Would You Talk To A Friend That Way?

smidgen-1If you follow my blog, you know that I have an adult daughter with autism. For us, this means that we live our lives very explicitly and literally. Everything is talked about. Most parents think this sound wonderful, having a child that tells you everything. But I frequently walk away from our conversations shaking and wishing just a little could be held back. A smidge?

Ok, so a recurring theme for us is self-esteem.  Despite my best efforts to push my wonderful, beautiful daughter towards my own recent realizations about health and body acceptance, she is destined to follow in my footsteps: That is, she is dieting. She is very focused and determined, but also overwhelmed and struggling.  As with most diets, her initial efforts were rewarded with slow but steady weight loss.  However, after losing about 35 pounds, her weight loss has stalled. And after three weeks of dieting and exercise she has lost exactly 0 pounds.

This has led to many a tear-streamed meltdowns.

rupaulWhat can I say to her? She is angry and frustrated and wants me to do something. (Seriously, if I had these answers, I’d be a millionaire with my own tv show, right?) Diets don’t work, I tell her, and give her so many reasons why. But she is exactly where I was at her age. Determined to fix it. Frustrated that the “calories in-calories out” method (and every other method) doesn’t work. And feeling like a failure.

Then she starts in with the self-abusive talk. She hates her body. She feels like a failure. She’s stupid, weak…

I ask her, “Would you talk to a friend that way?” She stops and looks at me, but I’m serious, not making a joke.  If a friend was trying to lose weight, doing everything “right” and not getting results, would you tell them they were a failure? That they were stupid and weak?” Of course not.

“What would you tell them?” I asked, and she seriously considered before answering.

“I’d probably tell them they look beautiful the way they are. That they don’t need to lose weight.” Her lip starts to tremble and tears flow. “Why can’t I say that to myself?” she asks. “I know it in my head, but I just can’t believe it about myself.” How come she got it in 20 years when it took me 48?

So this is my theory, unscientific and unproven, but I like it anyway. I honestly and firmly believe you can’t have long-term success at health, weight loss, or pretty much any self-improvement, if you don’t start by learning to love yourself. Who wants to do good things for someone they hate? Who wants to invest time and energy in someone unless they are worthy of that time and energy? Learning to live a healthy lifestyle, sticking to an exercise program, eating foods that nourish and don’t destroy you are acts of love. They take extra time, attention, and effort. They take love.

47f5c4827e3c5ab95de6bb1f9f287719This was the hardest part of my journey to learn, and I’m still learning it. I follow the wise words of body-love bloggers, tweeters, and sisters (my sisters rock, yo!), and while I’m not 100% there, I’m getting better and stronger every day.

I used to think the Pink! song “Don’t Let Me Get Me” was my personal anthem. I wanted to break up with myself. It’s only been recently that I’ve started thinking that might be the problem. About two years ago I decided to stop punishing myself and start treating myself like someone I loved. It didn’t happen all at once, but gradually over time I built up a repertoire of ways to spoil myself and let me know I cared.

This is a case of the actions leading to the feelings (fake it till you make it). I act like I love myself, and in time I actually find I do. Here are some of the things I do to help give me the strength to start to be who I want to be:

  • 2e57b67b41c1c5ce75ee3ae8e19621ffPampering myself with massages, mani-pedis, and haircuts as often as I can afford to.
  • Looking at myself in the mirror every day, and looking for what I like best in the reflection.
  • Letting people take pics of me, taking selfies (it’s not a bad word) with my loved ones, and posting pics on my social networks. I have more pics of me from the past year and a half than from the previous 10 put together. I don’t Photoshop out fat, wrinkles or birthmarks.
  • Buy myself beautiful clothes that I love, rather than waiting until I’m a specific size, because damn it, I’m worth it.
  • Taking some time for myself every day, even when work is super busy, and my personal life is super crazy.

Your list would probably look different, but do you have a list? If not, maybe it is time to start wooing yourself a little. It doesn’t have to be about things that cost money (although jewelry is always nice) but about giving yourself permission to feel good about you. After that, everything else gets easier.

