My Longtime Crush Is Back

This morning’s men’s tennis final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was one of the best tennis matches I have ever watched.  I was at the edge of my seat the entire time, suffering through every long volley, deuce and break point. The two players (Djokovic ranked number one in the world, and Nadal ranked number two) are exceptional at their sport. Even if you are not a tennis fan, the way Nadal and Djokovic play makes you want to watch them play forever. After nearly six hours of playing hard, Novak Djokovic won and was titled Champion of the Australian Open.  Now, before you start thinking that I am a sports fan who can quote rankings, know the past winners of the last three Wimbledons, and answer the $400 question in the Tennis category on Jeopardy, let me confess that my relationship with tennis has never moved too far past the crush stage.

My first tennis lesson was when I was 14 years old.  My brother and I signed up for summer classes just to get out of the house. Our tennis instructor was a twenty-two year-old bronzed, athletic, honey-eyed dreamy college boy.  I was smitten and thought that maybe this was going to be my sport. I got all A’s in gym class, but that was for having enough athletic ability to put on some gym clothes, tie my own shoes and avoid getting hit by a classmate or sporting equipment.  Perhaps I hadn’t tried hard enough and this beautiful tennis instructor was going to help me discover my hidden tennis prowess. After a few weeks, it was clear that if I had any hidden talent, it was not coming out. But, I did enjoy watching my instructor from across the court. As I daydreamed about our future life together, the tennis balls gently bounced past me and he would say, “Hey Idalia, let’s get the lead out!” Sadly, summer ended and me and tennis went our separate ways.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I continued to flirt with tennis for a while. I actually bought a couple of rackets, tennis balls, and one of those cute short skirts like the ones the Williams sisters wear.  I bounced balls on the tennis courts of every apartment building I ever lived in, at least once, but I can say that I never played a game where I actually kept score.

My affair with tennis became the most intense when I broke off a five-year relationship. My heart was broken and who best to mend it but my old faithful crush. This time I was going to be more committed to tennis, and to show my commitment  I paid a bunch of money for classes and drove 40 minutes at 8 a.m. on Saturdays to play with other beginners.  All those years of pretending to play had paid off because my cute, single, bronzed instructor said I was too advanced for this class. Huh, maybe I had talent after all! My new dreamy tennis instructor encouraged me to continue playing and even suggested that I join him at the tennis club. There I met REAL tennis players who actually kept score. I watched my cute instructor win a couple of matches and THUMP THUMP, I was head over heels in love with tennis. My instructor and I went out a couple of times and even hung out with real tennis players. When he asked me to play in a couples  game, I was thrilled! As I stood on my side of the court I felt like one of the pros I had watched on t.v.  But, my euphoria quickly evaporated when the first ball swished right by me before I could react. It was embarrassing. I could almost hear the echo of my first instructor saying, “Hey Idalia, let’s get the lead out!” But, try as I might, I could not return the balls. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, one of the balls hit me squarely in the face. Before I knew it, because I never mastered the keeping score part, it was over. And so was my courtship with tennis and its dreamy instructor.

My tennis rackets are now dust collectors that might give future home buyers a certain impression about my athletic abilities as they freely rummage through my closets. And yes, tennis is flirting with me again using the dreamy Rafael Nadal to get me back. Nadal’s skill, passion for the game, sportsmanship, good-looks and heart-melting personality have made me a fan. Luckily, with age comes wisdom, so my tennis rackets get to keep their jobs accumulating dust.  But, my dear tennis, please let’s remain friends because our on-again off-again relationship has been good for me.  Today, as I watched Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic play their best, even in the 5th hour of play, I realized that if they have the ability to push themselves beyond their mental and physical limits, I do too. So today, Rafael Nadal was my motivation to get out there and run 2.3 miles. I didn’t give myself a pass for having my period and didn’t make an excuse for just getting over a cold, but I got my butt out there and ran in January weather. Would Rafa not train because it was cold outside? Would he take a day off if he had his period, or whatever?  

Tennis and I have agreed that a deeper relationship between us is impossible. We have agreed to continue to see each other casually, as friends, and make the best of what we have to offer each other.  For now, I’ll just keep watching and cheer for Nadal from the soft seat of my couch, and gain inspiration from his beautiful frame game.

I pray that you will find inspiration in unexpected  places.

Much Love,

 

 

 

Heard Of This Condition?

