Flow in Writing & Life

I’ve been reading Ursula LaGuin’s blog posts No Time to Spare in book form on my Kindle. I’m interested just now in reading about aging…I’d like to write about it, too, and I’m trying. It’s a challenge, but I love when writing presents a new challenge. We’ll see how it works out for me, although LaGuin does a beautiful job. She has a way of making the profound seem like common sense.

The other thing I’m doing is writing with my Florida group. There are ten of us this year. Our leader gives us prompts and we write a page or so. Everyone reads aloud. This week’s prompt “A Memorable Teacher” was particularly difficult for me. I’ve been thinking about it since Friday, so five days. When you get to my age, especially if you love learning and seek it out like I do, you’ve had a lot of teachers, good ones and bad ones, horror stories and terrible bores.

What seemed obvious to me was that life is the best teacher. Marriage and children are profound teachers, too. I actually learned how to stay married (after two failed attempts) because of my sons. I didn’t want to put them through another divorce, so in spite of sometimes wanting to give up on my third marriage, I stuck with it. Because I loved my boys more than I’d ever loved any other human, I learned to compromise, forgive, and stand up for myself with a husband. I also learned how becoming a grandmother expands the capacity to love beyond limits.

Finally, I thought of who or what helped me and taught me how to maintain sanity and happiness through rough times. The best lesson I ever learned. My favorite teacher. The runner up taught me how to teach and how to love Shakespeare. That was a lot! The winning teacher was Brian, my yoga teacher. He wasn’t my first and he won’t be my last, but he was absolutely the best because he taught me how to truly inhabit my body.

Brian’s best lesson went something like this: “Close your eyes during practice. Don’t look at the people around you to see how they are doing the poses. Don’t compare your body to anybody else’s. Make this time about you and your relationship to your body, mind and spirit. Flow your own way through the poses. Find your own edge. Remember to breathe. Be grateful for your body and your breath.”

I was, by far, the oldest person in Brian’s class. I had the biggest belly. My hair frizzed and I didn’t wear make up because it would just melt off. I had to get over all that, and it was easy to do once I really understood what Brian was saying. It clicked in pretty quickly and I was good there with all the young and lithe yoginis. I was in my 40s when I went to Brian’s studio. Now I’m in my 60s. I still take his advice every day. Not comparing myself to any other is such a relief. Accepting my own limits is humbling and freeing at the same time.

Brian’s advice goes beyond yoga. It has helped me in other ways. Like with writing ~ I don’t compare my books to other authors’, I don’t compare sales, or calculate at what age others achieved success. I pay no attention to what level they’re at or how I do or do not measure up. I’m in my flow of writing and life and you’re in yours. It’s all good. Namaste.

Letting Go

The doctor was pissed. She was a small Indian woman and it radiated off her like a heat wave. “You have to stop eating!” she said. “You’ve gained an enormous amount of weight in a small time. This is what you must do: No breakfast, a little tea, that is all…” I tuned her out. I already felt bad enough about the ten pounds I’d gained when I stopped smoking. But I wasn’t fat.

Then I saw my mother. At a big baby shower with all of her girlfriends there, she looked at me when I came up to the table and said “WHAT happened?” I said “Oh, it’s my blood sugar,” and sat down at the table. I was humiliated. I’d known these people my entire life and I was afraid to tell them I had gained weight. That was obvious. The blood sugar excuse just popped out instead of “I’m packing on the pounds, Mama.”

She knew. But she wanted it to not be true or she was embarrassed that this is what her daughter had come to, this was how her daughter had let herself go. Despite plenty of people at the table being my size or bigger, my mother rejected the notion that a daughter of hers could be overweight so thoroughly that she asked a stupid question with a look of horror on her face rather than just say “Hi, honey, glad you could make it.”

I have never understood that phrase “She’s letting herself go.” What does that mean? She let herself go to the refrigerator? She let herself go to the candy store instead of the beauty salon? People never say men “let themselves go” but if a woman allows her hair to grow in to its natural silver she’s “letting herself go.” If she doesn’t get a mani-pedi before sandal season, she’s “letting herself go.” If she refuses the gym, she’s “let herself go.” And heaven help the woman who wears anything in her wardrobe faded black or yellowed white or chosen an ill-matched outfit. There she is “letting herself go” again. No jewelry? No lipstick? No mascara? Letting herself go. Such a shame.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t wear a bra (and I needed one). I didn’t wear make up. I never got my hair cut, not even the frizzy ends trimmed. My jeans were faded and my tops were flannel shirts from the men’s department. I just really didn’t care about all the girly stuff. None of my friends did. But then I entered the working world and to fit in, had to get in line. Wear a uniform. Shave my legs. Attempt to paint my face. I even got contact lenses when a friend suggested it.

