“be a person who”

Zoolander always makes me think of my son
Zoolander always makes me think of my son

I know this is a regular theme of mine, but it amazes me so much I keep finding my way to a surprised reflection on it: I hardly recognize myself.

  • I exercise every single day, at least once — yoga and/or walking and/or strength training.
  • I am a vegetarian (though when I’m in NYC and my husband cooks, it’s hard hard hard).
  • I have a tan. (The least important of these changes, but the most remarkable for eternally lily-white me. This is mostly due to my ease with my body, now, so my willingness to be outside in a bathing suit.) (Plus, I think the daily dose of sun has been great for my spirits.)
  • I start every day with a green smoothie, and now I also have a juicer.
  • I meditate regularly.
  • And then these two, which are in a different category but all of a piece with the whole:
    • I’m not motivated to hide my smarts any more.
    • I have more friends than I have time to be with, and a rich social life.

NONE of that was ever true for me, ever. Ever. Not once in my 56 years of life. In fact, the inverse of those things has been true. It’s so weird, and since I think a lot about change, I’m kind of fascinated by how it has happened — especially since it has stuck for an uninterrupted year, and the changes are expanding, and my very sense of myself has changed.

Jeff, my VERY sweet and deeply thoughtful health coach
Jeff, my VERY sweet and deeply thoughtful health coach

It’s easy to say that my food-related shifts are due to working with Jeff, my health coach, but he would insist — and I’d have to agree, now — that he facilitated something I was really ready to do. I’d become so overwhelmed and frustrated and anxious about everything having to do with food, I had no idea how to eat any more, and I was tired of yo-yoing. Up 50 lbs, down 50 lbs, repeat. Just so tired of that. And with eight little words from him, everything changed: You can eat ALL the fruits and vegetables. Of course it was more than that, it was having him to talk to about it, and even just deciding to pay someone to help me with it, but that eight-word sentence started a shift.

I think if I’d just “decided to become a vegetarian,” I might’ve done that for a while and then drifted back to unhealthy eating, my life-long M.O. But then, once that change was underway, I was a vegetarian who also started each day with a green smoothie. A person who bought a VitaMix. A person who stopped at JuiceLand for a treat, instead of the grocery store for a pint of ice cream. (Though on occasion it’s still a treat!) In talking with Jeff about health in general, I started moving more, I got off the couch. I finally listened to my own self — Lori, you love yoga, just do some damn yoga. And after a bit, I bought myself a very nice yoga mat and some blocks. And after a few weeks of using a free app on my phone for yoga routines, I signed up for YogaGlo, an inexpensive monthly subscription to hundreds of online classes. Well, by this time I was a person who ate all the fruits and vegetables, started the day with a green smoothie, did yoga, and then I started walking more regularly.

All those incremental shifts accumulated and settled into place, and became habit. I grew into a person who did those things. A person whose life held those habits. And when you’re a person with those habits, other habits make great sense and fall into place more easily. Now I’m also a person who owns a juicer! I’m about to become a person who bicycles, as soon as I find a bike. Now I’m a person who lives a healthy, conscious, engaged life.

And so I’m wondering about this construct, “being a person who….”. I wonder if change happens more deeply if we have a different view of ourselves as a person, so perhaps a kind of top-down shift. (Although my shift was definitely bottom-up, beginning with one tiny change that collected others in the neighborhood.) Maybe the issue is that once that top-down understanding has arrived, the rest is easy and the change is permanent. I no longer feel like I’m resisting my old self — a feeling I had for several months as I started making these small changes.

Maybe you want to be “a person who makes a difference in the world.” Maybe you want to be “a person whose life is creative.” Or “a person who draws people together for art/music/poetry.” I don’t know, I’m just brainstorming. But I wonder about this; would it be different if you signed up to volunteer somewhere as opposed to wanting to be “a person who makes a difference in the world” — and then perhaps signs up to volunteer somewhere? Maybe your own understanding of what you’re doing would matter, would help you persist through disappointment or frustration.

If you aren’t all that happy with the way you’re living your life — and let’s just say in this general domain, for the sake of discussion — what would it mean to you to be a person who lived a healthy life? It might look very different from my version. I wonder if starting with that question and then just plucking different elements to work with would be helpful? Hmmm. I think I’ll do that with myself on another topic, now that I think about it. So I think this becomes less about change, and more about growth.

