That restless urge

January 3, 2011

I’ve never been really big on New Year’s resolutions. The only one I’ve ever managed to keep was in eighth grade when I resolved not to kick boys anymore, even when they said really annoying things. And I almost haven’t kicked anyone since. I guess that means the kind of resolutions that work for me are things I already know I need to do, things that are small and concrete and not that much of a stretch.

So I’m not sure how much luck I’m going to have with my goal for this year: to take better care of myself. That’s something I know I need, for sure, but it’s also large and sprawling, and a lot of the little things that contribute to it are prosaic or difficult or not much fun. I need, for example, to make an appointment with my eye doctor (nothing’s wrong, I just haven’t been in a while), find a new dentist (I broke up with my old, excellent but very expensive dental practice when I finally got a health plan with dental insurance, which they didn’t take), and make a date to get my wisdom teeth removed. Blech. I’ve been putting that one off for years now, and I no longer have the excuse of waiting for insurance or a working freezer to stock with ice cream.

I need to come up with a more consistent sleep schedule — I get an OK amount of sleep, usually, but at irregular hours. Since I work mostly as a musician, teaching kids after school and adults after work, there’s little pressure to adhere to a civilized-person timetable. But I’m most productive and energetic between 10 AM and 3 PM, and I feel a lot better about myself when I get up and accomplish something before I have to leave for lessons or rehearsal. Plus I haven’t been sleeping too well lately, and I imagine smarter sleep habits will help.

I need to be more mindful of what I eat. I like to cook, I love food, but it’s too easy, especially when I’m working 12-hour days, to grab whatever’s readily available without thinking too hard about how it will make me feel. And I rarely eat much breakfast, just a couple slices of toast or some cereal to go with my morning coffee, since if I have the morning off I’ll just be eating lunch in a couple of hours anyway. My mother lost some weight a few years ago and is in terrific shape now, so if she says I need protein with my breakfast, I believe her. But this will take planning, to have appropriate food on hand and prepped. Premixing waffle batter maybe, or making a big batch of muffins or quickbread, or finally getting around to making my own granola. And I guess that goes for things like salad too; I could just as easily chop enough veggies, wash enough lettuce, and mix enough vinaigrette to last several days, then combine them daily as needed. Of course, while the prospect of having lots of tasty food easily at hand is exciting, it also makes me feel a little like a soccer mom.

And speaking of athletic pursuits, I need to be more intentional about exercise. Until Saturday, I hadn’t been hiking since Thanksgiving, mainly because I’ve had to work before noon almost every weekday, and my time off has been pretty full too (a weekend in New York, a shopping trip to Maine with my mom combined with a jaunt to Portsmouth to see a friend in A Christmas Carol, seeing Jacob’s shows and choral concerts). Making money is good, and supporting friends and spending time with family are also good. But getting outside and moving around needs to be a priority. I haven’t figured out how to do that when I don’t have any daylight hours to myself.

In some ways I feel like I’m taking myself in for a tune-up, the way you would an older car before taking it on a long trip, just to make sure it’s running efficiently and won’t break down while you’re on a snowy mountain road winding through bear country. I guess that’s the exciting part, this feeling I have that some big adventure is coming and I need to be ready. I’m contemplating a couple of changes in the coming year, things that seem scary but will help me grow, that will force me to take a more active role in my own future.

Out to dinner with an old friend last week — a Chinese buffet at the place where we always used to go with groups of friends when school got out early — I received this fortune: “Follow that restless urge to find yourself.” Vague as that may seem, and applicable to nearly anybody in nearly any situation, I still feel a little bit reassured by this piece of advice from a scrap of paper tucked inside a cookie. Also, it sounds to me like the first line of a loose sonnet. So now I have a writing assignment as well as permission to do what I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I showed the fortune to my mother the next day. Her pithy, yet eloquent response: “Well, duh.”



  1. I am already in support of whatever these scary unnamed steps may be and will root you on from afar!
    I wish I could bring you soup or ice cream after the wisdom teeth come out, too. I had 2 out in maybe April after years of dodging for monetary reasons… I guess it varies person to person, but I had 2 impacted teeth, for what it’s worth, and it was OK. The actual surgery was not pleasant, but I was more OK afterward than I expected to be based on what people said.

  2. I would really encourage you to work on the sleep thing. I notice a dramatic difference in my mood and productivity when I get adequate sleep at regular times.

    In my case, I’ve noticed that I feel best when I wake up right around sunrise or shortly before. It’s hard, because, especially young people in our society, seem to operate on this super late schedule. I often feel torn between having a social life and living the way I want to. I can’t understand why other people choose to structure their lives that way, but they do, and I need to work around it.

    But sometimes it’s worth it to sacrifice things you might want to do, so that you can sleep more or sleep regularly. I’ve found that the amount I gain by being fully present and well-rested throughout the day and night when I’m awake is much greater than what is lost by not attending this activity or that.

    P.S. I had my wisdom teeth out and it was really not that bad, some pain, some blood, but a week later I was pretty much back to normal. The oral surgeon later told me, after I had healed fully, that I was “the worst case he had seen in a long time” but he didn’t want to psych me out by telling me that up front. =) So I think you’ll be fine!

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