• Lijing Cobb

Mumbo jumbo

I went to Costco with my 7yo for a rare leisurely stroll in that great store, and found myself lingering in the supplements aisles. I had no idea what I wanted to buy. There are so many varieties there, and most of them don't tell you what they are for and who should take them. I guess the manufacturers just assume that people know. Or everyone else knows but poor ignorant me. Yet I felt like I should get some of these things that everyone else is buying. What am I missing out in my life? What should I be taking? Plus, many of those mysterious pills were on sale, and my eyes landed on the bottles specifically made for women. Ah, maybe I should buy some of those. So I did.

After my supplement shopping spree we went to Olive Garden for a family meal. I've had these gift cards from that restaurant in my gift card pouch forever and yesterday I decided, enough scorn already for those $100 in my pocket. Let's go make them into food! 2 drinks for my hubby and me, plenty of food for everyone (they have an "endless soup and salad" option, gasp! so of course my frugal husband pounced on that) including a salmon meal for me, a 19% tip for our waitress (who forgot our request to put salad dressing on the side for the first batch of salad and omitted croutons for the second batch but was nevertheless very pleasant) later, the bill came to just $79. My husband regaled me with the inside scoop from one of his ex-employees who worked at Olive Garden that the salad we were having was in fact the ONLY non-frozen food in that restaurant. Everything else was pre-made, pre-packaged, and microwaved to perfection upon order. So our waitress bore double duty as server and chef!

Imagine an advertisement of a job like this: "looking for a chef with no culinary training but good people skills. Minimum wage but tips proportionate to your people skills." A restaurant where nobody cooks? Who ever thought of such an idea? The only thing our waitress had to prepare as a "chef" was our salad that consisted of iceberg lettuce, tomato, cabbage, croutons, and Italian dressing (yes, there was no other option), and she struck out 2 for 2 on both presentations. Nevertheless, she was pleasant. Good people skills.

After our hearty meal, I sent my kids home with hubby and went to play volleyball. Last time I was on an indoor court was perhaps 4 years ago. My friend never gave up on inviting me, and since I no longer had a Wednesday night conflict and excuse, it was high time for me to answer her kindness. Although I didn't start a "volleyball" workout on my Apple watch to record whatever calories I burnt and the minutes that counted towards my daily 60 minute move goal, I didn't take the watch off either, because I wanted to show the watch that I could give it more steps in those two hours. Somehow, in some mysterious way, having the watch on would make those two hours more productive and prove my obvious worth as a human being. The two hours were well spent. I left with the clear knowledge that the 6 other women were all trained, seasoned, and serious players who would drive 45 minutes one way on a weekday night for a couple hours of good volleyball, and of course they have to be better players than me who played two indoor games in the span of 4 years. But the irrational part of me still complimented myself secretly: I stayed low, I was ready, I was quick, and I had lots of energy. I barely warmed up when the more seasoned players ran out of fuel to chase after the ball. I could hang with these people. I was not ruining their game.

I promised the girls that I would return to play with them again next week. Such a nice group of women. The age range of the group spans from 20's to 60's (maybe even 70's, I'm not sure), and one of the most mature players who played next to me all night kept reminding me, or maybe herself, that people do not stay young forever. Wait till you are her age. Still moving on the court, showing up every time, holding her own, having lots to teach the young ones. Is that what she meant?

On the drive home my heart was very light. Some of the microwaved salmon had been digested properly. But to be honest I did check my Apple watch to see my calorie burn and step count. If I had turned on the workout app, my calorie burn goal would have been reached, and my workout minutes far exceeded the measly 60 minutes. But alas, neither of these things registered on my "smart" watch so it didn't count. Get it?

The conundrums of life.

Earlier in the day, after lunch when my son was milling about, restless and itching to get back on his computer, I told him to go outside and get ready to pass the volleyball with me. Quality time with my son. In the name of keeping track of time, I turned on the "volleyball" workout on my watch, and 24 minutes later, my watch had reported 95 active calories and 122 total calories. Multiply that by 5, which is the amount of time I spent on the court with 6 nice ladies last night, my active calories would have been 475, with a whopping 610 total calories. Take that, smart watch! I would have beaten my daily goals easily, but I chose not to!

