Boy-oh-boy, Ash Wednesday seemed to come early this year—what to give up for Lent, what to take on, what to lose, what to find, what to… I’m still pondering my New Year’s Resolutions.
I made some. It took me until January 11 to adopt my list of intended personal improvements for 2013. I make resolutions every year. There have been years—and years—that I have vowed to “lose fifty pounds and walk to China” as my friend says and at first I added to my 2013 list,“Weigh xxx on x date.” (On x date, the Revells will be attending the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City, Montana.)
There’s a reason I don’t include that intention on my final 2013 list: I’m a bit superstitious. Dr. Joyce Brothers (remember her?) appeared to me in a dream the night of January 10. In my dream, she just faded in and then faded out, but the next morning I remembered that sometime in the early seventies, I saw her on the Mike Douglas show and she talked about goals. I know exactly where I was standing and what I was doing. The boys were both down for the afternoon nap. I stepped into the living room from the kitchen, drying a plate with a dishtowel. Dr. Brothers said that perhaps it would help to set a “series of small goals” rather than one large one. Mike asked her to give us an example.
She answered, “If you are washing dishes, and it seems too overwhelming a task to accomplish, perhaps you could say ‘I’ll wash all the silverware’.” Then, she said, after you’ve washed and rinsed the forks and knives, you make a promise on the salad plates.
Dishes? She thought washing the dishes was worthy of goal-setting? I sat down in the rocking chair, the plate and towel in my lap, when I heard her say, “You psychologically reward yourself when you accomplish that small piece of your larger goal.” I thought, maybe even aloud, that anyone who had to set a series of small goals to wash the dishes was in bad trouble for anything truly worthy of accomplishment.
After my Joyce Brothers sighting that morning, I considered my long, oppressive list of possible resolutions and thought about small steps I could take to work toward the major changes. I concluded that might be too ambitious and unrealistic and that what I needed was a shorter list. I was a tad inspired—only a tad—but I reduced the multiple-item list to three. I combined, eliminated, and re-stated resolutions to get to:
- Never wear pants that are too short.
- Walk every day.
- Get off sugar, as in “eliminate sugar from my diet”.
Gone were such specificities of the original promises as “Be two sizes down in my jeans by May”, “Give away half of my 40 T-shirts”, and “Walk to China and lose 50 pounds.” I completely forsook entire original list items like “Meditate/Read/Journal daily”, “Write every day”, and “Organize that *!%$ garage.” I cleverly placed myself in the arena of the possibility of success by declaring only three (3) resolutions.
#1 seemed easy. I tried on and sorted “too short” and “okay”. The dress pants are fine, but only one pair of jeans gets the label “okay”. #1 could get difficult, certainly expensive. There are two resolutions to this resolution dilemma and I’m going to use both of them. One, wear lower heels with the shorter jeans. Two, save the shorter jeans for summer cropped jeans; they’ll look fine with sandals. I changed #1 and I think it’s going to work:
- Never wear pants that are too short. (Substitute “buy” for the “
Let’s talk about #2. I don’t know when (although I do know why) I made the decision, but I changed #2:
Then I changed it again:
Walk every day. Get some kind of exercise every day. (Substitute “MOVE” for the strike-through words.)
I figured the stairs to The Cellar would count; I could make extra trips up and down. I also ordered Zumba Gold – Live It Up. I haven’t started my dance exercise education yet but I have new shoes. And I’ve kept the bird feeders filled (another abandoned resolution from List Uno). And I’ve made great progress on one I mentioned earlier in this writing, the one about “that *!%$ garage”.
Let me just say that it takes stamina and calories to hoist boxes of chafing dishes and bins of T-shirts. I moved a before-plasma, ante-LCD 36-inch TV along with an HP multi-function printer that insists it has a paper jam when I know that it does not. (Somebody else is going to have to deal with that big fat liar.) I climbed on ladders and stools; I stretched, bended, and bounced. I dug and sifted and swept.
I also sat and sorted and remembered. Things like a program from my high school musical, Guys and Dolls, provided not only a jaunt up and down Memory Lane but also time for rest. I gave myself permission to spend time. I let myself wander through the boys’ report cards and achievement tests; there was plenty of time to re-visit favorite cards and letters. I remembered that resolution I wrote that said, “Work at being present” and followed it with “Live in the moment”. My leafing through old pages was hardly “present” but I was present for the experience and I was certainly living in that blessed moment.
I sort of “came to” (Southern speech for “woke up from being out cold”) one evening after a particularly productive three hours in the garage. I only stopped working when the back end of the garage became too dark, even with the door open, to see what I was doing. I considered that I was tired; I wondered how many calories I had expended. But my promise to myself wasn’t to burn calories; it was to set aside time to just move—intentionally and regularly.
