There are things I need to stop in 2009. Management consultant, Peter Drucker, always asked top CEOs this disarming question: What have you stopped doing? He said when we figure out what no longer works, it opens the door to new opportunities. One of the first things I need to stop doing is ignoring the fact that I've re-injured my knee, and then to stop telling myself that I don't have time to do my knee exercises. But the problem with the exercises is that they are boring and I get so sick of doing them in front of TV's parade of talking heads, but I decided that what my knee, brain, and heart really needed was a good dose of watching something that oozed into my soul. And so I found my Les Miserables 10th anniversary tape, which always stirs me; I put in on and began exercising, counting the reps.
Now the issue about exercising to Les Miz is that the music packs such an emotional punch that I tend to lose count. And so when Jean Valjean is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, it's hard to do leg lifts slowly, especially since this is the moment that my puppy Max decides to join me, jumping up and trying to hang from my leg. "No!" I tell him and lose count again. And now the music is going ever deeper and my heart is beginning to anticipate the great tragedy that is about to befall the mother, Fantine, who has a young child and has been through the mill. Fantine is singing in a way that makes me cry and this disturbs Max who begins to lick my face. I lose count again, but move to the inner thigh strengthening, at which point Fantine the mother is not doing well, and now the phone rings and I am crying and my husband, who is downstairs and not dealing with life and death issues, shouts, up, "Can you get it?" Well, the answer is, I suppose I could, but I'd rather not, because Fantine is dying and I am crying while tensing and releasing my inner thigh, wondering what is going to happen to Fantine's little daughter, Cosette. Of course, I already know because I've read the book and seen the musical any number of times. But you know how it is with a great story — you just don't let yourself rush ahead, you stay with the agony until the end and let yourself be swept away.
My husband gets the phone as Fantine sings her final song. I begin the teeny knee muscle movement when Max crawls into my lap and lays his head across my knees causing all exercising to stop. I weep with these characters as the music rushes over me. Not everyone can have an emotional catharsis while spending quality time with their dog. Stopping things isn't always easy, and life is filled with endless interruptions, but just starting the stopping can open the door to a soulful, tender release.