Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Apples to Apples

Have you ever set out to find inspiration in one place, only to find it hiding in another? Or worse, you don't find it at all? I've been feeling pretty uninspired the past few weeks, as you may recall from my previous post. I'm working on getting my life together and the days are already hitting 90 degrees. It's not even summer yet.

So I've been on the hunt for something to stir me out of my funk...

I've been waiting for "The Biggest Little Farm" to open in Memphis theaters for a few weeks, and let me tell you, this film is stunning.

I knew I was going to love it even before I saw it. I love documentaries and nothing is more inspiring to me than a story of starting over. I swoon for fresh starts! "The Biggest Little Farm" is the story of a couple with a dream and a dog. And how they reinvent their lives is both back-breaking and beautiful. How do two people leave the lives they know to start a farm on land that is desolate and dead? Very carefully. And with some film equipment so they can tell people like me all about it.

There are hardships, successes, failures, love, loss, stone fruits and snails. And throughout the journey (without giving anything away), there is growth. Literally and figuratively.

To me, their journey toward the dream is inspiring. Farming is hard, hot, sweaty, smelly labor and requires a patience for outside forces beyond your control.

Not unlike running toward any other goal, really. The variables may be different, but the commitment and patience are universal. Apples to apples.

As I sat in the theater (I adore going to movies by myself), I teared up thinking about my own journeys. Because that's what we do, right? These cinematic masterpieces speak to us on levels we don't always tap into. So, I'm sitting there trying not to weep as I examine my own dreams and goals. The ones I made for myself this year. The ones that have gone dormant after years of neglect. The new ones I am silently making for the future. And I think, am I doing enough? Am I giving these plans I've made my all?

Earlier in the day I laced up, put on a sleeveless shirt that's out of my comfort zone and headed out to Shelby Farms, one of my two favorite parks.

I love the Chickasaw Trail. It's about 2.75 miles of trail that ranges from shady to zero cover, flat terrain to decent hills to get my heart rate going. There are three lakes along the path, tree lines that harbor all kinds of birds, and of course, the buffalo range. There's a new baby in the herd this spring.

As for the heat and sun beating down? I ate it up! Taking deep breaths, I tilted my head back and faced the sky more than once, just saying hello to the few puffy clouds that did nothing to block the rays. The park was packed, but it was just me out there. Me, heavy breathing, sweat dripping, soaking up the vitamin D. I felt so good at the end of the hike that the feeling is still with me.

And no:
I never feel like I've done as much as I can do for any of my goals. I stray from the plan, get thrown off course, even watch my efforts die on the vine sometimes. I don't do enough tending to the intentions.

But like on "The Biggest Little Farm", there is redemption. Figuring things out as we go is a part of life, whether you're on a farm, in a big city, living that suburban life, or just trying to carve out some quiet space for yourself. I learn something new every time I challenge myself. I learn that I am strong enough to climb mountains. I learn that I can endure the heat. I learn that overindulgence only makes me feel bad. I learn that my days are what I make them, though I struggle not to be influenced by the attitudes of others.

And as the movie so eloquently reminds me: if I ask for help, it will be given to me.

Apples to apples.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The difference 90 minutes makes

Patty Griffin sang, "I don't know nothing except change will come."

Let's talk about that for a minute. Raise your hand if you enjoy change.

I would like to think I'm a relatively flexible person. Movie instead of shopping this afternoon? Cool. Mexican instead of burgers tonight? Fine. I can pivot for the inconsequential details, no problem. I can make decisions on the fly and take charge in a crisis. But mess with my schedule? Consider me derailed.

The truth is I hate unexpected change. I get frustrated and thrown off course. My plans take a nose dive. I am a creature of habit and my routines are most rewarding when I stick to them.

My work life has shifted once again, which is certainly not a bad thing for my career. I've been asked to produce a higher profile newscast which makes me proud. But the success at work has definitely been a speed bump on my road to better health.

Instead of ending at 5 p.m., my work day now ends at 6:30 p.m.

How much of a difference can an hour and a half really make? For me, it has turned into a very big deal.

Here's the Meg life (however lame it may sound): gym time, dinner with friends, grocery store for bagged salads and veggies, better quality programming on the DVR, read a chapter before bed. It's all routine stuff on any given night of the week, certainly nothing that can't be done 90 minutes later. But for whatever reason, I can't seem to do it. That 90 minutes feels like the entire night is ruined.

It took a long time to figure out what works for me, make it a habit and stick to it. I enjoyed my evenings and had plenty of time to do all the things I wanted to do.  Now, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, my routine is lost. It feels like starting all over again.

