Monday, December 31, 2012

Countdown to 2013

2013 is hours away and I am excited. The total toll of 2012 was rough, but it left me with two things: improved physical condition, and a better heart.

Back in the spring, an $11 per month gym caught my attention. Just five minutes from my house and open 24 hours per day, every day of the year, it overcame all of my barriers to exercise.  When I began I chose a few minutes on the treadmill and a few strength-building weight machines.  I gradually worked up to 20-30 minutes on either the treadmill or recumbent bike, and a regular sequence of upper and lower body weight machines. It only took a month of twice weekly visits for me to notice an increase in leg strength.  My endurance increased rapidly, too. I had to stop for a while in late summer and early fall due to a series of skin Candida infections, but I didn't lose the benefits. As I finish the year, I can climb stairs using both legs without relying on the handrail, I can go down stairs without a rail to check my balance, and I get off the floor much more easily.

This conditioning was the basis for my ability to work more frequently at the market. It takes strength and endurance to load and unload, set up and take down all the equipment to make my store each week. In the past I could only do it with a significant amount of help. Now I can go to market alone and handle all my equipment, and a day of working in my store doesn't make me take to my bed for the next three days.

It still remains that my illness can crop up at any minute and change my plans and keep me down for weeks, but it doesn't deplete my strength to the point that I must start from scratch and feel so disabled for so long.

The other benefits are probably obvious - I can get out more with friends, do household chores and run errands, and the additional strength is a confidence builder.

This other thing-the better heart-is a trickier concept. First, let me say that I don't believe that "What does not kill me, makes me stronger".  I don't know what Nietzsche was talking about, but I rarely see anyone who damn near died feeling stronger, at least not for a long time. So I don't mean that the crap we were mired in this year left me a stronger person. Instead, the ring of loving people around me helped to protect me from the pervasive crap, and with that protection, I was allowed to grow and do some good and not sink into the mire. Having that special ring of friends and family is a palpable thing for me-in my mind I can feel their love and support, and I know they wish me well. They buoy my daughter and me, share their own strength and heart, so I am not depleted. God is also there, making us all better than the molecules that form our flesh. She infuses us with the desire to stay alive and make life count, to stay connected and be part of that caring circle, feeling and supporting and giving, communing, and altogether radiating something lighter and better.

2013 is for that lighter, better thing. Peace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The End of the World

I anticipate the coming of every new year, usually because I expect it to be the best yet. I must admit that 2012 was very difficult, and I look forward to 2013 mainly because this year will end.

The major problem this year has been our financial strain. It is no secret that the recession (read major depression) of 2008 depleted my nest egg to a level that changed our standard of living. We adjusted our budget, sold the big house and moved into town and into a small but comfortable place that should serve quite well for one or two people. That seemed to work until medical bills began to pile up. Having two chronic illnesses in a family takes its toll. I've been reminded again and again that the USA is unique among western nations in failure to provide adequate health coverage (read universal health care) for its citizens. 

For most of the year I lived with the strain of knowing that if this country elected a Republican candidate, things were likely to get much worse. With the measures the GOP planned, I would need to sell my house and move to an apartment, it would end of my daughter's opportunity to complete a college education, and we'd suffer a lack of access to the expensive drugs that keep our household running.

Having a daughter who is a young woman now, I also dreaded the almost daily announcements coming from Republican lawmakers who were pushing to take away her right to equal pay, adequate preventive health measures, and her right to determine for herself when it was right and healthy to have a child. Politicians from the far right were calling her nasty names for being a woman and preventing fellow women from standing up to protect her-even women who were elected officials. 

I felt all of this as I came to the realization that being African-American in this country was not as safe as I had come to believe. The racism was palpable during President Obama's entire first term, but worsened and became more open as he campaigned for a second. 

The election is over, and we have breathed a collective sigh of relief - those of us who wanted good common sense and adherence to the principles this country was founded upon...those who accept diversity and abhor hatred...those who understand that basic services and rights for all citizens make a more productive, fair, prosperous nation. 

The thing is, removing the immediate threat hasn't brought me back to my usual unstressed normal. At times it has felt like the end of the world, and the fatigue that follows a period of severe fear and anxiety doesn't recede with a single night's sleep. 
So...I hope that the physical and mental exercise of writing "2013" will be therapeutic for me.