Death and financial train wrecks – different types of devastation

While the post title sounds like related issues, in fact they are two separate soundtracks running through my thoughts the past few days. Nothing pretty to see here, so if you are looking for my usual glitter-bombing unicorn outlook, this may be the post to skip.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with my client who lost his 13-year-old son last week; the young man took his own life. While he is a client, most of my self-employment clients are people I consider friends as well, the business just another anecdotal box of experiences we happen to share. Understandably, he is completely broken, destroyed by what has happened. That little boy was the sun and moon and stars in his world, and now he’s gone. Interlaced with grief, though, is this intense, white-hot anger from the circumstances that may time will cool and bring peace. I am not an especially religious person; I offer no platitudes about better places and safe from harm. As a mother who has been through the grief that comes with the death of a beloved child, such statements tend to piss me off even as I know that my children are only on loan, they are meant to grow up and become independent beings well outside my scope of control and direction. But 12, 13 – it is way too soon. Please do not ever suggest to me it’s God’s will, or it’s part of a bigger plan, or they are happier in their place in Heaven. Fuck that shit. Our children – we are good parents; our children should be her on earth with us, getting awkward and hormonal, getting angry and screaming at us, assured in how little we know and growing up into people who again like and respect us for the mere mortals we are as they mature into adulthood and realized that their parents are imperfect, do not have all the answers, but try their best.

In a lot of real and direct experience ways, I am someone who understands. I listened and pretended not to notice when he cried. There are no words of comfort in these situations, and sometimes it is only human warmth that makes us feel less alone and lonely with our tragic losses. As I still think to this day, when there are no words, hugs speak volumes.

Into this profoundly emotional and poignant time with one slice of my life, comes all the bullshit and pettiness of small-ball problems. Comparatively speaking, anyway. There are no universal bandaids that remove physic pain and perceived injustice, and sometimes my patience with those who want to escalate petty grievances into something bigger, badder, much more complicated and time-consuming – let’s just say I’m short and dismissive. Every person I know who works or has any type of relationship with expectation of performance and results has similar stories of such disagreements and less motivated, less first-choice options for bosses, coworkers, worked hired out. So I know I am not the only manager at any level in the world having to deal with people and their problems. And I also know what is a Very Big Deal to them is smaller than small-ball to me. Most of the time, I try to deal with them professionally and compassionately, even while telling them to grow up and get real.

In other words, more drama in the office. And it is not that I don’t care – I care very much, particularly as it impacts perceptions about me and my performance of my job functions – but when you are dealing with a slice of pirated information (salaries) and without complete context, the leg you’re standing on is kind of weak and shaking. When it comes up, I will deal with it. Right now, my head is filled with thoughts of death.

And I hate it.

I hate that my client and friend is suffering so miserably. I hate that another dear friend is thousands of miles away and alone and facing a procedure on his brain. I don’t think it’s just me that gets nervous when people speak of brain surgery, and to not be able to be present and there at this time – it’s really, really hard. While telling myself thousands of times daily that it will be fine, he will be fine, I cannot get my mind to buy the reassurances. Sometimes being a “hope for the best, imagine the worst” version of Pollyanna does not work out all that well for me.

Truthfully, I cannot imagine my life without him somewhere in it. M is far more stoic than I am, thankfully, but even he has his reservations and concerns. It’s BRAIN surgery, and no matter how normal and routine it might be for the surgeon and the specialized team of doctors and nurses, this is someone we love and it is a world-class BIG DEAL to the rest of us sitting on the sidelines and metaphorically wringing our hands and trying not to be consumed with worry.

So yeah, head is kind of stuffed to overflowing out my ears with thoughts of death and what life is like imagining and trying to shut off the imaginings of life after the worst.

Ugh.

Another of my clients asked begged (his term, not mine) me to work with his niece on her finances. I thought it would be relatively straight-forward; after all, my client is very intelligent and sensible, his sister (the referral’s mother) seems the same in the times we have met. I figured at worse she would have student loan debt and need some help with her budgeting.

Oh my, I was so very wrong.

We met yesterday, and after 30 minutes of discussing the state of her life, I put away the green tea I was drinking and order the fully caffeinated, full-sugar version of a coffee-flavored milk drink to fortify myself. It is quite ugly.

She is a college graduate with degrees in chemistry and literature. Her parents paid for college so no student loan debt. Her home was gifted to her from her grandmother along with just over 6 figures in cash. She is employed in the local hospital system, which brings to mind decent wage and benefits. The car she drove up in a later model Camray – nothing fancy or flashy. While she is telling me all this, I am listening and nodding and thinking she needs a financial planner more than she needs a budget coach.

Then she pulls out the sheaf of check stubs, bank statements, credit card bills. I am still thinking, okay, everyone gets into trouble with credit cards; it’s almost a right of passage. I can help her, I’m sure.

It is with the documents that the real story comes out and why her mother and uncle asked me to talk with her and see if I can help her out.

This girl is 29, working at a job that pays about $42K per year, because she only works part-time (20 hours per week) by choice. There is a maxed out line of credit on her paid-off home, she has less than $500 in the bank, and an astonishing amount of credit card debt racked up in just a few years. On top of which – before inheriting her home and money, she had declared bankruptcy because of other credit card debt accrued in college.

I asked her how all this debt came about and got some pretty vague answers about shopping and paying for a couple of fender benders to keep them off her insurance and travel and charitable giving. I asked what happened to her inheritance, and got similar responses, with the addition of … plastic surgery. Did I mention she is turning 30 in a couple of months?

Ugh. Financial train wreck? More like mushroom cloud of financial devastation.

While I suspected this was going to be a huge challenge, I valiantly tried to help her.

Does she have a budget? Yes, but she routinely runs out of money and has to use her credit cards. Okay, can she show me her budget. Well no, because she keeps it in her head. She does pay all her bills when she gets paid and lives on what’s leftover. Except with this much credit card debt, there is a whole lot more living going on than a single person should be doing.