I remember when I was staying at home with baby Katie, and one day as I was making the beds and planning to clean bathrooms, I thought, so this is my life, making beds and cleaning bathrooms — but immediately after that I realized no, my life is making a cozy home for my dear family. The big-picture view instead of the foot-level view.

Anyway. If you live in Austin and know someone who wants to sell a bike, I’m all ears.

riches

Last night we celebrated the birthday of one amazing woman in our book club. We gathered at a cool Indian restaurant near downtown; the last time I ate there it was a food truck. This happens a lot in Austin.

friends
my wonderful book club (minus Karyn, who was traveling) and various husbands, friends, sons, daughters, sisters.

It was an exceptionally joyous evening, I thought; we love celebrating together, and we make a point of celebrating birthdays, but there seemed to be something a little extra special about last night’s celebration. It was also a lovely evening, early spring, soft.

While we were there last night I realized all this, but it was in looking at this picture this morning that I felt washed over with gratitude. This group of people, this welcoming, loving, warm, intelligent, loving group of people represent so much of my beautiful life in Austin. The beating heart of it is Katie and Oliver, of course, but when I think about what makes my life so large and textured and beautiful, it’s big: it’s Katie’s little family, these beautiful people, my poetry group, Nancy who I still cannot believe my great good luck to know and love and live next door to, Cindy who crosses so easily into my honest heart, other friends I care about and simply don’t get enough time to see on a regular basis. My beautiful, sweet home. This place, Austin, that is the most deeply familiar place I’ve ever lived — two of my children were born here. Bluebonnets. Deep Eddy. Great food. Live music.

I’m so healthy it’s amazing. How lucky is that?! I’m strong and look pretty good for an old gal and have enough work and get to see the world but I have my solid base here.

I look at that picture and easily remember the last time I was at that restaurant a couple of years ago. It’s where I first met two of the women in the picture, actually, but I barely remember because I was in such terrible shape that I’d forced myself out the door and couldn’t wait to hurry home and crawl back into my bed to cry. Two years ago. Then I had Katie and Trey, horrible grief over losing everything, and the house I’m renting. And now, just look. Everything is as different as it possibly could be. I’ve been sitting here trying to see if there’s anything that isn’t different, and the answer is no, not really. It’s all so different. Even our grief over Gracie has found a level that allows us to live with it.

Dang, y’all. Life can pull a 180 and even though you think it’ll always be dark, it really isn’t. Lucky, lucky me.

well OK then.

I’m flying this morning to New York, but I just have to say a little more about this truly (to me) shocking thing that happened on Wednesday. One way I am not a very good adult is that there are ways I should take care of myself, but I don’t — and one is that I just won’t go to the doctor. I hate going to the doctor, partly because I’m just so healthy I imagine either it’ll just be money spent to learn that I’m healthy, or because I think they’ll spin something out into a worry that really isn’t a worry. I’m stupidly healthy with stupid good blood pressure — 112/78, my most reliable number. I’m from long-lived healthy people who live into their late 90s, if they aren’t alcoholics. I also don’t go to the dentist, but I make up for it by taking super good care of my teeth.

My husband, on the other hand, goes to the doctor all the time. All the time. For very understandable reasons, he also expects the absolute worst to happen, so every little strange thing that happens in his body he imagines to be something fatal. It drives him crazy that I don’t go for regular check-ups, and he got outright mad at me when he was here, because I haven’t seen a doctor at all for ~3 years, maybe more, so I went ahead and made an appointment. The only real problem I have is a slightly insufficient aorta, and osteoporosis, and I have not been careful about taking extra calcium. In 2011 I crossed from osteopenia into osteoporosis, worst in my hips and a little less bad in my spine. But all the numbers had crossed that magical mark from -penia into -osis. I truly thought that that was a direct path, one-way only, into worse and worse -osis. I was curious about how much worse it had gotten, and that was really my only concern going in.

