From Point A to Point B

In my previous post I talked about the meandering line one often takes when trying to figure out solutions to health problems, rather than the linear reductionist approach which often leaves many stones unturned.  We cannot come to the conclusion that a single “thing” caused something to happen when we should also consider other factors that might play a role, many of which might not be very impactful by itself, but can be quite significant if many of these small, seemingly insignificant factors come into play at once.

Going with that meandering line theme, I mentioned to my sister today that diet trends are like that.  There are so many out on the market these days.  Not all are bad, though it really depends more on what sort of intervention an individual can incorporate more permanently so that the diet is a lifestyle change rather than just a quick fix.  They all start with Point A in which one wishes to lose weight, whether for aesthetic reasons or health reasons.  The hope is to get to Point B eventually.  Diets which are more restrictive tend to yield results more quickly, hence arriving at Point B with a much faster eta.

Whatever the case may be, obsessing over the path of Point A to Point B doesn’t do anyone any good.  With enough effort, we all get to Point B eventually, though I’m sure the vast majority of people would rather get there sooner than later.  However, more and more I’ve been seeing diet trends that are so damn complicated that I don’t know how most people can find the time to figure out how to incorporate it into their lives, especially when they work full time and have children to drive here, there, and everywhere.  This is because a common social determinant that negatively impacts people of all socioeconomic levels is lack of time, which I believe is a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

Lack of time keeps us from devoting time to ourselves and our families.  It also prevents us from exercising more, hitting the fast food drive thru less, and further adds to the ever-accumulating stress that we can never seem to shake ourselves of because… we don’t have time.  It is already a challenge for some folks to gain affordable access to healthy food, what more to the added challenge of preparing these meals, then somehow making it to the gym or at the very least a brisk enough walk around the neighborhood to count for the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

So how about we make the path from Point A to Point B a little more scenic?  Take the time to incorporate healthy habits so that most of them stick, but even more important, take the time to learn about yourself so that you understand what sabotages your efforts and feel far less defeated when that happens because you know you have the ability to pick up where you left off and continue on.  There are always set backs in every journey, but if the end result is a better understanding of your own health, then it is a path of discovery that is definitely worthwhile.

 

Advertisements

Half way to something

A few days ago I celebrated another birthday.  Every year it becomes a time of new commitments, almost like making New Year’s resolutions.  I always keep this simple by telling myself I’d drink more water, get more sleep, start doing yoga again, etc.  It’s usually so simple that by the time a year passes I usually can’t remember what I committed to, which is probably for my own good because I tend to overcommit to larger, more complicated tasks on a regular basis.

This past year I underestimated the effort needed to balance everything and learned the importance of not only prioritizing, but doing it with such fierceness that I made a few enemies along the way.

Why?

1. Because not everyone has children.  Or I should say, not everyone has adolescent children.  Life is completely different from the time when my children were portable and agreeable. Hormones have transformed these sweet angels into pissed off little turds who question the need to do things adults tell them to do like folding their laundry or making their beds so that they don’t become nesting grounds for dust bunnies and spiders.  Now they want independence, but at the same time need rides to band rehearsals, basketball practice, friends’ houses, in addition to the funding necessary to do all of these things that have taken over the family calendar.

It’s a natural part of growing up, of course, so I’m happy to do all of these things for them, amid the pouting and protest when there is a scheduling conflict or a conflict of interest.  But when I have deadlines or have to be on campus for class, it’s tough to break away from the mommy guilt.  Sadly, I can’t be in more than one place at one time, so my children have grown accustomed to my absence.  When I really think about it, they have never complained about that, partly because my husband has done a pretty good job of taking over.  And maybe they just totally get it, which totally deserves a trip to Disneyland when I finally graduate.

2. Because not everyone thinks this grad school gig is worthwhile.  I will go so far as to say that my butt cheeks have made a permanent indenture on this chair that I currently sit in.  I am here for hours upon hours each day when the session is in full swing.

Sometimes I surprise myself and turn everything in early, which leaves me paranoid that I must have forgotten something because twiddling my thumbs doesn’t happen all that often.  Many times I’m feverishly racing ahead of a deadline, especially when I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around whatever it is I have to research and analyze so that I have enough to write a concise 5-page paper.

Needless to say, I’m a hermit.  When I am extremely overwhelmed I would much rather escape and do something other than focusing on what I really need to do, which is why I often deactivate my Facebook account and place my iPhone and iMessenger on “Do Not Disturb”.

My family already knows that a closed bedroom door means that I’m in deadline panic mode, and until I emerge I cannot process any extraneous information.  They have attempted communication during such times of duress, but they have also learned that I don’t remember any of it.

