I’ve often thought the human body could use a 2.0 version – an upgrade. That spine seems to be a trouble spot for a lot of people, and a stronger system for vertebra alignment seems indicated.

Skin would be better if it could resist solar radiation better. Fat storage in an era of plenty turns out to have more negatives than positives…

…so there are lots of things I thought could do with a redesign.

Then I discovered not one but TWO things about my own body that I never knew before. It’s like I’ve been redesigned and made better!

First, did you know that your lungs push the ribs out along your BACK as well as along your front??

I didn’t. I believed that the back was supposed to be strong – muscle-bound – stalwartly firm. The lungs went out the front because the back ribs were nailed down by muscle and shoulder bones and iron and John Wayne-like true grit. So if I was, just as an idle example, gasping for air while jogging along next to Barbara, I thought all the expansion I needed to suck in more oxygen was going to come from the front.

“Why have your ribs popped up so much?” asked Barbara reasonably. She can ask reasonable questions while I’m jogging because she’s practically walking next to me. For the 10K she ran a few weekends ago, she averaged about seven minutes per mile; it took me 15 minutes to do ONE mile today – so she’s having a pleasant stroll while I’m forcing myself through an oxygen-deficient hellscape.

“So I can suck in some air, of course.” (What I actually said was “AIR,” but she understood what I meant.)

“So relax your shoulders.”


“Your shoulders are back and down.”


“Well, don’t. How can your ribs move if your back muscles are locking them into place?”


“Yes, back. Your lungs need to inflate to the back as well as the front.”


“ ‘S’true. Breathe into the back of your lungs, and let your back and shoulders be easy.”

This is the sort of physical, muscular puzzle that can totally distract me from my oxygen-less state, and I actually made it a few feet further at my graceless jog.

Lungs expanding to the back?? The mind boggles. Okay – that’s something I can work on.

Once we’d arrived back at Body Dynamics and I’d stopped gasping, we talked about it. “So really, all the power of running comes from below the waist. Above the waist is just for oxygen, huh?”

Barbara made a considering face and shifted her arms back and forth. “Well, you get a little momentum from the arms…”

“Yeah, but really, running is all below the waist, huh?”

“Okay. You can think of it that way.”

(I’ve been an above-the-waist mover forever. Hence the remedial exercises needed to find my low abs and my glutes. I think and move with the brain-side of the body; meeting up with the lower half has been revelatory. Like meeting relatives from the Old Country because DNA tests suggested we were family. Cool – but you’re not coming to Christmas, are you?? Oh, you ARE? Huh.)

I was thinking about that when Barbara noted that I tend to bounce up and down when I run.

“I’m popping up to give those muscles a little break. I’m not strong enough to run in a permanent crouch.”

“What? What permanent crouch?”

“Well, to move without bobbing up and down, don’t you have to crouch down a little?”

I could see Barbara attempting to translate such an odd question into English; it was rough going. My concept was so far away from reality that she decided to break down the action of running in super-slo-mo.

And guess what? SHE powers her run off her back foot, kicking away from the earth as she moves.  And *I* power my run off my front foot, pulling my body forward from the grounding of the leading foot. So I bob up and down and she runs like she’s on rails.

It was like staring into a hypno-drawing; my brain couldn’t hold the two opposing concepts together. I was partially paralyzed and was slo-mo running around the big room at Body Dynamics, trying to figure it out. “Wait,” said Barbara.

She got a long strap with rubber tubes strung on it. We put the tubes across my hips and she held the end of the strap behind me like a farmer working a plough horse. “Run to the far wall,” she said.

I ran forward, with Barbara (who is lean but very strong) pulling me back. There was no way to move forward without kicking from the back foot; the front foot became entirely about prepping for the next push. It was exhausting. We did that twice, across the long length of the big room. Then she took away the strap and said “Run to the far wall. Don’t think about it – just do it.”

I flew across the room like I’d been shot from a cannon; it was actually scary. I felt out of control and like a car whose brakes had gone out. “What the hell?!”

“Better!” crowed Barbara. “Did you feel it?”

“Feel like a pinball being shot out of the tube? Hell yes, I did!”

“Let’s do it again.” Back I went into the plough position and I dragged Barbara across the room a few more times (thinking – damn, I just ran a mile! Why am I running again??), and then I ran again unencumbered, so powerful I couldn’t believe it.

Jeez. Is THAT how you’re supposed to run?? How do I reproduce that without forcing Barbara to allow me to drag her around before I run anywhere?

