Tuesday, May 31, 2011

53 and it's NEW Me

I’ve always liked the idea of reviewing my life – what’s wrong, what’s right and planning for what I want to have happen. Even if most of plans don’t actually come to fruition, at least by the act of planning, there are some goals that do become realized. I’ve been thinking about today’s birthday for several weeks, thinking about where I am and where I want to be. During the process, I read in a magazine about a woman who, when she hit 54, looked in the mirror and was amazed at how frumpy she’d become. She kicked her exercise program up a notch, refined her eating habits and now, at 60, looks and feels fabulous. What a timely, inspirational article for me to pick up and, hey, I’m only 53 today – I’m a year ahead of her!

With that inspiration in mind, I thought about this upcoming year and what I want to work on in order to be the best 53 year-old I can be. There are four areas that came immediately to mind: eating (as in less quantity and more healthy), exercise (continued cardio, more strength and flexibility), writing and time for me to do those things that I’ve only been dreaming about. I like a catchy phrase to remind me of my goals, so I played around with the words and came up with NEW Me: Nutrition, Exercise, Writing and Me.

So, what is the NEW Me going to be doing this year? In the area of Nutrition, I’ll be asking myself three H questions whenever I’m confronted with food or the idea of it: Am I hungry? Is the food healthy? Have I had enough? Hungry? Healthy? Had enough?

The NEW Me will also be working on becoming pain free. For the last year and a half, I have had pain somewhere in my body. With continued cardio exercise, more strength training, increased flexibility practice and physical therapy I hope to get my body back to feeling good, not just putting up with pain as a symptom of aging.

The New Me will begin to formulate my thoughts and writing into something publishable. I love the mental process of preparing what I will write as well as the act of actually writing, but the idea of marketing my writing in any form scares the words right out of me. This will definitely be an activity that is out of my comfort zone, but that’s okay; I’m not ready to stop growing.

Finally, or perhaps as a first step, NEW Me will make time for me. I have a laundry list of activities I’d like to pursue, chores I’d like to get accomplished, and goals I’d like to reach. In some ways, the ME portion of this acronym is contained within each of the other pieces, but there’s also more to ME than just what’s NEW.

So, with seven years to go until sixty, but with a one-year head start, NEW Me is already ahead of schedule; NEW Me is excited and NEW Me is going to do just fine.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm Walkin', Yes Indeed

I used to be a runner. Actually, first I was a walker, then I was a runner. Now, post-foot surgery, I’m back to being a walker and the Fats Domino song runs through my head as I walk. I miss the movement of running; the action, itself, feels physically freeing. However, I am finding that the action of walking feels mentally freeing.

I’ve walked and/or ran on a treadmill for years in the predawn hour when my husband and I exercise in our basement, but for the last couple of months – ever since I decided that I needed to head in a new direction (see Something’s Gotta Give), I’ve wanted to walk outdoors. No, it’s more than “wanted”; I’ve needed to walk outdoors. I need the fresh air, I need the movement that actually goes somewhere and I need the time for my mind to roll around ideas as my feet roll with each step.

I had planned to go on a long walk this morning, but I woke up feeling unrested and achy, so I’d bagged the idea of a long walk. Now, having written this and imagined my walk as I’ve written, I’m ready to head out the door. I’m walkin’, yes indeed!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why Did I Open My Big Mouth?

I’ve always been somewhat liberally opinionated, especially about social issues. I’m not sure why; my parents believed in equality – to a certain extent, and certainly they believed in fairness, but I don’t think of them as having been very opinionated or liberal. Perhaps it was the reading material I chose as I grew up. This sounds a bit absurd, but I read Ann Landers regularly as a pre-teen and teen and, though she had some “old-fashioned” viewpoints, her advice was pretty open-minded. Then, just as I entered high school, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective came out with Our Bodies, Ourselves – it became my Bible. I have no doubt that this book played a big part in forming my basic foundational opinions about many social issues.

During my teens and twenties, maybe even into my thirties, I was somewhat vocal about my opinions, but I’ve recently realized that, while the passion of opinion is still strong within me, I’m no longer very vocal. This realization has been eye-opening to me and has caused me to give a lot of thought about why I have become a quietly opinionated person. This all arose when a friend posted a plea on her blog for support of a cause that I didn’t agree with. My initial reaction was to simply close the blog and move on to something else, but the topic was one that I’m particularly passionate about, so I gritted my teeth and typed out a comment, “Sorry, I disagree.” This simple sentence has spurred additional requests for discussion from my friend and, while I like a good conversation as much as the next person, what I have realized over the last two weeks since I gritted my teeth and typed, is that I no longer care to engage in debate-style discussions. I know that a lot of people love to discuss hot topics: politics, religion, social issues, but I don’t and I realize now that this is something that has changed within me as I’ve aged. In my twenties I would have loved a hot discussion – setting out my opinions and attempting to get the other person to see that my way is the right way. Now, and this is all part of this new realization, I’m pretty comfortable with my opinions and, while I’m happy to state them when asked, I no longer feel the need to try and convince others that I’m right – just as I’m comfortable with my opinions, I assume others are with theirs.

