Saturday, May 15, 2010

Daughters and Diets

Tonight my daughter asked me to go on the Jenny Craig diet with her. She's tried this plan four or five times already and has a heck of a time sticking to it. There is no doubt we both need to do something about our figures. I just really have to say I don't like that particular plan because I don't enjoy their food. If I don't like the food, how will I stick to that plan? It's all so regimented. Augh. And I love to cook. Microwaving doesn't count.

I want her to have success. I want to have dieting success myself. Actually, I have had sucess this year, having now lost about 25 lbs, most of which I fear my daugher has FOUND. So much for Jenny Craig. Doesn't help if between Jenny meals there are Micky D's stops, you know? We are under a deadline this time. My son is getting marriend in 11 weeks and we both want to look good in our dresses (and without undergarments with enough inward g-forces to suck the breath out of us.) At any rate, it is true I haven't lost even a fraction of what I had hoped to lose in the last year since their engagement. And any diet works if you stick to it. Hence the problem.

Dieting in highly personal. Controlling what we put into our bodies is a matter of self-denial, forethought and focus. You can't take your eye off the ball when seriously dieting, and where is the fun in that? Honestly, sometimes gluttony is easier, at least for a few moments. I am not, however, a crazy binge-type eater. I've gained weight over the years, a few pounds a year, and probably mostly due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. In fact, as soon as I begin regularly exercising it seems as if the pounds drop off easily without having to crazily limit food intake. So that is what I choose to do - exercise in the form of a daily walking program. It's easy for me - I have a new puppy. He's got to go out anyway. I'm seeing results from the walking, so why should I go on an eating program I really can't stand?

Should I do it because of mother-daughter solidarity? To show her I am in it with her? Because I'm really not. She needs to come to some personal decisions about her body, as I have. She is only 21. It breaks my heart to see her gaining and gaining. I worry about her health, both physical and mental as relates to the weight too. Both are suffering, I can see. But how in the world can I help her while not doing what she wants? Why, for instance, do we have to spend LOTS of money (she is good at that) on a program when we just need to learn to prepare healthy food and engage in daily exercise? I'm frustrated with her belief that this Jenny Craig stuff is the only way she can lose weight. Why can't she believe otherwise? Her father lost nearly 80 lbs this past year, and not by going on Jenny Craig or any other packaged plan.

Self-denial type plans NEVER work. If I want ice cream, then I'm going to have ice cream. Just not a huge trough of it. I can live with a smaller dish and still have the satisfaction of having had the treat I wanted. (Actually I just "discovered" Edy's frozen yogurt blends. YUM!!) And because I'm walking every day, I don't have to have the guilt either. I just don't understand how to get this through to her. A plan is good if you like it and you can stick with it.

There has to be a better idea than tandem dieting. I want to help her. She's mad at me because when she asked me tonight to go on that plan with her, I didn't respond. I couldn't find the words to say no or yes. I'm not saying I don't want to lose weight, eat healthy or watch what I put in my body. I'm doing all those things. She's going to have to decide for herself what will work and what she can live with. Dieting is too personal. The bottom line is I cannot do it for her. Motivation has to come from within. I sense it's going to be a long 11 weeks to come.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fluff Stuff

Rom-Com, Chick Flick, Fluff Piece. All nicknames for that genre of movie that is a little romantic, usually scenic, kind of funny/kind of cute and infinitely entertaining. At least to me. I saw a charming movie this evening - "Letters to Juliet", probably inspired by the catchy little song by teen country cutie-pie Taylor Swift. I loved this movie in every way, predictable as it was, from the eye-popping Tuscan countryside to the moonlit nights to the pretty people who played the characters. It was a two-hour getaway. Lovely.

The movie inspired me in many ways - even (dare I say) made me think a bit. That's not usually the reaction one would have to a typical romantic comedy, but this one touched a few nerves for me personnally. I could see myself as one of the "Secretaries of Juliet", writing responses to the lovelorn who'd left letters on the famous Juliet's wall. What a cool job! And I could see myself in the main character, Sophie too. She knew she had a talent but was afraid to use it, afraid to show it off, yet eager that someone recognize her. Folly! And I recognize her lonliness too, living with a man preoccupied completely with his own life and business, unable to really "see" her. Finally, I thought about Claire, the woman searching for her Lorenzo from 50 years prior, and that it's never too late to go after a dream, whether that be a lost love or building a dreamhome or finally writing that story.

Lately I've been thinking about what I want out of life. Of course, daily living isn't like the movies. We still have to clean our houses, do laundry, pay bills, dig in the garden - do the stuff there is to DO. It's just that sometimes I long more for the fluff than the stuff. The easy-breezy moments like sitting in a Venetian palazzo sharing an ice cream with my spouse, or just a Diet Coke in the back yard at sunset. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes focus, committment and attention to the fluff times - because they don't come around often enough. The ones we do share have to be savoured. I wonder if my spouse thinks of these things in this way too. (Clearly I need to ask. )

In the Chick Flick type movies, girls have perfect hair and great, supportive friends, interesting jobs, handsome-if-aloof suitors, great living spaces and even better vacations. How fun would it be to live that every day? The "if money were no object" scenario. I think of this sometimes. If I had the cash, where would I go? What would I be doing? What would be different in my life? Who would I help? How would I spend my time? (And I mean SERIOUS cash - the kind where you aren't worried about the next taxbill or even the next Visa bill after the vacation, for that matter.) I guess I have to adjust my thinking. VERY FEW people fall under the "if money were no object" category. The majority of us still pay bills and worry about money, don't have enough time TO vacation, have multiple home-projects in a queue and don't look tousled-fabulous when we get up in the morning. So much for the movies. Not real life. Too bad. I guess that's why these movie are so popular and why they call them "escapes".

