April's CR Diary

A diary of a 30 year old woman following CRON, or Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, for health and life extension.

Friday, November 26, 2004

You Don't Even Know Who Liz Phair Is

No, that's not a comment on the failure of the vast majority of my readers to understand my pop music quotations. It's a line from a Liz Phair song called "Rock Me," located on the same album as "Extraordinary," and the title of a blog entry I've carried around in my head for months.

One Friday night in July, very soon after I began writing the blog, I was lying on the couch recovering from a girls' night out in Center City Philly, slightly dizzy from the effects of my 800 calorie a day experiment combined with a little cheap champagne from the Zanzibar Blue (an excellent jazz club, if you happen to be in Philly) happy hour. I was blasting "Rock Me" into my ears from my walkman. In the song, Liz Phair appears to be talking about her fling with a much younger musician who is unaware of her rockstar credentials but thinks she's cool anyway. In my habit of mentally bending pop music that has nothing to do with CR to be about CR, I somehow related the song to my blog.

Here's how it goes: Liz Phair had been a successful rockstar with something of a cult following. Then she meets this young musician (nine years her junior) who likes her for who she really is, not just for the hit records she's made. Chaos, scandal, and pop music ensue.

At the time, I was thinking about how nice it was that I was getting so many blog readers who had no idea who I was, and that I was making so many CR friends whose primary interest in me had nothing to do with my reputation as an organizer.

In the beginning, I was very careful to omit details of my work and personal life. Part of my motivation, as I've mentioned before, was concern about the blog being misinterpreted as a long and bizarre personal ad. While a girl going on at length about the quality of asparagus available in her local markets might not seem all that prone to misinterpretation, with all the weird stuff that goes on in the online world, one can never be too careful.

My other motivation for being intentionally vague about my personal and professional situations was that I very much enjoyed a mental break from my regular life, in which most of the people with whom I interact know me as a union organizer. As much as I enjoy hanging out with other labor movement people, it was nice to make friends who don't even know who April Smith is.

Organizing, if you're good, is a very consuming lifestyle. You talk to workers all the time, you work nights, weekends, holidays, months on end. You build intense relationships with workers during campaigns, and you have to be there for them, answering your cell phone or your pager at all hours of the day and night.

I have been very successful as an organizer. I've led many winning campaigns, and I've paid the price in terms of hours and refusing to be tied down by things like husbands or children. I'll spare you the details, but about a year before I started CR I led a successful organizing campaign at the largest hospital in Vermont. It was the kind of campaign that usually comes around only once in an organizer lifetime, and it broke a bunch of records.

The art and science of organizing is far from what it appears. To be successful, an organizer has to fundamentally change workers' worldview from one in which they are powerless into one in which, by joining together with their co-workers, they can change their working conditions. Challenging people's basic assumptions is a messy job, and it requires being comfortable with a level of conflict that most people can't stand. Every day, I confront people's deepest fears. Fear of losing their job, fear of losing their co-workers' respect, fear of just plain being wrong. I'm the person they yell at, the person they call at 2 in the morning, the person who is there for them when they're angry and scared and frustrated and in despair. I'm not just a teacher or a counselor, I push people to change things. Information alone rarely moves people to action. I take over where the information leaves off, connecting the dots in people's minds between their objective conditions and the power to change them.

When people assume that they can't change something, they have no motivation to try. It's been my job for nine years to prove to people that they can change their work lives, and to push them to take the actions they need to take to do it. Even when those actions are difficult and frightening. Even when that means going against everything they've ever been taught about how the world works.

When I talk to my friends and co-workers about CR, or about any sort of anti-aging intervention that might produce a real cure, I am met with responses like, "Aging... isn't that what we're doing since the day we're born?" "It's nice that you're healthy, but you're not going to forever." "Why would you want to live that long anyway?"

De Grey talks about aging as an engineering problem, and I'm sure he's right. But it seems to me that getting the funding to solve that engineering problem is largely an organizing problem. And I've been wondering a lot lately if an organizer might be of some use in the fight.

Suggestions welcome.


  • At 4:03 PM, Blogger cookingdani said…

    Hmmm. There are those of us who exist on this earth, and there are those of us who insist we can reverse its rotational direction. I know where you are in this, and I admire your enthusiasm. If I may be a bit of a wet dishrag, the recent conversation regarding CRON between my husband(non-
    CRON) and myself illustrates most of America's interest in CRON...hubby, a world-class runner in his younger years, asks, if CRON is as awesome as I say, why isn't most of our country "on" it? I explain 1. It isn't fast, and 2. For many, it isn't an easy transition. Lacking any diagnosis of health problems, he quickly loses interest. He is naturally trim and doesn't see the benefit of dietary restriction.

    We are a society of fast and easy (present company excluded). Although we proudly share CRON with highly intelligent, analytical people, most likely we will never be a significant number in the population. I'm afraid your efforts toward fundraising may not be well rewarded.

    I love what CRON has done for me, but eating natural foods your body is meant to have is not as glamourous as the latest fad diet on Oprah. What you do on the blog is valued, April. Thank you for the time you take for your readers!

  • At 4:28 PM, Blogger Mary Robinson said…

    I also suffer from the same "fix the world" syndrome. Although my own personal version of it involves figuring something out that changes everything and giving it away to humanity. So my CRON idea is to write a book that helps normal people see the light about CRON and makes it possible for them to follow it without using DWIDP every day or eating the same Dean salad for every meal. I think this is actually possible and if I had more remaining mental energy outside my job, I would do it now. If you can see how my figuring out and your organizing could work together, let me know. Somehow, I think both of us have jobs that are too demanding to easily pull this off at this time.

    My book idea involves "patterns of eating" - like 10 or 20 rules that you would follow (10 would be best and 20 is the most that typical people could possible follow). For each rule, I would give many examples - common restaurant dishes, recipes, and no preparation items that - that would meet the rule. I came up with 25 rules earlier - but they need more work.

    I also have many self-brainwashing exercises that can be used to adhere to CRON. Some of these involve visualizing the good and bad things going on in your body in response to food. Some are self-image things - like the wonderful CRON mice vs the scruffy controls.


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