I first met Wendy when we were both getting our masters degrees in creative writing. She is an exquisite, sensitive and wonderful writer. We were in a writing group together for over a decade. She is a beautiful soul.
Wendy has written poetry, creative nonfiction and blogged about her experience as caregiver for her elderly mother, and as a survivor of infant surgery, from way back in the day when babies who were operated on had no anesthesia and little comfort. It is an experience that can ripple out for a lifetime.
She has recently been sharing her experiences in wider and wider circles – in the medical humanities field, and with individuals, survivors, health professionals and family members of those who have not only had surgery as infants, but who have had other types of trauma. She is a true healer, a generous spirit in every sense of the word. I have been so fortunate to have known her. Last year, at my Stories of the Body retreat, she helped people tell their body’s stories through simple drawing. Soon she will be launching a service where she will be offering guidance to others.
This morning I attended the “winter season” kickoff for Team in Training. It was a festive event with hundreds of people who are all training for upcoming endurance events. When I scanned the room, at first I felt reassured because I saw people of all Ages and Sizes. But then I realized that the vast majority of people who were my age (or older) or my size (or larger) were pretty much concentrated on the Walk or Hike Teams. When I made my way over to the Triathlon area, I saw a bunch of fit young people, many of whom were young enough to be my children. Big swallow.
That was one of the first “OMG” moments. The second one came when we went to our individual Tri room and they passed out the training calendars. I had been under the impression that the real training began next weekend, but no….. it starts TOMORROW. Swimming and running both! TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I spent a good part of the afternoon at Sports Basement, for which I had a 20% discount coupon (which ended up really really helping). New running shoes (mine are a good 3 years old and pretty beat up), padded bike shorts, optical goggles so I don’t end up swimming through the Golden Gate, and a new swimsuit. They told us to try on our swimsuits, lean forward in front of a mirror and make sure nothing “falls out.” (LOL)
Looking in the mirror in the store, I thought, “I feel like a Before.” I wonder what these next four months hold in store for me. I wonder what After will feel like.
Starting tomorrow, I will be working out six days a week. (I think this counts as “doing something,” right, Kris?) I am both ready and ready. Terrified and excited. Confident and insecure. Feeling completely crazy. I just got a text from one of my carpool buddies. I am to be at her house at 7:10.
I used to hate it when people used that phrase because it’s used to imply something that is easy, something that you never forget and can always pick up on at a later point in life. I’d mutter to myself under my breath, “Easy for YOU to say.” Because for me, “riding a bike” was fraught with anxiety.
When I decided to sign up for this triathlon, I knew it was going to be as much (or more) a psychological challenge as a physical one. (although that isn’t anything to sneeze at, either!) I feel like I pretty much can deal with the running. Last week, I got into a swimming pool for the first time in 17 years and.. I didn’t drown! I didn’t exactly meet the goal of 200 yards with only a 10second rest (starting recommendation for the Olympic distance triathlon) but I did the whole thing freestyle, and I know if I’d mixed it up with some other strokes it would have been OK. So I checked that off the list.
Last weekend Mr McBody went to pick up Junior’s bike from the house she’d left it at. I totally hemmed and hawed all week, even when he asked me if I wanted to take it on a little spin around our cul-de-sac. NO thank you. Honestly, I was terrified. But today I told myself, I’d give it a try.
First I woke up late. Then I did a pile of paperwork, paid bills, and organized an entire purse and deskful of receipts into a neat little accordian file with sticky tabs. That took me pretty much half the day. Then I had to have lunch. And a cup of coffee. And fret about my clothing. Mister McBody was laughing at me. “What’s the problem?” I was wearing long leggings. “But what if it’s hot?” “Then wear shorts.” “But I need something to protect me.” “Protect you from what?” “From the BIKE!” I was envisioning my legs getting caught in gears and chains and having half my calf skin torn clear off. Finally, I went outside and it was indeed hot so I put on a pair of shorts.
He put air in the tires and applied some greasy goo stuff to the chain. I went into the house to go to the bathroom and procrastinate in any other way I could think of.
Finally we loaded up the bikes and drove down to the Estuary Trail, which is a lovely path I’ve often run on. It goes along the water and a bird sanctuary and ends up near the Oakland airport. It is utterly flat with just a couple curves here and there and best of all, no traffic. It was the perfect spot for a first (in many years) ride. How many years? Well Juniorette is 17 years old and she swears she has NEVER seen me on a bike in her whole life. She denies any memory of such a thing. I told her I’d ridden along the Truckee River at Tahoe, and she said she didn’t believe it. So it’s been a lot of years.
I was tense. To say the least.
