Happy February! I'm writing to you from Colorado, which has graced us with so many sunny and mild days that I feel as if I've jumped ahead three months. It's fabulous, though it has seriously set off my itch to get camping and hiking, an itch I'll be less likely to scratch back in 20F New York. Or maybe not! Maybe this will be the year I finally embrace hiking in the snow.
Anyway, I wanted to write about progress with my January Challenge, and chat about what turns the month took. To refresh your memory, I wanted to start this year:
- cutting out wheat, booze, and processed sugar
- doing literally any form of exercise every day
- getting back into daily meditation
- sticking to eating 6 small meals between 9 am and 7 pm
I'm happy to report that the mission is pretty well accomplished! Though, first, a few caveats: my sister, who initiated this challenge, agreed with me that there should be a few passes on the no alcohol rule (for birthdays and belated Christmas celebrations, for example), and for some parts of the month I let myself define exercise and meditation more loosely than I usually would, due to reasons I'll get into. So in the end it was a booze-free month with the exception of three days, and my workout game was on the low-impact end of things most days.
This was mostly due to what brings me to gorgeous Colorado: I've been here looking after my grandparents for the last two weeks. They're both nearly 90, and while overall they're still kicking pretty damn well, they need help around the house and someone at hand in case of any worst-case scenarios, and thanks to my super flexible work schedule, I could easily come help out. Getting to know my grandparents as an adult has been an absolute treasure, and I feel like the luckiest lady alive to have this opportunity. However, it's also pretty mentally and emotionally (and on some days, physically) challenging, especially for someone who is used to spending the majority of her time alone, and meant that I spent my days at the bottom of my list of priorities. In a wonderfully unexpected twist, my month of reminding myself how to live well turned into doing my best to make sure my grandparents are, and what I started as a month in which to get my physical self feeling better became a time to instead open my heart and mind to a re-blossoming relationship with this part of my family. There can't be any doubt as to which is a better use of my days.
Now, this isn't to say I haven't made time to look after myself, after all, the best way to love people is to make sure you're okay, and at your most able to love. So on sunny afternoons when they have a caretaker visit, I get the groceries, pick up the prescriptions, and then I explore the beautiful places right on our doorstep. Half an hour away are the foothills and mesas in Golden. 50 minutes away, the mountains outside of Boulder. Closer than that are so many parks and reservoirs and green spaces tucked between the sprawling shops that, despite the endless developments, and despite the days when I don't make it outside of the house, I feel so alive in a way that can only be provoked by nature.
Surely this is in part because most Januaries find me in upstate New York, slowly succumbing to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the sheer ability to wander outside without a winter coat seems magical and invigorating. But I think, more than that, it's because I'm with two of the most compassionate, intelligent, and engaged people I've ever known, and it keeps me positive and open to the loveliness around me. My grandparents are just so fascinated by the world, and their voracious appetites for knowledge and growth are inspiring, and even sometimes daunting. To know that they're a part of me, and to recognize our common behaviors and traits is sometimes humorous, sometimes an honor, and always a delight.
What this rambling diatribe is ultimately supposed to express is my pleasant surprise, and enormous gratitude that, as usual, I set out a neat little plan, and life handed me something much more complex and rewarding. I did keep to my little plan, and feel much better for having avoided sugar, bread, and booze; I think I'll stick to consuming less-to-none of all three. I also thoroughly appreciated a return to regular meditation and dedicated time to think past my thoughts. But I learned the bigger lesson here, and I'll make sure I stick to the more important goals:
- putting my heart in situations that are vulnerable but important,
- keeping myself open to those that need me, and
- finding nature as many places and as often as I possibly can.
I'll be back in a few days to write about my goals for February, and how I'd like to shape the year ahead. But for now, I'm happy to end January on a thankful note, and hope you can do the same!