Running Without a Spreadsheet

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I am going to try to explain something here, and am going to do it clumsily.  Your best option is to read this essay by Joshua Fields Millburn – a complicated, smart, pretentious, moderately sexist advocate of minimalism whose book Everything That Remains got me thinking about my life and my choices.  Damn him.  Anyway, it is a better use of your time to read his essay, but I am going to proceed anyway…

I track things.  I have as long as I can remember – in notebooks, then in Excel, now on Google Drive.  I set fun and not fun goals for myself.  Stretching back as far as I remember.  The summer between my 7th and 8th grade year, I set a schedule for watching reruns on TV.  I like structure.  Maybe it isn’t that I like it.  I am addicted to structure.  Yes, that seems right – addicted.

I could tell you that setting goals works for me.  But that is total bullshit.  For most of my life I have wanted only one thing.  To be thin.  I have never achieved this.  I have achieved being slightly less fat on occasion.  For a few days I was even more than slightly less fat.  But almost exclusively I fail at the things I track in notebooks, or Excel, or Google Drive.  If I could get back the time I spent tracking goals I didn’t achieve…  But I can’t.  And now I want to be happy and healthy – screw thin.  So maybe now it is time to stop tracking shit I want to do, and let it go or just actually do the things.

Here is what I was tracking (until this morning)…

* Completing my skin care regimen every morning and evening, as well as flossing

* Giving myself a manicure every week

* Completing 3 sessions of the couch to 5 K program every week

* Completing 3 sessions of kettle bell workouts every week

* Eating six servings of fruits and vegetables every day, drinking six glasses of water every day

* Tracking what I ate – just to be clear – I tracked what I ate and then tracked that I tracked it.  Seriously.  Not kidding.

* Blogging seven times a week

* Finishing a quilting project every week

* Finish a book every week

* Walking my dog twice a week

Well, that’s a humiliating list.  And other than finishing a quilting project every week, I never hit any of them.  I would read a book and constantly check my page count to make sure I was making enough progress for the day.  I would skip a workout, telling myself that I could make it up before the week was up.  I would size up my bag of carrots in my lunch to determine if I could count it as 1 serving or 2.  I managed my spreadsheet – moving through scenarios to see how I could get an “A” for the week.  I always got a D – once a low C.

At best the goal spreadsheet was a failing extrinsic motivation.  But, really, to be completely brutally honest with myself, it was a total waste of time.  Months after reading Joshua Fields Millburn disparage goal setting, I finally am ready to admit that I need to give up the ghost.  So I am running without a spreadsheet.  Today I did 30 minutes on the treadmill, and I will get no “credit” for it.  There is no box to check.  Whoa.

I am not sure what cold turkey looks like.  Probably a lot more of listening to myself.  I put the things I do still want to do (exercise, blogging, giving myself a manicure) on my calendar.  It still is a bit Type A, but I am new at this.  Baby steps.  That will not be tracked anywhere.  Whoa.

Happy F’ing Birthday!

Happy F’Ing Birthday

I turned 40 about 6 weeks ago.  It was so different from my 30th birthday – they seemed like the birthdays of two different people.  Which I guess they sort of were in a way.

I had four parties when I turned 30 – a different party with a different theme for every decade I had lived in.  I can’t even comprehend that I did that now.  What an f’ing imposition on everybody.  I am hoping it was fun for at least some of the people, but who knows.  In that way that 30 year-olds do, I felt 30 was old – the end of my youth.  And I had figured I would never get married or have kids.  It would never be “in the cards” for me.  I wrongly thought that I would never again get to have a party for me.  Friends had weddings and baby showers.  And I had… well… none of that.  So I threw myself four parties.  Humiliating in retrospect.  Also because I still made everybody come to my wedding 3 years later.  And I had wedding showers.  Plural.  I wonder if I will ever pay off that karma.

