Archive for January, 2009

Living, Aging and Dying

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Today’s number: 17.9 stone

First, my apologies, in advance, for bumming you out. Although not my express intention, today’s topic is hardly uplifting.

That said, let me start out with a poem, one I recently forwarded to a friend turning 50:

On Himself
by Robert Herrick
A wearied pilgrim I have wander’d here,
Twice five-and-twenty, bate me but one year;
Long I have lasted in this world; ’tis true
But yet those years that I have lived, but few.
Who by his gray hairs doth his lustres tell,
Lives not those years, but he that lives them well:
One man has reach’d his sixty years, but he
Of all those three-score has not lived half three:
He lives who lives to virtue; men who cast
Their ends for pleasure, do not live, but last.

The abridged version of this is: “there’s a difference between living and lasting; it’s only living if you live a good life.” I’ll forego any definition of “living a good life”. To some this might mean “being good” (“virtue”). To others, this might mean contributing something to the community. To others yet, this might simply mean not stealing their neighbors’ newspapers too often.

By any metric, my mother, has lived a good long life. She turns 88 this year and is, as many say of their own mothers, “a saint.” She is the paradigm of kindness, generosity and selflessness. Alas, even though my mother’s faculties are mostly in tact, her body is another story. She suffers from osteoarthritis and a seriously impaired sense of balance. Two things result: considerable pain and occasional falls (leading to more pain). She has very little strength left in her hands and she has a minimally usable right shoulder (dislocated during a fall and never mentioned to anyone).
She has lost several family members (a sister, a brother, several friends) and, frankly, seems to be looking forward to her own death. She jokes about how little time she has with us and about how it doesn’t make sense for her to think beyond the short term. I can tell this is not just “gallows humor” and mental preparation for the inevitable. I think she’s simply getting to the point where her pain and her limitations seem to offset the joy of living.
3000 miles away lies another story. A good high school friend of mine has cancer. After chemotherapy and apparent remission a few months ago, he’s taken a bad turn. He spent a couple of weeks in the hospital with shingles then MRSA. After recovering from these, it turns out that his cancer is back in several organs. He needs to go through more chemo, but has been readmitted to the hospital with respiratory problems.
As with my mother, this friend, too, is a saint. Of our entire high school gang he’s always been the nicest, kindest and gentlest of us. Mind you, we’re now a pretty grizzly bunch of lawyers, executives and bureaucrats but, nevertheless, chance could not have been more cruel in choosing whom to screwe.
There’s no point in agonizing over the injustice of biology. One lives longer than she wants; the other is stricken in his prime. As the old saying goes, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” So, as Herrick says, focus on maximizing your living. Enjoy your family. Pay attention to your friends. Be kind to the dog.


Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Today’s number: 18.1 stone

I swear that I am not writing this post because I’ve just made a New Year’s Resolution regarding weight loss and fitness. I made the resolution last November in no way associated with the new year.

Regardless, here’s the situation: after living the “good life” in Spain for a couple of years, I returned to the States in 2002 and went on my first Atkins binge. I lost a lot of weight, getting myself down to a svelte 210 pounds. Before you scoff, keep in mind that I’m 6’6″ tall (shoeless) and weighed 225 in high school. In addition to the Atkins, I was playing golf 2-3 times a week meaning that I was walking 12-18 miles while carrying a heavy bag (12 if I was playing well and 18 if not!). I was also doing Yoga which, for some reason, turns out to be a good weight loss practice.

Fast forward 7 years or so and I’m back to 254 pounds. Obviously, it’s all Atkins’s fault (dead or not).

What happened? The most significant thing is that I started “working again” in 2004. From 2002-4 I’d been doing occasional consulting but never going into an office for more than a day a week. When I started Centeris (my software company; now “Likewise”) that changed drastically. Not only was I going to an office 5+ days a week, while there, I was sitting on my ass half a day then having a restaurant lunch before coming back and sitting down some more. If I wasn’t in the office, I was probably traveling, eating in restaurants and drinking too much. It took me 9-12 months to return to my pre-Atkins weight.

What now? For one, I’m running again. I started running about 15 months ago then got injured and stopped. Now, I’m healthy again and can run 3 miles at least two or three times a week. In addition to running, I’m working with, yes, a “personal trainer” at the Bellevue Pro Sports Club.

If you’re a current or former Microsofty (as I am), you know what I’m talking about. You pay $50-$70/hour to someone in order that they can shame you into working out. It works, too. My trainer calls it “accountability”. If you’re on the hook for a good bit of coin, you’re going to make it to your appointment.

Here’s something else that I’ve discovered: if your trainer is a woman (or better yet a “girl”), it works even better. And, although it has something to do with sex, it has nothing to do with Sex. The reason why it works is that, when a woman asks you to do something (e.g. a bunch of crunches), you’re gonna do it. You can’t say “no, I’m too tired” or “I’m just too weak!”. You’re going to buck up and do whatever she asks you. The smaller and younger the trainer is, the better success of this phenomenon.

I’ve had, 4-5 sessions now and I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m feeling good. I’m particularly working on strengthening up my knees to avoid further running injuries. Although it’s early, I think it’s effective; I’ve been able to run without any knee or hip or shin pain.

To further exploit the “accountability” factor, I’m going to emulate Bridget Jones here and start posting my weight on a periodic basis. Don’t forget that 1 stone = 14 pounds.