2012 Reflections

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I’ve posted here. Sometimes lately life feels like being in a giant hamster ball rolling rapidly down an endless mountain. I’m pausing in the whirlwind a moment to catch my breath and take stock.

The past couple of years have been times of tremendous change for me personally and for my family. I turned 40 this year, and with that, unexpectedly, has come a giddy sense of freedom, as if 40 was the age I’d always been told I’d have to be before I could really do what I wanted. That’s not true, of course, but somehow entering a new decade flipped a switch in my brain–the switch that says I don’t give a fuck what people think or expect, I’m going to do what I want. (See how I used the f-word, there? I’m 40–I don’t care if you’re offended. Which, by the way, if you are, you’re probably a time traveler from 1978 or something, because no one blinks at f-bombs anymore.)

All mixed up with that is the continuing grieving process over recent losses, primarily my mother, which is complicated by just a shitload of suffering she experienced in her life, and which is taking me a long time to process. It’s not just her death, and not just the fact that her death was incredibly difficult and painful for her and all of us, but really her life from 1976 through 2011 was one long train wreck, and now that it’s over, I’m doing all the things people do after a train wreck–wandering around pretending I’m fine, being in shock, asking God why it had to happen to us, trying to understand, slowly realizing where I’m hurt and how, etc. I think it’s all going fine, but I truly am changing, inside and out, in some very powerful ways.

We’ve also, obviously, been adding on to our house. And although we’ve hired contractors to do almost all of the work, it turns out that it’s like a part time job for us. The sheer number of decisions to be made is exhausting, and most of our weekends are spent either shopping for fixtures and materials or doing “small” tasks that will either save us money or make things smoother for the contractors. I’ve learned to stop wanting to know when it will be done. It’s done when it’s done. That’s true of all such projects, and we’ve actually grown pretty accustomed to living with it. One of the greatest benefits of the renovation is one we’re already enjoying. We have a new driveway that you can park a car from the 21st century in. And, if we are inclined, we can also park in our garage. It can hardly get sweeter than that.

I made significant changes in my diet this year, and had the series of ten rolfing sessions. I experienced total resolution of my foot pain (probably plantar fasciitis) from the rolfing, and also had visible improvements in my posture and alignment. I heartily endorse rolfing, and although I know the price is daunting (about $100/session for 10 sessions) I really think it’s worth it. I don’t want to be a broken record saying “rolfing” every time someone tells me about their aches and pains, so let me just make that comment here and now. Try rolfing! If you do a google image search on rolfing, you’ll find some before/after pics of the effects on various bodies. I’m not going to post my pics or my husband’s here, but we saw changes very consistent with those images that you find on the internet. This is very legit healing, and the effects are long-lasting. Many people find that rolfing helps their chiropractic adjustments “stick” because otherwise the fascia will pull the spine out of alignment over time, necessitating repeated, regular visits to get re-adjusted. So, give a thought to how much time and money your sore feet or bad back or trick shoulder are costing you, and you might find that $1000 is a small price to feel better. I wish health insurance would cover it, but we’re not there yet.

Another big change was giving up sugar, and the associated other, smaller, diet changes that began in Sept. My weight topped out around 165 last spring. I got down under 160 by counting calories and limiting carbs to about 100 per day by midsummer. Then I got busy and got off track, and most likely gained much of that back by Labor Day. I’m not sure how much, because I wasn’t weighing myself.

In September, I stopped eating sugar and white flour, and added more veggies, whole grains, and beans to my diet. Without any calorie counting, or any real effort at all, the pounds started coming off again. I was 148.5 on Christmas Day. (My husband said, “You’re weighing in on Christmas Day?” I said, “Yep.” I make no excuses for holidays.)

Let me say this again–with no real effort at all. The weight continues to come off. No effort. I really think the sugar was the core problem, and almost no one does this. People cut back on carbs, like I did earlier in the year. People also swear off processed foods and added sugars, but they almost always switch to “natural” sweeteners like honey or sugar-replacements like nutrasweet instead. Almost nobody ever just stops eating sweetened foods, and it’s a shame, because it’s pretty clear to me now that this is THE problem. Truly, I’ve found I don’t miss the sweets. For Christmas Day, as a treat, I made biscuits (whole wheat) with chocolate gravy, made with actual sugar. It was delicious, but I had a headache and an upset stomach within the hour. I can feel that this is bad for my body, although I was oblivious when I ate that way all the time. You can’t get this benefit by just cutting back. If you “cut back” but are still eating a bit of sugar on a daily basis, your body and mind will still be habituated to it. So although eating just a little sugar is better than eating a lot, it’s not the quantum change that you get from eating none. Give it a try some time!

In addition to being down 16.5 pounds, it’s almost all come off my waist, too, which, if you’re a woman, you might have thought was physically impossible. I know I did. I’ve lost five inches from my waist and one inch each from my bust and hips. Same bra size, so far. Very surprising.

Along with the weight loss have been some other, subtle changes in my health and wellbeing. My yoga practice began improving rapidly, with big leaps in my strength, endurance, and heat tolerance. I’m enjoying yoga more all the time.

A weird one is my alcohol tolerance. I wasn’t drinking alcohol when I first started the no sugar thing. Since I’ve resumed it, I’ve found I barely get buzzed from alcohol anymore, and that it passes really quickly, fading into heavy sedation within a hour or so. I’ve tested this many times, and am ready to give up drinking because it’s just not that much fun. Sort of like getting together with friends and taking ambien. “Haha that’s so funny–zzzzz.”

I’ll emphasize that this is not a change associated with heavy drinking. I don’t know if you were thinking it, but that’s usually the reason people stop experiencing euphoria from alcohol, so I have to kind of address that. I actually rarely drink, and when I do, three drinks is generally my maximum. In fact, I have an exquisite, nearly-full bottle of rainwater Madiera in the pantry that I opened at Christmas 2011 that surely has turned to vinegar by now because I never got around to drinking it.

It’s possible I can still experience drunkenness by drinking a lot more, but I think I would also pass out much faster. It’s a bit disappointing, as the disinhibiting effects of alcohol do help me deal with anxiety in new situations and with new people. But I don’t think falling asleep in front of those people would impress them very much, and it’s not fun for me, so it is what it is.

Although I think this is somehow connected with the whole no-sugar, clean-eating thing, I have found no scientific theories about it. I think it would be an interesting thing to look at–whether there’s a link between irregularities in sugar metabolism and the effects of alcohol. You can certainly identify populations where diabetes and alcoholism are highly prevalent, but I’m not sure what to make of it. The only conclusion I can draw is that my liver is probably much happier.

Last but not least, my writing life continues to putter along. The renovation has taken a lot of my time and attention away from writing, so I am consistently falling short of progress goals. However, I’ve had good results by setting aside a couple of evenings a week to work in coffee shops–once with other writers, and once alone–and I’m finding this at least keeps a minimum of momentum. I’m nearly done with edits on my second novel, which I’m calling City of Stone. I’m really looking forward to working on something new in the new year.

I also published three stories in Analog this year, “An Interstellar Incident,” “Titanium Soul,” and “The North Revena Ladies Literary Society.” It’s really nice to be “out there” after quite a long dry spell.