Spring Training (and a book update)

In August I told you about my latest (and necessary) health goal: to clean up my diet for better liver function. So far so good. The scale has been kind and I can fit into jeans I haven’t worn in five years. Go me and all that, but the real success will be determined in February when I have my next blood draw. If my cholesterol numbers have improved, all the white bread, brie, and ice cream I’m not eating will have been worth it. If they haven’t improved, put me on a statin. You’ll find me in line at an Italian buffet.

Here’s a confession: I’m not committed to healthy eating just for the sake of healthy eating. My numbers scared me into it. I cleaned up my diet in order to help prevent heart and/or liver disease. (My father had two heart attacks when he was my age.) Say what you want about that attitude of necessity over lifestyle, criticize if you must, but I won’t deny – like I did back in my 40s – that I love and miss awesome awful-for-you food (and yes, some foods are truly hard on the body, sorry/not sorry). Admitting that makes it real and real I can deal with. Denying that shit just gotten me in all kinds of trouble the last several years.

Speaking of five years, that’s how long it’s been since I’ve ridden a bike. Some of you might remember that I used to write a lot about biking. It has its own category here on my blog and it also has its own chapter in my forthcoming book*.

I started biking in 2007 when my then-husband bought me a bike after I reached my weight-loss goal. My bike became my friend and therapist, and together we rode a lot of miles and worked through a lot of personal issues. Sadly, it burned in a fire in early 2014 and I didn’t ride again until I bought a used Schwinn in the summer 2015, and then I only rode a few times. Grad school, menopause, lack of energy and ambition, depression…whatever it was, I haven’t ridden since then.

Now, with renewed energy, both physically and emotionally, I am “training” to ride again in spring 2021. I bought a used bike trainer and I alternate riding the bike and my stationary bike several times a week. I’m not killing myself in ninety-minute, body wrecking workouts like I used to, and I’m no longer ignoring painful body parts for the sake of the “burn.” I’m choosing to live the George Carlin way: “No pain? No pain,” and training my muscles and my mind to once again enjoy the bike trails that brought me so much peace through so much crap. (Not that I anticipate needing to work through the same crap again, god forbid.)

What I notice with this more laid back attitude and routine is that I don’t dread working out and I don’t have to force myself to ride for any amount of time. If I wake up one day and don’t feel like it, I don’t do it. But what usually happens is that later in the day, I do feel like it and the ride is a joy, even though I never leave the garage!

I’m not excited about winter, and I won’t lie that a Dilly Bar sounds really good at least once a week, but knowing I’ll be in shape to hit the trail as soon as the snow is gone will make the cold, snow, and Dilly Bar cravings tolerable.

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* The book! I keep forgetting to mention the book, which is a revised and updated collection of my columns and blogs from the last twenty years. The working title (although my publisher hasn’t come up with a better one, so I think we’re sticking with this one) is Weight-Loss Dropout and Other True Stories from the Zen Bag Lady. A mouthful, but small type will get it all on the cover. Anyway, it will – fingers crossed – be out in December.

Judgy McJudger Chooses the Carrot over the Whip

“We cannot judge ourselves into improvement. It doesn’t work.” Tara Brach

Yesterday, I did something I don’t usually do, mostly because I forget it’s the better, kinder thing. I made a pact with myself that if I vacuumed the house, made the bed, and cleaned the toilet, that I would reward myself by starting a new book (Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner).

Normally I say to myself, “Get off your lazy ass and get your chores done!” But I’m tired of being mean to myself, or rather, I’m tired of judgement being my go-to threat when I want to accomplish something. I would certainly never say that to a friend!

Judging is so…shallow and lazy. No real thought goes into judging. Over and over I know this is true because after all these years as a mom, grandma, partner, employer, and employee, I know that I get a lot more cooperation when I dangle a carrot instead of a whip.

So why doesn’t that rule automatically apply to me? Especially now. You’d think I would defer to a more kind approach since I’m only one month post-hip replacement surgery. I’m definitely on the mend, and yet my first thoughts on my recovery are usually more negative than positive. For instance, I can’t walk too far or too fast. I am still on a 90-degree restriction, meaning I can’t bend over very far or shave my legs past my knees. I can’t sit in a chair or in a car for longer than an hour without pain around the incision.

But what I can do is: Walk without a cane most days, and with zero hip joint pain. I wouldn’t be able to outrun a bear if it crossed my yard (which they do sometimes), but I couldn’t before either, so there you go. I have a grabber if I drop something, and I’ve mastered the golf ball pick-up move.

golf_ball_pick-up
Obviously, that is NOT me.

I can drive myself to physical therapy and to the grocery store to pick up my online grocery order. And for a week I’ve been riding the recumbent bike at home and at physical therapy for 10 minutes at a time, which is 10 minutes longer than I have the last 18 months.