You know how you wake up at 3:00 a.m. the night before a big meeting and sit straight up thinking that you overslept for a whole day and missed it? This happens to me every time before a trip, a presentation, an interview, my wedding,…you name it. I swear that every grey hair that is cleverly camouflaged with Clairol Dark Brown 22, is a result of ATSU, Afraid-To-Screw-Up syndrome.

I have suffered from ATSU syndrome all of my life. It is known to mostly afflict first-borns. People with ATSU syndrome have short-term episodes of odd behavior similar to that shown by people who have taken more than the recommended dose of No-Dose. The person may appear indecisive, make absurd statements, and report sensing that they have forgotten something but don’t know what it is. A classic symptom of ATSU syndrome is pesadilli (related to pesadillas, Spanish for nightmares). This is when the person experiences highly realistic dreams of the worst possible outcome. Some report waking up with sweaty palms, gasping for air, and interrupted heart beats. In addition, a person with this condition may report short-term memory problems and must check their purse, bags, or vehicle at least three times to ensure they have their keys, metro card, shoes, USB drive, and wallet before they pull out of the driveway. Underestimation of how well they are prepared for a particular event is common.

My ATSU symptoms became quite noticeable at around puberty, particularly when I took exams in school. Before each test, I would have a pesadillus and dream that my school had moved and I could not find the classroom. This genre of pasadilli repeated all throughout high school and college, and it still flares up every now and then. My particular condition worsened after one very real, unforgettable screw up. This happened in my junior year in college when I had to present my semester-long research and paper to the class. One day before my presentation, I was reviewing my slides when the phone rang. I was surprised to hear the professor’s voice on the line asking me if I was okay. For a moment, I thought, how thoughtful of him to check in on me before my presentation. Then he said something that made me want the earth to open wide and swallow me whole. He said, “Your presentation time was yesterday and when you didn’t show up we thought it was you who had been in an accident.” Apparently, someone had called to say they had been in an accident, but did not leave their name. One my pesadilli had actually come true! Apparently, I had written down the wrong date. AAAAAAAAHHHH! Fortunately, the professor was willing to give me a second chance. Since my classmates were all gone, he would just round up all of the biology professors that afternoon so that I could present to them. AAAAAAAHHH!

I have learned to manage my condition. And, I believe that something good has come of it. Though the horrible scenarios my mind conjures up, have only come true on a couple of occasions (did I mention the time I forgot to pack underwear?), they have served to keep me on my toes. Though I may be a bit sleep deprived, at the very least I know to show up on time. For example, I always get to the airport two hours before a domestic flight; in hotels I set my phone’s alarm, the bedside alarm clock and the wake-up service. This week, the night before a very important meeting, I had another pesadillus. I dreamt that I had woken up three hours late because the power had gone out in the middle of the night. Thankfully, I also set a battery-operated alarm clock, so I could go right back to sleep.

People who suffer from ATSU syndrome can lead very normal lives, especially if we learn to accept that we are not perfect, and that most screw-up situations, those we dream of and the ones in reality, are not life-threatening, and at the very worst, the biggest threat we face is a bruised ego.

If you show symptoms of ATSU, please let me know. Maybe we can start a support group?

Much Love

Sticking To Our Lose Weight Resolution

I have lost count of the times I made losing weight one of my New Year’s Resolutions. It’s probably been a good 10 times. And, eight of those times, I failed. Miserably. But, the other two times, I lost weight and felt great. What was different those two times from all the others? Well, for starters, I was serious about it and was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Have you ever gotten to a point when you just know you have had enough? That was how determined I felt about losing weight. The other times I only wished I could lose the weight and didn’t want to work at it.

If you have started an exercise program, you know that even though it’s hard to get through the first workout, you feel good about yourself for just showing up and trying. The sore muscles the next day are like a badge of honor and it reminds us that yes! I’m really doing this. By the end of the first week, as we sweat it out on the treadmill, we get some comfort from the sight of the women to the left or the right of us, who seemed to be struggling to make it to through the first twenty minutes too. Mentally, we give ourselves a break, after all, it’s been umpteen years since we have pushed our bodies this way. By the third or fourth week, the woman on the left is gone. In her place, is a very skinny workout queen who races at maximum speed, and at a 15 percent incline! We continue to push along, and feel like this new routine could work.

