Resolutions + Perspective

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but this year it became a time of self-examination and a clear starting point to make some changes. The changes I’ve made have been a long time coming – some once, (or many times), attempted and abandoned, others have been bouncing around in my head waiting for me to give them importance – still others have only come to me recently, as if they knew now was the moment I would welcome them.

I don’t like to call them “goals” or “resolutions” because I prefer to think I spend every day of my life stepping toward the self-actualized version of myself – Admittedly it’s a two steps adelante and one step atrás sort of thing.

Like many others, one of my “resolutions” (for want of a better word), is to take my health more seriously. I’m starting to feel my age and that – even more than wanting to look like a bikini chica in a Pitbull video, may be enough to scare me straight. My back hurts when I wake up. My knees ache when it rains. It’s too early to consider retiring to Miami so maybe, just maybe, I need to put down the Bubu Lubus.

When my dedication to working towards these “resolutions” wavers, (as it always does), I need to try to remember that my “problem” – my “struggle” – is only difficult from my perspective.

Think about this with me. Think about the ridiculousness of the challenges we face. Some common complaints:

• Food is too accessible and abundant. I can’t get away from the temptations.
• It’s too cold out so I can’t [leave the warmth of my house to] get some exercise.
• I’ve become bored with my workout. I don’t feel motivated.
• Food blogs tempt me with delicious photos of flan and burritos.

(Okay, that last complaint is mine.)

These are what you call “first world problems.” If you just shift your perspective, you may start to laugh at the once mountainous obstacles that seemed insurmountable.

This should shift your perspective. I took this photo in El Salvador – but what does it have to do with anything I’m talking about here? Let me explain.

While we were in El Salvador we went to visit family in Chalatenango. It was a long drive from San Salvador in an unairconditioned microbus. On the way back to the city, the traffic became thick. We shoved at the already open windows to let more air into the vehicle which now moved at a crawl. We fanned ourselves, watched beads of sweat roll down the sides of each others’ faces.

At some point, we came to a stop in front of a public well just off the highway. There I watched women and children washing laundry and scooping water over their heads – bathing fully-clothed with no privacy. I tried not to stare, didn’t want them to feel self-conscious, but Salvadorans are famous starers and I was probably the only one on the highway trying to watch without being obvious about it.

The laundry now heavy and wet, was put back into large plastic tubs, balanced on sturdy heads, and walked home, who knows how far, to be hung to dry.

…Something to remember next time taking a walk around my quiet suburban neighborhood seems too difficult.

24 thoughts on “Resolutions + Perspective

  1. Love it. Yes, perspective is always very important. This is why I always treasure the couple of years my family and I lived in the Dominican Republic at the age of 6. I witnessed and experienced poverty and social challenges. I do not take for granted how blessed I am to have the life I have.

    Thanks for the reminder…

    • Thank you, Angelica, for contributing to the conversation. It’s funny how something like that can turn out to be such a blessing in the lessons it teaches you.

  2. Tracy, I’m feeling this post. We all need to travel more to see how many privileges we take for granted in this country. You know, the most successful I ever was losing weight was while on WW, and that was WITHOUT exercising. No food was off-limits, which made it livable. I don’t want to deprive myself of all the foods I love, otherwise, what’s the point? Ironically, my Spanish Friday post is about making flan for my husband’s birthday (today). Un abrazo, Amiga.

  3. Hermana, I feel you on this one! Tambien he pensado lo mismo… as time has passed I’ve let myself go more and more y ahora que estoy en un max weight it’s so hard to get back into the routine of exercise. Seriously debating with myself about getting up in the morning and going walking in the mornings… A ver si me animo! Great point on thinking about those who’ve got it a lot tougher than us when we are being lazy. Animos, Tracy! I’m with you on this one whatever you decide :-)

    • Thanks hermano. It’s a long road but hopefully we can do it.

      You’ve done it before, right? So at least you know it’s possible for you. I’m entering the great unknown. LOL.

  4. Perspective is a powerful thing and too many people forget about it.

    Speaking of El Salvador, the sad part is that some of that perspective is being lost even with its own borders. People are too busy complaining about their BlackBerry not connecting to Twitter or not checking in via 4Square, all while they stand 2 blocks away from a shanty town that they don’t even acknowledge or notice in any way.

    • Interesting point, Chele. I think that the kind of apathy you describe is just a sort of numbness from constant exposure to it. I would hope that if I lived in El Salvador on a permanent basis, I wouldn’t become like that, but I think very few people manage to avoid that. It’s probably a sort of psychological defense mechanism since it would otherwise be too troubling to be so conscious of it each day, don’t you think?

      • There is a lot of truth to what you are saying. Certainly, a number of the folks I reference do fall into that category of being numb to it. However, there is also a segment of society that goes out of their way to not interact with people that are of a different social class than they are (unless it is one they consider to be higher than their own), and regardless of the scenario. It seems that’s a growing trend, which is sad.

        For example, some of those folks will tell you things such as that they would never think of going to Metrocentro because it is for “gat@s.”

