I turned 52 four months ago and my body is staging a coup.
It reached a crescendo last week. I realized that my normally favorite bra was suddenly irritating the tar out of me and constantly needing readjusted. It wasn't too old and it wasn't stretched out and it was fine probably the day before. I figured I must have gained 10 pounds over night. But then the suddenly huger-than-usual gap in the waist band of my pants told me I must be losing weight too. I guess I'm gaining weight in my back (not in the actual breasts, heaven forbid, only the back) but losing weight in my waist.
Every time I sat... rushes of air down my pants... and pulling my shirt over it. Adjust the bra, pull the waist band up and the shirt down. Over and over and over again.
And my feet... long story short, suddenly I have feet problems that have caused leg problems and back problems. Therefore I got insoles and have exactly one option of shoes in my possession that I can put them in: sneakers.
To me, sneakers are fantastic for working out, and the athleisure look is fine sometimes, but it also makes me feel like I'm never really dressed for real life. Or like I'm a gym teacher and I need a whistle around my neck. If I'm not working out I mostly like to wear heels because I'm 5'3" and shrinking fast. Also I consider life a special occasion and like to dress up for it most of the time. In my jeans and sneakers, nothing but t-shirts match. Blah.
I felt like a short, nondescript, dude.
But I must wear sneakers in order to maybe run again some day, not have an aching back, and hopefully avoid having some kind of intrusive procedure for plantar fasciitis.
This is all beside the fact that I've been cold every day of my life and suddenly hot flashes. I have a toothache and my always perfect blood pressure is going up. AND even though I've long had a completely distracted brain, I honestly couldn't focus on a single thing for more than a few minutes. It felt like there was pressure building inside my head. Maybe the fact that my baby is in her senior year of high school and putting "Cap & Gown Ordering Forms" on the kitchen counter is contributing to this issue... Did I mention that I found myself tearing up in Target because I couldn't find the socks?
Who am I??!
Let me just say that I'm not one to discuss my bodily issues. Nor do I complain about my age. Privately or publicly for that matter. (In fact, I'm leaving a few TMI issues out of this.) I don't post on Facebook when it's time for my mammogram or when I'm having a tooth filled or when I have a sore throat. I don't reminisce much about the past. Mostly I'm just extremely grateful for every day I might still have ahead of me and I look forward to having just as much or more fun as ever.
I usually take my body for granted. I haven't had much of an issue with aging and have healthy, active parents. Other than the near complete stoppage of my metabolism and gravity issues... I've had no decline, no aches and pains, not much gray hair. I figured I wasn't going to feel much for another 10 years or so.
I suddenly don't look like myself from the outside with these jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers combos I have to wear every day and I don't feel one bit like myself from the inside. From head to toe. It's all going haywire.
Plus I can't run, which I was doing 3-4 days a week for the past 18 months, and couldn't enter my favorite races this year. Or any races for that matter. I had hoped to run a second half-marathon, as well as a few new fun events I had heard about. But this is the first year since 2011 that I haven't run a single race.
I used to feel like a fit athletic wise woman. Now I'm a short, weak, emotional, nondescript guy.
This was all bothering me so much on Tuesday that I told my husband while I was standing at the stove starting dinner that I wanted to be evicted from my body. He looked at me funny, said "oh honey" in a well-meaning sad voice, and then sort of backed out of the room...
I realized that the only way to be evicted from my body is to die, that it sounded like I wanted to be dead, which wasn't the case AT ALL. I really just sort of pictured myself being able to walk around as a soul instead. It also sounded really ungrateful and whiny, which made me even more disgusted with myself. Not everyone has the opportunity to be alive at my age, and some who do have much, much more serious issues than what I'm describing.
But still... I couldn't shake the feeling of being so uncomfortable in my body.
I went to a Pilates class that night because I had been trying a hip hop cardio class but apparently I've become so fragile that the jumping and "Hammer-timing" are too much for my knees. Well, maybe now with my arch supports I can handle it. I've taken dance classes almost my whole life but now I need proper shoes and orthotics to participate... Pilates was very hard but it felt far too slow for me. I don't have the patience. And also I felt weak. After class, as hard as it was, I felt like I hadn't worked out at all. No sweating, no feeling of exertion.
Wednesday started out ok but by afternoon I had totally had it with the pulling, the tugging, the readjusting, and the sneakers.
I texted my friend Traci and told her about my issues and that my body felt like a stranger to me and I needed her to pray for me. She commiserated and listened and made me feel heard. Hubby came in from work right about then and I told him about my text to Traci and commenced to start bawling. From the look on his face this time he apparently realized the eviction issue I mentioned yesterday wasn't going away. He held my hand and asked what he could do and he listened.
