Choosing life – observations and takeaways from funeral services

Recently there were two deaths in client families: one lost his mom, the other lost his sister. I attended both services this week. How very different the contrasts in families and how life is celebrated and death is mourned.

First the sister, it was a life needlessly cut short. Her services were religious and somber, and while no one openly spoke about it, I have to believe her obesity had a hand in her death. For such a young woman (late 30s), a heart attack and then a stroke are not particularly normal circumstances or a natural cause of death. The very vague “she has health problems” explanation was essentially politically correct speak for preventable death. In my experience, when a person dies of cancer or waiting for replacement organ or genetic conditions, people are open that it was cancer or liver/heart/kidney disease/failure or something else for which there is only treatment, no cure. It saddens me, because it did not need to happen. And it’s difficult for me to equalize my sadness with my discomfort of my anger that what has happened happened. It hits far too close to home for me and my attitudes to be okay with passing my own sense of harsh judgment on this poor woman, even if it is 99% in my own mind. I have a pretty expressive face; I’m sure my thoughts were written plainly if anyone bothered to look closely.

The reception afterward was full of wonderful comfort foods and an entire table of homemade sugary goodness. I had a glass of water and escaped as quickly as I possibly could. That was Monday. I was back at work with them Wednesday and Thursday for a few hours each day, and their break room sweets are back in action. Ugh. The mom’s need to continue comfort herself by non-stop baking continues. I understand the poor woman’s grief – I am a mother who had to bury a child who died unexpectedly and way too young – but I foresee more preventable tragedy and health conditions in their future.

I find the whole experience disturbing, and I have reaffirmed my commitment that such a demise is not going to happen to me. Which chronologically impossible, as I  am already 20 years older than this young woman at her death, I still feel like I am too young to die of preventable causes right now at 56. If I have to do massive overdoses of sets of sit-ups, planks, push-ups, walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats, dead tread pushes – essentially everything in my nemesis stable that I  have dislike-but-good-for-me relationship with – to remind myself what fitness costs and how sugar derails my efforts, that is what I am prepared to do. The dissonance in my own world from this event and the ongoing sugary fat foods being presented and softly pushed my way is at this moment far too much for me. My mind is so overwhelmed by the disconnect that I will fulfill my contracted commitments for this year (hopefully only another week) and then notify them by mail at the end of the year that they should plan on hiring another consultant next year.

If I am going to have my negative judgment gene engaged continuously, I am going to do my best to voluntarily separate myself from circumstances where I have no hope of influencing changes in behaviors.

Contrast that with Tuesday’s almost 3-ring circus memorial for another client’s hard-partying mother – it was stark. First, no religious ceremony or overtones. The celebration of her life included good food, better booze, music, laughter, funny and sad stories, and people being themselves and acting naturally. There was a buffet meal-like food line with a many healthier options. There was a pretty amazing caesar salad and skinless, boneless teriyaki that was quite good. While In life the departed was a foodie as well as other vices like alcohol, recreational drugs, lots of sexual partners and treatments for the associated afflictions that can come from unprotected sex before the onset of AIDS, her son is a pretty upstanding citizen with many positive lifestyle habits.

Despite her being a terrible, terrible mother (a standard by which I unabashedly judge other parents as indicators of them as people), I liked her almost in spite of myself. She happily signed over custody and care of her only child after cheating on and being divorced by his father, and only stayed in touch with him as an adult because of what he was willing to do for her. She was uniquely self-possessed and owned her many shortcomings while somehow charmingly explaining them away as character defects. In the years we were acquainted I do not believe I ever saw her completely sober, and she angered, frustrated, aggravated me on numerous occasions in my own right in addition to my anger, frustration, and aggravation from her behaviors and attitudes toward her son.

Still, at the end of it all, I can almost admire the way she lived her life on her own reckless, destructive, hurtful ways. Her son – my client as well as my friend – is well-respected and powerful in his own rights. He chose to accept care and responsibility for her as part of his lot in life, and he did so in ways that were compassionate, yet at arms length and very expensive. He told me once caring for her was less about his mother as much as about his own self-respect and the type of man he is and aspires to be, which is someone who does what he can to protect his family, even if it is mostly from themselves. I still do not agree with him on that completely, but as people we are all different about what is minimum standard requirements for being a good and decent human being. At the end of her life, he had no reason for regret or guilt. He did not exactly love her, but she was his mom, and his respect for that biological role in his life caused him to protect himself in the ways he chose while she lived.

