Taking a walk on the beach, I discovered a partially-burned orange safety cone sticking out of the sand. A group of revelers had no doubt theorized about whether or not it would ignite, and the answer had been: kind of. I picked it up, along with a beer bottle, a half-page of a newspaper, and a red party cup then tossed them in a nearby garbage can. An athletic young woman walking two eager dogs happened by at that moment and said to me, “That’s a beautiful thing, that you’re cleaning up the beach.”
So let this be a lesson: If you want to be a chick- or dude-magnet on the beach, you don’t have to have perfect abs. Just pick up some trash.
Here are some other lessons I’ve learned as I’ve embarked on my do-one-new-thing-every-day New Year’s Resolution:
Use what you have. I find myself actually opening that can of soup or jar of spiced peaches that have been gathering dust in the pantry. Or reading that book or blog I’ve been meaning to get around to. Or dragging a rarely-worn shirt out of the back of the closet and coupling it with unworn earrings I got as a gift two years ago. The other day I wore purple tights to work, letting my inner poet usurp my academic mien for the day. Wearing new combinations has made getting dressed for work less like drudgery and more like putting on a fun costume.
|Cherimoya won't annoy ya.|
Everything is new. I’m not only using my stuff more, I’m “using” my environment more: taking a side-street to see where it goes, walking into a café I usually pass by, ordering a new food or drink. This makes me feel a bit like I’m always on vacation, because when I travel every café and street is “new.” And I’m very often trying new foods and drinks when traveling—so why not notice what new things are right under my nose here? Just yesterday I tried cherimoya at a produce stand and immediately felt like I was transported to a tropical land.
People rock. The above is a good example. Here’s another: I decided to climb over a railing to get home from the beach on a new route. A group of guys in their twenties was hanging out near the railing, discussing whether or not they should go over it. As I began to clamber over, one of the guys said, “Do you always come this way?” I said, “Nope, it’s my first time today.” He laughed and said, “Cool”—then reached out his hand to help me balance. I almost declined, but then I took his hand, thanking him. His friends ribbed him a little for being “such a gentleman,” and I giggled all the way home.
Presence comes with awareness. As I do new things, I’m becoming more aware of my habits: the foods I eat, the routes I take, the ways I decline or accept others’ offers and words, and the ways I think. I like being more aware of my patterns. This way, I can consciously decide if those habits work well for me, rather than merely defaulting to them. Doing something new every day is like turning on my psychic windshield wipers. I’m seeing more clearly. I’m learning how to focus more strongly. And to be more present.
|Back on the horse a month after "the incident."|
Everything’s an experience. When I fell on the ski slopes and couldn’t get up because my knee was severe in pain, after screaming for a minute or two, I realized I had a choice. I could freak out, or I could chill. I could resist this whole thing, or see it as an experience. Seriously: at that moment my New Year’s Resolution came to mind, and I decided I would try something new-to-me in this very challenging and painful circumstance: I would relax! I would watch this new experience unfold. As the medics hauled me away, I marveled at how I was able to watch the blue sky as I glided down the hill. In the medical hut, I appreciated the care and skill of the medic. Later, I appreciated everything Dave did, from helping me hobble around to bringing me food. I kept saying to myself, “Some good is going to come from this. I wonder what it is?” Long story short, my knee healed quickly. And the good that came out of it is this: a deeper knowing that I have a choice in how I respond to everything that happens in my life.
Life is abundant. There are so many new things to try! Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve done for the first time since January 1:
- Drank a “London fog” at Peet’s (black tea, soy milk, and vanilla syrup = yummy).
- Went stand-up paddling.
- Instead of waiting on the curb for the bus, I stepped into a nearby bar and ended up singing Whitney Houston songs with a Honduran guy.
- Played Frisbee on the beach.
- Swam in the cold ocean in a wetsuit.
- Perched myself on a log, and later on a tall rock, to survey the beach.
- Tried a total-body workout on TV (ouch, my glutes!).
- Held a handgun.
- Learned Pedro, a card game.
- Accepted a ride home with a student who happens to live around the corner from me.
- Listened to classical music on my headset on the bus.
- Went to a goodbye party for a former student headed to the Peace Corps.
- Ate red snapper cooked in coconut oil.
- Offered my front-row bus seat to a woman carrying a lot of stuff.
- Taught Kiss of the Spider Woman.
- Looked up “celerity” (one of those words I always stumble across but had neglected to look up...it means "swift").
- Went to the top floor of the library and sat at a gorgeous granite, continent-shaped table.
- Saw several bands for the first time, each in new venues (Strange on the Range at St. James Infirmary in Reno; The Mermen at the Jub Jub in Reno; and Hot Buttered Rum at Don Quixotes in Felton).
- Did leg bends while brushing my teeth (I was desperate; it was almost midnight and I had yet to do a new thing that day!).
- Trusted my intuition about introducing ourselves to a couple who had great energy--and as a result have formed a friendship with two really great people.
- Saw a gorgeous IMAX about the beauty of coral reefs.
- Graded papers in a café down the street.
- When I stretched out on a patch of grass I usually pass by, a cat sauntered over to nuzzle me.
- Discovered a bunch of new blogs about people who live traveling the world. (Two of my favorites are Family on Bikes and Pearce on Earth.)
- Almost turned away when I thought I’d stared at two monarchs in the backyard “long enough” but then gave myself more time to gaze.