August 04, 2014

Deciding I Don't Want to Die


By Genie; posted by Crabby McSlacker

I am seriously psyched to bring you this guest post--it’s quite inspiring and motivating, as you shall soon see. And another cool thing? This was sent by a heretofore anonymous “lurker,” who challenged herself to tell her story in a more public venue. 

However, I need a favor here. I'm hoping that when you get to the end and think to yourselves: "I want to hear more from Genie, she should have a blog of her own!" that you keep your big traps shut about that, ok?  Say instead, "I hear starting a new blog is kind of a pain in the ass, but you should really keep contributing posts to Crabby's blog!"

Got that?

OK, I'm off gallivanting in NYC but I leave you in good hands today; please welcome Genie!

--Crabby

When Crabby sent out an invitation for guest posts, I thought, “Why the hell not?” So I mustered my courage and sent out an email with a short version of my story. Her response was so warm and immediate, I had to “screw my courage to the sticking place” (apologies to Lady Macbeth) and do it.

For better or worse then, this is the short version of how I decided I didn’t want to die anymore.


In April of 2013, in response to “How ya’ doin’?” I casually told someone I wanted to die. Because I am known for my rather dark sense of humor, these words didn’t get the expected response this would have gotten if a “normal” person had said it. But I woke the next morning thinking about the cold fact that I was serious when I said it and I still, in the light of morning, meant it.

I was seriously unhappy despite having so many things to be thankful for. I am an English professor and because of that I understand the power of words. I decided to start writing. Seven pages of single spaced, typed misery spilled out of me. The only thing on that list that I could reasonably control was my body. And so it began. I decided to focus on that one thing. I had no idea how that one thing would change so much.

The “why” I got so unfit is another story that I’ve only recently come to understand with the awareness of age and writing about all of this as I’ve been on this journey. That awareness, while painful, holds a kind of power all its own. But that emotional blather isn’t for this post. This one is about the win!

Before: Far too heavy and feeling rather poorly.

I started doing what all academics know how to do—research. I came up with a plan. I announced to my husband in May of 2013, “Sweetheart, we are about to change everything we do around here.” He simply asked what I meant. I explained that we were going to change how we ate, shopped, planned, lived—the very rhythm of our days. I was going to plan a menu for the week, we would shop for that menu and we would stick to that menu. That menu would have no processed food or what we would come to call “white food” on it. That meant no take-out, white pasta, white rice, white bread, but it would have lots of lean protein and vegetables. And, here was the kicker, no sugar. I knew I married a wonderful man and while I didn’t really need any more proof I got it anyway. He agreed. Readily.

This also meant that in our small, near food desert town, we would no longer be able to eat out. Labor would have to be divided to enable this endeavor. Again, he agreed.

I kept adding things to this list of demands, “We (note I said “we”? Do you feel sorry for him yet?), are going to start working out. A lot.” He agreed. He never wavered.

I’ll fast forward a bit so this doesn’t look so bleak. And believe me, all those changes looked bleak from time to time here too! Here we are a little more than one year later. I am a little over 50 pounds leaner and carrying much more muscle on my 4’11’’ frame. He’s a lot healthier too. I can swim laps for an hour at a time, I can run HIIT’s on the elliptical for ridiculous amounts of time and sing along to my play list (don’t ask!) during the recovery period, I can do silly Pilates things that make me happy, and I’m sure that I have a lot more energy than I did in May of 2013.



No fancy gyms in my small town. Lucy is my fitness trainer.
 She thinks Pilates is “Cali-lates.” Butt pats are a crucial part of The Hundred!

I had to learn some hard lessons along the way. Lessons about telling people a hard, resounding “No” because I needed time to do all this. Making time for me became a priority. I also learned that my body became a topic for discussion in a way it had never been before. One colleague asked me, “Don’t you feel like you are giving power to the patriarchy in trying to mold yourself into a culturally mandated ideal”? My answer to that was also a hard, resounding “No.” What’s not empowered about a body that can carry her own box of kitty litter?