I have a great many friends whose opinions on sensitive subjects differ from my own, but I don’t think that’s an impediment to our friendships – perhaps it even enhances the relationships. More than having similar opinions, what I want in a friend is someone with the same basic moral values regarding loyalty to family and friends, kindness and giving, intelligence and interest. When my friend first asked me for more information on my comment, my first thought was, Why did I open my big mouth? Now, I’m glad I did and I’m glad she asked. I’m sure we’ll have a good conversation on this topic and this short little internet exchange caused me to really take a look at myself and how I’ve changed over the years on the subject of voicing opinions. In my opinion, I’m comfortable with who I have become.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Well, That Was Interesting!

I’ve been working out regularly for the last twelve years and I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I had a bit of a setback last year because of my foot surgery, but since then I’ve been working at getting back to where I was. It was months before I could walk at all and my surgeon advised against running. Once I began walking I noticed that I couldn’t walk as fast on the treadmill as I had in the past. My normal treadmill walking pace was 4.0 to 4.2 miles per hour. After my surgery I had to turn it down to 3.5 and have just recently graduated to 3.8. When walking outside, I have not worried about mileage or pace – just walking. Now I am signed up for a 10k next month and a couple of half-marathons over the following months, so today I pulled my Garmin Forerunner out of the drawer for the first time in a year. I leashed-up the big dog and headed out for a 5-mile walk. In the past my outside training and racing (I don’t really race anyone, just myself) pace for walking was 12-13 minute miles. I was shocked today when I had to push like crazy to get my first mile in at a 15 minute-per-mile pace! I felt like I’d forgotten how to walk. My foot flapped down with each step, I couldn’t remember how to get the heel-toe-push-off movement going. I felt like a big oaf! Finally, somewhere around 2.5 miles, my feet started moving with a nice rolling motion, my body naturally leaned forward a bit and my arms started pumping. I could feel the change and it felt good! I finished my five miles in 1:14 – one minute under an overall 15 minute-per-mile pace. Not as fast as I’ve been in the past, but I don’t think this is the beginning of an age-related decline in pace – I’m not yet to that point. I know I’m still able to improve my pace. I’ll be back out there tomorrow and I expect my body to cooperate well before 2.5 miles! I will however, leave the running for another day…or week…or month.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Forty-seven Years to Go

A woman, age 100, was asked if she had any regrets about her life. She replied, “If I had known I would live to a be a hundred, I would have taken up the violin at forty. By now I could have been playing for sixty years!”

In my mind I had pinpointed today as the day I would seriously set myself on my new course, begin moving toward my new goals. I set the process in motion more than a month ago when I wrote Something’s Gotta Give and I sent out word that I would be stepping down from several of my current obligations. With a three week trip to Italy shortly after that announcement and knowing that plans needed to be made to determine who would step up to take on those responsibilities, I knew that I needed to set my start date out a few weeks. Today is that day.

Last night, after a wonderfully busy, crazy houseful-of-kids Mother’s Day, I looked through my stacks of books for a new book to read having finished my last book on the trip home from Italy. My eye was caught by the title on the spine of one book, Defying Gravity. I had a bit of a “woo-woo” moment when I pulled out the book, looked at the cover and saw the full title: Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women by Prill Boyle. I don’t remember where or why I bought this book (I’m a book-a-holic), but it felt magical that this would be the book I would pick up on the eve of my new life course. Last night I was only able to read the introduction before falling asleep (I hit the jet lag wall), but when I woke up too early this morning I took out my reading lamp to read a chapter while I tried to go back to sleep. I was shocked to find myself weeping through the first story of a woman who became a doctor at the age of 50 and the corresponding discussion of the physical phenomenon of inertia – objects at rest stay at rest; objects in motion keep going in the same direction unless acted upon by some outside force. I wept because I was hit by the truth of this phenomenon in my own life and by the inspiration of knowing that others have either managed to be their own “outside force” or have had an actual outside force thrust upon them and have then gone on to achieve great goals and to see their dreams come true. I wept because I have now released myself from the direction I have been on for years and, though it has been a fulfilling direction, I am so very ready to head in a new, albeit somewhat scary, direction. I’m excited to think about what I will do with my next forty-seven years!