Monday, July 20, 2015

A Work in Progress: Update and Addition

One of the greatest things about good friendships is that they help us keep on track.  When we stumble and struggle, good friends are here for us, and when we stray from the things we said we'd do, they're around to remind us to get back on track.  This post, the first in a very long time, is a grateful response to my good friend Leah's not-so-subtle nudge that I've been slacking.  She's right, and it's time to get the Work in Progress moving again, and to add another component.

Back when I started this blog, these three fabulous friends and former students -- Jamila, Leah and Siham -- collectively came up with about half the things I did.  I'm glad Leah recently pushed me to start a new iteration.

A Work in Progess is the most recent iteration of this blog, which began as 52 New Things, a tracking of the 52 (one a week) experiences, places and challenges I took on in the year of 2010. The blog then extended into 2011 with more New Things, and then became a travel log for the year I spent teaching and exploring in the country of Jordan.  A Work in Progress was envisioned to focus in four areas of activity that I started during these earlier projects: learning skills and appreciating the outdoors; rock climbing; figure skating; and yoga and acro yoga.  The idea was to see how far I could get in these areas before my 50th birthday (December 10, 2016).

I'm still committed to those four goals (although I've done a terrible job working on or documenting them up till now), but recently realized what was missing.  All four of these goals are important to me.  But when I hit 50, I went to simply be a better person.  I want to be more compassionate, feel more gratitude and be more mindful. So, I'm adding a new goal.  Here it is: 5. Work on being a better (more compassionate, mindful and grateful) person.

My hope is to borrow shamelessly from the wisdom of others to get there.  I sm pretty sure I can't just wish to make it so, so I'm going to take three action steps on a regular basis.  They are:

1.  Actively seek to support my own community as a volunteer, like my friend, the talented acro-yogi, Steve Kuhn.  Steve volunteers all over the place and is one of the most generous and compassionate people I've ever met.  I think it's not a coincidence.  My goal is to find and complete a new volunteer experience at least once a month between now and when I turn 50.

2. Cultivate gratitude by thanking people to whom I'm grateful.  The inspiration for this one is my friend Ginger, and I hope she won't mind me blatantly copying her brilliant idea.  She told recently that when she turned 50 she celebrated by writing 50 thank you letters to people who had helped her become the person that she is.  I love that idea, and I have 17 months to do the same thing.  Fifty thank you letters for fifty years of living.

Ginger, looking off into the distance from the top of the Spruce Peak fire tower. She's a wise one.

3. Read and learn from the wisdom of others. One of the unrealized goals of previous years was to start a book club.  So, I'm circling back to that one, with a twist.  All the books I want to have for the club will be selected with the criteria that they offer wisdom on becoming a becoming a better person.  I have some authors in mind I've always wanted to read -- Parker Palmer, Pema Chodron, some I'm curious about -- David Brooks (don't agree on his politics, but found his essay taken from his new book, The Road to Character, really good), and some I've found helpful before like Melody Beattie and Brene Brown. When I suggested a book club on line a couple of years ago, a bunch of people were interested.  I'm hoping some still are, and we can hold a once-a-month online discussion on that month's reading.  But even if it's just me, I'm going to read a book a month to make me a better person.

In previous years of this blog, probably my favorite thing was that almost everything I posted about I did with friends -- current and past students, colleagues, family and old friends, some people I barely knew and some I knew incredibly well. I'm hoping that will happen again, and so, like in the Year of 52 Postings, I am going to have a listing at the bottom of each post. It will be called What's Next.  It will say anything that's coming up on each of the 5 goals, in the hopes that people will want to join in and do things together (and let me know that, please).

So, thanks again, Leah, for pushing me to get moving again.  Hope you'll want to sign up for some of what's next!

What's Next

1. Get outside. Haven't done nearly what I should, especially given that it's summer in Vermont, which is as good as it gets in terms of a time and a place to be outdoors.  But I started to turn it around a little last week when I did three hikes in three days: Spruce Peak with Ginger and the Peak a Week club; Mount Elmore with my friend and former student, Kyra; and Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire with another former students and friends Kate and Ben.  I'm hoping to do a hike on Wednesday morning and/or Thursday afternoon.  If you're interested in joining, give me a shout, please.

Kyra was my rock climbing/Wilderness Program co-conspirator.  She graduated in May, but I'm glad she's still finding her way back to Vermont to get outside together.

2.. Yoga and acro yoga. This goal is in terrible shape, but I'm at least getting back on track with the yoga side of it with Tuesday and Thursday morning classes at the Y with my friend Paul.  I'm also hoping to start going to classes at Sangha Studio where I took acro yoga classes.  If there are friends interested in doing some acro yoga in the next two weeks, let's plan some!

Haven't been doing much acro yoga at all, but when I was in Michigan a couple weeks ago, my niece Tigist was loving it!  I might need to find another 50 pound partner to keep things easy.

3. Figure skating. Last week I took a big step for me and signed up for my first official figure skating test (Pre-Bronze Adult Moves in the Field).  Now I have a month to practice and get ready.  I have lessons on Monday night and Friday morning.  There are open skating sessions on Sunday and Tuesday afternoons I need to start attending to practice.  Who wants to come?

4. Rock climbing.  Another place where I've really dropped the ball.  I haven't been climbing outdoors this entire summer, and haven't been much inside either.  But I want to.  If people are up for either, shoot me an email, and let's get going.

5. Be a better person. As noted above, there are three activities here: 50 letters, once-a-month volunteering and the book club.  If people are interested in any of the three, I'm going to start a private Facebook group people can join to keep themselves accountable, share ideas and plans, and post thoughts for the book club.  If anyone is interested, let me know.

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