Some thoughts on being young (from an old fart).

Dear friends,

My cousin Kate wrote a blog post recently wherein she discussed one of the essential markers of adulthood, namely the need to self-manage.

Don’t let my dry description of her essay dissuade you from reading. Kate is beautiful, funny, and smart (a powerful combination!) and her reflection is entertaining and worth your time.

But it got me thinking — as you’ll see if you also read my comment following her post — that she might be worrying for nothing. Kate writes:

And while bills are the true mark of growing up, realizing that you have to self-govern from here on out is slightly intimidating. It’s not by any means a bad thing, but it’s not exactly something I’ve had to do before. I’m not entirely sure what it entails . . . Doing my dishes consistently and not waiting till every pair of underwear I own is in the dirty clothes to do laundry seems like the way to move in the right direction.

I’ve recently decided that squandering your 20s isn’t such a bad thing. Ask Mr. Mom, who knows me better than anyone. I’ve been a very serious person for a very long time. Kicking up my heels, even in my youth, never seemed advisable. I’ve never pulled an all-nighter (for any reason, noble or otherwise), I’ve never gotten sloppy drunk (tipsy is my limit), and I’ve never thrown caution to the wind about anything more monumental than costume jewelry. Joan is so light-hearted and spontaneous, said no one ever.

In fact, in my 20s, I had a bad rap as a wet blanket. I wasn’t trying to be, but I was focused on my goals, namely to earn my degree, get a good job, and make something of myself. I did earn my degree (two, actually) and I landed a series of good jobs, including the one I’m in now. Whether or not I made “something” of myself is a judgement for others. Along the way, I paid a lot of bills, washed a lot of dishes and underwear, acted responsibly in every way I knew how, and in some ways mastered the art of self-governance. Now, at age 49, I’m just not sure self-governance is all it’s cracked up to be. At least not in your 20s, for Pete’s sake.

So that’s why I advised my cousin Kate (and, frankly, would give my daughter Kate the same advice if asked) to live it up.

Be young! Be single! Be carefree! (I started to make a parenthetical joke here warning CupKate not to be flunk-out-of-college carefree, but the truth is she’s so much like her mother in the self-management department that the joke fell flat.)

I know what you’re thinking. I sound ripe for a midlife crisis. I really don’t think that is what’s going on here. I already upended my life once — last year — and when given the chance I didn’t set my compass to throw-it-all-away-for-a-life-fling. Instead, I went for balance and equanimity.

However, anyone out there reading this can take it from a very serious, very responsible, very self-managed woman that the world probably needs a whole lot more fun and a whole lot less temperance. Which is why I’m going to eat two chili dogs for dinner, drop my clothes on my closet floor when I change from office attire to yoga pants, and bliss out for the whole evening in front of the television. Consider it my mini-revolution (hey . . . baby steps).

Viva unsanctioned frivolity!

With gratitude {for a cousin who reminded me it’s possible to simultaneously stay young and get old},

Joan, who once worked for a very conservative employer where a boss thought the workers were celebrating way too much and therefore distributed a memorandum banning “unsanctioned frivolity,” a phrase she now aspires to have included in her obituary, preceded by the words “frequently encouraged”

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Walk this way.

Dear friends,

Source: Going Places 2 on Etsy

So I probably haven’t mentioned that I haven’t been running.

It’s true-confession time here folks: I haven’t gone for a run since the week of this post (wherein I embarked on a cleanse).

I can’t say exactly why I’ve puttered to a stop. I could blame it on the hills, but then I’ve already done that. What I want to say is that I lost motivation, but that’s kind of a cop-out. I mean, who really ever has motivation to do the hard things in life? I never do. But many times, I find the discipline. Or I find the incentive. And one or the other keeps me going.

But in the case of my running, I just flat out fell off the wagon. Kaput. And whatever mental trick (or discipline) had kept me going for two years — well, it ran plumb out, as we Okies like to say.

I’ve been beating myself up for it for awhile. But I bet you know as well as I do that’s a total waste of time. Self-flagellation usually doesn’t motivate us and hardly ever gets us back on track.

So you know what I have been doing instead?

Walking. Briskly. For 30 a minutes a day around my neighborhood.

Instead of feeling bad about the thing I’m not doing, I’m trying to feel good about the thing I am doing. It’s not the same level of exercise I had been used to, but it’s a far sight better than the month I spent on the sofa doing nothing but wallowing in my laziness.

I’m going to take it as a sign I’m learning moderation. I’ve already told you it’s feast or famine around my house. I’m either running 20-30 miles a week, or I’m spending every spare moment on the sofa.

