Just Shelley

At the edge of change

My Dad did give me one last gift, and it’s one that would make him happy, too. This week I received half of his savings minus the expenses we’ve had. This combined with the increased writing I’m doing–finally–and the contracting work and the honorarium for the Kitchen, I’m finding that for the first time in two years I’m not worried about being able to pay the bills next month.

Seems trivial when the world is going to hell around us, but this is a significant event for me; unless you’ve been in this state, especially when you’re older, you don’t know exhausting it can be to be worried about money, constantly. If you have been in this state, you’re probably nodding your head right now– not emphatically, but sadly, ruefully.

More than the exhaustion from worry, you lose your self-respect, and begin to question your worth as a human being. In the last post we talked about wanting respect more than fame, but ultimately in the end we discovered that seeking respect from without can be just as limiting and constraining as seeking glory. Respect has to come from within, and self-respect is something I’ve had in short supply the last several months.

My birthday is in a few weeks, and I’ll be 50, and stretched beyond that, the future had become muddy and unclear. My Dad died, and he left me a gift – enough time to breath and rediscover hope. Is that a callous thing to say? That my Dad died, and it doing so, left me a gift? He wouldn’t think so. He loved me, beyond doubt and hopes and dreams, to the very core of him. He didn’t understand me most of the time, and he didn’t agree, and sometimes he would be angry with me– but he always loved me.

So now I have time to breath and I’m not going to waste his gift. I’ve been given a second chance and it’s up to me to make it grow into something good. To redraw the future.

One major change I’m making is in my lifestyle. Since my fall last Spring and badly hurting my ankle, I’ve not walked as much as I should, and it shows. More than that, my diet has been, frankly, atrocious–full of all those comfort foods that may give comfort today, but weigh you down tomorrow. Have you ever noticed that most comfort food is high in starches and fats and calories? Well, my favorites are, and they not only put the pounds on, I’m finding this type of food leaves me not feeling good.

I’ve been running my own tests the last three months, varying my diet among foods and I’ve found an important fact about me and food: I feel better when I eat a whole lot less simple carbohydrates These are the pastas and the potatoes and the candy and the cakes and the breads – oh the breads! I love the breads, but I also have an enormous sweet tooth, and I’ve written about my love affair with chocolate in the past.

However, in the last three months, whenever I’ve eaten pasta or the cheese bread from the deli or chocolate or anything of that nature, I don’t feel as good. In fact, when I’ve eaten lean meats and vegetables, usually cauliflower and brocolli and tomatoes or zuchini, I feel really good; not only after the meal, but for the next day or two. The change in energy is rather amazing.

A bit of research around brought me to the South Beach Diet, and reading about it, I found that my own experiments with my body, and having it tell me what it does and doesn’t like (not what I, the id, like and don’t like), coincides quite closely with the South Beach Diet. Unlike Atkins, with the reliance on fat-laden foods, and absolute abhorence against any carbohydrates, South Beach stresses lean meats (or meat substitutes) and plenty of legumes and green, leafy types of vegetables. In addition, after the first shock period when you eat no simple carbohydrates at all, you can begin to add in breads and chocolate and fruit–fruit’s the kicker for me, I love fruit–but in moderation.

Moderation isn’t a option for me, it’s a necessity. When I quit smoking years ago, my doctor, a wonderful person and the best doctor I’ve had, said that I was one of the lucky, unlucky ones in that I had an amazingly healthy metabolism. The benefits are that I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol levels, high resistance to illness, and various other things that make me generally a very healthy a person – well, when not brought down by depression, as I have been this last year. An unfortunate consequence of such a metabolism is that I can look at food and gain weight. I’ve had to avoid food magazines at all cost. A cookbook will send me into a bloated coma.

Joking aside, I can live on about 1000 calories a day when sedentary, which for someone close to six feet tall, is rather amazing. Luckily, I like fairly strenuous activities, such as working out in the gym or hiking. But this year, in part because of surgery last year and injury, but mostly because of depression, I’ve sat at home more often than not. Too much time on the Internet, and in books, and movies, trying to find some semblance of a life in other’s stories, rather than enforce the discipline to pick myself up off my butt and find my own damn life.

Finding life, such as finding work. It’s not that I haven’t looked for work. I’ve applied for customer service jobs at a couple of the local parks, and various other jobs that aren’t even remotely connected with computers, writing, or photography. Most only need a high school degree, if that. I’ve even looked at truck driving. I’ve had a couple of nibbles, but they look at my resume, and say something to the effect that there must be plenty of opportunity for me in my field, and I really am overqualified for their jobs.

I talked with a recruiter recently who was looking for J2EE people, and I said that I haven’t worked in this for so long that my skills have atrophied (not to mention, which I didn’t mention to the recuiter that I now find that J2EE, for the most part, has been a huge ripoff perpetuated on an unsuspecting world). I asked him what else he had and one of the jobs he mentioned was for a PHP/MySQL developer for a local university system. I jumped on it, but he said they weren’t paying much. I said, that’s okay. He said they wanted a junior person, someone they could ‘train to the job’. I said I was quite adaptable, but he replied, one look at my resume and the school would not be interested–I was too qualified.

Now, thanks to good people who I have met online, I have work and that’s encouraged me to try writing again, and I’m working on my first article in such a long time. Thanks to my Mom for the camera, and my Dad for his last gift, I even have the opportunity to pursue photography more seriously. I have a second chance.

But, I’m looking down at my sad ‘almost 50′ body and going, oh my God, who snuck in and left the Pillsbury Dough Girl. We are too weight concious in this culture, and trying to be skinny or to look like the ladies in the magazines or movies is unhealthy. But so is allowing your weight to get such a point, or should I say, your general condition get to such a point, that you find yourself restricted from activities you love; much less losing respect for yourself for letting yourself go to seed. We don’t have to be thin, but we do need to be fit. Right now, if I tried even a five mile moderate hike, I chance harm to my knees and ankles by lack of good conditioning. And that’s not acceptable.

Hence the change in lifestyle, and diet. And a goal: being able to do a level 5 fifteen mile hike I’ve been wanting to take, before the next Spring’s bugs pop out to do havoc. I also want to canoe down the ‘Sip.

And if my proposal gets accepted for O’Reilly’s Etech, I want to go and kick some male techy butt. Now, that would be wonderful exercise, and a very worthy goal.

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