The point is – I thought the body needed a redesign; now I find the problem was user error. Typical.

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Hypno-pattern. This is me trying to think about running, as opposed to just running.



The devil came to me last night.

He arrived (or in this case, she arrived) not with a whiff of sulfur or with a writhing, snake-like forked tail. No, the devil came in the form of a perfectly charming waitress named Alexis. She was a delight; exactly the waitress you hope for. Friendly without looking like she was going to pull up a chair and dominate the conversation. Competent without being intrusive. Fast on the drink refills.

But then, she opened her smiling mouth and said it.

“So – did we save any room for dessert?”

For the last few weeks (okay – months), I’ve gone back to being sugar’s bitch. I’m still exercising every day; I’m still making good food choices; I’m still drinking plenty of water. But on top of all that, I’m also eating sugar like there was going to be a shortage and I needed to stockpile.

I remind myself of all the things I’ve learned about sugar – that it’s poisoning my system. That it laughs like a mad scientist as it absorbs all the zinc I’m putting in through pumpkin seeds. That it shatters the digestion. That my brain, addicted to the substance, releases a tiny drop of serotonin when it needs a hit, crooning to me, “Come on baby – just a little bump. I’ll do ALL those things you love for a container of Ben and Jerry’s.”

I know this, and yet somehow I have not yet come to grips with the oomph to go back to the virtuous life I found after working with Chip, the nutritionist at Body Dynamics in Falls Church.

And I know that if I could just say “no, thanks” even ONCE, then the next time would be easier…

…yet here came the devil.  “We have an outstanding turtle cheesecake tonight,” she said, wafting pure opium vapors under my nose. “Caramel, and a drizzle of chocolate…”

I am a FRAIL HUMAN – I have weaknesses. “I’ll have that!” I gasped like a man gambling the mortgage at the craps table; I’m SURE this is going to work out for me!!

And then do you know what happened?!

It might have been that Chip the nutritionist snuck into the restaurant’s kitchen and began messing with the staff. It might have been Barbara and Grace, the trainers, teaming up to knock waiters and cooks over, one kneeling quietly behind while the other pushed athletically from the front – BAM! Down they go, chef’s toques a’flyin’. It might have been Clara from stretch class, grabbing all the turtle cheesecakes and hiding them in the vegetable fridge…

…but SOMETHING stalled the arrival of my dessert.

Time passed. Conversation faded. My water glass was empty again.

“Where IS Alexis?” we asked, looking around the restaurant as if we were coming out of a daze. The sugar craving had begun to weaken.

The seconds ticked by. Then the minutes. “Dessert should have been here by now, right?”


And then Alexis appeared, apparently wanting to see just how much power the devil had over her acolytes.

“I’m so sorry – we’re out of the turtle cheesecake. So the chef is sending out a heavenly white chocolate cheesecake for you. Is that okay?”

It was like a phone call from the governor before the electric chair switch was thrown. REPRIEVE!

“No, that’s okay – nothing for me, thanks.”

The devil looked both disappointed and embarrassed that she could not provide the offered temptation (the devil is really an extremely good waitress), but the craving had passed, and fate had intervened to give me a tiny little victory. A victory-ette.

And look – I said no once! This is definitely the start of something good!

Get thee behind me, Alexis!


Who needs dessert when you have Chip’s spectacular breakfast? Fresh fruit, various nuts and seeds (zinc-rich pepitas!), a dusting of delicious wheat germ, the creamiest whole milk organic yogurts, and topped by a drizzle of the North’s life’s blood: maple syrup from the far reaches of Vermont. Pair that with a big glass of water and GOOD MORNING!





I am happy – no, horrified – to report that I am no longer furious with my dead husband. My anger has drained out of me like a bathtub once the plug was pulled. Glug, glug, glug – gone.

And as expected, anger was a far easier emotion to bear than what replaces it.

I had a fascinating session yesterday with Regina, the 5K-running biofeedback counselor. I have no idea if the biofeedback really is training my brain to be more efficient. How could I possibly assess the biofeedback’s effectiveness when Regina keeps hitting me with truth bombs every single week?? It’s not like I have a clone who’s getting JUST the biofeedback without the counseling, to judge the effectiveness of “brain training.”