The services were very nice, with so many of her friends present who were quite charming characters in their own right. The remembrances were touching, many quite funny, too many heartbreakingly sad due to her own choices and personality disorder. I choose to think of the flawed woman in the best light possible. I know there is evil in this world; I have been exposed to and experienced it firsthand. She was not evil as I define it, but she was self-centered, selfish, and horrible in ways that absolutely disgust me. I won’t really miss her. I won’t miss our interactions. But I won’t say I’m glad she’s gone either. I mostly wish for peace of mind for those closest to her throughout her life.

We met again today, one of our regular face-to-face meetings at his home. His obvious relief at not having to think about or worry about what his mom is doing, what havoc she is wreaking or tantrums she may be throwing looks good on him. And I don’t judge him at all for feeling that way. In life he went above and beyond for her, far more than I would have ever been capable of emotionally or financially with my own parents. He has earned the right to be happy that burden has been lifted.

I identify with the people in both events, because it seems the circumstances of the deaths have touched my own life in real ways. My life and lifestyle choices through the years have not always worked out in the ways I intended, and in painful times I have lashed out and been destructive. Whether I was lucky, smart, just due a better break, or some combination of all the forces of positivity in the world, I survived and came out okay.

But life is changing. Mostly good and great changes.

For most of my life I have bent over backwards not to be judgmental about the choices other people make. It is an impossible standard I have pursued, though, and I know the closer I get to balance and ongoing overall better health, the harder it is to watch in silence while others around me continue to make less desirable choices. I am not one to offer unsolicited advice or opinions, but I am always honest about topics under discussion. I believe exercising my own value systems and evolving positive lifestyle mindset may extend the limits of interactions with others in my social circle. Those who are not so restrained in expressing their (usually negative) opinions are being squeezed out by others who share my enthusiasm for different and more positive and uplifting aging experiences.

I am choosing life. Our individual choices are going to be different, and I completely understand that. But I vastly prefer being around people who are making positive choices and staying active in the journey to graceful aging. It did not take a week of back-to-back funeral services to get me to that realization, but it is helpful to reaffirm that I am making much better lifestyle choices these days.  

My dietary equivalent of the no-fly list

Last night I was reading another blogger discussing the perfect cereal. It reminded me how much I love and adore cold cereal. Left to my own devices, I could easily, happily subsist on cold cereal and skim milk. There is far and away plenty of variety to keep me from getting bored, but I have the added bonus of being someone who can eat the same meals for weeks at a stretch without getting bored.

Is is entirely possible there are people in the world who continue happy, somewhat healthy lives living on cold cereal and milk. Unfortunately, I am not a member of this mythical slice of the population. Since I am diabetic, my intake of sugar and carbohydrates must be monitored and controlled. Cereal, even the healthiest, plainest, devoid of sugar versions of cereal are not the best choices of fuel for me. And if I can’t have even the semi-sweetened version (cheerios, raisin bran), cereal has become yet another item on my dietary equivalent of a no-fly list.

Once I gave up skim milk as a dietary staple, it was not that difficult to forego cereal. Of course, now that I am no longer eating cereal, M has taken up eating granola. For the majority of our years together, M has pretty much never eaten cold cereal. Now, it’s a regular thing for him to be eating granola of various types with his protein powder drinks. Thankfully I am far enough away from dairy products and the cereal I love to not be jealous or even wistful about what I’m not able to able to justify and include as part of my diet. Part of me thinks of it as a “cannot” eat it, but in reality it is more a “should not” eat it. I can eat whatever I wish, but there are going to be consequences for falling off the healthier eating wagon.

Which is why I find eating so complicated and tricky. Every body is different, and what works for me to keep body in its healthiest place is not necessarily tastebuds’ happy place. A typical healthy, balanced diet honestly has too many carbs for my unmedicated system to handle without blood sugar creeping upward and scale bouncing back and forth with the same 3 lbs. gained and lost. I have read labels. I have counted calories. I have counted carbs and protein grams. It’s not so much nothing works – I have learned a lot and gained good insight from the experiences and the experiments – but it becomes an additional burden and stressor upon me, another way for me to fail and weaken my firewalls against negative girl.