So I'm left tonight thinking about these characters and what their stories mean to me - how I can apply their lessons learned. How to turn the fluff/getaway feeling into the stuff of everyday living. Man, I've got to think it would take A LOT of work, courage and fortitude to just boldly follow your heart. Aren't most folks FAR more cautious than that? But what the heck, why not? Why SHOULDN'T we (and by we, I mean me) live our best life? Doesn't Oprah talk about that nearly endlessly? She's right, which is why she's always talking about it. There is no reason to be stuck in any kind of way.

Life is about choices. I think I need to go and live mine without my own boundaries getting in the way. Do I DESERVE my best life? Should I be spending my time in other ways to please other people? Am I good enough? Will others approve of me? Should I care? I'm 51 for heaven's sake, isn't it time to put these questions to bed once and for all times? Hmm - that's what therapy is for I suppose. I have to say - I AM on the path though, not just thinking about being on it, which is a huge difference. I can recognize in myself the need to make changes - decisions, and I'm starting to do that, if only in baby steps. Fluff is attainable. I want to go for it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Worry Wart

The apple did not fall far from the tree. I freely admit that I am a worrier, as my mother before me. I learned at her knee to fret quietly and to just hold my head up an push forward, but it doesn't alter the fact that I do in fact, worry a lot. Sometimes the worry keeps me up at night, or causes enormous emotional upwellings that end in tears of frustration.

I don't want to be a worrier. In fact, I hide it pretty well (I think) most of the time. Because I keep my feelings to myself a good deal of the time (and whether or not this is a good thing is a debate for another blog), people assume that I am a "strong" person. While it is true that I have handled multiple tasks, illnesses, catastrophies and problems (sometimes simultaneously), it doesn't change the fact that I fret over all of it, silently - most of the time. (Sometimes, unfortunately, the pressure cooker blows.) I bear some of the results of this penchant for quiet hand-wringing in my overall health. I am CERTAIN that my overweight is in direct correlation to stress and worry. I'm a nervous nibbler. It's my one vice.

Worry has caused me endless migraine headaches, blood pressure woes, sleepless nights and enough shoulder and neck tension for a lifetime. I don't like being a worrier. It's demoralizing to dwell on inner demons and exhausting trying to keep everyone happy around me or die trying. Some nights it is difficult to shut off the firehose of thoughts, unresolved situations and problems and personal doubt. I turn to Tylenol PM to shut my inner TV off. Then the dreams start - always chasing, action dreams with me. I can't seem to escape the chase.

I worry about those close to me most of all. Will my kids be successful? Can my husband learn to balance work and home? Does my husband still feel attracted to me? Am I enough for him? Do others appreciate all I do? How is my parents' health? What will I do without them some day? Will my brother take responsibility for his life? How can I help my nephews? What more should I be doing for the foundation I (charitably) work for? What housework have I neglected and should get to? What have I forgotten to do or say? What does my future hold? How much longer will I have to be alone all the time? Will our family finances stabilize? Can I get my daughter to take control of her life, weight and career? Why won't my son call more often? What will happen when he is married - will he call even less? The list is endless of worrisome thoughts that bombard me all day long.

Maybe I'm just the same as anyone else. Maybe everyone is constantly working out their problems and feelings about themselves and others, about careers, families and friends. It's just that the older I get (now 51), the less patient and tolerant I seem to become for stress. It all effects me more and more. I know intellectually that worrying accomplishes exactly nothing. It moves me neither forward nor backward (well, maybe backward.) What it does is stall me out. I get gripped by worry so much at times that I just can't focus even on what task comes next.

I long for an easier life. And mine isn't so bad, admittedly. I live in a beautiful home. I have two great, grown kids and a new daughter-in-law in the wings pending a summer wedding this year. I have a good husband that I love dearly but whom I feel takes me for granted in SO many ways. I own my family vacation home on a quiet lake in Wisconsin - my refuge. I've traveled rather extensively, having taken some spectacular vacations in my lifetime. I have loads of cousins and family that I cherish. I'm VERY fortunate to still have two healthy parents. Despite all these things and MANY more, I feel my life isnt easy. Blessed, yes. Easy - not so much. There always seems to be a hurdle ahead of me.

What I am unsure of is how to break my own cycles of worry so I can move forward with better health. I've read all the stuff about stress relief through exercise and better diets. I am trying to do those things regularly. They do help. I think I am a victim of myself a whole lot of the time. I am unable to express to others my emotions and thoughts a lot of the time, (blogging helps) so worry sets in. My inability to open up then stalls my efforts to unburden myself. It's circuotous.

