I started blogging this summer to chronicle the countdown to my 70th birthday that was on September 12th.
Armed with a new FitBit, it was my plan to spend the summer walking at least 10,000 steps a day, losing weight, working out, having head-to-toe medical checkups and putting my finances in order. I thought blogging would be a good way to keep me on track. I also thought that my summer shape-up might inspire others to follow my lead.
The title of my blog Countdown to 70…And Life Beyond, gave me the built-in option of quitting once I turned 70 or to continue if I discovered that blogging was a calling for my senior years. My first post, Milestone Birthdays, went out into the blogosphere on July 15th.
Ten weeks and 17 posts later, here are the sobering lessons I’ve learned:
There’s no getting around it; blogging is a whole lot of work. Serious bloggers post several times a week. There are those people who love to write. I’m not one of them. Writing has never come easily for me, so the process was stressful. Committing to a blog is like constantly having a term paper due. It can quickly become a grind. I made the decision to keep the commitment I had made to myself and continue blogging until I hit my 70th birthday.
A bloggers day is never done. Writing a post is just the beginning. Once written, you need to promote it through a variety of social media platforms if you want people to read it. That means spending hours sitting at a desk in front of a computer. Not my idea of a good time; so I didn’t do it. I simply wasn’t interested in putting in the time and energy needed. Consequently, I never built an audience for my blog.
The most important lesson I learned is that I would much rather spend my time living my life than writing about it.
As I start this new chapter of my, I may choose to write a blog post from time to time but it is not something I will be doing on a regular basis. Blogging like all writing is a solitary activity, and I want to be out and about interacting with people.
My foray into the blogosphere was an education. I have the utmost respect for people like Rene Syler and my friends Deb Mitchell and Lora Wiley, who have been blogging for years. This newbie doesn’t have the motivation and tenacity to join your ranks.
Though I did not find my calling as a blogger, I’m proud of the 17 posts I wrote, which will live forever in cyberspace.
We all have our version of what constitutes a perfect day. That image can change given where we are in our life at any given time. Since I’m committed to logging at least 10,000 steps daily, a perfect day for me is sharing an active outdoor adventure somewhere visually interesting with people I love. With that as the criteria, Saturday was a perfect day. I went to the Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn with my friends Ruth LaFerla and Deb Mitchell.
It came about by accident. Ruth and I had gone to the movies on Friday night. She told me she was going to the festival the next day for a story she was going to write for the New Yorks Times Style Section where she has worked for the last 15 years. When she heard me gasp, she asked if I wanted to come along making it clear that I’d be on my own since she’d be working.
Early Saturday morning, I got a call from Deb, a TV producer and social media guru, who has been guiding me through the blogosphere. She told me she was going to Brooklyn for the day. When I asked what she was doing, she said she was going to the Afropunk Festival to do a story for her blog. Hello, party time!!
The Afropunk Festival had its beginnings 11 years ago in a small lower eastside club. It is now held at Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and is a two-day affair of black arts, music and culture that draws a daily audience of more than 30,000. This year’s headliners included Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, and Lauryn Hill.
When Ruth, Deb and I arrived, we let out a collective OMG!!! What struck us were the creative fashions and style and the overwhelmingly good vibe of the festivities. Afropunk is the visual equivalent of a delicious, exotic smorgasbord. We didn’t know where to feast our eyes first. I zeroed in on women’s faces. Camera shy that I am, I loved how confident they all were as I pointed my iPhone in their direction.
Deb and I hung out together while Ruth went off to meet the photographer she would be working with. Despite the throngs of people, in yet another coincidence, Deb and I ran into Ruth hours later as we were ready to head back home. The three of us collapsed in a cab. We couldn’t stop talking about what a perfect day it had been.
In case you’re wondering, I logged my 10,000 steps and then some.
In designing the plan for my pre-70th birthday summer shape-up, I knew that I had to move more. I was becoming sedentary and isolated; I needed to nip those behaviors before they became more entrenched.
For years, I had followed the American Heart Association’s recommendation that everyone should aim for 10,000 steps a day for overall health and to decrease the risk of heart disease. This summer seemed like a good time to reintroduce the 10,000 Steps habit back in my life.