Or so goes the judgmental budget coach in me.

I did not have time to crunch the numbers to even get a sense of where she was, so we set up another appointment for this weekend after I had a better chance to look through her stuff and figure out how truly bad things are for her. And after looking through all her stuff last night, it’s really bad.

Since I know quite a few people in her age bracket, I know it is not just an issue of financial literacy. Yet I cannot fathom how someone could go blow through a just over $100K in inheritance, take out (and then max out) a line of credit on a paid-off home, and run up enough credit card debt to owe just over $150K on a $42K per year salary. And yet, I have seen so much worse through the years.

I know and have heard all the arguments and sob stories about the evil banks and credit card companies taking advantage of the consumer. Bullshit. No one makes us take on debt, although I do know sometimes it’s an uncomfortable only option we have. My sympathy in this is primarily with her family, who – rightly – refuse to bail her out of this mess and merely try to find her resources to help resolve it.

The discord in this is that she is in such a deep, dark place of denial. The typical millennial mindset is stronger than average in this one (and I do apologize to all my very level-headed millennial friends who may be reading this vent).

Either way, she’s in a huge financial bind and it will get worse long before it gets better. I want nothing but success for her, but from conversations with her uncle and her mother, she is not listening to them and is unlikely to listen to me. However, I will do my best.

I think she sees herself as living a life of freedom, whereas I see a young woman anchored by debt and being smother by the increasing interest and monthly payments. She could sell her home – the only assets I see that she has – which would likely clear her debt. But I know already the idea will float like a lead balloon.

At a very minimum, she needs to request a full-time schedule and accept every single hour of overtime that is offered to make more cash. With some negotiation with her creditors we might be able to get her squeaking through each month and with a very strict beans-and-rice type budget.

Buuuuttttt – one of the first comments out of her mouth is that she is unwilling to work more hours. Her debt is a combination of shopping, world travel, philanthropy, and just plain deranged, out-of-control spending. Seriously, I cannot think of another way to describe it.

I cannot save anyone, except perhaps myself. For the sake of my client, I will do my best to create a realistic plan … that she’s unlikely to agree to much less follow through with. When I met her, before we began discussing her finances in detail, I thought she was smart, funny, interesting, and quite physically beautiful. We chatted briefly about fitness – she works with a trainer 3 times per week and does yoga religiously 4 or 5 times per week – and I briefly, VERY briefly, thought she should meet trainer J. Or one of the associates I work with.

No, oh no. I love and adore my trainer, I really NEED my trainer, and I simply cannot do such a horrible thing. And my associates, it’s important to me to maintain my professional relationships. My goodness – what if someone I happened to introduce her to actually likes her? No, just no.

I was actually relieved to find out she likes girls.

The bottom line, at the end of a difficult day on a multitude of levels, what I find almost sadder than the real life agony is this silly, silly girl with the great big entitlement boulder resting on her shoulder.

Some things, some choices, some events are so far beyond my understanding. Where I can help, I try my best to do the right thing and provide what assistance I can. Sometimes it’s out of my realm of expertise, and the eventual outcome is in the hands of others far more skilled and more knowledgeable than me.

I have my hopes for the people in my life – I want what I want for them, whether it peace of mind or recovering their health. When someone new wanders into my midst, if I can help I will try. If they refuse help, I can and will step aside and let nature take its course.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it much, any of it. Sometimes I just wish people did not have to endure so much hardship, and sometimes I just wish people would be realistic and make better choices about their lives.

Life changes and choices

My son got married yesterday. And my daughter and I had a rare coffee date on our way to getting our hair styled. Wedding hair is kind of overrated, but it was fun to have the amazing curls for a little while and kinda/sorta keep them glued in place for the better part of the day.

C got married in April, a simple courthouse affair followed by dinner that evening with immediate family members. It was what she wanted and perfectly suited them. Since, then, though, she and A have been asked numerous times by lots of different people about when they plan to start a family. Truth is they have already decided against having children, although the reasons why are no one else’s business. I am not a pushy or prying parental unit. There are some limits – I like to know when my kids have to go to the ER for something wrong, even if there is nothing I can do, or no need for me to rush down there, I just like to know – but as a mother I want my wonderful children to be happy. What path that takes is their choice, not mine.

With G’s wedding yesterday and other conversations woven into the fabric of my life, the conversations about life’s bigger decisions come up fairly regularly. And I welcome that. I am glad to be someone people talk to about what they think, how they feel.

G and K have no plans to have children either. K’s mother asked me yesterday how I feel about their choice, because her other daughter is also leaning toward childless by choice, about perhaps never being a grandmother. I did not have an immediate answer that satisfied her, because honestly, I do not think being a grandmother is a role I aspire for in this life. Truth is, it’s not about me or about her; we have had children and are mothers. Becoming a grandmother is a decision well outside our realm of control.

My sister-in-mother-in-law-hood then said something kind of jarring to my ears: that not planning to have children felt a bit “selfish” on the part of her daughters.

I hate when the word “selfish” is used to describe choices that are different or disagree with what we might desire for those we love.

K’s mother was not part of her life for majority of her upbringing and most of her life to date. They began the slow process of building a relationship several years ago, but obviously K does not enjoy the same level of depth and shared memories that I have with G. My theory is that K’s mother would like a do-over for being a mom via being a grandmother.

And it’s okay to have that kind of regret and desire. And it’s probably okay to voice it to your very intelligent daughters who think for themselves and have their own futures mapped out to suit their own, personal visions of pursuit of happiness. But please, do not ever label these very bright and promising souls as selfish for having different dreams and ideas about what their lives should or should not include.

K’s mother was a single mother, and the girls have different fathers. She did not raise either, because of addiction issues that have only been addressed and handled in the last half dozen years. Life choices made as a young woman have a lot of far-reaching consequences, and her life now is not and easy road. I am not someone who judges; I know we all make mistakes. She takes responsibility for those choices now, even though it has cost her dearly in terms of the life she lives now and the relationships with her daughters.