These are tense times in the world. Collapsing economies, untrustworthy government, endless news cycles bearing witness to catastrophy, crime and critique, murderous regimes run amok, environmental disasters, breakdown of family values and unit and a world that has become selfish in the extreme. It's hard to live through this and be unaffected. I wish I could say faith pulls me through, but I have doubts there too, though I acknowledge that SOME kind of force had to there to create the universe. At any rate - the havoc around us is tough to take these days. It doesn't create anything near peace of mind.

Can there be any such thing AS peace of mind? I'm wondering. As thinking, imaginative beings, maybe we are not meant to have complete peace of mind. There will be time enough for that after death, right? Maybe the turmoil allows us to evolve, refine our perceptions and minds. Perhaps the strife is a matter of life passages, like adolecence or menopause. What I do know is that I need to find ways to calm my mind and treat my body better. Suggestions anyone?
This one I can't ask my mom about. We are rowing the same boat. :)

To be or NOT to be...

More accurately, to blog, or not to blog - THAT is the question. I have been thinking about why people blog, about the people who read them and what it all means - specifically to me. I'm not sure how to check how many "hits" a person has on their blog. Does it really matter? Does a person write a blog to be read by multitudes? And what type of person writes only for an audience? It seems to me that this is inauthentic. If I write to an audience, it's about what they want rather than what I wish to express, right? That doesn't seem right at all.

To me, the purpose of blogging is to make a comment or observation of some sort. Or perhaps to record a memory. (I like to think of it like a Pensieve device from the Harry Potter books.) I don't think I would want to be censored by what an audience expects of my opinions and experiences. What would be the point of putting personal stories and thoughts to paper (virtual or otherwise) then? I'm sure there are those out there who DO write to influence or to entertain in their blogs, but for me - writing is a deeply personal experience and reflection of my essence. I write what I want, feel and about what is important to me. I'm not counting on others to read it, really. I'm not even sure I want others to read it, exactly, although admittedly when a friend makes a comment to me about something I have written I do experience an odd pang of pride along with genuine surprise. What I don't wish to feel is shame over my words.

Recently I wrote a blog article about something really bothering me - an absentee friend I've known for 30 plus years that I miss talking to. I received feedback about that blog from someone close to me who disapproved of (and misunderstood completely) this subject matter. To appease that person, I deleted the blog, but with a lot of resentment, I have to say. It occurred to me later that the commenter expected me to write as if an audience is following me, and that I should be editing content as such. The more I stewed on this, the worse I felt about deleting my article. Damn it anyway - it was from the heart and really expressed how I felt about missing an old friend. It was nostalgic and well-written, and I let myself get edited by a comment from one person. I have been ashamed of myself for caving in, to be honest. It was a memory of a feeling I wished to reflect on - maybe even at a later date. (Back to that Pensieve again.)

I don't care if ANYONE reads my blog. As far as I am concerned, I write to the wind and to get things off my chest. I write to myself, really. Years ago, I had a dear friend (who has since passed away, suddenly and at a very young age) that I used to correspond with daily via email, and via snail mail before that. Her absence has created a huge personal void in my life since she is gone. Essentially we blogged to one another for years and years. Because I missed that interaction (without judgement or comment, by the way, as was our habit), I began blogging. I also began writing for the exercise OF writing and to let off steam of a sort. Not in an angry way - more like the releasing of the nob on a pressure cooker allows for the lid to come off safely. Blogging allows me to organize my thoughts and verbalize my opinions where I may not have otherwise said anything out loud. How could editing to an audience help this exercise in any way?

My blog web address was sent out with my Christmas letter this past year, so I acknowledge that there may be some friends or relatives who may take the time or energy to read what I have to say from time to time. (Perhaps is presumtuous of me to even think anyone WOULD read my little musings.) At any rate, I think those people would tune (log in?) precisely because they may be interested in my authentic opinions. I think I know myself well enough to realize that friends are attracted to me for my insight, wit, sometimes sarcasm and (usually) honesty. To NOT say something because a potential reader may misinterpret my words, or not approve of an opinion or feeling I have would be doing myself a grave injustice, I think. I really am not afraid of what others may say about my blog, which is why I gave the address out to begin with. I hope they, my "audience" respects me enough to accept my musings for what they are and not what they think, read into or hope that they may be. But I'm really not going to worry about it.

So I promise to not cave in again, and to boldly go wherever my mind takes me in the future. Maybe along the way I'll figure out some things too - for myself - through the act of writing. It's why I do this. I am not going to be intimidated. Blogging is a solitary, sometimes lonesome experience - there is no dialogue except with myself. No social interaction, no validation of self. So I owe it to myself to be true and real. Read if you must, but at YOUR own peril, not mine, because I will not be censored, by self or others. There would be no truth in that. When I read these things years from now, I want to remember them as they are, and not as they were altered to fit someone's perception of me. I am learning to become my authentic self - to accept all the thoughts and emotions that comprise me, without stuffing anything away or putting feelings aside, or hiding from my experience in any way. It's a journey, but one I hope to continue honestly. Blog on!