By the end of the first month, we feel proud of our commitment. We step on the scale, and are disappointed to see that the scale has barely budged. This is when my resolve would start to quiver. Seeing that the reward of all those evenings or early mornings when I guilt-talked myself into going to the gym was minimal compared to the huge amount of effort it took to work out and negate myself the foods I really wanted to eat, well, it hardly seemed worth it. As the months went by, the gym would become empty of regularly-shaped people and only the super-bumpy or skinny were left. Stepping on the scale at the end of the third, fourth, and fifth months and seeing that the needle had not budged was the worst feeling. I would just get angry at my DNA for making my cells so ornery and stubborn at not wanting to give up the fat. Such disappointment is hard to deal with. I would exercise less, and if I did work out, it was more out of a sense of obligation than a true desire to (or belief that I could) meet my goal. I would put less effort into the workouts and barely raised my heart rate above resting.

This was the precise moment that determined whether I would succeed or fail at losing weight. If I allowed disappointment to knock me down, I failed. But, if I ignored the scale and continued to workout and pushed myself with intensity, I was successful.

We give up on our resolution to lose weight because we have unrealistic expectations of the time it takes for our bodies to respond to exercise, especially if we have been sedentary for a while. My body does not let go of the fat very easily and it takes between eight to nine months of consistent activity for my body to release the weight. We also expect our results to equal the amount of effort we put in. I expected that the 40 minutes of sweat, tears and exhaustion on the treadmill to yield 5 pounds of weight loss, on the spot. Not, so. And, after six months of sweat, tears and exhaustion, you demand expect to look like the model on the cover of Shape magazine!

It’s January so hopefully you are still feeling good about your workouts. But, come April, May and June, your resolve to lose the weight will surely be tested. So, I would like to share what has helped me stick to a weight loss/workout plan:

  • Write down your weekly accomplishments. This helps you keep motivated and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Include good eating habits and new behaviors you have adopted that contribute to a healthier slimmer you (i.e., portion control, biking instead of driving, eating more veggies).
  • Don’t weigh yourself every week. In fact, I propose that you do not weigh yourself at all, at least not until after six months. Remember that you have a year to achieve your goal.
  • Measure yourself. Sometimes the inches decrease before the weight comes off. Muscle weighs more than fat so, while your cells are holding on to the fat for a little while longer, your muscle fibers are getting toned. Measure your bust, waist and hips with a measuring tape and check again in a couple of months.
  • Set realistic short term goals for your workouts, but not for your weight loss. Instead of setting goals to decrease ten pounds in one month, set goals around increasing time walking or running, increasing repetitions or sets, increasing the weight that you lift, or the number of push ups you do.
  • Lastly, and I have to say it because I used to this, reward yourself for success with a massage, a mani-pedi, or a new outfit, but not with food. Because I had worked out hard and lost a few pounds, I felt I could afford to eat that gigantic chocolate chip cookie at the mall. Not worth it.

You CAN achieve your goal to be slimmer by the end of 2012. Be committed to yourself, and don’t let the scale throw you off your path. You can do it!

 Much Love

Doctor, Doctor, Before You Give Me The News…

What ever happened to “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning?” Or, just the idea that most of our symptoms are due to some ordinary human condition that can be cured with rest and a simple treatment? In my own health management, I have observed the rise in “extreme” tests that doctors prescribe in order to diagnose what turn out to be minor illnesses.

 This happened to me recently when after several days of feeling a lump in my throat, I finally made an appointment with a doctor. The doctor performed all of the usual pokes and prods and asked some relevant questions, like: had I suddenly lost or gained a lot of weight, had I had the flu or a cold recently, might I have swallowed something that could be lodged in my throat? Did I have a cough? No, no, no and no. Hey, I had done my research. I had Googled “lump in throat sensation” and read all of the medical forums where people described my exact symptoms. Based on the research, I narrowed down my diagnosis to crycopharyngeus spasm or cancer. As patients, we immediately jump to the worst possible scenario. But should our doctors?

The doctor was very efficient and after a few minutes she laid out the plan. I was to get an MRI of my throat to see if anything was there. Then, she said, if the MRI shows nothing then I should gargle with warm salt water to see if there is just some kind of mucus build up in my throat (eeuw, gross!). My head did one of those tilts that dogs do so well. “Shouldn’t we try the gargling first to see if that clears it up before I go to the MRI?,” I asked. She said I was welcome to try the gargling first, but suggested I schedule the MRI anyway. Hmmm.

