Enough was enough. We were a mess.
Tom’s problems were internal: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, borderline diabetes. My problems were more musculoskeletal: inflamed nerves in my neck, back pain, knee pain.
In the summer of 1999, we took a trip to Washington State with another couple. For some reason, we regularly handed them our camera and cheerfully said, “Take a picture of us . . . “
. . . standing on this mountaintop,
. . . in front of this sign with our Hot Tamales,
. . . along this ridge.
When the pictures were developed after the trip was over, we were sobered by what we saw. Who were those two dumpy people and what were they doing in our pictures?
It took a few months for us to work up the courage and resolve to do something about it. Like every other year, we would start “after New Years.”
But this time we did. In January 2000, at the ripe old ages of 51 and 55, Tom and I decided to live differently. Mind you, this was a decision by two non-spontaneous people who break out into a cold sweat when they decide to switch laundry detergents. Two people whose ruts were so deep, whose bad habits were so deeply ingrained, that it would take major earth-moving equipment to dig them out. People for whom change was painful . . .
The first time we went for a walk in 1999, we walked to an intersection about four blocks from our house. “I can’t go any farther,” I whined to Tom, “because I don’t think I’ll be able to walk back home again if I do.” So my first walk was eight blocks long.
We started cooking and eating differently. We became “those people” who split a meal at a restaurant. And we started walking . . . one mile, two miles, three miles, four . . . five, eight, ten.
So in the summer of 2000, we felt better about handing someone a camera and saying, “Take a picture of us in front of this marina . . . "
Over the next ten years, we looked for ways to incorporate walking into everything we did. We planned vacations around hikes that we would take along the way or when we arrived at our destination. We started to seek out activities that we wouldn’t have been able to do that summer of 1999—snorkeling and walking on volcanic rock in Hawaii, hiking through Sitka National Park in Alaska, exploring state parks, biking on the trails. We took three cruises and each time, we knew exactly how many laps around the promenade deck on the ship equaled one mile.
It’s not a fair comparison to put up a picture of us now in the year 2010, ten years after we turned over a new leaf. We’re ten years older, 61 and 65, and we look it. We have wrinkles and sags in places we never knew could wrinkle and sag. Our new lifestyle isn’t magic and certainly didn’t improve our looks or stop the ravages of time.
But inside, we’re different people than the couple who traveled to Washington State in 1999, fueled by Hot Tamales and McDonald's cheeseburgers.
It is absolutely, positively the best gift we ever gave ourselves.
Which reminds me—I have to (need to, want to) go and walk my 2-to-4 miles for today. (After looking at those pictures from 1999, I have a sudden urge to go four.)
Happy New Year! And happy ten-year anniversary to us!