I’d like to think my friends and extended family understand this also, but I also learned this past year that not everyone really gives a shit about what I’m doing.  They don’t realize that I spent more than 15 years out of the work force so that I could raise my children. A divorce during that time left us in financial ruins and we have been living off of the same amount of child support since 2010 because their biological father has successfully avoided mediation since then.

Even if I wanted to return to work as my original calling in graphic design, I’d need extensive schooling to catch up with the times, for technology has changed just a little bit over the years.  They also don’t realize that in my attempt to avoid school loans while completing my pre-requisites, I paid for everything out of pocket which was a huge financial strain.

I’m a sociable person and would gladly hang out at the local bar or night spot with a drink in hand catching up with friends, but even that was only feasible if I had the extra time between semesters and a little bit of wiggle room on my credit card.

The burning question is:  Why do I have to explain this to anybody?  I don’t, which is why I have burned some bridges this past year.  This was drama, like the sort of stuff I had to deal with in high school, but only amplified with the extra dynamic of social media.  Needless to say, there is also a Block function that comes with many forms of modern day gadgetry which I have used extensively in order to stay focused on what is really important.  I can only do so much; therefore, my time is spent on only those who realize it and appreciate it.

3. Because not everyone realizes how much work is involved with my job.  I still don’t even consider “group fitness instructor” to be a real job even though my years of experience have earned me a substantial rate for every class I teach.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a real job that requires a lot of work that I don’t get paid to do, most of which involves countless hours of learning music and choreography so that I can teach an effective class.  The satisfaction comes from the delivery, and I can see this on the participants’ faces who come back week after week after week.  Showing up and teaching is actually the fun part, almost like a break from the outside world in which I can just do something else for an hour or two.

This past year I have had to step away from the lure of teaching multiple classes and multiple formats at multiple gyms.  Not only was this exhausting, it was eating into time I could have been spending with my kids, and I was constantly confused about where I had to be.

I also learned the value of working for people who appreciate what I do.  As ridiculous as that may sound, I realized for some managers it’s all about simply filling the instructor spot with any breathing body just so the class can happen, regardless of experience, commitment to the facility and its members, or the potential for injury.  I have always been told to treat that time slot that I’ve been hired to teach like gold, which I have always done even when I’m just there to sub.  However, I expect this to be reciprocated from the management, especially when I work my butt off to pack their classes.  Sadly, that doesn’t always happen.  Normally I would simply step away and move on, for in this instance I did need to make my life less busy because grad school had started.  But I refused to let this manager think that was the only reason why.  Hopefully the parting letter to him and his superiors explained this clearly.

4. Because I fill every amount of free space with something.  Several years ago, I moved back to the Chicago area to be near family.  I assumed that because we were related, they would take an interest in me and my children and we would have that social support that I had been craving since my divorce.

I realized after ending a long relationship with a sociopath (“What’s His Face”) that this was not the case, and I would assume that having fun with him was probably more appealing than hanging out with me at home because I no longer had the time or the financial means to party hard alongside them.

I get it.  It’s not cool.  It isn’t the type of stuff that makes for successful selfies on social media.  Naturally, being the sociopath that he is, this guy took advantage of this, which I’m sure softened the blow of being dumped by me.  He made sure he was in every single photo with my cousins and it was always posted online somewhere, like the sick fuck that he is.

Sure this hurt, but not as much as the backlash I received when I voiced my concern to these people who I thought would understand.  You know, because they were family. I am convinced now that some higher being intentionally made this traumatizing for me so that I would walk away from them and the lifestyle they lead forever.  This wasn’t the type of thing that would make me a productive human being in society.

Needless to say, I then had endless opportunities to meet new people and create life changing relationships because I finally had the time to do it.  After a 2-year hiatus, I started teaching group fitness classes again, something which I gave up when I left North Carolina because at the time it was instilled in me by What’s His Face that it wasn’t a real job and it didn’t matter.  I cannot even begin to say how wrong he was.  I have met hundreds of people over the past 4 years because I was no longer limiting myself to this small circle of so-called family, and many of these people have become close friends, one of whom I ended up marrying.  I don’t even think they realize the impression they made on me as I was attempting to pave a new path for myself, but here I am, with every crevice of free time filled because of school, teaching, marathon training, all the while trying to establish some sort of normalcy at home.

