[Photo of Two Bears as I arrive. Note empty parking lot.]
2021 was a tough year for many of us. Our family had severe medical issues for Annalise, who thank God is on the mend, finally.
About three weeks ago, we hit our hiatus from getting to play our version of indoor ultimate (“goaltimate“). In general, I was excited for Christmas break, especially for Kim to get a breather from teaching and to for Aria, our college kid, to visit. But losing my main and favorite exercise at the same time as the temptation to eat poorly rose exponentially–tough combination. I’ve still been carrying my 2020 pandemic-so-stay-home-and-eat weight.
So I did something a bit unusual for me–I started my new habit. I say “unusual” because typically, I would plan ahead for such a change by first gaining more weight and putting off a different regimen, all the while telling myself that this big change (that I’m not quite ready to start) will make all the difference.
I’m an idealist and a procrastinator. I’m incurably hopeful. While these can be helpful traits, they can also induce me to make major plans for tomorrow in lieu of making real changes today. Anyone relate to that? Just me?
But this time, instead of constructing the huge plan in my mind, I just started going to hike Two Bears. Every day. I think I’ve missed only two days, one being Christmas Eve when we had two consecutive family get-togethers (with only 8 hours of daylight right now).
This past week, the temperature plunged. Northern Canadians will not be impressed, but the temps dropped into the single digits at night and climbed to “highs” of 10 and 12 degrees during the day. I put on more layers and kept hiking. A couple days I had the trail completely to myself; a few other days there were one or two other hikers puffing steam in the cold.
Behaviors start to build up their own momentum. I haven’t been at this long enough to form a true habit, but I had to talk myself into it a few times in the first week; by this week I was in gear and navigating around anything on the schedule that threatened to keep me from getting out. I even hit the peak under a full moon one evening. Did I mention about the short days?
Back in the late fall, I woke one morning and had this piercing thought: Today could be different.
I think that was from God. It had that feeling of simplicity and urgency that pierces the fogginess in my mind. The days were starting to get short–which I hate, by the way–and had the chill that warned of winter. Sometimes trying to be a writer feels like a slog, seeing little or no progress, words clumping together instead of flowing, and that voice in my head chirping how it wouldn’t feel this way if I weren’t a total and complete failure. Bleah. I was in a stretch like that when this thought popped in.
Today could be different.
It didn’t change everything. Of course, the thought in itself didn’t precisely change anything, except my perspective. Turns out that’s a pretty big “except.” I looked at my rut and considered. I made a few different choices.
That gentle reminder, that little whisper from God, was still playing in my head when I started my hiking spree. To be clear, I love hiking. I do not love cold weather. But the notable change for me is consistency, which has never been my strength.
An even bigger change, though, in response to that little thought, I decided to try not hating the winter this year. In retrospect, this has been a change in the making, inspired by a friend who (inexplicably) loves and revels in winter. He challenged me last year, in his obnoxiously cheerful way, and it stuck. But I needed the different perspective to make the conscious change in mindset. Maybe today could be different.
I know many people–and maybe you–are cynical about New Year’s Resolutions. Cynicism doesn’t work for me. I tend to campaign against it. I like the idea of fresh beginnings and new starts. I’m too hopeful to get bogged down in “This will be just like every other time.” It doesn’t have to be. Today could be different.
So now it’s New Year’s Eve, and I’ve been pondering these huge, ambitious plans which I will both begin and follow through, magically, and yes, I can be sarcastic about my Resolutions and still believe I’m going to pull them off.
Then it hit me: I already did one. I didn’t call it a “New Year’s Resolution.” But today is the day of New Year’s Eve and I didn’t gain more weight. I lost a little. I’m pretty sure I got in better shape–even while not being able to chase a piece of plastic around with people significantly younger than I am!
If you’re committed to your cynicism, I probably can’t talk you out of that. If you need to hate winter, I’m not judging you; it’s taken me a long time to make this change. Most of that time went into being willing to see a need for the change. I’m also extremely fortunate in that we live next to mountains, so it’s crazy beautiful here in the winter, certainly in the early winter with a fresh coat of snow.
But I’m going to share this with you, anyway, not minimizing how difficult change is, nor pretending we can just snap our fingers and fix things, especially entrenched habits or trauma-reinforced struggles, and speaking to you as a lifelong procrastinator:
Today could be different.
I wish you a blessed and joyful New Year. In fact, I pray for it.