I have to wonder: What kind of clock does the emotional brain have? What could it possibly matter if it’s been 365 days since a trauma, or 219, or 457? There’s no calendar in the land of pure emotion; just color and sound and touch.

And yet as I get closer to the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, I find I’m reliving – with remarkable detail – certain elements of the event. I was driving on a night highway yesterday, thinking about just how badly my hands shook AFTER I called 911, but not WHILE I called 911. That’s odd, isn’t it? It’s not like the adrenaline dump happened after I switched off the snowblower, idling beside him at the shed door, so I could hear the operator. And yet – no shaking until after she answered. I guess that’s when I had to say it out loud and it became real.

Or how hot and dry his hand felt when I slipped my hand under his at the hospital, to no response. Or how he did the “chain” breathing (Cheyne?) – a gasping, three- or four-part inhale followed by a continual exhale, which is apparently the sign of a body slowly shutting down. Or how Rusty decided he didn’t want to stay for the dying and went home and I opted to be with Jonathan during his dying instead of with my son during his father’s dying. Or how my sister Twig refused to leave my side for the 24 hours it took, and how much that still means to me, crying as I type.

Jonathan died on the 29th, and was then revived at the hospital, to certain brain damage. I made the choice to pull life support (which he most certainly would have chosen himself, and did through an advanced directive, still in my fire safe at this moment for reasons that must speak to lingering guilt), and he died for the final time on the 30th.

Today is the 27th. I don’t know; maybe it’s the quality or angle of the light in the garden. Something is causing echoes. I think I’m fine and then I’m smacked by a memory. I think I’m getting over being so mad at him for dying and then I’m every bit as furious as when I found him and said “Oh, you son of a bitch – you did it. You managed to kill yourself.”

It’s not a very cheery or readable subject matter for a would-be entertaining blog on trying to get fit – and so I think I’ll be blog-silent for a bit more. Back in a week or so!



It happens first in nursery school. Miss Betty squeezes a luscious blop of blue finger paint in this corner of the paper, and an equally delicious merengue of sunshine yellow in this corner – and the child, thrilled, splats both hands into that paint and starts to wax on, wax off. Oh, the bliss!

But wait – here in the middle. What’s happening??

Blue and yellow make GREEN!

Another child nearby, rich in the priceless luxury of older brothers and sisters, comments smugly, “Look – I can make purple from blue and red.” Gasps of awe, and a quick rush to orange. What a let-down that all three make only a boring brown… still, brown is a very useful color.

We learn early that just about every color we see in this stunningly chromatic world around us can be broken down to three basic pigments. Only in childhood, when every single moment is revolutionary, would such a discovery be regarded as happenstance. But now, with many long years between me and that nursery school revelation, I am bowled over anew. Three colors combined make – ALL THIS. Holy shit.

I’m thinking of that because I had my second biofeedback session today. Regina was talking about how biofeedback helps to interrupt patterns, and I immediately flashed on how much ice cream I’ve been eating lately; that’s a pattern I’d really like to interrupt.

(Think this isn’t going to relate to nursery school and finger paints? Keep reading.)

I covered the salient points: Chip the nutritionist had helped me curb my sugar jones with lots of information and a sugar reduction diet, and that had worked for months – but as I got closer to the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, I wasn’t holding myself to the highest standards. I’d keep exercising every day (and I have) but if I needed ice cream, I’d just eat it without worrying too much about it (which I have). Well – I worry about it. But I eat it anyway.

So now ice cream isn’t a coping mechanism; it’s a demand. A constant. And that’s a pattern I’d like to break – at least academically, for the next week or so.

Regina and I discussed the difference between the physical craving for sugar and the emotional craving. “But that’s the same thing,” she said.

“No,” I said patiently. “I got rid of the physical cravings with the sugar reduction diet; that worked. It was the habit – the emotion – that I couldn’t overcome.”

“Well – what do you think emotion is? It’s physiological.”

“It’s not physiological; it’s EMOTIONAL.”

Regina is a very nice human and she masked any smugness at all. “What do you think emotion is?” she repeated. “It’s chemical.”


“Dopamine,” she said. “Seratonin. Epinephrine. Cortisol. These neural messengers are what emotion is made of. You can map it, track it, identify it.”