Confessions in my haphazard life: I haven't been consistent with my workouts or diet since my trip to Radnor Lake more than three weeks ago, just before my promotion. I've been eating junk like a drunken frat boy (Sonic makes it waaaay too easy to get an Oreo Blast). My salads are going south in the fridge, purchased and never opened. Twice (hangs head in shame).

Even now I can feel the anxiety of wanting what I had competing with the prospect of creating something new.

I know what I have to do, and as they say, that first step is always the hardest. But I know if I just take it, I will recommit and the clouds will part. My veggies will practically roast themselves and all the best Dateline episodes will show up on my DVR like magic.

The same words I used when I started this journey still ring true: I just have to find what works for me, whether that's grocery shopping before work or squeezing some exercise into my newly mandated lunch hour. Perhaps I can even work on staying up a little later (I know, pitiful).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Pay Day for The Soul

Getting out of town was tough this month. There were work obstacles. The weather was uncooperative. A truck carrying 40,000 pounds of broccoli got into an accident on Interstate 40 just 20 miles from my exit. The hurdles were many!

But waiting at the end of all that headache (and painfully full bladder on the I-40 "parking lot") was the serenity I so craved. My fourth road trip of 2019 took me to Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville. I chose this spot because of all the beautiful photos I had seen in other people's Facebook posts. I needed to see it for myself.

Finally off the road, I checked into my hotel for the overnight stay, dropped my bag in the room, threw my hair in a ponytail and headed for the park. Radnor Lake is sort of nestled in a residential area. The road to get there winds past massive homes and manicured lawns leading to the west entrance and a cozy visitor's center. The kind lady inside sold me a sticker, tore off a map for guests, and pointed me in the direction of "the prettiest way" to get to the aviary. You know I love the birds!

Off I went.

The first stretch of the cedar chip-covered trail, known as the Spillway Trail, leads straight into the woods where I stopped every few paces just to listen to the familiar chirps of Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, and various woodpeckers.

The ground was still damp from overnight rain (the same rain that kept me home in Memphis the night before). The air was thick, helping to muffle any sounds from the road just yards away, sounds that were quickly drowned by the roaring water of Otter Creek the further up the trail I hiked.

The path wound further into the forest past the rushing creek and closer to Radnor Lake. I had walked less than one mile but already the worries of life back home had melted away. It was blissful taking photos of the glassy water, the occasional Cardinal, and the heavy clouds that were still threatening to unload. I was definitely in my element, throwing a smile and "good afternoon" to fellow hikers. I set up my camera to take a selfie. Not even a little embarrassed, I flung my arms out wide!

I followed the advised path to the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary which is up not one but two steep hills. Huffing and puffing, I arrived to check out the Great Horned Owl and Bald Eagles living at the top. The raptors were stunning. The owl winked at me a few times, I winked back (because that's what you do!) and made my way back down to the lake.

At the foot of the steep hills I spotted a trailhead that would take me off the paved path and deep through the woods. Yes, please!

There's no feeling like being surrounded by nature, but able to see people on the paved path below. I wanted to yell, "Hey! Get up here! That path is great, but this is even better... you have no idea what you're missing!" I kept that all to myself though, and embraced the warmth of what felt like a secret. I could see them, but they couldn't see me. The trail in the trees had the ambiance of isolation and peace, but it was also challenging terrain. No pavement. No blazes. Just trodden earth to follow, often muddy and covered in tree roots. I surrendered my shoes to the mess and followed the path as far as it would take me, which was right back to start.

I had covered a lot of ground, so it was time to call it a day. At the hotel I plotted the next day's activities.

Sunday morning found me back at Radnor Lake, and just in time to beat the rush. The sun was finally out and many others had the same idea: spend Easter morning soaking it up in the church of Mother Nature.

My plan was to see a different side of the park, so this time I stuck to the trail that wound around the lake itself. I was never alone on this trek and that was okay. Everyone seemed light on their feet that day in the warmth of the sunshine. The birds were busy, bees bounced between blooms, and the local wildlife was not shy!

Sunday's stroll was not about photography or keeping track of how far I had walked. It was about being in the moment. I stopped at one little deck that offered a scenic view of the lake and took it in. I wandered back through the portion of the wooded area where I first set foot on the trail the day before and found the birds' greetings just as sweet.

And under the canopy of foliage I probably couldn't identify, I was proud. I had done it. I was one-quarter of the way through the year and I had kept my resolution to get out and see more of what's around me. And so much of what's around me is amazing. I had planned and taken this trip by myself, no one to entertain me but me. And I had done it better. Better than I could have done it one year ago, even six months ago. Along with my "see the world" goal this year, I vowed to improve my health. I've been diligent about exercise and eating better (mostly), and I swell with satisfaction when those efforts pay off. And Radnor Lake was a huge pay day for my soul!