So, by the end of last summer, I found myself trying to understand the odd “balances” of my life. On the one hand, I was working a lot more, had great clients, and was very enthusiastic about the direction my career was taking. On a personal front, I was feeling empowered and ready to make positive changes. On the other hand, I had gained 14 pounds, found myself nearly an inch shorter than I’d been for most of my adult life, and had daily pain in my knees, back, hip, legs, neck & shoulders. Workouts were painful and I’d cut back to a bare minimum. I wasn’t sure if exercise was helping me or hurting me at that point. I just knew it hurt to move. And my eating wasn’t healthy. Much like the size of my jeans, my portion sizes sort of creeped up and increased, and I’d broken my “desserts only on Sunday” rule that had been so helpful to me in the past. Nothing was ever off-limits, but my practice of “all things in moderation” had been tossed aside. It was now simply “all things.”
I’d work a little harder in the gym, lose a pound, and see it come back again at the end of the week. I’d get serious about my eating for a few days, and then blow it all by indulging in a treat. As we headed into fall, I knew my birthday was coming up. I was going to be 45, and I was approaching my heaviest weight since I’d moved to Idaho. I hated the thought that I was so close to gaining it all back, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I had enough motivation to stop it from happening. I would sit on my couch and work, watch TV, eat, nap, repeat.
So one day it hit me: It’s the couch, stupid.
My birthday is usually not a big deal. I’m another year older. Whoop dee doo. I don’t get a lot of gifts, and that’s fine with me. When I need or want something, I usually buy it for myself. I know what size/color/style I like. I have a flexible schedule. Of course, I appreciate when others give me something, but I’m not especially materialistic, and for most things, I’d rather buy it myself. A few years ago, when we bought our couch, we needed to buy a new coffee table. This couch has a recliner on each end and we couldn’t use them with our old coffee table. So I found something on cragislist – a set of 2 little end tables and a sofa table. I just needed the one end table, but I thought I’d get the sofa table, too, and turn it into my “desk.” Of course, it paled in comparison to my real desk. It was tiny and narrow, but it would at least be big enough to hold my laptop. So we bought it.
Only one problem: no chair.
What good is a desk that you can’t sit at? And therefore, back to the couch until I could find a chair that fit, and fit my budget. Shouldn’t take long, right? Well, next thing I know, 2 years went by.
So, as my birthday approached last October, I realized it had been 3 or 4 months that I’d been having all this pain. I have a very high pain threshold, and it occurred to me that I was having pain every day, and that it was affecting my life much more than I was willing to admit. I looked at my little sofa table desk thing and thought, “I have got to get a chair.” I went and bought it after my birthday, a gift to myself. I thought it was very fitting that this was something I did on my own. In fact, I even put it together. Normally, I’d let me husband do that, but I wanted to do it myself. (OK, I did let him tighten the screws since I have chronic carpal tunnel and my grip isn’t as strong as it could be.) Not the highest quality chair on the face of the Earth, but it’s comfortable enough, looks good with my furniture, and most importantly … it is not the couch.
Now I can sit and work and feel like I’m in my own little “office,” even if it’s just part of the living room. I feel much more efficient. It’s actually been fun to get creative with storage for files, and it’s forced me to pare down to the bare minimum. No piles of paper cluttering it all up. The space is so tiny. But it keeps me focused on writing.
And then, guess what? After just a few days of using my new chair, my back started feeling better. I had a distinct break between work and leisure now. I felt less stressed. As the weeks went on, I started feeling better and better. Some time in November, I noticed the pain in my knee was disappearing, and it would only hurt once in a while. More importantly, I was standing up straight. My son stood next to me and I noticed he wasn’t that much taller than me. Of course, he was pretty disappointed, but I was thrilled. I could stand tall and proud again.
By the end of November, I was able to go back to full strength on my cardio, setting the elliptical at level 8 for resistance, back up from level 4. My career continues to take flight. In December, I got a great job offer that is so close to what I want to do for the rest of my life and I’ve been fluctuating between being extremely excited to totally overwhelmed and petrified that I’m going to blow it. More on that another time. Now that it’s January, I can report that the pain I’d been having behind my knee is completely gone.
Although I am still nowhere near where I want to be, I know I am finally getting my shizz together, having slowly, carefully laid the groundwork to get me where I am today, and where I intend to be later on. It has been an excruciating process, one that has taught me patience and persistence. Things are coming together. I gave up soda for my New Year’s resolution, and so far I’m 8 days in and doing fine. I got a new pedometer for Christmas and am trying to get to 10,000 steps each day. Food choices are evolving from quantity to quality. Slowly but surely, I’m getting back to healthier habits. Focusing on the positive and working on eliminating the negative. I have great support, people who truly love me and want to see me succeed. It is a little shocking to realize that I could always do this, I just didn’t let myself because I was so caught up in taking care of everyone else. And I’ve taken a new approach to work. I’m making sure to schedule time to pursue my own projects each week, not just those assigned by clients. When I was a teenager, sitting at my big white desk, dreaming of making my living as a writer, I had no idea how it would all play out. Now those dreams are much closer to reality, and I have more ideas than I have time. But a few special projects are underway, and it feels really good to know that they’re part of my future. They will begin from my new desk and chair, but they will continue to flourish far beyond this setting. Every day is progress, because every day from now on is one more day off that couch.