By Terri Smith –
January is the time of New Year’s resolutions. These often take the form of some sort of decision to eat better, exercise more, and generally get in better shape. The resolve usually begins to waver around the end of February or March and by April most people try to forget they ever resolved to join that gym or take that class they signed up for and then missed most of anyway.
I never really bother with resolutions. I know I can’t keep them so why feel bad about myself when I stop? Besides that, as a farmer, I like to tell myself that I get enough exercise in my daily life. This is really only true for part of the year, and even at the height of farming season it’s not as if sitting in the garden weeding for eight hours is really all that vigorous of a task. And in winter I have had a tendency to hibernate. I usually try to go cross-country skiing every day and as weird as some of my farm neighbours find the practice, I also walk my dogs every day when there isn’t enough snow to take them for a ski.
However, I do find that each year when spring arrives and I must begin the more rigorous tasks that farming presents like compost shovelling, bed building, and hauling around miles of hoses, my body takes about two weeks to come to terms with my new demands.
A little over a year ago, as fall rolled around I started thinking about how ridiculous it was that by the end of each season my body feels good, strong, and healthy but that by January I’m tired and sluggish and always have to get back in shape with a farming form of boot camp when the season begins.
I have tried New Years’ resolutions a few times over the years. Most years while I was in university, January would arrive all smug and new and full of opportunity and I would grudgingly start swimming daily or walking or sign up for a pole-dancing class (okay, I did finish that class and it was great exercise and incredibly amusing!) but eventually I would get bored and busy and drop my resolve.
My new solution had nothing to do with New Year’s resolutions, however, and this is one of the reasons I think I may have stayed with it as long as I have. In October of last year, Curtis, who I happen to cohabitate with, began teaching Aikido again after a four-year hiatus. He has been a teacher of Aikido, a Japanese martial art that originated with the samurai, for over 20 years. He took a break for awhile to focus on other, more lucrative pursuits, but finally decided enough time had passed and it was time to get back into it.
He began with a test class of eight friends and we all began meeting twice a week at the Judo club on Mackenzie Avenue. I have never managed to commit to anything this long. I am one of those people who sign up for something, grudgingly drag myself out to class for a few weeks, and then find some sort of excuse to quit. Usually my excuse is something along the lines of: “my goat needs me at home more,” or, “my pajamas aren’t going to fit properly if I lose any more weight.”
I live almost an hour out of town and I’m really not much of a joiner. I don’t like organized anything. I started Aikido to support Curtis and since our other two roommates also joined we all carpooled together and it seemed like an easy and cheap way to get out of the house in winter.
Over a year in now, I’m not doing it to support Curtis anymore. I’m doing it because last spring when farming season began my body didn’t object. I’m doing it because at the end of 2013 I had so much pain in my knees, shoulder, and back that I thought I might have to quit farming and now I don’t hurt anymore. And I’m doing it because it kind of seems like magic and I want that kind of power. As a smallish person, even though I am strong, I am not exactly physically powerful. Aikido, however, has nothing to do with size. In explaining Aikido, Curtis uses the analogy of that feeling you get when you try to open a door and someone opens it from the other side just as you grasp the handle. Your own momentum propels you through the door before you have a chance to catch yourself.
So in this martial art, size and strength have nothing whatsoever to do with a person’s ability to take down an opponent. Not that I’m expecting opponents, but not that I’m not either. But it is also about balance, core training, stamina, and does great things for one’s joints as well. Once you get past the first few weeks, anyway.All that said, though, I am still not exactly a model student. What is it about resolve that’s so hard, anyway?
A few classes ago, Sensai asked me to lead the warm-up stretches. Each week he has been asking different members of the class to lead and it was my turn. He told me each stretch should last about the time it takes for six deep breaths. So, here I am at the start of class, feeling nervous, but determined not to mess it up. First stretch, right side: breathe in, breathe out: one. Breathe in… oh look, a tiny, silver moth circling that light, I wonder how it got in? Oh, oops, breathe out: two… breathe in… I wonder if I should pick up more toilet paper after class… breathe out: three? I think I got toilet paper after last class, or was that paper towel? Hmm… oh, right, breathe in…out: five? Oh, I don’t know, next stretch… Breathe in… breathe out… This isn’t as easy as it seems. How hard can it be to count to six!?!Um, five? No, four. Left side: One…two…three…hey, this isn’t so hard, I’m getting this! Oh, wait, I lost it…
So now that the New Year is upon us, my resolve is to quit resolving and just keep doing what feels good, and if I mess it up,
I’ll just try again.
Terri Smith is an organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo with Road’s End Vegetable Company. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and a diploma in Art.