The Inventory and the Time Machine

I hate clichés. I especially hate being one. But this is a cliché time of life, with Covid raging for what looks to be the third straight year. And it’s a cliché time of year, with the world taking stock of 2021 and making plans for 2022.

I’m no different. I’m taking stock and making plans, too. I have done this for at least the last 20 years. Every year has been the same. By February, I have given up and wished myself better luck next year.

In 2016, I went out for a walk on New Year’s Day and discovered a 5K that was finishing up in my neighborhood. I went home and wrote down the following:

Shortly into my mistake-free New Year’s walk with my Christmas present fitness tracker, I encountered a runner wearing a race bib. This person wasn’t exactly running. Nor were the stragglers behind him. It became clear to me within moments of my first racer sighting that this was the end of the race. The very end. These guys had been at it for awhile. They had been BEAT UP by this race. And as I climbed the only hill in my flat central FL tinytown, I saw the last place runner coming toward me. I know she was last place because she was being followed by a police car with his lights on. So either she was being arrested for running too slow, or he was the cop signaling the end of the race.

This woman was struggling. She was barely in it. I visually took her in, as much as I could, in the few moments we intersected. I somewhat unintentionally locked eyes with her briefly as she continued her woggle (jog + walk + wobble) down that hill, and she managed a weak, sheepish, almost apologetic smile at me. It was a smile that said she was embarrassed. She was sorry she wasn’t faster, thinner, nimbler, edgier. She seemed sorry it was her in front of that cop car. She seemed sorry I saw her. Sorry we made eye contact. She’d been caught in last place. But I wasn’t sorry at all. Because right then it hit me: A last place finish is still a finish. She was slow, sure. She was struggling, clearly. But she was IN THAT RACE. She had a bib on. She wore the sweat like a trophy. She had the cop car behind her. She was going to finish that race. And she did.

Me? I didn’t even know about the race until I turned off my street to take my January 1 Victory Walk. I wasn’t in the race at all. Last place was ahead of me. This year, I want in on the race. I want in. I want to be official. So I’ve picked a word I’ve been thinking about for years but never turned into a profit. This year I want to be intentional. I will do life intentionally.

You know what I did with 2016? Unintentionally nothing. I did not run that race.

But this year, I took a little detour. I turned 50 in the final days of 2020 and celebrated in the lame, lackluster way people celebrate while also running from a virus. And then I sat down and made a list. Not of New Year’s Resolutions, but of things I wanted to do before I turned 51. I spent 2 weeks typing out the list. Named it 51×51 and saved it as a word document. And then I set about trying to accomplish it all, one by one. In January, I ate an entire meal using only chopsticks, which was not one of the more challenging or noble goals. I also took the jon boat across the river and tied off to a branch so I could hop off and explore the woods. I found nothing of interest, but it satisfied my thirst for a Davy Crockett moment. In February, I ran a 5K at a pace faster than I had been training. I finished far ahead of people much younger, but they time you and award you by age brackets. In the 50-54 age bracket, I finished 3rd. Out of 6. That’s pretty darn mediocre, but I checked it off my list and kept running. In March, I spilled my guts and took a very large step forward that almost no one would see or notice. It didn’t matter that no one saw or noticed. Because it served its purpose and I checked another item off my list.

There were things on my list that I tried to check off multiple times, but failed to because of circumstances out of my control. Storms prevented my view of the virgin north Florida night sky and my attempt to ride a horse on a beach. My iron levels prevented my plasma donation three different times and I finally gave that item up. Jenna blames me for this. Says I should have eaten more broccoli. Eating broccoli was not on the list. I guess it should have been.

There were also things on my list that I gave up because they were stupid. Like walking the dog in stilettos or straightening my hair and immediately eating mexican food or reading all of the books in my room before buying new ones. Please to all of the above. Stilettos would cripple me for life. My head is too small with straight hair. And it’s time to simply accept that I have a problem where books are concerned. I’m never going to read them all and I’m never going to stop buying them.

And there were things on my list I eliminated because I didn’t care enough about them to make the investments or take the risks. Like skydiving and hang gliding. Those who know me and my run of luck know those things would kill me and leave a sizable mess. I decided I didn’t need that in 2021.
I did get a mammogram.
I did not make it to the podiatrist. If I can get there before sandal season, all is forgiven.

I opened my list periodically and looked at it. I checked some things off, shook my head at others, and closed it up long enough to live a little. No one ever asked to see the list. I never printed it out or showed it to anyone. That list was for me. And like no resolution I’ve ever made, the list led me to progress. Not total success or certified completion. But definite, measurable progress.
And that’s enough for me.
For now.

This year has been upon me for 3 days now. I’ve been sizing it up and hashing it out for quite a bit longer than 3 days. And a 52×52 list is swirling in my head. I’m hoping to have it on paper tomorrow. And if sometime in September, you see me playing Amazing Grace on harmonica like a boss, maybe at a wedding or a funeral or at a local school board meeting, throw me a $10 bill and call my agent. Because that’s definitely on the list.