For awhile now I have known that I must do something to break the cycle. RD, my most fabulous dietician and friend, has told me over and over that maintaining a high protein and low carbohydrate diet is necessary and the transition is not easy. Some people are successful in going cold-turkey, but I am in some big giant camp of special snowflakes who want what they want and go down fighting, kicking, and screaming every step of the way to the healthier lifestyle place.

For almost a year now I have been working at this. For almost a year I have had mixed amounts of success, but I have made some progress. I eat a lot more vegetables. I eat more fruit than sugary snacks. I gave up dairy, not because anyone suggested I do so, but because I don’t really like most of the dairy I was eating (greek yogurt) and I only drank milk in coffee and with cereal or cookies. Giving up cereal and cookies has become a mandatory thing, coffee was not that difficult with the daily protein shakes and amino energy powder, and dairy therefore just got left by the roadside. Pasta became a once a quarter event where it was once a weekly meal. Still, bread and crackers and snacking lingered, and despite my daily protein shakes, I was still light on daily protein intake.

I’ve been working with Dr. Spencer Nadolsky for a few months now, and in a fit of frustration with myself I decided I would try what I referred to as my nuclear option – his crash course to drop 10 lbs. in a 3 week period of time.

Except I couldn’t locate it anywhere on my computer. It must have been a couple of laptops ago, or M wiped it off my former laptop when his PC crashed and we switched things around. I reached out and asked Dr. Spencer for the information again, and after some discussion, he prepared my smoothie solution which is accommodates my picky eating habits yet is based on a protocol he has been using for his in-clinic obesity patients. The eating plan is specific and fairly strict; I refer to it as the “fuck moderation” eating strategy. I’m sure Dr. Spencer will has a kinder, gentler name for it.

I have never been a follower of fad diets, and this is about as close as I come to that. However, I also know that this solution is not a long-term or permanent solution to my eating habits. This will be 4 to 5 weeks, max. My expectation is that being away from “regular” processed foods for this period will ease my craving and addictive habits toward them and allow me to make better choices. By the end of this 4 or 5 weeks I should have a better idea of what tolerable hunger is really like and more resistance to my eating triggers. A girl can hope, right? And think positively about the success potential.

While Dr. Spencer’s protocol indicates 3 meals per day – 2 protein shakes (up to 4 scoops protein powder) and a “lean and green” dinner with 6 to 8 oz. of lean protein, I had to modify this for my life and lifestyle and have essentially 4 meals per day, with a single scoop protein shake before my morning workouts, then 1.5 scoops for breakfast and lunch shakes. Small cakes, really, and again, every body is different in its unique needs. I require fuel for workouts first thing in the morning, and within the confines of how much fuel I am consuming under this protocol, I am making it work for me.

But even with my own personalization, this first week was not without setbacks; it is far and away a learning curve with my addictions and habits are lifetime ingrained and very powerful. I have snacked between lunch and dinner – a package of peanut butter toast crackers in my desk at work. I could not resist a piece of warm french bread with or the croutons on my salad while lunching with a client. A small slice of pizza at a working lunch. A 100 calorie bag of skinny pop after dinner.

I am not going to self-flagellate about my missteps; shit happens. But I am pleased with the 3 days where I did stay on track, stuck to the plan. I found myself not especially hungry-hungry, more addictive mind whispering that it was mid afternoon and time for a snack. Or seeing M’s spread cheese in the refrigerator and wanting to go raid his stash of crackers, which are actually a better, lower carb choice than saltines or snacking crackers. It became easier to simply look at my watch to and calculate how much time had passed since my last meal and get up and freshen my glass of water. This is my new, evolving method to overcome the urge to snack – I get up and walk around, add ice and water to my glass and just drink it down.

Even the imperfect eating days, I understand the circumstances and that this is a new thing for me. Like all things in life, I cannot change the past; I can only view each day as a new opportunity to do better.

I did have a social visit with my scale this morning – down 2.9 lbs. since last I weighed myself 10 days ago. Since I tend to trade the same couple of pounds back and forth, I cannot get excited about this as progress this week. However, I have my reminder sticky back in place to weigh in each morning going forward. Thinking about my A1c results and my daily meter readings, I should not be surprised about the uptick. A big giant part of this fuck moderation eating strategy can be traced directly to that result. If I had not been getting concerned about the up-tick in my meter readings, I probably would still be trying to do a better job monitoring and tracking my food intake. Fluctuations happen; trends are easy to spot with regular data collection. Or so says fab trainer J and equally fab RD.

