Master your Mud Season

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Mud Season has come early to Southern Vermont.

Yesterday I didn’t get out much, but was told it snowed in every town surrounding us, but not here in my own.

It’s really strange. Most of the other snowstorms plaguing New England this season have eluded us as well.

What we see?  Just Rain. Cold. Mud. Slush.

To add insult to injury, and adding more to my glum outlook, I managed to injure myself while walking with my lab, Balsam. Heading towards the river by my house, the mud was so squishy and wet, I hurdled unceremoniously down what I thought was a path, but what was actually a mudslide.  I finally came to a stop when my arm got hooked on a peace of rhebar left over from when the forest service came onto our property to do some work last fall.

My coat ripped. My legs covered in mud. My arm vibrating, I thought, note to self:  Bog Boots are not made for wearing in mud. Next time, I’ll remember…

Ego wounded, I slowly made my way back to the house, where my son helped cover my new wounds with a collection of Tow-Mater and Lightning McQueen band-aids.

This time of year?

It’s not the most inspiring.

And I’m guessing it’s like that for you too.

The thought of another few months of this irritates me; so after some thought, I decided it’s time to reposition the role of Mud-Season in my life.

No more sulking.

No more complaining about cabin fever.

And about how fun Vermont is in every other season but this one.

I need to make the most of this down time, and start thinking about setting some personal goals for the rest of the year, so when spring is here, I’m ready.

And for now? At least it’ll give me a positive outlook and something to look forward to.

I only learned about personal goal-setting a few years ago, but I should have started a long time ago, when I first realized I had lost sight of my hobbies and interests.

I moved to Vermont for a new job  when in my 20s and single, and was experiencing my first mud season in early 1996.  I didn’t know too many people yet. One weekend day, bored and with nothing to do, I hopped in my car and drove an hour and a half to Albany, New York.  I thought, well, it’s the closest city, I’m sure there are things to do there. Lots of shops. And lots of people.

But I was wrong.

In Albany, I just walked around for a few minutes. I poked in a few stores. I had lunch. But I really didn’t want to spend much money.

And about a half hour later, realizing my mistake, I made my way on the long, curvy, dull drive back to Vermont.

What I learned? Shopping and going to stores is not a hobby. Eating out is not a hobby. These are just activities to pass the time.

What else could I do, living on my own, when I was bored?

I had no idea.

Before I moved, I primarily spent my time working and commuting. And in my spare time, shopping, going out with friends to eat, or to see a movie or concerts.  But if someone asked me about my hobbies or interests, aside from a little reading and lots of music, I think I would have been stumped to find more to add.

It finally occurred to me “When in Rome, I need to do like the Romans”, right? When in Vermont…?  Skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Mushroom hunting and hiking in spring. More hiking and gardening and bird-watching and river-rock rambling in summer, and leaf-peeping and more hikes in the fall.

Learning about wildflowers and trees and edible plants and all things nature–that’s where I spent my time after that.

Who would have thought someone like me, this product of suburbia, could morph into a nature-girl.

But I made the transition well over time.

Today, the need for personal growth, learning new skills, and finding new hobbies is even more important, because it’s really easy for our sense of self to just slip away. We have way too much responsibility. With the work day no longer 9-5, our attention is constantly diverted away from things that are important to us. Our spouses and kids, of course, are the top priority, and the house upkeep next. And our community and schools need us too.

The list keeps growing and pulling us in every which way, except the one leading to any personal satisfaction, creativity and growth.

To keep progressing over the last few years, I started to set my sights on confronting activities I always thought I would dislike, and vowed to  never, ever, ever do.

And have found when I succeed in turning a “never“, as I call them, into a hobby, it’s amazing for building confidence. And one success turns into another, and another, and another…

My experiment started a few years ago, when my friend Mary dragged me to a Yoga class after I repeatedly told her I wanted nothing to do with group exercise. Well, guess what? I was nervous. I had never done yoga before. But,  I LOVED it. And we continued to go every Saturday throughout the summer until the program ended.

I always said I would never, ever do exercise videos, because I hated those too (although, as with the yoga classes, I had never tried them before). Well, since the day I nervously forced myself to press play on that video a few years ago,  I  continue to challenge myself through some pretty harrowing programs that now, even after the fact, I still can’t believe I ever did.

How’s that for building confidence? I never would have known I was capable of doing a pull-up, and many other scary-looking moves, but hey, now I do!

