A fine friend


That’s our girl. She’s at a party right now to celebrate a friend’s ninth birthday. It’s a sleepover with a luau theme, featuring pool time, bowling, and watching the birthday girl’s big brother run a 5K in our little town.

When I was our girl’s age, my parents would never have let me be at a party from 2pm till 9am. Things are different. I’m different. Parties are different. I’m getting nearly hourly updates via text on how the girls are doing.

I told our daughter as I took her to the party, “if you need us, ask Ms. J to call me.” She “mm-hmmed.”

“I know you probably won’t need me, though.”

“Yeah, I never need to leave a party.”

And not this party, especially. The birthday girl is a lovely person–kind and enthusiastic, laid back, independent… I love our girl to be around her. This friend is heading off to a magnet school. Our daughter will miss her but said, “That makes sense, though. She’s so good at so many things, she’s so creative and smart, she’s really special.”

She said all this with such blithe generosity. Not even an atom’s worth of envy or self-doubt. (I fear I learned those two last things too early in life.)

She saw a piano in this friend’s house. “Oh YES! I can play ‘Happy Birthday’ for you! I’m learning piano.”

She is a fine friend. The finest. She has no idea how to be anything but.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep.

An American girl in India

“Seven years ago, my husband and I uprooted our two daughters, Ranju and Malu, from their comfortable lives in Manhattan and moved to India to be closer to our aging parents, and to allow our American-born children to know their Indian heritage.”

from “For Girls in India, the Pressure to Conform Comes From Family” – NYTimes.com.

I cannot even imagine what would have happened, had my parents moved us back to India when we were young. I was last there when I was 11.

Pressure to conform.

I think that’s what I felt in India. An intense pressure to be anything but myself: as if “me” were inadequate, incongruous, generally incorrect. I didn’t have the wherewithal to silence those voices that Ms. Narayan describes. I didn’t know how to push back without being rude. (I may have learned how, since then. And my difficulties then may have been exacerbated by the severe illness I had–my maternal uncle used the word dysentery–making me lose 15 percent of my bodyweight.)

Maybe that’s one of the myriad reasons I haven’t been back since. It’s embarrassing that my 11-year-old self dictates the actions of my 43-year-old self. But it does. (for now)

I don’t know Ranju and Malu. But they impress me. Tremendously.

the last laugh. at myself.

I love this: You Have To Work Out To Get A Workout.

I spent the past year faithfully exercising along to Jillian Michaels videos, 20, 30, 50, or 60 minutes a day, every day. (I think I didn’t exercise 7 or 8 days last year, due to illnesses. That’s right: out of 365 days, I exercised on about 357 of them.)

I haven’t lost weight, as that was not my goal. But. BUT:

My joints don’t hurt. My back doesn’t hurt. I can go for a run and… nothing hurts. And. AND:

I started Jillian Michaels’ “yoga” workout (it is not at all, in no way, shape or form, something that should be called anything but “yoga inspired” or “a workout with some yoga vocabulary and a few yoga positions”) this week. It is really, seriously, challenging for a girl like me.

I told my husband about it–my husband, who does *real* yoga. He does his practice in the evenings. He found a routine he liked online, and he asked if I wanted to do it with him, but he warned me: “It’s really hard–I was sweating at the end. It’s about an hour.”

“Okay,” I said tentatively. “I’ll try it.”

We did it. And my husband was impressed, and a bit surprised, I think, that I kept up. That I was strong. That even when I couldn’t do something absolutely completely, I did as much as I could (knowing it would take time to get there).

“Your core is really strong, you were really good!”

There are few things that make me prouder of myself than when my husband comments on my physical strength.  When I met him, you see, he was at the gym every day, for 60 to 90 minutes. He. Was. Built.

He was the one who got me into running. It was 1999, and we left my apartment one afternoon, to run, just a mile. He wanted me to try it (he had moved on from weight-lifting and wanted to train for a marathon). We went about… a quarter of a mile and were starting up a bit of an incline, which to me, felt like a 75-degree slope. I huffed and puffed and panted.

“I don’t think I can do this. My lungs are just not able to…” [gasp gasp sputter sputter]

“You can do this. There is NOTHING wrong with your lungs. Come on!”

And so, I became a runner. Thanks to him (his voice in my head) I ran the Army 10-miler in 2000, and the Marine Corps Marathon in 2001.

Flash forward to 2013, after a couple of kids, light jogging for about a decade here and there, elliptical training sort of regularly for a couple years.  Running (sometimes walking) a quarter-marathon in 2010, then finding out that a slightly herniated disc in my neck made high-impact exercise a bit of a no-no… A back that “went out” in 2011, followed by a dislocated kneecap a month later…

Quite a bummer: a level of physical weakness that I found a bit appalling. And intolerable.

Enter Jillian.

Now, because I am stronger, I can pursue yoga with a bit more confidence in myself — which was holding me back from really “getting” yoga. A lack of confidence, that is.

Because. BECAUSE. “Working out,” as Hamilton Nolan notes, is not simply living your life. It is effort. Regular effort, beyond what you normally do. It is discomfort, regular discomfort, that rationally, your mind rejects.

And when you do it, when you work, your confidence grows. Confidence in what you can do, and confidence that if you can’t do something now, you will one day be able to, because “now” is not “forever.”

Confidence that you have to learn things, and re-learn things, over and over. (What you knew in 1999… fades over time.)

The mind needs a workout, too.