It just so happened that last summer my mom was visiting my brother in Spain and due to a bad case of laryngitis, had been to see a doctor. Her medical experiences there provided an interesting point of comparison for me. For her laryngitis her doctor prescribed a mild dose of antibiotics. They didn’t work. So, my mom went back to the doctor and this time he prescribed something stronger and it eventually cleared up. She went to the doctor on two other occasions for other ailments, and every time the treatment was mild at first, and increased until the condition was cured. My doctors here like to take the opposite approach, in treatment and diagnosis. I liken this approach to using a sledgehammer to drive a nail into drywall. By the way, the lump in my throat…gargling took care of it on the first try. MRI, SHMEMRI. It made me wonder, was my doctor signed up for some kind of MRI sweepstakes? Was there a reward for the most MRI’s prescribed that week?

I don’t mean to bore you with my medical history, but take this other time when I was suffering from stomach cramping and bloating. My family doctor sent me to a gastroenterologist. Over a period of three months, I went through imaging, colonoscopy, and some other type of oscopy that explored my inner works like it was a collapsed mine with 40 miners to be rescued.  All of these procedures were expensive and I was grateful to have health insurance. The whole time I was thinking that there must be something really wrong with me to require all of these tests. And, the lab techs were no help. I tried to pump them (pardon the pun) for information but they just stared blankly at my innards on the screen being careful not to reveal elation (hurrah, she’s okay), or dread (alas, this poor woman). When I finally sat down with the gastroenterologist to go over the results, he said that they had found nothing wrong with my digestive system and that I should not eat gluten, sugar or milk products for a month and gradually introduce each to see which was the culprit. Seriously? Food allergies!! Why couldn’t we have tried that first? Not only had I run up  these expensive medical bills on my insurance, had my cells bombarded with radiation, and ingested some nasty goop, but I also suffered through believing that I had something really seriously wrong with me to warrant all these tests! Don’t get me wrong, I want my doctor to be very concerned for me and do everything possible to restore my health. I just don’t want them to do it assbackwards.

I used to think that being a good patient was like being a good student. You listen and do as you are told. Well, I’ve learned my lesson and to be a good patient, we have to be much more informed about options and ask lots of questions so that we don’t get over-medicated and go through unnecessary tests. So, doctor, doctor, before you give me the news, we’re going to discuss more options.   

I am praying that you stay in good health and in good spirits in 2012.

Much Love,

My 12 Tips For 2012

Happy New Year! I pray that all who read this are feeling whole, rested and ready for the new year. A new year gives us a fresh start, a do-over of sorts that fills us with hope and excitement for what is possible in our lives. As you start your 2012, consider applying one, two, or all twelve of these tips as you strive to achieve your goals. May you be blessed with inner peace, commitment and focus to realize all that you desire in 2012.

 

  1. Start off right

Aren’t we super busy? Our hectic lives force us to run from one thing to the next, like little robots. As we get busier we lose our mind/spirit/body connection. Start your day off right by reconnecting yourself. As soon as you wake up, or definitely before you walk out the door, practice slow deliberate breathing and set your intentions for the day. Pray to have serenity, focus and controlled energy to get through your day’s activities. Envision yourself finishing your day happy, successful, and fully satisfied with your achievements. If you do this everyday for just one minute, it will help you manage stressful situations and keep you focused. If you have the time to exercise, meditate and/or practice yoga in the morning, please do it as it will do wonders for your mind/body/spirit connection as well as your health and give you lots more energy throughout the day.

 

  1. Use your good china

Or use whatever it is that you are saving for a special day or for company. I have these great big wine glasses I use only when we have people over for dinner. The reality is that the true value of things is not in how much we paid for them but in how we feel when we use them and how they help us connect with others. My wine goblets are just dust collectors if they stay in the cabinet. We are reason enough to bring out the good stuff, and we can multiply their value by creating more memories with our friends and family.

 

  1. Make time for that one thing

It’s so easy to say, “I’m just too busy to ______.” I know it’s easy because I have said it so many times. Yet, I know that when I really want to do something, I will make time for it, even if it means getting up earlier, which is not an easy thing for me to do. We cannot add more hours to the day, but if we could, I’ bet my last dollar that we would still use the ol’ phrase, “I don’t have enough time.” This year, make time to do that one thing that you really, really have always wanted to do. Squeeze in time to do it, modify your schedule, prioritize, do whatever it takes to finally do IT – and you know what it is. This is the year to get it done.

