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MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND #7 (article first published : 2006-01-21)

Musing away, as I spent my daily hour in the swimming pool this morning, I was reflecting on just how truly awful my 58th birthday was LAST January but how magnificent it had been THIS year. On January 8 in 2005 I began my day with a trip to the hairdressers, in order to look nice for a celebratory dinner with my daughter, where they had to cover my ice-cold feet (diabetic neuropathy) in no less than five towels – to very little effect, I might add – after which I spent the rest of the day on my bed, crying with pain for what seemed like an eternally long afternoon (spinal degeneration, due to carrying far too much weight) and resenting each chirpy phone call from kindly friends and relatives when all I wanted was for the world to go away – and me with it.

Long story short: I hit rock bottom on June 3 of 2005 when a neurosurgeon informed me that, due to my weight and size, the medical world could not and would not do anything to help me and it was a case of The ball’s in YOUR court, my dear. You’ll find the story of this major turning point in one of my earlier Musings.

I’m happy to report that on January 8 of THIS year – just a week ago – I was 27kg lighter, and it has TOTALLY turned my life around. Miraculously, once the first 15kg had been shed, my entire metabolism changed. I now sleep without any medication, awaking alert and ready to start multi-tasking at five in the morning. By eight at night my peepers are beginning to close and I just fall into bed and sleep deeply for six to seven hours. I’m told I now TROT rather than WALK, and I hardly ever need to stop to catch my breath. My swimming is more enjoyable than ever and I look on it as total pleasure and not something that needs to be done daily in order to exercise. (Being diabetic it is essential to exercise daily but there were days when it really seemed a chore and an effort. Yet now it’s a totally different story. It’s just sheer joy.)

THIS birthday was a delight from sunrise to sunset. My family are overjoyed and I’ve earned the reputation of becoming a real CHIRPER - which I’m sure is due to the need to make up for lost time during six awful months of depression last year with music being my only solace and way of escaping reality.

Music is still an enormous joy in my life and I have a couple of exciting little projects lined up which I’m hoping will come to fruition in 2006, as well as paying more attention to my writing now that I have so much less back pain. In order to thank all the medical people who helped me with my weight loss journey – and which I earnestly hope will help others battling the bulge should it ever be published - I wrote a short story which I called A River in Egypt because the punchline near the end goes like this… “DE NILE AIN’T ONLY A RIVER IN EGYPT”. And I see now that I lived in denial for far too long.

Not only was I truly blessed on January 8 this year with love and support from family and friends, I managed to sit in a church pew in comfort for the first time in a very long while and made the re-acquaintance of a priest of whom I’m inordinately fond who’d taken the funeral service of dearly beloved Aunty Midge of radio fame. Over many decades, I’d made studio bookings for his radio talks. To top it all, I awoke to a magnificently COOL day in steamy, hot Durban – the best gift of all for my special day, which this year was a truly happy celebration.

The universe has been most beneficent to me in so many ways since I took responsibility for my weight gain over the years, even though I’m not entirely certain yet why it happened. One medical hypnotist I consulted put it down to the fact that my father had been a Prisoner of War for four years in Italy. Dad had turned all his war stories into tales of adventure, not wanting to traumatize his two young daughters, yet I think it made an enormous impression on me at the tender age of three or four that he’d gone without enough to eat for so long. Another person I’d consulted did a Past Life Regression session with me, and told me that she saw me sitting on a beach on an extremely hot day yet I was adding layer upon layer of clothing over my body, because I was physically handicapped and had a father who could not deal with the situation – which she interpreted as my layers of protection. Well, whatever the reason or cause for my over-eating - or emotional eating, call it what you will - I view it now as a Life Lesson that I’ve had to overcome, and now that I eat healthily and in smaller quantities I’m reaping rewards left, right and centre!

