My father died when he was 50 and the summer after his death, my mother had a triple bypass. I was only 20 at the time and I remember thinking that my father had lived a full life and my mother's health problems were part of getting old. Time, of course, provides perspective and as I face the fact that I will turn 46 this fall, I realize that 50 and 54 aren't old at all. My dad died young and my mother's health problems began long before they should have. There are many things to blame - alcohol abuse, cigars (his) and cigarettes (hers), and general revelry-related excesses - and I have always clung to the fact that my life has been much different than theirs.
I drink in moderation. I tried the occasional cigarette but never became hooked. My diet is low in Velveeta and high in the good stuff. I hope these basic differences will guarantee a different outcome for me because I want to live a long life, want to have an active life after my children have grown up and moved on.
I don't want to be like my parents.
I have never been athletic. I played volleyball in 7th grade and had to quit when I switched schools and I was relieved because I was clumsy and hated the smell of the sweaty knee pads. In high school, I lettered in Debate - need I say more? In college, I played rugby - a sport that requires strength, speed and endurance or a cavalier attitude about the safety of one's body. I had none of the former and only the latter. Since then, I have worn my disinterest in exercise like a badge of honor, as if I am above it all.
But I've reached an age where it's harder to lose weight, where I'm a little more tired, where I wake up with the occasional inexplicable pain and I am finally figuring out that this persona of The Adorable Sloth is not serving me well and it is time to work on letting it go.
The 100 Days of Pushups challenge has taught me that I can do physical things, that all I have to do is try every day. This has given me the confidence to take another step - I am doing the couch to 5k. I have no intention of ever running a 5k but I like the idea that I'm trying…trying to do better in honoring my body…trying to take a little control over my own future.
Today was Day 2 and for the first time in my life, I did not say "I can't do this" to the rhythm of my footsteps. Instead, I said, "I am not my parents" and I took in the sun shining on the tiny bit of natural prairie in the city and watched the herons fly over the lake and I listened to music and held onto my favorite line of Sara Bareilles' Chasing the Sun, "And my heartbeat sounds like a symphony" while I put one foot in front of the other, rhythm and music leading me out of the shadows of the past.