Which is another tangential thing that has arisen in my electronic communications with friends. My village is staffed with younger folks – even Dr. Spencer is mid-30s at best – and some of my friends are dubious about how much genuine assistance I am receiving from such youth.

Hmmm.

First thought: why on earth would I pay professionals for help if their advice and directives (when followed) fail to produce results? Second thought: why the immediate discount because of their youth?

The first thought was intriguing and complicated, because now being mid-50s (as they are and older) trying to transform my health seems almost a waste of time and resources. Which shocked me, frankly. I mean, when I asked if it would be better to simply sit around and wait to die they kinda/sorta backpedaled. Retirement is looming large in their minds, saving for that is a priority. Their doctors tell them walking 30 minutes 5 days per week is enough. Portion control and balanced diets are adequate for their overall health. I don’t need a trainer to teach me to walk, right? The internet is full of resources and recipes to make healthy, tasty meals. I don’t need a dietician for that. Obesity? I’m not that fat. I surely don’t need an obesity doctor.

Their health issues are not mine, and such basic directions may indeed impact them in very positive ways. I have been there, done that; it didn’t work. What I have now, with my village, is working. Results matter.

But beyond that, let’s do some math. Being a numbers person, some immediate facts and figures came to mind.

Under the high deductible plan I have had for the past year, I have a $3500 deductible every year before insurance even kicks in. When I was taking Insulin, I was taking 2 different types. The cost for a 3 month supply at the was $1058 for 5 vials and $929 for 3 boxes of the fast acting insulin pens. Add to that the oral medications for diabetes, blood pressure (protect the kidneys), syringes, pen needles, test strips, lancets – my total bill for 3 months of medications and supplies was $2387. I know because I called and received exact pricing for drug costs when I started with Kaiser last December. Strange thing about that? I could do better getting most of my supplies on my own without using my Kaiser insurance at Costco or Sam’s club pharmacy.

So, doing the math of using my insurance for prescriptions alone, that’s $9548 for the year of insulin and diabetes care medications and supplies. My deductible is $3500 and my copay is 30% after paying that, so I’m now at $5314.40 annually in prescription medications and supplies to manage my chronic health condition.

Not using that amount of medication more than covers the annual cost of working with trainer J twice a week.

I feel no particular need or compulsion to justify my choices and decisions, yet I do want to understand their perspective, as narrow and illogical as it may seem. These are people with whom I have years and years of money, budgeting, and financial decision-making discussions with through the years. I could understand their fretting about the financial impacts of personal training if I were not putting in the effort to go to the gym and practice what I am learning. I’m in the gym 4 of the 5 days I’m not working with J and quite literally working my ass off. Same is true of RD and Dr. Spencer. I am truly not the princess type, but in this regard I have ben flailing around on my own for so long I absolutely need and require personalized help for forward progress to happen. The argument for return on my investment simply does not compute.

What they do not seem to grasp, and this could be where the big disconnect comes from, I would not be off medication without the level of exercise I pursue. I will not stay off medication if I do not modify and improve upon my eating habits. The trade off in quality of life is not something that can be measured monetarily.

Bottom line for me: we are in different places in our lives. Our outlooks, health, lifestyle choices differ pretty dramatically. On this we simply have to agree to disagree. Choices I make are correct for me, even if they don’t make sense to them and their money-hoarding mindset.

As for the discount because of youth, I think this is a combination of things. The friends I’m thinking of are being slowly downsized and outsourced in their careers and opportunities for jobs and replacement of equivalent income is nearly impossible. It is a very frightening situation. Intellectually, we all know its purely an economic formula; younger, less experienced people are a lot less expensive to hire. Emotionally, it has created an almost crippling sort of fear to find that age discrimination is alive and well and mostly ignored in the workplace. Making less income at what should be the peak of their careers, facing the prospect of an underfunded retirement or being forced out of the job market creates unexpected, unanticipated anxiety and stress in their lives.

I understand that all too well, and I feel for them.

But my village has skills and experience that I lack. Trainer J is a veteran gym guy, with lots of weight lifting experience and education under his belt and acquiring more with every passing week. RD is a registered dietician and spends his days working with people who really do not want to change their eating habits but the consequences of not following his recommendations and advice are dire. Dr. Spencer is an obesity doctor and works with a lot of patients safely modifying their lifestyle through diet, exercise, and medication support.