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Stop Calling Yourself Fat

This one is wistful, like she is waiting for something that isn't going to happen. Also, purple is my favorite color.

So my mother sees me in my new jeans (finally got some clothes that fit) and says, “You have to stop calling yourself fat.”

I’m not going to do that for three reasons:

One, I am fat. This is scientific truth. Perhaps compared to my former size (i.e. this time last year) I appear fitter and thinner, but objectively, I still have enough fat on me to comfortably say I’m fat.

Now, I personally think BMI is just about the worst way to evaluate someone’s body, but let’s just use it since that is what practically every doctor and health organizations use. (Even though they are all wrong!). According to BMI, I’m in the “Overweight”category, but only barely. I would have to lose 30 lbs to make it into the “normal” category. (Want to personally dispute BMI? Check out the Photographic Height/Weight Chart. It’s pretty cool)

Want more proof, I wear “plus” sizes. I don’t have to shop in the plus size store anymore, but according to industry standards plus size is size 12 and up. I just barely squeeze into those 12 Old Navy pants, and on top I’m much bigger (always will be). (Brand by brand there is a lot of discrepancy, so I may be anywhere from a 12 to a 16 in pants.) The dress I wore this weekend was an 18 and fit just perfectly.  It is just how I’m put together.

Anyway, that isn’t the main thing I was going to write about.

Two, I will always be fat. Regardless of my size, my weight, my waist circumference, I will always be fat. It is actually dangerous for me to think of myself as anything but fat.

This is something I decided about a year ago when I started this whole lifestyle change. My best example to explain my thinking is this: If someone is an alcoholic, they are always an alcoholic, even if they don’t drink. Even after they haven’t had a single drink in 25 years, they will still describe themselves as an alcoholic, because  to do otherwise is dangerous for their sobriety.  Now you can argue that I’m using the wrong word, but for me the word fat describes my essential, internal being-ness. And to start to describe myself (or even think of myself) as anything other than fat is a danger to my health.

I’m not focused on how many pounds I lose each week, I focus on how many miles I can walk or run. I don’t care about what size I fit into (unless the clothes are actually falling off my body) but rather that I’m fueling my body enough to be strong, healthy, and productive. I need to keep doing that, regardless of my size.

Finally, one other thought.

JKRowling-560x375Three, what’s so bad about fat anyway?

I want to reclaim the word fat. I’ve been following a lot of body love and fat activist bloggers, and listening to what they say. One of the big take-aways is that fat has become this terrible thing, the worst thing someone can say about you. Also, fat shaming and denying people rights based on weight is still considered okay. There is something really wrong with society that they needed

to do a study to prove that shaming people about their weight is harmful.

I was recently reading a FB thread about the Megan Trainor song. Someone wrote “I want to like the song, but I don’t think it we should send the message to young girls that it is ok to be overweight.” We are making a little headway, but this is the prevailing opinion in society. So, for the record:

  1. Being fat doesn’t mean you are unhealthy. Not being fat doesn’t mean you are healthy.
  2. Even if being fat did mean you are unhealthy (which it doesn’t, see #1) that is no one else’s business.
  3. Telling people they are fat doesn’t make them less fat. In fact, it probably makes them fatter. (see link to study, above)

If you want more, Ragan Chastain at Dances with Fat says it better than I do, and in much better depth.

New Clothes Drama

mirror2Note: This post sounds way more whiny than I intend it to be. But I had these same feeling a when I lost weight the last time. It could easily derail me completely, so I’m validating my right to feel this way by writing about it.

You are supposed to like buying new clothes, right? Isn’t that one of the perks of losing weight? Not for me. I hate it. Mostly because I can’t really afford what I want/need, but also because:

I really like my clothes. I don’t but a lot but I buy what I like. So when a favorite shirt or jeans are rendered unwearable by virtue of being so big they fall off my body, I feel awful. I just tried on every shirt in my closet and found only two that are able to be salvaged.