I have been working around the edges of it. I consistently do yoga sessions that focus on balance, to help me not fall. On flexibility, to help me catch myself and not fall. On strength so I’m less likely to fall. I carry my cell phone with me at all times, and put it next to the tub every morning when I take a shower, in case I fall so I can get help immediately. I don’t rush and am mindful in situations that might be risky, like stepping around the dishwasher in my small kitchen. Instead of doing a long extended reach-around, I just step around (and carefully). The consequences of broken hips are more often fatal for women than heart disease. It’s serious. I was having dinner with a friend earlier this week and we talked about our real horror of falling, and how almost obsessed we both are about helping ourselves not fall. It was a funny moment to share.

SO. Exam: check, absolutely no problems anywhere, healthy as a horse. Blood work: absolutely great in every way. Cholesterol ratio better than the nurse sees, outstanding. Liver, kidney, thyroid, check check check. Healthy as a horse. Like every single person I’ve ever heard of, I’m Vit-D deficient, which I wouldn’t worry about except it facilitates calcium absorption into bones. Mammogram scheduled when I’m back from NYC but it all looks good, her exam showed healthy tissue. Bone density scan: SHOCKING. I moved backwards in my spine, back into -penia! My left hip? Back into -penia! The right hip ratio? Back into -penia, although the neck of that hip is still in -osis. (That’s the narrow part in the picture on the right, and it’s where breaks are most likely to occur.)

bones

Maybe you knew this was possible without taking drugs or supplements so this isn’t at all surprising to you, but I had no idea it was possible. I thought the best I could do was to keep it from getting worse, I truly did.

My greatest improvement was in my spine, and the radiologist said that my yoga practice (and my diet) is responsible for that. Yoga is especially good for the spine, and since many of the poses are weight-bearing, you get that aspect too. Walking and running are especially good for the hip bones, so now my mission is to walk more and try to get that right hip neck down into -penia too. I just had no idea this could happen, and it feels thrilling, like the biggest news I’ve heard in so very long.

Of course I can’t know for sure, but I’ll bet the news — especially about my bones — would’ve been quite different if I lived the way I always used to. Not too great a concern for healthy eating, a too-great focus on sweets, and zero (by which I truly do mean zero) exercise. Do yoga, especially if you’re a woman in or approaching my stage of life. Just do it. Walk regularly. And while going vegetarian has been so great for me just because it liberated me and made eating so simple, I do think that the more you can add vegetarian food into your diet — even if you don’t just eat vegetarian — the better your health will be. Turns out I have been getting more than my daily requirement of calcium just from the food I eat! A cup of almond milk — the liquid in my morning smoothie — has 600mg, and my daily requirement is 1200mg. Halfway there, and the spinach I include adds 60mg more.

I have a Pinterest board filled with vegetarian recipes I’ve collected, and I haven’t found a bum one in the mix yet. I haven’t made them all (I have 1,057 recipes pinned), but the ones I have made have been wonderful. If you want to check out the board and save any recipes that look good to you, just click the picture below:

pinterest

And once more with feeling, a hearty recommendation for YogaGlo. My favorite teachers are Jason Crandell, Stephanie Snyder, Amy Ippoliti, Jo Tastula, and Felicia Tomasko. They offer a free 15-day trial period, and I was so hungry for that 16th day I signed right up. It’s $15/month, and if you look at the cost of yoga classes you see what a deal this is. New classes all the time, classes for any reason, various times of day, different needs. Being able to do it at home means I actually do it. (And if I want to be more social, I can always go take a real life class.) If you’re worried about not doing the poses correctly and using poor alignment, let me show you this:

YogaForce Mat
YogaForce Mat

You can find that on Amazon, but it’s expensive — $89 usually, on sale right now for $73. BUT! You can also draw these lines on your own yoga mat with a fat sharpie! I refer to the lines all the time and use them to ensure proper alignment. Of course be sure they’re perfectly parallel and the cross lines are perfectly perpendicular to the long line, but there you go.

Shocked. I’m just so so shocked. I feel so powerful — I changed my bones, did that myself! A condition that felt inevitable turns out to be just a little bit evitable. 🙂 That is amazing. Taking care of your health doesn’t just hold off trouble, it can even reverse something as solid (or not) as your BONES. I remain shocked by this, and return to the mat with a new kind of gratitude. Take care of yourself.