Last week, you might recall, she came to the session bearing an offering on a silver salver – more priceless than gold, myrrh, or frankincense: the concept that you could have ANGER without BLAME. It took me a solid week to get my arms around the concept; I haven’t even begun to shape it to fit into my daily life yet…

…but this week’s gift was even more profound. Like – DAYUM.

After hearing Jonathan’s story filtered through my highly-subjective telling, she offered that it sounded like Jonathan’s brain implications (whatever they were) resulted in him being trapped in a permanent “threat” mode.

I sampled the concept, assessing its flavor. If that was right, then everything would be a threat to him. It wasn’t his choice, any more than you could see a coiled snake in your path, hissing and rattling, and decide to think “All things have a place in this world; I am entirely neutral to that serpent.” No – it’s a threat. No matter what you decide to do, neutrality is not an option.

Can you imagine being trapped in that mindset for FOUR YEARS? It would be an unending nightmare. You’d be afraid to leave your home. You might take to your recliner and come up with excuse after excuse to stay right there. You might see a perfectly normal stranger on the street and mutter to yourself (and whoever was near you listening), “That lady’s scaring me.”

You’d refuse to even consider switching to decaf coffee, in deference to failing kidneys.

Oh, fuck. I’m beginning to understand. At last. And I don’t like what I’m learning.

“But,” I said desperately, “Jonathan could go back to being normal – funny, engaging, kind – when he was with other people. I used to love to get him to go out to dinner with people or get involved with others because it reminded me that he was still in there.”

Regina was so kind in her delivery of bitter truth. “That tells me how important you were to him.”

What, now?

“The most powerful emotions get inverted. The people he loved the most became the greatest source of stress.”

She had more to say on the subject, and it was far more scientific than I’ve recaptured here; I kind of got rolled by the tidal wave and missed the details. But the point is – if Jonathan was ever an utter bastard to you (and I remember him making Karol cry at a summer reunion at Kathy and Gerry’s house, or suddenly announcing we had to leave and rudely walking out of Robs’ house), then now you know how close you were to his heart. Alas.

He was horrible to his mother. He was perfectly awful to his sister. He filled me with such a swirling, oily cloud of fear and rage and tears and unhappiness that I’m still trying to scrub the residue off the walls of my soul.

The only exception was his son. Jonathan acted as if he was Rusty’s brother; he was constantly playing with Rusty and giggling with him and uniting with Rusty against me, The Stern Authoritarian. While this was entertaining for my son, it was also confusing to him, and put Rusty in the unenviable position of needing to be the parent to his own father. Still, a smile from Jonathan during his last four years was rare enough that Rusty and I were both happy to get that much.

It’s not very typical that one is given The Answer to a bad situation; it’s more like someone has poorly translated instructions in a foreign language. You have to pick up a lot in the syntax, and there is often unintentional hilarity and confusion in the translation…

…but getting this explanation – the fact that Jonathan was in threat mode for four solid years – fits like a key in a lock. It opens up understanding. Now I know what he was going through, and my anger at him is … gone. Pouf.

What replaces that anger is much harder to contain. I feel such profound pity for him. I know I didn’t treat him with anything like the compassion he deserved. He needed to be protected and cared for, and I didn’t know. He didn’t know. No one knew… so he suffered, trapped in the unyielding prison walls of his own cranium, and I just rolled my eyes at him and gritted my teeth. At my best friend ever.

I feel like I betrayed him. I feel ashamed. I feel huge tidal currents of sorrow. I want to apologize. I want to help and fix it, and I can’t.

Yeah. The anger was easier.


The last photo I ever took of Jonathan was of him, typically, playing with Rusty – who, you can see, is just trying to make a cup of coffee.



The seats we got for P!nk could have been higher; there was one row behind us – but there’s no doubt we were up where the air is thin. Next to me, my friend Susan (who is not comfortable with heights) was already thinking about how scary it was going to be getting back down again.

I sat in my seat oddly comfortable with the we’re-definitely-perched-on-the-side-of-a-cliff feeling. I don’t mind heights (although I’m not as in love with them as the woman we’d come to see, who spent at least a quarter of her show attached to several aerial harnesses, singing with full-tilt rock star brio from way high in the air), but there was still something peculiarly familiar about the view.

Oh. Ah. Got it.

Say you’re sitting in your favorite armchair – maybe the big, red, overstuffed chair in the office – with your feet comfortably propped up. Say your iPad is on your belly and you’re gazing down into it, to read one of an endless series of trashy novels. I say “gazing down,” but the angle isn’t as steep as, say, looking at your feet while standing. It’s a comfortable angle; you can (I have) stay there for hours at a time.

