Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reflecting on the Changes

Today I'm reflecting a little on some of the changes that I've been through since the end of January when I decided to quit making excuses and got busy trying to improve my life a little.  Not that every area of my life is squeaky-clean, nor have I really hit all of the goals that I set out for myself either.  I was a little bit vague in the beginning about what I wanted to accomplish other than finding a height-weight chart and choosing a number for my final destination based on what average people weigh.

But I'm not average.  Never really have been.  I'm more of a "pass-fail" type to be perfectly honest.  I'm either able to something or I am not.  Either passable or hilariously bad at it.

Just ask my old Modern Dance teacher.  She gave me an "A" for effort because it was evident that I gave it my all.  For actual performance?  Well, let's just say that it was a good thing that I was paired with two other really good dancers and leave it at that.  Ask Allyson who I'm sure has seen far better burpees in her training career.  Mine are kind of in slow motion with a side order of awkward.

I suppose that all of us have something that helps us get through life with our psyches intact.  Maybe it is natural talent, connections, the help of others, a winning personality, luck of the draw, or a particularly pretty face.  Perhaps others see us as capable, confident or cool and treat us accordingly.  I don't know what the difference is sometimes between one person being chosen for this or that and another...but I have more often than not been the one on the bench.  Rarely chosen first and usually considered somewhat as a surprise when people get to know me.  But I've learned a lot on the bench.

Like natural enthusiasm and persistence will get you to places that other things won't.  Being enthusiastic will open doors to you because people like to see someone who is passionate about what they are doing.  Persistence is a quality that few people have because it normally initially involves failure...and people tend to shy away from anything related to failure.  And these two traits have gotten many people to places that they never thought they'd be...sometimes by default...because everyone around them threw in the towel and quit.  I love developing these two qualities because they tend to be easier for me...although I've had the benefits cancelled out by stupidity or poor timing.  But for the most part...I strongly believe in both.

I also believe that most of us are capable of doing more than we think but we don't think to try.  Sometimes as we age, the list of things we do well becomes more or less ingrained in us and everyone around us so we're good with that and don't really feel the need to step out into a new area.

Nobody could top my great-grandmother's lemon pie in my mother's memory.  Nobody could top my grandmother's chess pie in mine.  My mother is a wonderful actress and still delights people who go to watch performances and be entertained.  People tell me that I have a pretty handwriting and so I do wedding invitations and write out bible verses when asked.  If you do something well...why bother trying to get better or find something new to master?

However, there is a lot in us that we know not of.  The secret is to find the people who don't see our limitations - or the ones we've put on ourselves - and who tell us that we can do or be more than we ever thought possible.

I had a friend, Lisa, who told me years ago that I'd be a good teacher.  I thought I'd give it a whirl to conquer my shyness about public speaking.  I ended up teaching banking classes for ten years.  I had another friend who gave me some recipes and told me that I'd be able to make jellies and pickles if I tried.  I can and do.  (No pun intended.)  What would have happened had I written that off and not tried because I was afraid of speaking in public or messing up my kitchen?

Right now, I am working with a trainer and instructors who apparently don't see me as 51 but as someone who is trying to get better.  Who is strong and capable.  Who can run around the parking lot at the gym (slow but still...) seven times last night.  Who can do 100 crunches with a fifteen pound weight held steady above my head.  Someone who can squeeze out 15 more repetitions and definitely more than the week before.  Who wears workout pants from 2005 because they now fit although they are horribly out of style.  Who couldn't care less that her hair is soaking wet and so is her shirt when she leaves the gym.

I think that part of the secret of life is to never stop learning.  To never stop setting goals for yourself.  To never quit thinking that things are possible.  I suppose that the older I get, the more I see people happy with where they are, unwilling to make sacrifices to change, or scared that if they drop their guard for a second that someone will swoop in and put them at a disadvantage.

Actually, I have been all of those people.  It was exhausting.

I have friends who roll with different interests the older they get.  They dream of travel, learning a new skill (my mother-in-law learned the dulcimer in her 70's), or just being a better version of themselves.  If this is not what you are doing...then think about it and see if you may be really, really comfortable and are letting life pass you by just a bit.

Because I have been the "poster child" for being unhealthy, I suppose I've gone the other direction toward reversing the damage.  I won't be able to do that entirely, however, because of my age and the fact that I have battle scars from my neglect.  But instead of being angry about it, I accept this.  There are consequences to every decision, and one of the glaring consequences of my poor ones include some veins that run over my body like a map of New England.  Fine.  But there's no reason that I can't try to be one of the successful people who lose half of their body weight.  Because people actually do that all of the time.  It isn't easy...but it is possible.

There are changes that have stuck with me such as giving up artificial sweeteners, cutting out most breads and butter, dairy, and processed foods.  But every so often I'm not going to act like the Wicked Witch of the West and be "melting" just because there's a little cheese on my salad.  I'll be fine.  I also feel much better if I am wearing it out at the gym instead of sitting around trying to make the weight come off with diet only.  But I have no patience for using ridiculously light weights just to do exercises because 51 year old women shouldn't lift heavy.  I'm big on progressing to heavier weights so that I'm challenged.

It actually makes me feel quite amazing.  Capable, strong, and like anything is possible.  I don't necessarily feel that while running, but I hope that someday I will.  I wasn't a good runner when I was young and more fit, so I doubt seriously that I'll be running a marathon anytime soon...but you never know.

Wherever you are today on your path...retired, waiting for a vision, settled, fat and happy, or just a little bit filled with out a way to challenge yourself to do something new.  I don't care if it is finally putting in and maintaining that flower bed you've dreamed about for years, joining a class or boot camp at your gym, planning a trip to Europe, or organizing your spice rack.  Just figure out something that gives you that wonderful feeling of accomplishment and that anything is possible.

I find that at the gym.  I find that when I weigh less than the day before.  I find it when I look back at how far I've come.  I'm still very fluffy, but I'm 61 pounds less fluffy than I there's that.

Thank you to all of you who have made me feel like I could keep going through this.  Who encourage me to write about the journey or to just pick up a 15 pound weight instead of a 10 because I can.  Who tell me to keep doing what I'm doing because they can tell.  Who tell me to keep working hard because it is paying off.

Hopefully, someone out here reading this will be encouraged to get off the couch and into doing something that makes them feel incredible.  Perhaps not...but that is my hope.

Thanks for reading.  And for everything else.

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