Sally Gracie TwispBy Sally Gracie

Why does the new year have to begin in January? If the new year began in the spring, say May 1, when the flowers do, we might find it easier to make resolutions and keep them.

“Each day is a new beginning” is inscribed on the sunny pillow that I see first thing each morning; it leads me to ask myself, “What will I make of today?” That staying active as I get older is a key to health and longevity — maybe even to happiness — is the truism that answers my question. It seems to work for the women I admire most, so I will try to stay active today and the remaining days of the long Methow Valley winter.

In January the weather is against us. Or against me. The athletically motivated are jogging on forest roads, riding fat tire bicycles, or hiking on ski trails while they wait for the snow to come. Even though the roads are still clear, sloppy, gray days leave me less inclined to be out and about and more inclined to sit on the sofa with a good crime novel or on the bed to binge on an entire season or five of “Upstairs, Downstairs” on my desktop.

Many of you, busy with children at home or with jobs, may not understand what it’s like for us, the fortunate retired. What’s all this nonsense about staying active? How hard can that be? Well, for me, at 70, it’s a challenge.

I can remember the years when there were too few hours in each day. Before I retired from teaching, I lived on a schedule. I have no set schedule now; I have no one to tell me what to do or when to do it. Sounds great? It is in many ways, but in the wintertime, succumbing to lazy malaisiness can become a worrisome temptation.

One part of my plan is to keep my mind active, so I have joined Bill Hottell’s History of England class. The crowded room last Wednesday morning was filled by enthusiastic students; most are retired but still eager to learn new things. I’ve signed on to, which promises to “challenge my brain,” and I look forward to local music and theater events.

Pete Dickinson’s mantra is “use it or lose it,” and those words play on in my mind when I look for excuses not to go to the gym to do the exercises that keep me moving. I’ve returned to TOPS, where “losing it” is encouraged. Training in mindfulness has provided tools for stress relief and a sense of well-being when I practice. I have only to practice what I’ve learned. Positive experiences with family and friends will also boost my spirit. So will volunteering at the Twisp Library. I am grateful to live in a place that offers so many opportunities to keep me active. Success is up to me.

On some days hibernation seems like a good idea. My plan is to allow some of those days by ignoring the voice inside my head that tells me to “do something constructive.” I won’t “should” myself. I will not feel guilty when I spend an hour catching up with friends on Facebook. I will not beat myself up for reading too many “movie” novels that require little intellectual involvement but are just so darn enjoyable. I will enjoy the new New Jersey series/scandal called “Bridgegate” that shows promise of lasting at least one season.

And before I know it, the flowers will bloom again.