I hate trying on new clothes. I never know what size I am so I have to bring 3 or 4 sizes into the dressing room. And then, invariably, I end up between sizes. Take the pants I tried on yesterday: 12s are too tight (muffin top) and 14s are so baggy I can put them on without opening the zipper. If I thought I’d be staying this size for a while I’d definitely get the 14s but I just can’t see spending $40 for pants I will only fit in for a few months. But what if I get the 12s and I don’t lose more weight. Them I’m stuck in tight pants that feel uncomfortable.

Dressing rooms lie. It is partly the harsh lighting and weird mirrors, but it is also partly psychological. Things I think look great in the store I hate once I get home. Or nothing looks good at all. I swear I was this close to deciding I could get away with size 16 for a few more weeks (I really can’t. They won’t stay on without a belt).

mirror3I feel like an impostor. I don’t feel comfortable shopping in “regular size stores” (this one’s the kicker). I feel much more at home in Lane Bryant or the Avenue, or the “women’s” section of any department store. When I’m in a regular store I feel like everyone is staring at me thinking What’s she doing here? It’s like I don’t have a right to be there.

All of this is in my head, I know. Part of it is because I’m still fat and always will be. Regardless of what I look like, or what the scale says, I’m permanently fat. Part of it is that we have such segregation in fashion. Even stores that sell both regular and plus size have to segregate the clothes. “You can’t shop over here. Fat people shop in the back (or downstairs, or behind lingerie).” The front of the store is for normal people, obviously. Maybe normal people won’t buy clothes if there are fat clothes on the same rack.

And obviously some styles are only for really thin people. At Lord & Taylor for example I saw this super cute Betsy Johnson dress. It was red and I rarely wear red, but I thought the shape would flatter my figure. Plus it was on sale. I thought I’d try it on for fun. Except I found out it only came in sizzle 00, 0, and 2. In fact none of the dresses in that cute section right by the door came in anything larger than a 4. So normal people get shunned too, to some extent.

If I had more money it would be easier. I’d buy a ton of clothes online and send back what I don’t like. I’d probably also get some of my favorite clothes tailored to fit me. But I’d still have a lot of these feelings.

Final thoughts: I keep thinking I’ve made all this progress with body-positive and self-love. And then a trip to the Gap reminds me that I can’t undo 40 years of fat shame at once. I have more work to do.

100 Crazy People

100 badgeThe title should read, 100 people, crazy! but I thought I’d attract more attention this way.

In April I earned my first WordPress badge. Apparently 50 people had liked what I wrote enough to “follow” my blog. I was nonplussed (I’m using the traditional meaning of the word). I couldn’t believe that many people cared about what I was writing.

Imagine how much more bewildered I am today when I find that in just 5 short months I’ve doubled that number!  Now I know how the Internet works. Just because someone clicks the follow button doesn’t mean they are faithfully reading every post, but I know some are. Some days 5 or 6 people check in, other days 15 or

Over the past 5 months I’ve gotten comments, tweets, and emails thanking me, giving me additional advice and guidance, arguing with me, and providing general support. I am especially thankful to some of my most loyal followers who not only read my posts, but write their own blogs, making me feel like part of a very special community.

I cannot overemphasize how important it has been for me to have this forum, to be accountable, to struggle with my new ideas, to share my outrage and my successes.  If people didn’t read what I wrote, it wouldn’t have the same impact, so thank you, thank you!

The Wave-back Conundrum

So, you are running down a path, street, or boardwalk and you see another runner (or group of runners) coming towards you. The question is, to wave or not to wave? For me, the conversation in my head goes like this:

They waved! They waved!

They waved! They waved! I’m validated!

If I wave, and they don’t wave, I look like an idiot.
I’ll wait for them to wave first.
But what if by the time they wave, it is too late for me to wave, and they don’t see my wave and think I’m rude?
I don’t want to be rude. I’ll wave first.
Damn, they didn’t wave back. Now I look like a dork.
Crap, now someone else is coming. Should I wave?