I told Bill I realize I have to start taking really intentional, planned, all-around good care of myself. I can either let this decline drag me down along with the gravity in my body or I can try to maximize every good thing I can. And auto pilot just isn't working.
I wasn't getting outside regularly for hours at a time since I wasn't running anymore. I wasn't going to the weight room because I was doing Pinterest workouts in the basement. (It wasn't the Pinterest workouts that were the problem. For some reason I don't like working out at home; I need a gym with lots of people around. I think I'm so visual that the more equipment and activity and people there are, the more legit it feels.) I haven't been going to church because we're pretty sure we want to find a different one. I've been doing online bible studies instead of meeting with other women to do it. I work at home and don't have co-workers to chat with. Social media replaced in-person friendship too much and the negativity of it became such a drain on my spirit. My oldest daughter just moved into her first apartment and my role is changing with all three of my kids. My husband has a business and time consuming hobbies.
I told Bill that I'm going back to hitting the weight room twice a week at 5 am and that I'm going to take a walk outside as many days a week as I can. I told him I realized what I didn't like about Pilates -- no endorphins. I get those from the weight room and dance and muscle-building fitness classes that make me sweat a lot. So I'm going to do those instead. I asked my neighbor if she'd like to join me for walks and to have lunch once a week since we both work from home. She's in! I made plans with each of my kids and went to dinner the next night with my son. He's got just about the most fascinating brain of anyone I've ever met and therefore he's one of my favorite people to talk to. Total energy boost. I started a 30 day handlettering challenge on Instagram, plus mapped out a schedule for how I'm going to do some other creative projects. All of that will be replacing my formerly passive scrolling of the interwebs and consequential moping that I never pursue my dreams. I sent two messages to people who might be able to lead me in the direction of a better-fitting church. And I talked to two doctors, who enlightened me with very helpful information.
Oh, and I did a BUNNNCH of shoe shopping... 🙂
The next day I hit the weight room at 5 a.m. and felt like I could conquer the world the rest of the day. On Friday I started getting whiny by afternoon so I made sure to get outside for a walk and felt much better afterward.
On Saturday after a good workout in the weight room, I went to visit my oldest daughter at her new apartment and it was so much balm for my spirit. You know how "they" always say to hang in there when your kids are teenagers because they'll become friends when they're adults? Well it's true. Emmary is a true friend. I started telling her about my bodily struggles and that I had told Bill I wanted to be evicted. I barely had the words out of my mouth and she said she's felt the exact same way. She said she never tells anyone because it sounds suicidal, even though it isn't the feeling AT ALL.
Emmary described it so perfectly, in a way I hadn't thought of before -- it's like her soul feels too big for her body.
I did feel that way -- like I was inside of something that didn't fit right.
We talked about anxiety and depression, which we've both had to varying degrees. She said she thinks that place of wanting to get out of your body is a symptom of anxiety. Makes sense. It's almost like claustrophobia.
I told Emmary what I had been doing since Wednesday and how much better I felt. I realized that it had felt like my body was over me like an itchy, heavy, uncomfortable blanket, fastened to me in a couple places. It was engulfing me and almost squeezing me out. My mind, heart, and soul weren't being taken care of either - my passions (creativity, nature, learning, and causes that burn inside), my faith, social time / relationships, and my intellect were all being neglected. I had pretty much only taken care of my nutrition and not much else.
I wasn't doing what makes me come alive.
All of this impacted my emotional and mental health. When I started taking care of all of me, my body got back into its proper proportion, and I feel like I fit better with all of myself. I feel calmer and more comfortable and content even though every symptom isn't going away. My mind has a lot more to focus on and my body's energy is being redirected to my muscles and to doing things instead of having nowhere to go but make me agitated and antsy.
My body is my vehicle, and I'm not getting anywhere fast or comfortably if I don't take care of it. The point isn't to take care of a vehicle to keep it parked in a garage. Or to obsess over or worship the vehicle. There's a purpose for it and it's one part of me.
So I'm trying this now, when I feel off kilter. When my vehicle starts making a weird noise or it's not driving smoothly. When some part of me is not at peace: What part of my holistic health is lacking? What part of who I am needs attention? How can I deal with the realities of my physical condition in a way that brings more comfort to my whole self? How can I take control of my time and do more of what makes me come alive?
How about you? Does any of this sound familiar, regardless of your age or gender? What has worked for you? And what makes you come alive?