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 love finding quotations that speak of love and friendship. Whenever I read them they remind of the great blessings I have in my many friends and the gift that I receive when someone loves me. I believe that these are human manifestations of what God feels toward us. So here are a few quotations that caught my attention and my heart’.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” (Martin Luther King)
“Too many of us stay walled because we are afraid of being hurt. We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, of being loved in spite of yourself.” (Victor Hugo)
“For whoever knows how to return a kindness he has received, must be a friend above all price.” (Sophocles)
“Like everyone else I feel the need of relations and friendship, of affection, and I am not made of stone or iron, so I cannot miss these things without feeling, as does any other intelligent man, a void and deep need. I tell you this to let you know how much good your visit has done me.” (Vincent Van Gogh)
“Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.” (Anne De Lenclos)
“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” (Aristotle)
And this last one I treasure most of all.
“Human love and the delights of friendship, out of which are built the memories that endure, are also to be treasured up as hints of what shall be hereafter.” (Bede Jarrett)
So as we approach Thanksgiving Day, I will offer a gratitude for all the people who love me and for the friendships that bring me so much joy.
Just recently life has thrown a few curve balls into my personal space. Nothing drastic, but enough to throw me off balance. And then, of course, there’s the dratted weather, which has thrown enough curve balls into everyone’s territory to create disruptions galore.
My last posting (yes, I know, it’s been two long weeks!), was on 7 March Musings- Freedom, and I shared how sick I had been and how much I was enjoying the freedom of wellness. We had a short interlude of a few days of good weather as I regained my strength, and the first call of order was the garden. So much needed to be done in the way of general tidying and clearing before beginning on the major project which would completely remodel my front yard.
I have to admit that even as I experienced the joy of gardening, I struggled with a certain level of frustration. As much as I wanted/needed to be out doing the garden, especially as I had lost so much time due to bad weather and we didn’t know how long the warm weather was going to last, I also really wanted to be writing. Having two passions is sometimes difficult to manage and the garden passion and the writing passion each carry about equal weight in my heart.
Well, I chose the garden and managed to get a few days good work in as well as immersing myself into the the general mainstream of my daily life. I was on about day five of this readjustment back to normal when the next curve ball arrived and truly took the wind out of my sails.
I had just arrived in St. Augustine for a Body Talk appointment. I pulled into the parking lot, took my phone out of my bag to put it on silent mode, and it rang in my hand. It was my husband calling to let me know that he was in the ER with chest pains “but please don’t get alarmed”!
In hindsight I have learned that my reaction to crisis/alarming news is to back off, disconnect if you will. In that moment I said to my husband, “I’ve just arrived at my appointment in St. Augustine, do you need me there?” He kind of muttered around for a few moments as I cautiously allowed my mind and my heart to re-approach the reality of the situation, then he said, “Yes, I think I’d like you here.”
As I ran in to cancel my appointment before turning the car around and racing back to Jacksonville, I realized what my comment must have sounded like to my husband as he lay on a gurney in the ER. I called him immediately and left a message (they had made him turn his phone off). I told him that even as I had asked that ridiculous question, there had been no doubt that I would go right to the hospital to be with him. I had just needed a moment to allow my fear to subside so that I could get on and do what I needed to do.
I guess for me it is a defense mechanism. Stepping back so that I can allow my head and my heart to kind of sync up together and work in harmony. It’s the kind of mechanism that has us go to numbness or disbelief in the face of personal tragedy. We need that small space of time so that God can step in and hold our heart and our hand, or even pick us right up into His arms, and walk us through the pain and the difficulty of any given tough situation.
I spent the whole of the drive back to Jacksonville in prayer mode. I asked God to protect my husband and surround him with His healing grace. I made a couple of phone calls: one to my daughter to put her in the picture, and two more to dear friends so that I would have my support group in place no matter what.
By the time I got to the hospital I was calm. They had done a bunch of tests on Richard and were beginning to administer some different medications. His EKG’s, chest X-ray, and blood work were OK, but he was still experiencing tightness and pressure in his chest as well as shortness of breath when speaking. They kept him in for observation for a couple of days before sending him home with more medication and instructions for follow-up, including an appointment with the Cardiologist.
It is amazing how a couple of days and a crisis can affect the human system. It was only after getting Richard home and seeing him slowly return to normal that I realized how exhausted my body was. As I went through the process of letting go of the anxiety all I wanted to do was sleep. I also noted how I felt generally irritable, and irritated toward Richard. (Like how dare he put me through that!!).
Stress is a very hard task-master that produces strong emotions and reactions. I am grateful that I know how to recognize stress fairly quickly and can take positive steps to reduce and eliminate it from my life. I booked a massage in the next few days and also returned to my beloved garden, two of the best therapies for stress that I know work for me.