 

  1. Immerse yourself in fun

D’you know what? We take life way too seriously. I am sure that when we’re on our way to the pearly gates we will think to ourselves – boy, I wish I’d had more fun. I remember how fun summer was when my brother and I played outside with other kids until we could no longer see the ball in the dark, or mom came to get us, which usually came first. We never wanted the fun to end. We need more of that in our lives. Make time to play with your kids, or to play with kids your age. Join a team, take up bowling, softball, tennis, anything that is just play and gets you to laugh and enjoy time with others. Play is great therapy for a busy mind.

 

  1. Do everything with enthusiasm

I know. Don’t hate me for this. It’s hard to be enthusiastic sometimes, especially when we don’t like our jobs, our co-workers, or we’re just plain tired. But, it’s been proven that even when we feign enthusiasm, it has a positive effect on our physiology, and it boosts our adrenaline and endorphins. If we approach our tasks with enthusiasm, it also has a positive effect on those around us. Yes, enthusiasm can be contagious!

 

  1. Smile more

Like enthusiasm, smiles are also contagious. Trust me, I have tested it and it works nine out of ten times (that 10th person just refuses to do it – she may think I’m crazy). When we smile we immediately become more attractive and more approachable. And, others will smile right back! I have tried it on my runs. As I approach another jogger I give them a great wide smile. Though most seem surprised, it is beautiful to watch an expressionless face transform into a smiling one. For that brief second, we have communicated in a very basic but deeply human way. Smile more and you will attract more people into your life.

 

 

  1. Do kind things for others

I believe that most people do nice things for others every day. It could be holding the door open for the person behind you, helping somebody with their bags, or just letting someone cut in front of you in traffic. But, I also think that there is an acute need for kindness now. Many people are suffering anguish and anxiety due to the economic conditions.  Is there something you could do to ease someone’s anguish? Could you help someone find a job? What kindness could you impart on someone who is feeling at an all-time low right now? These times call for us to go out of our way to be kind to one another. Consider putting on a few pounds in kindness this year.

 

 

  1. Take walks in the rain

Okay, I have the song “I’m singing in the rain” in my head now. For me, rain gets me to want to curl up under the covers and stay in all day. Rainy days usually bum me out. So why do I suggest walking in the rain? Sometimes joy can be found in the most unexpected ways. We have learned to associate certain emotions with certain situations – like gloom and sadness with clouds and rain. What if we challenged that? What assumptions/associations have we made that can be changed by changing what we do in said situation? A simple walk in the rain can be the start of change in the way we view and experience things.

 

  1. Love your body more

We all have parts of our bodies that we love less than our other parts. For me, that’s my stomach. But, why should I pick on my stomach, just because it’s stubbornly squishy and round? It’s a perfectly good stomach and I would be devastated if anything happened to it. So this year, I’m going to stop making faces at it and stop slapping it down to make it flatter. Nope, now I’m going to accept it into the whole of my body, and do good things for it, like eat more fiber, drink more water and take my vitamins. Hey there pretty tummy tummy!

 

  1. Make more friends

I think that when we were growing up it was easier to make a new friend. Now, with everyone communicating via email and doing things over the Internet, there is much less human-to-human interaction. Have you noticed that now all we see are the tops of people’s heads? Yet, the power of connectedness and having a good network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances is still true and essential to us. Strive to have more human-to-human interactions and make new friends. I recently tried this on a flight by offering the woman next to me a stick of gum. That started a conversation and connection with a woman who lives in my area and has worked in the same industry as me! We plan to get together.

 

  1. Burn incense

Really, you say? Yes, really. If you don’t meditate, burning an incense stick is a good way to get you to relax and let go for a few minutes. Find a soothing aroma that you really like, light it up and just breathe. Watch the plumes of smoke form patterns as they fill the air. Watch the entire incense stick burn, and as you breathe, try to pick out the nuances of the fragrances, like you would a sip of wine on your tongue. If you don’t find this relaxing, cut way down on your caffeine! But seriously, try to focus only on what is happening at that moment, and enjoy the feeling.

 

 

  1. Clean out the old stuff

For all you gardeners out there, you know that pruning and removing the old stuff is essential to allowing the new shoots to thrive. Sometimes we hold on to old stuff simply because we have room for it. But, old stuff just adds clutter and does not let fresh things in. Of course, removing old stuff is not restricted to the physical world; old ways of thinking, old disputes, old beliefs are part of our clutter. Are you holding on to some old stuff that is not useful to your anymore? That old stuff could be hampering fresh ideas and new things to come into your life! Commit to de-clutter your mind and your physical space this year.