In those early morning hours when the sun is just beginning to emerge through the mist that settles in our valley, I can feel the hush of the people tucked into their houses, the quiet settling of the scrub as the tentative hares given a frozen glance at my coming footfalls with a dark glassy eye and dart among the chaparral. My favorite route is also one of my most challenging, as midway through the 7.6 miles of its length there is a steep elevation climb that takes me right past the library. The Temecula Public Library sits atop a hill that overlooks a huge park as well as the high school in one direction, taking the eye all the way to the hills covered with snow and the hot air balloons that are sometimes in the sky over the wineries. To my right the sun rises over homes and more vistas, the day coming up as a promise of new chances to produce, cultivate beauty, and to evolve.

I run many miles and several intense minutes for just a moment or two past that library. The moment  in which I bask in the reward is a quick and small moment indeed: all that work to get there, for a minute to a minute-and-a-half of being on top of the world.

It isn’t just the view, though. To run past the library is to arrange my body side by side with the house of text for the sake of juxtaposition. (No, I can’t even take a run without taking it to a philosophical/literary place—this is just the way the slosh of chemicals and grey matter in my skull happens to work). It is my “mens sana in corpore sano” route (yes, some of my routes have names or mottos attached to them), and I run it when I want to reflect on the ways in which the strides of my legs are akin to the strokes of my fingers on the keyboard or the pen in my hand. That library has made me ponder for many months now whether absolutely up-and-deciding to change the course of my narrative was an act of revision, or of some other literary function. For the longest time I believed I undertook the act of revision: amending what and how I ate, adding exercise, attending to the grammar of nutrition labels and calorie counts. That revision would result, I supposed, in a sleeker version of me, as though I were a book already written and in need of tweaking.

But I have not been a revision. All this time, I had the wrong metaphor.

We cannot revise ourselves, in the modern English sense of the word (in the Middle French and Latin versions, sure, we can look again at who we have been).  We cannot go back and undo what and who we have been. Nor are we a completed manuscript. In fact, over these many months I have pondered that perhaps there is no such act as revision, in the modern sense of looking again at a document with the intent to improve it before it is unleashed on an audience. Facebook would agree: I recently posted on Facebook a link to an article about how Facebook keeps track of every edit and keystroke we make. Although we may believe we are revising before an audience sees our work, in fact our very act of changing our text forms a dialectic between what we wrote before we edited, and what we edited that text to become. The very act of changing creates a tension between two opposing (change is oppositional at heart, is it not?) forms. Even a handwritten edit on an original manuscript functions in the same way. Margin notes. Cross outs. New paragraph breaks. All of this is a subtext that is in dialogue with both the text that came before, and the text that came after. “Revision” in the modern sense seems to imply, to me, that a magical process happens whereby something that was unpolished is run through a process, emerges in publishable form, and the origins and drafts of the work are hidden away as though they did not exist, or never existed.


But they did exist.

I don’t really want to republish this picture of me taken almost exactly two years ago. Despite not wishing to, I am going to do it to make a point.

Could I attempt a revision of history and try to comb through the Internet to expunge from record this version of myself? Could I delete my Facebook albums that contain my past? I could try at any rate. I could pretend to undertake an act of radical revision, although I do not think Google would let me entirely succeed, and nor should it. I was not the best I would ever be, but I was the best I could be at that time. It’s not even my extra 60 pounds that bother me most about that picture; rather, it is my memory of all the rationalizing and getting-in-my-own way that I used to do. Of buying into the food culture head over heels. Of the acquiescence to live in a subjective world, rather than in an objective one: “If I ‘make good choices’ or ‘cut back’ or ‘eat organic’ or ‘let my body tell me when it is hungry’ then I will lose weight and I don’t have to work at it or be uncomfortable.” I am bothered at myself that I let my mind dawdle in that world. I am bothered that I came up with dozens of excuses about how I couldn’t/shouldn’t take care of myself, and that, even though one of my pet topics is how people create elaborate rationalization structures to justify detrimental behavior, I did not root out my own rationalizations for so long. I am bothered that I was not striving in this time period to be my best self, when in fact that quest for achievement has always been so fundamental to who I am.

