About six weeks ago in my posting Going Raw- Part One, I wrote about the process I am going through to change from eating cooked foods to eating raw foods. This is all part of a bigger process that I have embarked upon in order to get as healthy as I can. The food area of my life is probably the last major bastion that I am attempting to overcome and, because it has its roots in my childhood, it is proving to be the most difficult.
However, there is another area of my life that I am addressing right now that is having a major impact on my health. This is in the area of exercise. Yes, I know, that’s a four letter word in my vocabulary too!!! I have been struggling with exercise for many years. Which is really annoying to have to admit when I remember being the athletic person that I was in school.
I played on my High School’s netball team (UK equivalent of basketball) in each year of school. In several of those years I was the team captain. I was fanatical about netball and just remembering it, I can feel my adrenaline level soaring. We played netball during the winter season, September through March, which meant we played twice a week as part of our class PE program and then the team would also practice once or twice a week after school. Matches were played on Saturdays.
After graduating from school I went on to a teacher’s training college, and sports and gymnastics continued to be part of the regular curriculum. During my second year of college I “went off the rails” and left to get married. A baby came along quickly and my new lifestyle was very alien to anything I had known up until then. Physical activities disappeared from my life.
Many years and a divorce later I attempted to return to some form of exercise. But I only hiccupped along in fits and starts. I tried aerobics but felt very clumsy and because I am not good at multi-tasking I simply did not have the coordination necessary. I tried working with a personal trainer but it proved to be too expensive, so I just gave up.
By now I had remarried and had another baby at age forty and had not been able to rid my body of the baby weight as I had when I was in my twenties. I think this was when I pretty much gave up on myself for a while and simply indulged in eating what I wanted. The weight slowly crept up. I remember pledging with myself that I would never allow myself to go over two hundred pounds. I sat at two hundred for a few years.
About fifteen years ago, while living in Naples, Italy, I met a wonderful yoga instructor and started practicing yoga with her. I loved the asana’s and working with the breathe. Moving slowly into and maintaining the poses under Meredith’s compassionate instruction, I began to feel somewhat reconnected with my body. “Sun salutations” became my passion along with the “fish” pose. My weight diminished some and I felt healthy for the first time in a long time.
Then in 2004 I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and, in hindsight, I realize that it took me about two to three years to make the big transition from my European culture to the American culture. My exercise pattern got lost in the shuffle for quite a while. Every once in a while I would make a half-hearted effort to implement a walking regime. I love being outside and walking puts me close to God’s creation which allows me to exercise my body and my soul. I also found a good Yoga studio and began going regularly again.
Then I had a shoulder problem. Had to quit yoga while I dealt with that and exercise got away from me again. Once the shoulder healed I finally pushed myself back into yoga but shortly after that I had a knee problem. Six months later I tried to get back into yoga again but found that it re-awakened the knee issue so quit. I tried walking again but the knee was just too much of a problem and, again, I found myself at that quitting-on-me stage.
One day at the beginning of this year I got on the scales and realized that my weight had bloomed to two hundred and sixteen pounds. I felt defeated and at an all-time low with myself. I made the decision to try and go raw – again (I had been dabbling with raw for a few years), or at least vegetarian. But underneath I knew that if I didn’t start exercising I would get nowhere fast. However, I simply could not get myself motivated to do it.
I think God took pity on me – again. He has a habit of doing that from time to time and when I get to the end of my rope, he offers me the beginning of His! But, as usual, He has a funny way of doing it. My husband was hospitalized toward the end of February with chest pains. Long story short: no heart problems but he was finally forced to look at high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and the doctors were serious when they told him to make lifestyle changes. Our diet swung drastically to mainly salads, lots of veggies and fruit, and we cut out most of the carbs.
Within a month or two we both lost weight dramatically. Then I hit a plateau and stayed there and got depressed. Underneath I knew the answer was exercise but I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Again God came to my rescue in His usual round about way, and in July I was introduced to Wendy, a personal Pilates instructor. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Pilates because my only knowledge of this form of exercise was a memory of a friend who used to do it (a much fitter, younger woman!!!), and she would say things like “We were massacred at Pilates class tonight” or “I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole class today.”
I am grateful for the God-incidental way that I got to Wendy, for I’m sure I’d never have taken the leap otherwise. She is a compassionate but relentless instructor with a grand sense of humor. I told her where I was at and she said something like “I guess I’ll have to work you”. I have been doing Pilates twice a week with Wendy since about mid-July. I have pushed below my plateau, not a lot but enough. However what has happened to my body is nothing short of a miracle.
I have a level of sustained energy that I did not have before. My body is so much more flexible and feels very alive. There has been a shift in shape; I cannot explain it any clearer than that. The first major change that I noticed was one day when I went to do up the strap on a pair of shoes and realized I did not have to get into a certain position to “accommodate my stomach” as I leaned down! My tummy has definitely toned and my legs are so much more flexible. I can climb a flight of stairs without feeling breathless.
This week Richard and I are enjoying our traditional week of Thanksgiving in our time share in Orlando. Yesterday afternoon we went to Universal to watch the new Harry Potter movie (which was great by the way!). We walked around for a while before the movie and I noticed that I had no problem keeping up with Richard (he’s over six foot and has a long stride). Nor did I find myself getting breathless keeping up with him and, in fact, I felt quite invigorated. Today we went to Sea World and the same thing happened.
