I’ve always made New Year’s resolutions because they help me set and achieve goals.
Do I keep every one?
Usually. As a long-time over-achiever, I usually surpass some. Others help me satisfy my innate curiosity (courses on fine chocolate-making, for instance).
Some resolutions just fade because they lose their importance or urgency after Jan. 1. Some get eased/dropped because I get lazy.
Others set patterns for life.
Take exercise, one of the most common — and evidently, easily dissolved — new year’s resolutions in our culture.
I ran for years, adding daily swimming and then three-four-five-six-days-a-week gym sessions when I took a desk job for the first time in my career. All that exercise helped offset long work hours for years and kept me super-thin.
Then I became disabled and I could no longer run.
I began walking every day to (a) ease the tedium of physiotherapy; (b) boost my often gloomy, post-disability mood; (c) explore, at home, and while traveling in other countries; and (d) lower pain.
The latter might seem contradictory, but I learned the hard way that exercise improves my mobility and reduces my pain.
Exercise trumps drugs
After two years of surgeries, physio and rehabilitation (including a year of using a wheelchair-walker-cane), specialists convinced me that medication was the best way to curb excruciating pain. One was so adamant about drugs, my family nicknamed him Dr. Pain.
I balanced meds with exercise through five years of university (fellowships, grad school) until I met a brilliant grad student who convinced me that I was ruining my liver and long-term wellness with the two anti-seizure drugs I was taking daily.
So, after graduation, my doctor and specialists (I still had a team) agreed to wean me off the drugs to see if I could deal with pain.
I still can. It’s been almost four years, and I’ve only had a few Tylenol.
Embracing disability, embracing life
I’ve learned good pain management techniques; I’m acutely aware of personal pain triggers; I’ve changed my lifestyle to accept and accommodate disability and chronic pain.
Exercise is the best antidote to pain, both physical and mental, for me. (As a rehabilitation counselor, I caution everyone to consult their doctors before starting or ending any medication. Consult widely if you’re considering pharmaceuticals, for any reason, please!)
I try to walk at least one hour each day to maintain mobility and an upbeat mood (which I like to think is my most natural state).
It’s simple: If I don’t move enough, my mobility decreases. When that happens, I have more pain, more spasms, and other uncontrollable muscle movements that can be funny for others to watch, but not so much fun when I’m experiencing them.
Exercise helps my muscles behave.
So, my new year’s resolutions for the past 10 years have focused, selfishly, on my body.
This year, I made my wellness resolutions more simple than in the past: Exercise more, eat less.
By happenstance, our Southern Oregon Valley has been blessed with brilliant sunshine since the start of the new year.
Daily walks with my husband and our cameras have been longer than usual because we’re between work assignments (we’re photojournalists-for-hire). We’re putting this free time to good use by exercising more and exploring our neighborhood.
Walking is often the best couple time we enjoy, anywhere we travel.
Mini-progress report: 5 miles (day 1), 3 miles (day 2); 4 miles (day 3). Actually, 5 miles for Hadi, 4 for me. (He did an extra mile for an errand; we try to avoid using the car.)
Every walk this week has been wondrous. We’ve seen all kinds of birds; stopped walking just to enjoy their spring-like songs; and peered inside an empty nest.
We’ve watched hummingbirds (in winter!) and mourning doves, tiny bushtits and juncos, and yesterday, we were startled by two, red-tailed hawks.
Even the urban wild is wondrous: One huge hawk lifted into the air so close to us, we saw the sun shining through his tail feathers when he flew overhead.
Best bonus of all this walking-for-couples?
We’re still talking, with great delight, about the size of that hawk (wingspan of at least three feet) and the soft, rust colors of his tail in the sunlight as he soared over us.