The Year of Hunkering Down
So, my shameless self-promotion moves for 30/30 on Twitter and Facebook that have filled my morning reminded me of how little I have done in the past year, at least on the surface. My main blog and this one are dusty. My Twitterstream was tweetless. Spammers even lost interest and no longer note what a great post and what software are you using? then urge me to visit their Michael Kors or sunglasses site. Nope, this is an empty room now because I stepped back for a year to get healthy. [Note: This is a background post that connects somewhat to my 30/30 month. Know me IRL? Like the poems? Consider donating to Tupelo Press through my donation page. I’m starting to get embarrassed.]
So here I am a year later and 90 pounds lighter, a familiar transformation story in American culture because what really could be worse that being heavy in this society? But that was not the point. No, I just wanted to be able to walk again, maybe never as well as others, but at least enough to be able to go to conferences or maybe shop in the mall like other people and not have to plan and measure steps. What made me do everything that I’ve done this past year was not about weight, but it was about the osteoarthritis diagnosis and how freeing that was to finally know that I did not do this to myself through falls or being too heavy.
So, that sounds like a big choice, but my decision a year ago was really a lot of small choices that were individually doable. One thing I did know–I could not go on as I was. Normal day-to-day actions were painful, every single day. Some days I would get partway through the walk from my parking lot to my campus office, about three blocks, and yearn, absolutely yearn for a wheelchair. This could not go on. So, my first small choice was to go to MRC (Metabolic Research Center) as recommended by my orthopedic surgeon who wanted me at 41 BMI or lower in order to do the surgery on both my knees. I did the metabolism and DNA tests and resolved to stick to the food plan. At first, I had very little hope. I have washed out of Weight Watchers several times, usually because of a plateau that had to be overcome by exercise. This however, actually worked. Here are the small changes I made this year, not all of them weight-loss related.
- Followed the MRC program selected for me (they have several based on metabolic needs).
- Kept a food and supplements journal.
- Used my Apple Watch to track steps in order to know how many steps I had before pain onset. That raised from 200 to 450 calories expended daily.
- Cooked multiple meals on weekends to plan ahead for the harder days.
- Vowed to take at least a year off from conference attendance. No AWP, CCCC, or CW for me in 2017.
- Vowed to save enough to get hearing aids in 2017 (did it too). This was a $4500 investment for both ears.
- Vowed to be positive about my life and act instead of react.
- Gave myself permission to do things for me.
- Made a list of things I wanted to do and vowed to find a way make each of them real
- Updated my wardrobe and makeup as my weight changed. Waiting until “goal weight” to do that is counterproductive. The weight is not the goal. Health is, and that is not something that happens only at a goal weight.
In effect, I hunkered down and approached my quality of life in the same way I approached a writing project: full on and in it to the end. Valuing myself in the same way I valued a scholarly or creative project made a difference. So, now I can go to AWP and the Cs and participate rather than doing one thing and spend the rest of the day with my legs elevated taking painkillers. Advil will certainly still be my friend, but I can get around better. I can also hear better. Conference rooms and exhibit halls have the worst acoustics and the last few times I attended conferences, I could not hear the panels well enough to fully benefit from them. I can hear now and have settings I can use via an iPhone app for challenging situations like meetings or crowded restaurants.
Sure, I’m still going to resort to a wheelchair in airports. Damage is damage and my knees can’t heal. However, I find I can face the idea of air travel again and maybe once I’ve done it, I will return to being the person who loves to travel.
This was a long post, but a necessary one I think. I hope that my year of hunkering down is over, replaced by the Year That’s Something Special.