As I sit here typing this post I have to make a confession. I have been wanting to walk on a regular basis for about a month now. The reason I have not is because I did not want to feel tired and breathless or realize that I couldn’t keep a decent pace for long. Yesterday and today have shown me that I can get out there, keep a good pace, and feel really good. I know that this is partly because of the diet changes I have made as well as the regular exercising with Pilates. It is a total change of lifestyle that is allowing me to feel good about myself and to feel so much more healthy. This is what self nurturing is truly about.
I have always loved reading. My mother called me a bookworm. I would devour books, rarely putting them down until the last letter of the last word on the last page had been savored. As a little girl I heard, then read by myself, all the childhood favorites.
I learned the nursery rhymes one by one until I new them all by heart. I remember Little Boy Blue, Baa-baa Black Sheep, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Little Bo-Peep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Jack Spratt, and so many others. The characters all seemed so real to me and with my vivid imagination I would charm them all to life as I lay in bed.
Then, of course, there was Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. How many nights did I fall asleep with the image of myself in one of my very ordinary little dresses being turned into a shimmering creation of gossamer silver and silk. Or seeing myself with a handsome prince (who looked suspiciously like Johnnie the boy next door!), riding off in a glimmering golden carriage into a rosy pink sunset. And those were the ideals that were cast in stone in my childhood memory banks for the future that could be mine. I would be “rescued” from whatever paltry life I was living and I would be carried off to live “happily ever after”.
The only problem with Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty is that no one wrote the sequel. So here we are left with the never-ending final scene of riding off into that proverbial sunset and being happy. We are never shown what happens when they got back to the palace. I presume that’s where they were eventually headed.
I mean, I realize that if they did live in a palace they would probably have access to a maid or two, and a cook, and a butler, and a gardener. Life wouldn’t be too shabby as they created an edict or two and smiled magnanimously at their subjects. But they’d still have to think about day-to-day living and waking up to each other everyday.
However, I have to admit, that if ever my little girl mind went further than that ride into the sunset, I always imagined Cinderella walking the corridors of her palace in different ball gowns and tiaras, and leaning out of balconies in the palace turrets as little blue birds flew down to her fingers and sang to her. I’ve no idea what the prince was up to as she floated around in her perfectly idyllic life!!
No wonder we are set up for failure in real life relationships! Given the state of today’s society full of drinking and drugs, fast paced living, crime and abuse, there probably isn’t more than a handful of healthy families in each neighborhood. Pessimistic – maybe; realistic – probably.
Let’s just go back to the sixties. Actually we need to back further still, to the time of prohibition. Everything was forbidden, especially alcohol. When that law was revoked there was a wild swing into drinking which eventually ended up in the free love and drug experimentation during the era of the hippy sixties.
Although the sixties ended and the hippies went out of style, drugs had taken a firm hold. The hippy youth of the sixties became the next generation of parents. Many of them continued to use “soft” drugs and some “not-so-soft” drugs also spilled onto the market. You don’t need to be a psychologist to realize that these people were not the best of parents and a whole generation of dysfunctional families was created.
As their children grew up and began to look for mates we had the first layer of inter-dysfunctional marriages. Many people used alcohol to chase away their demons. Others got into heavier drugs which were becoming increasingly more available. Wherever there is a new market entrepreneurial minds will flourish, and many criminal minds were savvy enough to realize that there was much money to be made with drugs.
And let’s not forget the wave of people who began to turn to prescription drugs to treat the depression and other psychological ailments that came from the pain of knowing there was something wrong but not being able to pin point or explain that wrong. Very few people could bear the stigma that was associated with going to see a psychologist or therapeutic counselor, so they used whatever was available.
“Too depressing, way too negative”, I hear you cry. “Depressingly true”, I respond. “But what has this got to do with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty”, I hear you ask. “Everything”, I say. When there is nothing, or at least very little, left but darkness or depression we look for salvation wherever we can find it. When no decent role models are around we turn to fantasy and make believe and the realm of fairy tales and try to turn them into reality.
Is it any wonder that the explosion of New Age religions and spirituality was so enormous? By now we have generation upon generation of dysfunctional people searching for something, searching for salvation, searching for real role models. On a subconscious level people realize that there is more to life than “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”.
Thank God more and more people are reaching out for the help that they need. There is definitely a movement toward the return of old values. Many people are seeking professional help as that stigma drops away. The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous are growing in number and in size.
Many people see that it takes courage to ask for help and are discovering that courage. Even men, the proverbial “strong, silent, macho one’s” are becoming brave enough (they always thought it was a weakness!), to approach therapists. Couples are recognizing that jumping into divorce does not remove their problems. Divorce may remove the other partner, but each partner is still left with attitudes and behaviors that they will drag into a new relationship.
So perhaps we can lay the fairy tales to rest, or at least in recounting them to our children and our grandchildren we can help them to understand that they are just that – fairy tales. Perhaps some new good authors will emerge who can write a “second level” of classical fairy tales for our children as they reach early teens. Stories that will shine a light of good healthy reality on how life can and should be lived after that ride into the sunset.