I learned that my body really doesn’t like all the processed stuff I’d been feeding it and thrives on an absence of “white food,” a healthy dose of whole grain carbs, lean protein and veggies. I learn that again every time we go on a trip or eat at someone’s house. I learned that once I laid down the ground rules for my life others would help me. Friends now ask things like, “I’m baking for the holidays. Would you like me to bring you anything or not this year? I know you’re taking care of yourself.” My best friend asks before I spend fabulous weekends with her, “What can I do so the weekend doesn’t end up being a train wreck of indulgence for you”? Even the kindness of many of my colleagues astounds me. One inquired gently, “I know your early mornings are for you these days (that’s when I work out), but I really need to meet with you. Can we plan for one day next week.” Because everyone needs rest days, I can do that. She has children who need her in the afternoon, so we can help each other with a little planning. People can be wondrously kind when I allow them to be.

In short, I learned I was important. I deserved a life worth living.

I also learned my marriage, and all the fun stuff that comes with a strong relationship, improved along the way too. I wanted to be touched more often when I was no longer afraid of the fat rolls he would feel. Now, I’ll walk up, grin and say, “Poke that!” inviting him to touch the strong core muscles around my waist. You can use your imagination about the joys that come from a little body confidence!

Here’s something I didn’t tell you to start with. I live in chronic pain. That was on my misery list. I have significantly reduced the amount of pain I live in. I think it’s a combination of core strength, taking all those pounds off my body, adding muscle to support the joints, a change in diet (all that research about food and illness can’t be wrong!), and a higher level of fitness than I’ve had in a long time.

I’m not a “perfect” weight; I’m 47 years old and I don’t do deprivation. On a good day, I’m happy where I am. Where I am is a lot better than where I was in 2013. In addition to the fat puddled around the elliptical trainer (I love that visual!), I’ve gained things that can’t be measured. I’ve put away most of the hurt of a childhood spent being punished by parents who wanted a beauty queen as a daughter and learned some amazing survival skills for a busy life. I also don’t wish I was dead anymore. I still have bad days, really bad days. But exercise centers me and gives me some happy chemicals to fight with. And I often feel a kind of optimism now. I have the energy to fight and face things. I'll never be "skinny" (I don't want to be; I like a lot of my curves) or a "perfect" weight, but I'm a helluva lot better off than I was in 2013. And I'm never going back.

I started off calling this "The Body Project" but now I call it "The Life Project." It isn't about perfection; it's about comfort in my own skin, being able to walk for 12 hours a day when we go to Italy, having the energy to tackle my often difficult work situation, and making time for myself no matter what. Oh, and eating some chocolate when the need hits! We’ve eased up a little on the absolute no sugar thing. Sometimes life demands chocolate—rich, dark chocolate preferably with sea salt.
And some good beer never hurt either. Obviously, extremism isn’t my strong suit.

We laugh and love a lot more in our house these days.

Thanksgiving 2013: Me and the Husband healthier and happier.
Thankful for feeling great! More gains have been made since then.

45 comments:

  1. Great!! I wish more people would do what you did!

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    1. Me too, Dr. J! Imagine how many more of the people around us would be happier.

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    2. That was Genie commenting, by the way. Still getting the hang of this :)

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  2. Congrats – you look great! I work out at the gym at my office and people are always commenting how great it is that I work out everyday. But honestly the main reason I exercise is to help reduce anxiety. It’s a much better alternative to prescriptions drugs. It’s amazing what a good work out can do!

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    1. Thanks, Lauren. I find my workout time is indeed an excellent anti-anxiety "drug" (no offense intended to anyone who needs actual anti-anxiety medication) and a stress reliever I can no longer imagine going without. It is amazing and I often tell myself, "I'm going to therapy now" (no offense intended to anyone who goes to a real therapist!). Life has become much more manageable even with the time away from all the things I'm "supposed" to be doing. Genie

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  3. First off, I'm a big fan of the quote "screw your courage to the sticking place" so you had me from the start. I also love that you were motivated by not wanting to die. It seems to me that everyone should be and (of course) that is just NOT the case. Congratulations on "figuring it out" and making it happen!!! You both look genuinely happy.