I was a single mom as well. My kids’ dad and I divorced when G was 2 and C was 3, and while I tell myself now that it was the only way, in truth it was a terribly selfish decision and a consequence of very stupid, very immature thinking and choices. We were only 20 and 21 when we married, flipping the calendar into 21 and 22 later that year. I was 23 when my oldest child was born, and I was 29 when our divorce was finalized after almost 9 years of marriage and 3 children.

I was insanely young and stupid. My xH was not a terrible person, but we married too young and for the wrong reasons. As parents we were not terrible parents, and we had a lot of local support from our parents and families. However, when our marital problems became so overwhelming I had to do something. I wanted to separate and seek counseling; he got angry and hit me repeatedly in the face and chest. In front of our children, the oldest of whom was just 5. Marriage was over with the first blow. While I did not call the police or report it – he was my kids’ father and I was still young and very naive – I served him with divorce papers 2 weeks later. It was probably among the more humiliating things in is life to have his family and our friends see me with blackened eyes and split lip.

Thing is – it was a choice I made, one I do not regret but now understand had many far-reaching implications and consequences for my children. Those 2 years after the divorce were hard, particularly the first 8 months when my xH refused to pay child support until wage garnishment orders were issued. I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches during those lean months so my kids could have nutritious food, and I very gratefully accepted my parents’ “care packages” of groceries with fresh fruit and things the kids loved. For about 6 months I shared my 2 bedroom apartment with another single mother and her 2 children, just to ease the burden of rent and food and for mutual help with childcare. I did a lot of growing up in that time.

By the time I met M, things had stabilized at home. I was making more money. My xH was paying child support and for his half of day care regularly and actually seeing the kids on Sunday afternoon to Monday morning. Looking back, if it were not for my parents and xH’s parents willingness to host the kids for an evening each week or pick them up from daycare so I could work overtime I’m not sure how we would have survived. But we did. We lived in an apartment, went the park on Saturday with a packed lunch, never ate out, rarely bought clothes or shoes (my mom loved getting the kids stuff from the store where she worked), and essentially budgeted and was very careful with my earnings.

During the bad times I wondered if I had made a mistake, if my kids were going to grow up and into Very Bad People because I was a single mother. I was exhausted all the time, and craved alone time to just sit and relax and do what I wanted. The stability of a 2-parent home sounded like nirvana compared to being a single parent supporting 3 children on my own, day after day after day. I had many nights of second guessing myself and wondering if I had been supremely selfish breaking up the family unit for my own happiness. And really, how happy was I barely making enough to money to share an apartment with another woman and 5 children? Not very happy, but continually tired and run down and wishing for a different life than the hamster wheel I boarded when I left my xH.

Know that, knowing what I know now about how hard it is to be a parent of good and normal kids under the best of circumstances, I have to wonder why anyone would choose to become a single parent on their own. Or why anyone who does not wish to be responsible for a child of their own would allow themselves to be guilted or forced into that lifestyle.

This is not me being judgmental, but having an adequate, stable income to support a child seems like a minimum standard requirement to be a parent. Yet I just today was reading a blog written by a grandmother about her minimum wage employed daughter and her unemployed boyfriend and their 4 week old daughter. Mom is deeply in debt herself yet has been helping keep this little family afloat. Yet say anything other than “oh, how cute!” about her granddaughter and you’re crucified and labeled a horrible, insensitive, judgmental person. Yet be responsible, choose the childless path, and you are labeled as selfish or not really ready to make that decision. I mean, what if the man/woman of your dreams wants children? In my very logical mind I imagine the man/woman of the a childless-by-choice type person’s dreams is someone with similar values and desires for the long-term lifestyle.

My kids – all 4 of them now – all enjoy children. Their priorities rule that out for themselves, though. G and K have bigger financial goals they wish to pursue that include careers and travel and perhaps an earlier retirement. For C and A, there is the issue of hereditary health conditions for a child of their own, and right now, they are very selfish with enjoying their jobs and having the time, energy, and resources to pursue their own projects and dreams. Whatever their choices and their reasons, they are deeply personal and no one else’s business, yet there are countless insensitive relatives and friends inquiring as to what their plans are for expanding their family.

I guess I just don’t get it.

Even M and I have been labeled “hedonistic” in our tendencies to pursue our own interests as empty nesters. Are we only valid citizens if we are parents and eventually grandparents? Is procreating the only measure of our worth? How awful, small, and narrow that point of view. Honestly, there are times when I think some people would prefer us to be even more boring in our habits and pursuits than we are right now. Or at least until we have grandchildren or incurable health problems. Managing my chronic condition and trying hard to pursue a health lifestyle is hedonistic and selfish according to the judgment of some we know. Not people we respect. Not people we even consider friends. More like family or friend of friends or acquaintances.

Hedonistic? Us? Makes me laugh.

Honestly, I am terribly boring. I work. I exercise. I hang out with M, my friends, chat with my family and my friends, write my blog. Probably my life looks pretty much like millions of other lives. Blogging about it adds a facet where I get to download my thoughts and catalog the adventures in my life.

I have very few regrets about decisions and choices in my life. But, I have suffered and endured the consequences of those choices, and hopefully I have learned a lot from the experiences. What I now know, personal choices are just that, personal. What else I know, being a single parent is very hard, so choose your partner in such an important endeavor wisely and make the decision consciously. Having children, or not, is a concept that anymore seems to be hard for people to accept as not something up for majority vote.

I’m a big fan of personal responsibility and personal choices about the direction of our individual lives. I (eventually) learn from my mistakes, and I am grateful for that. Gratitude is a good. Being thankful feels natural for me. For so long I had so little; I learned to be thankful for the smallest things I earned that made me happy.

Blogging still makes me happy. It’s good to have a safe space to sort my head and its loose-leaf thoughts out.

