3.29.2011

The Life Insurance Drama

Two years ago, I had a baby. Eighteen months ago, we bought a house. This last fall, I realized that if we suddenly lost my income, we would lose this lovely house, which would be a major bummer if, say, I'd died and my husband and little sweetie couldn't keep our home on the river with all our awesome neighbors and the bike path and all the foxes and birds and coyotes and geese drama and hawks eating rodents in the yard and...you get the idea. It was suddenly time to get life insurance. I wanted them to keep the house.

Fast forward to Dec 31. Chalk it up to New Year's resolutions -- I went ahead and made the call, dutifully stating my height and weight for the record. "Oh, ma'am," said the nice man on the phone, and I imagined his finger tracing the gridlines of the actuarial table. "If you just lost a FEW pounds, you'd save six dollars a month."

Would I try to lose a few pounds in order to go from $36/mo to $30/mo? For a 20-year lock? Yes, I would. I would. Now I had a new New Year's resolution. "I'll call you back," I said. "You don't want to schedule your medical exam right now?" he said. "Are you sure?" "Uh...I'm traveling," I stammered, uncharacteristically lying. I just didn't want to tell him about my sudden resolution. I was going to be a changed woman. After all, these tables were based on something, right? I didn't actually want to die...I wanted to be around to enjoy my baby and my husband and the house and the foxes and the hawks and so on and so forth.

Let's fast forward another month. It's January 31. For one long, cold month, I've eaten more shitake mushrooms, onions, and broccoli than I knew I could eat, and developed an expertise in low-fat protein. Yes, I've decided wine and hot chocolate are still in, but otherwise I've adopted brand-new eating habits. No snacking before bed. No eating, say, crackers mindlessly. I was GOOD. Not amazing, but much, much better.

I've also worked out. In addition to teaching my regular fitness classes, I've hit the gym every day, often eating just a salad for lunch. I feel good, if hungry and cranky, and I look great. My clothes fit really well. People even start to make comments. But when I get on the scale...and this is the moment of truth because, you know, that number is actually what it's about in this context - I have lost one and a half pounds.

For me, that is nothing. That is what I lose by taking a boxing class. It's just nothing. Nada. And I'm still a good five and a half pounds from my goal.

OK, let's fast forward another month. Now it's February 31. (There is no such date, but I need a dramatic statement - and this is it.) FEBRUARY 31. I am a fitness professional, people. I coach other people on achieving their goals. But my body is just not budging.

I have lengthed my workouts. I spend hours on the weekends, working out. I've learned the cable TV schedules so I can align my treadmill sessions with Sex and the City reruns. I have even predictably ground my way onto a plateau - one day, after running for 5 miles for 3 days in a row, I realize I'm not even that winded. I wonder if I should do 10 miles. I feel oddly disconnected from my body. But unfortunately my ankle is starting to hurt.

And my husband is starting to suggest that maybe all this is not worth 6 bucks a month. "Just skip one grande iced decaf mocha latte a month," he suggests, "and you've made back the 6 dollars."

Just as I'm reaching the conclusion that I need both a personal trainer and a physical therapist, as well as an orthotic fit-out, and once I've shelled out $100 for new sneakers, it hits me: give in. It's not happening. Let it go. I'm poised to take a really expensive, arduous route to this savings goal.

Was all the effort for nothing? It was. I mean, I can empathize a little more with people in my classes trying to acheive their goals, and I certainly get yo-yo dieting now: once I stopped restricting foods, I actually gained a little more weight than my initial number, and the process felt like my body acting of its own volition. The nutrients just flooded into me. Meanwhile, I took some time off from the gym to nurse my ankle back to health. Kind of an exhausting path to put yourself on...when the starting point, in retrospect, was pretty fit and healthy.

It was at this point---carb-loading, gym-avoiding, chocolate-eating, and totally resigned, that I scheduled my medical exam. Dmitri was a hematologist making a home visit, and also a rather attractive young man. This lifted my spirits a bit, especially since my husband and I had a long-running in-joke about the lovely young woman who came to do his home exam those many months ago (oh, Stacy - where are you now?). He took my blood pressure and fluid samples, and then whipped out his scale. We were having a nice rapport, which I saw as a way to simply stop thinking about all the work/failure that had gotten me to this moment in my life. I stepped on to the scale. It clearly gave one number, a number that was higher than I'd seen in years. I concentrated on calm non-reaction. He noted the number on his worksheet, although he subtracted a pound. OK.  Then he measured me with a tape measure. Here he noted me a few inches higher than I might have guessed. But who am I to argue? I maintain a blissful delusion about how short I am. I'm usually shocked when there is undeniable evidence to pin me as really short. I feel tall and powerful.

Anyway, the other day I got an email. "Your life insurance has been approved," it read. "We will start charging you $25/mo starting on April 3." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how little control one really has over one's own life. Or life insurance, as the case may be. $11 less than the original quote; how lucky am I, right?