“No way.”

“Yes, way. I’ll send you a link to a book called The Molecules of Emotion [I think that’s what it was called]. It’s fascinating.”

“Well…” I admit I was stumped. Speechless. Without giving it much thought, I’d separated emotion from chemistry. Emotion took place in the bizarro universe as blobs of thought floating around a clean, white, weightless room. Emotion AND thought – unconnected with the physical world. Regina was blowing my mind.

Finally I thought to ask – “How many neural messengers are there?”

“We can’t know yet. A lot.”

Wikipedia lists 27 of them, with at least two “etc.”, and that’s based on today’s understanding.

You can make every color you see with three primary hues; just how complex and intricate must emotions be when they’re made with AT LEAST 27 “colors?” Talk about a cook book – a blop of this, a little of that, a dash of those, and you’ve got the kind of nostalgia that makes you weep. Throw in an exciter and suddenly you’re dancing on the roof of a police car.


She had so much more to tell me today; I’m sort of dizzy with all that I’m learning. But the child in nursery school learning to mix colors was the easiest for me to grasp. I feel like Miss Regina just squirted a few exciting colors on my page. What’s going to happen next?!

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I’m told that running is a very zen activity – a very “be in the now” event, in which one can be alone with one’s thoughts. There’s that outstanding faux ad in “What Women Want” when Mel Gibson (I’m sorry I liked you so much, I really am) had me persuaded that *I* should go for a run. It’s the thinking woman’s sport.

And I’ve realized that’s just so very true. For example:

Now that I’ve driven to some place where no one I know might witness me thundering along at a glacial pace, where will I hide the car key while I run? There’s certainly no pocket in these lycra exercise pants. There are pockets in my velour hoodie (not exactly designed for running, but shut up; I’m new at this and not yet well-equipped), but chances are good they’ll bounce right out and I’ll be gasping for air so violently that I won’t hear them rattle to the ground.

Ah – I know. I’ll tuck them into my high-tech, Kevlar-lined sports bra. Of course, it’s not a tiny, discrete key – it’s a large, almost phallic key fob, so nudging it into the cleavage has odd ramifications, were I to allow my mind to go there… Carry on, though – there’s room in there. Don’t think – just do it.

But wait – once I’m glistening with sweat, which I certainly will be, will my own desperation fluid short-circuit the key fob? Worse, am I liable to electrocute myself? Let’s hope the high-fat content of the surrounding boobage will absorb the shock; it’s just a little battery. How bad could the burn be, really?

Now – what to listen to on the ear buds? Should I pick music that keeps me walking at a brisk pace when I can’t stand trotting any longer? Or should it be Music To Thunder By, at a marginally faster tempo? Of course, I don’t have running music; I’ve spent a huge percentage of my 58 years developing techniques by which I would NEVER have to run, so I have no idea what rhythm or tempo would satisfy my thudding feet. It will have to be fast walking music; I have a playlist for that.

I’m ready. I’m off. There’s a guy in front of me. I can’t run past him – it will be too humiliating when I stumble back to a walk five feet past him and then he and I will have to keep passing each other. How do I handle this? Maybe I should walk for the rest of my… no, that’s not the point. Oh, good – he’s going the other way.

There’s a small child walking on a low retaining wall, her mother and dad and a stroller and a dog beaming with the bliss of a lovely early spring day and I should – what? Neatly pop off the path and onto the bracken, fleetly giving them a wide berth while bestowing on them a gracious smile? I’d trip immediately and land on the dog. No, I’m going between the toddler and the mom – sacrilege, but there’s no extra energy here to be more discrete. Sorry, happy family.

Can I make it to the walking bridge? No. Okay – I’ll run to that tree. No, that’s not going to happen. How about that crack in the path? Oh – no, THIS is apparently where I’m going back to walking. All right, then.

Now here I am “running” again, having lumbered into a shambling sort of gait. Suddenly the surrounding houses have staring windows. I’m sure they were empty when I was walking, but now that I’m thudding along, I just know every window is filled with someone watching and saying to themselves “There’s no way she makes it even to the bend in the path.” So now I have to get that far – but then it’s VERY IMPORTANT that I don’t run AT ALL around the bend, because then the next row of windows will fill up with people staring in contempt.