My growing sense of entitlement

A dirty little secret has been brewing, and I have not yet discussed it openly on this blog. Well, until now, of course.

I have a growing sense of entitlement. Yep, me, glitter-bombing unicorn in the lives of a few harbors feelings of deserving things.

Nope, not talking about material stuff or a tiara and princess accoutrements. Nor am I speaking of adoration and worship for my exceptional unicorn-isms.

My sense of deserving is basic human dignity and respect. I deserve my ability to hold and voice my own opinions and to disagree without rancor or condemnation. I am entitled to the opportunity to finish a sentence without being interrupted and an expectation of politeness when socially appropriate. The basic respect and consideration afforded friends.

It is no secret I have struggled in the last year with a particular long-term friendship, and it is truly unfortunate it seems to have spread to a couple of others. My best efforts to have an honest, mostly unemotional conversation about the issues have come to unsatisfactory conclusions. When I have asked with specific examples (Why do you feel I am hyper-focused and critical of others not on the same page with regard to diet and exercise? Can you give me a specific example of putting someone down for not following my example to improve my overall health?), I have been met with defensive “you have changed” and “it’s all you talk about” and “you think you’re better than the rest of us” type responses. Frequently those comments are very hurtful; these are women who have known me the majority of my life. Most of the time I understand where the defensiveness and the hurtful words come from, because again, these ladies have been friends for many, many years. However, my direct attempts to understand what it is I may be doing that offends them so much are then distorted, taken out of context, and repeated to others in ways that are exceedingly painful to me.

I just don’t get it.

I know I have changed. In my mind, pursuing my better health goals makes as much sense as pursuit of happiness. I certainly have no desire to be miserable all the time until my final days, and the drugs, the weight, the slow and inevitable decline in my health until I died was not something I have always been prepared or ready to face. Before getting started last summer, I had my head firmly buried in the sand and was frantically trying to pull more sand over to keep it firmly planted.

Not everyone accepts change well, even in other friends. Even when the friend is happier, healthier, better self-esteem, burgeoning confidence. Friend and commenter SAK has been with me on this journey and we have had numerous discussions about the negative feedback and sabotage we receive from people we consider friends.

Through the years I have adopted a standard where most anything negative said to me about me is sort of absorbed and/or deflected. I had my role in relationships – to be the stable, dependable, non-controversial, non-competitive friend and supporter. Say anything negative or bad about my family, about my friends, I will never promise to be responsible in my backlash. Nearly everyone I interact with understood this unspoken rule and all was well in my little world.

When I began with trainer J and my quest to improve my health, it seems to have created a ripple in the status quo. Everything from questions about J’s competence (shut down super quickly with that overprotective and unpredictable backlash) to my potential overtraining to subtle efforts to sabotage my eating efforts suddenly abounded. Questions about how much weight I have lost, critiques about my figure, and of course the infamous comments about the size of my arms came from all sorts of unexpected sources. Mostly I have weathered it well, and I specifically returned to therapy to find better, healthier ways to improve my self-esteem, confidence, and ability to cope with the well-meaning who have a hard time with change.

If anyone deserves “blame” for my evolving deflection, stronger spine, and standing up for myself it is probably TM, for reminding me, teaching me to value myself and my efforts for self-improvement. I do not give him enough credit for coaching me to a stronger, healthier heart and mind. He told me, warned me about the dynamic that others in my midst that are less emotionally and mentally healthy will manifest as time passes. He coached me on how to react, how to maintain my composure, how to respond to not compromise my own forward progress.

And I cannot ever thank him enough.

With the few friends I have had to step back and away from, it is far from easy or uncomplicated. I am now 55 years old, these are women I have known since high school or college. But I will not be bullied, pushed around, or abused, and I take full responsibility for allowing them to treat me poorly or take advantage of my general nature for too many years. I have done nothing to deserve it, and their own messy emotions and shortcomings are not my problem or responsibility. For too many years I enabled and allowed them to periodically use me as their whipping girl to vent their pain, anger, frustration, or dissatisfaction with their lives or the disappointments that befall them.

I want to be a supportive friend, but I have a good understanding of my limitations. Those limitations do not include being unhappy, staying unhealthy, or listening to endless details and the same rants and raves about their own issues. My efforts at improving my health, both physically and emotionally, are threatening in some real ways. Suddenly I am competition for attention and praise? Because I blog about my life here – and the better health quest is a huge part of my life – does it make them feel worse about themselves? This blog is my place for sharing my own stuff, not an attempt on my part to be a prophet inspiring others to discover their own miracles of diet and exercise. Ask anyone – I am the most ordinary of ordinary people. I struggle to eat healthy, eat well, and I have had to engage my own OCD tendencies to ensure I stay focused and consistent on my exercise. The persistence to break through my own desire to maintain my comfort zone does not come easily or naturally to me; modifying my behaviors has been an uphill battle that I am winning. I have thought about that as well. Perhaps my desire to lock up negative girl and protect myself from her sphere of influence is the problem; maybe they dislike the calmer, happier, positive version of me.

Honestly, I think it’s okay to not like the evolving person, and people do change and add or subtract friends as life continues. However, I need to be clear about my intentions with regard to friends going forward. I deeply regret the need to exorcise you from my life, but from my perspective, continuing a dysfunctional relationship that makes me feel terrible about myself is unhealthy. I am all about better health these days.

In some ways this is among the most painful, and personal, posts I have written to date. The friends I speak of – they meant so much to me once, more like sisters than my actual biological sister through the years. And now it is time to let go, say goodbye, and hope someday we will reconcile and meet again under better, healthier circumstances.

Your brand of mental and emotional pain is not my problem, and no matter how compassionate and sympathetic I am toward you, it is never enough. I will no longer be the toxic waste dump for your shit-worthless feelings from insecurity, disappointment, or unrealized dreams.

