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Fresh Starts

On December 31st, I took off my problems and hung them over the back of the chair like a pair of jeans. And on January 1st, I woke up in the morning and put back on my problems, because, hey, they looked sort of clean.  Because that’s the thing with artificial, man-made starting points like a certain date on the calendar: nothing is really different the next day.  You’re the same and your situation is the same.  Just with a different year tacked on the end of the date.

But it feels different.

The start of all my problems — the snake’s mouth, so to speak — are all back in 2014.  And now I am dealing with either the snake’s body or the snake’s tail.  And that is a powerful thing, no?  I mean, by now I’m accustomed to the dangers of the snake, and at least I don’t have to worry about a snake bite.  Sure, the body may crush me or the tail could slap me, but there is something so much scarier about the snake’s face lunging at you, or even the snake simply approaching.

(Apologies to all herpetophiles for this analogy.)

Problems also seem scarier when you can see them coming at you, or when you’re grappling with them in the beginning.  At this point, 2015 could contain solutions whereas I know that 2014 contained situations I didn’t want to be in.

So… yeah… nothing is really different.  But it feels different.  So I’m going with that.


At this point last year, my back went out.  Like went out to the point where I couldn’t move, couldn’t work, couldn’t think because of the pain.  Since then, I’ve done yoga most mornings to stave off that ever happening again.

Of course, I ended up taking a break over winter vacation.  I slept in, and then there wasn’t time for yoga.  Or the kids were now awake and there wasn’t a quiet space for yoga.  I could always come up with a reason why I had to skip my yoga session.

I let myself eat thoughtlessly.  That’s the best way to describe it.  I ate without thinking about what I was eating or how much I was eating.

I kept thinking, January 1st.  On January 1st, I’ll restart all my good habits and get rid of these bad ones.  But the kids were off until the 5th, so… the bad habits continued with the excuse that I would restart things once we were back to a normal routine.  But then it was Monday and Monday was going to be so hard, emotionally, so I gave myself a pass.  And then Tuesday was a snow day, and I couldn’t be expected to start all of these good intentions on a snow day.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up early to do yoga.  I hauled my ass out of bed even though I was miserable and tired.  I saw that we had a two hour delay after I got dressed in my yoga clothes and came downstairs to start, and I had a moment where I considered crawling back into bed and stating emphatically that tomorrow would be my starting point.  I promise.

And then I realized that if was going to keep setting these unnatural starting points, penciling in when I was going to do the right thing, I was never going to get started.  It was like I was waiting for a divine invitation to stop treating myself like crap.  But I am the only person who can send myself that invitation, and let’s face it, invitations like that are a waste of postage.  So I saved the stamp and forced myself to get started immediately.

So I’m back to treating myself well.  Yoga in the morning.  Tracking my nutritional intake.  Eschewing refined sugar and processed foods.  No snacking after dinner.  Sleep at a reasonable hour.

I’m trying not to look at it as a punishment but rather a decision to treat myself kindly.  I expect other people to treat me well, but that idea should probably start with me considering I have to live with myself all the time.


It took me until 40 to realize that if I constantly said that I’d do something tomorrow or next week or next month that it wasn’t going to happen at all.  If I’m looking for the right time to start something new or instigate a change, pretending that life is just one big game of double dutch that I have to time just right, I am going to constantly be in waiting.

Because, you know, there was no reason why I needed to wait until January 1st to feel as if we were closer to solutions than to the start of our problems.  I could have started feeling better back in December if I had made that my choice rather than having the date dictated to me by a paper wall calendar.

I don’t like being in waiting.  Waiting is an uncomfortable place, especially when you don’t know when the waiting will end.  So it makes no sense whenever I hold myself back there.

So no more waiting.

Just doing.


1 Justine { 01.08.15 at 8:52 am }

Amen, sister.

2 a { 01.08.15 at 9:03 am }

While I sometimes enjoy a good bout of procrastination, starting is the best way to get something finished and off my back. (And frequently, my procrastination is a specific passive-aggressive response to something I don’t feel like I should have to do in the first place.)

I hope 2015 is the year you take a big stick to the snake and chase it away forever…and scare it so much that it tells all its friends not to mess with you. 🙂

3 amelie { 01.08.15 at 9:18 am }

Delurking to say I read pretty much every day for columns like today’s – smart, thoughtful, KIND (so important to me; I try hard to live “kind”) and another good reminder that the person in charge of my life is, well, me and maybe I better think a little bit more about that. If you wonder if you have a impact – you do.

4 noemi { 01.08.15 at 9:36 am }

I love this. I too find myself waiting until an arbitrary date on a calendar to start something (let’s start on Monday. Who starts on a Thursday?) I’m a huge sucker for the beginning of a new month and well the new year, that is the cleanest (artificial and arbitrary) slate there is.

Recently I had to make some hard confessions to myself and my loved ones and start REALLY changing the way I did things. And once I realized I needed to change I started immediately, on a Thursday (or whatever day of the week it was) in the middle of November and it wasn’t until the New Year when I realized I could have so easily given myself a pass until 2015 and just indulged those bad habits for a few more weeks (and they would have got some HEAVY indulging before Xmas). But I didn’t because I saw these issues as something very different than any goals or resolutions I’ve made in the past. That brings me some confidence now, to know that I approached these big issues differently than I have in the past. It makes me think maybe I actually have a chance at changing.

