Get Up Offa That Thing: One Action Builds Traction

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July 5, 2022, I returned to Atlanta after a 14-month-long caretaking stint in my hometown of Buffalo, New York.

I pulled into the driveway at 6:00 pm. At 7:00 pm, I was on zoom attending class number one of a Relationships Seminar.

“Ahh…,” I thought. “Thank God I’m back in my own space where I can get back to my normal eating and exercising routines, sleep in my normal bed, resume my normal socializing, re-connect with my abnormal friends, start writing again, have some fun.”

I was excited after that first seminar. It would give me something to focus on, to strive towards. I’d be around people of shared interest, even if it was online. I figured by the end of the week, I’d be back to my old self.

None of that happened. What happened instead was that I couldn’t sleep through the night. I ate a lot of crap.  I watched too much tv. I didn’t want to exercise and each time I tried to get back into my daily walking routine, I couldn’t sustain it beyond a couple days. The only thing I could sustain was gazing out the picture window upon the lush backyard for hours at a time.

I had no interest in socializing with anyone. Most of my friends had no idea I was even back in town. If I was asked to do anything that looked like efforting on another’s behalf, I adamantly refused.

The emotional eating habits I’d honed and perfected in Buffalo had followed me to Atlanta. You can take the girl out of the trauma but you can’t take the trauma out of the girl.

Eating a whole bag of kettle chips and a pint of chip dip, along with a fine Italian soda while watching tv was de rigeur. That, and a whole lot of other devitalizing garbage.

I felt awful. I looked awful. I was bloated beyond recognition from all the junk I was eating. I had no motivation whatsoever to change my situation. I did have the desire, mind you – just not the will.

After a couple months of this seemingly-intractable inertia, I decided to set a reservation for a swim lane at the Y around the corner for 10:00 am the next day. At 9:30 the following morning, my resistance stood in front of me like a troll demanding money to cross the bridge. I pushed against it. It pushed back. I knew it would wear me out so I surrendered, ceding to the realization that in that moment,  IT was stronger than my desire to make a change.

Or was it? The next thought I had was, “I am never going to want to get up off this couch. And that, right there, was enough to get me up and off of that couch.

 I walked into my bedroom, put on my bathing suit, grabbed my towel, and walked out the door, all before one more thought could enter my head.

My lane reservation was for 30 minutes only. Because I’m a seasoned swimmer, in the past, swimming for 30 minutes would’ve been a breeze. Now it was a challenge. I committed to staying in the pool for the entire 30 minutes, swimming laps the entire time.At the end of that 30 minutes, I emerged from the pool, victorious as any Olympic gold medalist. For the first time in a very long time, I had shown up for myself and did what I said I was going to do. “That was easy,” I thought. “I can do that again tomorrow.”

Ever since that day, which is probably 8 months ago now, I have gone swimming every morning, Monday through Friday. Each day, I set the reservation for my lane exactly 24 hours prior. I now swim for an hour each morning.

Firmly rooted in my daily exercise practice, I next chose to act on the concern and advice of four people dear to me, I became willing to take a medication that might further help me along. Once I made up my mind to do so, I wasn’t willing to wait six weeks to get a doctor’s appointment, so I sought the help of an online service which provided me with both an appointment and medication exactly two days later.

That medication diminished my reactivity by 95%. By reactivity, I mean anger, agitation, irritation – the three energy-sucking monkeys I’d been traveling with nearly every day for a very, very long time.

It was an interesting experience: first I’d feel the impulse to anger. Immediately behind that was the choice to not anger and then immediately behind that was the awareness of the impact of all that anger on my health, my relationships, my enjoyment of life. All of this happened automatically, yet I found these three layers of awareness fascinating.

Truth told, I’ve noticed two things that can still set me off like a cherry bomb: being interrupted while I’m writing, and having to pay for parking at medical facilities.

A couple months after starting medication, I was visiting my chiropractor/applied kinesiologist/master healer, Dr. Timothy Kelly, in Buckhead. When I asked about specifics regarding my health concerns, he said, “It’s not just one thing.”

He picked up his pen. I sat on the other side of his desk, watching him write some words on a piece of white pad paper. And just like in the movies when a potential employer makes a salary offer to a high-level professional who’s about to lose their soul, he slid that paper over to my side of the desk.

On it was written:

Caffeine, cocoa, grains, dairy, peanuts, soy, corn, spinach, tomatoes, sugar

I looked at that list, confused. And when I say “confused”, I mean confused. It was as if I were looking at a foreign language. What did this list mean?

“So…………what? You’re saying I should stop eating all this stuff?” I asked, hoping that his answer would be, “No! No, no, no, no, no. I’ve had a busy, busy day and I’d like for you to stop by Publix and pick up these items for me so I don’t have to stop there on my way home from work.”

Dr. Kelly looked at me, his healer’s eyes connecting with my reluctant ones.  And because I’m smart, I was able to figure out right then and there that, yes, indeed, that was a list of foods I was being asked to relinquish, perhaps forever.

Because I’ve had a long history with resistance, my inclination was to say, “no thanks”, but I didn’t. I wanted to be open to his suggestion, figuring that he knew more about what I needed at that time than I did.

When I got home, I pulled out the list and sat still with it for awhile. I asked myself, “Why would I want to do this?”  With the exception of corn, soy, and spinach, that list comprised my entire diet. I would be saying goodbye to bread, pasta, basmati rice, white potatoes, pastries and desserts of all sorts, all snack and junk foods, dairy, and the daily dose of tomatoes that had accompanied me every day for years.

I let out a deep sigh, and the next question stepped forward: “Why would I not want to do this? I feel lousy. I’m as fat as I’ve ever been. My sleep is crap. My neck and shoulders are stiff. I get three-day-long migraines.” Mostly, though, I knew that my health was at serious risk. I could feel it. This was an awakening for someone who had always enjoyed robust health and fitness.

The very next day, I completely changed my diet. It was implausible for me at this time to eliminate my morning coffee, so I didn’t. I’ve also had a few forays into chocolate over the past few months. Now, my daily diet consists only of various animal proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hummus, olives, olive oil. About a month in, I had a slice of bread just for kicks and discovered that I didn’t miss it one bit. I’m a good cook and there’s a lot one can do with these simple and real foods.

I had gained 20 pounds on my caretaking journey in Buffalo and had returned to Atlanta wondering who I was and what my life was all about. I’ve since lost 17 pounds since enacting all the changes I’ve just told you about.

Finally, I was a writer who wasn’t writing. Not regularly, anyway. Like everything else, I couldn’t sustain a regular writing practice, either. Any creative person knows what happens when we don’t practice and share our creative gifts. For me, it’s like feeling endlessly constipated, accompanied by a deep knowing that I’m shortchanging myself.

Six days ago, I chose to take on the project of creating one new piece of writing each day for the next 30 days. Today is Day 6.

And so, in closing, I’d like for you to know what I’ve recently learned: It took just one, small action that day I got up off the couch to go for a swim to get me back into life and remembering what my life was about and where I want to go next. That singular action led to the next action which led to the next action which led to the next.

And here I am now, sharing myself with you, feeling good about myself and my life and getting healthier and fitter by the day.

So, HEY! YOU! Get up offa that thing. Take that one tiny action and you’ll feel better, too.

P.S.: If you want or need to take that one, small action that can turn things around and you’re not sure what that might be, contact me and I’ll be happy to help you figure it out. I mean it.

Penultimate

Earlier today, after sharing a lengthy conversation with a man and his wife at Alon’s,  swapping stories of caregiving, death,

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