Walking and social media and a blast from the past

About six weeks ago, I had a gallbladder attack so severe that I had to call an ambulance. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to call an ambulance for yourself but it’s a really hard thing to do. It always seems to be required at 3:30 am when the dark and the silence closes in to make the decision even starker.

Now, I figured out pretty quickly that it must be a gallbladder attack because three years ago, I thought I was having a heart attack that turned out to be a gallbladder attack. This time though, I just put two and two together. Besides, I’d made the horrible mistake of eating an entire bag of Salsa Fresca rice chips that night and I don’t even really know what Salsa Fresca means but to my gallbladder it meant, “Are you #@!! kidding me?”

About a week afterwards, the episode still vivid, and the tenderness of my right side subsiding, I decided to make a few changes. They recommended surgery but I’m kind of a surgery-over-my-dead-body kind of gal. Especially when lifestyle and food choices are the problem. Why convict my innocent, abused gall bladder? How about taking some personal responsibility?

I Googled extensively. I punched in the words gallbladder and liver and all sorts of “natural” remedies popped up.  I settled on assembling this beet, carrot, apple juice, apple cider vinegar concoction which required boiling the carrots and the beets first and then blendering them so as to drink it through a straw (so as not to stain my teeth). I chose to forego the natural remedy that required the ingestion of Epsom Salts but claimed to rid the body of gall stones, in contrast to medical papers that refute such a thing is naturally possible.

I started taking a Milk Thistle supplement for my liver. I stopped drinking alcohol, except if the social occasion and my mood dictated that I felt like one drink. Everything in moderation. Even moderation. I stopped drinking coffee, at least on a daily basis, as a way of not starting the morning with a spoon full of sugar because black coffee is not something I desire to ever acclimatize to. Now I just put on the kettle and squeeze an organic lemon of its juice and drink that first thing. Good for the liver.

I’ve started eating much better, following the philosophy of that guy Michael Pollan and the example of my friend Gwen. “Eat. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

And, I started walking. I bought a pair of Skechers which helps me to feel like I’m walking in slippers. I put on a pedometer (because I’m old school and don’t want to send the money on a Fitbit) and marked off the days that I walked. In August, I walked between 2 and 4 miles, sometimes 5 miles max. on all but four of the 31 days, not including the tiny steps around the apartment, around the block walking.

I also knew I would need some accountability and inexplicably the first person who popped into my head was Gary. It’s kind of weird that I should choose him since I haven’t seen him in 18 years when we met on a trip through the Yucatan and into Chiapas.  We hadn’t even kept in touch in the last decade although I did see him for one day sometime around 2005 when he came to Squamish for an Outward Bound course.

gary

Gary, 18 years ago in Chiapas

He seemed like the perfect accountability buddy to me: super fit and on the other side of the country. He couldn’t really get in my face should I get lazy. I’m sure it seemed alarmingly weird that I should contact him for such a thing but to his credit, without missing a beat, he was ready to play along.

It took just one sentence from him complaining about someone he knew to really drive home my lack of commitment to exercise.  He said, and I quote, “I have to get up and go to work every day and drive, sometimes 90 minutes back fighting traffic and she can’t even spend one hour of her entire day getting some exercise.” Hello! Was he talking about me? He might as well have been. And that’s how it began.

Now six weeks later, I feel like I’ve really hit my stride. Five miles takes about 1.5 hours. The  circumferences that my legs are carrying me is ever-widening the way circles push out from the center when you drop a pebble into a pond. At this point I have to remind myself that I’m not aiming for Forrest Gump wannabe, I’m just trying to get a little exercise on a mostly daily basis and it’s working. At the same time, I’m experiencing the beautiful side effects of all sorts of weird and interesting ideas flowing through my consciousness that seem to be a direct result of the body’s physical movement.

I text Gary when I’m done. “5.1 miles. 10,817 steps. Fav time to walk? Late Sunday afternoon. Just got back” He texts me back. “Wow.”  “That’s great.” “You’re getting more exercise than I am.”

