This blog is a brand new blog and I am starting at the beginning. I started this blog as a sister blog to my other blog, The Stars Are Not Made of Fire. It’s not pretty– yet. I haven’t fiddled with the widgets and uploaded all the jazzy plugins. Maybe I won’t because, I want to keep this as real as possible.
I am posting to Walk On this Earth to document my process and for my own accountability. It’s public. Anyone can read this. I hope you will join Team Annette. This is a leap for me.
I am getting older and it is time to do things a bit different, wring a little more out of this existence. This assessing the past, letting it go, facing the future, getting out of comfort zones, — it is very scary stuff. But it is impossible to change without doing things a bit different. (Isn’t there a definition of insanity somewhere in there?) While The Stars Are Not Made of Fire is about my reigniting my creative endeavors, this blog is about my journey to cut through the habits keeping me from making intentional choices, finding meaning, and enjoying this life to the fullest possible.
Let’s talk about some of those habits of mine. Maybe you have some of these too? This post is going to be a bit longer because it lays out where I am starting as of starting this blog. None of what I am writing about has to do with “morality”. It is not about how rotten I am for not exercising or not being a vegan or overspending. And I will never scold anyone or even suggestively shame anyone into exercising, eating this way or that, decluttering, unplugging, or whatever. This blog and this post is about starting where you are, making changes, and doing the work to be more present.
Expecting Exercise to Be Like It Used To Be
At one point in my life I trained to do a triathlon. I ran everyday, swam three times per week, and biked everywhere. I was FIT.
And that was thirty years ago.
In those thirty years, I had three children, my immune system attacked my thyroid and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, and I gained 70 pounds and lost it and regained 58.5 pounds. In part due to medical whackery and my autoimmune system’s hijinks, I quit exercising.
But humans are made to move. And I don’t want to stay in my current level of fitness. I want to feel better in my body. Running used to be a joy! Biking felt like flying! I may never be able to regain what running or biking felt like previously. Further, wanting to try to be fit does not mean that I should just begin a rigorous regime of physical fitness. (I kind of hate the word “should”.) It does mean that if I want to get in better shape, despite my treacherous autoimmune system, I have to try new approaches, observe the results and how these approaches make me feel, and begin to do the work. I cannot count on that my body will respond to walking or weight training or biking as it once did. I have to try and experiment. And leave my past behind.
Eating to Support My Goals
I have always eaten a relatively healthy diet– lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, etc. I was a vegetarian for most of my life and was writing a vegetarian cookbook. And then I got Hashimoto’s disease.
Fast forward to now. I track what I eat. This is the only way for me to make connections between how I feel, my weight, and what I have eaten. I don’t eat gluten or dairy. I do eat some soy because it doesn’t seem to have as much impact on my thyroid antibodies, however, I am mindful of what soy products I eat. I do eat fish and fowl.
I have tried more diets than most people: keto (yuck), AIP (yikes), paleo (too much emphasis on eating protein), Weight Watchers (didn’t lose any weight), etc. After researching weight loss and subsequent weight regain, I can say the picture is not an optimistic. Losing weight is one endeavor and keeping it off is another. Lowering how many calories you eat in a day, every day, affects your metabolism. Between the Hashimoto’s disease, past dieting, limited exercise, menopause, etc. I cannot eat as I once did. At roughly 1500-1700 calories per day, I maintain my current weight. If I lower my calories, I may be able to lose weight, but if I lower my calorie intake too much, I may sabotage my efforts to get all the weight off and then keep it off. And that is a hard reality to face.
I am currently in the process of changing how, when, and what I eat. I am working with my doctor. I have to keep track of what I eat and do things a bit different.
Shopping Is Not Therapy or Socializing
Do you have more stuff than you ever use? More books than you will ever read? More fabric than you will ever make anything out of? How many t-shirts do you own?
I love the internet. I remember when I was in high school and to get information I had to order books through my local library and it took forever. Now I just type what I want into a web browser and BAM! information is right there. Which also means I can shop more merchants than I ever dreamed possible. Browsing Amazon for all sorts of stuff is too easy. I can spend money on anything and have it shipped to me– far too easy. I can sign up for trial subscriptions and it will just charge my credit card.
Getting new stuff is kind of a thrill. I can honestly say that I love when I go to my mailbox and there is a new book there.
