When I was around five years old, I decided I should prepare myself in case I broke a bone. For some reason, I assumed the only body part to worry about was my leg. I couldn’t begin to guess how much time I spent hobbling around turning my normal, everyday routine into a game. Putting on clothes, getting in and out of bed, walking up and down stairs – even going as far as trying to keep one leg dry while taking a shower. Clearly, I was an odd child. But, I was determined to be ready for this potential (and in my mind, inevitable) situation. Can you guess what happened?
Nope, I never broke my leg. I broke my arm.
The twirling bars were the social hot spots for six-year-old girls in my elementary days. We would crowd around during recess and talk incessantly, as most girls do, watching in awe at the few shining stars who could twirl forward and backward for days without a hint of effort. I wanted to be one of those girls. I practiced whenever my courage would allow, pumping myself up every time I would let go and free-fall backwards. It took almost an entire school year to master this trick and only one second to lose it. I remember feeling sick after falling hard onto my arm and attempting to convince the nurse that something was wrong. After what seemed like hours of one-armed aerobics (does it hurt if I lift your arm like this? what about now? what if I bend it completely behind your back and twist it backwards, does it hurt then? uh yeah), she finally decided I should see a doctor. When the x-ray showed a crack in my left arm and the doctor explained it was broken, I couldn’t stop thinking but I didn’t practice this one!
So, there I was dealing with a brand new situation that I had never prepared for. I had become a pro maneuvering through my day with one leg but with one arm, well, I had no option but to learn as I went along.
I don’t like that method very much. I started writing this post because I have a little issue with hypochondria, anxiety and all the crazy stuff that comes along with being a worrier. And let’s be honest, I’m also a bit of a control-freak. My imagination can go haywire sometimes and turn one bug into an infestation, one noise into a murderer hiding in my shower or one minor ache into elbow cancer. It’s a ridiculous and exhausting way to live. During my dramatic moments, I often think of this story from my childhood. It’s a reminder that no matter what you do, you will never be prepared for every single potential life situation or problem. It’s impossible.
I’m not sure why I obsess over potential dangers and what-if scenarios. Maybe my subconscious is just trying to be protective, maybe I’m afraid to die or maybe I’m afraid to live. The point is, I cannot control the outcome of my life. I did not choose the day I was born and I will not choose the day I die. I guess the best I can do is breathe and be fully alive every second of this short life. Live passionately, live joyfully and, of course, learn as I go along.
My pants are getting snug. Ugh.
Nobody wants to admit this, least of all me, but I can’t ignore the extra effort needed to close the button on my jeans. Nor can I overlook how difficult it is to breathe once they are glued onto my body. So, you know what that means! Oh yes, the beloved diet. The mid-year new year’s resolution to exercise an hour everyday and eat nothing but carrots. I feel like gagging already. However, I know I will feel much more comfortable with a little less marshmallow belly.
I have been told it’s best to start with some goals, a game plan with a time limit. This doesn’t make much sense to me since dieting really should be a change in lifestyle, not a one-time sprint to some unrealistic finish line…then celebrate by eating a cheeseburger. I’m not sure what this looks like for me but here’s a way of eating that usually makes me feel energized and healthy: oatmeal or cereal with fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch, grilled chicken with rice and veggies for dinner. It sounds plain but there’s a remarkable amount of variety especially when you change the cereal, veggies, salad toppings and so forth. I also need to drink more water instead of coffee and it wouldn’t hurt to dust off the ole pilates mat either. This is thrilling to read, I know. But you, the invisible stranger, are my accountability and I need to set some sort of goals.
So, I will write about this journey to de-wobble my tummy. I don’t have a time limit and I most certainly plan on cheating occassionally but at least I’m doing something. I raise my glass to you in honor of this moment, a cup full of a tall vanilla latte. Hmmm…maybe I should work on that. But, I passed on the free berry coffee cake and I figure downgrading from a caramel macchiato is saving me some calories. Hey, it’s only day one – I’ll be preparing for a marathon in no time…well…um…maybe…
Common sense is arguing that I should tell you about my yellow piano.
However, I am distracted.
I’m sitting in one of the five million Starbucks peppering the streets of Los Angeles attempting to hold my nose without actually holding my nose. It’s impossible. For anyone who has lived in LA or visited even, I’m sure you’ve seen/experienced the alarming amount of homeless people walking the streets, yelling from rooftops, begging for spare change or drinking venti green tea lattes. Do they get these specialized coffee drinks out of the garbage? No, they come into our little corporate coffee shop and buy it just like everyone else and sit down to enjoy a cool drink and air conditioning. Today isn’t any different. I am in a busy Starbucks that I frequent on my days off to spend a god-forsaken amount of time with my laptop searching for who-knows-what on youtube and craigslist. There are two outlets, both very near each other, and only three tables to choose from so you’re stuck with the people using the remaining tables. In my rush to secure a place by an outlet, I chose the middle table right next to a gentleman who at first glance appeared, dare I say, “normal” so I quickly snatched the spot.
I was wrong.
I suppose “normal” and “abnormal” are not the most loving categories to use. Maybe I use this distinction based on my experiences with homeless people. The ones I have been exposed to are usually crazy, literally, and behaving in some bizarre way. It’s sad to admit but when you see this on a regular basis, it doesn’t take long to lose the sympathy you may have once had. There are only so many times you can get screamed at or harassed for money or witness someone urinating in public in broad daylight before you no longer have patience for these, sorry to say, sub-humans. Problem is they aren’t partial, less-than beings…they are fully and completely a whole person just like you and me. And yet, I still lack sympathy.
This gentleman next to me has been fairly quiet for three hours now. He’s been slowly sipping iced tea, moving only once to take a battered copy of R. Eugene Nichols “The Science of Mental Cybernetics” out of his Food-4-Less shopping bag. Maybe he picked this book out of the garbage or maybe it’s one of his few prized possessions from a past life…from when, perhaps, he was once “normal”.
But what do I do? What do I do with the people who come up to me everyday asking for money when I barely make enough to take care of myself? What do I do when my precious Starbucks time is tainted with the unpleasant stench of an unclean homeless man in dire need of a bath? Well, I hold my nose without actually holding my nose. I stay seated at the table next to him and treat him as I would any other person who is tolerable enough to sit next to and ignore. It may be small, insignificant even, and maybe a little self-punishing to just grin and bear a smelly person. But by not bringing attention to the fact that they are unable (or simply don’t want) to be clean like the rest of us, I feel in some tiny way I’m treating them like the human they are. At the very least, it’s a start. A minor dose of compassion has the potential to lead to much more…
And as for my beloved yellow piano, I’ll tell you on another day. Free of distractions