New York is a great walking city, and I’ve enjoyed logging steps in Central Park and along the Hudson River. But, I could do more than walk the streets of New York. Logging 10,000 steps a day was an opportunity to have mini adventures and reconnect with friends.
I did just that last week when I took the train to Poughkeepsie, New York and walked across the Hudson River.
The Walkway over the Hudson is the longest (1.28 miles), elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Since opening as a state park in October 2009, millions of visitors have enjoyed the unparalleled views from this bridge that was built for freight trains after the Civil War.
Didi and I met years ago when I was starting out in public relations, and she was a staff writer for US magazine. Our business relationship quickly turned into a friendship. While raising her two children, Didi was a community activist and a leader of not-for-profit organizations. At an age when most people are afraid to take on new challenges, Didi was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012.
She is a passionate advocate for her constituents. We were stopped by people several times as we walked back and forth across the river. They wanted to ask about the latest legislation or to discuss problems in their towns. I watched with pride as my old friend gave each of them her full attention.
As my 70th birthday loomed large in the September horizon, my intention for this summer was to devote my time and energy to getting my body, mind and spirit in shape for that milestone. I intended to walk more, eat less, drink plenty of water, have check-ups with my doctor, dentist, financial consultant and spiritual advisors. In short, I was going to get my shit together.
Ah, but we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Would I keep the commitments I made with myself??
There were good days and not so good days. People may think of me as a human road runner, but my couch potato, ice cream and carbohydrate loving self-lurks just below the surface.
Several friends suggested that I get a FitBit to help me keep track of my steps, food intake, calorie output and water consumption. They said the device was helpful and kept you ‘honest’. I resisted until one of my FitBit using friends was hit by a car as she was crossing the street. She went flying through the air and spent the next ten hours in a hospital emergency room where she was checked head to toe. She was badly bruised, but nothing was broken.
When I spoke to her the next morning, I assumed she would take to her bed for a couple of days to recover. Wrong!! She had her FitBit on and was going out to run errands and log steps. She did 10,000 steps a day, every day. No excuses, no exceptions. Now that was the commitment and motivation I craved. I ordered a FitBit the minute I hung up the phone.
It’s now been 30 days since I strapped on my FitBit; it has become my BFF. I wear it all the time. Unfailingly, I’ve met or surpassed my daily goals. I’ve lost weight, increased my stamina, and am looking more toned. I’ve been feeling so self-empowered that I even started this blog.
There’s a whole community of ‘FitBitters.’ It’s commonplace to have people point to mine as I pass them on the street and have them give me a thumbs-up or a high-five, and I return the gesture. My new fun activity is planning when and where I’m going to log my 10,000 steps.
For the record, I have ZERO connection with FitBit. I’m just in love with mine.
Hope you will continue to follow me on my Countdown to 70. Marian Rivman.
On September 12, 2015, I will be 70 years old. The number astounds me. As I countdown to 70, I’ve been reflecting on other Milestone Birthdays, remembering where my life was at the time and how I’d spent the summer before each.
Twenty-One: The summer of 1966 was spent training for my assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines; I was going to teach science in an elementary school. My first ever plane ride was from New York to Boston.
There were 42 in my training group. We spent ten weeks living in dorms on the Radcliffe Quad while taking intensive language and cultural studies classes. We rented bikes that we rode around Cambridge. I felt like an Ivy League co-ed. It was a far cry from the experience I had living at home with my parents in the Bronx and walking to Hunter College.
We flew to Manila on September 12th, my 21st birthday. There were champagne toasts as we crossed the Pacific. What a way to start my life as an adult!!
Thirty: The summer of 1975 was dedicated to job-hunting; I had been unemployed for more than a year. The situation was dire; my unemployment benefits were about to expire. Reorganization of New York City’s Addiction Services Agency where I had been working as a manpower development specialist had left me jobless in a very depressed employment market.
What was particularly frustrating was that I was supposed to be a job-finding expert. While at the agency, I had found jobs for hundreds of our clients and a booklet I wrote, “Help Wanted-A Job Hunter’s Guide” had been widely distributed.
