The Only Thing to Fear…Well, Actually There Are Lots of Things

Y’all won’t even believe this.

I’ve started “running.”


It’s dangerous to run in clown shoes, yet I press on.

I use air quotes because it’s not so much “running” as it is pained shuffling for maybe half a song length, followed by dramatic staggering, side clutching, panting, walking, gathering my wind, and then striking up the shuffle again.

My personal best so far was running the entire length of Carrie Underwood’s Undo It. Hey, it’s no 14-minute Freebird, but it got me almost half way round the track. I just might make myself a car sticker that says “2.57.” (YEAH, baby, that’s MINUTES. Take that, 26.2ers!)


This iPod of yore is so old and crusty that the screen looks like a dying star.

I have been staunchly exercise-free for most of my adult life. I have worn my sedentary state as a nerd badge of honor, creating this weird logic in my head that it was both vain and a bore to have a gym membership. Puh-LEASE. Treadmills are for hanging clothes on, people.

I have better things to do, right? I’m a WRITER (imagine me saying that with a deep baritone and great dramatic flourish). My ART demands long hours of dedicated screen staring, followed by occasional bursts of manic creativity, interspersed with long and frequent Facebook breaks.

I cannot be bothered with such self-absorbed silliness as “working out.” (Oh yeah, and exercise hurts.)

Then my father-in-law went and got himself one of those fancy triple bypass surgeries a few weeks ago. I heard my husband explaining to the kids how it happened, how among other things, “Pappy never exercised a day in his life” and then BOOM — this fun, near-death experience happened.

I started thinking about that statement — but almost like he’d been talking about me. I pictured Bill explaining to our children why their mother had to be airlifted from Lady Liberty after trying to climb all 20 flights of stairs with them to the top. “Well, your mother never exercised a day in her life, God bless her soul…”


And she ate lot of garbage. Although not typically all together in one bowl (as seen at the Big E Fair).

I decided right then to do something…something unfun for the good of the team. I decided to try running. Fear did this to me.

Fear can be an excellent motivator…like when that huge spider is INSIDE YOUR CAR and you become newly “motivated” to drive 90 miles an hour across four lanes of traffic to extract yourself from the vehicle before you die or it touches you, whichever comes first.

Sometimes fear moves us like nothing else can.

But sometimes fear paralyzes.

Whenever I do these walk-jog amalgams at our town track, I pass by a women’s prison. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. It’s just there.

But today (to the beat of the Black Eyed Peas) I found myself peering through the chain link and wondering what life is like there — how those women got there, how it must feel to be locked up without the choices I have, what they would think of a whiner like me who has every blessing but still complains every chance she gets.

I’ve had a huge opportunity nosedive out of the sky into my lap — the chance to have a book published (my manuscript is due by year’s end). And I’m treating a dream-come-true like a hot potato. I’m scared to death of it. Sitting down with my manuscript feels like wrestling mano a mano with Fear Itself.

Fear tells me lots of things: 1) that this book will suck; 2) that no one will buy it; and 3) even if some random stranger does buy it, they’ll think it sucks too.

Fear has me by the unmentionables, big time.

But today, as I staggered by the prison, the weirdest thing happened. I started to cry a little (and not just because running is the worst).

When I thought of how those women in there would give their eye teeth for the chance to live out their dreams and do exactly what they wanted with their lives, it occurred to me:

What a stupid waste of energy it’s been to spend all my time twisting a blessing into a curse. Fear did this to me

Sometimes fear is a good thing. (I will never, ever in a million years do meth, because I am scared. Have you seen what happens to those people’s teeth? And have you seen Breaking Bad? Fear can be good.)


Chemistry teachers also scare me.

But for the other kind of fear — the kind that chokes and entangles and trips us whenever we try to run — that kind of fear is a jerk and a liar and needs to get kicked right in the face.

Granted, I can’t kick that high. But I can definitely aim lower and make it count.

You see, I’ve been “working out.” Or something like it.

This is 40…and then some

I just got out of the bathroom, plucking another fistful of grey hairs.

Shut up, I know. They just grow back in an army of little silver spikes, intent on total scalp domination.

And yet I pluck. It’s what you do when you’re 43, which is what I am, as of today.

Back when I was young and beautiful...and apparently a boy.

Back when I was young and beautiful…and apparently a boy.

I now join the ranks of other 43-year-old women who haven’t exactly taken the world by storm – Shannen Doherty, Denise Richards, Debbie (now the more stately Deborah) Gibson.

Mind you, the 43-year-old guys are still ruling the school – Jon Hamm, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg (who has long since left Marky Mark and his Calvins behind).

But the 43-year-old women…hmmm…not as strong a showing. I can’t speak for how well Wendy Whoppers is holding up (an aging porn star, according to my handy “celebrities who are 43” list), but I don’t hear a whole lot from Claudia Schiffer anymore.

Even so, I doubt anyone’s ever offered her a senior discount.

Now, you may have heard this story before. (All my friends pretty much have.) But hey, old people repeat themselves a lot. 

Back when I was a sprightly 42, I went treasure hunting at Goodwill. I’d hoped for a little pick-me-up, the kind that comes from unearthing a stain-free J. Crew rollneck sweater just your size.

Speaking of cheap thrills, how bout Barbie clothes?

Speaking of cheap thrills, nothing beats Barbie disco ensembles on your birthday. (Please please note my midriff-bearing top.)

But know this: nothing brings you crashing back down to earth like the check-out lady inquiring in all helpfulness, “Do you qualify for our senior discount?”

(Let me be clear. I was NOT buying girdles or Maeve Binchy novels at the time.)

All I could do was stare at the woman.  Mouth agape. Eyes squinty.

And I hung on for the laugh. Surely, there had to be a joke in there somewhere. Surely.

Instead, she offered this qualification: “Our discount applies to people 55 and over.” Oh, well then, that makes everything better.

I squinted harder. My mouth hung slack. And I waited for her to cast her eyes upon my dewy complexion and blush hotly at her mistake.

Not to be unkind, but perhaps there’s a reason this woman worked at Goodwill. Clearly she was not one for making wise life choices, because she had the gall to ask me again, kind of snotty this time:  “Well, do you?”

Being old and slow-witted, all I could muster was a haughty laugh and (perhaps a little too long and loud) an indignant, “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

It’s a good thing for her that I’m a lover, not a fighter…and that I have very little upper body strength for strangling.

Because, man, that’ll set you back.

You’re walking around thinking, I’m young. With it. Quasi-hip. I may have two kids and a station wagon and spider veins, but I’m still pulling it off. Sort of.

I mean, I've got it going ONNNN.

I mean, I’ve got it going onnnnn.

Then you have that soul-crushing moment when you discover you’re not 25 anymore. And that nobody my age says “hip” much — unless they’re joking about breaking one.

The thing is, I don’t want to be 25. I am perfectly content here at 43 – right along with my friends, Sarah Silverman and Melissa McCarthy.

I’m just not quite ready to share that 55-year-old senior discount with Jamie Lee Curtis. Or her Activia, for that matter.

There’s plenty of time for all that.

Twelve years to be exact, not that I’m counting.