Tomorrow, on the 7th of May, 2014, I will be fifty-one years old. The novelty of turning fifty now past, I find myself wondering how to emotionally approach this very average-sounding, non-landmark of a birthday. It’s interesting to me that although aging is a concept I admittedly have a hard time with, I haven’t invested a lot of energy or thought into it – certainly not the way I did last year’s birthday. And when I do pause for a moment to consider what’s happening here, I feel a bit stuck. I’m getting older, but somehow I’m still not adjusting. Somehow, I still don’t believe it.
This time last year I was twenty-something pounds lighter after a long and successful campaign on the Atkins diet. I passed my fiftieth summer looking and feeling great. I even got to visit Chicago, got to sing in front of some audiences, eat some fabulous food, visit much-missed friends and favorite places… And all while not being two dress sizes too big for me. (Say what you will, I don’t care. You’re right, I am not liberated, modern or emotionally responsible about this; life just feels a whole lot better as a size 10. Sorry, but for me it’s true.) There were some moments in which I felt absolutely glowing and good; positivity and energy radiated from me without effort… It had been some years since I’d felt this way, and I was a bit surprised to notice how familiar a feeling it was – and how not only enjoyable it felt to look and feel good, but how powerful it was too. To have virtually no reservations about how I visually presented to people. I zipped up old favorite dresses and they felt as good as super-hero costumes. But this year, I live in a different body, and the thought most forefront in my mind each day is this: man, I fucking blew it. And once again, I look and feel frumpy. Tossed many of most of my fat clothes last year, and bought a couple new skinny outfits too, which now I simply cannot wear. Crap. Choosing clothes was hard enough, now it’s an extra tricky challenge. Oh dear Lord, whatever have I done to myself? No matter, it is what it is. The question that I’m left with now is this: what do I do next?
Ok, so I’ve quit smoking, I’ve done the fad diet thing, I’ve gone months without a glass of wine, I have myself a brand-spanking new giant tv and a dvd player and all the Richard Simmons workout videos I can ever use. The trick here seems to be to get it all going at the same time. Since being a mother I haven’t ever had my game on like I had in the old days. Almost… but not quite. Like a bump under the rug, one weakness or another shows up in a corner while the rest of the room looks tidy and put together. So the game plan for going forward seems obvious, but daunting: just get plain healthy. It makes sense, really. It would be so much more enjoyable to feel lighter, more flexible, less driven by a jones and more by an organic desire just to be well. I can guess such a world exists, but it may as well be on another planet the way I feel right now. Gotta be honest here, food is the great reward at the end of a long and tiring day. The pure pleasure of sitting down to a tub of hummus and a stack of pita break with my kid when we return home is a highlight of the day. What would replace that? What will I look forward to if I don’t have my snacks, my wine? I have to figure it out, because I can’t eat as I used to, and while I may love my after school snacks, I sure don’t love the new body that came with em. So one goal for the ‘new year’ might be an overall re-tuning of my routines. A more watchful eye on portions and a workout time scheduled into my day just like I’d make time for practicing or teaching. I guess. A healthy, flexible and trim body sure would be a nice birthday present to give myself. And if I plan on going low and slow, it’ll probably take me a year to get my gift ready…
The eighth grade is doing “Tuck Everlasting” for their class play, and I’m playing the music for it. Even though Elihu read the book rather recently himself, and even though it’s something of a kid’s classic, I hadn’t read it myself and wasn’t even sure of the premise. As I sat there today composing little pieces for the interludes between scenes, I learned about its theme of accidental immortality and the frightening repercussions. And then in the midst of pondering my own process of aging and the reservations I still had about it – it hit me: Yes, I actually do want to grow old. Yes, my God, I do. Can you imagine not growing old? Staying just as you are now – forever? I know there’s nothing new to this message, but still. As I sat there, watching the characters talk about living until the end of time… I could feel the terror in it. And I thought of my father and his life, well-lived, perfectly wrapped up, ending with closure and rightness. Why should I fear concluding what is happily finished? I’m not done yet, and have much still to learn, but I can’t bring my experience to a happy ending unless I grow old first. So I guess I kinda need this birthday tomorrow. I remind myself that at least we’re all going at the same speed. And we’re all headed the same place, so I may as well relax and try to enjoy myself along the way.
My mother had a little accident a couple of days ago. Don’t want to say that she had a fall – it sounds like such an old-lady thing to have happen – but that’s exactly what it was. She said it was because she ‘broke her own rule’ about running for the phone. She turned and stepped on her gym bag and fell. The irony was a killer – she’d just gone to the Y to begin working out again after years away (hmm, do I sense a trend?) and had only just placed the bag there. She’d injured herself out of her effort to improve her health. ! (And who was the caller? You guessed it. I do feel kinda guilty about it.) Thankfully, she didn’t go the ultra old-lady route and break a hip, instead she just really whacked her back and kidneys. She’s so sore she thinks that she may even have fractured a rib. I was on the phone with her today as I sat at the piano between classes when the eurythmy teacher came up to me showing surprise on her face – as I wasn’t supposed to be using my phone inside the school. But when she heard the conversation I was having with mom, she lightened. When I hung up she advised me that it wouldn’t always be like this. Being there for my kid, then for my folks. One day they’ll all be gone, and it’ll be just me again. And then, how did she put it? I’ll be free to work on ‘my own biography’. I added that it was a pity that I’d have to be doing it without benefit of youth. But she just waved her hand in the air and made a face that said ‘nonsense’… She insisted that most women found their most fruitful and enjoyable years to be in their fifties and sixties. Could be. She herself was good evidence of that. She definitely had an idea that I needed to add to the pot.