What was I supposed to remember when I ran? Oh – don’t throw the ribcage up and out; keep the ribs down. Use the abs and the glutes. Why can’t I feel my glutes at all? Surely I can’t be plodding along like this without the use of the various butt muscles? Am I some kind of medical experiment? Is it possible to “run” without the use of the glutes at all?

All right – can I feel my abs? Yes, I can feel that they could be tighter… but I can’t run AND hold the abs tight. Can I? No. No, I can’t. Not and keep my feet at least temporarily off the ground.

So what am I using to run? Breath, apparently. Gasping, rasping, panting breath. How much further? It’s a 1.5 mile loop around the lake; how far have I gone?

Two-tenths of a mile. Why did I think this would be better than going up and down the stairs 18 times?

That’s 22 questions. Running is SUCH a cerebral sport.

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The colors bloomed in front of my eyes – lime and copper chrysanthemums expanding across a cobalt field. Suddenly hot pink oil spots, edged in incongruous grey, ran up both sides like a strafing run from an unseen fighter high overhead.

“Wait!” my brain screamed, “Slow it down! I can’t keep up!”

Which is exactly, I realized, what a brain like mine would say.

I was sitting in a darkened room at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. I already use a generous percentage of their services to safeguard my body; now – in deference to the depression I seem to be suffering as we approach the one-year anniversary of my husband’s startling and dreadful death, I’m using the opportunity to learn about safeguarding my mental and emotional health with Regina, one of their biofeedback counselors.

Regina and I had been talking about brains in general and my brain in particular. (Is there any topic more fascinating than oneself? I could just talk about me ALL DAY!)

I had six leads affixed to my head by white, innocent stickum; three per cranium hemisphere. Regina swiveled her laptop to show me what she was seeing – which is that the left side of my brain was firing with more vigor than the right side.

“The left side controls analysis – and language. You’re clearly someone who is comfortable expressing yourself through language.”

(I have upon occasion actually said the words “I won’t know how I feel about that until I write about it.” Words are the ONLY handles I have to understand the world around me.)

“That’s perfectly normal,” Regina went on, “and there’s nothing wrong with the energy coming from your right hemisphere; it just means that at the moment, you’re not in a “be in the now, man” sort of mindset.”

Boy, was that right. New situations – like having stickum in your hair to pick up brain electricity – puts all of us on alert; it’s tough to drift and allow the world to unfold before us when the laptop display is spiking like a graphic equalizer during the 1812 Overture.

So we talked about Jonathan’s death and how I handle stress and how HE handled stress, and all the while the monitor facing me was spinning out endless fractal patterns in vivid colors against inky skies. Music played quietly from speakers.

And, I’m told, when the laptop detected inefficiencies in my brain – when I was processing things at speeds far faster than my conscious mind could realize and the processing was getting into an anxiety loop or was being derailed by an imbalance between left and right brains, the fractal patterns were interrupted by a flash of light far quicker than I could see; the music uttered a brief and almost inaudible burst of static – a cue to my unconscious brain to help me identify inefficiencies. It doesn’t change the way I think, and it certainly doesn’t change HOW I think – but it does flag the stutter, and allows my lizard brain (that lightning-fast consciousness deep below and far faster than the thinking brain) to recognize when something should be addressed – smoothed out – rebalanced.

Regina took a baseline reading at the beginning of our meeting – “Just sit there and look at the pretty pictures” and again at the end (which showed that indeed, my brain was already better balanced – supposed to help me approach stressful situations with the full complement of coping skills and not only the ability to stub my toe and cry out curse words in foreign languages).

And even though I’d just realized that I had a hard time “being in the now” and allowing events to happen while I simply observed – sounds like meditation, dunnit? – I STILL wanted to ask her to slow down the fractal patterns at the second baseline. TOO FAST! I can’t understand it – I can’t predict it!


Yeah, that sounds like me.

Okay. I can at least be mindful of my tendencies!

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This is even groovier than the patterns on Regina’s screen. Let’s use THIS one!



Being the “new kid” is a very naked feeling. (And naked is not a state that the average overweight woman is eager to experience in private, much less in a crowd.)

