The January commentary is always the same, and I know it will find me. It’s February, I get, it, but I can hear it where ever I turn. The television, magazines, Facebook, all touting tag lines like:
Lose weight, today! Be Your Best Self! Ten ways to conquer new habits! Five ways to lose five years off your face.
Please. Hand me a bowl of mac and cheese and the new releases on Netflix.
I hate winter, especially for all the motivational headlines regarding health, fitness, and goals. PLEASE. I get it. I am over 50, by golly. I watch old movies to avoid absorbing the commercials touting workout DVDS and vitamins.
I have heard it all before, and I am over everyone telling me what I could, should and would be doing. Guess what? I know what I need to do. Really. I’m an adult. I am also an adult with some bad habits. And some of them make me quite happy. I like real cream in my coffee, and I will walk an extra mile on a cold day for those extra fat grams. The walking takes extra time, which cuts into work, which cuts into housework, which cuts into personal hobby time. The cycle of chasing my goals of living a balanced life makes me feel like a dog chasing her tail in the living room until she falls over in a stupor.
Recently, I fell over in a stupor. Really. I am the dog in the Instagram feed, over shared. For YEARS I have tried to do too much, and I have fed the beast; the beast which reminds I do not measure up in any area of my life. And somewhere, and I know where, but the important thing, is this: I just stopped. Stopped it all. And I took a good long walk, which is one of my better habits. I looked up at the sky, the trees standing leafless and the cold wind—slamming for my attention.
Wisdom, she floats like stratus clouds in a fluid state. Wisdom, well, she is lovely. She glows; she is hindsight and learned experience. And she gently reminds me I am in a do-over state. I try and take in her beauty. Her words.
But let me be completely honest here. I wanted to crawl back in bed and watch City Slickers, and eat five oatmeal cookies and drink a pint of hot tea. After all, a do-over state takes stamina, renewed energy, creativity. I need to work up to this idea.
The next morning, I’m walking, again, it is one of my better habits. The clouds floated along looking smug and assured. A good song is on my playlist on my phone, and a Nike commercial runs through my brain, the black and white cinematography reeling in my vulnerability as I visualized this skinny, magically ageless woman. The commercial plays music and no words just her breath running along a road with the mountains in the foreground. Just do it.
The cold wind slaps me in the face, and I am not in a black and white commercial. I am in a grey fog with low clouds following me. I hunker down for that extra mile and take a new path. My conversation with the clouds continues. They give me this blank stare, and I explain that it is more than a little middle age fluff. It’s everything. I’m tired. My feet hurt. But I kee p walking. And I make a list. I listened to my body, and my mind caught up.
All the gurus tell us it takes 21 days to form new habits. If you don’t believe me call 1-800-be-great.
First goal: Sleep.
Go to bed earlier, not fall asleep watching television in my yoga pants. I will treat it like my business plan, a business plan for my personal life. I can hear the motivational speaker now, with his European cut suit and slick back hair, pointing to the screen, his website and 1-800-be great, underneath the power point statement: List three specific things that will make the goal achievable. Fine. Clouds. I’ll play your game — before it starts to rain.
A. Set the alarm as a warning that it is time to get ready for bed. Why not reverse the role of an alarm clock and place boundaries on my day? End it sooner so I can get proper rest.
B. Put on pajamas (I may have to go buy some), wash my face, and open the jars of creams that I buy but never consistently use.
C. Read for 30 minutes and lights out at 10. Sounds stupid, I know, but a good day starts with a good nights sleep.
Those stratus clouds seem to lower in the sky as if to high-five me.
Second goal: Complete my five important things before 11 a.m.
Now that I am resting better, the early bird gets the worm. Morning goals, which include exercise, reflection and prayer time, email and business items, writing time, and prepping our dinner, all seem to happen with more love in my heart.
Dividing the goals into sections like spiritual, physical, fiscal-business, family, and hobbies gave me leverage over the whining gremlins in my head. Also, I ignored anything on Facebook or advertised on television that subtly or overtly re-enforced the cultural idea of never enough or not measuring up. I avoided anything advertising health and beauty for 21 days. All the gurus tell us it takes 21 days to form new habits. If you don’t believe me call 1-800-be-great.
Instead of zig-zagging back and forth between good and bad habits, self-shaming myself and ordering another self-help book, or DVD exercise tape, I just gave myself space. Space to think. Space to decide the amount of time I need to keep up my good habits, and how I would work to minimize the bad habits. The space was like a clean freshly painted room that I was re-decorating with only the things I love. Instead of putting all the furniture back in the same way, I took some time and measured. I made space for grace, for forgiveness, for encouragement, and space to create, and sleep — and guess what? There was still room for good habits, and just for good measure, cream with my coffee, and occasionally a big bowl of mac and cheese.
Here’s to February, ‘cause January was just too noisy with self-help gurus.
Thanks, I got this, January. Welcome to the real 2017.
I know what I need to do. Really. I’m an adult. I am also an adult with some bad habits. And some of them make me quite happy.