Yesterday we attended a surprise 50th birthday party for my good friend and fellow children’s book creator, Danny Adlerman. It was a surprise party and full of all the good, loving vibes that come from someone walking, unexpectedly, into a room where all of their friends and loved ones are waiting to celebrate their half-century of existence on the planet and fifty, glorious revolutions around our sun. There was a miraculous break in the rainy weather we’ve had here in the mid-Atlantic and the sun shone down on us all day while we enjoyed good music, good conversation, good food and good sangria.
I’ve noticed that people of this age group–and I am one of them, though not quite ready for my big 50th surprise party yet–include a whole lot of exercise and diet talk in their conversations. Of course, I love this kind of fitnessy chit chat but my epiphany came early and, oftentimes, there is, instead, an anxious urgency to “get back on track” to “go back to (fill in favorite exercise),” to “finally start eating right, living right…” It can be overwhelming to begin again in middle age but the benefits of keeping our bodies in healthy working order continue to outweigh the pleasure of sloth and gluttony, and the disparity between healthy and unhealthy widens with every tick of the clock. The fifty-year mark often heralds in a new focus on beginning again.
I’ve learned that few people want to hear the fit woman give advice on the healthy lifestyle. Particularly as she enjoys her second piece of birthday cake with wild abandon. Yes, her second piece of cake. I did that. And, really, the second piece was one I went back and cut myself with specific intention. It was a narrow, corner edge piece that was primarily frosting, my absolute favorite part of the cake.
In these situations, I eventually feel compelled to own up and tell them that while I may have run eight miles this morning to pay for this cake (true, I did), my first attempt at fitness looked very different: I was a former smoker, 40+ pounds overweight on a small 5’3″ frame, and had never run an entire mile in my life. The day I attempted my first half-mile of anything that resembled running, I had two small babies and a cast on my left leg. I plopped them into a rickety, second hand double stroller and hobbled down a partially gravel country road in the middle of a sticky, midwest summer. I pushed through the negative body image that I’d cultivated, pushed through the overwhelming discomfort of this new movement, pushed through the frustratingly slow return of good, old fashioned diet and exercise and told myself it all starts with a step and an ounce. That is how I began and I remind myself of this every time I take to the road. Because, no matter our fitness level, we begin anew each and every time.
My first step and my first ounce was 15 years ago. It took me a long time to be able to really balance the life of regimented fitness and occasional gluttony. I suppose that always keeping a shred of guilt is probably a good thing but I try not to let it needle me too hard. And, the truth is that I love cake. I love it… like, really love it. Love it more than any other dessert you can put in front of me. More than chocolate mousse, tiramisu, cherry pie, or any kind of brownie, caramel and nut concoction you can come up with. Vanilla birthday cake is my #1 favorite and I unashamedly adore gobs of buttercream frosting. And, one of my cake quirks is that I actually like it better the next day after it has been refrigerated. One of these days, I promise you, I’m going to write a book called I Love Cake.
As we prepared to leave the party, I switched in to late-Sunday mode and thought of my to-do list. I moaned to Jeff that I didn’t have a blog topic for today and he said, “Write about cake!” I thought for a moment and then he added, “Yeah, write about cake… you love it and it’s one of those things that almost always accompanies something good, something celebratory.” I often feel the pressure to come up with all these Monday ideas on my own and am always delighted and relieved when someone throws me a creative line that I can use.
So what messages did this flour and frosting gooey goodness give me? Perhaps that we should always seize the opportunity to truly celebrate Life’s sweetest moments. Or that we should never hesitate to call on those we love because sometimes they know us better than we know our selves. It told me that maybe we can embrace the imperfection that is the human condition and enjoy the slice that has extra frosting if that’s what we like. Finally, I think it said go ahead have a second piece and know that we can always, always, always begin again.
TRY THIS WEEK: Eat cake.