Many happy returns

carrot bdayToday is my 63rd birthday. The week leading up to it has coincidentally not been a good one. Unfortunately, having a rough week means I ate constantly and skipped my exercise class a couple of times. This completed the gain-back of the 20 pounds I lost two years ago. Sigh…

But I decline to remain discouraged. A birthday is a great time to re-assess, re-group, and get a fresh start.

In reviewing what I have been doing since I started this blog, I realize that I have been dancing around the central issue like the elephant in the room dancing around a maypole.

I just don’t want to give up eating on the couch; with acrostics, with books, with Netflix.

So I’ve been trying to change all the peripheral habits. And having some success. More weeks where I eat lots of fruits and veggies, more mornings where I prepare ice water for the day to have handy, and, till this week, the occasional meal at the table.

But what I’m realizing is that the core of the issue is the couch eating. The mindless eating. The eating for comfort, the addictive eating.

So, “just for today”, as those wonderful 12-step people say, I am going to do the two most important things:

  • Eat only at the table
  • Include fruits/vegetables with every meal or snack

And I’ll keep working on the peripheral things which make it easier to do those two things. I’ll keep prepped fruits/veggies in the fridge, plan what’s for dinner, fill my thermos.

So far my birthday has been great. I went to exercise class, went out to lunch with Ed, (at a table!) and received a sung “Happy Birthday” message from my daughter.

Who could ask for anything more?

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Who the heck is Harro?

Play "Hearts and Flowers" on the world's smallest violin
Play me “Hearts and Flowers” on the world’s smallest violin

Last night I was going through a box of memorabilia and came across a journal of mine from 1982. Gingerly, I took a peek inside. Ick, ouch, ugh, wince, oh dear. There, for all the world to see (at least until I can find the matches), was my younger self, going on and on about a young swain named “Harro”, who, I can see clearly from my current perspective, just wasn’t that into me. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m glad I didn’t see you again – it wouldn’t have been worth the pain – it would have been too great a reminder that I couldn’t have you. Yet my heart thumps even now at the thought that perhaps you left me a note, or a flower, or somehow showed that you cared…”

Ok, this might not be too bad if I’d been sixteen, and/or if Harro had been the love of my life. But I was 30, and, honest to God, I have no idea who this person is.

In addition to feeling acutely embarrassed, I do have some compassion for this younger self. I spent many years thinking about almost nothing but romance. The happy childhood I recall was actually a bit short on affection, and devoid of any role-models for lasting relationships. Clearly I was working on that.

I also have huge gratitude. At 40 I found Ed, now my husband. I had worked out enough youthful angst to begin building a marriage, and Ed was (and is) kind, steady, and calm. Not to mention handsome, smart, funny, and a great dancer. Twenty two years later, I give thanks every day for him, and for having gained enough wisdom to appreciate him.

There is another struggle mentioned in the journal with which I have had less success. Here is another excerpt:

“I’ve been good about food for four whole days now. It feels great, except when I have cravings to knosh (sic). I notice how much it happens when I’m bored, lonely, and when I’m in transition between one activity and another”.

I have to say, that except for spelling “nosh” correctly, I could have written that sentence last night. Well, and except that I haven’t been “good” for “four whole days”, or even “four whole hours”.

Finding that excerpt gives me pause. All these years of struggling about food, and I’m pretty much right where I started. Since that time I have learned a lot about nutrition, become (mostly) vegan, and managed to keep within twenty pounds of a comfortable weight. Yet the preoccupation with food and the desire for (and over-indulgence in) sugar and chocolate persist.

I could despair about this, or lash myself for lack of progress. Or, having learned how much is driven by genetics, dopamine, and even gut bacteria, I could absolve myself of all responsibility and just give up.

But I think I’ll do something else. Being a lot older and little wiser now, I think I’ll be kind to myself, maintain hope, celebrate small victories, and enjoy the journey.

And Harro, whoever and wherever you may be, I hope you are doing well.

Anyone need a bucket?

No, that's not us. But it's our inner, secret selves.
No, that’s not us. But it’s our inner, secret selves.

My husband Ed and I enjoy Argentine Tango dancing. Recently a fellow dancer asked if dancing in Buenos Aires is on our “bucket list”.

This got me thinking about the aphorism: “no one ever says on their deathbed, I wish I had spent more time at the office”. The saying is supposed to shake us out of our apathy, help us overcome our fear of change, and energize us to dream big and reinvent ourselves.

Well, I can say unequivocally that I have gone for the gusto, and the regret that I “haven’t really lived” is not in my future.

I grew up in Mexico City, lived for 19 wonderful years at Twin Oaks Community, and spent 1990 in crime-ridden Philadelphia, where, among other activities, I collected a wide variety of cute little crack vials from the sidewalk around my house.

I have hitch-hiked across the country twice (once with a 2-week old puppy in tow), camped along the Appalachian Trail, and hung out in San Francisco during the Summer of Love.

My work has been deeply satisfying. I happily dropped out of high-school, and still ended up as a rural family physician. I switched careers to go into animal rescue,  and opened the Cat’s Cradle Adoption Center  on a budget of exactly zero dollars.

I have tried to make a difference in the world, providing much free medical care, starting a battered-women’s support group, founding a spay/neuter organization, and fostering lots and lots of animals.

And through it all, whenever possible, I have danced – folk-dance, ball-room dance, swing-dance, and now the subtle and mysterious Argentine Tango.

So I’ve lived a bucket-full of adventure. What I hope to do now are the slow and steady things. The things that people who did their duty rather than following their dreams have perhaps already accomplished:

  • Be a parent. I was unprepared for motherhood, and lousy at it. My daughter is a lovely adult now, and has done more than her share of the work to create the close relationship we enjoy. It is my desire to continue to nurture this relationship. Forever.
  • Be content. Settle in. Enjoy the moment. Even perhaps (gasp!) do a little meditating.
  • Be nice. Sure, to the grocery clerk – that’s easy. But also to those who disagree with me, to my neighbor who hates me, and to my long-suffering husband, even when I’m cranky.

Will I say on my deathbed that I wish I had kept my house cleaner?

Probably.