I’ve been feeling a little lost lately. The season of Lent has been fast approaching… in fact, today brings Ash Wednesday, the formal beginning of this time of reflection. Perhaps I have been reflecting too much.
Last year I gave up Cancer for Lent. An ambitious and nearly impossible goal, I know, but it was a reaction to the rampant nature of this disease in my family and in our society. I examined my family’s diet, our exercise patterns, our physical environment and I raised more than a thousand dollars for the fight to prevent cancer.
Despite those successes, in the year since that decision many days feel like cancer won out. Since I gave up cancer, I have watched the disease take myself and my sister away from our families to care for an increasingly ill mother. I have watched the strain wear down our husbands. I have watched the resulting grief and confusion on the faces of our children. Most of all, I watched cancer take away the very essence of my mother leaving first a breathing shell and then, ultimately, an empty one now waiting to be put in the ground.
It is easy to view cancer as the victor.
At the same time, when I pull myself out of this seemingly permanent funk, I know I have made progress. My Lenten cancer experiment may not have halted my mother’s disease but it did create positive change for my family. We now eat vegetarian at least once a week. We significantly limit our red meat intake. We have very few household chemicals, choosing natural products, or at least those deemed environmentally friendly instead. We may not have moved mountains but we are living healthier lives with fewer known carcinogens.
Where I have fallen down is in the area of physical activity. The past year has left me exhausted and the idea of encouraging active living for the family, let alone for myself, has been too much. We have been living a sedentary life. The Husband has still been going to the gym but he does it before he even comes home from work so the kids don’t see the example he sets.
This brings me to this year’s Lenten project… encouraging active living in my family. It was the part of the project last year that was most difficult and the one that didn’t stick. I watch my neighbour who runs constantly and who has her daughter outside running around rain or shine and it just makes me tired. I think that’s sad. I don’t want my children to view physical activity as a chore… the way I have come to do. I want it to be a natural part of their lives, like eating and sleeping. The American cancer society says 15 to 20% of all cancers can be attributed to obesity. Now my kids are not obese (Big Dude is far from it, I can’t find pants with a small enough waist) but that doesn’t change the mental and physical benefits of active living.
So, today we begin. Big Dude will be met at the bus and we’ll continue on for a walk. It’s a small start but one I hope will stick. The snow is starting to melt and spring is ever closer… perhaps that will help. I am open to any suggestions. How do you incorporate activity into your kids lives? Into your life?