Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 27: A New Year, a New Leaf

It's August 27, the day I celebrate my own little new year. It started in 1988, when I began my college career on August 27 at Tulane University. And then, 364 days later, I finished up my stint working at Yellowstone National Park. That year of my life was perhaps the most transformative, which is not surprising, considering I was 19 years old. But it seemed to neat and tidy, with college starting on the 27th and my Yellowstone life ending on the 26th of the following year. It was the end of a magical year for me, one that led me to the depths of depression and back again. I decided that, every year, I would quietly celebrate August 27 as a time of beginning.

And it made sense. For the next six years or so, I was either a college student or a grad student, and the "new year" always starts in late August if you're in higher education. Even after I left academia, though, I always had a special place in my heart for the new beginning offered by August 27.

So here I am, on August 27, thinking about new beginnings.

And Lord, am I in need of new beginnings, in so many areas of my life.

Exercise

How cliché is that? It's the new year, and I want to get in shape. Well, of course. Doesn't everyone?

About a year ago, I decide to start running again, and I signed up for a November half-marathon. It felt so good to run. I have always loved running distances, and it wasn't long before I was running five miles, then six, then eight, then ten, then twelve ...

Something happened on one of those long-distance runs, though. I got a pain on the inside of my right knee that wouldn't go away. Soon after, I got an accompanying pain reaching from my left hip/butt around to my groin area. I quickly went from running ten miles at a time to barely being able to walk.

And when I say "barely," I mean it. I was using a cane to get around the house. In public, I hobbled everywhere, and it was torture just to go up or down steps. I couldn't run, I couldn't walk, I couldn't hike, I couldn't do much of anything. I went to an orthopedic doctor and got X-rays, but they couldn't find much of anything. I finally went to a physical therapist early this summer (after eight months of suffering), and it's been a slow recovery, helped much by a process called dry needling.

I'm still not 100% cured, and I think I need to see a manipulative osteopath before all is good, but the dry needling has allowed me to walk and hike again, if not run.

The upshot of all this? I haven't exercised regularly in nearly a year. I've lost quite a bit of muscle. I need to start exercising again. And what better time than the new year? So, for my first new leaf of the new year, I'm going to begin working out four days a week. I'll work my way up to more, but I don't want to push it.

It will be hard not to push it. I miss my buff self from several years ago.

Writing

It was a banner year for writing. I took a writing workshop last fall and submitted one of my stories to the Great Smokies Review. Not only was it published, but it snagged the Editor's Choice for Prose award. It's here, if you want to read it.

I also started work on a novel this summer, which went swimmingly until late June. For some reason, I have gotten away from it. It's not writer's block--I have the whole thing outlined. It's not lack of interest--I think about it all the time. But between working full-time, being a mom, and having a husband who isn't home much, I've just been too tired. Where I used to get up at 5:30 every morning to write, I just sleep until the last possible minute. Maybe it's laziness, or maybe I'm legitimately tired. Whatever the reason, one thing is true: I'm not writing.

I'm not sure how to work writing into my schedule. Mornings are best for me, but mornings are also best for exercise ... so there's that age-old dilemma of where to focus my early mornings. I suppose I can write three mornings and exercise four. I also can write during my lunch hour at work (if I'm not practicing piano), and try to snag a few hours on weekends. My resolution for this year is to start another writing routine and use it to finish the draft of my novel.

Piano

Oh, piano. Oh, George. I started taking piano again briefly earlier this year, but it didn't last. Again, life's other responsibilities--mainly working and being a mom--got in the way. I was practicing several times a week during my lunch hour at a local church, but I got away from that due to a series of crunch-times at work. I need to play, though. It keeps me sane, perhaps even more than writing does. So my new piano leaf is to practice during lunch three days a week, at minimum. I'm not ready to add piano lessons to that, I don't think, as both the time commitment and the financial commitment are a little out of my reach at the moment (particularly if I end up paying a new monthly fee for the health club).

Hiking

Yes! Hiking! I have been hiking more. I want to hike even more than that, and I want to start backpacking again. I don't know how many miles I've covered over the past year, but I do know that I've hiked at least one weekend month this year, and some months I've hiked almost every weekend. We've also gone car camping several times--to several areas of Western NC, including Davidson River, North Mills River, and Linville Falls; and to Mount Rogers in Virginia. We currently have trips planned for Cades Cove (Great Smoky Mountains National Park) and Shenandoah National Park in the fall.

So, I don't need any big resolutions about hiking, other than hike more. I do plan to begin posting pictures of my trips here. I've been posting some of them on Facebook, but I'd prefer to include narrative for each, and that doesn't work so well in Facebook format. If you, my vast audience of three, like pictures of mushrooms, wildflowers, and the occasional mountain view, you're in luck!

In conclusion, those are my four areas I want to focus on in this new year: exercise, writing, piano, and hiking. All of that, of course, is in addition to mothering and working. Those are my two biggest priorities, which is a good thing--but at the same time, I tend to let them push some important "Waterfall" things out of the way. Let's see how much I can bring some of those things back in.

Happy New Year!

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