  5. Great reading as I sat eating chips and a soda. BUT I am totally supportive of us all being more active. It really takes time, but doing it as a family makes it funner (that’s not a word, is it.). Jan 1st was a beautiful day here, so we took the kids hiking in a park that lead down to the river with lots of rocks for them to climb on. The way back was hard! Whining from the kids…I had to carry the littlest, but they really had fun…and I’m still feeling it. I’d like to make it an every weekend thing, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. It would be a good habit to get into though.

    • Any new good habit is a step in the right direction, Susan. Sounds like a nice, new family tradition that is healthy in a lot of ways. Hope you get back down to the river soon.

  6. Reading this while I can’t limit myself to one piece of chocolate! So much insight, Tracy. I especially relate to “Admittedly it’s a two steps adelante and one step atrás sort of thing.” Good luck with your non-resolutions!

  7. So…some may say it’s a privilege to have all of the conveniences such as a washer and a dryer in our own house. However, it is those very privileges that are hurting our health in the long run. I am speaking in very general terms here and I don’t want to live without most of them for sure. I actually long for the kind of life where I don’t have it so easy. I feel happiest when I am moving around. I must say that the time that I have spent in Latin America, I was happiest getting out of the house first thing in the morning to go to the market to buy ingredients for breakfast and then immediately after, washing clothes by hand. I felt strong…and alive, breathing in the fresh air and listening to all of the natural sounds around me. So, what are we to do here? It’s not so hard to become motivated; I think the hardest part is to stay motivated. I would suggest variety. Go on a walk with the family once or twice a week, play Zumba on Xbox kinect a couple times a week, go dancing with your husband a couple times a month, walk to the store instead of driving, take the stairs and park far away from the entrance, etc. I think the key is simply becoming more active without labeling it “exercise to lose weight.” That seriously kills it for me every time. Good luck!!!

    • I felt strong and alive in El Salvador too, Heather, so I know what you mean. (I guess I like to feel strong and alive in small doses though. Let’s not forget that I stayed at the best hotel in the country, had air-conditioning, etc… But I did wash some clothes by hand, I liked all the walking I had to do, I liked going to the market, etc.)

      Excellent tips on making sure one has a variety of activities so as not to become unmotivated. “Exercise to lose weight” is probably one of the least appealing sentences in the English language.

      Thanks for this comment and good luck to you, too!

  8. amen!
    I went to visit my family in Mexico city two years ago & was deeply humbled! I love the concept behind your blog! Thanks for making me chuckle! I made a resolution to give up junk food, but we’ll see how long THAT lasts. :)

  9. Pingback: Spanish Friday – Apreciar, también participar / Appreciate and participate » Spanish Playground

  10. Thanks for the perspective. I don’t have to travel past my own quiet suburb to know how blessed I am…I often think about mamas who can’t feed their children, or kids that don’t have even a glass of water today. When I think my stress levels are over the top, I stop and think of those that REALLY have it rough. I totally agree with you.

  11. Tracy, try Zumba–I’m sure in your metro area there must be lots of classes to choose from. It is completely addictive and fun, and when was the last time you thought of exercise in those terms?! I’ve now been doing it about two years and I’ve seen several women in my classes appear to have melted. Seriously. 10-20-maybe 30 lbs dropped, most likely b/c they finally, finally found something they actually look forward to doing. It’s a tough workout, so a huge calorie dump, but all to great music so the time flies. Good instructors change the routines a lot, use a lot of Latin music but also Bollywood, etc.,, and they’re also fun to watch perform if they’re certified. I think a lot of us are in the class not only to keep fit but b/c the men in our lives just don’t like to dance as much as we do and this gives us that opportunity.

    There, have I sold you yet?! I’m off to class, now, in fact. Happy New Year.

    • Rebecca – I loved Zumba and had an amazing instructor. The classes were only for a few weeks though and when she changed location/time, it was too far away and not at a good time for me. I learned a lot in Zumba though that I put to work at home. I just turn on my favorite Latin music and dance on my own — but maybe one of these days I’ll sign up for classes again. Thanks!

  12. Tracey, I am right with you this year. I have always been told I look young and asked how do I always stay slim, even had a baby at age 40 and yes I do keep up with him running around. I’m always the one in the McDonald’s tubes crawling around with the kids (and don’t get any food there myself, just 99-cent ice creams for the kids) while all the other moms half my age sit sit sit eating burgers. And I always get my well-woman checkups. But just before the holidays it so happened that I decided to sign up for life insurance — part of our family financial shape-up. The examiner came out and it turns out my blood pressure was 167/114!!! And the splitting headaches I’d been getting… hard to imagine that I was in such bad shape, while seeming for all appearances to be in great health. The point is to congratulate you for getting ahead of the ball. Now I am on a special diet and taking medicine which I’ll be on for the rest of my life, but I’m lucky that it was caught before something actually happened. So, good for you putting yourself in the driver’s seat while you are still young. Keep on it!
    I also loved Zumba but with me working full time my son hated to go to child care during my class. So putting on some tunes in the living room works out better. Plus, I’m even getting him to dance with me sometimes… try to start those healthy habits for him!
    The hard part is staying motivated. I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions but right now, 2012 really needs to be the year to go down in our history as the year our family gets in shape — finances, nutrition, and exercise. Amazingly, it all goes together!

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