I am currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest Artist’s Way series, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.
This week I focused on chapter ten: Reigniting a Sense of Vitality.
I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:
- Daily hand-written Morning Pages (wrote 7 out of 7 days)
- Weekly solo Artist Dates (wandered the aisles of craft stores)
- Two 20-minute solo walks per week (walking the basset… AND treadmill)
- Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 46-50)
Isn’t it a law of physics that states an object in motion stays in motion? If so, then I witnessed science in action. Last week’s post on baby steps transitioned to this week’s treadmill habit. YES… I am taking that first step toward better physical health.
Here’s the thing.
I don’t feel like a sluggard. While I spend most hours in a chair or seated on the couch, my brain is running marathons. It NEVER stops. Consequently, I “feel” as though I am exercising. But my new fitness tracking device tells me otherwise. Left to my own discretion, I take less than 5,000 steps a day (sometimes, far less than that).
It’s embarrassing to admit. But confession is necessary for healing.
In the spirit of taking baby steps, I decided my first goal should be a stretch but achievable. I know I can walk 10,000 steps a day because I’ve done that. But can I do it consistently after a three-year hiatus? Probably not. So instead, I set a goal of walking 7,000 steps a day – every day – for the next three weeks. After Labor Day I plan to increase the pace.
For the past six days, I have met this goal. But my lifestyle demands I plan to walk. It doesn’t just happen automatically. I now set my clock early so I can walk 25 minutes (about 1.5 miles) before starting the day. I also walk that same distance at the end of the day before starting dinner. Gradually I will increase that time to thirty minutes a session. This activity, plus walking the Bassett, will yield me that daily step count goal.
What does this have to do with Julia’s weekly session?
I researched the word VITALITY: Capacity for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence; exuberant physical strength or mental vigor.
I then looked up the word EXUBERANT: lavishly abundant.
This is what I want for this 3rd Act of Life. I want to live it with passion and abundance. I don’t want to merely exist, I want to thrive!
When I sat down to journal the memoir prompts for the week, I realized the ages we were asked to focus on (46-50) were the most stressful of my life. If you referenced the term “sandwich generation” in the dictionary, my photo would be front and center. The demands of being a mom to three adolescent children, as well as being the primary caretaker of my aging mother, suffocated me.
While I could write a book about the five years I cared for Mom after Dad’s surprising death, I will save those details for a later time. Suffice it to say, Mom did not handle it well. She could not keep track of her medications which caused auditory hallucinations. With great pride, she claimed she never cried after my father’s death, but holding in that grief caused her mental and physical stress. She suffered from high blood pressure but also orthostatic hypertension. Consequently, the drugs often combatted one another and needed constant refinement. She grew tired of the frequent hospital visits. She didn’t like being told what to do (or what not to do). So… she gave up.
Mom was never an exercise enthusiast, but she even refused to attend the social gathering of chair aerobics with the octogenarian neighbors. She loved to read but soon gave that up. She enjoyed country music but wouldn’t turn on the CD player. By the final year of her life, Mom was a mere shell of the woman I knew.
My mantra became: I’m learning to live by watching my mother die.
That was in 2011.
Somehow in the subsequent seven years, I’ve focused on mental health at the expense of the physical. In reality, if I want to live with vitality, I need to strengthen physical, spiritual, relational, emotional and mental health. I need to make self-care a priority and stop waiting for it to magically happen. I need to adjust my perspective from physical exercise is a punishment to believing it is a blessing. With Julia’s encouragement and my fitbit as motivation, I am taking those necessary baby steps.