Sunday, January 20, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne

Every year at New Year, I face the same demon, staring me in the face. No, not ‘I WILL LOSE that extra weight’, or ‘I WILL get in shape’, or ‘I SWEAR, this is the YEAR I get organized.’ No, this is the time when I feel the need to shed all my excess ‘stuff’. When the ball drops on New Year’s Eve ushering a new January 1st, we always hear “Auld Lang Syne.” My particular favorite version of this song is by James Taylor. I listen to the words and frankly, have no clue what they mean. “Auld Lang Syne”: what does this MEAN? No clue. So I looked it up. It’s translation from old whatever-it-is means “Old Long Time Ago”. Not unlike my closet. It’s the perfect seague: from toasting champagne to getting rid of all that stuff I haven’t used.

On my runs, I’ve been thinking about why I feel the need to “shed” at the new year. I guess I’m no different than all those other resolutionists, trying to shed weight, bad health, or destructive habits. I just shed old stuff, lighten my load, get rid of stuff that’s dated, old, no longer useful, or appealing. This year I’m also shedding the easy running of the fall, the sleeping in, the rehabbing from injury. I’ve 95% committed to running Boston again, which means crack-of-dawn runs, regimented training plans, attention to diet, and the limiting of – alas – my favorite evening glass of wine. During spring marathon season, Lent comes plenty early in this house. But what I most desperately want to shed is the dark.

I get restless in Januray. The 6 weeks before the New Year is constant motion, energy, things to do, deadlines to meet in both work and home life. Then the New Year comes and it’s the darkest time of year. The sun rises late and sets early, there is no festival of lights on the horizon and March seems a long way off. One of the weird little rituals I have is to look at the paper every day and see when the sun rises and sets, and each day a minute or two of daylight is added. Those hundred or so seconds a day add up to the hope of spring. I feel not unlike the caged animal waiting for the regularly scheduled meal. However, the nourishment I wait for is light. I don't like the dark. Oh, there are moments when it serves its purpose. On Christmas Eve, I ran after the sunset amid the luminaries of my neighborhood. But it wasn't the dark I embraced then, but the little points of light that lined the streets during my 5 mile jaunt.

Darkness is also a state of mind - depression, anger, hurt - that robs us of our precious energy. I'm fond of saying "It's a zero-sum game: we only have so much energy, so spend it well." I wish I could say I was an orthodox practitioner of my theory, but being part of the ever-so-human race, I often don't practice what I preach. I fret about the state of my house, my lack of organization, my anger at insignificant things outside my sphere of control... I pick my poison with seasonal punctuality. Maybe what I don't like about New Year's resolutions is that they focus on our personal failures, and at this dark time of year, this is not what I need. I like to think one can decide to make an improvement in one's life without it being dictated by the calendar. Maybe its my own need to exert as much control over my life as I can. For example, I gave up weighing myself daily years ago. In fact, I rarely step on my scale at home because I don't like to have my self-worth measured in mere pounds. I know I eat well, exercise far more than the average person, and my clothes fit me; beyond that, the number on this scale should - and does - mean nothing.

On New Year's Day, my 'Old Long Time Ago' is the previous spring, that moment when I'll step out of my house and be delightfully assaulted with the smell of the warming earth and see the dawn already in the sky.

My friend Franny and I have started the New Year with Monday track workouts, mine for marathon training, hers for fitness and to keep me company. That’s what my friends do: make meals when you’re sick, watch your kids when you’re in a bind, run insane intervals on a track before the sun rises just because. On a recent morning when we arrived at the oval at 6 am, it was still dark out. We stretched on the track and looked up at the bright constellations. “Yup, there’s the big dipper and we are a couple of big dips”, Franny sleepily cracked. Several hard intervals later we left the track, the sun on the rise, and a Starbucks latte in our very near future, our traditional hard track workout reward of choice. We both remarked that this hardest workout of the week leaves us feeling the most energized: we get out two-fold what we put in. I’m not sure it’s as much the workout as it is the companionship of good friends, the regularity of track, and the post-workout caffeine jolt. We drive home, laughing, in the best of spirits.

Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe the New Year isn't about throwing out all that is old, but in weeding out the clutter and continuing to embrace all that is constant: love, friendship, the stars, and the seasonal challenge that makes me - in January - renew my love of the light.


Gregory said...


