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Begin again

December 2011

In 1979 I read a novel, the title long gone from my memory, in which the protagonist, a young man living at home with his parents, drank a lot of milkshakes, fretted about his life in general and his lack of a romantic relationship in particular and, at the end of the novel, took a deep breath and vowed to begin again.

“That’s it?” I said to myself. I devoted my time reading this young man’s non-story and that’s how the book ended? What a waste!

Funny thing is, 32 years and thousands of books later, I have found that young man’s resolution embedded in my mind long after the climaxes of other books have been forgotten.

I thought of it again in 2011 when, after a long winter of running outdoor in the cold or running on the Middletown Y’s indoor track (17 laps to the mile), I strained a right glute muscle in April just as I was looking to run some races in May and June. I hobbled through a breathwork-bodywork workshop at Easton Mountain and gradually and grudgingly took to heart the observation by workshop leader Ian Ellington that perhaps the injury might be my body’s wisdom in telling me to slow down and direct my attention elsewhere.

I ended up taking six weeks off from running, starting again slowly and with low mileage over Memorial Day Weekend and gradually increasing my mileage through June into July until I started thinking about races in August and the fall. Came mid-July and a return of the glute discomfort, and, less grudgingly this time, I gave up thoughts of racing this year. When I returned to running in October, having shifted my focus more to swimming in the Y pool and my light weight workouts, it was a slow two to three miles a couple of times a week. Begin again, I thought. Begin again.

2011 was like that in other ways as well. Struggles with the music and, for the last half of the spring season, feeling adrift and unsupported as the only tenor in the Pike County Choral Society had me hanging on by an emotional thread until welcome spring warmth, some emotional catharses at the aforementioned Ian Ellington workshop, and dogged work on the classical pieces for the spring concert helped lift my personal shroud. Additional time at Easton Mountain in June and August and September and October (I was there 28 days in 2011) brought additional personal insights and unexpectedly sparked creativity as well. Part of this creative time was participation in Craig Cullinane’s dance workshop that led to a well-received performance in August at Easton Mountain two months after I took part in four dance recitals that were the culmination of a 10-month adult jazz and tap dance class at Ziegler Studios in Vernon, N.J.

I also sang “Everyday People” and “Spirit in the Sky” and other childhood pop/rock radio staples as part of a Unity of Sussex County band in a concert fundraiser in October. In the fall I also joined the North Jersey Chorus, led by my cousin Marie Harrington and featuring her brother, my cousin Larry, and sang in their holiday pop-music concert on Dec. 10, a week after my Pike County Choral Society concert on Dec. 3 and two weeks before my church candlelighting service and concert on Dec. 23.

Energized by all the singing this fall, amid my full-time copy-editing job at the Times Herald-Record, part-time massage therapy practice and weekly visits to my 90-year-old mother at her nursing home in Succasunna, N.J., I took another leap of faith: I’ll be moving at the end of the month to a new apartment in Lodi, N.J. It’s in Bergen County, close to the North Jersey Chorus in Fair Lawn and my New York City friends and activities, and it offers potentially many more massage clients in this more populated area. I am thankful for my time in rural Montague, N.J., the focus it gave me to get out of debt last year, and the opportunities it gave me to study voice with Marshall Cooper, with whom I’ll continue to study, and the Pike County and Unity groups, from which I have resigned. I look forward to new opportunities, renewed energy – and, as in the novel that has stayed with me for more than three decades, the chance to begin again.

Thanks in 2011 to Fern Wood Mitchell, Tom Gallagher, Henry Schwatzman, Michael Hopkins, Ian Ellington, Rafael Ledesma, Arnie Katz, Larry Miller, Lou Marchesano, Connie Wehmeyer, Collin Brown, Steve Leffler, Barry Langley, Phillip Coupal, Claude Laroche, Chris Lane and Pierce Williams for lifeline phone calls and emails and for touching me both literally and figuratively. Thanks to all others who read this for continuing to be part of my journey. Here’s to us all, in 2012 and beyond.

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