Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Here we go again

I thought when I started writing this blog that it would provide me with inspiration and a public venue which would add the "shame" incentive -- I would somehow be more accountable to unkown strangers than I am to myself. The good news? I've discovered that I'm not as "other directed" as I might have thought. I guess the hell of middle school, when I craved the approval of the "crowd" and didn't get it, burned that desire right out of me for life. The bad news? I'm not as other directed as I might have thought. So, the idea that unkown others might be saying to themselves, "What a loser" (and not in the way I would have hoped) didn't really have much of an impact on me.

So, I'm starting again, rethinking this blog, and trying to salvage some good things out of this experience.

Here are the good things:

For the past few months, I've been seeing a nutrition counselor. Emphasis on the counselor. She is really nice, although the fact that she highly could be my sister-in-law's long lost twin kind of freaks me out. She thinks I am too negative (true), that I don't eat in the right way (true), and that I don't do things for myself (true). All of these factors contribute to the plateau I've been on for several years now.

After a longish hiatus, I thought I should sign up for Weight Watchers Online. I can't stand the meetings, which always seem to devolve into tips (if you only do x (usually involving buying WW products), the weight will just FALL OFF) or complaint sessions ("I just CAN'T figure out why I gained last week), or loving recitations of the wonderful, low cal concoction that tastes "exactly the same as pumpkin pie, I swear"). But WW Online has some useful tools and their concept of eating anything, in moderation, seems reasonable to me. I have always thought that the latest diet fad, whether it's low-fat, low-carb, no-meat, no wheat, no this, no that, is unreasonable. Human beings are omnivores and should be able to eat any kind of food. Eliminating whole food groups seems very counterproductive to me. I also know that a lifestyle that doesn't include buttered toast or mashed potates is not one I would willingly choose or sustain.

I've been working with my sister and my aunt on something called Made to Crave, which takes a spiritual approach to losing weight. As the author, Lysa TerKeurst says, it's about finding your "want to", not about "how to" lose weight. There are a series of video lectures she gives, then we work through daily assignments (which are tough, in that they require you to really be conscious of what you are thinking and believing about yourself and what you want), and then we meet weekly (lately it's been monthly) to discuss. It's been a really rewarding experience in many ways, especially since it has allowed me to grow closer to two phenomenal women, both of whom are so beautiful inside and out. The only dark spot is that my mother, who had been joining us before Christmas, is now in Florida for the winter, so we are deprived of her gentle and loving presence.

I took a walk this morning, after doing drop off. It was a small walk, but it was a walk. I went twice around the track at a local park. My goal is to do this every morning, and to build up to ten times around the track by the end of March. Then I'll go looking for more interesting walks.

This walking mania came about because, over President's Day weekend, a friend and I went to New York for a "mom's weekend away" minibreak. It was so much fun, and I walked and walked and walked. And I was in horrible pain. All the muscles in the backs of my legs were so tight and really painful, to the point that I had to stop my friend during our 8 block walk to Penn Station at the end of the weekend and ask her to hail a cab. It was awful. But, as I told my friend, if I can walk in New York because I want to see the 9/11 memorial or the Irish Hunger memorial or the Met, I sure as heck can walk at home, even if the scenery is not as interesting.

As I was walking this morning, I was thinking of all the walking I used to do when I was younger and healthier. I walked all over Rome, all over Dublin, all over Baltimore, and all over the District of Columbia. It occurred to me that, when I was in graduate school, there were times that I was so poor that I couln't afford the 85 cent metro fare from Ballston to Foggy Bottom. On those days, I'd get up an hour earlier than normal and walk the 6.5 miles from my apartment to school. It wasn't easy or fun, but I remember not giving it too much thought -- it was just something I had to do. I want to get back to that stage, when I don't have to think about the pain that walking any distance will cause me.

Now off to do 20 minutes of Free Step on the Wii. Whee!
Pray for me!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dear Friend, Sadly Missed

My friend, Susan Niebur, passed away yesterday, after a five year battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, the deadly cancer that presents with no lump.

These are my words for Susan.

In 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse 13, St. Paul writes, “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Recently, I saw a commentary about this verse given by a priest who was, I think, recapitulating St. Thomas Aquinas’s explanation of it. The priest said that, when our earthly lives are done and we see God face to face, there is no longer any need for faith, because all of our questions have been answered and all of our searching for the Ultimate has come to a triumphant close. In the same way, there is no longer any need for hope, because when we see God, Creator of the Universe, face to face, all our hopes, even those we ourselves can barely acknowledge, are fulfilled. What then is left?

Love is left.

Love abides.

And when we see God, the Creator of the Universe, face to face, what we are seeing is Love distilled to its finest point. And, to the extent that we have loved in our lives, to the extent that we have habituated ourselves to this Love, then, to that extent, we participate in this Ultimate Love for all eternity. If this is true, and I know with all my heart and soul and intellect that it is, as I know Susan did, then at this very moment she is participating in this Love in a way that we can only dimly comprehend.

I think this is fitting, because if there is anything that characterized Susan Niebur, it is the love that she had for her husband, Curt, and their children, and all those who were privileged to know her in person and virtually. Susan was blessed with a mind both scientific and poetic. She could as easily explain how light is refracted by a prism, with the math to explain it, as she could write a sentence that carried such weight of meaning that it could transport her readers in profound ways. Ways that changed them. Ways that made our community a better place – indeed, ways that made, and are still making, the world a better place.

And yet, as the cancer that claimed Susan’s life progressed, those things were slowly stripped away, as important and as integral to her person as they were. And finally, things that we take for granted, like the ability to drive a car, to be in charge of our days, to walk from one room to another, were slowly taken from Susan. What remained?

Love remained.

Love abides.

Throughout the last several weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dante’s Divine Comedy. In this marvelous poem, Dante the poet travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, observing and relaying all that he sees there to his readers. In the final book of the poem, Il Paradiso, Dante moves in concentric circles (kind of like the solar system!) through the heavenly host, drawing ever closer to a final celestial vision. I remember that, when I first read Dante, I thought that Paradise was a real let-down after all the dynamism of the earlier two books, what with Sisyphus pushing the stone perpetually up the hill, illicit lovers burning with unrequited passion, Satan encased in ice up to his diabolical waist, and the myriad souls moving up the terraces of Purgatory, every fiber of their souls yearning to attain unity with God and drawing ever closer to Him as their earthly attachments and concerns fell away.

But as I have gotten older, it’s the final image of the Divine Comedy that comes back to me again and again. After his long and fantastic journey, Dante finally comes face to face with God Himself. And here, description does not suffice. He says, “Oh how poor our speech is and how feeble/for my conception! Compared to what I saw/to say its power is ‘little’ is to say too much./” And yet, he tries, imagining the Holy Trinity as three circles, the Father, the Son as reflected light, and the Holy Spirit as impassioned fire breathed out by them both. It is only with the help of a flash of Grace that he is able to understand the image of man inherent in the Son, the Incarnation. And he says, “For the great imagination here power failed;/But already my desire and will [in harmony]/were turning like a wheel moved evenly/by the Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.”

For me THIS is the entire point. The point of the Divine Comedy, the point of the Incarnation, the point of Creation, and, yes, the point of Susan Niebur’s life: Love – HER love, as a reflection and amplification, a reverberation, of the love of the Prime Mover. As my heart is breaking for Curt and the boys, for Susan’s family, for us all as we endure the loss of this great woman, I also am comforted by the sure knowledge that at this very moment, Susan is immersed in the Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.