If you asked me my favorite holiday, I would say New Year’s Eve. Not that I stay up late to watch the clock, but there is a collective sense of optimism. There is champagne! Hugs all around! Hitting reset on a new year moves us all psychically forward. I am humbled by all the good fortune and generosity I encountered in 2020, but I am not immune from the tedium, frustration, and general anxiety that has permeated all of our lives.
One habit I acquired over the course of the covid pandemic is doing a word puzzle each morning while drinking my coffee. It began as a distraction from news, headlines, the state of the world. Then I found that words kept jumbling around in my mind for the rest of the morning. Out for a run, word salad was spinning around in my head when what I want is for my mind to be with me, on the trail and noticing cool things.
I stopped doing the puzzle. Why had it captured my brain? Did the dullness take up space where creative things could have been happening? Or is it simply filling a void where nothing much else is going on? Maybe it is winter. Maybe my creative brain is hibernating like a little ground squirrel while boring words puzzles are filling up the tunnels that have been dug all over the yard.
My very old friend anxiety spent some time with me this past year, generally showing up as a tight jaw and chronic headache. I stopped reading more than a few books because the story lines had conflicts that made me tense. Movies and shows were carefully curated to be light, gentle, and friendly. Even all the collective hate/disdain/good riddance for 2020 stressed me out. The other morning, I was out for a run and took a moment to reflect on all this anxiety. I quickly became so lightheaded I had to walk for a couple of minutes. Just thinking about being anxious makes me anxious.
Starting before 2020, but matching the flavor of the year, is the matter of my right hip. After 30+ years of running with no real issues, it just started hurting and got steadily worse. I saw ortho docs and chiropractors and physical therapists; had X-rays, MRIs, injections, and soft tissue abuse; even stopped running altogether. No one seemed to know what was wrong with it (though each expert expressed lots of certainty), but very… very… very… slowly, and with strengthening and stretching every damn day it has improved. I don’t feel fast or strong or smooth like a gazelle, and truthfully, it still hurts off and on, but it seems fitting that my hip is starting to behave right now, as we begin a new year.
The house is clean, the air outside is crisp and fresh. While my optimist self has dug deep to find all of the sparkles of joy and silver linings of the past 12 months, it is time to move, to feel sharp, and to feel awe without the low hum of despair. May the new year allow you to take in a beautiful view with a nice dog by your side and hear nothing but birds and the wind.
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