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Anita Book II: The First Chapter is Written

At 5:28 am on Thursday June 6th, 2024, I finally did it.  I finally finished something I started.  It may have taken me 4+ years, but I did it.  And I did it in a way that I am confident will stick.

In 2020, which for me is far more marked by the sudden loss of my mother that January from a suspected heart attack than the Coronavirus pandemic, I decided I needed an Anita Book II.  It was a midlife understanding (a midlife crisis?).  I had been on the planet for nearly 45 years and, if I played my cards right, I’d still have another half of my life left.  Anita Book II could be written, and it could be a book I was proud of.  I even did a Google Slides presentation about it to my husband.  Suffice it to say, my therapist hated the term.

(If you’re thinking, is this about writing a book I could be proud of, or was this about writing a book that I wanted my mother to be proud of, then you’re probably too smart to be reading this post.)

Over the last 4 years, I started and stopped the creating of this new book.  I tried (sometimes earnestly) to do many things I’d wanted to do or be my whole life.  Learning to rollerblade, re-learning to swim well, becoming an affectionate person, eating out of hunger rather than emotions, spending time with my husband on a regular basis, reading X books per year, listening to a certain amount of business podcasts a day, building financial independence…the list goes on.

Then, July 5th, 2023, I had a brain MRI that changed me forever.  What transpired were 6 months of what I self-protectingly call the “Scooby Doo Mystery Bus” of a health and medical system ride.  I’ve posted about that elsewhere, but suffice it to say that it was traumatic, scary, and pushed my incredible powers of compartmentalization and focus to the brink.  6 months later, when winter break came this past holiday season, I was tired.  Tired of the ambiguity, of the process, of the loss of control.

So one sunny cold day just after New Year’s, as I was out walking with my 90 pound German Shepherd, thinking about what I wanted this year to be like, no matter what health or anything else brought me, and frankly feeling disgusted with being on a hamster wheel and not having accomplished anything I wanted to, it hit me: I am someone who doesn’t finish what I start, and if I do, I don’t cement it into my foundation and build from there.  Like sand castles, eventually it all washes away.

The examples are plenty – it took me until I was 34 years old to learn how to swim despite growing up near the beach, and once I did, I felt strong.  Then, a couple of kids later, I was back in the shallow end feeling like I did not know how to breathe, let alone go in the deep end.  When I was in my 20s, I gained 30 pounds in a spring after ending a really bad chapter in my life.  I worked for 1 or 1.5 years to lose that weight, learned to run a 5K, lift weights, and yet here I was again, feeling out of shape and gaining 12 pounds after my Amma died.  I told my husband I would partner with him to accomplish something big when we cemented our partnership, and yet I’ve done so much to let the opportunities pass us by.  I have a drawer full of jewelry I love that I intend to get fixed or cleaned.  2 drawers full of travel articles of places I’d like to visit.  A closet FULL of beautiful shoes I intend to return to when I prioritize style again.

Even with what might seem like finishing what I started with my degrees from NYU and Stanford, I’d argue that the years there are to have been just a beginning – what really matters when you attend “fancy schools” (as a good family friend calls them) is the network and connections you get access to when you’re there…and what you do with them for the rest of your life.  I’ve done nothing with that.  Good friends, for sure.  Building upon 2 incredible opportunities for a lifetime of growth and personally defined success, no.

The two exceptions to what I observed about my record are raising my children and my paid-for work.  Fantastic.   But, I want so much more out of life.  I decided that the theme for my year would be to Finish (and cement) What I Start.  I even had an acronym for it in my task and calendar management tools: FWIS.  The FWIS list was long.  So long.  I was off to the races – I had a rallying theme!

By February, I could not “think” or “get motivated” when I felt so sluggish wearing cute Vuori joggers and tops all day.  I love Vuori, but not all day every day.  (Remember the closet full of shoes…it has a companion closet full of lovely clothes as well.)  I resolved that the first domino needed to be achieving some weight loss to feel vibrant – literally – again.  I struggled through February and March to get this process going.  Every 1st of the month, my husband and I have a short phone conversation to check in on how the other is feeling about the past month and some hopes for the coming month.  March 1st and April 1st – I was so frustrated.  Why couldn’t I get this simple thing done?!?  I had done it before!

