Whom the gods would destroy, they first make proud
After a year with my new lifestyle – eating healthily, exercising, and controlling my weight – I became complacent. Little did I know the fitness gods would test me to see if the new habits would dissolve under pressure.
In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine I’d be sitting in a rehabilitation center in Missouri, watching my daughter, Jamie, 39, struggle to rebuild her brain following cardiac arrest two months ago.
Today, I’m her caretaker and homemaker for my three granddaughters (11, 13 and 18) and her husband. Maintaining my regimen is a struggle. I need to shower, get dressed and finish my stretching exercise before anyone is up; otherwise, events overtake me.
Their father wakes the girls before he leaves for work at 7 a.m. While they dress and prepare for school, I coax Jamie out of bed and into the shower. The girls and I take turns reminding her to come out and get dressed. Without a sense of time, she will stand in the shower indefinitely.
During this hectic hour, the girls also watch their mother while I start a load of laundry, or write a permission slip for the school. We leave together – the girls to school and Jamie to the rehabilitation center for therapy.
Without memory skills, Jamie must be watched constantly. Because she’s recovered physically, she’s capable of doing anything, including driving if we don’t hide the keys. Consequently, she’s a hazard to herself and others.
Everything I’ve learned since Jamie’s heart was restarted through defibrillation makes me optimistic her memory will improve.
Small, but measurable progress, reported by her therapists, encourages us; however, full recovery is months away.
Since Jamie looks like her old self, it’s hard for her daughters to remember that she’s no longer their “Mom.” I feel the need to remind the girls that “Mom isn’t herself right now.” Sometimes we laugh at her – I tell myself that’s a better response than crying
Bitter cold, snow and ice make walking alone impossible. A neighbor takes me on two excursions – one playing indoor tennis and another, a hike in the woods during a snowstorm. I’m grateful for these playful moments during a nightmarish time.
Eating healthily in a kingdom where junk food reigns is daunting. Food is either deep fat fried or sugar coated. Vegetables are French fries and catsup.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are strangers. Everyone makes fun of “Grandma’s salad bar” which I set up nightly, hoping someone will join me.
Facing an onslaught of pizza, I buy cooked seafood, adding it to my nightly salad. There’s predictability to my food, but at least I’m avoiding fried chicken or worse.
I don’t always resist sweets and snack food, although I know adding pounds will increase my distress. Without a scale, I don’t know if I’ve gained. At least my clothes still fit.
Once home, I sleep 17 of the first 24 hours. The next day, I go to the gym and a yoga class. The following day, I play tennis – thrilled to be outdoors – and cook “slow” food in my own kitchen.
The scale shows a four-pound gain – my first lost ground!
Realizing my habits are shaky, I expand my daily food journal to include “well-being efforts” – not only calories consumed, but hours exercised, actions in care of myself, miracles and needed improvements.
For spiritual comfort, I go to church and invite easy-going friends over for lunch.
Perspective returns. Perhaps self-discipline will follow.
The fitness gods zapped me with a bolt of lightening, threatening the fragile structure of my newly constructed lifestyle.
If I recover, I’ll be stronger. Unable to escape the fickle fates, I think I’d best prepare for the next inevitable bolt.
Carole Carson is a fitness and nutrition advocate from Nevada City. E-mail her at
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