Finally it was the moment of truth. We fiddled with the seat and then I got on and… at first my hands were gripping those handlebars so tight I thought the skin was going to shear off my knuckles. But after a minute or two I realized I wasn’t totally struggling to stay upright. I skidded to a stop and jumped off at the sign of any turning, but eventually I got the hang of that too. We took off down the trail and it was pretty good for about five minutes. Then my pocket started ringing. I realized it was Junior, calling me from her day off. She is off being a counselor at circus camp where they have NO EMAIL, NO TEXTING and NO CELL PHONE reception so we’ve been completely incomunicado from her. So when I got this call I knew that she was on her day off and was once again in cell range. I HAD to answer it.
We ended up standing there in the trail for a good half hour, talking with our offspring. (Good thing I chose Mr. McBody for my first riding partner and not anyone else, because nobody else would’ve put up with that!) We had a very good talk in which she pondered her many life paths ahead of her, and by the time we got going again I had almost forgotten I was terrified.
We rode for a total of 10K or 6.2 miles. ME! Wow!!!!! Now, granted, this ride involved no hills or traffic or cars, BUT the fact that I survived it without having a complete physical or mental breakdown was a huge reason to celebrate. I was so relieved! SO RELIEVED.
On the way home we discussed our dinner plans. I really didn’t want to go out. But I also didn’t really feel like cooking. But I wanted to celebrate. What to do? Then I remembered Danica talking about Foodgawker yesterday and I remembered how I love that site and that I’d just added the iPhone app. I opened it up and it jumped out at me: MUSSELS! We love mussels but we’ve never made them at home. We veered off to stop at Market Hall which is a collection of tiny special food shops including seafood, produce, cheese… yum.
They had mussels. Yay! And they weren’t expensive! Then I saw these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and I thought, “Caprese salad!” Mister M picked up some Prosecco and other wine, and some mozzarella di Bufala, and we were set.
This morning I was mulling over my Chinese food overload from last night and I saw our dog going through her usual bizarre dog-food ritual. She will approach her bowl, do a weird little backward dance, rear up on her back legs, then stealthily approach the dish AGAIN, take a small mouthful of food, back up quickly, drop the food on the ground and then eat it with her little ears flattened to her head. Every single bite happens this way.
We often laugh at her because it is truly amusing to watch. But we’ve analyzed WHY she does this every time she eats: it’s because she came from a place where there were twelve other dogs, and this was her mode of survival. She would have to jump up and down in order to SEE the bowl in the sea of other dogs. Then carefully plan her approach, sneak right in there at the right moment, then grab the food and back up to take it to a safe place to chew and swallow. She couldn’t just stand there, leisurely-like, and munch away.
We brought her home when she was 9 months old. She’s almost eight YEARS old now and still she does this. She hasn’t figured out that she is the only dog in the house and she does not NEED to do this. There’s no amount of reassuring that can break her of this ritual.
But it made me think of my own “rituals” and the things I do that began long, long ago. I know they don’t serve me. Did they ever? Many people have wondered why we eat to soothe our emotions even when we know we’ll feel worse in the long run. Because at one time, it DID work (or so we believed). Food actually does work as an anesthetic and can mute feelings that are too upsetting or just too MUCH. I think last night I had just reached the end of my proverbial rope. After worrying and caring for mom all week I had to go in and go to work for a longer day than I’d planned. I was exhausted, the worst seemed to have passed, and I just let it down.
Last night I got a good long night’s sleep. Today I am going for a nice long walk. I’m going to be gentle with myself, and learn once again what it means to take care of one’s self.
I’m really happy to introduce my blog friends to Paolo, who is one of the youngest and most energetic members of my solo performance community. His show is amazing, and in many ways strangely echoes my own, even though I’m like old enough to be his grandma (okay, maybe his mama). He’s also a fitness blogger and I am excited for you all to get to know him. Take it away, Paolo!!
June 2009: 220 lbs
I’m slightly obsessed with time travel mechanics, and recently I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to do if I had access to a time displacement machine. I’d go back ten years to when I was a freshman in high school. Specifically, high school boys PE class.
On good days we’d have open gym (which was code word for talking about DSL connection speeds in the weight room with the other nerdy kids). On bad days we had organized sports (sometimes with the girls PE class – score?). But before that knowing what we’d be doing for the day, we’d run the mile. And by mile, we were running around the block four times. I used to huff, puff, wheeze and sing Sex Pistols songs while trying to survive the mile. To which I was usually assailed with snide remarks about my lack of fitness.