In their areas of expertise, all of them know far more about diet and exercise than I do, now and probably well into the future at best, probably forever is more likely. Since I am not capable or willing to experiment long enough to objectively evaluate all the sources of information out there, I have had to choose teachers, guides, information gatekeepers. Aside from their education and experience, I truly feel their real talent is their ability to package and present information to me in ways that make sense to me. Maybe a lot of their other clients are enjoying far more success in shorter periods of time, and quite possibly I remain the village idiot in the various training and healthier eating tribes. But so what? Someone is always going to be ahead or behind the average curve. The day I stopped comparing myself to my peers in the groups was the day i began to feel satisfied and allowed myself to be happy to learn what I learn, know what I know now. I try to follow their advice and directions, and I report back when and where I’m having issues. Chasing miracle cures or immediate results is not me, and my expectation of just trying to implement and seeing small, incremental successes has helped enormously. Still imperfect, but I am so much better than I was a year ago. If I learn that from a couple of 27 year olds and a newish physician then great! Yay for the wisdom and education and experience of youth.

Despite my description and reactions to the discussions here, they were not contentious or heated. One friend just received notice that his job is being eliminated at the end of this year, his third such layoff in the last 10 years. While we are the same age he and his wife were married awhile before starting a family and he has 2 children in private school. I sympathize and asked about prospects and at the present time there are none. His situation is sad to me, but our life and lifestyle choices are very different. Another friend is in bracing for round 3 of layoffs in her firm and expects to not miss the cut this time around. After nearly 26 years with the same firm, she’s completely paralyzed with fear about what to do next, how to even go about looking for another job.

Scary times, indeed.

These economic realities are partly why I started my better health quest in the first place. I knew I would be looking for other work at some point, and whether it’s ever acknowledged or not, obesity bias is a thing. Added to the fact that I am an older worker, not classical or mainstream pretty, and find trying to be charming on demand a huge drain on my mental and emotional resources, I was really worried about making a living when I decided to try and get myself into better physical shape. Whether my anxiety was a product of negative girl’s doom-and-gloom outlook or a reality that I just did not quite come face-to-face with, it was a strong impetus for change.

From where I’m standing (at my treadmill desk) right now – happier, healthier, and stronger – it is impossible for me to see a downside to my decision or to the village I have assembled. I know it’s a luxury, but far better than pricey spa treatments many of my friends promote. This afternoon I’m going to the mall to return a blouse my shoulders and upper arms are hulking out of, yet across the bustling and around the waist it fits just fine and is a complete and total 180 on my typical experience. And I’m going out on this mall adventure in another pair of jeans from the smaller size box.

Kind of impossible to argue about the expense and youth of my village when I am enjoying success and tangible results. Along with a chocolate and peanut butter protein shake for lunch.

All is well and the sun is shining in my realm.

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.

Anti-Diet diet book – wow, just wow

If you have been reading and/or following my blog for awhile, you know I have not done a book review or even chatted much about what I am reading. I am a pretty voracious reader; it is probably my favorite way to unwind and relax. So this is something new for me – not exactly a review, but a commentary on something I read that has really touched a raw nerve in the best ways possible. It’s very untypical for me to express an strong opinion one way or the other on someone else’s work, because while I read a lot, most of it is either relaxing fluff, blogs, internet articles, or work-related accounting, budgeting, and financial-related stuff. Anyone looking for relaxing fluff is likely finding it without my help, blogs and internet articles are mostly for the compelling nature of the ongoing personal stories, and anyone else looking for business and accounting books is likely reading the same or similar publications. And in truth, if I can avoid it, I don’t read books about work-related issues unless really pressed to do so. The continuing education for my certifications is adequate, and should I ever get the wild hair to become a CPA, I will have to hit the books pretty hard to pass the exam.

But in keeping with my current healthier lifestyle focus, I want to share The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control by Scott Abel. From the “about the author” section of this book:

Scott Abel has been involved in the diet, fitness, and bodybuilding industries for over four decades. His coaching specializes in physique transformation rooted in mindset for long-term success.

With my dawning obsession of overhauling my health via lifestyle changes (aka diet and exercise), I have developed a stronger interest in the knowledge, opinions, and current thinking on such matters. There is a lot out there, everything from online articles and blog posts to scholarly tomes on nutrition, fitness, exercise physiology, and everything else in between. I am quite sure a lot of it is pure crap as well, particularly to the absolute novice like me. Trainer J, also and avid reader whose job and hobby relates to all things health and fitness, offered to be my “gatekeeper” when it comes to things I am reading and researching and loaned me a bunch of books he has read and particularly recommends. Scott Abel has been of interest to him of late, and J has graciously provided me an entire series written by Abel related to eating and diet, my current focus in trying to enhance my overall health.

