Tag Archives: thoughts

Getting started!

Some people are really great at forcing themselves to do things they don’t want to do. I’m very jealous of those people. They find easy success at things like exercising, studying, and cleaning. People like me, however, find themselves out of breath while sorting through the detritus of their life in order to locate a lost textbook. This is nothing to be proud of. If discipline could be bought, I’d be first in line.

Every so often I convince myself that it’s time to adhere to a workout regimen. (See last week’s entries in this blog). Historically, these attempts have been utter failures. In college I was required to keep my weight down for rowing, and I managed that well enough because I felt accountable to my teammates and coach. But every other time I’ve gone on an exercise kick, it’s lasted a matter of weeks, maybe a month or two. I’ll start going to the gym, become a slave to the elliptical, go on long bike rides. It feels great at first. Then my discipline disappears amid the excuses. It’s too cold to run outside. I didn’t eat enough so I’ll be too weak. I ate too much so I’ll get cramps. My back hurts. I have shin splints. My hair is perfectly straightened and I don’t want to sweat all over it. Soon I’m back at square one: not exercising and wishing I was.

Yet there are some things that I do every single day without thinking twice. Here’s a few: eat. Sleep. Cook. Surf the Internet. Work. Play with my dog. If exercise was as painless and rewarding as those things, I would be in Lance Armstrong shape. So my quest right now is to make exercise fun. I’m lucky enough to have all the right tools in place: a human exercise buddy, a canine exercise buddy, gyms nearby, lots of winding roads and proximity to Piedmont Park for runs. With all of these at my disposal, working out should be a great time.

With that in mind, I’m starting small and setting some realistic exercise goals. There’s no way I’m going to become a gym rat, but I’ll look into spinning and kickboxing classes that I’ve enjoyed. And I just made a little investment: a GPS runner’s watch with a heart monitor! Armed with that sucker, my plan is to go for four 30-minute jogs per week. That should be a manageable start, especially for someone who can’t stand running. And hopefully, since I’ll be logging of the distance that I’m running, I’ll feel accomplished and encouraged to keep going.

The GPS watch will arrive Friday, but my new outlook starts tonight. I found a Groupon Now deal for a kickboxing class at the gym that I went to before I left Atlanta in 2009. Xavier and I are going and I know it’ll be fun because I’ve done it before! Right now, not kickboxing sounds great. Today was a long day at work and I haven’t eaten anything since potato latkes for breakfast. But I’m going to get off my ass and work out, because later tonight, I’ll be so happy I didn’t settle for another excuse. I’ll feel accomplished instead of lazy. And that’s how I’m going to try to motivate myself.

If you enjoy exercise, please share your secrets in the comments below.

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Making changes

I started this blog for a few reasons. First, my blogging friends inspired me. They produce amazing content that enlivens my Google Reader every day. Reading their words makes me want to write. Second, I wanted to start writing again. Maybe if I put my words in a public place, I’ll be more inclined to keep at it (wishful thinking? time will tell). Third, I need to hold myself accountable more often. My first post here listed some things that I wanted to do in 2012. I’m hoping that I’ll to stick to these plans.

The truth is, I’m terrible at making lifestyle changes. Take nailbiting, for instance. I’ve been biting my nails since my teeth came in. Over the years I’ve tried everything to stop. Foul-tasting nail polish? Check. (Trained myself to like it, the same as I did with tomatoes and olives). Spending money on a pretty manicure so that I’d be motivated to maintain my beautiful nails? Check. ($20 means nothing when you’ve got the incurable urge to gnaw on your fingers). The application of more expensive four-inch acrylic talons? Check. (FYI: Human teeth can dismantle acrylic). Even my family joined in, with everyone yelling at me if they saw my fingers wander towards my mouth, from childhood through high school. (That didn’t help me with biting nails, but it did help motivate me to leave home and never look back).

I’d also love to work out more, but the fact is, working out is the worst. Who wants to spend an hour staring at the gym’s wall, gingerly avoiding touching the handles of a community treadmill? Cycling is my favorite form of exercise, but it has the inherent disadvantage of requiring lots of open and infrequently-traveled roads. Living in the Midtown (read: very urban) area of Atlanta, I’m terrified to leave the driveway on my bike. It’s scarier here than it was in Philly. Riding was dangerous there, sure, but the roads had dedicated bike lanes and cyclists were a common sight throughout Center City. I felt like a member of a bike community, the brave and strong who battle inclement weather, homicidal motorists, and trolley tracks to get a little bit of open-air cardio on the way to work. Here in Atlanta, a cyclist is a lone idiot on wheels.

Well, I’m not really sure where I’m going with all of this. Clearly I have not yet found my voice with this whole blog thing, but that will come eventually. Practice makes perfect and this is my fourth entry, so don’t drink the hater-ade yet, loyal readers. Give me time. The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend so perhaps a bike ride is in order. A really long bike ride, the kind of bike ride that makes you walk funny the next day. Here’s to bowlegs and blisters… Have a great weekend, everyone!