That’s exactly the angle from our seats to the floor of the Verizon Arena in Washington, DC. It was like looking into a book, and seeing a view that is every bit as deep and far as the feeling you get when you’ve been absorbed into a book. Rich. Action-packed. Vigorously entertaining.

So I was loving it – I was already happy before the performance began.

And then the warm-up band frontman persuaded the half-crowd (lots of empty seats for the warm-up that were definitely filled by the time P!nk began) to hold their hands over their heads, like referees signaling a touch-down. Then he got us to clap on the beat. Not exactly rocket science, but it pulled the tattered remnants of the audience together, and because I was in the mood to be happy and a part of things, my two clapping hands were a tiny portion of the large noise that ensued.

So I was about as far from the singer as you can get and still be in the same room, and yet I had a connection to him, and the band, and the other people in the audience. We had a unity that would have seemed impossible moments before. And I got hit upside my head by a metaphorical sledge hammer:

You could sit at home and put on a P!nk album (which I recommend you do) and hear her music and dance in the kitchen all by yourself and it would be a good experience… but there’s something about a crowd’s unity – about everyone stomping their feet in time, and clapping, and screaming lyrics together that is purely different than experiencing it as an individual…


Omigawd. There I was, raising a glass ‘cause I am wrong – in all the right ways – all my underdogs – I will never be, never be anything but loud – and nitty-gritty – all my little freaks – so come on and, come on and raise your glass, and suddenly Barbara and Regina and Kathryn and all the runners at the Workhouse Prison Break Run from Sunday were grinning at me, waving me over, saying “Join us. Dance like no-one’s watching. Make some noise.”

You can run alone – you can keep going until you’ve covered 5K of ground. That would be good. But it wouldn’t be the same as joining in unity with a whole bunch of unconnected humans to form a suddenly cohesive, energetic, more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts whole – and that’s different, and also good.

I don’t know why I feel utterly comfortable at a concert and so alien and out of place at a race – but I think I made a connection. I think I understand, at least academically, why running a 5K might be fun.

P!nk. Is there nothing she can’t do?!


I like so many P!nk songs, but if I were to pick just one to recommend you try? I guess it would be Raise Your Glass. Go ahead – get the thirty-second free listen on iTunes. See if you like it. She’s awesome.

Stall Tactics


Yesterday I wrote about observing friends in a 5K/10K – here’s the photo of those intrepid athletes. I stole it off the Body Dynamics Facebook page; hope they don’t get annoyed! That’s Barbara on the right (her yellow “I’m a long-distance greyhound” 10K tag is under her pre-race jacket), and lovely Kathryn the therapeutic masseuse is next to her. Then came wise Regina, the biofeedback counselor I’m working with, and Regina’s son (who came, if Regina’s grinning statement is to be believed, because runners got free food).

Aren’t they beautiful?

And isn’t it surprising that this race – a race I didn’t even run – plunged me into a depression?

The thought of doing what they did (or at least what Regina and Kathryn did – the 5K, not the 10K) filled me with a don’t-bother-fighting-just-flight response. It makes me shake my head wordlessly. Attempting to verbalize my feelings, I fall back on “Oh – no. No, no, no. HELL no.”

I don’t want to run that far. I certainly don’t want to run that far in public, with people watching and clapping and encouraging and someone holding a stopwatch. I don’t want to think of me gasping for air while person after person passes me, possibly stopping long enough to say something encouraging or make sure I’m still experiencing a typical heart rhythm… I just don’t want to do that.

And the plan is for me to do it in JUNE. That’s just terrifying.

I’ve run FIVE TIMES. And if Barbara and I continue our pattern of running at the beginning of our Tuesday sessions, that would mean that my twelfth run ever would be a 5K. That’s too much. It’s too soon.

I’m giving this plan the ol’ stiff leg. Not doing it.

But I WILL run a 5K in October, when the Virginia weather breaks and the swelter oven is turned off in our region. By then, I should be able to run more than I walk; by then I might greet the thought of a 5K with mild pleasure instead of paralyzing fear.

I’m stalling – and in one use of the word, “to stall” means to lose engine power and fall out of the sky. I hope my stall doesn’t mean I’ll crash and burn. I don’t have the courage to do a 5K in June – but I’m not giving up. I’m just delaying.