A non-fitness challenge I tackled a few years ago was learning to fly-fish. My husband is into it. I always said I didn’t want to learn. Why? No reason. I just assumed I wouldn’t like it.  I signed up for a weekend course, with my friend Kiernan for moral support, and loved it, took a second class last summer, and am continuing my education this spring because I still have a ton to learn. I wrote about this experience if you want to check it out later….http://www.orvisnews.com/Women-in-Fly-Fishing/Giving-in-to-fly-fishing.aspx

This year, I forced myself to get back on skis for the first time in about 15 years.  And ice skates too.

But I haven’t been back to an exercise class for 3 or 4 years, so maybe that’s something I need to change this spring.  Since it has been awhile, I went back to being scared of them.

Another goal I have is to step up my vegetable gardening skills. How I’m going to do this, I’m not sure.  But this is a good time to figure it all out.

Think about it.

Do you have abandoned hobbies that you are scared to go back and try?

Is there something else you want to learn?

I’m not talking about things for you to do with your kids, because they like it, what are you personally interested in?

I have been really inspired by some of my friends lately. My friend Susanne started felting as a hobby, and has now made it her business. My friend Lynn took some painting classes last year, and is now a full-time artist. Eve gave snowboarding and strength training a try last year–very brave! And is continually challenging herself with some really cool knitting and textile projects.  Kiernan learned to fly fish with me, and is still working on it, but continues to challenge herself with different workout classes, even after the longest days and at strange times, because they offer her some much-needed time for herself.

I met a very inspiring woman during my second fly fishing class last June. She was in her mid-50s, and a teacher. She told me that during her summer breaks she finds one new activity to learn, and works on it all summer. Most of the other women in that fly fishing class were there because their husbands “sent” them. They were scared to death, and didn’t really want to be there. But this gal, Mary, was there because she thought it would be really cool to learn, and on her own too. And she does something like this for herself every year!

I love that.

And want to be just like that.

So what about you, are you with me?

Take a chance.  Carve out some time.  And start planning…

I can see the clouds-lifting, the mud drying, and the confidence-building already.

8 thoughts on “Master your Mud Season

  1. Always an interesting read. I’m not sure I can completely related to the mud bit other than we’re just coming out of the cold/wet bit here in London, old England.

    I’m kind of looking forward to not being here for a while, so travelling, visiting old friends etc. All within my comfort zone.

    I don’t think I’ve done anything really new in years… not in work or in the rest of life.

    I like the idea of finding something completely new and sticking with it.

    Will do some thinking.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Oh so inspiring true and positive. I do find so many people live their lives cause they think its the way they are supposed to live not the way they want to live. Then again many are also scared of to much introspection, which obviously brings out a wide range of emotions. How many people I know that enjoy the art, theatre certain sports cause they think they have to or because their spouse likes it is incredible. A very old friend from childhood kept criticizing my likes, ie staying at the cottage on my own, starting seeds from inside, curling as my winter sport, etc….it took a lot since its not fun to loose friends but she is not apart of my life anymore….then again she is very materialistic a quality I have a hard time understanding. Anyhow blah blah. But love your attitude and outlook. I love mini goals and been working on a few of them myself. Re gardening would love to chat a bit with you, always looking for tips and love sharing what I know!

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful post Erin… I have also been a little surprised by the range of emotion these kinds of taste-differences bring out and so keep a lot to myself unless someone shows interest. Thanks for the offer for tips– As someone who likes to avoid the manuals and just throw seeds out there and see what happens, I definitely need to find a new approach! good luck on those mini-goals this season!

  3. Hey! What a surprise to find MY name in this post! Last year I said learning snowboarding was my way of proving to myself I’m not dead yet. As a friend of mine likes to say “I gotta keep moving so they can’t throw dirt on me!”

  4. Love this! Erin, Thank you for posting “A very old friend from childhood kept criticizing my likes..”. I’m in a similar situation.. My friend is the “That’s not my thing” when she’s never tried it and she says it like “you’re an idiot for wanting to do different things w/your life”…sigh! Robin, thank you for posting this! I don’t know what I’m going to try next, but I’ll think of something!

    • Gail, thanks so much for your comment…..it is frustrating! Let me know what you decide to do next. So this is forcing me to rethink it all too, and holding me accountable…I love that. I have been wanting to learn how to grow shitake mushrooms for the past 3 springs and haven’t because it looks complicated (sounds like one idea your friend would probably find odd as well :)). Maybe this should be the year??

  5. Pingback: Don’t Call Them Resolutions « A Fit and Focused Future

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