Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reflection from an Almost-40-year-old, Rock Steady Grady Doctor: "You fine now!"

This morning when I stepped on the scale it said something that it hasn't said in a long time:


Let's put this in context for a moment:

1. I am roughly one week out from my 40th birthday,
2. I've had two kids (one of whom was 9 lbs 2 oz!)
3. I have an ongoing love affair with not-so-complex carbohydrates.

But oh happy day! Somewhere between a few smaller portions, a few "no thank you's" to the bread basket, and heinous step aerobic classes at the Y with Lisa K., I lost a few pounds--which (when you are two blinks away from 40) is not such a bad thing.

When I got dressed today, I comfortably zipped up a pair of pants that I hadn't worn since before I had my children. Nice. Although there are still a few mushy parts of my tummy (sure, I'll admit it), for the most part, today I'm feeling pretty satisfied with my almost-40-year-old body. Especially at 130.5 lbs. I was feeling pret-ty darn good today.

"Who says 40 makes you a cougar? You're awesome, lady!"

I strutted out of the front door with my mental iPod dialed to my favorite internal "you go, girl!" song: Aretha Franklin's Rock Steady. (Nobody does it like "Re-Re.")For those unfamiliar with me and my internal iPod, that's when I mentally play theme music to represent my mood. I really hope you do, too. I'm all about having a soundtrack to my day, most moments, and my life in general. Rock Steady is definitely one of my feel good, go-to songs on days like this one. . . . .

I thought about the tummy that I wasn't sucking in today and felt Aretha's beat. Not bad for someone who's about to mow 40 down. . .

Rock Steady Baby!
That's what I feel now! Let's call this song exactly what it is. . .what it is! what it is! what it is! (sing it, Aretha!)

I bop my head all the way to work. I occasionally belt out a note or two. It's August 31--the last day of my very taxing inpatient ward month, I'm in love with an amazing man who loves me back, and I'm the mom of two awesome little boys who (in their humble pre-school and kindergarten opinions) think I look like Halle Berry. Rock Steady, Baby.

I can feel a bit of swagger in my step as I cross the street from the parking deck. I even wore heels that are arguably too high for a day of inpatient rounding. But who cares? It's my last day on service and I'm feeling bad ass. 40 years old, baby. Yeah, that's right. Four point five pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight. . .wearing pants I previously couldn't fit without being lightheaded. . .and heading into a job that I happen to love. Rock Steady, Baby.

My smile is broad and warm and genuine when I step through the threshold and wave at the same happy lady who sits in the Grady information desk. She senses my internal rhythm and seems to feel the pep in my step. I'm feeling good. I'm feeling okay with me. I'm feeling like this day is going to be a great day. Like this year is going to be a good year and these forties are going to be a good decade. Rock Steady, Baby.

I make it up the elevator, freely handing out smiles, waves and salutations to all:

"You doin' alright, ma'am?" or "What you know good, sir?"

I offer deferential head nods to my Grady elders along the way and hugs to my favorite nurses. Finally, right before I turn the corner to join my residents at the 7A nurse's station, my Aretha Franklin soundtrack cranks a little further to the right. Now I'm turned all the way up to '10,' my light is shining, and my happy feelings are infectious. . . .I'm feeling my rhythm so tough that I almost crash into Ms. Lady, one of the environmental services workers who was pushing big gray trashcans in the corridor beyond the door that I'd just entered. I greeted her with every decibel of the Rock Steady that I was feeling inside, my voice decidedly Southern and almost sing-songy:

"Hey there, Ms. Lady! You doin' alright this morning?" She immediately jumped on board with my happy feelings. Love that about Grady people.

"Hey, Miss Manning! I'm great! Wow! You sho' in a good mood this morning!"

I was glad it showed. I was in a good mood this morning. I try to be in a good mood every morning, but she was right. I had taken it up a notch today. With that in mind, I decided to take a page from the book of Grady elders when I responded:

"Any day that I wake up in my right mind and with air in these lungs, I'm in a great mood! Matter of fact, if I was any better, there'd have to be two of me!" (The second part is one of my dad's sayings, who, know that I think of it, is definitely a kindred spirit of the Grady elders.)