This eternal struggle goes on in my head all the time. Why is it so important to me? Part of it is about acceptance. I like to feel like we are all runners so we are part of a community. Also, as a fat runner, I frequently feel outside the rest of the running community. When another runner waves it makes me feel they are saying “You are one of us.”

About two weeks ago I decided to try something. I would wave at every runner to see what would happen. I wondered if most runners were waiting for the other guy to wave first. I also wanted to see if there was a pattern. Would more women wave than men? Would I get more wave-backs from older runners or younger ones. Could I assume the heavier out-of-shape runners more likely to wave back than the “athlete-bods?”

Now, it is hard to conduct a truly scientific study while running. For one thing, I’m a little too busy to track my data. For another, I don’t have a control runner not waving (sometimes ahead and sometimes behind) to see if my waving has any impact on the results. So here are my unscientific conclusions:

  • Fewer than half the runners I wave at wave back.
  • Waving early (well before you are passing) and smiling as you wave seems to improve your chances of getting a wave-back.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any consistency in terms of age, gender, or athleticism that can help me predict the wave-back.
  • No one waves in Queens. (Ok, I only ran once in one particular place in Queens, but I passed about 25 people, waved and smiled at all of them and not one waved back!)
  • More people wave on morning runs. I even got a couple of thumbs up!

Also, one unexpected conclusion: The more often I wave at other runners, the less of a dork I feel like when I do it. Even when I don’t get the wave-back.

Gotta Have Goals

poster-what-doesnt-kill-you-med-295x400

Also: depressed, self-destructive, afraid, uncertain, lost, and weak. But eventually, it seems, stronger.

Something very bad happened to my family about 7 years ago. It isn’t really something I talk about, but it broke me for a very long time. For a long, long while I thought it broke me permanently. It has only been the past year or so that I think I’m coming back to myself; that I might actually make it through after all.

When the bad thing happened, I was completely adrift. One of the things, I realize in hindsight, was that I lost all my goals. Everything I thought I was working towards, everything I thought I was building, had been kicked away as if it was a sand-castle. I had no goals for the longest time. I was just moving through life, dealing with things as they popped up (or not dealing with them, more often than not).

Goals are an essential part of our self-esteem. As an educator, I talk to teachers all the time about having students set goals. If you want to achieve something, you need to set a goal that is measurable, achievable, and of personal value to you. It also helps to have both long-term and short-term goals. This is true for our personal lives as well.

Goals give us directions. They give us a path or journey to get there.

Over the past year I have worked very hard to help set goals for myself, which in turn have improved my quality of life and feelings of self-worth. I’ve achieved some of my short-term goals. For example, I needed to get a new job and get out of my previous business. I was very successful and found a job I love and pays well.

Some of my goals are works in progress. I also have goals I’ve left by the wayside. I either have to dust them off and recommit, or let them go. I’m re-evaluating my goals now, and deciding which ones have a place in my life.

Self-Talk-Achieiving-GoalsSome of my goals are health related. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m trying to walk 3,000,000 steps this year, which means an average of 8,000 steps per day. I’ve been successfully working towards this goal all year, and I’m even thinking what I’ll do once I achieve this goal, which seems very, very likely.

I feel like I’ve always had a weight-loss goal. My whole life it seems I’ve wanted to either lose weight or maintain weight loss. In June I hit a weight loss goal (under 200) that had long seemed unreachable. I debated for a long time whether I wanted to set a new weight goal or not. My fit-bit app keeps giving me a “Woo Hoo” for reaching my goal and I’ve wondered if it makes sense to reset that goal. I’ve lost 12 more pounds since then, even without having specific goal. I keep writing things like your weight doesn’t matter, focus on health, but I’m not sure I 100% believe that yet, since I still weigh myself every other week. I guess I still haven’t made up my mind yet, which is a decision in itself.

I think there may be a part of my life that I’m skimping on: I have life and career goals, I have health and fitness goals, but I don’t see to have any spiritual goals. I haven’t figured out what I need or what I’m looking for, so (and I know this may sound crazy) I think I need to set a goal to develop one or more spiritual goals. I’m still figuring out how to word this goal so it is specific, timely, measurable, and  all the things a good goal needs to be, but there you have it.

