Monday, February 1, 2010

Deliberate Fortunate Change

Since March, 2009, I've been keeping track, with a list on my Facebook page, of miles I'm walking. The idea is to keep myself honest so I don't fall into the trap of "thinking" that I am walking most every day when, in reality, it only seems that way. I reread an entry on this blog from last March this morning and was both heartened and warned by what I saw in comparing then to now.

The best news is that back then I was thrilled to be walking up to 3/4 mile each day (with an occasional 2-3 mile walk to push myself) and I was walking the 3/4 mile in about one hour. One hour, people. The year before that it was taking me half an hour to go around the block. It's a small block. Now I can walk three miles in an hour. I know that's not record breaking race time, but I'm not racing. I'm just trying to get healthier. I am noticing that my efforts to increase my daily distance are working. I almost never skip and almost never do less than one mile. And more often I do two. So I'm pushing myself to do two or  more, hoping to average two in a couple more months. I just checked my tallies and I was fairly consistent. The problem month was August. My cat Lisa was dying and I spent more time with her. A couple of days after she died, the second week in August, my neighbor died. My dear friends' dog died the next week. All of these things meant I spent a lot more time with friends and caring for Lisa. And then my Mother died. A trip to be with her. Only walking in hospital corridors. A trip to our hometown for the funeral and travel back to my own home. Only 21 miles that month. Plus, I had been walking less because the doc had diagnosed me with shin splints, which were causing a lot of pain. I had been so enthusiastic about walking thirty miles in March that I had done 41, 49, 47 and 49 the next four months. Clearly my body was not ready for this. But in September I did 26, then 39, 48 and a half. But only 31 for December because Lucy cat died on the 16th. and those last three weeks I was mostly in bed reading with her. January found me back up to 42 miles for the month despite being sick with a cold for a couple of weeks and completely missing a few days of walking.

What I'm getting from this review is that, while I am ready to increase my miles, I'd better be sure to do it gradually so I don't end up with shin splints again. Still, the fact that I am walking further in less time is most encouraging. And the fact that I've been pretty consistent, with the exceptions being for obvious good reason, makes me feel good. I'm off to a good start in February - my "month" starts the 28th. and ends the 27th. because that's when I started keeping track. I have two three-mile days in already, with one at one mile and another at 2. Today is one of those dreary, rainy, chill-that-goes-to-the-bone days, but I will probably still walk. Thanks be to Shadow for this! I don't like to let her down.

I've lost about 20 pounds these eleven months. Slow and steady. People are starting to ask me if I'm on Weight Watchers. A woman told me on Sunday that she saw me at a reading a week ago and noticed my face is getting thinner. I've always believed that change involves patience, consistency, honesty and a change of habit. Like a lot of people who live alone, I had become a lazy eater - even though I'm a vegetarian. This laziness seems to be absent now and I am cooking more, eating better. I feel less craving in general and less need for chips and desserts. I feel - satisfied. And that's got more to do with my whole day and the accumulation of good days, than simple appetites.

Another habit I've gotten into while living alone is procrastination on tasks and cleaning. The past two months I see a big difference in that area. Walking out to the living area in the morning I feel happy to be up and starting my day because the house is basically clean and there are not constant backlogs of everyday chores staring at me - no piles of dirty dishes, laundry, no fur-covered carpets. I'd even gotten to the point where I let burned out light bulbs linger in their lamps until maybe 6 or 7 of them waited to be changed. You can see where that left me - in an increasingly depressing darkness. Not now.

So maybe it's a bit of a reverse domino effect. One good thing leads to another. Maybe someday we'll have a catch phrase: Good things come in threes!

Last night, at the end of a lovely happy day, I pushed the envelope and stayed up until 1 a.m. again. I used to do this all the time and wrote about it last March as a twisted way to try and lengthen my life by lengthening my waking hours. But re-reading that post reminded me of how awful I feel when I get up without enough sleep. And the body has its own clock; one does wake up at the expected time, even, usually, when exhausted. So I am reminded that the price for late hours is too high for this body. It throws me off for days. I get less done. I get discouraged. So when I am tempted by a 10-midnight Improv class, I must remember: it's not worth what it costs me later in body damage and disruption. I'll wait until I can take an earlier class.

Meanwhile I'll keep stretching, keep walking, keep cooking. And I'll keep making the hard choices. I skipped the Requiem performance yesterday in favor of getting the laundry done and spending quality time with a friend. I've turned down two performance opportunities in favor of maintaining this healthy momentum. And here I am putting writing first on my agenda today, another promise I made myself, regarding changing habits.

I titled this blog entry Deliberate Fortunate Change but I haven't said anything about the fortunate aspect. I am conscious of the fact that despite some tragic turns in my life, even in the past few years, I am so fortunate to be financially stable and not have to search for a job (yet) or work at one I hate or have to expend most of my energy to do. I've volunteered a ton in my life partly out of appreciation for my own circumstance. But I am also fortunate to live in a beautiful, nurturing place and to have dear and loving friends. I am grateful for all of this every day. I know how lucky I am.

As for the job of being my best self, I'm finding more quality in more time at home. I think I appreciate everything more because of the choice to do less and be more.