Walking — for me, it’s a real step forward. It’s a sign I don’t have to conquer the world, and I don’t have to give into every sedentary inclination that tempts me.

All I really have to do is overcome the little voice in my head that tells me life is all or nothing.

With gratitude {for lesson #1 this week on moderation, with news about others yet to come},

Joan, who felt a little antsy when a jogger passed her by last evening but let the negative feeling flutter away with the breeze and counted it as “personal growth”

The cleanse.

Dear friends,

I mentioned in this post last week that I was going to use my vacation to get myself back on track, nutritionally speaking.

I showed you the photographic evidence that my pantry is stocked with junk.  And, dismayed by its effect on my figure, I wrote an ode to the ripening pear I have become. So starting a week ago yesterday, I vowed to turn over a new leaf — and I embarked on a “spring cleaning” of my diet.

Here’s what I’ve consumed for the last eight days:

  • fresh vegetables of many kinds
  • fresh fruit
  • brown rice and oatmeal
  • beans
  • and no more than 4 ounces of lean protein (including egg whites) a day

By the way, I’m not anti-meat. But by limiting myself to 4 ounces a day, I was enforcing a wider zone on my plate for vegetables and whole grains. It’s so tempting and so easy to fill up on meat (even lean meat) and I didn’t want to go the Atkins route.

I reduced my dairy intake dramatically by cutting out cheese and butter last week (I’ve been eating way too much for way too long).  I did put a teaspoon of cream in my morning cup of coffee and a tablespoon or two of milk in my oatmeal, but I’ve been a dairy hog for a long time so this has been a significant change.

Of course the biggest change has been 8 straight days of eating nothing out of a package, which — without intentionally trying — means I also eliminated all processed sugar. Plus, I banned the table salt because I wanted to remind myself what fresh food actually tastes like.

And what do I think?

Holy schmoley!

First off, I had a wicked headache for almost five straight days. I’m talking headaches that verged on migraines (without the vision disturbances) and that would not be tempered by over-the-counter pain killers. I went to bed with a headache, I woke up with a headache, I painted and cleaned with a headache. Finally, about mid-day on Thursday, it broke. I’m no physiologist, but I’m pretty sure my system was reacting violently to the  sudden and total elimination of processed sugar (and perhaps refined grains) from my diet.

Second, I lost 5 1/2 pounds, which is not the chief reason I did it, but boy — what a benefit!

Third, I immediately extinguished all heartburn, which had become a new and growing problem.

Finally, I just flat out feel better. I can’t explain it except to say my mind is clear (once I got past the crushing headache) and my digestive system has calmed and receded to the background (where it belongs) rather than being an omnipresent, roiling reminder of my excess.

I feel so good, I’m going to keep it up — though I’m not sure what that means. I’m sticking to the daily 4-ounce limit on protein because it encourages other good eating habits. And I’m going to stick to my low-dairy guns for at least a while longer. I need to remind myself that the world doesn’t revolve around cheese — or at least convince myself its proper place is as a condiment, not a food group. And I want to stay away from sugar and packaged foods as long as humanly possible. In my life, “humanly possible” has never been longer than about six months. So we’ll see.

The big unknown for me is bread and pasta. I know there are all sorts of healthier, whole-grain varieties out there. Heck, I have a grain mill and several buckets of whole grains in my basement and I can bake a loaf of whole wheat bread like nobody’s business. But bread and pasta are a slippery slope in my life. I have trouble controlling portions with these two foods, and I haven’t learned to consume them without drenching them in all sorts of unhealthy fats. So, I’m taking it slow in this area to see if I can moderate my gluttonous tendencies.

I mentioned to a friend that I was doing this and she said “Ouch. Sounds painful. I have absolutely no self-control. Good luck.”

If you’ve known me very long, you know I have self-control as secure as a bank vault. As long as it’s for a specified period of time. I have often said I have a self-control switch and I’m either on or off. I have struggled with moderation my entire life and I’d love to break my feast-or-famine mentality. (Ask my friends — I have yet to ease into anything in life.)

I started with a “cleanse,” which is clearly a famine strategy. Let’s see if I can turn my cleanse into cleaner living all around rather than a one-off laundering.

What say ye, dear readers? Any words of advice for this recovering foodaholic?

With gratitude {for so many wonderful culinary choices in life and a growing ability to select healthier ones},

Joan, who watched the “sugar is toxic” story on 60 Minutes Sunday night as a member of the Amen corner because if the five-day headache isn’t proof she doesn’t know what is