I think the most important lesson I learned this past year is that this process doesn’t have to be perfect. At the same time I need to respect myself and hold true these boundaries I’ve started to build in order to keep my priorities straight.  Quiet the negativity, whether it’s those who don’t believe in me or the voices in my head that tell me I’m not worthy.  Those who matter the most will continue to offer guidance, support, and understanding.  For at this point I’m half way through my 40’s already. Or, one could even say I’m half way through my lifespan if I make it to 90.  Rather than get caught up with What’s a girl my age doing all of the things she’s doing??, I need to just seize the day.  For tomorrow… who knows.

A year later.

Lately I started thinking about this blog and it might very well be because the year anniversary of its inception is coming up in a few days.  Or it could be because I haven’t exactly been keeping up with this the way I had intended.  As each semester or quarter ends, I get excited and look forward to a lull in academics for a short time, but I realized since starting grad school that the way I’ve gone about my classes has resulted in no real break in between sessions due to some of them overlapping each other.  This is what happens when you pursue something big and decide to just jump right in for fear of giving it too much thought and chickening out.  Needless to say, I jumped, I didn’t chicken out, and life has taken on a whole new level of “busy”.

A year ago I was doing some soul searching because my plans of becoming a physical therapist were fizzling.  I was getting that gut feeling that was easy to ignore when I first decided to go back to school, and earning top scores in my life science courses convinced me that this was the path that was meant to be.  A year of volunteer work, as fulfilling as it was to work one-on-one with rehab patients, helped me realize that I loved the people interaction, but hated the seemingly endless time spent on the computer doing paperwork.  It seemed very boring and tedious to me. However, as stubborn as I was, I decided to just keep going because ultimately I knew I had to make a decision with what I was going to do with all this schooling under my belt.  How on earth could I choose a different path when I hadn’t considered any other detours?

Ironically, a physical therapist was a frequent participant in one of my Bodypump classes, and she asked me if I had considered going into Health Education.  This immediately made me think of my days in high school, muddling through health class half asleep, and I walked away from that conversation wondering why she would think I could be a teacher.  But a little bit of research brought some enlightenment, and I found a graduate school which offered a dual program in Nutrition and Public Health, with (get this) an option to pursue a concentration in Health Education.  What’s even better is that this school is down the street from me, and I realized a friend I had met randomly through other friends a few years ago was the department chair of one of those programs at this university.

If there was ever a time in which things were meant to be, this was one of them.  It was a though there was a giant neon sign placed in front of me that said, “THIS!  DO THIS!”  And indeed, it is what I have been doing since September 2015 when enrolled in one more year at the junior college to take three additional prerequisites for the Master of Science in Nutrition and Wellness Program, but I decided to get a jump start on the dual degree option and begin the Master of Public Health component in January of this year.

And so, January was my last blog entry, when I was giddy about finally being all grown up and in a different stage of academics, but at the same time trying to get used to a new way of thinking.  This was no longer memorization and regurgitation of facts but the endless assimilation of research and analysis in weekly discussions and papers.  In June I was accepted into the MS in Nutrition and Wellness program, which gave me the green light to keep trucking through the summer with two classes, one online and one on campus.

This past academic school year also involved many changes for my kids, with one starting high school, another starting middle school, and the youngest being by herself for the first time in grade school.  I must say they had a good school year of “firsts”; my older daughter played on the basketball team, my son loves playing the clarinet and had a role in the school musical, and my younger daughter continues to hold onto her innocent, spunky sweetness even though she is growing up a little too quickly for my liking.

And then there is my husband.  A few years ago he was a single guy living in a quiet little apartment.  His life was simpler then, I’m sure.  He did his own thing and I doubt anybody got in the way of anything he wanted to do, whether it was travel, train for and compete in triathlons, hang out with the guys, or just be in a state of peace and quiet.  And then he met me and within a year of getting married I decided to go back to school.  I keep waiting for him to complain or say something negative about what I’m doing because it does seem like it’s gone on forever and I don’t see an end in sight.  My time is spent studying, and when I’m not studying I’m learning choreography and teaching.  Yet, through this craziness, he has been my rock.  Sure, it gets frustrating.  My teenager can be difficult, with the my preteen son in close second, and even though my youngest child is so independent and care free, there are always the pangs of guilt that make me want to take care of everything, from folding their laundry to making them dinner.  But my husband has been there, doing what I can’t do in the best way he possibly can.

So onward I go, now as a bonafide graduate student.  Summer quarter is well under way and Fall quarter is already planned.  And if I’m not mistaken, I may actually have a month off after this quarter, which I am hesitant to get excited over because I don’t remember what it feels like to have a break.  What on earth will I do with myself??

Oh yeah.  Marathon training.  Gosh, I do have a lot to write about.