I love New Year's resolutions. Or at least, I use to. At some point, I hit that realization that I made the same resolutions every single year and I was still carrying extra weight, still impatient, and still couldn't seem to focus in prayer.
When I was younger I used to think that midlife crises were the result of people realizing they weren't "young" anymore, and despairing at extra weight, the loss of hair, or some physical attribute that reminded them that their bodies were in decline heading toward that surety-death.
And while my aching back and neck, and my declining eyesight certainly are not things I'm celebrating, I'm realizing that midlife despair is more about realizing that all the things we were going to change about ourselves, those pesky bad habits, our "sins of personality" are still with us. This process of sanctification is slow going; is it even happening at all?
Even worse, some of the things that were more contained when younger, are not so easily contained. Anxiety, for instance, that I've struggled with since I was a child, has only become more evident to the outside world as I have aged and witnessed more of life to be anxious about.
So I started the year of our Lord 2017 with a kind of discouragement that I was still short-tempered and impatient, and I was still prone to second helpings and a secret stash of chocolate and thus carrying extra pounds, and that I still can't seem to focus well when I need to pray.
Only self-defeat is not really helpful. I'm always ruminating on life, always have an internal conversation happening about my short-comings and the lamentable situation of the entire fallen world and what would make a difference if it changed. Oh, and my husband and my dearest friends know these musings often go external when given a chance. (Sorry!)
Now we are into February and I have realized a couple of happy things. One is that while I've always approached exercise as this thing I should do to be thin (and it has NEVER made me thin, even when I was disciplined), I recently realized (because I'm getting old) that the goal of exercise is to help me be strong, and to keep the instrument I live in, running. Sadly, it also makes me really sore now, and I wish I had realized this when I was younger when it didn't hurt so much, but it is something. So in the last year I have finally made regular exercise, part of my life.
But more importantly, I tackled a psychological hurdle I have faced for 20 years. I started walking, alone, in my neighborhood, again. Something so simple has given me joy and a breathing space, and the capacity to pray in a new way.
Twenty years ago I was living in a part of Portland with a sketchy reputation. My cousin had just been murdered and I was dealing with all kinds of grief and anxiety there. I have always loved walking and exploring and that hadn't changed. But one day I went for a walk in my neighborhood just as the police swooped in on a drug-ring in a nearby apartment complex. It was somehow too much for me, and as much as I tried walking over the next 20 years, I always imagined predators behind the curtains of houses and couldn't do it without a racing heart and a quickened pace. Eventually I quit trying to take walks.
Two summers ago, I borrowed my mom's bike a few times and went riding in my neighborhood. It was something. I also went out walking on summer evenings with Mike.
Consciously, I wasn't really thinking about this thing I didn't do, and the reasons for it. But it started coming back to me, that I had once loved to take a walk, and that it was healing balm for me in the stress of a normal day.
This last August, I set out one morning. I took a short walk on a route I had been taking with Mike in the evening. And I just kept going. Nearly every day, except when I tried to go out one morning when it was 28 degrees and decided to set a personal limit of 32 degrees as my threshold.
I have found walking helps me with my anxiety-prone thoughts. It helps me with prayer. It helps me physically, mentally, spiritually to face life with joy and confidence.
And finally, it is something I didn't let beat me down. I tackled my fear, and won.
...to be continued...