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    1. Vita, we are happy! Not all the time; we'd be game show hosts if we were, but we sure feel better about a lot things! I recently told my doctor, who was mightily impressed and asked "What happened?", that I didn't want to die from something stupid that I did to myself (like diabetes since I was on my way there). I've done enough damage to my body all these years--let the healing begin!

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  4. Genie, what a inspirational story! And you influenced your (very understanding) husband too... how awesome that you have changed your family dynamic.

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    1. Thank you, Lyn. He jumped in with both feet and often helps me on track. He's pretty incredible.

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  5. You aren't doing this to fit into someone else's mold, you are doing it for yourself, and that's the only way to do it! Great work!

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    1. Thanks, messymimi! It is the only way. But I had to become *ahem* a certain age to truly understand that! This time it is my mold. And this one fits! Genie

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    1. Thanks, Leah. Go you, too!

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  7. I hear starting a new blog is kind of a pain in the ass, but you should really keep contributing posts to Crabby's blog!

    This is pretty inspiring and I need a little inspiration in my life right now. Thanks!

    LynM

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    1. I'm glad something I wrote helped. It means a great deal to hear I inspired someone; I am humbled by that, Anonymous. If readers and Crabby think I have more to contribute, I'll be glad to. I know this blog, and so many others, inspire me almost every day!

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  8. "One colleague asked me, “Don’t you feel like you are giving power to the patriarchy in trying to mold yourself into a culturally mandated ideal”? "

    I laughed out loud at that. Bless the academic world.

    Since you like writing and words you might just find blogging a bit addicting. :) Besides, your cat is cute. That is awesome that she knows where to get for the 100. I had a great visual on the butt pats.

    Sam

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    1. Lucy knows exactly where to be when that mat hits the floor, Sam! And she also knows just how cute she is :)

      Yes, "Bless the academic world." Sometimes when I hear things like that, all I can do is laugh. In that case, I felt that an explanation about my body belonging to me and I needed to do all I could to make it strong was in order. I admit I am capable of academic rants from time to time and the body image/patriarchy issue is no exception! But wanting to be healthy isn't about fitting an ideal. I'm really over that by now and accept that I am not an ideal because there isn't one (going for a cup of coffee now to avoid a long rant about air brushing, the fashion industry, female bodies as objects of control, blah, blah, blah. . . ).

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    2. Death Ride GrandmaAugust 5, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      That bit made me laugh, too. Obviously the person who offered that political comment has never experienced the amazing feeling of strength that accompanies getting back in shape! Yeah, it's scary to think that some head to anorexia in order to fit someone's idea of what we should look like. But must we be sedentary to prove we have not succumbed to that pressure??? Uh, I don't think so. Congratulations on a great achievement! And thanks for sharing the story.

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    3. Thank you, DRG.

      Yep. Get the strength and find the power and see how strong that makes you feel! Sedentary is just another way to give up power, as far as I'm concerned. I'm off to lift something heavy now :)

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  9. I admire you commitment and perseverance. It seems like every week, day I tell myself I'm going to get healthy. I get into a groove for a while and then slack back into my old ways. This is very inspiring to me. Thanks.

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    1. I am, again, humbled that my story has inspired someone--Thank you!
      I have something that helps me when I stray. I know that it is persistence rather than perfection that wins the day. I do stray off the path from time to time (life happens, fun happens, travel happens) but when all is said and done, it's what I do most of the days that matters. Most weeks are great but knowing that persistence pays off brings me back when I have a not-so-great day or so.
      Genie

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  10. I'm on a healthier path these last couple of years, but I did it a little at a time. You had a total change all at once. Glad you and husband are following the path together. Thanks Wow, what an inspirational story. You go girl. Glad you decided to share your story on Crabby's blog. You've just lifted my mood and make me want to ...(wait for it)...LIVE.

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    1. Thank you, Bob Ben! I'm an all or nothing kinda woman (that trait has both good and bad sides!). It worked for us. He's been an inspiration for me; we work well together. After all the kind words here, I am so glad I got brave and did it too!
      Live on :)
      Genie

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  11. Love your story, Genie! Very inspirational. Keep on writing!!!