Please note I have not been compensated in any way for the opinions expressed here.

Scott Abel’s The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control … this book spoke to me on so many levels. It is most definitely not a traditional diet book; Abel does not suggest foods to eat, foods to avoid, calorie or nutrient budgets. The closest he comes to doing anything of that is a series of brief “diet tip” suggestions in the very last chapter.

There is so much truth packed into this book, and I feel strongly enough about it to write a post expressing that opinion. As I noted it’s a densely written book, chock full of information that needs to be dissected and digested. It is stuff I know on some level, because I do live in the world and have an imperfect understanding of how marketing works. However, this book really made me think about it, how I am influenced without even being aware of it. For me it’s not just about eating better or losing weight; it’s about the burden of self-recrimination and judgment that keeps me locked in analysis paralysis and not trusting myself. Abel made me feel like I’m normal and even okay to be stuck in this mindset; the solutions he offers are not detailed, how-to instructions so much as guidelines to get me started to breaking away and establishing and practicing the concepts he presents in the same ways I go to the gym and run through my Lists each day.

From a traditional, mainstream media perspective on health and wellness (read: diet and weight management), Abel’s book is a little woo woo. He is not providing you a list of eat this, not that; good food, bad food; more protein, less carbs and fat. Instead, he is addressing our mindset, the voices in our heads, the messages we are bombarded with every time we step outside the house or turn on the TV or open our internet browsers.

He states quite clearly that we should give up our scales and our pursuit of weight loss as a goal. Abel addresses the process of healing our minds and mindsets, uplifting our attitudes and addressing optimum health from and inside-out versus outside-in perspective.

My clearly stated goal with exercise and training with J has always been better health. However, somewhat loosely/tightly threaded through that is weight loss. In an email exchange with my endocrinologist this week says my A1c is down slightly still, and he may consider changing my remaining diabetes medicines. Has the scale moved even one pound? Honestly, I have no idea, because the replacement scale I purchased last weekend is still in its box beneath the vanity in my bathroom. Maybe when I go in for my next appointment and get on his scale I will know what my weight is presently doing. I cannot promise I will care much either way.

My absolute favorite lines in this book are near the end of Chapter 3:

You don’t have a “diet” issue. You have a thinking issue about dieting.

This is reiterated at the beginning of Chapter 8:

By now it should be obvious to you that you do not have a weight problem. You have a ‘thinking and feeling problem’ about your weight.

I went into this book with an open mind – I could not really imagine J sending me something that was actually woo woo and new-agey in the diet and fitness realm. Abel has his particular foundation – I expect his emphasis on the diet mentality, self-compassionate mind, and triangle of awareness (mental, emotional, and physical) are recurring themes revisited in his other books and many articles which I have not yet read. The concepts seem simple, but I found myself reading and then trying to alternatively dismiss and accept the idea that I was reading about me and my personal habits. Where I am typically a very fast reader, this book became increasingly information dense as I continued and I found myself going back to read, reread, take furious amounts of notes, and slowly digest the content over the course of several weeks. It seems like the longest 125 pages I have read in years without being boring or especially painful reading.

A lot of my difficulty in getting through this book was directly and almost exclusively because of the diet mentality concept. I am seriously afflicted in so many areas of my life. Abel discusses this in great detail, from the connection of body consciousness and marketing and all the insidious ways it creeps into our lives and influences our thinking to its many ill-effects on our minds and ultimately, our bodies. Abel discusses the standards and ideals that are arbitrarily put upon us and published as gospel in the marketing materials we are bombarded with, and how harmful those messages are to our self-esteem and overall emotional well being. The influences that increase our self-judgment, the recrimination, the “deals” we make with ourselves, the rules we lay down to pursue the ideal someone nameless, faceless being has created for us, the control we try to exert, and the devastation of our hearts and minds when we fail … so much of it rings true for me in nearly all aspects of my life.