My devoted daughter has taught me to learn to be more charitable. She herself is a stunning example of what I think of as a Mini Mother Teresa (her middle name happens to be Teresa, since she was born on St Teresa’s Day). She spreads generosity and love around her wherever she goes, handing out samples of her sportswear designs to folk not fortunate enough to be able to afford retail prices rather than see them piling up in the stock-room and serving no purpose.

Taking a leaf from her book, some seven or eight months ago I decided that the local pool where I swim was looking decidedly tatty in the shower curtain department. So I took it upon myself to purchase a half-dozen or so new ones, for both the shower area and the change-room area in the Ladies’ Section. The management, who work on a very limited budget, were somewhat stunned by this action and kept telling me they were so expensive-looking that they’d be stolen in no time. I’m pleased to report that they’re still there, as are the ones I then decided to purchase for a different pool I like to frequent.

Best of all: the very day I purchased the first lot of curtains I was offered the opportunity to share my experiences through this column on artSMart. What a gift from a beneficent universe, proving that indeed As ye give so shall ye receive for what I SO want to do with my time in the last phase of my life is to write, and also to spread the musical joy of the magnificent voices I discovered who helped me through those awful months of depression. Whether I receive payment or not is of no consequence. I’m not wealthy. Far from it. But I just know, in my very bones, that “All Will Be Well”, as my dear Uncle Frank in London Town is wont to say in all his exceptionally witty and enjoyable letters. Though there’s a difference of some 25 years between us, we communicate on the same wavelength (as I do with a wonderful lady who lives about an hour’s drive away, in beautiful Pietermaritzburg, both of us preferring the old-fashioned snail-mail as opposed to e-mail.)

Yet another magnificent example of beneficence: A friend I’ve made at my local pool, a gorgeous young 41-year-old woman with a perfect body, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s a single mom to an extremely hyperactive nine-year-old who I’ve now offered to have overnight every third Friday when her mother has to undergo Chemo- and then Radio-therapy for the remainder of this year. She’s just this past week had to shave all her hair off, so I’ve promised myself I shall buy her a pretty hat or bandanna each morning she comes to fetch her daughter. What has the universe done for me in return? Well, yesterday, at my own cancer check-up (a basal cell carcinoma removed from my nose last year just before Christmas, leaving me with nine stitches and a huge bandage on Christmas Day, then a course of nine extremely painful injections over the next nine weeks) I was given the all-important ALL-CLEAR.Phew!

To end, let me assure anyone else battling the bulge that it is WORTH THE EFFORT of exerting that little bit of willpower, thus finding UNIMAGINABLE joy in the rewards it brings. Hearing words of praise and admiration from my family, friends and acquaintances - in particular from my daughter who literally has had an enormous weight lifted from her delicate shoulders, is just so motivating!

My diabetic specialist loved this self-diagnosis I came up with at my last diabetic check-up and tells me he’s going to pass it on to all his diabetic patients). It goes thus… Feeling cheerful ALL the time is SO much nicer than the FLEETING taste sensation of an ice-cream or bar of chocolate!. He tells me he’s passed that one on to many others who are battling to come to terms with the diagnosis of diabetes and the need to change their eating patterns. By the way, I love quotations, and I adored this one, on the topic of exercise, from actor Peter O’Toole: “The only exercise I seem to get these days is walking behind the coffins of those who forgot to exercise.” Another one dropped by Paul McCartney recently went like this…”Looking at the back-yard of my life, I decided it’s time to sweep the fallen leaves away.” But this one really resonated with me… “There are different enemies to success. The first enemy is yourself: you need to conquer YOURSELF.” Evidently someone named John Maxwell said, “When we are foolish, we want to conquer the world, but when we are wise we want to conquer OURSELVES.”

As for Dr Phil’s CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE phrase, well, all I can say is that he has a lot to answer for with his advice to “substitute old, bad, habits for new and better ones” - for I now have an ever-growing collection of delightfully pretty new handbags, since that is my reward to myself each time the scales tell me I’ve dropped yet another 5kg!!! – Bev Pulé




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