Friday, June 30, 2006

Singing songs of loss and love

Just a short post dedicated to my grandfather, Mr. M.R. Subramaniam aka "Madras Thatha", who passed away a week ago.

He lived in India when I was growing up, so I only saw him every few years when I'd go there with my family, or when he and my grandmother would come to visit us for a few months at a time. I was always a little afraid of him. My impression of him was that he was a very disciplined man, who got up at the crack of dawn, always did his early morning yoga exercises, and didn't really tolerate silliness or bad behavior. But I also remember him putting up with a lot of questions from me, and letting the kids hang out in the one airconditioned room in his house. He had this little brown dog (named Binky, I think), who hung around the outside of his house. He might have been a stray but I think he always came around for my grandfather to feed him. Apparently no one else could go near this dog, or he'd bite, but he and my grandfather got along just fine.

My parents used to say I picked up some of my personality traits from him: my often black and white view of the world (which I'm proud to say has mellowed over time), and my outspokenness.

My grandfather was the sort of guy who, upon seeing you for the first time in several months or years, would tell you honestly whether you looked thinner or fatter and whether you should do something about it. One of the last times I saw him, even though he was pretty weak and frail, he told me I looked thinner, and that was good. Since I always knew the assessment was coming, I could mentally prepare for it, and that made it ok. For whatever reason, it never really bothered me. I just knew that was the way he was, and I sort of dug it. I guess that's the privilege of age and wisdom- you can get away with saying exactly what you're thinking.

Here's a picture of us with him, in 2002:

So that's my tiny little tribute to a good man who lived a good life, and made it possible for me to be who I am. TJ and I will be joining my parents in Savannah next week for a "13th day" memorial ceremony for him.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

These boots were made for walkin'

Warning: very self-indulgent post ahead, read only if you're *very* bored.

If you read any weight-loss/self help literature, they all warn you that losing weight will not make you a happier person. The same things that made you unhappy will still be there, they say, and you shouldn't lose weight and expect to suddenly have a better life.

Well, I disagree. The few years that I spent in my early 20s, when I got rid of the "Freshman 15" (in reality, more like 40!) and before I wrecked all that lovely progress by taking a job that required me to travel 100% with a fat expense account, were some of the best I've ever had. This was also partly due to being crazy in love with the dude who is now my husband, but there was something else there too.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm very content with my current life and really do give thanks for all the good things that have happened to me. I have a baseline level of well-being that I've *never* had before and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

But the gray cloud came back this year, the same one that hung over my latter years of college and a little bit of grad school. Kind of a rumbling, low-level discontent. I went to one of the free "mental health" counselors in college, and gave up after one session when he attributed the mood to boyfriend issues. Plus, I had so much freakin' work to do, I couldn't waste time yammering with him. I knew he didn't have it right, but I wasn't really sure what "it" was either.

Sometime over this past week, I finally figured out what "it" was. It was what Oprah (annoyingly) calls a "lightbulb" moment, but for me it was just a "well, duh!" moment. It *is* the extra weight making me feel like this, and the fact that I'm not really doing anything to get rid of it. And it's one of those self-propagating things. I feel bleh, so I don't want to go to the gym. I feel bleh, so I didn't go to the grocery and now I have to pick up some crappy fast food for dinner. And of course, weeks and months of that, and here I am, weighing almost as much as I did when I graduated from Caltech. And with a metabolism that's 10 years older.

Like I said before, I don't want to be "trying to lose weight" forever. In reality, I'll always have to watch what I eat, thanks to my hatred of exercise and love of anything deep-fried. I start out full of enthusiasm on a diet/exercise plan, but lose interest when it gets tedious. (Which doesn't take long!) So I guess I need to try something a little different, and really "get" that I need a slow lifestyle change, not a total overhaul with an unsustainable program. (Hard to do that with all those makeover reality shows that emphasize huge results in very short times.)

