At this point I was proceeding at my slow and steady pace – doing moderate exercises and walking every day, and trying to eat 3 meals a day with healthy snacks. Every morning Tom and I would have the same scintillating conversation. Me, pirouetting in the kitchen: “Do I look any different?” Tom: “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” Oh, that wasn’t the right answer at all. Maybe it was time to divorce him and star in my own reality cupcake show.
Fortunately, just as I was losing my mind, I was treated to a mystical awakening (or maybe my blood sugar leveled off.) I got a peek at the devil that loves to lure me into a free-fall of self-doubt. It’s amazing, but the evil one sounds curiously like my 8th grade teacher, Sister Una: “My, my. Who do you think you are?” Sounds harmless enough, but the effect on me is predictable. It’s demoralizing, depressing and it stops me like a bullet. Atiny seed of fear and shame sprouts up in my chest to warn me: “Better stop now – don’t embarrass us. What on earth are you about to reveal?” It’s probably the flax seed talking but I find the courage to tell Sr. Una thank you very much but I feel pretty good, and I think I’ll do exactly as Tom suggests and just keep doing what I’m doing. One day at a time.
I do find, though, that I have to let go of focusing on the results for awhile. So, speaking of 1 day at a time, I sincerely hope you weren’t expecting me to head off to Switzerland looking like Valerie Bertinelli in her bikini. See, that’s where my little demon takes me. I don’t really believe after 3 weeks that I should be ready for the cover of “People” magazine, but I sort of do. I’m so not ready for that yet, if ever. But even with my psychodrama issues bubbling up, (they probably escaped from all the sugar that’s been anchoring them in my psyche!) I’m in much better shape than I was a month ago.
The overnight flight to Geneva was as expected. Tom and I are in economy class and I’m wedged between him and a hairy guy who returns to his John Grisham thriller after informing me of the many ways that Sweden is better than New York City. Sweden? My stomach flips until I confirm that our plane is, in fact, headed to Switzerland. I soon fall asleep (it’s a God-given trait), and the next thing I know flight attendants are handing out hot towels and warm croissants as we begin the descent. While Tom and I wait for our luggage at baggage claim, I’m acutely aware of what doesn’t hurt – that tender space between my shoulder blades which after a long flight usually feels like a hot poker is stabbing me. I twist my neck up, down, left and right and shrug my shoulders. I feel great – and another thing, my lower back doesn’t hurt either. With all due respect to Swissair – it’s not thanks to their itty bitty seats. It’s been those itty bitty exercises.
Montreux turns out to be, as the French say, “tres magnifique.” A small, elegant resort town, it sits on Lake Geneva with snow-capped mountains across the turquoise water peeking through clouds. Montreux is a mecca for jazz lovers; it’s been host to one of the world’s great jazz festivals for 4 decades. The festival is held in July and this quiet town of less than 30,000 residents with its frilly belle époque hotels (reminiscent of the movie, “Gigi”) becomes the coolest place on earth as 400,000 jazz cats and music lovers swell its ranks.
As a college student on the GI Bill after the Vietnam war, Tom studied piano with George Handy, a legendary Hollywood composer and arranger. After his death, Tom was pivotal in helping Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies acquire George’s music for their archives. All this is explanation for how we ended up in Montreux in June – a month before the jazz festival. It’s a holy pilgrimage for Tom – like Catholics visiting the Vatican even when the Pope is out of town. When in Rome…
I quickly become enchanted with Montreux for other reasons. Gorgeous climate, exquisite landscape, I see why it’s called the Swiss Riviera. I put on my sneakers and for 3 days walk the length, breadth, and height of it – a walker’s paradise. The Montreux lakeside is world-famous, 7 kilometers (that’s about 4.5 miles) of flower and palm tree-adorned banks that I stroll each day. We even make it as far as Chillon Castle, the most visited monument in Switzerland. It’s a medieval castle, both fortress and princely palace, and while I’ve been in grander chateaux, Chillon offers a unique vision of life in medieval times. It’s not the typical tour shuffle along velvet ropes to gaze at paintings of French people on swings. In fact, we climb up and down so many turrets, wander through countless chambers, peer into secret chapels and hurry past royal toilets that by the end of the day I’ve clocked more than 12,000 steps on my pedometer.
Two other memorable walks in Montreux include one through the center of town on market day where a huge statue of beloved former resident, the late Freddie Mercury (of rock group, Queen, fame), holds court in front of the impressive Covered Market; and the second one, a fairly challenging aerobic hike up sloped side streets to the Old City.
As I walk higher and higher to the old part of town, I start to notice that hardly anyone in Switzerland is overweight. In fact, the entire country is populated with thin people. Not Hollywood skinny – it’s more like old photographs from the 1940’s with those thin older guys and slim-waisted middle-aged women. They have not vanished from the planet – it seems they’re alive and well and living in Switzerland. As someone who studies health care for a living, I’m fascinated by this country that’s very much like our own in many ways, yet on all the health charts frankly, they kick our butts. Up next – the health secrets of the Swiss…