You need not like my choices for life or the lifestyle changes I am pursuing, and by extension you need not support or encourage those changes. However, I will no longer accept your attempts to sabotage, minimize, mock, or dismiss my efforts. I never wanted or needed your praise or applause; I merely wanted you to like and accept me, warts and all. I deeply regret that has proved so impossible.

The blog is for me. The only goal I have here is to be truthful and honest about my thoughts and emotions and life. It is not something I do to shame you or make you feel insignificant or inferior or bad about yourself and your choices.

If you hate my blog so much, please stop reading. Now. Into the future. Here’s a thought – there are literally hundreds of thousands of other blogs, websites, and forums for you to pursue content that interests you.

I am a good person, and my battle to make peace and accept myself is ongoing. I have been a good friend to you for many years and through many mutual good times and bad. I certainly do not deserve your derision of and contempt for my efforts. The struggle is real and so are my feelings, emotions, and history.

Letting go is really hard. And turning away from the Baskin Robbins when I feel this level of sad is almost as challenging.

There is no universe where I am happy or optimistic or upbeat about this turn of events. Healthy choices are not always rarely easy decisions for me. I feel gutted and yet relieved, the uncertainty of doing the right thing for me and making what feels right for me have weighed on my mind and conscience.

I feel lighter. And sad. And really wishing my resolve against Baskin Robbins was currently not this powerful.

Kitchen sink post – Energy

This started out as a simple post about energy and morphed into a lot of other things that impact that for me. Rather than trying to come up with a flashy, descriptive title that covers everything, it is just a kitchen sink post of thoughts from various events of the day.

So having lunch today with my associates and the topic of energy came up. I get it. They are all younger and fitter and hipper and generally cooler than I am, and it is as it should be. They are also more fatigued and haggard looking at times, which is also to be expected to some degree. Hard-working, workaholic young lawyers, hungry to make names for themselves, putting in the hours, living on less sleep, crap food, and the single and dating (or trying to date) lifestyle. Whereas I am not an attorney, have considerably more experience managing my workaholism, and I have nothing to prove to anyone in this firm or outside it regarding my professionalism, expertise, or work ethic. My lifestyle is also a lot tamer, and I prioritize exercise, adequate sleep, and healthier eating over getting out and socializing with my peers, etc. Between my own business and what I do for the firm, I bill at least as many hours as they do every month and possibly work slightly more overall. None of us are digging ditches or pounding nails to make a buck, either, so the physical demands of our occupations is comparable.

When it comes to lifestyles, mine is not better or theirs worse; priorities and choices are simply different.

But apparently I seem to have consistently more energy than they do, per opinions around the table. And since I am the oldest person in the firm, it does seem a bit unusual. Not really, though, and for the reasons delineated above.

Stress makes a difference as well. Stress for me is pretty minimal anymore, and I like this unstressed version of me so much I am actively trying to reduce any stressors even further. The exercise helps more than I would have ever thought, but so does feeling in control of my own job and ability to make a living wage. Sleep, glorious sleep, is a great equalizer that should not be underestimated. Since going to bed earlier to allow me to get up and get to the gym early, I have found a new sense of balance. I might want to stay up later and read or write or chat with my friends, but I make sure I shut down and am in bed by a decent hour. Certain nights of the week I can cheat a bit, because the alarm is set for later than 3:45, but most of the time I go to bed on time and wake feeling refreshed.

And happy, so happy. Since M is the same M as a year ago and our marriage remains healthy and happy, I chalk the increase happy factor to the lifestyle changes. Feeling satisfied, feeling challenged and successful with managing and overwhelming those challenges goes a long, long way to elevating my happy factor. Because it makes sense that when I am not stressed, tired, or worried, I am a lot happier, more energetic person. And maybe that’s the vibe my associates get from me – that my overall aura is more relaxed and peaceful, the energy more positive. They are very quick to reassure me that I am always pleasant, helpful, and easy to work with, but the productivity and efficiency of things happening within the office is ratcheting up. I am not sure about that, but perhaps they are right and I was a lazier slug at points prior to now. Maybe someday I will look back on this period and feel as if I were moving in slow motion now versus this mythical future point.

I have no concrete, precise answers – apparently this is my new fallback position when it comes to complicated questions. I do know I’d recommend the protein shake concoction for them in the afternoons, versus slamming more coffee or energy drinks. My protein shakes are the new favorite food and food group so my bias may be influencing my promotion of them.

My current level of energy and motivation to exercise? I like the way it makes me feel, and ultimately I like the challenges of learning and conquering. I think once past the terrible, dreadful, painful aspects of actually going and doing it simply became part of the daily routine. Burnout happens – I see it, I hear about it, and I understand it – but right now mind is locked on in a trance-like haze that causes anxiety and panic when I do not exercise. The images mind presents – weighing in a 300 lbs., not fitting into The Dress for G and K’s wedding in just over 2 months, the insulin needles and bottles of medications – trust me mind knows how to push those buttons, pull those levers that get me off my ass and back into the gym and working on a List.

What boosts our energy and motivates are going to be unique to us as individuals. But I suspect I am not unique in what kept me out of the gym and rooted to the couch for so long, and I hope I am not unique in my level of regret for the years I was sedentary. It was what it was, my choices and my headspace were different, and feeling regretful or angry about lost time is truly pointless. I cannot get those years back for a do-over, so I learned to let it go, accept it for what it was, and leaving it where it lay. Keeping my eye on the prize right in front of me is far better and healthier for me.

Speaking of the past, friend J related to me a funny tale from an old friend of his I have met a few times. Seems friend J was skyping with this pal and going on and on about my progress in the gym, etc. I guess his pal asked how he could have never been romantically involved with me since it’s obvious he is still crazy about me after all these years. Friend J simply said he has never been attracted to me like that, and I was a better friend to him than I ever would have been a girlfriend. After they hung up, I guess friend J got worried that this tale would find its way back to me from somewhere in our wide net of mutual friends and acquaintances, so he hastened to email me about it in advance lest my feelings be hurt by his frank assessment of his lack of attraction and my ability to be a decent girlfriend.

