Use It Or Lose It

My cross-trainer that hasn’t been used in way to long.

As the years pass I’ve continued to say, “I don’t want to be a ‘rockin’ chair granny.’” But it appears that unless I get my ass in gear, that’s exactly what I’m going to be.

Over the last year, I have used every possible excuse to slowly let my exercise routine go by the wayside. It began to happen over a year ago when my FitBit died. I had been walking well over 10,000 steps a day but not enjoying it. I was dizzy and exhausted after my treks, and developed aches and pains. It was suggested that I was overdoing it. So when the slave-driver I wore constantly on my wrist quit, I decided to just bury it. Besides I was in the thick of writing my book, and time to sit in front of my computer being creative was at a premium.

Last year, when the going got really tough and I was in the midst of beginning to market my upcoming memoir, my then four to five 30 minute walks a week turned to two or maybe three. I continued to go to my yoga class and worked weekly with my pilates coach. All of that seemed to be enough. But I was still tired most of the time. And frankly it was just easier to sit at my desk and do what I had to do. I was constantly behind and stressed by that.

After my book launch in September, I crashed and spent most of my time resting and beginning to find my way back to a more relaxed life. Sitting and doing the daily crossword puzzle, reading, or napping took a lot of my time. When I did go for a walk the aches and pains returned. I knew that I needed to get back into taking short walks on a daily basis, but my lack of energy told me that yoga and pilates were enough. I started getting stiffer and stiffer. And I got depressed.

Then January came. A new year. Time to get into gear again. I promised myself I would take at least 30 minutes a day to stretch and begin walking for short periods of time. I didn’t keep my promise and my sad self gotten even sadder. As the last week in January approached I got angry with myself. I beat myself up and made promises every day that tomorrow would be the day I’d start taking care of myself again.

One morning I was so sick of myself that I went for a neighborhood walk and was out for thirty minutes. I loved it and felt so good afterwards. The next day I was out for a little longer and the next day and the next. My depression was going away. But suddenly the knee that I’d been favoring for months got swollen and I was in tremendous pain. Yikes! What had I done?

I hadn’t started out slowly. I was pushing myself too hard. I am an overachiever, if you haven’t noticed. And I wasn’t stretching enough. My muscles weren’t happy and I was creating my own disaster. I visited my doctor, and I’ll start seeing a physical therapist to begin the work of getting back in shape. I need to be sensible and careful as I return to healthy activity levels. It is possible to do that, but it takes more than a promise. It takes not being lazy and simply doing some work everyday.

Here is as interesting article I found in the Washington Post, last week that has inspired me to get rid of the occasional thought that maybe I’m just getting too old to exercise.

Do you have a regular exercise routine that you stick with? Have you ever taken time off from it and found yourself stiff, with aches and pains? And even depressed?

The Work Of Living

Scattering My Mother's Ashes, October 2012. oakdale, New York

Scattering My Mother’s Ashes, October 2012. Oakdale, New York

Every so often I’m called to get back to work on myself. Old issues, that I thought I was done with, come popping back up. I find myself feeling lost, or that a piece of me is missing. Over the last couple of months that’s how I’ve been feeling. My book, Scattering Ashes, A Memoir of Letting Go, was finished and published in September. The writing and publishing had taken three years. But in reality I had been working on it, since 2001, when my mother came to live with my husband and me. It was a fifteen year odyssey of learning about myself, life lessons, and finding a way to continue moving forward.

Holding the finished book in my hands, doing a reading and book-signing here in Charlottesville, on September 20th, was the joyous finale of those long years of contemplating a particularly difficult time in my life, writing, rewriting, sharing it with others, and rewriting it all over again.

The morning after the reading, I drove to a local radio station at 7:45 AM, where I did a live interview about the book. I went home and crashed. I was exhausted and was ready for some time off. I didn’t want to think or talk about the book or my mother. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was no longer myself. I had become the book that I had spent all those years getting out into the world.

I spent hours examining that idea as if it were a a Zen Koan. “Does the dog wag the tail, or does the tail wag the dog?” It lasted a week or so until I got myself back. I wasn’t the book and I could now go on with the rest of my life. I began looking for a new pathway.

The election happened and then the holidays came along. I was distraught over the results of the election and then Christmas arrived. Not my favorite time of year. Although I was with people and busy day and night, I was depressed and lonely. I snapped at Bill when he said something that I deemed silly, and discovered I was back in an old pattern of not thinking much of myself. While other sister-authors I knew were moving ahead with marketing and promoting of their just published books, I was lagging behind, and feeling ashamed of myself for not having the energy or the desire to move in that direction.

