2019: Goals

I have always disliked the notion of the New Year’s resolution. I understand the concept and the intent, but feel it’s a failed sentiment. For me, it is a matter of scale. By design, New Year’s resolutions tend to be broad and undefined with no clear path to fulfillment. While I do consider myself a big picture thinker in many ways, to succeed at anything, I find I must break a challenge down into digestible bits. Then move through the elements step by step, in an orderly fashion from A to Z. It’s a very linear method and it’s how I approach most aspects of my life – personal and work alike. As such, this way of thinking is generally not conducive to seeing broad based resolutions to fruition. I can’t just say “I’m going to lose weight in 2019” then boom, lose weight in 2019. I have to plan it out, do a little research, set small achievable goals for myself – A leads to B leads to C leads to D…and so on.

I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2017. Anyone who has been dealt this hand will tell you what follows is a roller coaster ride over which you have zero control. None. Zilch. Nada. It dominates your life and you spend an enormous amount of time barreling from one thing to the next – tests, surgeries, treatment. It seems endless. Given my inability to work farther ahead than what is right in front of me, the whole experience left me in a weird stagnant state.

I had my last surgery in November and have spent the couple of months since feeling lighter, liberated from the burden of my disease. If ever there was a year to make resolutions, it is this one. Of course, I am who I am and thus, in lieu of resolutions, I have made a series goals.

Here are a few:

Run a 5k. Okay. On it’s face, this does appears to be a broad resolution. I’ll give you that.  But I have a reason – and a plan. I shared in my last post a few words of wisdom from my tennis coach: “One does not get in shape playing tennis, one must get in shape to play tennis.” In order to do that, he wants me to run. I hate to run so that poses a challenge. I am finding that merely telling me to run for the sake of tennis is no real motivator. I need to be able to break it down, reason it out and formulate a plan of action.

The solution to my problem – the Couch to 5k (C25K) app. This provides the goal and workable plan to get from point A to point B. The app breaks it down into weekly workouts (walking/running combos) that builds from easy to hard as your stamina improves. It charts your progress and provides a bit of verbal motivation as you run. I picked the drill sergeant to cue me when it’s time to change up the pace. I find it fitting.

So the goal is to train myself to run a 5k in 9 weeks. In doing so, I will have improved my overall fitness which, in turn, will improve my tennis game. Just in time for the spring season. Two birds. One stone. A to B to C.

Nurture the good, eliminate the bad. This is a goal that follows me year to year. There are those in my life who will tell you I am not prone to sugarcoating things. I call it how I see it. I suffer no fools and take no bullshit. Generally speaking, that’s a pretty accurate assessment. But I find that when it comes to certain interpersonal relationships, I struggle to make good on this goal. It’s a constant work in progress for me.

I do feel I have made improvements. A cancer diagnosis has a clarifying effect. For me, it put a lot of things into perspective and forced me to take stock. In 2017, I cleaned house and eliminated a lot of negativity from my life. I took to heart the notion that people treat you how you allow them to treat you. Once I accepted that, what followed was easy.

Of course, when you take a scorched earth approach, the result is an altered landscape. It can be stark and isolating at first, but what sprouts up out of the ashes is something much hardier and meaningful. However, it is important to remember that what grows must be tended and nurtured if it is to survive. Relationships are nothing more than flowers in a garden to be watered and fed. Right now, I have a garden full of beautiful flowers and it’s my goal for 2019 to continue down this positive path, weeding out the negativity as I go.

Write. Write. Write. No post on goals would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room. Writing. I have not written much the last few years. I have a combination of reasons and I could waste your time ticking them off one by one, but I won’t. In truth, the biggest reason I haven’t written is because I have lacked desire.

Part of me wants to blame this drought on an absence of words – I didn’t write because I had nothing to say. That’s a lie. I have plenty to say. And plenty of words. Lots and lots of words. They tumble around in my head, a constant buzz in my ears pulling me inward, competing for my attention, keeping me up at night. I just couldn’t bring myself to put forth the effort to write them down, to put them out there for all to see.

I think fear plays a role. Probably more than I would care to admit. It’s never easy putting pen to paper and giving life to the things you’ve never said aloud. When something scares us, our first instinct is to run away. I have let my fear get the better of me for far too long. It’s past time for me to face this challenge head-on and that is what I plan to do in 2019.

This blog was a first step in that direction. I have plans to begin a collaborative work with a dear friend – a creative non-fiction piece that is thirty years in the making. I have also started working on a project that I have toyed with for a while, but never really committed much effort to fleshing out. I feel inspired by it. I have also been invited to rejoin a writing critique group. With strangers. I am still working this one out in my head. The introvert in me is screaming in protest, but writing groups are always great source of motivation.

I feel good about 2019. Of course, I felt good about 2017, too. It only took about two weeks for it all to go to shit. The universe has a funny way of reminding us of who’s really in charge. Even still, I am looking forward to what the new year will bring, and have faith that it will be as wonderful as I hope.