Cold Turkey

Starting in Nov, 2013 I got very, very fed up with everything related to food and diet. I couldn’t (just could not) bear to start one more diet. But my eating was getting out of control. It wasn’t that I felt I needed to or wanted to lose weight (I have long given up on that pipe dream) but that I needed to control my food addiction.

Note: I am not a nutritionist, doctor, or psychologist. Everything on this site is based on my personal experience and research and is my own opinion, not fact. My words should not be a substitute for your own research and experience and should never, ever take place of the advice of a professional. 

cold_turkey

Where does this expression even come from?

Food addiction is like, yet not like, other addictions. Some people may be offended that I compare food addiction to drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, or smoking. I can kind of see their point, but there are many similarities. I am not a counselor or psychologist, but it seems to me that the loss of personal power to the addiction is common to all types of addiction, for example. When you do something you absolutely don’t want to do, knowing there will be dire consequences, but can’t help yourself, that is addiction.

Another way food addiction is like other addictions is that it is rarely about the substance involved. There are many physiological and psychological factors that contribute to the addiction. Just dealing with the addiction alone will rarely get long-term results. You need to address the underlying issues if you truly want to break free of your addiction.

Food addiction is not like other addictions, however by one pivotal fact: You can’t stop eating all together. Most addictions require physically breaking free from the abused substance or action. For some addictions it is recommended to go “cold turkey” or by gradual release by cutting back little by little or using alternative medications as a replacement. But you can’t do that with food. You can’t just stop eating all together.

foodpostitMy original plan was to go as close to “cold turkey” for food as I could. I thought if I could just get away from eating for a while I could get myself under control. I started to research different food replacement programs such as energy bars and shakes. The more I read, the less impressed I was. Most of the meal replacements, even supposed low-calorie ones, were filled with sugars, chemicals, and unnecessary fats. I didn’t think these foods would make me feel any better than what I was already eating.

My next thought was to just simplify. I would focus only on a few key foods that would provide me the requisite nutrition I needed. Again, lots of research led me to a few conclusions. The foods had to be whole, natural foods, not processed foods. That had to be easy to make and be portable so that I could fit them into my crazy life.  They had to cover all the nutrients that I would need and balance into the right amount of calories, proteins, fats, and carbs. They had to be naturally proportioned so that I would eat the right servings. They couldn’t be too tasty or I would overeat them. They couldn’t be too un-tasty (is that a word) or I wouldn’t be able to keep it up.

I love self-serve frozen yogurt. My trick is to put fresh fruit in first and then top with yogurt. This keeps my yogurt portion lower than my fruit portion. Plus coats the fruit with yummy yogurt.

I love self-serve frozen yogurt. My trick is to put fresh fruit in first and then top with yogurt. This keeps my yogurt portion small, and coats the fruit with yummy yogurt.

Once I had my list of foods, the plan was to stick to the program for two weeks to “detox” and then figure out what I wanted to do next. I had a vague idea of going back to weight watchers or something like that once I was “on track.”  That never happened.

After a month I was surprised at how easy it was to stick to the plan. After two months I began to think this might be a long-term solution for me. I have massaged and changed my plan over time, altered my foods slightly, and even allowed certain types of “cheats” that don’t completely derail me (hello, frozen yogurt).

It has now become a way of life. Every day I eat the same breakfast and lunch. For dinner, I allow more variety, but focus on key foods and stick to my rules: whole foods, low-fat proteins, fresh veggies, limited high-fiber carbs, avoid wheat, sugar, and processed foods.

I am almost never hungry and rarely tempted to cheat. Occasionally I will have something not on the list (homemade pizza, ice cream cake, etc) but it is rare, the servings are small, and I make sure the treat is worth it.

This is not a diet. I try not to use that word. This is a way for me to deal with my personal food addiction and issues. The result has been, I feel healthier, I have more energy, I am sick less, and I feel empowered. I also know how easy it would be to slide back into my addictive habits. I am not cured. I am convinced that I must stay this course for the rest of my life, or risk falling back into the world where food controls me.