In the End

The best part of my job is the interaction with patients. Every day, I talk to a variety of people, and some are very interesting. It’s fun to administer cognitive tests to highly functioning people. Many view the tests as a challenge and I enjoy their enthusiasm as they surprise themselves with their performance. But there are far more patients whose memory has deteriorated to the point that they barely remember their own name, much less that they’re at a doctor’s office and that they’re undergoing memory testing, not being subjected to randomly assigned torture.

Dementia, evidently, does not discriminate. While it’s heartbreakingly sad to see any person lose their memories, I’m particularly struck by those who were highly educated or incredibly successful. I can’t help but wonder how much information was packed into the brain that is currently rendered useless by time, Alzheimer’s, Lewey bodies, or any of the other awful conditions that deteriorate our nervous systems.

One thing that I’ve noticed from all patients, though, is that they ask similar questions. During the hour or so that I’ll spend in a testing room with someone, I’ll try to make small talk so that they feel more comfortable. Memory testing can be very stressful, so I do my best to put them at ease. This, combined with the disinhibited nature of many dementia patients, can lead to some humorous situations. Many patients will ask how old I am – “you look like a baby!” (I’ve been told that since I literally was a baby, so I’m used to it by now). Many inquire after my marital status, and then segue into telling me about their own romantic pasts. I love when this happens. Nothing improves a gloomy Tuesday like an adorable elderly gentleman telling me how much he loves his wife of fifty years… every ten minutes.

From that comes my own completely un-scientific observation. When the brain is fighting to stay whole, people lose a lot of themselves. Dementia bears the hallmarks of personality changes, forgetfulness, moodiness, and other sad changes. However, the one thing that remains until the end are those memories and experiences forged by love. You might not be able to count backwards, to draw a clock, to copy a drawing of a cube. Driving is out of the question and no TV show ever feels like a rerun. But you remember who you loved, and who loved you back.

Sometimes I feel frustrated by things that are out of my control, but when things get stressful, I try to remember that. Everyone wants to succeed in life: we hope to have a successful career, live comfortably, travel, buy things. But there will come a time, if we are lucky enough to live that long, when none of that will matter. We’ll just be old people asking strangers if they’re married. Of course, my generation is much younger than the majority of patients who come into the clinic, and our lifestyles have changed with those fifty years. So we must adapt accordingly, and here is my unsolicited one-size-fits-all advice of the day: be nice to people. Cherish your relationships, be they with friends, family, or significant others. Whether you get married or not, it’s the people in your life that you’re going to remember, not your iPad or Android. Trust me on this. I talk to old people every day, and nobody waxes poetic about the lava lamps or record players that made their life complete. In the end, we only care about each other.

Welcome to 2012.

I woke up this morning and it was 2012. How did that happen?

It’s the third day of the year, but it’s the first that feels like an actual day because I had to work. The first and second floated by in a blissful haze made possible by paid vacation days from work. Thanks, Emory. On this third day, I hit the snooze button a few times. Between each snooze, I curled up under the blankets to retain the warmth lost from extending my arm to the nightstand. After doing that a few times, I just grabbed my iPhone/alarm and brought it into bed with me. It’s 2012, after all. Beds aren’t just for people, but our technology; my boyfriend and I typically share the sheets with a minimum of a laptop, Kindle, Blackberry, and iPhone. By the time I finally hauled myself up, I had 15 minutes to get ready for work. They flew by pretty quickly, as time often does when you’re brushing your teeth, picking an outfit, making sure your dog goes outside and actually pees as opposed to just chasing squirrels in the backyard, etc.

By the time I had spent ten minutes in my office, I realized that not only was it 2012, but 2012 felt an awful lot like 2011. Which, incidentally, felt a lot like 2010. And then I felt panicky because I’m turning 25 next month and I still don’t feel like a responsible adult, which is scary not just because I want to be a responsible adult, but because I sort of don’t want to be one. In the car yesterday, I said as much to my boyfriend. I told him that I was scared to turn 25, because it felt like I wouldn’t be a kid any more. “You can get away with a lot when you’re 22, 23, 24… but when you’re 25, you’re expected to behave in a somewhat adult-like manner,” I explained.

“You should act like an adult when you’re 18,” he replied, because he is infinitely more reasonable than I am. And he’s right. So in the interest of acting like an adult, I am going to begin holding myself responsible for accomplishing my goals in 2012 and beyond. Here they are:

– Writing. I miss writing. Hence this blog. (For the record, I will note that I have attempted to blog in the past. It always seems to end in me erasing everything after a few months because I’m embarrassed by it. I’m going to try not to do that this time).

– Exercising. I miss exercising. I’m not going to make any crazy goals here, because it’s winter and it’s cold and it gets dark early and I’m a slacker, but I’ll say that I’d love to get in one good workout per week. Maybe two.

-Learning. Here are some things I am going to do: move closer to fluency in Spanish, move beyond strumming to serious fingerpicking on the guitar, learn piano, take better photographs. Oh, and apply to grad school.

Hopefully this blog will serve as a place to reflect upon those changes. What are you planning to do in 2012? How will you make it different from 2011? Please feel free to share.