I took time off from writing and started taking care of myself. The book would have to move along on it’s own. I read. I cooked. I slept. I took walks. I cried. I realized that Bill and I were entering what very well could be the last chapter of our lives. My aches and pains were multiplying and watching my sweet husband struggle with healing from two surgeries in one year made me sad.

Deciding to take advantage of whatever time I had left ahead of me, I came to the conclusion that it was time to celebrate us … Two old farts still full of piss and vinegar, who don’t want to waste time on unimportant things. I still have my brain. Although I can’t run a marathon or plan on skiing down an expert mountain slope, there are still things I can do to make my final years fun, important, and interesting while accepting that we will be slowing down and eventually moving on. Finding a way out of the muck of the last few months and making peace with myself seems like a good start.

Last Saturday, I went to an Insight Dialogue Meditation retreat taught by one of my favorite teachers and began finding my way back to myself. For those who don’t know about Insight Dialogue, it is learning to be aware of our own feelings, both physical and emotional, while speaking and listening to another person. One of the first things we learn is to pause, take our time when we speak, and become a better listener while being aware of our own feelings. The theme of the day was Living Peace, and as the outside world spun around me, I found Peace, at least for the moment. In early April I hope to attend a 5 day Insight Dialogue retreat, “Working with Difficult Emotions.”

Hopefully Bill and will also begin making some future travel plans and find ways to make life with our aging bodies more easeful.

Do you find yourself moving backwards at times? What do you do to begin moving yourself forward again?

Starting Over

Frog Yogi looks after me in my studio.

Frog Yogi looks after me in my studio.

I rarely get as much exercise in the summer as I do in the winter. This summer was no exception. WhenVirginia dog days set in and the temperatures and humidity rise, I get lazy. And even though I have a vintage cross-trainer in my studio along with air conditioning, I regularly avoid movement as much as possible. Of course, it could have something to do with aging, but still the longer I go without taking a good long walk or spend at least 30 minutes on my machine and another 30 minutes stretching, the more my body aches. My joints continue to stiffen as I promise that tomorrow I will get on the cross-trainer. But even crossing my heart and hoping to die, doesn’t change a thing. Even doing it once or twice a week during a heat wave, and feeling better for it, doesn’t change my attitude. I keep telling myself that I’ll do it tomorrow along with the million and half other things I’ve been promising to do. Hah! Sure!

I walk Sam and Max early every morning before I have breakfast and though it isn’t more than a ten or fifteen minute walk around the block with stops at every interesting smelling shrub, it helps me wake up. Later if I walk by myself and get some speed going or get on that gadget that takes up too much room in my studio, I do feel great. And for those like me who hold tension and anxiety in their bodies, movement helps me relax. I think of walking as my morning meditation. There is nothing but me moving. If I get sidetracked I simply go back to my breath and the one-two-three pattern of walking that helps to keep me physically balanced.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been kicking myself in the butt most days because I haven’t been keeping my promises to myself. I still do Pilates on Monday afternoon and Yoga on Friday morning, but the solo, out-of-breath work went down the tubes.

When the Olympics started two weeks ago, I was delighted spending my evenings being inspired by all of the athletes. I was especially moved by those who didn’t win, knew they wouldn’t, but did it anyway. Just like them, in my dreams I flew through the air,  twisted around, and landed perfectly upright on my feet.  I swam fast,  as though a shark was after me,  and dove into the pool, as gracefully as a any diving bird. I thought about all of the work it took to train and the passion one must have in order to participate in such an event.

My inner critic piped up every now and then to say, “Hey what’s wrong with you? You’re just a rotten couch potato.” Then pointing her finger at me, she’d say, “Well you are getting old. It’s time to quit that exercise stuff. It’s a waste of time. I’m sure that rocking chair in the window down at the furniture store is looking pretty good to you, huh?”

All I need is a challenge. So I’ve started over. It’s still mighty hot. The air is hazy and humid. But I’ve worked out on my cross trainer every day this past week. Yesterday a cold front came through. The morning was deliciously cool. I took  a good long walk in the morning chill and finished the day with my Pilates session.  No more excuses like I don’t have time, so I’ll do it tomorrow. I don’t need or want a medal. All I want and need is for my mind and body to feel good and the time to take care of myself. I suppose there may come a day when I can no longer walk, so as long as I can, I will.

