Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The muffin-top menace of 41

My birthday is looming and for the first time I’m reflective and contemplating the reality of aging.

I reached the supposedly momentous FOUR O last year, and didn’t notice anything special. It was a birthday, I went out for dinner with friends, I moved along the next day into life as usual.

This year though, after having gorged myself through numerous holidays and business trips, I am starting to develop muffin tops! I decided that I needed to knock that off, start a diet and get back into shape.
Only it’s not happening. Not nearly as quickly as it should, or as it used to. Is this my age catching up with me?

Despite following a low calorie, low fat, no sugar, almost no carb diet for the past 10 days, my weight feels like lead, packed neatly inside my flesh, stubborn and solid - as if it’s telling me, in it’s stoic silence, that it’s not going anywhere.

I have also started exercising. At a fundraising event last weekend – where I avoided all the temptations of good wine and a cornucopia of fat and carbs at the buffet – I won a one month gym membership in a raffle. I figured it was a sign.

I headed to the gym Monday. After an hour (brisk walking – I don’t run!), on the treadmill I felt a bit dizzy and would have happily made my way home. But there is a cartel of personal trainers at the gym that pounce on all unsuspecting middle-aged out of shape newbies, and I was dragged off to an hour of torture (otherwise known as training). I left with an overwhelming sense of nausea and foreboding.

I hopped on the scale the next morning and had actually gained weight. After the initial loss on day one and two of this diet, I seem to lose .1 of a kilo only to gain .2 the next day. How is this fair? Not one cheat I tell you! Is this what happens when you’re past 40?

Headed back to the gym for more punishment again yesterday. Again I did the hour on the treadmill and again, my new training pimp tugged me along for the weights circuit. Halfway through, my legs threatened to give out completely and my stomach did a few somersaults. Could I really be THIS BADLY out of shape?! Apparently so. He did not let up though, and I finished an hour of lifting, squatting, pushing, pulling, groaning…

I barely made it home. Walking up and down stairs now is like trying to hold one’s self up on rubber bands. I have to hold the railings for dear life. And the pain! Oh, the pain. I had to take painkillers to fall asleep last night.

So this is what it’s come to.

And I gained .1 of a kilo this morning too. Thanks.

If I believed in God I would be sure he had a grudge against me. Either that or THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE OVER 40…

For years I’ve read silly birthday cards about how everything falls apart above a certain age, and I’ve heard my mom and her friends sharing their mutual complaints about how the body doesn’t cooperate with the mind anymore etc. But in that naïve way of the young(er), I never believed it would happen to me.

We are supposed to be an evolved species! Why haven't they discovered the elixir of youth? And I'm not talking about plastic surgery, which creates scary melted wax in place of people's faces.

Jellyfish even have it figured out! (did you know there was an immortal strain of jellyfish). Just what the world needs - brainless blobs that live forever.

A few years ago I went through the same 'get fit, stay young' efforts, and with a healthy diet and some long walks, I lost the weight with ease. (Put it back on even easier I might add).

Am I destined to feel like I've been beaten up just from exercising? Must I wear my ‘fat clothes’ from here on out, and retire the slim wardrobe forever? Is it worth all this effort if nothing is happening with my physique?

Yes, I know that a healthy lifestyle is always better and cannot be bad… but just as I have come to accept that the efforts will be harder and longer now – that I’m over 40 – I come across this: THE TWINKIE DIET. Wherein some nutrition doctor loses 27 pounds eating sugared donuts…

Go figure.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Voodoo and the Juju

I love when I stumble upon a great link or some amazing photos on the net. Better still when they relate to my part of the world.

I have lived in West Africa for close to 15 years now, and apart from visits to the juju and voodoo markets in Ghana and Togo, where one can buy dried chameleons and other ex-living bits for spells and curses, I must say that I haven't been around or involved in many rituals.

Wandering through the arts centre in Accra, you come across various statues and implements that were presumably used for various traditional ceremonies, but we can only use our Western imaginations to surmise what the actual uses were.

To be invited into the secret world of the traditional as an outsider in West Africa is rare indeed. Many times foreigners are invited to watch or participate in events that are rigged up for the very purpose of impressing or intriguing the tourist. There is nothing intriguing in those.

Phyllis Galembo, a widely traveled photographer managed to gain the trust of her subjects across West Africa, and gained access to various ceremonies that have remained shrouded in mystery for centuries. As a result, she has produced a glimpse into a world I can not quite imagine - despite living here!

The photos are taken in Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana and the collection is called West African Masquerade.

The photos are so worth sharing though:

"Created for festivities and ceremonies such as weddings and burials, initiations, chiefs' coronations, and holidays like Christmas and the New Year, the costumes can be worn to disguise anyone, from a grown man or woman to a child. The subjects range from adults to teenagers, but Galembo does not know the identity of the individual beneath each mask. This mystery lies at the heart of her interest in costuming and masking — acts that allow the wearer to become something else, to change gender, or species, or even into spirits."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Letters to Shiloh - the anatomy of loss

Forks stab through soft flesh at plates, wine stains lips…

The dinner conversation lulls. I invite you in. Bursting in my mind, you are up to your mischief, a perfect story for the crowd.

You dance behind my eyes, and flirt with the room. You are alive in my animation.
I recall your stubborn beauty, the countenance with which you revered no one and the world at once. You tell us all with such charisma what defines you.

Your brother hears you and he lights up. Ever so briefly. But then he resumes chewing. Eyes cast downward. He is worried about me. Worried that you might spill out and push over my glass of wine. Splattering red like a crime scene across the white expanse of the table.

The other guests are nervous. I want them to love your antics but they wonder at the mother. A woman who could unhinge in the whirlwind of what they think is a memory.

Everyone feels trapped. By your beauty and my sorrow that bubbles underneath.

You aren’t at the table and I am the only one who doesn’t know it. Cannot see the dust reflecting in the light where you would have peeked up from underneath. Your brown hand, soft, warm, quick is not pulling at the tablecloth, toppling the fragile china. There is no reprimand for you. Only a fleeting pity for the mother.

A woman who knows a crushing void that cannot be filled by dinner conversation or the best Shiraz. A woman who lies so still in the night, straining to hear your voice in the still counterexistence of darkness.

You have not quieted in your absence. Still playing with me – dragging me to the point of tears with ease, triggered by one line from your favourite song on the radio.

Your crimson spirit so sharp, so elusive you make me crave the fiery child you were, and the boundless essence you will always be.

But for now there is dessert to serve and I must reassure the guests. I have to let go of the kite strings for now. I slump slightly in my chair, my excitement abated. The conversation resumes and turns swiftly back to the weather.

Art piece from Strange Skeletons Abstract Art, piece called Overwhelming Grief
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