I’ve never been a slob. I take a shower and use deodorant. I brush my teeth. I comb my hair. When I think of someone who let’s herself go, I imagine a train wreck of a woman with a dirty face, filth under her fingernails, wearing too tight clothes that show her muffin top or wrinkled cleavage to unfortunate advantage. That woman is probably homeless and mentally ill. Letting herself go so far from the norm is probably a symptom of her disease. She needs help. She’s sad and alone and she’s not me. She needs a hug and a treatment program.

I don’t wear make up now that I’m retired unless my husband is taking me out to dinner or I’m meeting friends for lunch. Most days, I write in my pajamas. If I notice it’s getting on in the afternoon, I take a stretch break and throw on yoga pants. I recently found out I’m allergic to hair dye. My silver hair has grown in an inch or so. Yes, I’m letting it go natural. As women, we fight nature bleached tooth and polished nail. But I’m telling you, letting go feels really good.

Straightening the Curve

Still eating a plant-based whole food diet. My energy level is amazing. I feel easy in my body. I’m never hungry. I don’t miss butter on my potatoes. And I lost a pound. For a few years now I’ve struggled with some messy digestion issues every morning. That’s gone. Arthritis is gone. My craving for chocolate is gone. I could care less about potato chips. I’m sleeping like a baby.

All of these changes in one short week have been sort of shocking. In a good way. It feels good to feel like myself again. One thing that happens to people as they age is our bodies get less and less effective in fighting off the ill effects of a poor diet. With me, it started in my 40s with my gall bladder. The symptom of gall bladder disease is acid reflux. The body takes in too much fat for the liver to process and the gall bladder takes the excess. Until it gets really tired and can’t do its job anymore.

I knew this when I had the emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder. That’s where my curve started, the curve downward toward death. Death happens to everyone. But for some people, and I was in that group, it’s a gradual downward decline. It mostly happens at a cellular level, so we don’t see it happening. We might get warning symptoms, but medication usually clears up the symptoms. Medication does not stop the downward curve.

For me, excess weight was a symptom of poor diet and high blood sugar. It was a warning that diabetes was coming on. There were other signs, too, that I was on the downward curve. That persistent trouble in the bathroom. The fact that the heels of my feet hurt all the time. My joints ached. I had weird random muscle pain in different parts of my body. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night in pain for no apparent reason. The pain would actually wake me up. I suddenly developed allergies at 62.

As I steeped myself in the literature of Dr. McDougall and other experts on PBWF diets, one guy in particular got my attention. He talked about the curve downward to death. And then he said PBWF diets “straighten the curve.” In other words, you’re still going to die, but it won’t be a slow sad decline. You’ll be absolutely fit, fine and full of energy until you drop dead. Or maybe die in your sleep.

I like that death better than the other one. And I like the way this life feels now better than before I started it.

 

 

Help for Falling Faces

coffee.meOne of the benefits of being pleasingly plump is having far fewer wrinkles than skinny girls our age. The saddest drawback to the fun of losing inches and gaining confidence is finding out that, wow, toes get wrinkled! I loved my plump little feet. Now I notice there are actual wrinkles at the tops of my toes. Really?? The indignity of it all!

Lisa and I talked about this. She said for her the arms were the worst. Oh, yeah, arms. I don’t go out in public without them covered. I looked over my wardrobe recently and thought “just donate every top without at least an elbow length arm to charity.” Well, that’s impossible as the people who design and sell clothes have not gotten the memo that we boomer women really would like a little variety here. Sure, tank tops and sleeveless dresses are perfect for summer, but not if you have to wear a sweater over everything just so your arms don’t show. On the plus side, Lisa says that the extra sag in the skin from fat loss does recede with time. Want all the Lisa Plan posts to date? Go here.

By far the most obvious of all the sags and bags and wrinkles is the falling face. I’ve seen this in so many friends, you lose weight, you  look ten years older. And yes, I’ve seen it and freaked about it in the self I formerly believed without vanity. Ha! I’ve always had wrinkles around my eyes. I smile way too much. They’ve gotten really deep. I’m talking trenches here. But I’m okay with them. They’ve always been my friends, those wrinkles. My forehead, ah, there’s always bangs. And those things on the sides of your face that make you look a little bit like a puppet, the ones from the nose to the mouth and then the second set from the mouth to chin, on either side of your face, those’ll be sagging  more too. Sad to say. Also, you know  how smokers, as they age, get the wrinkles around the mouth? Yeah, I haven’t smoked in 25 years but I can see those starting up too. Or I could until I stopped looking in the magnifying mirror.