This year was completely different.  As the date approached, I waivered between having a small dinner with close friends, or just doing something with Bill.  It was inertia, but I ended up just going to dinner with DH to celebrate my birthday.  And it was wonderful and quiet and ended up being exactly what I wanted.  And it was a little more than inertia.

A couple weeks before my 40th birthday, I was diagnosed with diabetes.  Eye-popping HbA1C levels.  And I was decimated.  Decimated and humiliated.  The stigma of being the actual embodiment of the obesity epidemic obliterated any positive conception I have worked very hard to get of my physical self.  Kaboom.  People who love me would try to explain that it was more than just that I was fat – but making “excuses” made me feel even worse about myself.  I had failed.  Period.  The jokes  and media reports and warnings about fat people – I am fat people.  I am the downfall of society.  Where’s my crown?

And my endocrinologist helpfully said “Diabetes is caused by eating portions that are too big.”  Fuck me.  Really?  I have cut my life to only 20 more years tops because of portion sizes.  Fuck.  And the only way to not have had a sentence of a brief life filled with going blind and losing my feet was to eat smaller portions?  I must be the dumbest fucking idiot in the history of dumb fucking idiots.  Again, where is my FUCKING CROWN??

That is where I was.  At the brink. And alone except for three little life rafts… which joined to become a rowboat, and I can see land now.

First, my excuses. 

I have a family history of diabetes. 

I felt hungry all the time.  I can see you rolling your eyes, but now that I am on the right kind of medication, I know the difference.  Being hungry all the time was real, not imagined – I could eat a giant meal and still want a giant meal.  Topped with whip cream.  Now I can tell the difference between eating because of hunger and eating because of emotion.  Before I gained some control through medication, it all felt like eating because of hunger.  I still eat because of emotion sometimes, but I know I am doing it.

I am a stressed person.  If my husband read this blog and read that sentence, his eyes would roll to the back of his head and the sheer magnitude of the understatement of that sentence. I get stressed easily and don’t always have the best skills to release that stress.  Stress is a contributing factor to diabetes.

These excuses, or rather contributing factors, to me having diabetes eased the bass drum of self-hatred in my head.  Sure, there is plenty of this that is still absolutely my fault.  But there were contributing factors.  I am not the worst person in society dragging us all down to economic ruin.  I am not.

Next, my husband.  DH is a superstar of husbands.  He stepped up and cooked yummy healthy meals and is always willing to go for a walk.  And he never waivered in his love and belief in me.  Sure, love comes from the inside, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have it from the outside also.

Next, my parents.  My mom told me that I wasn’t a total human failure because I had diabetes as many times as was possible.  And my dad had me start texting him my blood glucose readings – making it feel a bit more normal.

Support.  Love.  Regular exercise. Good health insurance.  All I needed to feel like a person who belongs to the world again.  Worthy of the world. 

So, happy birthday to me.  You are stuck with me, Society.  Say hello to the Queen of the Obesity Epidemic.  Long live the Queen!

It is not forever…

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I recently took my first Spin class.  It was wonderful and hard and exhilarating and my lady parts protested.  But I am glad I did it.  I have been exercising a lot lately – nearly everyday – from short walks with DH and sweet Annie to grueling 1.5+ hour ballet classes.  And I have found that it isn’t forever.  And everyday is easier – that the hardest part is showing up.*  And the second hardest part was surviving that first spin class.  The class was 45 minutes and I looked at the clock at least 90 times.  And in the middle, the instructor said “PUSH!  8 more seconds!!  This isn’t forever!”  And she was right.  And then she complimented me on making it through my first class without giving up, even though I only did about 1/3 of the stand-ups and increase tensions.  And I would have given her a million dollars if I had it.  Those who have figured it out give a true gift by encouraging (not patronizing) those of us who are just now figuring it out.  I am learning to love loving myself.

*These obvious insights about exercise realized by billions of people before me, brought to you by my big, beautiful self.  You are welcome.