Yes, it feels like failure. On the other hand, I’m no longer scared and anxious. So I’m willing to accept the failure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to work out on the elliptical.

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Barbara slipped beneath the inflatable purple “FINISH” arch like she was on rails – like the camera crew had snuck in while no one was looking and laid tracks. When Barbara runs, there’s no up-and-down bobbing; she’s straight ahead, like her spine is a firm metal rod and there’s a massive, Wile E. Coyote type magnet just ahead, pulling her forward.

She’s efficient. There’s not a wasted movement – nothing but grace and ease and an economy of motion that is utterly deceptive…

…as Barbara was the third woman to cross the 10K finish line. “Yeah,” she said mildly when she found me after the run. “That was pretty fast. I sort of surprised myself.” She wasn’t even ultra-sweaty. She didn’t need to stand just on the other side of the finish arch with her hands on her knees, sucking in air – far from it. Barbara was FINE.

I was there to observe the race. (Barbara, my trainer at Body Dynamics, is very smart; she knew I needed to see and experience at least the start and finish of a race so I could prepare mentally for the 5K I’m planning to enter in June.) And I did have many observations. Including…

I observed that I want to be like Barbara. I want it the same way I want to be able to play the trumpet or run for political office or hold the arch of my foot while I stick my leg up around my ear, like a ballet dancer; that is – this is a desire I hold very loosely, aware that it’s not going to happen.

But I wonder: What does Barbara want? There’s not a one of us who looks in the mirror and smiles; we ALL want something different. Does she want to be a voluptuous Jessica Rabbit type? Does she wish she was taller, shorter, darker, paler? Does she look at her lean, balanced body and think “If only…?”

I observed that there are many types of people who enter 5Ks; there are runners like Barbara, of course – but there are also men and women who look like they’re facing a really grueling task and they’ll be damned if they’re going to stop before the entire wood pile is chopped. Some people are there for joy and oxygenated corpuscles; some people are there despite the many, MANY reasons to stay home.

I observed that these races are held in the early morning. Not to overshare (yeah, like that’s ever stopped me!), but my digestion is established for activity by around 9, 9:30. As the racers took the starting line at 9:20 (the 5Ks; the 10Ks left at 9), I thought – “Glad I’m not standing there. Port-a-potties to the left, you say?”

I observed that a race in mid-April is probably the ideal time to run, as the weather was cool (and got colder as the morning wore on). If I’m going to run, I’m going to need cool air – so why am I deliberately ignoring the swamp-like qualities of northern Virginia in early June?

I observed that I need to do a little shopping; I’m going to need 5K-worthy running clothes. Guh.

I observed that Barbara is a team player, while I never played on any team. She and I stood near the finish line to cheer on the other Body Dynamics participants – Regina, the biofeedback counselor and Kathryn, who joins Gwynn in the masseusery. (Just made that word up; like it? Where do therapeutic masseuses work? A masseusery, of course.) As we waited for them to round the corner, Barbara offered her cheers and praise especially to anyone running past with a yellow tag.

(White tags were 5K runners; yellow tags were 10K runners.)

Far from looking down on the 10K runners who were arriving so late, Barbara’s cheers and encouragement got louder as the race got longer. It was clear she didn’t care about the time it took to complete the run – just that the run was being completed. The longer it took to get to the finish line, the greater the triumph and the louder her cheers. Barbara is a wonderful, kind person.

I observed that Barbara not only called out “Great job!” to the runners – she also shouted “Finish strong!” That comment terrifies me. It means that as you draw closer to the purple arch, you’re supposed to SPEED UP. I’m pretty sure by that point I’m going to want to find a bench for a little rest. Am I supposed to keep enough energy in reserve to FINISH STRONG when all I want to do is find my car and drive away as quickly as I can?!

I observed that both Kathryn and Regina crossed the finish line (strong, as it happens) wreathed in smiles. “Is this fun?” I asked Kathryn. She looked at me to see if I was joking, and realized I wasn’t. “Yeah – this is fun.”


“It was a nice run, and it’s fun that everyone is cheering.”


Regina said she’d do the run again next year; that she was looking forward to it. All three runners looked very happy and contented. I realized I had a vague headache and wondered how soon before I could go home and hide.

I’ll do a little research, but I posit the theory that Regina and Kathryn both played on sports teams at some point. (I know Barbara was on a basketball team.) I think that people who succeed on sports teams get a buzz from the energy of a group action – of people cheering you on, of others running beside and around you.

