by Barbara Berkeley, MD
So, I woke up on January 1 feeling a little restless.
I'm about to turn 66 this year and while I feel completely unchanged physically (and mentally), I have begun to think about life with a new urgency. I'm sure this is familiar to anyone who has entered his or her sixties. Inevitably, the realization sets in that there is much less in front of you than behind you and that perfect days of mobility and health are no longer guaranteed.
It occurred to me that it made little sense to repeat the same old patterns over and over for the next 20 years. Yet it wasn't clear that I wanted to make major changes in my life. I have a great work situation and like to keep writing...maybe even write more. I have a wonderful family and I'm happy at home. Retirement is not an attractive option for me, although I would certainly like to do more with my free time--including travel.
So I came up with a New Years resolution that seemed interesting and actually possible to fulfill. I decided that I would try to do one new thing every day in 2014 and that I would do my best to catalogue those things--and, more than that, to keep track of what they led to. It seemed to me that even small changes---like shopping in a different store or wearing a piece of clothing that had been sitting at the back of my closet---might lead to new ripples in my life. At the very least, these new experiences--small and large--would give my life a new color.
I have a backlog of things I've wanted to try; small things that would count as new experiences. There is that protein powder I picked up at the Atlanta obesity meetings. I've been wanting to try making a low calorie, low carb shake by blending it with some flavors, fruit and a little kale. There are the four free personal training sessions given to me as a gift by a friend. I've never used them. That will count for a new experience--at least the first one will. Yesterday, I had the new experience of exercising with Sean T's T25 program in my living room. I had ordered T25 one day in a moment of infomercial weakness rationalizing the purchase by reasoning that I would by reviewing it for patients. Since their arrival, the discs have sat in their box under my desk. I actually enjoyed my first work out-- and I'll be interested to try the next one.
Some of what's new this year will need to be out-of-the-comfort-zone experiences. In the past five years, the strongest memories and the largest changes to my life have come from scary things I was shamed into doing: traveling to Southeast Asia, flying on a rickety prop plane to an out-island in the Bahamas, watching a glacier send ice crashing into the water at the southernmost tip of Argentina. So as much as it may discomfit me, I know that I will have to include a few nervous-making experiences on my list. But in general, I'm going for small, daily changes this year.
When it comes to diet, I don't favor tiny changes. I prefer that people go "all in", de-toxing themselves from the SAD and working on bold new ways of eating. And in the past, I've made life changes in the same fashion. When I was 27, I decided virtually overnight to become a doctor. I turned around the entire arc of my career (I had been a teacher of the deaf), enrolled in night school to get the needed pre-med courses, and plunged forward without really knowing where I would end up.
But now I find myself interested in the answer to this question. Can micro change lead to macro change? About ten minutes ago, I ran into the owner of the fitness club that my friend frequents and to which she had given me the free sessions. He knew about the gift and asked me if I would ever be using it. "I have an opening tomorrow," he said. After a brief consultation with my calendar I realized that I didn't have anything new on tap and I would be needing something to fulfill my resolution. "Sign me up", I said.