Healthy Habits: Interdependence

by Valerie Peralta

When my doctor’s phone number flashed on my caller ID a month after my biannual blood work I wasn’t worried. 

“I’m sorry it took so long to call you with this information,” the nurse said.

“I’m glad you didn’t call sooner,” I responded. She would have called immediately if the results had indicated a serious problem.

My blood sugar—which I was worried about given my diet of ice cream, chocolate and beer (not all at once, of course)—remained in normal range. But my cholesterol was the highest it’s been since my doctor started tracking it. 

The nurse advised me to Google “low cholesterol diet.” Instead, I called my mom—an 85-year-old woman who has spent much of her retirement learning about holistic health on YouTube and who actually enjoys eating plateful after plateful of kale, arugula and spinach drizzled with apple cider vinegar. At some point in our discussion I told her, “I wish I was as far along on this healthy eating path as you are.” She laughed and offered some basic steps to start my journey: oatmeal for breakfast, an apple a day (they really do keep the doctor away), and lay off the fatback. Apparently, eating the crispy layer of fat from an seven-pound roast pernil the week before lab work to check my cholesterol was not a good idea.

Diet and exercise work together when it comes to fitness. Thankfully, help abounds in the form of dietitians, nutritionists, and physical trainers. All of the available advice can be overwhelming, but I am capable of determining what works for me: sensible dietary guidelines—like an apple a day—and evolving exercise goals.

Earlier this year I worked my way through V Shred’s 90-day Fat Loss Extreme program and have since started training for a marathon following The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by David A. Whitsett, Forrest A. Dolgener, and Tanjala Mabon Kole. I am not an island. Friends who have achieved success using these resources suggested I try them. These same friends have also helped me maintain progress by keeping me accountable. I send them a daily text to check in: “week 6 run 1, done.” When I had COVID they approved my “rest week.” And while I was recovering I sent them a text saying, “I’m struggling to get back on schedule.” We agreed that walking was a good way for me to get back to running. “Little by little you can get back with the workout. Little by little,” one friend texted.

Like running, writing is a solitary pursuit. So when I spend more time playing Wordle, Quordle and Words with Friends than penning poems, how am I supposed to pull myself out of my writing-less pit?

My writing friends are farther along in craft and publication than I am. This could be discouraging if I let it be. Yet, Reckon Review’s fiction writer Stuart Phillips DMs me poetry events regularly and tags me whenever he sees tweets from journals seeking submissions. KJ Micciche, whose debut novel The Book Proposal is coming out in May 2023 from Sourcebooks Casablanca, and I Zoom once a month. She fills me in on the life of a romcom novelist while I share my plan for submissions with her (if I’m going to submit a poem, I have to write it first). The freshwater mussel in fellow Fairfield alum Jerri Bell’s short story “He Said, She Said” (The Iowa Review, Volume 51, Issue 1, Spring 2021) made sense after watching Tommy Dean’s “Flashing with Metaphor” class presented by Community Craft. Central images give emotional context and weight to human events. I’ve told Jerri more than once that I love every word she writes. Now that I understand why she writes what she does, I love her words even more. She doesn’t know it yet, but as soon as she finishes her work-in-progress, I’m going to ask her for a one-on-one class on writing fragmented essays.

Dependence is often considered a nasty word, especially when “co-” is attached. The word is generally accepted with the prefix “in-” but with synonyms such as self-dependence, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency, will independence really ensure a path to success when I am struggling to muster the self-discipline necessary to do the writing I should and want to be doing? I propose “inter-dependence” as a better alternative. According to, interdependence connotes symbiosis, a cooperative relationship between two people, and mutualism, a mutually beneficial association between different kinds of organisms. We are not a drag on our friends if we genuinely support each other in our pursuits and life in general. I care about my writer friends and strive to support them in equal measure.

Poets M.S. Merwin and John Berryman were student and teacher who shared a mutual respect. In his poem “Berryman,” Merwin allows readers to benefit from the sage advice he received from his instructor:

he suggested I pray to the Muse
to get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

Advice we all would be wise to follow: 

I asked how can you ever be sure 
that what you write is really 
any good at all and he said you can't 
you can't you can never be sure 
you die without knowing 
whether anything you wrote was any good 
if you have to be sure don't write 

In the spirit of interdependence, I offer a vignette paying homage to my friends in fitness:

Flower Power Girls 
Sitting in our collapsible chairs  
at Markham Park on a Wednesday afternoon.  
Quit my job to be with my girls 
’cause every time I skipped a meeting they’d beg 
Can’t you take the day off? 

Our bikes leaning against a tree, wind 
blowing through the leaves.
Rick Steves should write about me
and my girls in our neon orange 
floral shirts, bold enough 

to swim, bike, run. Ready 
to conquer our fears. Laughing 
to tears about who can pee mid-run.
Downing coffee, fruit, but no bread—
can’t let those carbs weigh us down. 

We're not about getting ahead. 
This is our time, just sitting 
under the sun. Our souls
being fed, hanging with our girls— 
Flower Power in our tread. 

Read Valerie’s other work here at Reckon:

Nonfiction: Healthy Habits – Starting to Stick

<strong>Valerie Peralta</strong>
Valerie Peralta

Valerie Peralta is an intermittent practitioner of just about everything she does striving to be more tortoise and less hare. After copy editing for two decades, she’s finally trusting her own words on the page. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Fairfield University; her work has been published by The Blended Future Project and is forthcoming in Heart Balm. She lives in South Florida within running distance of the Everglades. 

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