Archives for posts with tag: health

You’ve heard before how much I enjoy walking.  Last year, I logged at least 400 miles, right here in my neighborhood. I know this because of a cute little app on my phone. (I believe I have also mentioned that I am something of a dork, with mild OCD.) I say “at least” 400 miles because some of my walks did not conform to my standards for logging them (again with the OCD dorkitude) and sometimes I forgot to set the app.

This same app forces me to acknowledge that until today,  my last walk was on New Year’s Eve day, 2012.

I had not taken one walk this entire year.

A minor medical procedure on January 2nd left me with several stitches on my foot. I was instructed to stay off the foot as much as possible for three weeks. A dutiful patient, I complied.

The weather in January and February was largely awful: rainy and bitterly cold, and the sun set so early. My work schedule was unpredictable. My next door walking buddy continued to be unavailable. Other domestic issues arose, and that walk I was always going to take “tomorrow” failed to materialize. I can easily list the reasons I did not walk on any given day, but the big question remains:

Why is it so hard to do something that is free, simple, and enjoyable? I know that I feel better on every level when I make time for a walk, and yet somehow I  managed not to take one for months. Bad habits are hard to break, and good habits, once broken, seem hard to resume.

I suspect walking falls into the same category as some of my other, frequently neglected, favorite pastimes: reading, writing, drawing and sewing. They serve no one but me, and generate no income. I feel selfish when I indulge in them, and have an uneasy sense that I should be doing something more worthwhile.

Which is ridiculous, because I don’t necessarily do anything else.  I just deny myself the enjoyment of those activities, ending up flabby, sluggish and out of sorts. And Waldo suffers.

It’s also ridiculous because what I feel is antithetical to what I know;  I feel that I am being selfish and non-productive, but I know that exercise is critical to physical and mental health.

This morning, before anything else could interfere, I dressed for a walk, except for my shoes. There was no way I’d get a cup of coffee (or two) in before heading out if Waldo saw my sneakers.  Fortified by caffeine, I hooked up the dog and off we went.

Barely across the street, at Waldo’s first pit stop, I felt the comfort of a familiar routine. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been off it so long, and hard to understand why.

We got a little over 2 miles in today (thank you, app!) and I am shooting for 3 tomorrow.

It’s no secret that media in our culture has had a huge, sometimes crushing effect on young women’s self images. (I like to think that this is changing for girls today, but I also like to think that I look pretty much as I did at thirty-four, so…)

Regardless of what I fear will be eternal pressure on young women to be “perfect,” I believe that some progress has been made, because as far as I know, one particularly brutal source of self-loathing has become obsolete: the scourge known as “Body Mechanics.”

This class, offered as a section of P.E at my high school, was even more powerful than the Cosmopolitan cover photos of  the ’60’s, Farrah Fawcett and Cheryl Tiegs’ iconic posters of  the 70’s, and the ZZ Top video girls in the 80’s, in the erosion of my self-confidence.

Taught by the progenitor (progenitress?) of Sue Sylvester on “Glee,” ostensibly about fitness, the class involved various unnatural contortions. (Which prompted an exclamation of “What am I, Gumby?” from  Melanie, later pronounced Most Witty of her senior class.) The “exercises” hurt, but the true pain came from a single sheet of paper, containing “Ideal Measurements.” At that point in my life, I, a Chronic People Pleaser, took that sort of thing to heart.

It was all laid out: ideal bust, waist, hip, etc. I don’t remember all of the desired measurements. I do remember feeling that the waist was within range.  The bust might show up someday. I could wait. But the thigh? That specific ideal measurement remains with me to this day. Twenty inches. That was simply not going to happen; in polite terms, I have “athletic thighs.” At my absolute stone cold skinniest, we were looking at twenty-two.  And my calves and ankles? Please. I fear I am from Peasant Stock.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, I learned that I had TIBIAL TORTION. (one knee sort of twisted in toward the other. The Horror.)

I hate to admit how much all of this bothered me. I hate to think how much time I wasted feeling bad about myself. I really hate to admit how long it took me to consider that it might not be rational to expect a woman of 5’10” (for that was my height in those days) to share a thigh measurement with someone six inches shorter.

I am happy to admit that I don’t remember the last time I measured my thigh. I am happy to have come to terms with my cankles and tibial tortion. I am happy that I can easily walk for miles at a time, and still kick higher than my head.

I am sad to hear The Kid berate herself for perceived flaws in her own lovely body. I am doing my best to dispel her concerns; let this craziness end with my generation.

Having failed to immediately find a job by rushing directly at one, I resolved to invest serious time and thought into what I really want to do and what I need to get there. Then I avoided taking the time and thinking about it.

Now, I am committed, one tentative step at a time.

For the first time, I have clearly identified what matters to me, and articulated it:

 Health:  I enjoyed what is referred to as “Rude good health” for the first 50 or so years of my life. I considered it rude in the sense that I made no particular effort to maintain it, and in fact risked it by doing dumb things like smoking cigarettes. I have been reminded in several ways that I cannot assume such a level of health will sustain itself without increased effort on my part.

Happy and Healthy Family: This is harder to achieve than it looks, since they seem to have their own opinions on the subject, and arguing about it seems somehow contra-indicated.

Comfortable and Welcoming Home: On the upside, I am finally in my “forever” home, with time to accomplish the things I have spent years planning. I have been painting and planting and rearranging. On the downside, my missing paycheck slows this process down considerably. This is a huge general goal, composed of an infinite number of steps. I am happy to realize that while I can’t necessarily get near the big steps (new flooring, bathroom renovations, etc.) I can manage many others with little or no expense.

Meaningful Work: It’s not all about the money, although I certainly hope to make some (hello, hardwood floors.) I have been lucky enough to know that my past work has made a real difference to some people. It’s a great feeling. I’ve come to realize also that I enjoy teaching/mentoring in any capacity. I am also a far better advocate for  others than myself. I hope that by continuing to tease out the general elements that I enjoyed most in my  previous jobs, I can eventually guide myself to the right place for me now. I also understand that my ideal job may turn out to be “jobs” given my interests, the current employment climate, and my ability to market myself. At this point, I have two planks in my work platform: a volunteer position that inspires and gratifies me, and a new, part-time job. Ideally, I will add a “bigger” job, and pursue some additional volunteer interests. (Next volunteer gig in the hopper: Kitten Whisperer! Okay, that’s not the official title, but the local Animal Protection Society  does use volunteers to socialize adoptable dogs and cats.)

Creative Outlets: Perhaps I will finally use the water colors I got for Christmas too many years ago to admit. In the meantime, there is my little blog, and any number of those projects around the house, so I am feeling pretty satisfied in this area of my life.

My challenge at this point is to direct my energies in service of these goals. They are related, and many of my actions should further more than one: for example, I expect my part-time job to allow me to exercise some creativity, learn something new, and be of some use to people, although in a new way. The money I earn can be allocated toward making my house a cozier place.

Many future posts here will be around my big 5 topics in some way or other. I may even go crazy and try to develop a Mission Statement– do you have one?

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

Greggory Miller

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