About a year and a half ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She’s in the early stages and she’s doing well. At first, I didn’t think the diagnosis would have that big an impact on my life in the short term. It was something that had to be dealt with on a practical level—getting her affairs in order, helping her sort through and donate the voluminous amounts of stuff she didn’t have room for once she and my step-dad moved out of their massive Victorian in Missouri and into their basement-less lake house in Northern Minnesota, and scouring the internet for geriatricians in her neck of the woods (there aren’t any).
But when my mom mentioned that her friend’s daughter had just become a personal trainer and lived near me… I called. I’d wanted to get a personal trainer for years, but for one reason or another never had. (The primary reason, I suppose, is that exercise sucks. Although, thanks to Rita—my trainer—it’s also fun.)
And then I called an amazing company called Nutrifit, and started having my food delivered every day. It’s not cheap, but the food was terrific and healthy, and I lost thirty pounds.
Then I decided to stop coloring my hair, which started going
gray when I was in college. I'd colored it for the first time in my late twenties— but slopping a bunch of
chemicals on your head just can’t be good, and more than once “a touch of highlights”
had suddenly become “holy crap, I’m blond!” Living in L.A., I’d always felt I had to look my age or
younger. Now I’m thirty-seven, and
I’m fine with the gray. I’m
shocked to discover I like it. And in order to get rid of the color
faster I cut off most of my hair, which was the best thing I’ve ever done. For the first time in a long time, I
feel like I look like myself. And
if I don’t get some job because I have gray in my hair—whatever. There are worse things. Like having to go to a colorist every
Finally, I started buying my wedding registry. By “my wedding registry,” I mean all the things I would have registered for if I were getting married. Good pots and pans, serving platters, good knives, a Cuisinart food processor, serving spoons, steak knives (I got the most wonderful steak knives. I swear, they’re gorgeous.), flat wear, place settings, cloth napkins and placemats, tablecloths. All the stuff that, when you get married, other people buy for you. Well, let me tell you— I may be single, but I still need good pots and pans. And my Cuisinart makes a mean cauliflower puree. Turns out my wedding registry was astonishingly expensive—which is why these things usually get spread out between twenty to two hundred people. But, bright side, I got to pick exactly what I wanted without having to take anyone else’s taste into consideration. And since I’m an only child, that’s probably for the best.
It took me well over a year to realize that these things weren’t random. I didn’t just suddenly decide to get healthier and take charge of my life. Every move I made to improve or re-direct was a clear result of my mom’s diagnosis. I had been suffering, for years, from a severe case of what Gretchen Rubin (of The Happiness Project) calls “drift.” Professionally, that had worked out just fine. (As Gretchen points out, drift is not always a bad thing.) But personally, it had been a disaster. I’d been drifting lazily, letting the water take me where it would, and my mom’s diagnosis was a waterspout that came flashing from the sky. It sent me spinning. With all the bad that is certain to come, it’s important to remember: Sometimes, a little spin can be a good thing.
What's sent you spinning? Did you end up someplace better than where you started?