Rather than buck, kick, and wish things were different or would hurry up and heal already, I decided yesterday that, since I have to put my feet up during the day anyway, I would use that to my advantage and reward my accomplishments. Also, I never thought I’d miss vacuuming or cleaning the toilet, but it felt really good to be self-sufficient again and contribute to the household chores. A positive reward in and of itself! Jim still has to do the laundry since the washer and dryer are in the basement and the stairs are uneven, but I admit that’s one chore I’m not anxious to resume, and I positively embrace that point of view!

Judging is a hard habit to break, but I’m consciously trying to be on Team Lynn and to see the half-full glass.

What about you? As I asked on my Zen Bag Lady Facebook page, do you reward yourself for completing ordinary tasks? Please leave a comment here or join us on FB!

 

 

 

There Is Always an Otherwise

It’s early afternoon, and I write this propped up in my bed, listening to it rain…again…with my little dog Zuzu curled up at my side. Next to her is my tablet, in case I want to read or watch a show; my latest journal, which has some angry entries of late; my phone; and the strap I use to stretch my leg muscles, IT band, and hip flexors.

When I started writing this, I was reminded of a poem I saved from a teaching demonstration I gave in a grad class once, and I want to share it with you. It will help explain the rest of this post.

WHEN I COULD WALK

By Katherine M. Clarke

 After Edward Hirsch, “The Sweetness”

The times my failing body and I could walk 
come back to me now: strolls by the Charles River, 
ambles through Harvard Square…

Magnolias waved and buskers’ antics
delighted our summer nights, companions 
as we roamed and wandered.

Remember the bags of groceries muscled
from porch, to countertop, to cupboards? 
We made a dinner, we made a life.

Wasn’t that us sliding into a bath, slipping 
into fresh sheets, moving as we wanted, 
with whom we wanted, when we wanted?

They come back to me now, dear body of mine, 
the times when I could walk and loved you more.

I got about 90 minutes of sleep last night. Thanks to Dr. Google, at about 2 a.m. I learned I probably have a pinched nerve in my left hip. Twelve hours later, I fear sciatica has set in as well.

Surely we all know someone (yourself, perhaps) who suffers from no-turning-back physical pain or deficiency; the kind that will be around – in some form or other – the rest of their/our days. It is with all of us in mind that I write with empathy, sympathy, and – even – joy (or at the very least, acknowledgment) that we’re still breathing, one breath at a time.

When I turned 55 ten months ago, I was super OK with it, unlike when I turned 30, which I realize now, my response was ridiculous. I should have celebrated instead of getting drunk and getting a half-assed, unfinished tattoo of a dolphin because it reminded me of my high school boyfriend, who got a dolphin tattoo when he was in the Navy. What? But 30-year-old me, and most likely 30-year-old you, couldn’t possibly (thank god) know what life would be like at 55, and so we went with whatever flow was going on in our brains at the time, and my flow was having a bit of a meltdown. So be it.

These days, I’m less concerned with filling in that tattoo as I am putting my Humpty Dumpty body into some reasonable semblance of reliability. Last night, as waves of nerve pain snaked through my hip at 3- to 5-minute intervals, keeping me awake, I shifted from anxiety (thank you Ativan), to denial, to meditation. I concentrated on my breathing and told my thoughts that I’d think them later. For the most part that alleviated my fear, which was what dominated my monkey night mind. Can any of us claim to be rational in the middle of the night?

One of the more difficult things about grad school wasn’t the sometimes obscure reading, research, or writing papers. It was getting around campus on two bad knees, a bum hip, and a back in need of titanium rods and screws. Now, a year after graduating, and countless attempts at physical therapy, yoga, and trying to be “normal,” my body has slipped away from my control. A cane completes the leg that limps, 50 percent what it used to be. I sometimes let myself wish for my 48-year-old body. (I don’t think I’d know what to do with my 30-year-old body again!) When I was 48, I knew I wasn’t invincible. I sensed that my body and I were on the cusp of the inevitable, but still we had our adventures. I took advantage of my body because I knew it wouldn’t last long.

Last night, I wrote in my journal: “Do I want to live to 100? Meh…no. I’m OK dying ‘young’ish – sooner if pain will be constantly in the picture.” That neither alarmed or surprised me. I assure you I’m not suicidal. But the older I get, the more willing I am to face my fears. I don’t have to like them, and I don’t like how my body has betrayed me, but I want to live with them, live in this body, with as much peace as I can.

And so, from this perch on my bed, with my dog still beside me, I share another poem, one of my favorites, by Jane Kenyon, called “Otherwise.” In all of our lives, there is always an otherwise.

Otherwise

By Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise. I ate

cereal, sweet

milk, ripe, flawless

peach. It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

At noon I lay down

with my mate. It might

have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together

at a table with silver

candlesticks. It might

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.