Another good post and to each their own regarding how they treat the new year. I'm kind of like you, I read the newspaper and watch the weather on TV meticulously checking when the sun will rise and set each day. I don't know why but I like to know this so I know exactly the conditions or light (or lack thereof) I'll be running in. Glad to hear the track workouts are going well and you have someone there to run them with you. Take care and of course...Happy New Year!

Gregory (Pudov)

Deck Ape said...

I hope your scan results are good.. Take care chic...

Frannie said...

Just when I'm feeling like I have to endure winter until my favorite day of the year, the end of day light savings, you pick me up with a reminder of how good I have it!
Love ya,

Frannie said...

BTW - As you can see, I finally figured out how to post a comment! Oh to be computer savy.

John Fenton said...

Congrats on the bone scan. I hope the MRI offers equally good news. Boston wouldn't be the same without you.

I share your love of the light, even if I don't share your love of early morning track workouts. Perhaps if I had someone as nice to share them with.


Anonymous said...


This is probably nuts and apologize if inappropriate, but I thought I would try this. I have been a RW Masters lurker (live in Toronto) for a year (enjoyed your race reports)and have been "conversing" with your friend JHF on his blog. On January 10th or 11th, he did something to his blog which results in seeing it for 2-3 seconds before it goes white except for the name of his blog at the top. The cursor changes to a hand when it passes over a link so i know the writing is "under" the white space. I am 60 with an old computer and as tech savvy as your friend Frannie (her words). Obviously he did something which makes my computer not compatible for some reason.

I see he just posted here.If you happen to e-mail or talk to him, perhaps you could ask him to read this. Tell him Masters Lurker misses reading his "misguided" right wing political views and his insights into running.

I know he wrote oops! on Jan. 10th or 11th before it disappeared so I know he changed his template in some way. You're tech savvy. Perhaps you have an idea of what happened.

Sorry for hijacking this blog, but I hoped you wouldn't mind. Good luck on healing and making your return to Boston!

P.S. Is your DH from Montreal? I am not French but was born there (lived there for 30 years).

Masters Lurker

GB said...

Moon, you said everything I've always WANTED to say but couldn't (because I'm just not eloquant like you)! You're a good woman and don't you ever doubt that. I wish we lived close because I would be asking to run with you all the time. I'm glad you have Franny on your butt crack of dawn runs. It really is special to share running with good friends!

JohnTheDork said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JohnTheDork said...

So after set myself up with a comfy pillow and blanket and having both dinner and midnight snack, I am so glad to once again read your precious epic tales of success, failure, struggle and the human condition. No one says it more succinctly and powefully than you do Monica.

I agree that life is too short to wait for a specific date to try to make changes in one's life. If something needs changing, then nothing like this moment. No one is a better example of that than you Monica!!

Raymond said...

Hi Monica, as usual a classic piece of prose. I agree with all of it but the part about limited energy. I'm of the pretense that our body can supply amply when both the mind and body agree on the need. Ok, so much for that.

I enjoyed the "throwing out" focus associated with the turn of the new year. With our pending move to Florida, Sugar and I will be willfully reduced to about half the living and storage space we now have. I've had to break a lifelong habit of being a pack rat as well as begin throwing out unecessary things from closets, drawers, etc. Your post will forever make me smile with each useless item I throw away.


John Fenton said...


When I switched over to blogspot hosting and messed up my old template, I switched to a new-style blogger template.

What version of what browser are you using? I'd suggest updating to Explorer 6 or 7 or Firefox 2 or higher.

I don't know what else to suggest. It works fine for every browser I've tried.


Anonymous said...

Monica and John, Thanks.

John, unfortunately I am using Explorer 5.1 (yes, I know it's pathetic)and because of my nightmarish personal situation, I cannot upgrade at this time.

Even though I am a Canadian centrist veering to the left :), I will miss your political commentary and reading references during this election season (McCain v. Clinton I guess).

Hope you remain injury free and with weather permitting, attack that tough Boston course and get close to 3 or possibly break through.

Monica, thank you for allowing me to "use" your blog and I assume forward my message to John. Hope you reach Boston injury free, and even if you are not at your fastest, still enjoy the experience. Remember not everyone gets there. I expect another opus post race.

Masters Lurker

John Fenton said...


Try reading it through the RSS feed at or

I'll see if I can find another template I like as well. Maybe a subtle change will remedy the matter.


Anonymous said...

When are you planning to update your blog, running ladie?