When I first went to Balance Class at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, Virginia, I had to forcefully suppress my “new kid” unease. I knew my friend Steve, and that helped… but I still felt sort of obvious and awkward. Like I didn’t really belong. I felt like I was in a place I didn’t belong; imagine ME getting in the way of people who were working out!

You can definitely sabotage yourself; it’s so damned easy!

In my very first class, Barbara put us through her standard warm-up – a Ministry of Silly Walks series of ways to pass from one side of the room to the other. (You start out with a slow, modified goose step – one leg held up, balanced by the opposing arm; step forward and repeat with the other side. Next, walk across the room by stepping forward and holding the opposite leg’s foot as close to the butt as possible; opposite arm overhead. Alternate sides, stretching the thigh muscle as you go. Then side-step, all ten toes facing forward. Etc.)

These are astonishingly easy to do and made me feel more comfortable immediately – hey! I can do this! Now I know that I was cheating at a spectacular level. Done correctly, the warm-ups can exhaust me every bit as much as the rest of class. Pelvic alignment. Core muscles. No curve in the back. For me, mostly pigeon-toed.

But on that first day, I knew none of that … and I felt welcome and like I wasn’t in the wrong place after all. Barbara’s a great teacher and she hits you with the truth in tiny, manageable doses.

So flash-forward a bunch of moths. Today I paused long enough to towel the sweat from my eyes (we were doing fiendish squat exercises that looked SO easy when Barbara demonstrated them) and when I looked around, I realized that I knew every single participant in the class by name; that we’d all exchanged groans and giggles and complaints aimed at Barbara and compliments aimed at each other.

I realized that far from feeling naked and awkward, I felt entirely at home. These strangers had become my friends, and working out with them was damned hard and also fun enough to actually look forward to the next class. That’s a good thing to realize.


I asked everyone if they minded a photo to be posted on my blog; no one had the stones to object out loud, so here they are – my friends and allies. I wish Steve and Bob and Alma and Lynn and all the others had been there too, but this is a pretty representative sample of Balance Class. The photo is into the mirror, so you can see the  backs as well as the fronts of the same people. From the left, counting every single head:

That’s Beth’s back in the white shirt. Beth is extremely strong, and can keep going long after everyone else has begun to complain to Barbara because you can get away with standing still while you do it.

Next is me, peering over Beth’s shoulder. I didn’t intentionally hide myself in the photo; that’s just the way it turned out (and very typical of me in photos!).

Next is Mardy in the mirror, right in front of Barbara in the mirror, and Callie in the mirror. Mardy and I end up sweating next to each other often; we are Body Dynamics sisters. Callie has a sly, quiet sense of humor that never fails to crack me up (and she and I have matching shoes, although she wasn’t wearing her match to mine today).

Next is Robbie in the mirror, in orange. With great entertainment I note that because I was taking a panoramic photo slowly, the front of Robbie (in the mirror) is in an entirely different pose from the back of Robbie (on the right of the photo). This both amuses me and stands as a testament to Robbie’s really very annoying level of energy in Balance Class; she just doesn’t stop exercising, which makes the rest of us look like slackers. (Well, it may not be Robbie’s fault that I look like a slacker…) Robbie has agreed to provide music for next week; DJ Robbie Rob. Yay!

Then there’s the back of Callie’s head, and then Karen in the mirror. Karen is quiet; you can tell she’s a back-row whisperer. I would always elect to sit next to her in that back row, because she’s got a dry, quick sense of humor. Behind her is Barb, a long and elegant woman with some hip issue or other; she moves more gracefully than any of the rest of us and makes me ashamed to be complaining when both my hips are challenged by nothing more than laziness.

Then Nadine, in the cobalt shirt. Nadine is an assistant teacher for a yoga class, which is annoying because Nadine is almost to the age where you might realistically decide you could sit down for a while, but she has by far the deepest squats in the class. She never seems to have a bad day, and tells tales of her dog, Grace Kelly. That’s a great dog name.

Next in line is the back of Mardy’s head (no longer looking slightly to the side, as she is in the mirror), then just a glimpse of Rosemary in the mirror, and then the back of Karen’s head. Then the back of Rosemary, a woman who seems to be nothing but purely sweet. Surely she’s a human like the rest of us? Has she NEVER made a snarky comment or offered a complaint?! Impressive!