So back to that time displacement machine. Upon reaching the desired temporal destination of ten years ago I would confront of smug a-holes with, “HEY! THIS IS PAOLO FROM TEN YEARS IN THE FUTURE AND YOU’D BETTER KNOW THAT A DECADE FROM NOW I’LL BE ABLE TO RUN A MILE AND WILL HAVE THE EQUALIVANT OR GREATER FITNESS OF AN AVERAGE HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN. Also, all of you will die in a tragic bear raping incident in a rock quarry in 2008.”
Needless to say, I can run a mile just okay now. I never was the ‘fit’ kid growing up, and after working for a year (consistently, I might add) at this losing weight business (and keeping it off), life recently is feeling like that montage in the first Spiderman where Peter Parker is discovering his powers for the first time. Going up the steps to my therapist’s office and NOT getting winded? Not breaking out in a flop sweat after walking ten minutes to Walgreen’s? Being able to fit in medium sized shirts after years of wearing extra large? Able to run a mile okay without cursing the world? What in the world?
To borrow a quote from The Simpsons:
Skinner: Bart Simpson on the side of law and order? Has the world gone topsy-turvy?
Bart: That’s right, man. I got my first taste of authority…and I liked it.
And this is after all the years of false starts and stops, poring over Men Health’s at Borders, grandiose plans relayed to my family of a sweeping lifestyle reform, that one time I thought I wanted to be a fighter and got kicked in the face, compromises reverting back to bad habits because I could fit into a large shirt and not feel like a stuffed sausage, the one time I ate an entire Popeye’s 24 piece family meal by myself. I would like to add that unemployment is terribly conducive to weight loss.
Maybe as a twenty-three (four in…two weeks [as of this writing]) year old, and as a former fat kid, there is something…I cherish about finally being able to do things now that would have been flights of fancy for me less than a year ago. And not taking it for granted. Which means keeping myself accountable for what I do/eat – although I am not above bacon cheeseburgers with two grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon inside them as buns. Not above at all.
I don’t talk to those kids from my old high school at all, but there’s a tiny part of me that hopes that despite their athletic abilities and state championship game winning basketball shots in high school, that they’re working at a gas station with a belly swollen with fat and unfulfilled dreams. Or, killed in a tragic bear raping incident in a stone quarry. Oh, youthful arrogance.
August 2010: 160 lbs
Paolo Sambrano is a solo performer whose debut full length show, “Bi-Poseur” premieres on September 2 in San Francisco. When he’s not attempting to blog on his ‘performer’ page at PaoloSambrano.com, he’s talking about making bacon cheeseburgers with grilled cheese sandwiches (with bacon inside) as buns or working with kettlebells, at his health/fitness/food Tumblr, I Get Wet. He’s also on Twitter, @paolo.
Today I took my mother to the Farmers Market for the first time. She’s never been with me before. As incredible as this may seem, I normally go to the FM while she is at church. Today is the day of the church picnic, which for some reason she does not enjoy. So she played hooky from church and came to the Farmers Market with me.
It was an interesting experience. I think the open stands and the people giving out food and the crowds and just the sheer experience of it was a little over the top for her. And I think the concept- of farmers bringing their fresh, in-season produce – to neighborhoods, was just not something that she’s ever thought about.
As I’ve been on this “healthy journey,” as we call it, I have had to think a lot about the decades-long habits I first learned when I was growing up. There were a lot of things I look back on now and shake my head. She was doing her best, and doing what many others did at the time. Back in the 70s, when I was young, frozen dinners were seen as this very cool new thing, a convenient, happy thing, and the same with fast food.
My father was a traveling salesman and he was gone 75% of the time, traveling. So when it was both her and me (I was an only child) we subsisted 100% on frozen TV dinners, fast food takeout, or if it was a real special night, teriyaki hotdogs over rice. We’d go through the aisles of the A & P and fill the cart with frozen blocks of food, some her favorites, and some mine. We got to have whatever we wanted.
Every night, she’d offer me the choice between a “vegetable” – usually iceberg lettuce with “Russian dressing” (mayo + ketchup) or a plate of cold tofu with soy sauce on it. Nine times out of ten, I chose the tofu. I think in her mind, tofu = “vegetable” because it was “healthy.” Or something like that. Needless to say I did not ingest many vegetables probably until I went to college. I remember coming home my freshman year and buying alfalfa sprouts and avocados and she was like, Oh you hippy.
Every day after school, she and I would sit down to “Snack” – milk plus cookies or cake or something sweet. (Ding Dongs? Twinkies? Coconut Snowballs?)
That was my life. For her, not much has changed. She still has an ongoing love affair with McDonald’s and gets insulted if anyone insinuates that fast food is in any way bad. Brown rice makes her shudder. Same with whole wheat bread. She will put up with our vegetables and our salads and such, but if given her preference, she would live on chocolate. And salami.
