Happy Monday and Happy Birthday. To. Me! Today I am 50-plus-three. And, here goes my annual "Journey with Grace" post on turning a year older....About 10 years ago, my quintessential Southern lady friend, Patsy, who always wore her long, blond hair tightly and perfectly coiffed and lacquered upon her pretty head, ssshhhed me when I dared to utter my age in public. "Leisa!" she chided: "Don't start telling people your age!"
I finally got it this last year that if I worked in Corporate America or some other more traditional institution of employment rather than self-employment (since 1991) and the Office of Special Needs Motherhood, I might be a little more reticent to proclaim my chronology aloud.
But, sorry, Patsy, here's why I do. I believe age is good. I am not ashamed of my age. I've earned what's come with it. And yeah, some fringe benefits aren't so fringe-y. More on that later. I refuse to buy into the belief that we screech downhill upon hitting 40. I'm pretty aghast to hear this sentiment from too many around me born in my decade and the one before it and the one after it. We are still young, people! Like the rest of life, I believe much of age is about choice. Choice of attitude--how we view age and how we treat our bodies. Like, you know, that little scripture passage in "The Good Book" about treating our bodies as temples? Well, yeah. It's all we've got. These conglomerations of cells that propel us around. Science supports this and also that it's never too late to start taking better care of one's health.
Before I come across like I'm preaching the message of "Holier Than Thou," I've had my years lulling in the pits of physical health. I got sick despite my years of regular exercise. (I finally got my lazy butt active during my last semester of college when the stressors of commuting to "the big city" of Knoxville from my small college town while simultaneously balancing a full course load and a full time job. Stress relief! Yes!) But, my diet did not follow suit and my health progressively worsened throughout my 20s when my diet consisted of sugar-sugar, carbs and fried "fern bar" foods. By the time I turned 27, my body declared "No More!" and for the next five years, I collected diagnoses that included chronic intestinal yeast, TMJ, multi-heavy metal poisonings and Epstein-Barr--which was quickly morphing into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Luckily, I lived in Atlanta then and had progressive wholistic physicians who quickly set me on the path to recovery through diet, nutritional supplementation, intravenous chelation, deep tissue massage and amino acid therapies. (Read, I was cured. And, taught a HUGE and costly lesson about health and my body.)
Though I've slipped from time to time, sometimes fixating on my over-love for sugar, I never left the whole foods lifestyle. My supplements are not covered by insurance but the only prescription drug I've taken for years are natural, compounded bio-identical hormones, which, overall, have helped me sail fairly smoothly through a very, very (sigh) long perimenopause. (Whether I've reached the denouement, is still up in the air.)
In my late 20's I also began practicing yoga. Back, you know, before it was cool. Folks, yoga, tai chi or, the most gentle and easiest, qi gong, are the three ways to stay flexible when aging. Don't move and muscles and joints will lock up. Remember, I'm not pulpiteering here. I neglected my diet and exercise when finishing my first book and it took me a very long time to regain my flexibility and loose the extra pounds padded on via daily comfort food indulgence. As for exercise in addition to morning yoga (about 10 minutes, followed by a short meditation--which also has health benefits,) I walk. This week, for Grace's health--as she's experienced a recent, unexplained weight gain--we are starting with a trainer, which I plan to document here. I want not only good health for myself but good health for her.
Read the under message here: I am the mother to a daughter who has moderately severe autism. I am
53, she is 19. Developmentally, she is anywhere from four to six. And I am, did I say it before? I'm 53. Last week was extremely challenging because not only is she a young adult with the mind of a child, she is aging out of services. I want to come back here and write and write and write about the challenges of this third summer of her aging out. But, damn, I'm busy driving her to kingdom-come right now. Hence, I could not manage a post last Friday. (I'll catch up here. Eventually.)
Parents of special needs children--you, my sisters and brothers on this arduous journey: PLEASE take care of yourselves! You're not going to be there for your child if you eat and live like there's no tomorrow. I am aghast at the epidemic of indulgence-induced obesity in our land of gross-plenty. WE are breaking our healthcare system. We are to blame. And, yes, again, I've had periods of over-eating: in 1997-2000 to soothe my grief over my child's diagnosis. In 2007 to 2011 when I said yes to a relationship that was destructive. Again, I used food to stuff down the feelings with which I refused to deal. And, at late 40s and early 50s, I couldn't bounce back from the ill-health effects of weight gain as easily as I it did when I was in my late 30s and early 40s. And, I knew that the path of pills and bowing to the system of medical dieties would not cure me. Only making wiser choices and getting back to the clean virtues--eating and living a whole foods lifestyle would and could work for me. And it is working. I gained 15 to 20 pounds in said relationship. I've got about five to go now. Weight Watchers works well for me because it teaches portion control and just what the cost of each food I put in my body. Right now, I'm using me as my locus of control. Relying on the internal and not the external....
I wanna live. And I wanna live well. I wanna live for me. And, I wanna to live for my daughter. And, I wanna live--in the ways that are unique to me, using my gifts--in service to my world. And I know that to do so, it's a web of commitment. A dedication that I make each day. And the more I do it, the more natural and innate it continues to become. I choose to age well to the best of my ability. And I choose to believe that age is not a curse but both process and progress.
Hello, 53. Thank you for choosing me today. Happy birthday. To. Me.