So, today, while Dave installed two additional overhead utility lights so that I can see to finish my storage project, I hurried to a neighborhood church to start a regimen on the family life center’s walking track. I remember that walking time is thinking time and I turn joyful. Walking is meditation. I think of savoring these weekly hours on the track.
Walking at the church costs $15.00 a year. I get a tote bag when I walk 592 miles—“to Branson, MO.” If I come back (and I might not since I’ve never been to Branson), I get a gift certificate for double that mileage. At least it’s not to and from China.
January 15 marked the first day of infringement on #3.
I hate to blame a baby, but when my new grandson Jaxton didn’t arrive by 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, and there did arrive a prediction that “it will probably be 6:30 or so”, OtherGrammy Helen and I made a break for the cafeteria. After a small and sensible meal, we dawdled in the hospital gift shop, almost as if our absence from the OB waiting room could somehow hasten Anjie’s labor.
There was a sale on everything Christmas-themed. I found the perfect thing, a size 18-24 months furry reindeer jacket, complete with antlers and red nose on the hood.. Somehow, a Snickers bar, a Yorkshire Mint Patty, and a bag of Peanut M & M’s snuck their way into my bag to keep company with Jaxton’s next (first) Christmas coat.
I’m not saying a word about what Helen and Anjie’s sister Jackie brought back to the waiting room. That’s their business, but I will say that the condition and inhabitants of the place where you wait for babies propelled all three of us into a gone-rogue sucrose attack.
Six young women sported primary colored hair; I lost count of combinations on others. There was no end to the tats on one guy, even when he stood still, never mind the piercings. A full-back dragon on another (shirtless) was mesmerizing; the tail swerved down his right leg. (He donned saggy shorts.) And there was this one fellow who somehow lost the entire crotch of his pants! How do I know? Because he showed us.
For some reason, a fast-food bag rested under every third chair. I noted McDonald’s, Arby’s, Hardee’s, and Taco Bell (my choice of the four–it was NOT my bag, though). A garbage can sat less than twenty feet away from any row of chairs.
A young mother (I don’t know what relation she was to which imminent birth) arrived with a fat set of keys on an 18-inch pink lanyard. For forty-five minutes, she swung the keys by the end of the strap, round and round through the air, scraping the floor with a loud crash when gravity inevitably brought them down swing after swing. She only lost complete control of the keys one time and they launched across the room, unfortunately stopped by the full wall of windows. I fleetingly hoped the big wad of metal would break the plate glass and sail into the HVAC unit on the roof, but no. She was just as quick to retrieve the keys and start the swing all over again.
And then First-time Grammy (FTG) two rows away succumbed to the stress of pre-Grammyhood and stood in the middle of the room to sob, “Why don’t they do something for her?” Shortly thereafter, “they” did do something for “her” and FTG’s daughter brought her own nine pound daughter into the world via C-section. First-time Grammy de-railed again but was, this time, quickly comforted. I felt her helplessness—and then her relief.
Jaxton Edward Graham said hello with a loud wail at 8:35 p.m., according to the young blonde female doctor who finally came to take us to the room at 10:30. I fell in love with all 6 pounds 7 ounces of him. He looked teensy in the arms of his big daddy.
I ate the M&M’s on the drive home. All that was in the bag of reddish brown fur was Jaxton’s reddish brown reindeer coat. The sugar solution evades me yet.
I do know this: Resolutions only work for me if there is only one resolution. It’s a vague statement, an elusive promise, but the same every year, every month, every day: Balance. Everything in moderation. Live abundantly, but live. Be frugal, but generous. Organize for the future, but live in the moment. Let the past be gone, but savor memories. Be happy, and dance. Dance, and move. Move a little, and move more. Moving inspires good eating. Eat well can mean eat less. A treat is special at a special time.
Pare down and attend more intensely. Diana, dwell on the riches: a new grandbaby, healthy Mom and Dad, loving children, a place to write, books to read, a working body. Warmth in winter, shade in summer, the stillness of the ravine.
Clean out the clutter. Give away. Consume little. Share everything. Work to be a good human.
So what singular item do I choose that might start a chain of living in balance? What might feed my spirit most? What might be most appropriate for Lent?
In the most real observance of Lent, we discover the full humanity of the Jesus of Christianity. So much of the time, it is so much easier to imagine mystical divinity than to accept the flesh and blood human—the human like us, the human that we are also meant to be.
For my Lenten journey, I’ll begin with time for a thoughtful walk—three or four times a week. At the very least.