5 Catwoman73 { 01.08.15 at 10:32 am }

I love this post. I, too, took four decades to fully understand that, in many cases, waiting for ideal circumstances to make change is a complete waste of time. Though I also have deep respect for the fact that not everyone is capable of just grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and leaping into new things. I am a planner and a perfectionist, and often need a great deal of time to sort out the details of HOW I can make changes, to maximize my chances of sticking with that change, and succeeding. Some might call that procrastination, but I just call it being prudent. We all make change when we’re good and ready, and we all get to that point in different ways.

6 Prairie { 01.08.15 at 10:37 am }

I haven’t had that sever back pain, but my back was feeling really tight over the holidays. There’s a 9 minute yoga video that does the trick for me. 9 mins. Yet I had trouble carving out that small amount of time. So I could function. All in my head why I couldn’t make it a priority. Putting everyone else first. Getting by. Thankfully DH noticed my difficulty and made me take the time. What a difference.

7 jodi { 01.08.15 at 10:38 am }

On January 1st I started using the lose it ap. I also found myself really eating like we were running out of food. It takes 5 seconds to log everything I eat, and I’ve found it really helps me think “do I want to eat that?”

8 earthandink { 01.08.15 at 10:42 am }

You have no idea how very much you are singing my song.

I’m saving this one, in a new folder called Motivation, for times when my motivation is not being very motivating. This one goes right there. Thank you.

9 deathstar { 01.08.15 at 11:06 am }

Thanks for this. Good grief, I feel like shit.

10 Peg { 01.08.15 at 11:13 am }

Apology accepted…our resident herpetologist doesn’t non-herpetology blogs yet…so I accept on his behalf.

Cheering you on in your kick-start to feeling better physically.

11 Tara { 01.08.15 at 11:13 am }

I find that sometimes the procrastinating can be beneficial. You avoid exercise and healthy food and proper self care long enough that it starts to feel really bad and you know you MUST make the change. And that brings you to the point of no more excuses and no more reasons and you just do it (even thought it’s not easy).

Also couldn’t agree more with you when you say you must not think of it as punishment but as treating yourself kindly. You are so right on that.

I am here cheering you on and encouraging you to keep going. Keep treating yourself right.

12 sarah { 01.08.15 at 11:20 am }

I say go with the artificial/arbitrary start date if it works! Motivation is a funny, fickle thing. I’ve been slowly gaing back the 20 lbs I lost over the last year and had been shrugging it off. But when I got on that scale on January 1 and saw a big fat round milestone number? I logged back in to MFP and have been on a tear. Take motivation where you can find it…

13 SuzannahCatherine { 01.08.15 at 11:27 am }

Just what I needed today. We started moving over the weekend and it will take a couple weeks to finish. No cable, just smart phone. These things take time.

Loved your post. I certainly needed to be reminded it all starts with me.

Yes, you do have “impact” and we are all better off because of it.
Thank you for your smart and witty posts.

14 Cristy { 01.08.15 at 11:46 am }

Thanks Mel. I needed this today.

15 andy { 01.08.15 at 1:12 pm }

Good for you! I love the snake analogy!!

16 Turia { 01.08.15 at 2:00 pm }

My son spent most of 2014 pretending to be a snake (he was a python for four or five months and then went on a break and then became a red boa with six wheels in the fall and has been one ever since), but I do understand the analogy.

I am the WORST for needing particular start times. I am currently procrastinating taking notes on a couple of books I read that I want to take notes on to save their ideas for working out job options. I’m not taking the notes yet because I DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT NOTEBOOK.

Insane, I recognize. But I also know that having exactly the right notebook is a big part of me being ready to start the project and to really think about leaving academia. So I am allowing myself that one.

That said, I really needed the kick in the pants regarding waiting for a perfect day to start working out. It is ridiculously cold here, but I could use the exercise bike in our basement. No more excuses.

Thank you for this. Great post.

17 Kasey { 01.08.15 at 2:49 pm }

The hardest thing to do is to just do it now. I should probably go to kickboxing tonight instead of waiting until Monday… after 2 months off I just know how bad it’s going to hurt…

18 Emily { 01.08.15 at 6:45 pm }

This is a good post to delurk to. One of my favorite books is “All the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss because it always motivates me. But for some reason, the Waiting Place is the scariest place to me. I would rather be on a Not So Good Street. Waiting is definitely my least favorite place!

19 Northern Star { 01.08.15 at 6:52 pm }

Yes, treat yourself kindly. A beautiful way to look at this!

20 Mali { 01.08.15 at 11:50 pm }

I needed to read this today. Thanks!

21 anks { 01.08.15 at 11:53 pm }

I agree with you on procrastinating. I know deep deep in my heart that when I say tomorrow, I don’t really mean tomorrow!

22 Jamie { 01.09.15 at 12:03 am }

I really like this post.

23 anks { 01.09.15 at 2:59 am }

II agree with you on procrastinating. I know deep deep in my heart that when I say tomorrow, I don’t really mean tomorrow!

24 Tiara { 01.09.15 at 12:57 pm }

I thought of The Waiting Place too in Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go: “NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.”

25 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.09.15 at 3:17 pm }

All right. Consider me inspired. I, too, had slipped and slid out of good habits and into not-so-good. Doing for me, too.

26 No Baby Ruth { 01.12.15 at 5:16 am }

“I’m trying not to look at it as a punishment but rather a decision to treat myself kindly.” THIS. Very powerful. Thanks.

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