The day after my fiftieth birthday I found myself surrounded by death. In our circle of friends and family, three great people had passed within a week. I was having difficulty being everywhere for everyone but I knew I just needed to have faith and keep moving forward, one responsibility at a time.
I was experiencing what I thought to be double vision at the time. I made the mistake of searching the internet for a cause. My search ended with enough information to believe I was having a stroke. A blood pressure reading of 185/100 at my local clinic earned me a fancy ambulance ride to the hospital. It was a difficult moment which changed my life for the better.
Life is forever changing. If you're anything like me, there are times when you wish it wouldn't. I wish life could run smoothly day after day but it won't. I wish the good times could always outweigh the bad but sometimes they just don't. That's life, forever changing; for the better, for the worse.
I wish the people we love didn't have to die... but they do. I wish age didn't bring limitations... but it does. How we choose to live makes a difference as to how we live and how we die. If we have the power to change how we live in order to positively impact the living and dying parts, I think we should. It just might be; life changing. It certainly has been for me.
I turned fifty in September, 2015. Six months prior, I had made a visit to my primary care doctor. The words he said impacted me quite negatively at first but in the long run I found them to be an inspiration.
"You know, my doctor said, your blood pressure has been high the last few times I've seen you. I think it's time to think about blood pressure medication. I'd like you to monitor your blood pressure daily for the next six weeks and then come back in for a re-check."
I tried to make good on his orders but couldn't. I found checking my blood pressure stressful. My numbers just kept going higher and higher. I cancelled my appointment six weeks later and every six weeks until until November when I felt I was ready to return.
I knew I hadn't done a dang thing as far as diet and exercise were concerned. I wanted to do something to help myself before I returned to his office. I also knew I didn't want begin a regiment of high blood pressure medication. I would do anything to change myself before taking a pill that would change my situation for me. I thought to myself, If I have high blood pressure, it’s my own fault. I've always eaten whatever I wanted to eat. Salted whatever needed salting and not since high school, had I participated in any form of physical activity with regularity. My stress level was high and my effort to help myself feel better was non existent.
As I made the ambulance ride to the hospital on the first day of my fiftieth year, I overheard the EMT announce to the dispatcher that he had “a fifty year old female on board,” with this vital sign and that. It was weird to hear my name with that age. I was sure to let him know that I had only been fifty for about a day and that it seemed like he was having an awful lot of fun announcing it. Upon arrival in the Emergency Room, I received no special testing. I needed no special attention or drastic measures. After many hours of waiting and plenty of time to consider every terrifying possibility, a very nice doctor returned to my room and informed me, to my surprise, that after his assessment he did not think I had high blood pressure but rather a vision problem. He wanted me to make an appointment with an eye doctor and that was all. I was encouraged and relieved.
I had just picked up a new pair of glasses two weeks prior to that time so I headed straight to Costco to have my prescription verified. Turned out my prescription was fine but my lenses were not sitting straight. Apparently, with an astigmatism as severe as mine, twisted lenses can cause your eyes to pull to the point of crossing. Once my lenses were straightened out, my vision problems were gone. One major problem solved. Another issue yet to be confronted, more change was necessary. I just needed to figure out how to do the changing.
In the days which followed my ER visit, I had a regularly scheduled appointment with my hairdresser. There really is nothing like a great cut and color to make a girl feel young and beautiful. It was certainly an appointment I was not afraid to keep.
If your hairdresser or barber is anything like mine, your time spent together is as much about great conversation and laughter, as it is about your hair. I’ve been seeing Pam since our girls were in pre-school together. So, for about seventeen years we have come together over a chair, a bowl, scissors and a blow dryer to discuss the worlds problems, including a few of our own. Our conversation that day was more than chatter, it was absolutely life changing.
Pam listened to the latest story of my heart and as she often does with clients said what she thought might help. She dared me to join her for a fitness class which started the following Monday. Titled; 28 Days to Sexy Slim and Strong, it would cost $137.00 and would include 3-4 days of workout a week, regular weigh ins and a meal plan. I discussed the idea with my husband when he got home that evening. He said, “With everything you’ve been through lately, I think the class would be well worth it.”
I’d never been a part of a work out group. Heck, I’d never been inside a fitness center. So, I did the only thing I could, what any good green horn would do, I begged my daughter for help in finding something appropriate to wear.
I had to miss the weigh in on Sunday. Because that detail seemed to go unnoticed, I decided for myself I would not take on the meal plan aspect of the class. I committed to watching what I ate and when I ate it. I gave up drinks other than water and committed to making work outs 3-4 times a week.
The class kicked off the following Monday and kicked my butt for 28 days. I found muscle groups which had long been forgotten. I didn’t realize how set in my physical ways I had become. The class awakened a consciousness I did not know I had. I made a fool of myself more than once. Not knowing how to do a proper squat or lunge saw to that. Most of the people there had taken the class before. My inexperience was obvious but my will to continue on was far greater. It helped that Pam was there to cheer me on. The fast pace and circuit nature of the training really woke up my thinker; another gift I didn’t see coming.
Near the end of my 28 days, knowing I could not afford to take the class again, I began to take a look around the room. I wanted to take away every possible bit of knowledge and inspiration for my effort. I took note of the different shapes and sizes of the people, as well as the differing levels of skill and commitment. Because I’m not a large person people often assume I am healthy. It had been said to me before that I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be overweight. It’s true. I did not have a great deal of weight to lose… but the distance between being unhealthy and doing something about it is really the same for everyone... no matter what your size.
Out of all I learned in those 28 days, that one thought was by far my greatest take away. Our issues may vary, but no matter what the circumstance, the distance between doing nothing and doing something about that which faces us is the same. Turns out… I’m much stronger than I thought.
The class ended but my commitment to better health continues. I met the holiday season with a new way of thinking. I did not abstain from my favorite things to eat but for the first time in my life, I thought about what I was eating and how many times I visited the hors d’oeuvre and dessert counter. Water is still my favorite drink of choice and moving the boxes of paper work from the treadmill gave me a place to get my heart rate up each day. Our son left enough free weights around after high school that I can keep up my reps and the yoga mat I got for Christmas years ago now gets a work out of it’s own.
I finally visited my primary care doctor in November. The threat of high blood pressure medication was lifted. I admitted I had been avoiding him because I knew I needed to change my way of living in order to find out what my body could do without medication. “Well,” he said.”You’ve done it.”
To think, a potential diagnosis was all I needed to change my life. Sure it took months to get started as well as the encouragement and accountability between friends but the outcome has been wonderfully satisfying, inspiring and life changing.
It's taken me a while to get to the point of sharing my personal journey publicly. I write all of this with a thankful heart.
Pamela Marthaller, Cosmos Deja Vu
Mah- Ann's Pro Fitness
12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,
1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?