			

#fashiontruth

My beautiful girl - ready for her photo shoot!

My beautiful girl – ready for her photo shoot! (Don’t look, you can almost see me reflected in the window)

Yesterday I got to do something totally fun and unexpected. And it was only because I’m the mother of a beautiful, fragile girl that I got this experience.

Of course I follow the fabulous Jess Baker and her blog, the Militant Baker. I’ve even linked to her once or twice on my blog, I’m sure. Jess (I can call her that now; we hugged) has an honest, no-nonsense, no-shame approach to self-love that I aspire to. If I’m a work in progress, than Jess is the real deal.

So when I saw that she was holding a casting call at ModCloth in NYC I thought “I’d really love to meet her in person.” But I don’t have any desire to have my picture plastered all over the Internet, so what was the point? Luckily for me, I know someone who would love an opportunity like that. When I suggested to my daughter that we go and she get her pic taken by a professional photographer, she got very excited. Luckily, I was working in Brooklyn that day, and it wasn’t too far of a hop from Brooklyn to downtown NYC. We decided she would tag along with me to work and then jump over the Manhattan bridge afterwards.

photoshoot1It was a fabulous experience. Everyone at ModCloth was so welcoming and kind. They are a very interesting company, helping indie designers get their start. Not all the clothes are available in plus sizes, but many are, and there are some beautiful ones.

My girl also got to feel like a professional model. They told her how to pose and she did just great. I’m sure no one knew she was autistic, the way she addressed everyone and shook hands and responded to questions. And, yes, I might be her mother, but her smile just lights up a room. I am so proud of her and how far she has come. I wish I were half as brave as she is.

Everyone thought I was a great mom for bringing her to the shoot. I didn’t let them know she was my excuse to meet Jess Baker. (Yes, there was a selfie involved, but that’s posted on my Facebook.)

Here is one of the professional pics of my girl. How beautiful is she!

Here is one of the professional pics of my girl. How beautiful is she!

I got to tell Jess how important what she is writing about is to me.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am now without the advice from her (and a very few others). Before I could start to face my addictions and focus on being healthier, I had to learn to love and accept myself. It’s been a long struggle, but I’m learning how to treat myself as if I love me. That’s a pretty bold step. I don’t diet because why would I torture someone I love? Instead, I nourish myself and give myself permission to take care of myself. I treat myself to things (food and nonfood) that I deserve. All of that started by the radical idea that I’m worth it.

The theme of the photo-shoot was #fashiontruth, so here are a few of my own fashion truths:

  • Spandex is for everyone. If I could live in Spandex all the time, I would.
  • High heels are from the devil.
  • Bare arms (sleeveless) are empowering.
  • Everything looks better in purple.
  • The size I wear doesn’t reveal my value or worth.
  • If it makes you feel pretty, it is worth the price.

What is your #fashiontruth?

 

The Dog Days of Step Challenges

I only learned this year why August is called the “dog days” (thanks google) of summer. Although this August was less sultry and steamy than it was crisp and cool. Some people like that sort of thing. I prefer my August hotter. However, cooler days meant better running weather so for my step challenge, August might be called the “running” days. I was able to clock 49 miles of running (my best for the year so far).

augustfitbit

So, it was another solid month with my Fitbit. I had 26 days with over 8,000 steps. Of those, 17 days were over 10,000 steps and 5 days were over 14,000 steps. My best day was August 24, with 19,863 steps, which was the day I walked with my mother and my daughter on a 5 mile walk along fire island, took the ferry home, and then walked the last mile home.  It was pretty awesome.

auguststeps

Another milestone for the month was I hit the 2/3 mark (2,000,000 steps) about halfway through the month, ahead of schedule. Eh, I have less than a million to go! So I’m pretty pleased. I’m focusing more on my running, but I felts some renewed energy to get my steps done every day. Of the days I missed, most of them were unavoidable. There were a few days I didn’t want to do anything, but I pushed myself, which has led me to feel better about the whole thing.