And, of course, we text about more than walking. We’ve learned a lot more about each others current lives in the process. In the meantime, I’ve lost 9 pounds and my gallbladder has been happily silent.

Aquafit Misfit or Renegade?

fish-bicycle

I’ve started going to aqua-fit again and last week when I showed up at the pool, the instructor was an Asian man who looked like he could be a math teacher who had just popped over on his lunch break from the high school.  I thought to myself, What’s his problem? Is he one of those super frugal teachers who’d found a  really unique way to moonlight?

He was wearing dark blue walking shorts and he was shirtless on top. His skin seemed a fluorescent white in the reflection off the cool blue pool. He was very wiry, probably a vegan. His hair was a fine, longish fly-away salt and pepper gray, a little bit like Doc Brown, the professor who made the time capsule in that movie, Back to the Future. The large frames on his glasses looked as if he’d had them since 1973.  I guesstimated that he might be around 50 to 55 years of age.  Jesus. Put on a lab coat, I thought.

fish-bicycle

I spent the entire hour and 15 minutes with a bemused look on my face staring at him, splashing around in the pool trying not to bump into any of the others who were moving slower than patients recovering from hip replacement surgery. Being good at multi-tasking, I began to make up stories about what could have brought this guy to this place, on the side of a pool, in front of a bunch of aging women. What could possibly be the attraction for him to resort to this as a way to make a few bucks?

Had he made the choice out of economic desperation?  Lost at Bingo last night? Just needs the money? Had he surveyed his options and finally cried “Uncle”.  Hand out 24 hour newspapers at Skytrain stations or lead aqua-fit?  Babysit or lead aqua-fit?  Walmart greeter or aqua-fit? And, who am I to judge? Maybe aqua-fit is his true passion?  Maybe he goes home and practices aqua-fit moves in the mirror the way some people practice ballroom dancing. Maybe he spends hours on iTunes hoping to find music that doesn’t exist, the kind that might appeal to women between the ages of 45 and 102. Sometimes, (perhaps you’ve experienced this as well, or maybe it really is just me), I start to have the weirdest thoughts about people when they present themselves in ways that, superficially at least, make no sense to me.

fish-bicycle

I started to have a really strange thought, just came to me out of the blue,  that this guy had been born as one of those babies – sexually ambiguous – and that unfortunate DNA mishap had prevented him from reaching his full potential and that’s why, instead of the type of job that he looks like he’d be truly suited for, he’d just given up and decided to teach aqua-fit. Where did that weirdest of weird thoughts come from? Should I be worried? Should you? I have no idea except that I had felt a bit shell-shocked, (almost suffered a lesser form of PTSD), after seeing versions of the female human body courtesy of obese, aged, white exhibitionists in the change-room beforehand; a vision I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.  Put on your damn clothes and keep them on until I’m safely out of the room.

Or maybe, I surmised, he’s a genius, a mathematical idiot-savant, and he’s had a nervous breakdown in relation to not being able to crack some new algorithm so he purposely stayed away from any job that would intellectually distract him from his true focus.

I thought to myself, maybe I should teach aqua-fit.  Not because I’m an Idiot-Savant or have sexually ambiguous genitals – far from it –  but because it makes almost as much sense to put a fat lady in a bathing suit on the pool deck for inspiration as it does to have him up there.fish-bicycle

Have you ever been in that situation? Not squeezed into a bathing suit, but the kind of situation that requires you to take a job that is so far removed from who you are that people can’t believe you actually work there? It’s as if the HR consultant was fired the day you were hired and that’s the only reason you’re there at all. It’s like the ridiculous suggestions that  a stranger offered me when, just once, I made the mistake of  telling her that I was looking for work. “My brother-in-law is an accountant,” she said. “He needs an assistant.” Money? Numbers? Keeping track of those? Me? He might as well hire Pamela Wallin or Mike Duffy. “No, I don’t think so,” I said, wanting to drive a spike through my head.

I don’t know what it is about aqua-fit. It just lends itself to opening the flood gates on the usual mental boundaries  (water has always fueled my creativity) and suddenly, just like all around me in the pool, I never know what version of creepy weird I might find myself up against.