I have a calendar, one of those cheap ones that insurance agencies send out around Thanksgiving, that I started using way back in January 2014 to help me build healthier habits. I'm a list maker. I love that shot of excitement that comes from crossing an item off a list, even if that feeling is all too brief. This calendar works like a list in reverse. Any time I do one of the habits I'm trying to build, I get to write it into that day's square.
A year ago, the goals were to exercise, write and craft more. Not too different from a million other people's new year's resolutions. I color coded these goals to make it easy to see patterns on the calendar: exercise is underlined in yellow, writing in green and crafting in purple. The colors made it easy to see what I was doing a lot and what I wasn't. They all look strong for about two, maybe two and a half weeks, then more and more blank squares appear on the scene. It's the classic resolution fade out.
Mid February I made an effort to get back on track. A quick look tells me I did a good job of meeting my goals on the weekends. Midweek. Let's not talk about midweek. The exception being shoveling, which I appear to have done quite a bit of midweek and weekend all month long. Thank you mother nature for helping me get more exercise.
And so it goes. By March I'd given up on the color coding. I jotted down any time I exercised, wrote or fiddled. Yes, I'd swapped fiddle practice for crafting. Like writing and exercise, I enjoyed it once I got started but what is it about getting started that's so tough?
My calendar pages May through September are seas of white, with only the word "fiddle" to break the monotony. I'm sure I was doing other things, but they weren't making it to the calendar. Maybe I didn't want to see their (in)frequency.
Then the fall came in all its beauty and the night crept ever farther into the day. I started tracking how long I sat in front of my fake-sunlight lamp; "it's medecine" my doctor had reminded me, "take the recommended dose, no more, no less". Exercise shifted in my mind from "good for me" to "weapon against depression", so it went back on the calendar. I started taking pre-work walks again, since outdoor exercise as early as possible has been shown to help as well.
I'd like to say that I knew all these things were good for me, so I did them day in and day out. But you know that's not true. I'd do it a while, then stop. I'd see the white space on the calendar and start up again; "Just keep starting" is a twelve step maxim that I firmly believe in. And then in November, I read a blog post by my friend Kristina. She had undergone serious surgery and was making big life changes as part of her recovery process. In the post she talked about giving herself a sticker whenever she reached a daily goal. I smiled and thought "I don't need to go that far". But when I saw a pack of multicolored sparkling star stickers at the store, they were in my basket in an instant. Who didn't love getting a star on their homework back in school?
How do I earn a star? Gold - sat in front of my light 1st thing in the morning. Green - exercise. Orange - fed the soul (fiddle, crafting, baking, extended reading). And blue - drank water and ate fruit with my breakfast. This last one, the blue star is the reason for this post. I know most people love fruit, but I see eating fruit a lot like I see shaving. I do it because I don't like what will happen if I don't.
Yes, fruit can be delicious (have you ever read William Carlos Williams' poems about eating plums?), but it is so fickle and unpleasant too. Fruit are sticky, they have really strong smells and you never know what you're going to get when you take a bite. One day you're rewarded with sweet, jucy pleasure. Another day and the fruit's gone sour or worse yet, squishes with the first stages of rot. Add in the fact that sometimes my body goes on allergen overload and gives me an allergic reaction to fruit I'm not allergic to. Fruit and I aren't friends.
But I've been doing it. Pears. Grapes. Bananas. When I have trouble sticking to it, I grab a beloved, reliable veggie instead. I don't think it's a coincidence that brocolli and breakfast both start with "b".
So what's this success I mentioned in the title? Have I lost 10 pounds? Am I a fiddle master? Did I finish my holiday knitting on time? No, no, and no. But yesterday when I went to the kitchen hungry for a mid morning snack - I grabbed a pear. Just as natural as can be. No reaching for a muffin and telling myself I ought to eat fruit instead. No staring at the choices in the fridge and making a deal with myself that if I ate the fruit I could have something good afterward. Nope. I just saw the pear and grabbed it.
I think that's the first time in 40 years that I've chosen to eat fruit as a snack.
Now that's some sweet success.