When I was a very small child, like other small children I spent a lot of time running, playing with neighborhood kids, splashing in the wading pool, and climbing slides at the playground. While my parents were quite sedentary and didn't enroll me in anything formal like dance classes or sports, I kept myself busy with the friends and stayed active without a thought. When at the age of 7 I was almost crushed by a speeding van, my parents moved us out to the country where I was even more free to run and play in the wide open space. There were far fewer kids to play with, though, so I learned the skill of pretending. All summer long, I'd climb the big maple in the side yard, hanging out in the branches and pretending I was Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins, watching for ships on the ocean with my imaginary dogs and gathering leaves and flowers for 'food' to hide in the cave made by some old snowball bushes. I played alone in cornfield mazes, climbed fences to explore old barns and marveled at the depths of the lake where a dead cow was rumored to 'live' at the bottom. The little forest across the field was a magical place for me where I talked to the trees and the squirrels and my imaginary friends. My parents bought me a bike, too, when I was about 9; her name was Bird because on her, I could fly. I rode many miles up and down the country back road hills on Bird. I was fit and thin and active, with no computer or video games and very minimal TV, watching the Flintstones while I did math homework after school and enjoying Saturday morning cartoons while I ate my Cocoa Puffs before running out to play, only coming home briefly at lunchtime for Kraft macaroni and cheese or hot dogs.
All of my friend were involved in some kind of sports or dance or activity, but I was not allowed to do that. The closest thing I had to an organized activity in my youth was summer swimming lessons, where I first learned to hate myself. My mom put me in classes when I was 9 or so, much older than the other children who had learned to swim at 6 or 7 years old. I was embarrassed to be the oldest in class, especially when all the little kids jumped happily off the diving board while I hung back, afraid. I was even more embarrassed when I had to go back to lessons when I was 10 and 11 years old because I still could not swim. Older kids laughed at me. Sometimes they made comments about me being "pasty white" or looking like a ghost because I was so pale. And at 11, the fat comments started, even though I was far from fat, as you can see in the pictures of myself as a child that I posted here. See the one of me in the white bathing suit? Horrible memories in that thing. So I tried to avoid swimming, even though I did like being in a pool.
When I became a teen, PE in school was dreadful. All of the other kids already knew the basics of playing soccer and basketball and baseball, but I didn't even know which direction to run if I hit the ball, or what to do with a ball if it came near me. I *hated* PE. Hated!!! I often faked illness to get out of it. But there was this one time when I was about 14 that we did field hockey for several weeks in PE, and I just loved it! It was a new found passion, and I asked my parents: please, please, could I join a field hockey team? And the answer from my mother, who was the 'boss of me', was: "We are no part of this world. You do not need to form friendships with worldly girls. Besides, Jehovah wants you to use your time to tell people about The Truth... not waste time playing worldly games." And so the PE session ended and I never played field hockey again.
I became rather sedentary, because 14-year-olds don't really "play" anymore... at least that's what I thought. I spent more time watching TV and less time on my too-small bike which was never replaced with a taller model for my taller body. I didn't walk in the fields anymore or explore barns and lakes; I stood on street corners selling religious magazines and got most of my activity walking from house to house, knocking, selling books and preaching The Truth. I got an Atari and played Pong and Tank, Asteroids and Pac Man. I started going to arcades, and when my Dad would take me bowling every once in awhile, I'd bowl one game and then stay glued to the Donkey Kong machine. I spent more time watching TV and eating chips and other fatty snacks, and I started to get a little fat.
I wasn't obese by any means, but at 5' 5 and 15 years old, 140 pounds was not exactly thin, either. And since I was so inactive, I had very little muscle tone to go with it, so my pale white thighs became jiggly. I thought I was fat. And I figured I had to do some exercise to fix that, since that's what the girls at school said. So I started running.
The summer of my running happened when I was 16 years old. I got up early in the morning, laced up my sneakers, put on a tank top and shorts, and hit the road. I didn't know anything about stretching or shin splints or nutrition. I just ran down the lane and up the country road, past the meadows and the forest and the orchards until I could run no more. And then I walked until I caught my breath, then ran again. I watched the sun rise over the big red barn surrounded by back-and-white cows in the distance. And then I ran back home.
I did this every morning before preaching, before work. I started to think about college, even though it was forbidden. "This world will not be around long enough for you to finish college," mother said. "It's a waste of time... an immersion into this world, and they will fill your mind with worldly ideas. Serve Jehovah. The New System will be here soon. Do you want to be in college immersed in the world when Armageddon comes?" And so, even though I got A's in all of the college prep classes my counselor had put me in, I never took the SAT or the ACT or applied for scholarships. I was going to serve at Bethel in Brooklyn instead. My agnostic father knew of my hidden dreams and quietly bought me a dark blue Penn State tee shirt that summer; I loved it. And I dreamed of playing tennis at college. I'd spend hours in my backyard with a racket, hitting a fuzzy yellow tennis ball against the cinder block walls of my house, bouncing it up to the roof, playing tennis with myself in my Nittany Lions tee shirt and imagining I was there, at Penn State, playing tennis. I never got to Penn State, but I did get fit playing 'tennis' and running every morning that summer.
I rebelled, in my own quiet way. At 18, I moved far across the country, worked in a preschool for room and board, worked a second job and saved to go to college. A year later I was at a junior college... not as fit, because so much working did not allow for any time for running or tennis... but I stayed right around 135-140 pounds for years. I got plenty of walking in since I didn't have a car, and I loved the college experience. But I never did play any sports and I never ran again.
So you see, exercise has never played a big role in my life. The increase in activity since I started this blog is about as active as I ever expected to be. I *loved* biking when I was doing in regularly and I am trying to get back into that. I love the *results* of strength training, even though I pretty much hated doing it. And I totally loved being able to roller skate with my daughter, mop and rake easily and with energy, and hike mountains with my kids. I am not trying to get to a point of running again. I am just trying to get out of a place of weakness, back to a place of strength and confidence and energy.
Two of the three pounds of water bloat is gone overnight. Scale says 218.
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