While Abel is specifically talking about diet and weight management, there was a lot of resistance in my head going through these paragraphs and pages, so much resistance that I found myself completely lost when I would pick up my iPad to resume my reading and having to go back and review a few pages to remember where I was in the process. This rarely happens to me, and he is not an especially dry, boring writer (although I will say that I hope he utilized an editor in later editions; his message is valuable yet I am lying if I say I was not distracted by the typos). When I am fully engaged 125 page length books are completed in a couple of hours in an evening; this one took me 5 weeks of nearly nightly reading and an entire letter writing pad filled with scribbled notes, thoughts, and feelings. It was a powerful message, one I am still processing as I type this post.

I am not now nor have I ever been someone capable or willing to follow diets. Weight Watchers has simplified its program through the years and has less emphasis on weighing and measuring, yet even the points system they utilize seems wrong to me. Jenny Craig, Nutrisystems and other prepackaged programs – I know myself and am completely, adamantly unwilling to eat that food, on top of which I know it is an unsustainable method of weight control. Everything else – from high protein, low carb, real food, fake food – I have always had a wariness about popular diets and diet systems because it feels like a recipe for personal failure.

With the diabetes and my new focus on exercise, I am still in the dilly-dallying stage of managing/restructuring my eating habits and overall diet and freely admit it. Abel’s emphasis on a self-compassionate mind expresses the weight loss/weight management process as something that should ben an inside-out (better health) process versus the diet mentality’s emphasis on outside-in (physical appearance). I am strongly encouraged by my own inside-out transition and my recent success with managing my diabetes. That said, in the past 6 months when I would dutifully step onto the scale every week and the numbers were nearly identical to the prior week or even higher, I would be torn between disappointment and despair, neither of which are good places to be or to feel. Over a number on a scale. Which would in turn make me think that the exercise was not working and maybe I should give up … such a tempting idea that has been. Never mind that my glucose numbers were going down, the volume of medication I was consuming to maintain that trend was also decreasing, but I was getting upset because I failed (and yes, I use and used that word) to drop any ounces off my frame.

There is still some distance in my head between me and creation of better, consistent habits, but for me, weight management begins inside my head and the direction of my thinking, not in the kitchen with the scale and the measuring cups and the list of foods and ingredients that are off-limits going forward. This book encapsulates all those impulses are symptoms of the diet mentality. This book encapsulates all those impulses and symptoms of MY mentality.

Abel’s solution for overcoming and letting go of the diet mentality is to develop and maintain a self-compassionate mind. He describes the process in detail and states very clearly about what it takes to be set us free from enslavement to diet mentality. As he puts it, “the process is the goal and the goal is the process.” He writes clearly, repeatedly that adopting this and abandoning the diet mentality is not a quick or easy matter; it is unrealistic to expect that this is an overnight transition. Like my practice with what J is teaching me, adopting a self-compassionate and self-accepting mindset takes time to develop, strengthen, and train. If we choose to commit ourselves to that mindset, we are on the right path to release ourselves from the bondage that is the diet mentality.

The absolute beginning for the self-compassionate mindset is accepting how we look right now. Not after we have lost 5 or 10 or 100 lbs., but right now, right this very second. Seriously, how many of us can say we love, like, or even accept ourselves just as we are right this minute? I know I am not accepting, loving, liking myself much at all in most ways imaginable, but I also know I am wrapped pretty tightly in the chains of self-judgment. Developing and maintaining that sort of outlook is going to require a determined, disciplined, ongoing commitment for me, but it is also one I had begun to ponder even before opening this book.

This book validated so much of the direction my own thoughts and ideas the last 7 months. By taking those first teeny, tiny little steps of abandoning goals and the idea of an end game with training, I unknowingly took a big stride toward creating a better framework of thinking to help me move forward in a positive direction.

I am the first to admit I have a long way to go to get out of my own way, but this was a good start. Abel’s book validates my thinking and my approach toward getting better in multiple aspects of my life. My bookshelf is still crowded with books to read and to ponder, and I will continue to work at reading as time and life allow. I will continue training with J, practicing on my own, and determining what I am feeling as I go through each and every movement.

This book gives me hope that I am on the right track, makes me believe I can learn to trust myself and my own instincts. Instead of handing me a book filled with a system or program that I am more likely than not to fail, J handed me something that supports what I was just starting to posit and express.

When I began to exercise 7 months ago, I had small hopes and dreams. Now this far into it, I have experienced some positive, transformative successes and incremental changes. I have used the word “fun” about exercise in blog posts and meant it. While Abel does not give me a roadmap to remake my eating, it does help me feel as if I can get to the point of trusting myself and my choices. Ideally I want to get to the point where I do not second-guess or feel guilty about my food and eating decisions; this book is the first I have read that makes me believe it is a genuine possibility.