It has been at least a few days since I have laughed so hard. I mean, I had just started dating M when I met friend J, so it’s not like I ever sized him up or thought about him as romantic boy-toy material (despite what he likes to think every woman in the whole entire world dreams of when they cross paths with him). But for him to think my feelings might possibly be a teensy bit bruised by his frank admission all these years later? Too funny. I am still chuckling writing this post.

But this is what I mean about past being past and trying to recover prior events for a do-over. Believe me, despite the many times other friends express disbelief that friend J and I have always been just that – friends – I do not spend any part of any days wondering what might have been and if I missed my chance with him (OMG – ROFLMAO).

There are a few past events I wish I could revisit, all related to a desire for just another couple of minutes with beloved family members and close friends who died too soon, another opportunity to tell them again how much I love them and will miss them long into the future. Not taking better care of my health, or dating the younger brother I never wanted and am now stuck with for the rest of my life do not even come close to my occasional wishful thoughts for opportunities to change past events.

I believe my lack of excessive concern or worry about events and things I cannot change or impact or influence has done a lot for freeing more of my energy and ability to wring as much as I can from the moments I do have right here, right now. I cannot change my sedentary past, but I can build a more active, healthy future. Negative girl is locked away, and if mind has its way and stays as strongly convicted as it presently is, body will continue to get up off the couch, to move with purpose, and to get shit done.

And that is more than enough to keep me fueling my energy reserves in positive, healthy ways. Speaking of which, time for that protein shake before Friday night’s yoga class. Mind is still lobbying hard for a gym workout; body may rebel after an hour of yoga in 105 degree temperatures. Energy will be the deciding factor.

Food hungover :(

Spent a lovely evening with my daughter C last night. M was off at the big ultra marathon race, assisting the crews of a couple of friends running while also watching the race and socializing. A was off at his cousin’s wedding. Since C just started her job and was in training/transition, she could not take time off until after completing this period in her career. So we went out to dinner after she got off her shift and then came back to my house to continue our yakking. I had invited G and K to join us, but they were attending K’s cousin’s engagement party.

We ate chinese food at my absolute favorite local place, where the owners and much of the staff now know us and greet us by name. In the last year we have slowed way down on our eating out in general and our chinese food in particular. It is unfortunately not the most favorable food choice when trying to watch your overall diet and blood sugar fluctuations, yet I still love the food and the staff and how warmly they welcome us back and ask after the rest of the family. If a big, carby meal were not bad enough, we also splurged and stopped for ice cream, hot fudge sundaes to be more precise. While it was a small sundae, it was still A LOT of sugar in one hit after several months of being careful and restrictive about it. I am feeling the aftereffects well into this Sunday morning.

First, my fasting blood sugar was the highest it has been in months, possibly the highest since going off the meds at 144. A combination of too much food, the majority of it being raw sugar and carbohydrates, and an unusually late night made me feel poorly this morning. Second, I ended up sleeping later and skipping pilates in favor of a gym workout, and believe me, I struggled mightily. I did 2 sets rather than my usual 3 minimum on the List of the day, and it felt as if I have undone a year of hard work and months of consistent practice overnight. I haven’t, of course, but I feel how I feel and always strive to be honest about my thoughts and feelings, even when they seem overly dramatic and bordering on ridiculous.

Thinking about it now, guzzling water and a couple of aspirin for the unexpected headache I am enduring, I am not really sorry or feeling guilty about my choices. My daughter and I rarely have opportunity to hang out and just catch up on the minutia of our lives, so we took full advantage. Did we have to have ice cream? Absolutely not, and next time hopefully smarter heads will prevail. In the last several months I have theorized about consequences of falling off the careful, mindful eating wagon, and now I completely understand what range of possibility exists for me. However, it was one meal out of the couple dozen I had last week; I will live and continue to pursue my better health goals with new knowledge, experience, and understanding of the consequences of my actions. And if I pay with my A1c skyrocketing next month, I will be closer to knowing definitively the weaknesses of my own body and its regulating systems.

M has warned me and preached and preached about the evils of sugar in fitness. When you are very unfit and everything is this huge, daunting, dramatic, and frustrating struggle, it is so hard to take his cautions and sky-is-falling type warnings too seriously. In my mind, I have always wondered how it could possibly get any worse? Now I have achieved a small measure of success in my journey to better health through more conscious choices in food and lots and lots of exercise, and in this moment I now have a much clearer understanding of what he meant, what those precise ill effects feel like. It was not so much I reverted to using 2 lb. dumbbells instead of my usual 25 lb. ones, but the effort required to move those usual weights to and fro felt more like being back to when I first began this program.

I have also not been consuming much by way of dairy products the last several weeks. It’s not been a conscious choice so much as natural selection. I only use milk on cold cereal and in coffee, and since I have ceased eating cold cereal and drinking coffee, my direct ingestion of milk has fallen away. I finally had the epiphany that if I do not particularly like or enjoy yogurt I should not force myself to eat it anyway. Kind of stupid, I know, but there it is. I do supplement with whey protein as well as plant-based protein, but compared to how much cheese and milk and other dairy I consumed directly once upon a time, it feels like almost a total ban. Ice cream – this was my first binge-worthy event in many, many months. My new guidance on desserts is that unless I absolutely love the type of sugary goodies being served (at birthday parties or other events), I will simply smile and decline. If I am going to go there, it should only be for something I truly love. Like good chocolate.

Such thinking has dramatically simplified my choices and strengthened my restraint. And now that I feel so crappy from overindulging, I am hopefully less likely to make the same choices again in the future. Consequences are a huge teaching tool for me these days.