A reporter at the Daily News, who thought my unemployment was a great human-interest story, wrote a piece “Job Expert Can’t Find One” that appeared in the paper on August 7, 1975. My phone started ringing the minute the paper hit the stands. The callers weren’t employers with job offers; they were producers and reporters asking for interviews. I did dozens hoping one would lead to a job.
On September 12, 1975, my 30th birthday, I appeared on the TV show Midday Live with Bill Boggs. One of the other guests was Stanley Tannenbaum, an executive at Kenyon & Eckhardt, an advertising agency. In the green room, Stanley told me he thought I was one smart cookie who should be in his business. He offered to send my resume to all the ad agencies in the city. I landed a job as an assistant account executive at Benton & Bowles.
Forty: By the summer of 1985, my foray into the advertising industry was long behind me having left B&B after a year. The Madmen life had not been for me. After a half-hearted job search, I decided to start my own business. Quality Respondents recruited subjects for consumer research groups. A New York Times article about QR, “A ‘Central Casting’ for Consumer Research”, prompted an avalanche of people to volunteer to be subjects.
By 1982, I had recruited thousands of people for hundreds of groups. I was ready for a change. That year, I fell in love with an Israeli underwater photographer who owned a travel company that specialized in exotic scuba trips. I became his de facto public relations consultant. My efforts were so successful that after two years, the executive director of the scuba diving trade association (DEMA) asked if I would be interested in promoting the whole industry. It was goodbye Quality Respondents – hello Marian Rivman Communication Consultants (MRCC). DEMA was my first client, and I represented the association for more than eight years.
With 40 fast approaching, the summer of 1985 was spent getting myself in shape for the globe-trotting life I was starting to live. I took multiple aerobics classes and treated myself to workouts with a personal trainer. I was fit and toned at the birthday party I threw for myself.
Fifty: I had found my calling in Public Relations. By 1995, in addition to DEMA, MRCC had represented an eclectic roster of clients including: UN agencies, programmes and world conferences; beloved children’s singer Raffi; legendary music producer Phil Ramone and global non-profits like the Amazon Conservation Team.
In the summer of 1995, I was working at the UN. This time as a communications consultant for the Secretariat of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was being held in Beijing September 4-15. Since it was pre-birthday cleanup time, before heading to the office each day, I’d go to the sports club across the street from my apartment to run on the track and workout on machines
On September 12th, 1995, I celebrated my 50th birthday in Beijing. It was an incredible start to my 50s, which were filled with interesting work, travel, and a few romances.
Sixty: My life was in a VERY different place as I approached my 60th birthday in the summer of 2005. My father had died in January 2004, and I had become my invalid mother’s caregiver. I had moved her to New York from Florida, and she was living in an apartment across the street from mine; she had home health aids 24/7. I was running a nursing home for one.
My pre-birthday summer cleanup included multiple yoga classes weekly, an extended juice fast, and numerous hours with a masseuse. Having stopped jogging years before due to a knee injury, I bought a pedometer and started logging 10,000 steps a day.
On September 12th, 2005 I celebrated my 60th birthday with close friends at a neighborhood restaurant. My future was cloudy; I had no idea how long my mom would live and I would be caring for her.
Seventy: It is now the summer before my 70th birthday. I am no longer a caregiver. My mother died in my arms on April 16, 2014, three months shy of her 97th birthday. My dad had died when he was 90. I have some serious longevity genes.
This summer’s birthday cleanup is a crusade to get my mind, body and spirit in condition for the rest of my life. I’m devoting full-time to the effort. My FitBit (electronic activity tracker) has become my BFF and I’m fanatical about meeting my daily goals, and it’s working. My friends are getting used to my suggesting that we take a walk instead of going out to eat. The neighborhood Equinox Sports Club is my go-to place for yoga and other classes. Trader Joe’s makes it easy to eat healthfully. I am having a blast!
My 60s were spent caregiving. It is my intention to spend the rest of my life at “full throttle.” My Bucket List still has many items that I want to check off.
I hope you will follow me as I countdown to the big 7-0 and as I start my life as a septuagenarian.