Today is July 5th 2009 and at 2:30pm it is the one year anniversary of me pulling into San Diego from New York. There have been lots of changes in this past year, good, bad and everything else on life’s spectrum. Last August I started a list I keep on my refrigerator. At the time I was looking for work, struggling with my weight, trying to get my certification transferred from NY and plugging along in writing. I was not doing well on any fronts and weeks were going by and I was getting nowhere with anything. I had been walking every morning then added a little running to get my pulse up when my boyfriend an athlete encouraged me to enter a race he was doing in Balboa, a 5k. He said that “I could walk or walk and run do whatever I could to get over the line at the end.” I had never participated in any kind of race so I signed up and thought “why not.” The Sunday of the race I walked, ran and hobbled my way as fast as I could and was exhilarated at the end. The Monday after the race I was feeling loserish again I was frustrated and feeling stuck. It dawned on me over my 12th cup of coffee that I was making progress in some ways and needed to expand my definition of success, I needed something to feel good about so The List was born. The reality of it was I was doing new things, things that scared and challenged me, things that made me uncomfortable so even though I couldn’t get an interview for a job, lose weight faster or write a decent sentence I did finish my first race. So, I put a sheet of legal paper on my refrigerator and drew a star at the top like they did in grade school and wrote underneath it “finished my first race 8/09” on the first line.
I planned to add every new thing I accomplished on the page and shoot for a minimum of one a month. It gave me a focus to continue looking for new experiences to keep working at my big goals, and celebrate the small steps I could along the journey. It has been fun and frustrating documenting my life this way. As the year went on some things got better, I finished my book in October, ran my first mile, got an interview and a job and dropped a few sizes due to weight loss. On the downside shortly after moving here my long term relationship slid into a tail spin that was not recoverable. Turns out I was the only one who wanted to be in a relationship, ouch. I was alone and heartsick in a new town without a job and had very few acquaintances. The List forced me out into the world to try things, go places, and push myself. In the beginning it was pure physical accomplishments, the race and the first mile. Then, I decided I wanted balance and worked on switching it up. So came the finishing of my book, reading my poetry in public, and even flying internationally alone for the first time which was spooky. Things didn’t have to be big just had to be something new, a way I stepped out. I started practicing yoga and signed up for classes. Another month had added to my page that I conquered the side plank. First time to theGrand Canyonand first solo road trip where a nice twofer. When I had screwed up my courage to sign on to a dating site to put myself out there again I documented it. When I had my first date in almost 5 years I put it up there too. Each small step to being whole, centered, somewhat sane got a line.
I am a contradiction if nothing else and not very consistent or disciplined so this seemed to work for me. I needed a way to feel like I was moving forward and focus on what I did achieve rather than what I had not done yet. A small distinction true, but the result exceeded all expectations. I had accomplished feats I had been working on for years and years. Who knew? Some things I celebrated was important, other times capricious but I didn’t care I had done it and I wanted credit. One month my addition to The List was I dropped my cholesterol 35 points to text book numbers; the next month I added I tried chocolate covered bacon at the Del Mar Fair. I was making sure I covered the full spectrum from the life milestones to the bizarre one offs. It’s almost time to change the sheet of paper on the refrigerator and take on a new year. It seems that taking small steps, making progress through, in and around the good, the bad and the fattening is the sum total of a life well lived. Cheers!