I played on the International Read A Book Team. I keep thinking that if I run twice around the lake, that would be 5K, and then I’d have done it and wouldn’t have to do it in a crowd. “You don’t find this inspiring?” Barbara asked, astonished. “Look at all these people – all different shapes and sizes, all working for the same goal. That’s motivating!”

I observed that she spoke the truth, as she saw it. I observed that I’m going to give it a try, but I have my doubts that I’ll be much changed by the experience.

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Why didn’t I take a picture of Barb, Regina, and Kathryn? They were RIGHT THERE in front of me. I’m a fool! This isn’t a photo from the “Prison Break” race at the Workhouse. I stole this one off Google. You don’t care, do you?


April 13, 2018

A hypothetical for you: Can you envision a circumstance in which you felt anger – from mild irritation to blazing fury – that did NOT include the concept of blame?

I had a most remarkable session today with Regina, the biofeedback counselor at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. After she goo’ed electrodes to my ears and scalp (the only unappealing part of biofeedback), we got into a discussion about The Dead Husband Issue.

(New readers start here: My husband Jonathan died last year after four years of altered behavior  and probable mental impairment that made living with him… challenging. His death infuriated me, since it didn’t have to happen. He didn’t kill himself, of course… on the other hand, he took no steps to protect his life, so WHAT A JERK.)

“Of course,” Regina said, “anger and blame don’t HAVE to go together.”

“Yes, they do,” I protested. “Always. Anger is the result of an injustice – something unfair. That gets you angry, and it’s always attached to a wrong that must be righted. That means blame.”

“Not necessarily. You can be angry about karma – about being dealt a bad hand. There’s no blame in that.”

I sat in stunned silence. STUNNED.

Is it possible that I could be angry with my husband for leaving me, for putting me through this trauma, for putting our son through it – and NOT blame him?

The metaphorical earth beneath my feet began to shake. Jonathan was incapable of making a good decision by the end, but it wasn’t his fault. He had the gastric bypass (the one that led to the B-12 deficiency that led to the brain imbalance) for us – he did it for his family. Was he, then, to blame for the physical effects of that decision?

Of course not… yet if you always pair anger with blame (as I always have), you have to have both or neither, and I have too much anger for neither. Both was my only option.

But if you can uncouple the two – if you can legitimately be angry without pointing a finger…

…might this not be the route, the path to – what? Resolution? Forgiveness? Acceptance?

Regina was still talking; she had very valid points, but they rolled off me like raindrops on a slicker. I waved her off. “Hang on – I’m still on anger and blame.”

I am READY to be done with anger; I’m ready to remember the man I loved so deeply for twenty years and forget the bitter bastard who unintentionally poisoned the last four. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Can YOU think of an example of anger without blame? I’d be most grateful to hear it in the comments; here or on Facebook.


This Venn diagram is actually wrong… I really need a HUGE overlap between anger and blame, with a question mark to indicate curiosity as to what happens when the two conditions are separated, but I couldn’t figure out how to draw that. What – you want your money back?!



A Secret


This isn’t a juicy secret, like “I think George Clooney is stalking me” or “I found a duffle bag with a million dollars in it” – this is a secret that could visit humiliation upon me. So I whisper it to you with a lot of nervous energy:

I think I’m going to try to do a 5K on Memorial Day.

I fully understand that the world can be divided into several groups, here.

There are those who think “A 5K is 3.1 miles; you are a pathetic wretch if you think that will be a challenge to you. Most race organizers call that a Fun Run; it’s meant for children and people recovering from high-speed auto crashes. Get over yourself.”

There are those who think “Attagirl, pudgy! Go get ‘em! You can do it!”

There are those who think “What’s a 5K?”

And then there is my family, who think “What have you done with the real Prudence? Is there a sci-fi pod transfer required here? Is this a Stepford Wives scenario? Blink three times fast if you need rescue.”

I feel it’s important to re-state a fundamental truth about me: I don’t run.

I go to great extremes to avoid running. I am reluctant to break into an unwilling shuffle halfway across the street if it looks like the garbage truck’s brakes are out. Running, to me, is absolutely alien; it’s something Other People do.

But Barbara thinks I can do it – and what Barbara says, I have come to believe.

(A little sales pitch here, if you need it – Barbara is a trainer at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, Virginia. If you ever thought “No, I can’t…” then Barbara is the one to figure out the path to “Hey – I can!”)