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    1. Thank you, Kimberley. Hmmm. . . Perhaps I will. Just maybe Crabby and all her great readers have created a monster!
      Genie

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  12. Very inspirational! Would love to hear more from you, esp. The emotional stuff that blocked your weight loss initially.. Thanks is half e battle for most :)

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    1. If y'all will have me back, I think I can do it :)

      The emotional stuff is, I think, more than half the battle. It's been one heck of a battle for me! I've come to terms with a lot this past year. That would be one LONG post! But I'd be willing to share it if you'd be willing to slog through it.

      Thank you for your kind words.

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  13. Awesome story, Genie, thanks for sharing it. Congratulations to both of you--ya look great!!

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    1. Thank you, Rian. I think *he's* awfully cute :)
      And we both feel so much better!

      I am delighted that Crabby has built such a powerful community--what a great place to share and support each other on the fitness trail.
      Genie

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  14. Wow - I loved reading your story because it was so genuine and real - something that was hard but also so very rewarding!!! The best part was the fact that every thing you suggested your husband agreed to - so much easier when you can do this with your partner!!! Thanks for sharing the pictures - you and your husband look amazing!!!

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    1. Thank you, Kim. Doing all of this with him did make it easier. And it's a lot harder to get off track when he's so completely on board! When someone else in the house hopes for a healthy dinner, that's really the only kind a loving partner can make!
      Genie

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  15. I am happy for you and proud of you.

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  16. Genie, you are awesome. Being a partial eye-witness to your journey (best friend here), I can attest to how hard you work. Now for the obligatory, "writing your own blog is hard; keep posting here," but wherever you write, continue to do it because you continue to inspire me!

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    1. Thanks, C! You inspire me too. "Partial"? You've seen it all!

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  17. The title of the article was very eye opening for me. Around a year ago in 2013, I became very focused on living a healthier life. Like you, I don't want to die either, but it's inevitable. Ever since my priorities have shifted, I've decided to live a healthier, more quality life to preserve my life as much as I can. Thank you for this wonderful article :)

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    1. Thank you, Virginia! Yes, it is inevitable but the quality of the time we have is certainly improved by a healthier lifestyle, isn't it? Congratulations on your shift!

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  18. Wonderful! Inspirational! Authentic! Ok- I'm gonna run out of superlatives, so allow me please to just generally applaud you :) The perseverance through 'dark days' (they barge in like rude neighbors from time to time, yes?), the grounded yet willing to go out to the edge of comfort zone approach is terrific. Brava and thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. Thank you, UltraKaz! I love the rude neighbors analogy. Can I steal it?
      Nothing gained in the comfort zone. . . except comfort eating and that isn't going to get me anywhere!

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  19. Gee! I'm kind of falling for your husband! You give him a long list of rules granted with the reasons why and he says OK? I didn't know they made men like that. I can measure my major weight gains by the men I have dated and consequently eaten with. I'm not blaming I could always try using the word NO when beer and pizza are on the menu.

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    1. He is kinda, ok really, great :) Now I know he's the reason I waited 40 (yes, count them) years to marry; I was waiting for this one! They do make 'em like this. Shocked the heck out of me then and he still surprises me.

      Pizza is still on our menu occasionally. But now we make it at home on whole grain crust with sugar free pizza sauce and lots of veggies.

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  20. An amazing transformation into a life of balance. I am still working on the weight but I am so much more healthy than last year and I will take that. I can do household chores, walk the grocery store and chase the grandkids without pain and exhaustion - so I totally get where you are coming from. Its a better life and I love it! Bravo!!

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  21. That's the real thing, isn't it? Life endurance! Congratulations to you, Beginning Anew!

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  22. Hi Genie, congrats on your achievement and for all the effort. I am now in the 2nd week of my weight loss pledge and this is very inspirational and motivating.

    I wish you and your husband all the best.

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  23. Such an inspiring story! This just proved that it is possible to live a healthier and fitter body if we could just do our part! That is to love and take care of our body!

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