Yes, 2012 is already a month old. It’s taken nearly that long to get my sea legs back after the holidays. Anyone who was reading a year ago might wonder if I got to a magical place for a little new year renewal. The answer is “no.” Instead, I pulled a muscle hauling more luggage than any intelligent person my age should have brought to Wisconsin. I limped home and spent half the first week of the 2012 not meditating but contemplating excess up close and personal.
Bring those smelling salts one more time
My friend, Bea, didn’t introduce me to life lessons; she was just the one who gave me a vocabulary with which to discuss them. Over the years, she’s referred to the often unpleasant and annoying lessons that we have trouble learning as getting hit with a metaphysical 2×4. I tend to think of stubborn life lesson with the same fondness as giving birth which Carol Burnett described as taking your lower lip and pulling it over your head. It hurts. Sometimes so much so that it knocks you right on your . . . Whoever is doling out lessons, must be frustrated when someone my age repeats too often because the board hits me so hard, I almost need smelling salts to come around.
On January 3rd as I sat in bed with a heated rice bag nestled in the small of my back, I realized that I still hadn’t accepted a lesson I thought I’d mastered recently. The lesson? Slowing down on visits back to Wisconsin. Hell, just slowing down. And, so I began the new year with an old lesson determined that this will be the year I LEARN.
The Muchmore Intervention
Upon reflection, the holiday excesses were more than spreading myself too thin in my travels. Too much bad food. Too much sitting. Too much time away from creativity. Too long of too much. Too much for moderate measures. Intervention time.
Besides the fact that holiday food is 90% fat and sugar, OK, 98%, I’m sure holiday food does a number on your brain chemistry–like the sluggishness of dirty oil maybe. None of it conducive to feeling energized and focused let alone alive. My Mt. Muchmore intervention began by breaking my addiction to leftover crab dip and laying off Mom’s sweet pickles.
I lived in dread of my January physical where I feared Dr. White would look at my cholesterol numbers and announce that I had officially turned into a solid. But when I sat down with my MD, she gave me hope that my holiday luck was changing. With a little more exercise, she felt that my slightly higher than average cholesterol would get on track.
And, so, the second leg (bad pun planned) of the MM intervention involved moving for more than five minute intervals. Turns out, mixing brandy slush and lifting Christmas bulbs does not an aerobic plan make. Again, a sign of new year luck was hiking invitations from new buddy, Evelien. Tomorrow, Ev, Lucy (Ev’s cute dog) and I will walk for the third Sunday since the new year.
The Stair Treatment
All my research on building new habits has still not resonated with my exercise practices. Moderating my workload is part of the problem. I run a branch of 32 people and just lost my deputy chief. I have a health club membership and do well on the weekends. It’s the weekdays that screw things up and that’s not a new development.
Not wanting to start a lifelong relationship with medication, I felt more pressure than ever to find a more successful way to integrate exercise into my life. I said to myself, “I’m creative! I can do this!” And, then I remembered an article I read not long ago talking about people just like me — those who really struggle to find time in their daily schedule. Those who don’t want to get up at 4am, spend lunch hour sweating and showering, or tacking an extra hour of work on an already 10 hour day. The idea was so simple and perfect especially where I work.
The plan? Avoid elevators and meet at other people’s offices. If I park in back of the office, I have four flights of stairs to climb. If I meet with the web folks in their suite, I have to negotiate two flights and walk the length of the building twice. I park at the end of the parking lots and fill my water bottle instead in the cafeteria (two floors down) instead of bringing it with me.
A week has already made a huge difference. And all the activity is stuff I have to do. Already I have more energy and can do two flights without huffing. It’s much more than I’ve been doing during the work week, we’ll see how big a difference it makes.
The final stage of my intervention has been a return to art and music. Practicing my guitar is no hardship. I’m making inroads on a couple Sheryl Crow pieces and something by Gordon Lightfoot that maybe I’ll be able to play at next year’s caroling party. I’m not brilliant, but see progress. Hey, I can even string chords together fast enough for an outsider to actually recognize a song. My thrill is realizing that I actually have enough coordination to sing and play simultaneously. Who knew?! I have more and bigger music plans, but I don’t want to jinx them–so all will be revealed in the future–maybe.
Last weekend, I finally passed through a four month bottleneck that had trapped me and kept me from making art. For me art is not just the physical act but a mental state. My mind had been pulled in so many directions—all the creativity had gone to solving life problems not artistic ones. After taking care of others over the holidays, I needed a couple weekends to get my life tuned up. Finally, ideas and energy started coming back. I took the best of my summer print project and started making note cards. Yesterday, I set up my dining room studio and hauled out all the printing supplies I’d purchased after my inspirational session in August at Dog-in-the-Hole studio. For three hours, I printed layers of background and then printed them with my favorite blocks from last summer and even made a couple new ones. I printed on packing newsprint that I saved from the move. Here are some of the ones I liked.
How wonderful to get immersed in the flow again. Pure joy.
I spent another several hours on desktop making them into note cards. Who knows maybe you’ll see one in the mail some day. The big plan is to try these out as fabric prints. I see “The House of Muchmore” as the label.
Life moves smoothly and then it derails. You figure out how to put the train on the track—and then it moves smoothly again for a while. The lesson isn’t learning how to keep the train on the track. Life is a series of derailments. The lesson is figuring how to put it right with the least damage as quickly as possible. That takes creativity and hope — and not much more . . .