Life is all about starting over again. Each morning we wake up to a new day and have an opportunity to keep the promises we made to ourselves. There will be days when we really don’t have time to do what we said we would do. There will be days when good or bad things happen and it just isn’t possible to cross things off our to-do lists. The point is that every moment, every hour, every day, we have the chance to  start over.

My use of sugar has been rising and as a sugar addict, I’m only hurting myself and possibly bringing on something that will cause other problems. So that will be my next restart. No more kicking myself in the butt.  I may slip once in a while but I will keep in mind I can start over again at any time!

What are you starting over?

Look for me tomorrow over at Dorothy Sander’s Voices of Wisdom series.

On Friday you will find me over at The Care Giver Space, where they are featuring an excerpt from my memoir, SCATTERING ASHES,
A Memoir of Letting Go.

51 Years And Counting

IMG_0386 (1) This past Sunday Bill and I celebrated our 51st year of marriage … “for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.” It’s the bit about “till death do us part,” that makes each year we have together more precious than the last. In November I will turn seventy-four and three days later, Bill will turn seventy-seven. We’re still young, but these days we give much thought to aging as we discover we can’t do all of things we used to. Getting up off the floor after yoga class isn’t graceful anymore. Bill’s knee replacement in January was successful but it still doesn’t work the way the old one did before it gave out. And now a shoulder is giving him trouble.

Over the past few years we’ve noticed that friends have become incapacitated with body parts that no longer work. Terminal illnesses take others. So far we have been blessed, marching on together on our own chosen paths, yet watching each other carefully for any missteps. We do our best to live and celebrate each other and every moment we have together.

I used to complain and wish time away. It was either too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too sunny. I wasn’t happy with what the way things were going. My most used phrases were, “If only ______,” and  “When ______ , then I’ll _____.” Now I want it to stop time from moving so quickly.

We have entered the autumn years of our lives and it’s time to slow down, rather than rush around, like thirty-year-olds with under-the-gun missions to accomplish. We still have many thing we want to do and lots goals to reach for, but it’s a relief to live without that kind of pressure. Being of “a certain age” is wonderful in that we can use the difficult lessons we learned as youngsters, and see more clearly with our inner eyes and hearts. We appreciate the abundance of love and peace that we immerse ourselves in, and do our best to live one moment at a time.

Happy Anniversary to us and all of you who are still in our lives
and continue to join us on this huge, mysterious adventure!

Christmas Past

Saks-#2The images in this post were taken at Saks Fifth Avenue, way back in December of 2007, when Bill and I were visiting the city to see some good theatre, movies, and eat mouth-watering food.  These days the city is way too crowded for me to be comfortable at this time of year, so we’re staying here at home reliving trips from the past.  Besides, Bill will be having knee replacement surgery on January 4th.  He’s in a lot of pain, so traveling, especially to the Big Apple is out. I can tell you he’s already salivating over a few shows that will be there in the spring. I have a feeling that once the surgery is over and the pain subsides a bit, he’ll have show tickets ordered and train tickets in hand.

Today I found myself remembering one of my favorite early TV shows that we watched on Sunday nights way, way back in the ’50s, called, I Remember Mama. It was a drama-comedy about an immigrant Norwegian family living in San Francisco during the 1910s. Peggy Wood, played Mama, and Judson Laire, played Papa.  I was smitten with the family and their lives as told through the eyes of their grown daughter. They were the family I longed for; loving, supportive, and extremely kind … unlike my own very dysfunctional family.

The program ran from 1949 to 1954. Since we were the last people on the block to get a TV, I missed many of the early episodes.  But my favorite episode of all time, was the Christmas show, set out in the barn around a manger.  A cow, horse, and sheep tell the story of Christ’s birth from their animal points of view, while the human family listens in on the other side of the door. So sweet. So simple. So life affirming. And for me the perfect Christmas story.

I turned seventy-three last month and find myself enjoying precious moments from the past. I thinkSaks-#4 this remembering is one of the things that makes aging such a special time of life.  As I look back at what once was, I take solace in the way things were and am grateful that I had the opportunity to live a much more simple life when I was a kid.  There were no huge displays of holiday lights, no Black Friday sales. No robots. No cell phones. No standing in line to get a bargain on Thanksgiving night. Gifts were simple and came from the heart.  A handmade doll, a stocking filled with walnuts, oranges, a pair of hand-knit socks or mittens. I went caroling with friends in the our neighborhood.  It is that spirit that I wish to surround myself with during the holidays.

Do you have precious Christmas moments from the past?