I’m pleased with my progress this past month and if I’m going to push anything it is to run even more. I’m setting a personal goal for 55 miles in September.

A Case of the “Nevers”

First, I’m stealing this blog topic (and title) from another blogger that I recently started following. pscapp probably thinks I’m a stalker because I “like” every single blog post, but there is something about the writing that gets me thinking, so if you are looking for another blog to follow, I recommend this Reading, Writing, Running, and Rhythm

later-means-never-greenIf you read that post (no seriously, go back and read it) it is about turning 50 and realizing there are many things you always thought you would do, but now you realize you are never going to do them. I’m getting close to that age myself, and I recognized my own thoughts in those words. Where as once I had ambitions for myself, I now have ambitions for my daughter, who is 20 and still has plenty of time to achieve her dreams.

But at the same time, it is hard for me to realize I’m not 20 myself. I still kinda feel like my whole life is ahead of me and I have plenty of time to do the stuff I want to do. Don’t I? Do I?

And the thought keeps coming back, why can’t you do it? What’s getting in the way.

Well obviously my life is getting in the way. Turning 50 (I’m still over a year away, understand) is coming up in my thoughts again and again. This “milestone” birthday seems bigger and more significant than previous milestones. I don’t even remember turning 30. I was a single mother with a two-year old (undiagnosed) autistic child. On the list of things I cared about, my age was way, way, down the list. I kind of wanted 40 to be a celebration. I was in a relationship. My business was going well. I had lots to celebrate. But we got busy and it passed by without too much notice. I tried to have a party for my 45th. I got very, very sick and missed my own party. (I have bad karma when it comes to birthday parties. I have promised my family never to plan another one. But that’s a post for another blog.)

My new hero: Sister Marion Irvine. She was overweight and had never regularly exercised when she started jogging in her late 40s. By her 54th birthday she qualified for the US Olympic Trials.

My new hero: Sister Marion Irvine. She was overweight and had never regularly exercised when she started jogging in her late 40s. By her 54th birthday she qualified for the US Olympic Trials.

So what are my nevers?  And how many of them are really off the list? Which ones do I still have time for?

  • Get my black belt in karate.
  • Get my doctorate degree.
  • Write and publish a book.
  • Run a marathon.
  • Travel to Africa and Asia.
  • Learn another language.
  • Learn to play the guitar.
  • Sail the Caribbean and/or Mediterranean.

This is kind of a bucket list, but the nevers are a little different. As we grow older, we recognize that some of the things we always thought we would do are off the table for good. For example, I’m pretty much resigned that I’ll never be blackbelt. I did karate a lot in my 20s and tried to go back at one point in my 30s. However with two very weak ankles, it doesn’t seem like something I will get to do again. Probably. I’m not totally giving up on that one.

And others are only off the table if I don’t do something about it.  My grandfather was in his 60s when he learned to play the piano. He was so good, he taught many of his grandchildren, me included. And I’ve been researching the internet for people who were “late bloomers” making their most serious contributions after they turned 50. For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder published Little House on the Prairie when she was 65, Julia Child was in her 40s when she left her Intelligence Career to attend Le Cordon Bleu and 49 when her first cookbook was published, and Grandma Moses was in her 70s when she started painting.

Don't let her smiling fool you. This cardsharp pretended to be confused about the rules and then soundly beat me 10 out of 12 games.

Don’t let her smiling fool you. This cardsharper pretended to be confused about the rules and then soundly beat me 10 out of 12 games.

I’ve been talking about going back for my doctorate for about 10 years now. Time and money have always gotten in the way, but I feel like that is just an excuse. If you want something badly enough you have to work for it, make time, and find a way.

My grandmother passed away fairly recently. She was 103 when she died, and fairly active almost up until the end. She played golf and drove well into her 90s. I have good genetics and take care of my health, so I try to think about it as if I’m only about 1/2 way through with my life.

At the same time I know that I probably will not do all the things on my list. That’s what a “case of the nevers” means. I have come to grips with not doing some of them. Others, however, I don’t want to give up on just yet.