Happy New Year!

Lessons learned: 2018

The holidays have never been my favorite time of the year. I could go on and on about the decorations, the expectations, the obligations, the assholes at the mall…but I won’t.

Oddly, I don’t feel quite so scrooge-like this year. Maybe it’s all the wine. I’ve consumed more than my fair share over the past week. Pretty sure my liver is completely pickled at this point. I have switched to lemon water in an effort to flush the system and reset. I even hefted my ass to the gym on Christmas Day. Never hurts to get a jump start on those pesky new year’s resolutions.

I won’t go so far as to say that I am feeling festive. That’s a stretch even in the most optimistic of times, but as I sit here in my pjs staring at the rapidly disintegrating evergreen wreath over my mantel, I am reflective.

While 2017 was a year straight out of Dante’s Inferno, 2018 wasn’t too bad. Here are a few things I learned this year:

Doctors inevitably insist that it takes six weeks to recovery from surgery. Any surgery. Big or small. Doesn’t matter. I’ve mentioned before that I had a bout with a little cancer. Breast cancer. Lost a boob. Had a little radiation. Got a new boob. Five surgeries in all. Every time – six weeks. No more. No less. Of course, I am who I am, and therefore the proverbial thorn in my doctor’s side. I do believe my medical chart comes with a black box warning indicating my penchant for noncompliance. I’m not programmed to sit around doing nothing when I could be doing something. During the last visit with my doctor, two weeks after my final surgery, I asked when I could return to the tennis court. He crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair and gave his nurse a bit of side eye. He knew what was coming.

“Four more weeks,” he said.

“No,” I said giving him my best resting bitch face. “Too long.”

My doctor is a kind man; intelligent; a respected leader in his specialty field. I’ve been his patient for two years. In that moment, he looked resigned, beaten down. He let out a long breath.

“When are you thinking?”

“Today.”

“Today?”

“Yes. This afternoon.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face and began to go through a long list of reasons why I should limit my activity for the remaining four weeks of my six week recovery. It’s a list I can recite from memory.

“Are you telling me no?” I asked, cutting him off mid-sentence. I can be blunt to the point of rudeness. It’s part of my charm.

“No, I would never tell you no, but…”

“Good. When’s my next follow up?”

“Three months.”

“Very good.”

By sundown, I was on the tennis court drilling with my team and I haven’t looked back. Fuck your six week rule.

“One does not get in shape playing tennis; one must get in shape to play tennis.” These words of wisdom were bestowed upon me just last week by my tennis coach. I love my coach. He’s an older gentleman, north of seventy with the patience of a saint and a brutal honesty that never lets me get too full of myself. As I’ve said, I have had five surgeries over the last 2 years and it goes without saying that it has taken a toll on my overall fitness. For every week off the court, I feel that I take two steps backwards in my progress towards becoming a better player.

I’ve never been a marathon runner….or a 5k runner…or a runner at all. In fact, I really hate running. Seriously. Hate it. A glaring contradiction for a tennis player who is looking to improve and win matches. My coach knows and understands this about me. He’s also not afraid to tell me I need to get my shit together. Last week, as he sat next to me on a bench while I tried to catch my breath, he gave me an assignment. He told me to run. Not just run. Run fast. Sprint. As fast as I can for a quarter length of track. Then rest. Then run as fast as I can again – repeating this pattern over and over and over.

I started on Christmas Day. I hated it and thought bad things about my coach the whole time. But he’s right. He’s always right. I want to win matches. I want to win and so I must run. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

It’s okay to be selfish with my time. I think this is a plight shared by mothers and wives alike. We give so much of ourselves to those in our charge that we forget to save time for ourselves. And should we be blessed with a bit of alone time, we are plagued by guilt. Always – the guilt.  My daughter graduated six months ago and my life as a band mom came to an abrupt end.  I suddenly found myself in possession of a rare commodity – time.  Precious time.  Me time.  Time to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whomever I wanted.  

At first, it’s a little overwhelming.  You aren’t quite sure what do with it, this golden egg that has dropped into your lap, seemingly out of thin air.  You look around to see if anyone sees what you see; to see if anyone steps into reclaim it.  When no one comes, you take it in your hand, wrap your fingers around it and hold it close to your breast.  

“Mine.”

The word lingers on your lips, a mere whisper at first, as soft and sweet as a baby’s breath.  

“Mine,” you say again.  

The word comes louder this time, with gusto.  Your confidence builds.  You scramble to your feet, still clutching the golden egg tight against your chest.  With the sound of your heart pounding in your ears, you take one last look around, just to be sure no one is watching.   Then slither off into the shadows, to the place where your secrets are kept. With a gentle hand, born out of the fear that the egg will dissolve into dust right before your very eyes, you tuck it away.  Nestling it safely among all the things you treasure most in life.  All the while, repeating a single word. 

“Mine…mine…mine…”