While I do not necessarily feel like my perky, happy best right at the moment, there are positive takeaways from this experience. My blood sugar is falling back into its normal range after splitting breakfast between before and after workouts, my normal, daily habit and pattern of eating. It was a long, hard slog through today’s List of the day, but at least I went and did something. Plus my present day mindset knows this is not a harbinger of the rest of my week or my training life. I fully expect tomorrow’s training session will be perfectly fine and normal despite my Saturday night sins. Unless J is having a crappy morning, then all bets could be off. *smile* It’s a grocery shopping day and there are no carby or sugary temptations lingering out there calling my name. Or at least not that I can hear through the grinding in my stomach and the pounding in my head. I have a shopping list and it should be relatively simple to stick to it, especially since M is out doing his 20 miles and will not be with me. My meals are planned for the week and I am back to eating lots and lots of vegetables with some chicken with a little beef and pork sprinkled in for good measure and variety.

Experience is the best teacher. Perhaps I just wish to be less a stubborn student in the future.

 

 

Car conundrum

About a month ago, I caught someone trying to break into my car. Thankfully it was not a smash-and-grab break in attempt, more a slim jim to try and get the door open, so no destructive forces were at work. And they ran away when I saw them and hit my panic button on my key.

I drive a Rav4, which is a smallish SUV. M also has a CRV, which is also a smallish SUV. Both are all wheel drive. However, my Rav goes nowhere but the gym, office, client offices, etc. In the almost 3 years we have owned it, I have put 26K on the odometer. It was more the first year, before the CRV entered our realm, but now M’s car has replaced mine as the go car. We drive it everywhere when we are together and the Rav stays home in the garage.

The almost break-in was because my alluring work bag was on the backseat floorboard. I suspect they hoped for a laptop or tablet, but alas, it was a plain wirebound notebook and some miscellaneous notes and papers for projects I have in progress. My laptop is never ever left in the car for precisely this reason, and I usually know better and take my bag as well. The only excuse I can offer is that I was only going to be a few minutes and sometimes the allure of caffeine short circuits my better sense. M was still rattled enough by the close encounter that there was a minor lecture about being more careful.

But since my venture into self-employment, I drive more and spend more time in my car going from home to office to clients or some combination thereof. My trusty work bag has morphed into a portable office for me, because I have to bring things with me, including my laptop, the aforementioned trusty wirebound notebook and miscellaneous client notes and documents. Only I do not always want to schlep all my crap into meetings where I will not need it. Hence my contemplating a vehicle with a trunk.

M has felt for awhile that I need a car with a trunk, and I have resisted the idea. Only since the close encounter with the the slim jim crew I have thought idly about what returning to a sedan would feel like for me. Since my last sedan probably 12 years ago, I have had another Rav4, a 4Runner, a Civic coupe, and now this particular Rav. Since we have the CRV with it’s AWD capability, we are set if ever we need to travel in snow. Seriously, if the CRV were out of commission M would prefer we rent a car that take the Rav in the snow, and no way would M ever drive my car to one of his high country run locations. In truth he is a tiny bit squeamish about driving his 9 year old CRV into high country run locations where the potential for big bushes touching the paint could potentially exist. Either way, it’s a bit overkill to have 2 smaller SUVs when it does not snow around here and our adventures into AWD-needed country are limited to a few times per year for the last dozen years.

So we have begun our research and consideration of cars.

For me, I’d probably be happy with something mid-size that feels happy – like a Camray or a 4-door Accord. Or even a 4-door Civic, which in my mind has expanded into mid-size car. M, on the other hand, feels that if I am going sedan (I vastly prefer a 4-door vehicle) something with a bigger engine and more power is appropriate, putting us into Avalon and Maxima territory. Our preference is always a mildly used vehicle, but I prefer to start at the dealership looking at new and having them explain the features and whiz-bang goodies of each model. From there I can see if there is something comparable in the used market.

While I love, Love, LOVE my Rav, I have felt for awhile that it would not be with us for the long term. With M feeling so reluctant to take it anywhere because it’s “so nice,” it was marked for eventual sale or trade once the newer CRV came into the family (M’s former vehicle was a 1999 CRV). Even if it were 5 years down the road, the Rav would have had to suffer some sort of disfiguring accident (which breaks my heart a little to even imagine, I love that car so much) for it to become M’s running car. So when discussions turned to getting a sedan type car, the Rav is the one on the sell or trade block.

A sedan feels much more like a long-term commitment, which makes making a choice hard for me. The full size sedans make me think I’m truly crossing over into senior citizenship, because no one young-at-heart drives such a land yacht, even if it is a very plush, driveable land yacht. At least no one I know, anyway.

My friends suggest mid-life crisis – time for the red sports car! Only I’m not a sportscar type of person; I am way to practical. The closest I come is being enamoured of the larger rims and slick-looking tires on cars. With a sports car, I keep imagining the speeding tickets and doing time in traffic school. It has been a few years since I got pulled over for speeding, but other than visits downtown a few times each month, I rarely drive on the freeway. The places I visit most are within a 10 mile radius of our home.

With all this stuff ping-ponging about in my head, I am forcing myself to make the pilgrimage to the Toyota dealership today to examine their Camray and Avalon offerings, although my eye will continually be drawn to their smaller siblings – the Corolla or even a Yaris. I would never actually consider a Yaris – I would feel like an adult climbing in and out of a kid’s battery operated toy car – but I love looking at the tiny cuteness of it. M is kinda/sorta open to the idea of a Prius, but again, a trunk is kind of the whole point of this exercise.

Tomorrow is the Nissan dealership to ponder an Altima and a Maxima, then perhaps further afield if nothing else I see makes me think I have found a good fit.

Fortunately I do not tend to fall in love at test drives, or even after I have decided upon whatever it is I want next. Cars are not a reflection of my status in life or personality; cars are primarily tools to get from point A to point B safely and reliably. However, I would like the drive to be fun and the vehicle to be pretty to my eye. Failing the pretty, it had better be a good enough deal for me to live with distant second choices. This is such a change for me, to be considering sedans again, and it feels like a major life event is looming. I will be driving this for a long time to come, so I either need to get precisely what I want or a super steamy deal on it.