And somewhere that first week of April, it clicked for me.  I had been talking allll the time to my family about habits being the compound interest of life ever since reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits last year.  The need to push through the Valley of Disappointment etc.  That’s what I needed: a set of habits.  A plan.  And, if there is one thing I’m very good at is structuring and planning…especially if we’re talking about lists and spreadsheets.  Math, measurement and leaderboards and such.  Following a plan?  Aces!

And with that, this spreadsheet was born.  10 weeks to 10ish pounds.  Catchy right?  (I like catchy.)  This would time well with the end of the school year, the start of summer.


Base plan for 10 weeks / 10 pounds


Each week, I learned new things and optimized (and created a new sheet).  Progress, not perfection was already a mantra for me.  And weight started to trickle off.  Some days .1 pounds off.  Other days .5 pounds off.  Some days I was in the Valley of Disappointment.

But then the learnings started to grow in ways I had not expected or planned for.  Here’s how they rolled out….I learned to:

  • Stop the emotional eating – finally recognize hunger vs. stress.   It became easy to ask myself the question “Do I really need this?”
  • Understand what the heck “metabolism slows in your 40s” really means – You know what – I really don’t need that many calories at this point in my life.  It’s shocking how little I need at this level of exercise.
  • Make the daily sacrifices and choices to hit my targets – To not let guilt or fear of negative feedback get in the way.  I decided to drastically reduce my time on camera for work calls for this time period so that I could ride the bike while on calls.  I wore gym clothes from when I woke up at 5:15 am until I finally went to bed at like 11:45 pm.  (This is not my preferred length of sleep, but again, short term sacrifices.)  I asked for grace and support during our family’s Super Saturday Nights – could the 3 of them play video games in the family room while I worked out in the gym, which were on the same floor and within ear and eye distance of each other?  I cut back social outings.
    • When, the day before Mother’s Day, my husband shared my younger daughter’s statement that she loves to hear me sing while I work out, I knew I was on to something bigger than I had planned for.
  • Focus on what matters to my goal – While I would have loved to accomplished the swimming calorie output at a certain lap rate or number of laps, that didn’t matter.  (Oh my goodness…the pool floor went by SOOOO slooow.)  What I needed to focus on was the calorie output.  That was the only Metric that Matters.  Similarly, I had concerns that so much protein powder might not be good for me.  But I decided 10 weeks of that would be okay.  I would have loved to be lifting heavier weights with greater intensity (I have a goal to squat my weight someday), but I knew that would risk injury, so I focused on the calorie output and left the straight bar for another time period in life.
  • Build a strong foundation – Mentally and physically.  My habit of optimization through reflection served me well.  As I observed what I was learning, it was easy for me to prioritize arm and hip therapy exercises over heavier weights in order to build a solid, healthy physical foundation for Book II.  Focusing on what I was learning about my eating and calorie need requirements allows me to build a far better relationship with, and understanding of, myself that I can leverage in times of travel, aging, and so on.

Somewhere around week 3 or 4, I realized this process I had developed (the spreadsheets, the rigor, the math, the lessons) could be applied in so many more areas of life and work I’ve never finished or cemented.  And then I realized that these are actually my greatest strengths already.  I can write whatever chapters to Book II I want to.  What I needed was always within me.  I just needed to give it the sunlight and water to come out and thrive.

And just to be sure, the Universe tested me – during Week 6, my father suddenly died.  A journey that started with one parent’s sudden death closed out with the other’s.  As I felt the confidence of the process I was building and the resolve to not get back on the hamster wheel, I knew I could carry on towards my goal.  Even if it was through tears while jumping rope or doing Kettlebell Sumo Squats.  I took a few minutes, let the tears flow, and kept moving.

A couple weeks later, about 10 days earlier than planned, I hit my target.  I just didn’t hit it.  I beat it by about 10%.  That day, with the greatest joy and enthusiasm, I spent 1.5 hours planning, structuring, spreadsheet-making the next 10 week cycle of goals to Finish What I Started.

This chapter is written and published.  And I’m not going to rewrite it.

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