Silhouetted against the light is Marusha; she was the “new kid” three weeks ago, but she’s become a regular in no time. I can tell from her expressions that Marusha thinks she’s not very good at Balance Class; she’s wrong. She’s right there in the thick of it with the rest of us.

Look at Robbie doing the exercise (bend the standing leg into a squat; lift the free leg backwards, touch the kettle bell down on the purple block; stand up; pass the kettle bell behind your back; rinse and repeat). Not doing it in the mirror, is she? I am delighted by this.

There’s Barb in profile. And last is The Amazing Barbara, who wears layers when she teaches us because we get so overheated that she’s forced to turn the thermostat to increasingly arctic levels and she gets chilly. Well, you can see she has no insulation AT ALL. Sheesh – have a brownie, woman.

Barbara is awesome. Panoramic photos are awesome. Balance Class is awesome. And thank heavens, not a hint of nakedness in sight – physical OR emotional!



“It’s funny,” he said chummily (and I could hear his smile beneath the pale blue paper mask), “most people hate the picking. Picking, picking, picking.” He grinned as he regarded his work – my gaping open mouth – happily.

“Not you, though,” he went on. “You hate the polishing. I can’t figure it out.”

This is the world’s nicest dentist. When I first came to him back in the Bronze Age, I confessed that it had been over 12 years since I’d been to the dentist because I have such paranoia. He was very reassuring and very kind back then, telling me that (the good news) I have the largest sinuses he’s ever seen – no sinus headaches for me! – plus no wisdom teeth at all, and also (the bad news) I had seven cavities.

He was so careful with me back then; he recognized a phobia and did everything he could to minimize the sound and feel of machines in my head.

Since then, however, he’s forgotten. I think HE thinks that I’m over my little tics and whim-whams, because I don’t actually bite him when he puts any buzzing, whirling, insane-making, long-handled rods in my mouth any more…

…but when I lie back in that barbarous chair (“let’s just make you more comfy” as I am forced into a supine position from which successful flight is significantly less likely), my toes are all fully extended and splayed inside my shoes, and my fingers on that useless little Kleenex are clutching over my belly – which is also clutching. My open mouth is a grinning rictus of HURRY UP HURRY UP DON’T STOP TO CHAT FINISH THIS.

He’s right, of course – I really don’t mind the picking part, because I like to pick a peeling sunburn, and I think that if I had his tools, I’d probably be constantly scraping away at my teeth throughout the year for the fun of seeing hunks of plaque go flying.

But anything motorized? I’m making the sign of the cross, forking the evil eye, tamping down on the fight-or-flight instinct. I can’t bear to be handed a buzzing pager at a restaurant; how can I stand to have a polisher (or – no-no-no-no-no – a drill) against my teeth? Filling my head with madness? GOD save the Queen.

The point is – if you want to protect and defend your health not just for today but well into the future, then you HAVE to brave the dentist. Once the teeth go, it’s an inevitable downhill slide into poor health and a depressing old age. Twenty minutes with happy Dr. Dean and then I can ignore the whole mess for a year more.

Today I have been a good adult.


I sometimes think about getting my teeth bleached. Dr. Dean would do it for me, gladly. That ivory is looking a little dingy. I dunno. Do I really want to look younger enough to endure another hour at the dentist? (So far? NO.)



I was sitting at a stop light on the drive home from Balance Class.

I often cross my hands one over the other at the top of the steering wheel when waiting at a light or otherwise hanging out in the car, so my pinky fingers (not my thumbs) are side by side. It’s relaxing; it seems to take any tension out of my shoulders and biceps. I don’t know why; it’s the easiest way for my hands to form hooks from which my arms just hang. And it creates a pleasing stretch across my upper back.

It’s nice. You should try it. (When stopped, of course.)

Of course, if you’re not exactly in the center, then one hand or the other is going to overwhelm the balance and not only does the steering wheel then turn, but so do the wheels themselves – so when the light changes, you might take off briskly and bang into the next lane of traffic…

… so achieving a truly neutral position is definitely worth the time!

Not ten minutes earlier, I’d been having a brief, sweating-after-class discussion with Lynn. She and I were partnered in one of Barbara’s nefarious exercises.

