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Sunday Thoughts in Late Summer
Sep 25th, 2010 by alexfaye

I am eager as the new school year approaches, and at the same time, I dread it.  What I dread though is losing myself, and the things I need to feel good:  adequate sleep, good eating habits, writing time, yoga (to gently hold the line against all that desk time needed for writing), walks for reflection and rumination, weight work for strength and stamina, and golf for fun and release.  Intellectually, I know that I am middle-aged, but I’ve set no reliable habits to accommodate the truth of 53:  If I don’t actively care for my body, I don’t just stand still — I deteriorate.

When I was younger, I had more natural resiliency — could neglect the body and recover quickly…I didn’t ache all of the time as now.  Today, all my joints speak to me.  My shoulders, always silent in the past, yak at me constantly. I am stiff in the neck, hips and hamstrings.  The only thing I can do is resist, push against that stiffness.  I feel like I’m pushing against a slowly advancing plate of ice.

My experience of pregnancy & childbirth put eighty pounds on my frame; I lost fifty.  I have carried the extra 30 pounds for 22 years; few people who know me remember me before.  I don’t look bad, but I don’t look good either.  Beyond aesthetics, the damage of just carrying that weight on my hips and knees is more and more evident to me.  Add to this the dawning understanding that my estrogen output is steadily decreasing.  If I don’t lose the weight before the tap closes altogether, I may never lose it.  So, I joined Weight Watchers this weekend.

Of course I know how to lose weight; of course I can hold myself accountable, and of course, I see the act of “joining up” and paying a fee to do what I already know how to do as crass consumerism.   But ulimately, I surrender to this bare fact:  I know all of this, have known it, yet have not adequately dealt with it in more than two decades — so let’s do something new.  Really, give in the the facts.  So I will pay my dues, participate with the group, count my points, drink my water, and go after it.

My narrative has been, “Yes, I am 30 pounds overweight but I carry it well.  I am fit.  I can still do what I want to do.  I can accept it.”  The narrative has to change.  Without a narrative change, there is no lasting change.

In addition to constructing a new narrative — a narrative the I actually need to write and speak aloud  — I have to schedule the necessary self care right into my week, and make a commitment to it.

Part of what I must construct,  in the narrative,  is clear articulation of what that time means to me over the course of my school year, and insist that it won’t hurt my teaching.

The sturdy counter-narrative that I must subvert:  “I need to grade papers.  I need to plan.  I need to read.”

ALL OF THAT IS TRUE ENOUGH, so here’s the tricky part.  I can’t just discard those mantras outright, like a bad habit.  But I have to acknowledge what actually happens, which is, I say the mantra, cut the selfcare for the mantra, and then DO NEITHER.  Instead put my face in the screen and fiddle around.  (Hello, Facebook friends.)

Again, I need my screen.  My computer and I must spend time together every day.  But I have to manage that time, make the time productive, and limit the time.

Here I am, in the summer, and on vacation.  I can structure my time any way I’d like, and I leave important things undone.  So when my time is highly structured as it is during the school year, it is so much easier to leave important things left undone.

I have to be on my own side.

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