Now here’s the good news. All kinds of help is available. I have not had Botox nor filler, neither facelift nor eye-lift. I have not had a lifestyle lift. Not that I think any of that is bad, but I don’t like the way fillers make movie stars look. You can always tell and they remind me a little bit of bunny rabbits when those folds plump out so obviously. I don’t want to inject myself with poison and I don’t want someone to cut my facial skin off, trim a few inches, and then sew it back on. It scares me. Even the lifestyle lift, which several friends have had done, sounds gruesome. I heard they take these big hooks and thread them through your skin and hook them over your ears! I don’t know if this is true or not, but rumors like that make me go “NO!!”

Serums are huge right now, but most of them contain Retin-A, which Lisa swears by, and I cannot use as my skin is too sensitive and it gives me a nasty rash. But Tera, my stylist, sells a natural product called Renique made of papaya and other enzymes that plumps the skin naturally. Because I’m sorry Oil of Olay but you just were not cutting it alone anymore. (I still use this cream on my neck and face for sunblock safety and who knows, maybe it helps the falling face a little bit too). Tera is awesome. She fixes my hair really cute too. Having a good cut and color does wonders for your face. If I had the nerve, I’d post before and after Tera pix. Oh hell, I’ll do it.

Before Tera

silver.cindy

After Tera

me.new

And that after Tera was before I started using Renique. Let’s see if I can get a close up of what the old face looks like right now.

After Renique

close.Cin.2.photo

I know. I feel bad about my neck, too. But I see a real difference around my eyes and those whatever they are lines around the cheeks like some kind of strange parenthesis. Whatcha gonna do? Well, there’s not much I’m willing to do. But I’ll do a few little things, just to make this fun and so people won’t ask me if I’m sick. That has happened to more than one friend of mine as they lose weight. I may not look so young anymore, but I still look healthy, and that’s really what weight loss is all about. Want to see what Tera’s place is all about? She owns Absolute Salon and Day Spa and they’ve got a website!

Seeking Skinny

xmas 09 064Bikinis and me are over for good and I’m good with that. However, The End of Dieting by Doctor Joel Fuhrman is so outrageous and eye-opening that I just might be scared slim. Fear isn’t really the right word for how I feel reading this book and taking in its messages. More, I feel hope. For the first time in a long time it’s sinking in about what exactly I must change for optimum health.

I don’t mind getting old, it’s actually pretty fun and interesting, but looking into the not-too-distant future, I do not want to be a sick 60-something.

Fuhrman’s investigation into the myths of the standard American diet shock me. He’s got the data and he is not afraid to point the finger. One of the more outrageous claims he makes (and I paraphrase) is that if you are slim and eating the standard American diet as dictated by our government’s food guidelines, you are either a smoker, a drunk, a drug addict, or have a disease that is quietly killing you.

Whether he actually comes out and says the dairy and meat lobbies in this country have a huge impact on what those government food guidelines say, I’m not sure. But it’s implied and anyone with knowledge of how Washington works can connect the dots. Sounds cynical, but I tend to believe him about the meat and dairy folks colluding with lawmakers, even while Michelle Obama, with best intentions, champions better health.

The last time a book had a significant effect on the way I eat turned me vegetarian seven years ago and this former filet mignon and cheeseburger lover has never looked back. I dropped twenty pounds when I stopped eating meat, but soon, I began replacing my old favorites with more cheese, butter, bread, crackers, pasta and other refined carbs. I also opened the door to dessert, and I’m not talking fruit and an ounce of dark chocolate.

What I learned over time is that vegetarians are not necessarily healthy eaters. Chips are vegetarian. So is dip! And cake! I’ve known forever that I consume too much sugar and don’t exercise enough. Until this book, I was okay with that and with my big middle. Yes, photos can be painful, but I don’t feel fat unless I actually grab my love handles or glance in the mirror just after a bath. As with pictures, that’s when I can see the truth, even if I don’t feel it.

But now I’m learning not just what my problem is but WHY I still have this issue. It’s not about calories, but also about where those calories come from and how they metabolize in the body. As my old Weight Watcher leader used to say “Nobody ever got fat eating vegetables.”

So far, the nutritional science in this book makes sense to me. I don’t really think slim people who eat meat and dairy are secret addicts or have a disease. I know many slim people who eat the standard American diet and are not addicts. Yes, they’re dying, but aren’t we all?

For  me, it comes down to wanting more control over how I live out the later years of my life. And yes, how I die. I want to travel,  feel energetic, keep a sharp mind, be free of disease for as long as possible. Doesn’t everyone?