(What exercise? We started out about five feet from each other, both facing the mirror – the better to enjoy the ridiculous spectacle we were making of ourselves. We each had our inner foot (inner to each other) up on a Bosu, and stood on our outer foot. Then we flung back and forth a huge beanbag made of lead or something. “Don’t fall over,” called Barbara unnecessarily. Then, after we’d come to grips with the black-hole-heavy aspects of the beanbag, Barbara said “Okay – now you can try it standing on the bosu.” SO WE DID. We each fell off a few times until we got the hang of it, but then we were tossing fools, whipping that beanbag around like we were skillfully throwing pizza dough at the trendiest new Italian eatery, singing O Solo Mio with great gusto.)

Lynn and I were expressing our pride at accomplishing this utterly useless (but oddly satisfying) feat, and we discussed how challenging it is to force the body to use non-dominant muscles. Lynn is ripped; she’s got one of those bodies that make famine-proof people grit their teeth in silent envy – but she, too, is lordotic; she stands with her hips tilted forward and down. Like me, she tends to use her quads and her low back, even though she knows she’d be stronger and more able if she tilted her pelvis up and used her abs and glutes. Just like me.

We looked like Mutt and Jeff; her lean and strong, and me pillowy and soft – but we had the same challenges.

So I had that in the back of my mind as I hung my hands over the steering wheel. The word “neutral” began to echo across the vast, empty chasm of my brain.

Grace is always trying to get me to a neutral position with my pelvis. Barbara wants me to bring my ribs down since my thorax is tight and I compensate by sticking my chest out. They’re trying to get me to neutral…

…and suddenly I took a baby step over the huge earthquake fissure in my path. Oh. NEUTRAL.

If I can get my pelvis into neutral – balanced like my hands on the steering wheel – then I can just hang there. I just have to find the place where the front muscles are working exactly as hard as the back muscles, at which point balance is achieved and everything has to work much less hard to accomplish the same task.

And if I should make the back or front muscles stronger – say, by working out or flinging bean bags through space – then “neutral” is going to shift.

That was a pretty big epiphany (or maybe, depending on your viewpoint, a foolishly tiny one) to have at a stoplight. We take our blasts of understanding where we can get them!

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This is exactly how I was NOT sitting. Sorry. Can’t find a photo of someone sitting with their hands crossed over the top of the steering wheel. By the way – did you know? So as to clear the path for the airbag in your steering wheel, you’re not supposed to drive with your hands at ten and two anymore (much less at 11:45 and 12:15, like me with my hands crossed over the top!) – you’re supposed to be at five and seven. Thank God my kid’s been through Driver’s Ed in the modern era, so I could learn this factoid! The more you know.







Nothing delights me more than a sing-along. I don’t care if you’re an opera singer or a shower warbler; there is bliss in adding to the joyful noise, to being part of the wondrous whole. It’s not just me; since my youth (and probably even before then, if such primitive technologies existed!), you could “follow the bouncing ball” and sing along with a song projected onto a screen.

This happy thought occurred to me today, but from a new viewpoint. (This is the perspective that exercise brings us, boys and girls – isn’t that wonderful?)

I thought to myself – what the hell does the bouncing ball think of this?? Is it FUN for the bouncing ball to outline the “doo-dah, doo-dah” of “De Camptown Races?” No, the bouncing ball is probably annoyed and tired and demeaned.

And what brought this to mind?

Running, of course.

I plod along like the bouncing ball, so someone else could sing a particularly slow and plodding song to my locomotion. Hot Cross Buns, perhaps. Thump, thump, thump.

“Eggshells,” Barbara said hopefully at my side. “Pretend you’re running on eggshells and don’t want to break them.”

I shot her a look of murderous incredulity.

“Well,” she said soothingly, “What if you were running on ice? How would you not break through?”

“I’d slow down,” I gasped. “I’d walk.” Thump, thump, thump, went my feet thickly. My gasping breath added a little ragged syncopation to the percussion. Eggshells. Like I could place my feet in any way other than helpless stomping. Impact tremors in the surrounding groovy apartments and little houses caused unseen strangers to wonder if the t. Rex was coming after the goat again.

