Steve and I both had Monday off, and we took a spur of the moment “day date.” We watched the boys get on the school bus, grabbed a soy latte and headed up to Ann Arbor. Sometimes we forget how important it is to get away now and then and spend a day together. On our drive we reflected a bit on the craziness of the past year and shared in the excitement of Steve starting a new job this week . (Go Steve!) It was as if we said one last goodbye to everything that has gone on over the past year….and prepared ourselves to (finally) settle in to a new normal.
Since our outing, I have been thinking about all of the lessons we have learned…and how different our lives will be moving forward. Here are a few of my thoughts:
Lesson 1 – We would be shocked if we knew what other people are going through.
For about 4 months last year, I wanted a tattoo on my forehead that said “My husband just had a quadruple bypass and a heart attack in February. We are all exhausted. Please give us a break.” I have no doubt that at times I acted a little crazy. I will be forever grateful for the friends and family that did not judge, but instead just let it go and offered me comfort and support. Guess what? When you start listening and being attentive to what’s going on in the lives of those around you…ALL of us could use a tattoo from time to time. “My mom has the late stages of Alzheimer’s and my dad is also sick. I am doing the best I can.” “My wife is dying of cancer and we have two young kids at home.” “My grandson in suffering from a rare incurable disease. He is always on my mind.” “I lost my job last week and I have a family to provide for.” “I am a full-time college student and working nights to keep my lights on and gas in my car.” These days when I have a not-so-friendly interaction at work, or in a store, or on the road, I try hard to take a deep breath and not take it personally. I wonder what the person wished I knew about them. It’s none of my business. They shouldn’t need a tattoo. Life is hard. We need to be kind to everybody. All the time.
Lesson 2 – We need to be not-so-hard on ourselves.
Did you catch Matthew McConaughey’s speech when he won the Oscar last Sunday? That’s me. I am incredibly competitive…but only with myself. I set goals and the minute I attain them I set new ones. On our car ride this week I was venting to Steve about how frustrated I was with my fitness goals this year. I injured my leg in September and it is taking it’s sweet time to heal. It has slowed down my running, and limited some of the things I am used to doing with ease. Steve’s advice (after listening to me whine for way too long): “You know, I think you need to be patient. Your body is responding well to the workouts you are able to do. I think you need to just embrace the 11 minute mile for now, and focus on what you can do.” First words out of my mouth after that? “I can actually still do a couple 9:30 or 9:45 minute miles if I want to, it just hurts.” Stop. The. Madness. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Yes, it’s important to have something to shoot for…but perfectionism can be crippling. I have watched my sweet Henry start a project on his rainbow loom, and then viscously tear it apart when he makes one wrong step. He quit cross country because he won his first meet, and was fearful he wouldn’t come in first place at the next one. I don’t want that for him. I don’t want it for myself either. I want my kids to know that hard work and doing your very best is important. Perfection does not matter. It just doesn’t.
Lesson 3 – Healthy habits are contagious.
Many of you know that Steve and I made major dietary changes based on some research on heart health, inflammation and cholesterol. Since May, we have virtually eliminated meat, dairy and eggs. We have decided it’s no longer an experiment, it’s a lifestyle. I prefer the term “plant based diet” over “vegan” because it make me feel less guilty when I wear leather shoes or enjoy some honey in my tea. These changes have improved our overall health in ways we never would have imagined. Aside from contributing to lower cholesterol for Steve and lower blood pressure for me, we made other observations. My skin and hair are crazy healthy. We feel “tight” the day after a particularly challenging workout, but we no longer get deep muscle soreness. I no longer have extreme salt and sugar cravings. We eat foods on a weekly basis now that I had never purchased a year ago. Kale, sweet potatoes, cashews and almond milk are staples. Our kids are curious and have become more open to trying new things. We generally feel lighter, healthier and happier.
The lesson here is not that everyone should give up burgers and ice cream. That is not feasible, nor is it necessary. We are only two people…and I do not believe this is a “cure all” for everyone. We are all made so differently, and what works for one will not necessarily work for another. I do, however, believe that all of us should become more aware of what we are putting in our (and our children’s) bodies 3, 4, 5 times a day. We really are what we eat. Food is not grown, processed and prepared the way it used to be even 10 years ago. Grocery store shelves in the US are filled with ingredients that are banned in many other countries. We are a culture of convenience and it is making us sick.
Since Steve and I started this little “journey,” I get texts, private Facebook messages and emails weekly. All are interested in the resources we have found and the tactics we are using to “healthy up” our kitchen. This makes me so happy! We need to help each other figure this all out. In the coming months I’m hoping to shift the focus of my blog to fit this mission. Creating a space for me to share what we are learning and suggest family-friendly recipes that offer up a healthy serving of veggies. All the while, remembering that we all need to “embrace the 11 minute mile,” be understanding of each other’s struggles…and to never expect perfection. Oh…and for the record, I can run pain-free at 5.5 mph…which technically equates to a 10:54 mile, but who’s counting??