So I'm starting with what worked for me before, something *very* simple. When I was 23, I lost nearly 40 lbs in about a year. And it wasn't horribly tedious. I just got into a routine, and *did* it. Every morning I walked for at least 40 minutes on the Burke-Gilman trail, which was luckily, right behind our house. I had great music, and just bundled up when it got cold or rainy. It was a non-negotiable thing, even if I woke up late. After a couple of weeks, I'd walk for an hour, or just try to walk farther than the last time. And a month or two later, I realized I didn't hate exercise as much, and even went to the gym to lift weights or do cardio there a few times a week. Eventually, I started running. And liked it. But it was all very gradual, and I hardly noticed I was working so much harder than when I started.

And eating right just followed. I didn't obsess about the Weight Watchers plan, and had days where I didn't track things, but I still made progress. I really thought about what I was eating, and just avoided eating the junk. That was what *totally* worked for me.

In contrast, the hardcore diet and exercise plan I got from Le Pro Club before the wedding *did not* work for me. It just made me angry and resentful. Yes, it worked, when I followed it, but most weeks, I just couldn't do it, and it made me want to eat things *precisely* because I wasn't "allowed" to have them. The workouts seemed like punishment and I just wasn't enjoying the process. (Though fitting into a size 10 wedding dress was nice!) As you might imagine, all of that weight came back, and more, the year after the wedding. (But at last we had great wedding pictures!)

Now, approaching my 31st birthday (holy crap that seems old! what happened to 19?) I'd like to do this, not for some event, or round-number birthday, but just to be done with "the process". My closet situation is dire and I refuse to buy the next pants size. So I started slow. I'm going to commit to at least 35 minutes of walking every day this week, not counting walking to work, which will just be a bonus. So far I'm 2 for 2 :). No drastic changes to my eating habits, except a conscious effort not to eat total crap that I could easily live without (for example: bacon, alcohol, dessert, mayonnaise). That's doable and doesn't make me want to crawl back into bed.

Spike was my walking buddy today. I found a new leash that reduces the stress on my arm, and (I think) makes him pull on it less. (We never did train him how to walk nicely on-leash.) Never mind the fact that the leash is called "Cujo" - it's *amazing*. I think the bungee cord in it is too tight for him to pull very hard, so he almost walks like a normal, well-behaved dog now. Woo hoo.

Thanks to everyone for bearing with me. I think I might be on to something this time.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It ain't pretty after the show

Just got back from the INXS concert at Marymoor, 5 minutes (or less!) from my house. Awesome place to see a show (even if it wasn't 5 min away) - it's not huge, and the venue was designed well for everyone on the lawn - with two "hills" at the back so you could sit way back and still see.

I wasn't overly excited about this show before I went, but decided to go since Nathalie wanted to, and I had watched "Rock Star:INXS" religiously last summer. Plus, I've never seen INXS live.

Nathalie had gotten an extra copy of the new INXS album "Switch" for Christmas and generously gave it to me. It's actually pretty good - takes a couple of listens to separate the songs out from each other, but then it turns out to be a pretty interesting rock n roll album. The cool thing is the way the songs sound like different artists - there's one that sounds very Bowie-ish, and one that sounds U2-ish.

So, just like the Foo Fighters back in October 2005, the live show made me a bigger fan of the band. This concert rocked the house! (Literally too - TJ said he could hear it back at home!) They played all the old favorites, and JD had a way of both sounding like Michael Hutchence and sounding new and different at the same time. His voice is pretty amazing, and you can tell he's having a great time playing the part of "rock star". I mean, who wouldn't?? His reality show "personality" annoyed me, but dang, that guy is talented.

They took me right back to high school (Hi Judy!) by playing:
Suicide Blonde
What You Need
Never Tear Us Apart
New Sensation
Devil Inside
Need You Tonight

And to one specific night in college with Original Sin, which I didn't even know was them. That was pretty cool, and better than the memory that accompanies it, that's for sure. (BTW, don't read anything into the title - I didn't even know that's what it was called until tonight!)

And of course to the songs I liked from Rock Star, which I didn't really know before the show:
By My Side
Don't Change

They played for a little less than 2 hours, which seems short to me, but I can't think of any song I wanted to hear that they didn't play. It was a great evening for an outdoor concert and the perfect end to a very lazy day.

Peace out...

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