As my father would struggle across the floor with his cane he’d tell me that he remembered as a boy looking at old men like him and thinking that he’d never be like that… and then he’d laugh and say, ‘but look, here I am!’ I’d chuckle along with him, deep down thinking the very same thing that he once thought as a boy. How self-righteous of me! Ah, but how human. How mortal… Thank goodness there’s an end to it. I like the process of learning things, of doing things, but I also love being able to cross things off the list too. And one day, there’ll be an end to the to-do list that is my life. So for now I’ll just have to throw myself into it, while I’m able, because I think I’m beginning to understand that it won’t last forever.
An abstract image (the most forgiving type) of me, a guinea feather and dad’s wedding ring on the eve of my 51st birthday
7 thoughts on “Time Neverlasting”
Gosh, this makes my brain whirl in so many directions. That’s what I’ve always loved about you, you aren’t afraid to talk about great, interesting, difficult topics. :) First: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Look at all you’ve done, experienced, shared, and left for the world to ponder upon. You’ve been working on your bio for a LONG time! I know there was at least one chapter written in high school that was pretty darn interesting!
Second, if you read this blog, you have all the answers to your questions. You just haven’t lined them up in a way that you understand yet. No, you’re not being vain about your weight. You don’t feel comfortable in your own body. I’ve been there and I know the feeling. It really isn’t a vain thing, it’s a respect for your body and soul issue. You have the right answers, control portions, change your routines, exercise more. Make it the priority it deserves. Maybe the videos are motivating you. I’ve always had the impression you live in a beautiful place, maybe walking/hiking/jog-walking would be more inspiring for you. Find a community to connect with Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers or any of a myriad of online sources (I go to Weight Watchers and do WWonline.) The support and accountability help. And I always say “temporary changes lead to temporary results. Permanent changes lead to permanent results.” Going “on a diet” is temporary, you need to think of it as changing the way you eat and your lifestyle and that it will last forever. Find what works for you forever and you’ll be so much happier.
Also, you are right, your son is in 8th grade? He’s going to be gone in a blink of an eye. Enjoy the time you spend with him and realize that he’ll take priority over other issues that are also important while he’s still home. But there’s no reason you can’t integrate a healthy lifestyle into the life of a mom. It just takes focus and planning. And if you get a healthy lifestyle you’ll find a healthy weight, fitness, balance, and strength level. You really do have to work on keeping your muscles strong and your balance from deteriorating, they are naturally going to weaken, but you don’t have to accept that as a reality. It does take work to grow old gracefully, but personally I think the reward is worth it. And you don’t have to work as hard as some people at having an interesting life, that seems to come naturally for you. I look forward to reading the rest of your bio in the years to come. :) I hope you have a marvelous, adventuresome birthday!
Tara, you sweetie. Thanks. All of it taken in, gratefully, and a new plan of attack is being contemplated. ! oh – and Elihu’s only going into 6th next year, but close enough to the ‘end’ to make every day that much more precious. And yes girl, I know – it’s about the planning. I have nearly a whole summer without the kid to get some new routines in place. I do look forward to figuring out a new, sustainable lifestyle. Again, thanks so much for the support old friend. xo
I recommend thinking of becoming more healthy as a long term process, a way of life, rather than having a particular body shape or weight as a goal. Personally, I would start that process with a year of doing some sort of posture discipline like Yoga or T’ai-Chi or Alexander Technique. With good posture, you’ll get much more bang for your buck with every other exercise you do, including just everyday tasks. After that year, I would then start to slowly but steadily up the caloric burn throttle. Gradually your percentage of muscle mass will increase and once you cross a certain threshold, things can improve much faster. But without the long term approach, without the attention to posture, the odds are not good that any gains will stick. There is a lot of money to be made endlessly promising fast and lasting results that never come. By the way, very few people take the above advice, but I toss it out there anyway. ;~) Best of luck to you whatever you do. ;~) GB
Happy birthday! I do hope you have a wonderful day, all doubts aside it is a gorgeous life more often than not. I agree with Gene – do yoga or something gentle but strengthening. Just eat a balanced diet with thoughtful daily serves (don’t cut out food, just cut down on it) and do 30mins of exercise (of your choice) a day. Certainly don’t ruin the little loves of life by being too strict with yourself – hummus is very rich in important nutrients….and so is one on one time with your kid :D
Happy birthday, Liz – best wishes for a wonderful day, and whatever you do, *celebrate yourself.* You continually inspire me, and I’m sure many others feel the same way. As far as indulging yourself, by all means do so…as Charley said, don’t ruin the little loves of life! You’ll find the right balance. Many happy returns, and belated happy birthday wishes to Elihu as well. xxoo
I like to walk in the woods. You don’t have to carry a 30-40 lb pack. Just walk with nature. I’m not hiking today. Taking a zero in Damascus VA Back on the trail tomorrow. Old age is 15 years older than I am.
: ~ )