My New ‘Regimen’ Has Taken Over My Life… And I’m Grateful


I have decided to spend my two-week vacation walking around the block.

Not really. I’m what they call “retired,” so I don’t even get a vacation.

In my youth, I wondered what the heck these old people did all day, since they didn’t go to work. Here’s what they do — sit around in doctors’ offices. And lately, I’ve been unhappy with my back. Or maybe my back is unhappy with me. Either way, we’re not getting along.

So, I mentioned this during my last check-up and was immediately sent for x-rays, and then physical therapy. The experts have yet to tell me what’s going on back there, but I now have something called a “regimen.”

Each morning, this regimen takes me an hour to complete. An hour! I calculated that out to 365 hours a year or, roughly, the two weeks I mentioned earlier. What a waste of time!

I’d quit right now except I feel so much better — almost like I did growing up.

In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only difference between a prescribed “regimen” and a good mother is the language.

“Walk 30 minutes a day” used to be “Get outside and get some fresh air!”

“Strengthen your core” used to be “Suck in your gut!”

“Bend and stretch” used to be “Reach up there and get it yourself!” with the added flourish of the guilt-producing addendum “What am I, your maid?”

Also, a prescribed regimen only promises success — a good mother delivers. Mom is 94 now, doesn’t use a cane or walker, and has been telling me to lie in bed and “do the clamshell” for the last 20 years. That sounded a bit perverse, so I ignored her, but it is now a key part of my life. Turns out it strengthens your hip assemblage. Has mom ever broken a hip? No, of course not.

My problem is, during the hour I am exercising and strengthening and clam-shelling, I am thinking about all the other stuff I could/should/would be doing. Then I get resentful.

I had to change my thinking. Changing my thinking is something new to me, but I’m having success with it. It’s all in the approach. In this case, I don’t think about the hour I’m wasting each day. I think about how, being retired, I still have seven hours “off.”

If you had come to me when I was 42 and said, “Would you like to work only one hour a day instead of eight?” I would’ve said yes. Not right away, of course. First, I would’ve asked, “What’s the catch?” and you would’ve let out your breath and rolled your eyes and yelled, “The catch is you’ll live a longer and healthier life! Now, do you want to take this deal or not?!” Then I would’ve said yes.

So now I’m quite religious about my regimen, especially about walking around the block, and will continue in this manner until I’m inevitably hit by a car.

Changing my thinking does not mean abandoning dark humor and sarcasm.