Sometimes I find myself getting annoyed when I see her food choices and I know that I am forever trying to untie the knots that she showed me so long ago, and which still live inside me. Those kinds of foods are the ones that sustained me for almost the first two decades of my life, and where I want to go when I am feeling needy or just, want to GO BACK there. (to a place of mindlessness and just NOT KNOWING how unhealthy it all was)
It was hard not to wince when she beelined to the kettle corn and the chocolate sorbet and the pastries. It’s not what I can do anymore. And as far as her making these choices? Listen. She’s almost 88. She is in good physical condition and who am *I*, her kid, to be telling her what to do? She has made it this far. And for now, food is one of the pleasures enjoys. I’m not going to take them away from her for the sake of her longevity. Maybe I’m an enabler when I buy her chocolate. But she’s 88. She still bowls a 175 every week. She can walk more than two miles. She’s doing so much better than people a decade younger than her.
So today we went to the farmers’ market. She got a bunch of corn. (one of the few vegetables she likes) She smelled the basil and liked that, but wouldn’t know what to do with it. She bought a cheese Danish and had some samples of peaches and bolanis. She said “no thank you” to the free blueberries and sped-walked past the vegetable stands. I thought about where we came from and where I am now. It’s a lot to think about.
It’s a crazy week. I’m so so so excited that Superwoman Spirit Shannon is coming to visit me TOMORRRRRRRRROOOOOWWWWWW! and will be here through my show on Sunday night. Life is a whirl. I don’t have time to blog a fraction of the things going through my head, but I’ve been reading some awesomeness out there this week.
I’d like to bring your attention to two particularly great blogs I read recently.
Dave Kirchhoff, the incredibly amazing CEO of Weight Watchers International, wrote a blog post this week that just knocked me out of the water. Last week he wrote about his “Guilt-o-meter,” and I was like, What Dave? WHAT? WE ain’t peddling guilt at WW! and he just addressed it all in the most honest and thoughtful way. Read it and wow.
Old Me: “I completely screwed up this week, and I’m up five pounds. I am a lowly person. I deserve to be pelted with rocks and garbage. I shall flog myself furiously with a Cat o’ nine tails in the form of a spartan healthy meal regimen. That will show me.” New Me might say: “Well, that wasn’t the smartest way to spend last week. I know I feel better when I’m eating healthily/moderately and exercising lots. Therefore if I will start making those better choices, and I can look forward to feeling great.”
Then, my friend Christine wrote an equally mindblowing post about her relationship with her body. Wow. Just wow. Think about it. What is the relationship with YOUR body? How has it evolved and changed over the years? Think about it. Then maybe write your own.
My body was the cause of psychic pain: in grade school, a very ungifted child at any form of athletics (except hula-hooping, and I’ll get to that later), I was always picked last. When you get picked last time after time, you learn to divorce yourself from the source of that pain, and that pain was my body. There are students who fail in school, and after awhile, they remove any self esteem from academic success.
This is the kind of deep thoughtful work that makes life changes.
…is what my mother (yes, my own mother!) used to call me when I was in junior high and high school. Because I was pretty scared of anything having to do with sports or athletics. It had to do with a combination of stories but one she liked to repeat was when I went on some school-sponsored ski trip, and ended up on an expert slope (which I was SO NOT). I was wearing blue jeans, and I was so terrified I ended up taking off my skies, holding them in my lap and sliding, or scooching down the hill on my butt, leaving a long wiggly blue streak on the snow. Or so the legend goes. My mother loved that story, and loved repeating it, and loved calling me Chicken Ito. Which I would respond to with some sort of weak smile, but inside it just made me shrivel.
Because I was also terrified of any sport involving a ball. She signed me up for years (WAS it years? It felt like it) of private tennis lessons, and I never got beyond using the racket as a sort of face-shield. I was petrified of volleyball and basketball and softball, ANYthing that involved a ball coming anywhere near my body. Dodgeball? Utter terror. I was the one always cowering in the corner with my hands over my face. Maybe because I wore glasses. And orthopedic shoes. Ack.
Was she the one who came up with that name for me, or did she just perpetuate it? I don’t know. At any rate, if you mention it to her now, she will still get the chuckles. Ha ha.
She was always the jock in our family. She played tennis or racquetball several times a week, and was known to slam the ball at people so hard they’d get huge bruises. It scared me.
When our church group went to the YMCA down the street to play basketball after church, my mother always got picked for teams ahead of me. Always. She was four foot ten. I was five foot four. But I was notoriously afraid of any ball and she was fearless.
Chicken Ito will raise (or hide) her chickeny little head whenever I contemplate the word “exercise,” or worse, SPORT. Bak-bak-bak. Thus, it has the top position on my list of Excuses.