So far, I have run exactly FIVE TIMES. Thrice with Barbara in a route around Body Dynamics (the route is just a hair over a mile), and twice around the manmade lake near my house, which features a 1.5 mile walking path with a line across it every tenth of a mile so you can see just how slow you really are.

My second time on the lake path, I managed to keep up a shuffling sort of trot for two-tenths of a mile. Once. After that, the intervals of “running” between each bout of walking got shorter and shorter… and the thought of going around that lake TWICE to make three miles is almost more than I can stand.

But again – Barbara says I can do it. There are about seven weeks between now and Memorial Day. And maybe after the 5K I’ll decide to never, ever run again… but I’ll be able to say I did a 5K. (Not say I RAN a 5K because there will be a LOT of walking involved!) And that’s pretty astonishing.

Memorial Day, as it happens, is my 58th birthday. Seems like a remarkable, transformative thing to do on a day of significance. I’m scared to even think about it – I’m nervous about training for it. I feel like I should keep the whole thing secret so failure is private… and that’s why I’m broadcasting it here. FEAR SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED TO DICTATE MY LIMITATIONS IF I CAN HELP IT!!

Still – I wish it was George Clooney stalking me.

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Lady Harbury


“Dear Lady Harbury. I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief.”

If you say it in your plumiest, most aristocratic British accent, you get the best effect. It’s from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and is a quick little throw-away line that always made me giggle.

Dear Lady Harbury, who seems to be living entirely for pleasure now, is painted in just two short lines as a society matron, released from the stern prudishness of her much older husband by his death. Whee! She’s never mentioned again; she’s only a rococo ornament intended to more richly illustrate a frivolous society, but I have newfound respect for her.

Perhaps Dear Lady Harbury really did love her husband; perhaps theirs was a long and august union. But perhaps every time Dear Lord Harbury went to the grocery store, he picked up a box of Whoppers for Dear Lady Harbury “because I know you love them and you’ve had a hard day and I thought you might like a treat.”

And no matter how much she wished she could resist, Dear Lady Harbury thought (a) he’s so sweet and (b) malted milk balls – outstanding!

Pretty soon, if she was getting a treat, he figured he deserved one, too. She fell into the same habit. Instead of one of them pulling the other into better choices, they both pulled each other into worse ones – out of love and affection and an abiding mutual appreciation for malted milk.

It wasn’t until Dear Lord Harbury died (from, I’ve decided, gout brought on by too many malted milk balls) that Dear Lady Harbury thought to herself – what was I thinking? Jeez – I’m just not going to have any of THAT stuff in the house anymore. And since no one else but Dear Lady Harbury went to the grocery store anymore, suddenly there were no more malted milk balls. No more treat-matching. No more “If YOU’RE getting something, I will too.”

It takes a full-time, every-single-day commitment to safeguard your health… but I am now astonished and impressed when anyone can correct a tendency that they share with their partner. My sister Lexie and her husband Scott both smoke; they’ve each tried multiple times to kick it – but often they can’t gin up the will power to try when the other one is also ready. One person smokes and the other gives it up? Impossible; it’s simply asking too much of a human.

So if you read my blog and think “I should be trying harder,” then (a) thank you; I’m ridiculously grateful to you for reading and (b) if you’ve got a mate who doesn’t share your commitment, then you have my sincere respect. You’re pulling twice as hard to get half as far.

I recently went through the anniversary of my personal Lord Harbury’s death, and my response was to curl up and hide; I didn’t want to go to dinner with friends or in other ways socialize. All my friends kindly understood and gave me the space I needed. During that time, I wasn’t at all particular about what I ate; ice cream was an absolutely acceptable dinner.

But by the end, my skin was feeling greasy. I felt like – like I’d been eating WAY too much sugar. Friday was the Final Death Day, and I began to look forward to Saturday because that would be the day I pulled myself together and ate some broccoli instead. I was actively looking forward to it.

During my self-imposed isolation, my loving friend Susan (who acts as tough as a bear to hide the marshmallow heart) bought me some ice cream; she was going to give it to me during my mourning. But I wouldn’t come out to play.

The next day, still wanting to ease my pain, she bought me MORE ice cream.

And on Sunday, when I was back to enjoying the company of others, she presented me both pints, along with a stunningly savory vegetable soup she’d made me. She handed me a bag filled with love. Just like Dear Lord Harbury!

And what did I do?

Ate the ice cream, of course. I’m not made of stone!

