2016 was a physically challenging year. In January, I tripped over a doggie gate, one I had successfully traversed hundreds of times before, and broke my left humerus. The next day I underwent surgery to insert a rod and two pins. Two days later the doctor discovered I had also cracked my left hip, which necessitated a second surgery to insert three screws.
I spent the next several weeks in physical therapy. By May I had regained 95% range of motion. The worst was behind me. Or so I thought.
In June, I managed to trip over the basset and break my right humerus. While I did not require surgery or additional hardware, the recovery time was longer. And my spirits were low. When did I become so frail? Was there a lesson I was supposed to learn from this?
Later that fall, I participated in a Bible study that focused on the armor of God. The author pointed out that Roman soldiers needed a strong core for strength as well as balance. This resonated with me. After two falls in five months, I knew I needed help with balance – and my weakened arm muscles definitely needed strength.
I always take time in December to consider a Word of the Year – one word to guide my daily thoughts and actions. In pondering the possibilities, I wanted one that would help me focus on such key issues as gaining strength, developing core balance and learning to slow down.
My search led me to a word association activity – a brainstorm technique that often serves me well. I started with RELEASE: this would help me let go of my constant need for productivity and my impossible pursuit of perfection.
I then pondered the word INTENTIONAL: a reminder to be mindful of actions rather than going through life on automatic pilot.
As I know all too well, negative self-talk is a hindrance to personal growth. It is hard to love others if we do not love ourselves.
Words such as TRANSFORM or RENEWAL seemed to address these concerns. But then I discovered the word NOURISH.
The definition is spot on for this time in my life: to supply what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to strengthen, build up, and promote.
I even love the sound of the word. The long, lingering vowel reminds me to slow down and rest. The quiet “sh” at the end literally tells me to be still and listen to divine guidance.
Yes, NOURISH would be the perfect prescription to bring this broken body back to wholeness – physically, spiritually and emotionally.
I focus on regular exercise and a nutritional diet. No excuses, no cheating. I want the time I have left on this earth to be quality life, not mere existence.
To help me stay on track, I maintain a weekly tracker system in my bullet journal. I strive to complete arm-and-core exercises five days a week. In addition to walking the basset, I also try to include a thirty-minute cardio walk three times a week.
I’ve discovered that Nourish sometimes means doing things I don’t necessarily want to do in order to achieve desired results. For years – decades really – I’ve viewed exercise as a form of corporal punishment. It’s not so much the workout that deters me, as it is the lingering sweat afterwards. What is supposed to take half an hour inevitably stretches into two hours or more, once I schedule time for a shower, hair style, and make-up application.
However, I know if I want my latter years to be fruitful and productive, to pursue dream adventures and keep up with grandchildren, then daily exercise is a small price to pay.
I also make a conscientious effort to prepare more meals at home and eat out less. I avoid processed foods and instead spend more time shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. I love the colorful rainbow of fruits and vegetables in the cart, and I’ve learned to slow down in the kitchen and actually enjoy the daily slicing, dicing and chopping.
Spiritual and Mental Health:
I focus on accurate thought: God loves and accepts me – just as I am. Self-acceptance is the first step in sharing love with others.
To this end, I take more time to pamper myself.
When I was in my 30s and 40s, there was rarely time for such luxury. When I wasn’t working at school, I was chauffeuring children to various activities; when I wasn’t monitoring homework schedules, I was grading papers. Pampering in those days was an extra cup of coffee in the morning.
But I now have more time to indulge. Something as simple of painting my nails in the evening nourishes my well-being. I feel younger, frivolous, and more daring.
I am also more mindful of my everyday surroundings.
Since all my children have moved away, I have transformed a spare bedroom into my Paris oasis. It is decorated with all things French, including a bistro table and chairs, and a beautiful red sofa. This is often where I escape to journal, read and meditate.
But it isn’t so much the room as the ambiance that makes the difference. I have rekindled my love of music. I prefer instrumental music when working, but I also enjoy creating thematic playlists. My favorite so far is the accordion music of French Cafes.
In addition to music, I also have a fragrant candle burning nearby. I typically prefer scents that are reminiscent of the beach or a warm summer’s day. I try to stay away from the bakery scents, however, or I will find myself hungry for sweets.
I’ve learned it doesn’t take much to transform an ordinary space into something inspirational.
I make time to pursue creative endeavors simply because they bring me joy – no productivity goal allowed.
I am a life-long learner and crave knowledge. The world-wide-web is my best friend, and self-help books are my constant companions. But lately I’ve learned to embrace fiction and allow myself to escape into the story world.
While most of my creative energy is spent in crafting words on a page, I also enjoy paper crafts, like card-making and scrapbooking. I love the colorful paper, the whimsical stickers and stamps, and the thought of bringing a smile to someone’s face. My artistic skills are mediocre at best, but the process brings me joy.
I’ve focused on nourish for six months now.
While I haven’t noticed dramatic transformations, I know overall health has improved. Flabby arms are toned and the muffin-top is less pronounced. I’m not as anxious. I’m more confident. I pursue excellence without comparing my efforts to others.
Nourish isn’t a one-time event, it is a lifestyle change. It’s taking one baby step at a time toward a bright and joy-filled future.
About the Author: Molly Totoro
Molly Totoro is a Connecticut Yankee currently residing in the Midwest with her husband and trusty basset. While Molly retired from full-time teaching in 2014 to pursue her writing dreams, she continues to work with students to achieve their writing potential. Molly recently published her first book, Journaling Toward Wholeness: A 28-Day Plan to Develop a Journaling Practice with the hope of inspiring others to experience the health benefits of writing their inner thoughts.