Turning 51, part 2 Healing is possible

Hugh Ailin


Monday, April 28th. 

I woke up really cold again. I had been awake much of the night, getting up to pee and then unable to fall back to sleep. I had two blankets on my bed but wasn’t warm enough until I added a third. 

I took my temperature because my forehead felt warm and I thought maybe I had some kind of fever. My temperature was low, though, and that’s when I realized: I’ve slowed down my metabolism. 

And here was my thought: this is fascinating!

I really did feel good running 18 miles a week, teaching Nia four times a week, practicing a new Nia routine, walking Lola, but I did this all while eating a different diet that’s somewhat lower than usual in calories and while not sleeping well. It’s not surprising that my achilles started hurting again, my energy tanked, and my metabolism slowed. 

Still, it was fascinating to see it happen, to watch my body adapt. If I was gonna move that much and eat and sleep that little, my body was gonna make me cold and tired to get me to sleep more, eat more, and move less. Way to go, Adaptable Biological System, well played. 

I want you to consider this. If your weight is not what you want it to be, consider that your weight is an adaptation to your life. Change your life and then your metabolism and weight will adapt. 

We focus so much on this simple idea of eating less and moving more. It’s a good start, and if we’re otherwise happy and healthy, and we eat just a bit less and move just a bit more, the formula works well. If the formula doesn’t work for you, then something bigger in your life is asking for attention. 

You know what I did? I went out for a run. I kept it short, just 2 1/2 miles, and I dressed really warmly. It felt great. Easy, healing, energizing. I taught a low key Nia class that afternoon. This was healing movement, enough to sweat and enough to pray and meditate, enough to connect with nature and with music and with others, and not so much to drain me.

I also did this one other little thing. I apologized. 

My son and I were driving home from an appointment, and I had Pandora radio on the comedy station. Louis CK was delivering a really biting piece about his tremendous love for his daughter and also how he totally hates her and wishes she’d never been born because she’s so much work. Ailin asked if it ever was that way for me. I said, there was this one time. 

He was maybe six or eight months old. My daughter was two. When my daughter had been his age, before Ailin was born, I’d been working part-time and she and I had a lovely rhythm. I could care for her and for myself. Then I started grad school. Once I got pregnant with Ailin, I had to take a break in that program, but I resumed it after he was born. Next, a full-time position opened up in my department and I had to take it. Here I am, parenting two tiny humans, working full-time, and working on a Master’s degree. I could no longer find the rhythm or flow in my life, and I couldn’t nurture myself well. My hormones were whack, which I thought was due to nursing.  I look back and see I must have had stress hormones shooting through the roof. So this one time, I don’t remember what made me crack, but I turned to Ailin and I yelled, “You ruined my life!” 

I didn’t mean it. Well, okay, I meant it, but it wasn’t true. I couldn’t yell at my job, “You ruined my life!” or at the grad program either. I couldn’t yell it at myself, “What the hell are you doing? Stop some of this, right now!” 

I knew he was too young to understand what I meant. There was more anguish than anger in my exclamation. He was a happy, smiley baby, a very easy and amiable kid for the most part. Somehow in my memory, I’m yelling and he’s sitting there, smiling. I’ve carried with me a guilt for having said such a horrible thing and one that’s so horribly untrue. The best choice I ever made was to make these babies with my husband and to live this life we have together. Ailin didn’t ruin my life; he made it a life worth living. 

In the car on Monday, I confessed. I told Ailin what I’d said and how I hadn’t meant it and I was sorry. I was sorry, in fact, for all the times I’d lost my temper and yelled. I was sorry that I was so strung out and stressed and that I didn’t know how to nurture myself with good food, rest, and acupuncture. I’d made this same apology to my daughter a few weeks before, and she’d said, well, I’d done the best I could and she’d had a happy childhood. Ailin said much the same, that he wasn’t traumatized by my yelling and that kids could be difficult to handle. I said, no, it’s possible to deal with kids without yelling. It just hadn’t been possible for me then. 

I’m just saying: at almost 51, I can forgive myself and I can apologize. Healing is possible.


Tuesday I did four things that were very healing. 

One, I had another acupuncture treatment. That stuff is the bomb. My tinnitus eased for a bit and I wasn’t cold for the rest of the day. I felt incredibly nurtured and fortified by the treatment. My optimism returned. I don't know that I could do this healing without acupuncture. It's been that fundamental to my health and well-being.

Two, I held some babies, the Agnew’s newborns. While I held those babies and talked with Pete and Diane, I didn’t think about any of my symptoms. I was present. What a relief. Oh, and baby holding I am sure makes the brain release generous amounts of feel good hormones. 

Three, Nia class rocked with good energy. My job was to guide the class to greater health and once again, I was present. I wasn’t focused on whether my ears were ringing or how I was reacting to anything. I was focused on making that one hour of the day work really well for a group of other people. 

Four, I stoked my metabolism by eating more often. I ate some almonds and just hoped it wasn’t going to set off a histamine reaction (no better or worse than any other meal, so that was a score). I ate a bit more rice and sweet potatoes, filling and healthful complex carbohydrates, foods that are warming and provide fuel for movement. I trusted my food.

I did not wake up on Wednesday all better. I’m cold. My ears are ringing. I notice I’m holding my jaw too tightly.  I woke, having slept much better, still tired but not as drained, especially not spiritually.  I woke ready -- no, compelled -- to write, and in writing I am astonished to notice the speed of healing and the great many things I’ve done in less than a week to transform from a place of discomfort and distress to a place of optimism and greater freedom. What seemed both slow and impossible now appears to be perfectly paced and a tremendous gift.