Look: Between you and me, I admit that I was hoping that trotting up and down my stairs would have made a difference – that doing intervals on the elliptical would have smoothed the way. Barbara assures me that they DID help; I never would have made our run-some-walk-some loop a year ago. I hold on to that the way a child clutches a teddy bear when there’s definitely a monster in the closet; I know the bear isn’t going to be much help, but it’s all I’ve got.

And I was hoping that Barbara would say “Oh, I see the problem – you’re not…” and then she’d say something that would correct all the awkwardness and thumpiness and gracelessness, and once she corrected THAT, then I’d be fleet-footed Atalanta, laughing over my shoulder at all those who chased fruitlessly after me.

In fact, she advised me to keep my ribs down and focus on my abs. And my glutes. Okay. (That’s the answer to EVERY SINGLE EXERCISE so we’re not exactly breaking new ground here, but you have to learn to run before you can run. If you’re with me. I’m sure there are keener refinements in my future.)

Thud, thud, thud – walk, walk, walk. Barbara noted later that I’d offered to start running again sooner than she’d suggested; she interpreted this as enthusiasm. I confessed that I was just trying to get the whole dreadful thing over with as soon as possible.

But I WANT to be able to do this. I am tired of being humiliated. I’m willing, at the staid and august age of 58, to plod around in full view of a disgusted public if it’s possible that I could stop feeling like the Sing Along With Mitch Bouncing Ball. And I want that to happen SOONER rather than LATER.

I wrote to Grace (my Body Dynamics trainer on Wednesdays) to tell her I was going to try to run/walk today’s route tomorrow before our session, so she should plan on not needing to give me anything to do for cardio when we meet, but Barbara put the quick kaibosh on that plan. MAYBE I can run again next week, she says, after we see how my body responds.

(I’ll tell you how it’s responded – I’m wiped out, and my thighs tremble when I go down the stairs. And you know muscles ache more the day AFTER exercise, so by tomorrow, I should be fully incapacitated. Fun for Grace to work with me like that!)

I hate running. I gasped the question at Barbara as we headed back to the barn. Is it possible for someone who hates running to learn to love it? Has she ever known it to happen?

“YES,” she replied with such conviction that I’m quite sure she was lying. Never mind. I plan on being the first.

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A statue of Atalanta. Nicer to look at than Sing Along With Mitch.



Disgusted Noise (Untypable)


Don’t look at me like that; you know the noise I mean. A contemptuous click of the back of the tongue against the throat – the untypable sound that means in any language around the world (and probably across the galaxy) “Christ, what a moron.”

I use it when someone cuts me off on the highway, or a client wants me to rewrite perfectly good copy… but I’m MOST likely to use it on self-inflicted stupidity.

You might recall, depending on just how bored you’ve been lately, that I’ve been missing appointments. First, it was unwittingly standing up Eleanor and her family at a restaurant that I’d invited them to. Then it was a phone call with my high school reunion committee.

Most horribly of late, I went about my day while a new client (who doesn’t yet know that I’m worth this nonsense) waited on a conference line, making embarrassing small talk with HIS client, who he’d assured was going to love this great new writer. I knew I had a call at two. I simply didn’t make a critical connection. I never dialed in. I try not to swear too much in this blog, but FUCK.

Barbara, my Body Dynamics fitness trainer and wizard, has watched me move farther and farther away from balanced as the anniversary of Jonathan’s death has been approaching. Last week, when I was fighting back tears during a discussion of kettle bells (sort of), she gently pointed me to the biofeedback counselors at Body Dynamics. Maybe they could help me figure out some coping mechanisms.

So I made an appointment with Regina. Because just maybe I’m losing my ever-loving mind… and when you run out of anger at the Dead Husband Situation, the next stop on that train is depression – so maybe let’s take this seriously, before I lose ALL my clients.

Do I have to tell you what happened next?

Given that I made that disgusted sound (untypable)?

That’s right. I forgot about the appointment.

I was driving home from my Body Dynamics massage with the amazing Gwynn when I got a text from Regina. “Aren’t we supposed to be meeting now?”

Disgusted sound (untypable). Bootlegger’s turn in the middle of the Capitol Beltway. (Not really.) I made it back with 30 minutes of my appointment still available.

Regina was totally cool about it; she explained that the right side of the brain has no concept of time. It’s always “NOW” on the right side… which is the seat of emotion. The LEFT side holds the internal clock. It’s rational and does the analysis.

