Monthly Archives: July 2015

Fitness Goals Check-In


On 19 June, I posted my goal of exercising for an hour a day. As a retired person with lots of free time at my disposal, there’s really no excuse for not spending an hour taking care of this body that I hope to inhabit for another thirty years or so, right? I imagine a stern coach exhorting me to get up and move, move, move. And besides, exercise always puts me in a good mood, which is good for my marriage and all my relationships. So, how’d I do?

So far, I’d give myself a B. From 19 June through 19 July I achieved my goal of a daily hour of exercise on twenty-three days. My activities included walking, running, spin class, Zumba class, weight training, belly dancing, yard work, and golf.

On the days when I didn’t meet my goal, I often had houseguests, family members I seldom get to see. Of course, I wanted to spend time with these visitors, and few of them wanted to (or were able to) devote an hour to walking. Then there were a few travel days, spent mostly in the car or in airports. There was the 4th of July, an important family day, and the Tacoma Blues Festival (also a houseguest day). There were also a few days spent preparing for travel or for houseguests.

On those days when I couldn’t/didn’t devote an hour to exercise, I did remember to put on my pedometer, and I did walk at least 15,000 steps over the course of the day. Does that count? Not really—I’d say that’s a day when I was active, but not exercising, since I never walked fast enough to require any heavy breathing. My goal is still to devote an hour of each day to moderate-to-strenuous exercise, not just walking around while shopping or cleaning.

Oh, I’m not giving up, but I’m a bit disappointed in how many days I’ve allowed myself to slide because of unusual demands on my time. And isn’t that always the case? We set goals, make good progress, and then along comes one of those unusually demanding days, and our new good habits are set aside. OK, sometimes we just have to cut ourselves some slack, but I suspect that I could do better at fitting in exercise on those difficult days. My inner coach doesn’t buy “I’m too busy” as an excuse. (For those of you who knew him, my inner coach is Denny Lemmon, who blows his whistle in my ear and exhorts, “Move your body!”)

It’s the old mama mode reflex: when I have houseguests, or entertain friends and family, or when a special occasion comes along, I slide into putting others’ needs and even preferences before my own. We mamas are conditioned that way, n’est-ce pas? But such conditioning is bad for our health. And when I give up my hour of exercise in order to prepare for a visit or celebration, I end up resentful of loved ones—a state they don’t deserve and I don’t want to inflict upon them. Better they do without me for a few hours while I go to the gym—then I’ll return in a happy mood and ready to enjoy their company.

So, back to the gym and my accountability calendar. Yesterday was my birthday, and I did not get that hour of exercise, though I had a great time with friends and family. Let’s see if I can make a solid week with no excuses. Gotta go—Coach is blowing his whistle.

Book Review: The Grown Ups, by Robin Antalek

Continuing my education in the genre of women’s fiction:

I absolutely loved this book. Antalek takes us from adolescence through early adulthood and beyond in the lives of a group of friends. Her tightest focus is on Sam, Suzie and Bella, but we also get to know the rest of their group, along with many of their parents. It’s impossible not to care deeply about these three characters as they scrabble over the knee-skinning boulders of messed-up families, broken relationships, coming apart and together again. Antalek takes us through the trials of teenaged lust, misunderstanding, ambition, lack thereof, thwarted ambition, unused talents, sibling love/rivalry, addiction, and parental decline: the ordinary stuff of which life is made, and all of it deeply resonant without lapsing into schmaltz. An outstanding book.

Book Review: Separate Beds, by Elizabeth Buchan

(Just trying out the copy-this-review-to-my-blog feature of Goodreads.)

The novel I’m currently working on would be best described as women’s fiction, so I’m reading lots of same to learn about the genre. I found Elizabeth Buchan on a must-read list of women’s fiction authors. The recommended book, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, wasn’t available in my library, so I picked up this one, and I’m glad I did. Buchan handles smoothly the transition from POV to POV in this tale of a British family’s near dissolution, making each character at least partly sympathetic–a difficult task in the case of the critical, crotchety grandmother. All members of this family are deeply flawed, but I found myself rooting for all of them…well, perhaps not one, but I was deeply curious about what would happen to her. An engrossing read for anyone who enjoys a relationship-centered tale.

On Selfishness

Image result for selfish

One of the delights of my current age and stage is the oodles of time I have for selfish pursuits. Yes, I realize that this word is off-putting, that some people will immediately judge me as a less-worthy person because I claim the right to be selfish. To those people I say: Pooh! Also balderdash, rubbish and hooey!

During the half-century I’ve been alive, I’ve learned that no one will ever care as much as I do about my well-being—and that’s as it should be. Taking care of me is primarily my job, as long as I’m of sound mind and body. It’s up to me to know when I need rest, exercise, a snack, a day to myself, an outing, etc. And sometimes I have to insist, even though my needs may conflict with loved ones’ desires or plans. If I need to sit and have a coffee right now, then that’s what I shall do. Go on and do what you’d like to do, dear; we’ll meet up later.

Fortunately, I’m blessed with a husband who loves me and wants me to be happy, and thus respects my little outbursts of selfishness. I do my best to respect his as well, and we succeed quite well most of the time. Alas, this was not always the case; previous partners expected me to follow along with their plans regardless of my “selfish” needs or desires. That’s why they are previous partners.

In our culture, we sing the praises of selfless people—especially women—especially mothers. Well, I don’t believe that I would have been a good role model for my daughter (or for my son, had I had one) if I’d devoted all my talent, passion, and time to nurturing others and neglected to nurture myself. What does such an attitude tell our girls? That they were put on this earth with talents, passions and smarts, but they may only develop these until they have children? And then all their gifts must be used in the service of nurturing their children, half of whom will never fully develop their passions, talents and smarts? This is not good. We’ve produced some fine young men, but their contribution alone is not enough to carry us forward amid all the challenges we face as a nation. We need the girls’ contribution too, and the women’s.

OK, writing this feels a bit silly. There are few people, and even fewerer female people, who would disagree with the previous paragraph. But why, then, do we continue to beatify selfless parents, especially mothers, and criticize each other for being selfish? Perhaps it’s rooted in our own selfish nature. See, if Mama’s off doing her own thing, she’s not taking care of me. How selfish of her.

I’ve just read a long and interesting chain of comments on Facebook. A retired DoDDS teacher (that’s the school system on overseas U.S. military bases) posted advice for newly retired teachers. Most of the respondents mentioned the joy of having time to pursue their own interests, including just hanging out, relaxing, and sleeping in late. Many wrote about their volunteer work, and suggested that new retirees look for opportunities to volunteer in local schools. One former teacher—a man, by the way—said, “Sorry, I’ve done my time,” and mentioned how he enjoyed driving past schools and not having to go in.

Now, I’m not a follower of any religious doctrine, but I do believe that we have a moral obligation to somehow leave the world a better place because we were here.  So, have I contributed enough to society by teaching for 26+ years? Must I continue to volunteer my time in my community, or is a selfish existence justifiable? Actually, I did some volunteer teaching during my first year of retirement—because my spouse was volunteering there and enjoying the experience, and because of nagging feelings that I really ought to be contributing something to my community. I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I’d hoped to, but a purely selfish life seemed, well, selfish. Hmm.

I suppose it’s a question of balance. I’m going to follow the rhythm of the school year and take the summer off from volunteering. After that, I’ll look for other, non-school programs that need help. Surely there’s an activity out there that would be both enjoyable and useful to my community. But I must agree with those retirees who warn us newbies not to overschedule our time at first. I’m going to enjoy being selfish.