous for me, but because of that clarity of voice, I continually find my way back. He is my touchstone. 

Sometimes I think I need to be reminded that while it was a tragedy to lose him so soon, the miracle is that we had his voice at all.



John Denver, you are loved still. Your message is as true as ever. You are missed. Thank you.