And the left side really DOES pay attention to anniversaries. Even though I can’t imagine that my brain cares about “twelve months equals a year” or “This is how long it takes for the earth to travel around the sun,” the reality is that anniversaries bear weight in the left hemisphere of the brain.

And as an unsuspected clock ticks down to the day Jonathan died at the door of the garden shed (and then the following day, when he died again in the hospital), a large percentage of my mental oxygen is being consumed by past trauma. Enough, for example, that I might utterly lose track of time needs – appointments, restaurant reservations, phone calls.

“You mean I can STILL use the “Dead Husband” excuse?” I asked, astonished.

“For a long time. Maybe three years – maybe longer,” she replied.

We set up appointments through April. Clearly I have much to learn. I hope I remember to go.

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Yeah. You know the noise I mean, don’t you?



What if someone took away your prop?

Let’s say you had a broken leg and used a crutch to walk. Then as you healed, it came time to put the crutch away, but you were still fearful and kept using it. Eventually, you’d get all out of whack, leaning on that crutch instead of returning to an even distribution of your weight over your own two feet.

So that would be easy to solve. Just give up the crutch. Right?

I’m thinking about this because a few days ago, I posted about weighing myself twice on the same day, to see if maybe I’d magically dropped some extra weight – and friends came out of the woodwork to lecture me about giving up that crutch.

Oh, like it’s that easy.

“Shut up,” I wanted to shout to EVERY well-meaning, want-to-be-helpful ally in my health journey, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.”

But the hardest one to reach – the one it’s most challenging to explain myself to – is Barbara. Barbara, my guru and trainer at Body Dynamics, says – throw out your scale. I’ll weigh you once a year at your fitness assessment; other than that, don’t worry about your weight – don’t think about your weight – ignore it.

The frustration and confusion bubbles up in me like water coming to a boil, and it’s taken me days to turn that upset into English. (My answer to her was – I’ll write about it. Then you’ll be able to understand me. Alas, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it, but here’s a start.)

I don’t know what goes on in Barbara’s head; that’s my disclaimer. She SAYS she takes care to watch what she eats, and she gets plenty of exercise – the implication being that she, too, worries about her weight. I’m sure she does…

…and yet you can look at Barbara and know that she hasn’t walked my path. She is empathetic and understanding and probably the most skilled expert in handling issues of obesity that I’ve ever come across (and I’ve known me a few!). But she thinks I can throw away the scale. So I know we have crossed communications.

Barbara trains for marathons. She’s a runner. You can see it in the way she glides, not walks, that her core is well-trained and responds obediently to her needs. Even standing still she looks fleet. She is designed for distance-running; if you were a Greek general and wanted to let the king know the battle had been won, you’d look at your troops and automatically hand the message to Barbara. “Go – he’s at Marathon. Run as fast as you can!”

She occasionally posts her runs on Facebook – the distance, the time. So I wonder if there isn’t an equivalent.

What if I told Barbara to throw away her mileage counter – or her watch? Just don’t worry about it. We’ll measure you once a year, at the Boston Marathon. Other than that, just forget about it. You’re running for your health, not for a number. Go out – run. Don’t measure the distance; don’t calculate your minutes per mile. You don’t need those. Go forth, little bird – fly free in the big wide sky!

Not so easy, is it?

I know that standing on a scale is a crutch, and that I’m not supposed to need that crutch any more. But to abandon it now – when the scale shows me such encouraging numbers after a lifetime of discouragement – seems not just impossible. It seems needlessly cruel.

I didn’t throw out my scale, but I did unplug it and move it into the closet. I’m trying. But the amount of effort this takes MUST be recognized and respected. This isn’t easy – it isn’t casual. I’m asked to make a major change as if it was just another task, and it’s not.

Tomorrow Barbara is going to teach me how to run, in the hopes that maybe I’ll have the oomph to try a 5K on Memorial Day. The idea terrifies me like … I don’t know, like a cancer diagnosis, maybe. My fear of humiliation is almost paralyzing. I know it would be good for me, though, so I’m going to do it. I recognize that my brain is holding me back, and I’ll force compliance. It’s tough, though.

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It’s just a number, they say carelessly. Sure, it is. You putz.