Who am I doing these math equations for? What am I trying to prove?

So back to my impulsive supplement purchase from Costco. Just because they exist in such abundance in a store I frequent and trust, I had felt obligated to "open my mind" and "try something new." Maybe it's time I take some of these pills. The prebiotics and probiotics, these names alone sound so official and necessary for my body. Daily multi-vitamins and minerals, just one pill that fulfills all the requirements for my body to avoid any dire deficiencies, so that I could eat whatever restricted diets I want (chocolate muffin for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch, pizza and ice cream for dinner on repeat, my son's favorite diet program). And collagen! Something our bodies make plenty of when we are young, and make less and less of when we approach the nice mature volleyball lady's age and surpass even that, the lack of which makes you look your age, gasp.

I'll let you catch your breath and digest a little bit of what just happened here. A mish-mash of what transpired in the day of a very ordinary 45 year old woman who is fit and exercises daily, looks very young for her age, who eats well and buys mostly organic food to the detriment of her very frugal but doting husband.

Our age, at some point, without notice, somewhat brusquely taps on our shoulder and says hello. We look in the mirror and see lines on our faces that were not there just yesterday. We stay on the potty in the morning reading a book or scrolling through FB for longer and longer periods of time, waiting for the relief that came so easily just yesterday. We are less willing to walk on ice, much less sliding and having fun on it, for fear that we would fall down and break our hip, wrist, or ankle. And sometimes we watch the volleyball drop right in front of our feet, because our brain told us to go, but our knees wouldn't bend. When the age tap happens, sometimes we panic and search Costco or the internet for an answer.

Yet the answers are never clear, and the line is always blurry. We find out that there are no definitive answers, damn it. A couple of weeks ago my husband's foot started hurting for no apparent reason, to the point where the otherwise stoic man who would grab a burning coal for fun (not quite, but you get the drift) made himself an appointment to see the doctor. The assessment, not definitive, mind you, was that he might be suffering from gout. Pills were prescribed and taken, and suggestions were made to modify his lifestyle (no spicy, oily foods and spinach, no alcohol and black tea, lots of citrus fruits but no grapefruit, go figure), but 100% sure gout? No. Maybe. Perhaps. Possible. Your guess is as good as mine.

When no one can tell us exactly what we should do, we blunder and fumble, and often times we follow the horde. If most people are driving 80 miles per hour in a 65 zone on the highway, it must be acceptable, therefore I do it too. If we get stuck behind a car dutifully driving 65mph, we get frustrated and, as we pass the law-abiding vehicle, curse the little fool: don't you know that everyone else is doing 80 now?

The thing is, and tell me if it is not true, that some of these people doing 80 on the highway are just rushing to their next spot, there to wait and endure boredom again.

So it's not clear whether I should use my Apple watch to record my move and calorie burn or not. It's not clear whether I should take these supplements that I bought at a discount or not. It is not clear whether we should go to Olive Garden again and enjoy their microwaved dinners and fresh salad with Italian dressing or not.

It's not clear. Age says hello. Supplements.

What's really clear out of all of this, and I'm super grateful for some clarity at this point in my life, is that my husband really savored his rum punch (although it wasn't clear whether he should have had it at all) at Olive Garden. That my kids shared their prized, microwaved french fries with me willingly. That I enjoyed steering my 7yo's bony shoulders instead of my giant Costco cart as she sat on the shopping cart reading my blog, and we couldn't stop giggling together. That I hugged my son whole-heartedly after our 24 minute volleyball session and he said it with rosy cheeks, "thank you for spending time with me mommy. That was really fun." That those 6 much more skillful ladies of volleyball had made me feel so welcome and a part of the Wednesday night family that I had told them with no reservation and doubt that I would go back again next Wednesday, and the ones after that, to enjoy their company again and again.

Clarity lives in the heart. Give your mind a break, and go to your heart.

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