The oddest thing? The timing. I think it was around Thanksgiving that J first mentioned reading one of Abel’s books or finding his website. Maybe I need to add “mind reading” to his list of scary smart talents.

The rest of my life

I was so not into getting up and dragging myself to the gym this morning. It was fatigue. It was eating crap. It was work. It was the niggling start of a sad news funk waiting to happen. It was life weighing and that little voice inside my head whispering that taking a day off from training would not kill me.

Except it might. Kill me. Slowly. Insidiously. Uncomfortably and probably painfully while I still have things on my lifespan to-do list.

While I am being a little dramatic about missing one day of exercise, I recognize that it now must be forcibly woven into the fabric and schedule of my life. While I do not feel like it much of the time, I have a chronic condition, type 2 diabetes. It is a condition that can be managed and controlled with medication or healthier lifestyle choices and medication (or maybe no meds – it could happen). But in the grand scheme of things, I truly have only choices I hate (medication and lots of it) or presently dislike a lot (restricted diet, daily exercise, some medication). No one should have to accept choices they truly hate, so I am going forward with what I presently dislike. A lot.

So I dragged my sorry ass out of bed at 4:35 this morning and got down to gym, clocking in at 5:32. Between waking up in a poor attitude state of mind and walking through the club doors, I had made a deal with myself that I would do 2 sets/minimum reps today and call it good. To me, minimum of 2 sets sounded a lot better than powering through the usual 3 sets at highly focused intensity to finish up in my allotted time. It was a cheering thought, almost a rest day for me. I would deal with the fallout and consequences later.

Except a weird thing happened when I actually began my practice. While I had consciously decided to take it easy on myself and only do minimum reps for 2 sets, I found I did not want to and physically could not allow myself to do that with crappy form. And for me, doing these movements correctly and precisely requires a lot more focus, concentration, and work than just sloshing through it without giving a shit about whether it was good or bad, right or wrong.

Damn you, J, and your constant drilling on form, form, form!

At the end of my practice, I was surprised to find nearly an hour had passed. My shirt and hair were drenched with sweat like any other day (lovely visual, I know). I was still unmotivated and wished I were home sleeping, but I was happy and relieved that I made myself just do it and do it right. Because if I let myself slip today, it is way too easy to not go Friday, then Saturday, and Sunday … until the only times I am at the gym is on training days with J. I know myself. I know how easy it is to justify and rationalize my backslides. Better to just make myself suck it up and deal than to completely relax my discipline and have to start all over again.

I realize, again, this is how it has to be for the rest of my life. I have to exercise. I have to eat healthier foods and monitor portions and carbohydrates. I have to make these lifestyle changes and make them stick if I have any hope of enjoying the life empty nest life and retirement with M.

For a lot of people they speak about goals as if everything is rainbows and unicorns forever once they cross that finish line. Maybe some goal and goal line will appear on my horizon to look forward to and work toward, but it certainly feels like I have to work at least this hard every day to maintain baseline good control (of diabetes) without any additional medications. Forever. My reasoning is that if I am disciplined about exercise, when I want to treat myself to crap food I will likely not have to work that much harder to stay on the health pathway.

I know there will come a time when vacation or work will happen and keep me from the gym. Taking a walk, using my bands, attending a yoga class will all be good substitutes. While I am at home and have the ability to schedule some time to get to the club and to complete my practice, I need to do so, without fail. And I just have to keep telling myself that, every single day, until I can accept it as my new reality and without getting my sulk on about it.

Compartmentalizing is my friend. Right now I am gazelle-intensely focused on my exercise routines, but I know the time is coming when I will be habituated to my exercise and will have to turn my attention to tightening up my diet. I have done pretty well – unhealthy snack foods have been banned from our household, only M’s favored crackers and small packets of almonds we both enjoy remain – and most of the time I am getting my vegetables and barely enough protein. The protein consumption needs work, as does cutting further carbs from my diet. Unfortunately, the holidays are nearly upon us, and there is a lot of social eating for me/us this year. I will do what I can to keep it in check, but it seems likely that food will not be the subject of intense focus until January. That gives me the balance of this year to strengthen my exercise discipline.

Small steps. I will get there.