So I don’t revise in the Modern English sense. In fact I look at my rough drafts of myself quite often. There are gems there that I would not want to purge anyway: the way my eyes are lit up at my children, memories of a whole time period of my life.

I started to wonder what, then, would be the opposite of the act of revision; or, if not the strict opposite, at least the equivalent literary alternative. Perhaps it is, in fact, the act of making a resolution. The Old French and Latin roots of this word, to my understanding, have the sense of “loosening” or reducing wholes into their simple forms. What do we do when we make resolutions on New Year’s Eve? Well, we make a list of objectives, but do we put them into their simplest forms? Are we specific? Or subjective? The other appeal of “to resolve” as an alternative to “to revise” is that the root has  strong mathematical connotations and denotations at this point in our language. The mathematics of nutrition and the numbers involved in running have been huge motivators and signifiers in my personal journey. In fact, I do not really believe weight loss and the building of muscle through a proper diet can be achieved effectively without objective attention to numbers, or at least, not sustained over a long period. But I know that tends to be a controversial view in this particular culture.

And so each step I run is its own resolution. I speak the rhetoric of resolution (here, the noun form of “resolve” becomes important: determination, strength) as I fight my way up hills or through speed work or long tempo runs while coaching myself out loud. The rhetoric with which we address ourselves is significant. We can use language to our advantage. I see this all the time with how people choose to frame their lives in, for example, their Facebook statuses. The kind of rhetoric toward which we gravitate often comprises the world we think we’re seeing. What if we could choose to reframe our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us? What if through the wielding of language we could perform acts of conscious interpretation that make our lives a nicer place to inhabit? Everything has a context, a frame. We are the authors of that context, and we are the readers of what we see in that frame. We are simultaneously performing acts of authorship and interpretation. We choose to place ourselves paratactically next to the library, for example, and then we read the meaning in that choice.

It is not my habit to make resolutions on New Year’s Eve. I usually write specific goals for myself on my birthday, which is a few days before New Year’s Eve…so I suppose it amounts to almost the same thing. I do have some specific numbers attached to many of these, but those numbers are private for now.

1. Continue to develop upper body strength


My husband took this picture on my 34th birthday, a few days ago. Couldn’t do a pull up last year at this time (which was still 33 pounds heavier than I am now), but I have a ways to go before I will have fully achieved my upper body goals.

2. Look for the teachable moments in the McGaugh Academy and embrace them more frequently (versus following my well-planned lesson plans). As a former teacher I know this, but I will always be a planner. And I like to follow my plans. How often magic happens when we don’t, though. Tonight, for example, Katie wanted to make party hats for New Year’s Eve, and so we had a chance to turn it into a mini math lesson with a homemade compass.


3. Remember that problems are opportunities to stretch the mind, not times to wallow. We had a problem earlier this year with an egg-eating chicken. Using behavior modification techniques (which I have blogged about), we stopped the egg eater and have boosted our production back to expected levels.


4. Make magic, and make a little more mischief. Self-explanatory. Pushing myself this year. For example, I might explore the breaking down of the formality I often use. We shall see.


5. Running goals and racing goals…so I can be fit and healthy for these two, and so that I can have personal achievements about which to be proud. If we take care of ourselves, it is easier to take care of other people.


6. Be thankful all the time for who and what I have and express it.


7. PLAY! and WORK! and PLAY! some more:

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8. Increase the number of books I read by X amount, where X is a private number. I have been spending so much time on fitness and motherhood goals, but I also let myself get too sidetracked by distractions near bedtime at times. TV is not a problem for me, but other distractions are. I do read, but I need to up my game. Although I am fortunate to have read such a vast section of the canon during my time at the university, I am painfully aware of how much of the canon I have never touched. Plus…there are my own interests in sci fi and dystopian novels that need to be addressed. Although the genre I love most right now is nonfiction…

9. Make sure my children are given their daily exercise, and continue to make healthy food choices for their growing minds and bodies.

10. Seek out adventures with long-term friends and help facilitate regular gatherings. (I tend to be a joiner versus an instigator, but I want to change that a bit).

11.  Spend 15-20 minutes every day on a personal project (private) that I am working on this year.

12. Maintain my weight at —.- (private number). Actually, I have a 3 pound maintenance range.

HAPPY 2014! Wishing everyone a productive, joyful year full of learning and personal evolution.