After my research is done, I may decide to simply keep the Rav awhile longer and see what happens and how I feel next. And I am perfectly okay with that. But for now the research project will distract me from my unease and paranoia about leaving anything in it.

Ugh. Some people love looking and driving different cars. While it will be nice to see my car guy (same guy has now sold me 3 different Toyota vehicles in the last dozen years), he knows I hate the whole car changing process. My dislike of car changes is so intense that going to the gym and running through a few rounds of all the core exercises on my Lists sounds worthy of anticipation in contrast.

And I have an appointment with RD right before the car viewing appointment, so it is a busy day.

Diet, exercise, and junk food Tuesday

First Tuesday of every month is designated as junk food Tuesday at my office, which means a couple of the staff will make the pilgrimage to In-n-Out to fetch lunch for everyone present. Since I am typically not in the office on Tuesdays, or if I am it is not until well after lunch, I usually miss this festive occasion. But I was there today and had my first In-n-Out cheeseburger this this year. It was delicious.

One of the girls asked me if I was cheating on my diet, to which I replied that I am not dieting, and she gave me a disbelieving look. I tried to explain that eating more protein and working with RD on my food choices is not the same as dieting. She still looked skeptical, remarking on the slimmer silhouette I am sporting and the amount of time I spend at the gym. Does dieting not accompany such efforts?

In the midst of enjoying my first cheeseburger in a couple of months, I explained that in my mind “dieting” means deprivation and denial, and I am working hard at changing my mindset about food to eliminate deprivation and denial of any food that I like and enjoy. I tend to be reasonably strict about raw sugar, because having tasted freedom from insulin and diabetes drugs, I really would like to continue on this side of that particular line of medical treatment. The rest of it – real food, eating less processed foods, eating more protein and lots more fruits and vegetables, my experiments with plant-based carbs and protein powders – is all partly common sense and partly just an adventure in healthier choices.

I doubt she gets it. Another woman in the office is working the whole 30 diet (which I honestly still do not completely understand) and the receptionist is on weight watchers. Whatever works for each of us is the food path we should pursue. I completely enjoyed my cheeseburger without guilt or regret, and while french fries are in my personal Pandora’s Pantry, In-n-Out fries have a history of causing me severe stomach distress. Easy, no brainer to pass on those.

There was talk about how much additional exercise was going to be required to burn off junk food Tuesday, and I briefly thought about J’s mini band dead treadmill and how 10 minutes at that might not be so terrible … then pushed the thought out of my mind. I was at the gym this morning, and the 3 minutes I endured of that was enough for one day. I will be at the gym tomorrow, and if I still feel that burger digesting in my stomach or weighing on my hips I may feel differently and change my mind. But that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Now that I am more conscious of it, I notice how much people talk about food as if it is our enemy and exercise is something to be suffered and endured. No judgment here, because it has not been long enough for me to not vividly recall my own avoidance of exercise and the grin-and-bear-it attitude that was my best effort at getting through the first generation of Lists each week. Food is still a complicated topic if I allow it, but I am learning to just keep it simple with my protein, fruits, vegetable choices. I eat a lot of the same meals over and over and over again, but food is becoming less and less an experience to be savored than something I do because everyone needs fuel.

Education, learning, and just trying to follow the direction I receive is making me feel more as if I am the one making positive choices about eating and exercise versus just having to accept that prescription medication is the only thing that impacts diabetes.

While going through the new routine this morning, I was thinking about the other folks in the gym going along through their series of exercises and pursuit of their own goals. I wonder if it is just because this is all so relatively new for me that I am thinking about it, writing out it almost daily, something that will fade as time passes and it becomes more ho-hum routine. I was also wondering if audio books would work for me during exercise, decided not. Counting reps and focusing on muscle-y goings on does not lend itself well to actually listening to audiobooks.

A couple of my coworkers are fascinated by the fact that M and I both get up around 4 a.m. to pursue our individual exercise habits – M off for his long run in the dark and me for the gym. I used to think that I could never get up that early on a daily basis for any reason, until I found a compelling reason do so. It is rapidly approaching 6 months of nearly daily workouts and the idea of skipping falls into the realm of planned days off or I am sick. While my sinuses were sweating sympathetically with me this morning, I feel perfectly fine these days. In fact, since I seem to have gotten over my phobia about being late for appointments, I have been enjoying deep and dreamless sleep for several nights.

Even M remarks that it is easier for him to get up before dawn daily since I was already in the habit before he started following my example. It puts him into a good position for a summer of early morning runs before the heat of the day settles upon us.

Once the deck is completed (hopefully Thursday, when our contractor returns with the railing that should be in tomorrow), summer can truly begin for us. M is already jonesing to be firing up the Traeger to smoke some beef, and I am contemplating the taste of roasted vegetables along with my summer haunt of the farmer’s markets. Maybe we will use the pool more this year as well, since we will again have stairs to the backyard and not be forced to come in and out through the garage.

What I am not doing is worrying about a single cheeseburger on junk food Tuesday. I am not really one to feel guilty about food so much as worried about consequences and ashamed of my lack of self-control, and for the record, negative girl is locked up in her box and now NOT allowed to weigh in on this topic. Because of that, I feel none of that sort of negative emotion this afternoon, and I believe that to be solid forward progress on my part. After all, the camaraderie of my coworkers is worth a lot to me, far more than the drama of getting anxious and stressed about calories and fat. While I could have still enjoyed their company while eating the broccoli and chicken I brought for lunch, a cheeseburger sounded really, really good and tasted even better than I imagined. No harm done, no cheeseburger addiction backslide happening here.

And nope, not going back to the gym tonight to punish myself with 10 minutes of mini band dead treadmilling. I have to return yet another too big dress (go me!) and check out summer sandals at Nordstrom tonight.