(Well – I ate one of them. The other is sitting in the freezer, like a rattlesnake in the corner. I know it’s there; I know it’s watching me; I’m trying not to antagonize it.)

Love is glorious; love makes the world go round. Love is all you need. But love can also sabotage your attempts to be healthy, so proceed with caution. Onward, ever onward!

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Lady Bracknell. Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do I in any way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids. I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life. I am always telling that to your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much notice… as far as any improvement in his ailment goes.




It was all very well for a bronze-armored hero to go striding manfully up the mountain above the Greek village of Delphi to demand the oracle prophesy about the outcome of his quest.

It was a good bit tougher on the oracle. She had to climb out on a stool above a crevasse in the earth (I envision ladders and a rickety, three-legged hash job with a tiny seat over an abyss, and the kissing of a St. Christopher medal (not really) before every single reading). Then she’d breathe in the fumes and vapors and smoke coming from the bowels of the earth (no doubt praying that she wouldn’t get dizzy or faint or fall in this time either).

And according to every damned antique or modern retelling of the story, she would then inevitably prophesy with absolute accuracy but in language so convoluted that she would be completely misunderstood, and it wouldn’t be until the bronze-armored hero lay dead at their feet that his friends would laugh at how badly they’d misinterpreted her forecast.

“Oh – I get it, Pectinius! SHARPER than a lion’s claw!”

“You’re right, Adductor Magnus! How could we have missed that? Ho, ho!”

(The names of my mythical friends are Ancient Roman, not Ancient Greek, in nature; I select them because they are the names of muscles in my right thigh that are wont to laugh at my foolishness, and those names will definitely draw a snort of amusement from Gwynn the Miraculous Therapeutic Masseuse at Body Dynamics.)

It is forever an oracle’s job to be misunderstood, whether she’s perched on a three-legged stool in a cave or holds a clipboard in Falls Church, Virginia. It can take a shockingly long way into a hero’s journey for the prophesy to suddenly make sense.

I’ve been complaining to everyone who will listen (and to some who would prefer not to) that my low back muscles are seizing up in righteous fury. Definitely when I first get out of bed in the morning, but very often when I’m just standing up from a chair. But it took me a surprisingly long time to tromp, armor-clad, up the hill to my own Delphic oracle.

“BARBARA!” I cried, “what is up with my BACK??”

Patiently – for oracles are always patient; they have no choice – she had me demonstrate just the first exercise of my Home Exercise Program (hep, hep, hep). This involves me lying on my back on a foam roller – misnamed; it’s not foamy and soft at all – and holding two weights overhead. (Then – left arm down, right knee down. Alternate sides. Count to 20.)

“Are you holding the small of your back down onto the foam roller?”

“Of course! It’s as flat as I can make it – look! Try to wedge your hand in there!”

(We’d just been working out – even ran/walked a gasping mile – and no one in their right mind would have put a hand anywhere near my sweaty back for all the honors in Ancient Greece.)

“As flat as you can make it? How are you doing that?”

“How? Well – I’m flattening it.”

“Yes, but how?”

Questions like these absolutely stymie me. I fell silent, trying to read what my muscles were doing. Barbara went on.

“Are you pushing down with your back? Or with your low abs?”

I had a momentary short-circuit and gabbled stupidly while thinking about it. “Umm…”

I lay on the foam roller in the middle of an enormous gym, rocking my hips in a vaguely obscene gesture. “With my back… with my abs… with my back… with my – MY BACK! I’m pushing with my BACK!”

Barbara sat straighter on her heels with That Look – the “you have to be patient with idiots” look. “What are you supposed to be tilting your pelvis with?”

“Um – my abs?”

“And how long have we been working on that?”

“So, maybe two years?”

“That’s right. Can you think of why your low back might be hurting?”

“But my low abs are as strong as wet tissue paper, and my back is steel cables. It’s EASIER with my back.”

“Is it? How does your back feel every morning?”

“Oh – I get it, Pectinius! Headlights forward with the LOW ABS!”

“That’s right.”

It took me two years to get it – and my low abs really do feel alarmingly weak… but at least now I know where they are, and I trust that they can get stronger. Thank God I’ve got an oracle. I need to buy her a laurel wreath… and listen more carefully. Although it won’t help; history proves that!

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Barbara’s Halloween costume for next year, as painted by pre-Raphaelite artist John Collier. Ain’t that a honey of a painting?