She laughed and nodded her head in agreement. "I know that's right. God is good!"

"All the time. . . ." I replied with a wink.

". . .and all the time. . . ." she predictably went on.

". . . .God is good!" I completed the old saying. I love these moments at Grady. These little points in time where I get to relate culturally to other hospital employees and patients. . . .moments where I know exactly what to say next or what is about to come next since my mama is from Tuskegee, Alabama and my daddy is one of eleven kids from Birmingham, Alabama. We both shared a giggle followed by some small talk about what my kids were up to these days.

At the end of our chat, she faced me and grinned. I loved the familiarity and the simplicity of the interaction. Like neighbors standing on a back porch, chatting about when the weather is going to change. What could be better? Rock Steady, Baby.

Ms. Lady reached out with her see-through-Latex gloved hand and pulled open the edge of my lab coat. She offered me an approving nod. For some reason, I wasn't appalled by being touched with a wastebasket glove hand. I beamed, preparing for some kind of compliment. . . . . still swaying to my Aretha Franklin soundtrack. No, I wasn't being vain or conceited. I just felt happy and whole and blessed to feel this way at almost-40-- and I recognize that more often than not, that kind of energy draws people in. . . .Rock Steady, Baby. . . .my internal music was now deafening. . . sing it Aretha!

"It's a funky and low down feeling. . in your hips from left to right. . .what I feel is I might be doin'. . .this funky dance all night. . . . ."

Ms. Lady looked me up and down quickly after plucking open my lab coat--


That's when the needle scratched on my Aretha Franklin and brought me back to reality. Do you know what she said? (Come on, y'all. . . .you know it was good if I'm writing about it!) She said (I am NOT kidding):

"Miss Manning, you look good with a little extra weight on you!"

Wait. Whaaa?

Didn't she get the memo? I was. One thirty. Point five. (now with tiniest voice ever in my head sans music.)

"Excuse me?" I needed clarification. Maybe I heard her wrong.

"You look cute since you gained some weight." Nope. Not wrong.

Headcrack. Aaaah. Of course. "I actually lost a little bit of weight, Ms. Lady."

She leaned her elbow on the edge of the trashcan and looked me over once more. Her bottom lip jutted out and the corners of her mouth turned downward. "Naaaaaw, now you ain't lost no weight Miss Manning. Definitely not. You fine now."

Sidebar: Fine. Not fine like "How are you?" "Oh, I'm fine." "Fine," as in yet another one of those things that I "got" the minute she said it--knowing exactly what this native African-American Atlantan meant. You fine. Fine as in "curves." Fine as in "not skinny, chile." Fine as in. . .uuhhh. . ."padunk-a-dunk." Really? Really.

She went on. "You was too skinny at one point. But yeaaaah, now you put on some pounds and I like you better with some more weight on you. You fine now, Miss Manning! "

Dayum. So much for 130.5.

I smiled super wide and nodded slowly. After returning the favor, Ms. Lady toodled off with her two rolling trashcans as I carefully picked my face, my internal iPod, and my butt off of the ground.

Once she disappeared from sight, I threw my head back and laughed a loud cackling laugh like someone watching Chris Rock doing standup. Bwwwahhh! Haaah! Haaah! Haaaaah! I put my hands on my hips and repeated her statement aloud to myself as I caught my reflection in a mirror through the open bathroom door, "You fine now, Miss Manning!" I erupted into another fit of laughter until I was doubled over and out of breath. And I didn't care who saw me.

"You fine now."

Aaaahh. . .Grady has such beautiful way of grounding you. . . . . . . .and keeping you Rock Steady, baby. I love this job.


  1. Good lord... haha people are funny. From someone who has always struggled with weight issues... really I think its about how you feel about yourself and thats it. Being healthy, being strong and being happy with you. And you know what... you are gorgeous so I say "Rock Steady, Baby!" More power to ya and congrats on the weight loss, you weigh less than I do... you should be proud!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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