Most of my life I have had to be very frugal. In the past this was a skill that got me through some very trying times. At present, I make a pretty good salary and I like my current job. I am fortunate to have a job that I both like and it supports my family. However, I want to do more with the money I am making. I sat down over this last week and analyzed my budget, my income, and my expenses. I examined carefully what I spent money on and I can spend more mindfully.
Last year I read Cait Flanders’ The Year of Less. This book made an impression on me. It has taken me a year to get to the point where I want to declutter, not spend money unless it is essential, and examine my current relationship to money.
Unplugging From Screens
Over the last couple years, in part due to COVID, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time in front of one screen or another. For the last decade or better, I have chosen to spend a good chunk of time in front of my computer– writing, learning to code, researching, etc. I don’t consider any of this a bad use of screen time. In addition, because of COVID, my normally only done in person job went virtual. It was necessary to limit spread of the virus and to keep folks around me and myself healthy. I am grateful we were able to move to virtual services.
But let’s talk about social media and television.
Facebook. Sometimes, I have to unplug from Facebook because the posts can be so negative, because I get ridiculous and expect people will “like” my posts, because the ads are incessant, because the misinformation is rampant, because it doesn’t show me posts from people I like, etc. Facebook is not even close to any form of reality. And yet I spend way too much time checking social media. This is time not doing other things. And I am not sure I want to allow Mark Zuckerberg to have so much control over my mental health and my thinking.
Speaking of time spent not doing other things… I watch crazy amounts of television. This last couple years have been difficult. Sometimes I turn on the television just to have human voices in the background. Every time I turn on the television, it means I am not doing art, writing, reading, walking, cooking, riding my bicycle, etc. Most of the general medical recommendations for children say to limit television watching to 2 hours per week. There are no recommendations for adults. However, there are studies suggesting a link between the number of hours people spend watching television and rates of obesity.
Imagine watching 2 hours of television per week. That feels very unrealistic to me. I typically watch more than 2 hours of television per day currently. Not bragging. This is where I am at right now. If you watch television for hours a day and you are good with it, no worries. For me, this isn’t working. It’s easy to just lay on my bed and watch TV, but I don’t feel good afterwards. I feel kind of sluggish and I have a sense that the television watching is anesthetizing me. I want to be more present. Watching television feels contrary to my goal to be more present.
I recently read Dan Harris’ book titled “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics”. It made a great impression on me. I have a pretty non-stop brain. I crave information. Often it feels like there are 15 different trains on 15 different tracks rushing through my mind and I am a pretty good engineer keeping all the trains running smoothly. It can be exhausting.
In addition, I have a tendency towards workaholism. And we have all been through a pandemic. And life has not always been easy.
I have tried to meditate in the past. It did not go well. Lately, since reading the Dan Harris book, I have been trying again. When I do meditate, I feel refreshed. I want to strengthen this practice to help me be more present. Maybe help me with all the feels as I shift away from the habits allowing me to sleepwalk through life?
Lots of Change
At this point you may be thinking I am looking to change a lot of things. It feels like that to me and I actually started to shift my habits over a year ago by shifting my mindset.
As an aside…I will be honest, I could not get to the point of identifying habits to change until I was willing to recognize I was depressed and anxious, working too much, and headed towards an early grave.
A second aside… I don’t have magic bullets. No straight forward answers. I am a work in progress. Over this next year I am hoping to keep moving forward in what I want to accomplish. I have no guaranties, other than I probably will screw up at some point. I would like to repeat: this blog is to help me be accountable.
Further, if you are reading this and thinking of making changes to your own life–I cannot stress enough how important it is to get any help you may need. Changing health habits is not as straight forward and easy as everyone thinks. There is no just do blah and X result will happen. There are reasons for why we do things. It’s good to have people in your corner and on your team. Sometimes you need people to turn to to find solutions when you are stymied. I have been working with a therapist for over a year, a functional medicine doctor for a few years, and recently began working with a coach through Nerd Fitness. Big change is not something to do alone, you need support. Changing how you eat, changing how you spend time, etc. may not feel seismic, but it makes waves. Being present means feeling all the feels. For some folks, that is not a fraught reality. For others, it means healing and this can be complicated.
Time to begin this journey and walk on this earth.