‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market.
Our culture’s annual ritual of reinvention and deprivation is upon us, and it’s the absolute worst.
The onset of a new calendar year is the obvious time to make drastic changes to your lifestyle because, last year, even if it was three weeks ago, you were a grievously flawed monster. Wellness and lifestyle brand ads proliferate in your Instagram feed, implying that whoever you are, you must immediately renounce that sad, besweatpantsed person because it is unthinkable to show up to a New Year without a New You. Propped up by billions of marketing dollars, New You sanctimoniously eschews caffeine, sugar, gluten, tequila, procrastination, toffee, cured meats, online shopping, croissants, spontaneously-purchased first-class airplane tickets, cupcakes of any size, movie popcorn, and smokehouse almonds. She sounds like a real hoot.
I’m all for living an examined life. But I just can’t buy into the Improvement Industrial Complex, whose thirsty ad buys (seriously, Noom, calm down) and splashy influencer partnerships tell very little of their efficacy and volumes of their profitability.
In the spirit of rigging my own self-improvement to the local economy, I’m tracking down places in New Canaan where you can upgrade Normal You, and enjoy yourself immensely while doing so. In this effort, I hope to pick up some lasting good habits of my own. After two long years lived virtually, it will be wonderful to take it all offline and be face-to-face with folks on the same journey.
Here are my own resolutions, along with some exceptional New Canaan places and spaces where you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing, 12 months a year.
Resolution #1: Less screen time. More tree time.
One recent morning, I caught myself reading an article about a Twitter war between two professional golfers I’d literally never heard of. Like someone roofied in a movie, I had no recollection of how I got down that gopher hole, nor any idea for how long I’d lingered. I just knew I needed to get out. Luckily for me, the antidote was just around the corner on a New Canaan Land Trust property that features a mile-and-a-half loop popular with dogs and their owners. Out on the trail, my hunched-over posture corrected. My shoulders relaxed. My dogs engaged in a different form of Twitter, sniffing each and every tree for other dogs’ messages. No longer mentally manipulated by an algorithm, I was free to think my own thoughts, like “are fire hydrants essentially one big Twitter battle for dogs?” and all was well.
It’s a remarkable feat, and not to be taken for granted, that nearly 400 acres of our town’s open spaces are preserved in perpetuity through the New Canaan Land Trust. They take an active approach to preservation, so it’s not simply that the land can’t be developed. The Land Trust practices active land stewardship, creating conditions in their various forest and meadow properties in which native flora and fauna, including pollinators, can thrive. They also maintain passive use trail systems for us to enjoy year-round. Whatever your screen time takes away from you, I promise you, a half-hour spent in one of New Canaan’s Land Trust properties will give it back, with dividends.
Whether you’ve resolved to spend more time outdoors or not, the Land Trust trails will leave you feeling fulfilled and newly appreciative of where we live. Take their seven-property Winter Hiking Challenge to snap out of your own comfort zone and enjoy the surprising, abundant beauty of a New Canaan winter.
Resolution 2: Do Groups Again
There are people who excel at solo workouts, who can swim laps and pound pavement for hours with nothing but “Eye of the Tiger” to keep them company. As much as I’d like to count myself among them, when left to my own devices during a workout, I will literally check my own devices. I need the accountability and focus that having at least one other person present provides. Otherwise, I’ll get distracted, anxious, or generally lazy enough to decide that half a workout is better than none, and wrap up early. Throughout the pandemic, I did a few Peloton yoga classes on my iPad, grateful they existed (heyyy, Denis Morton) but I sure did miss the spirit and motivation of live, in-person yoga.
One recent evening, when Old Me would have been cooking dinner with a glass bottle of wine, I created a new happy hour ritual for myself, one that I hope will stick. Timid but resolute, I arrived at New Canaan’s Sama Yoga, a beautiful studio in the Halo Fitness complex on Grove Street, for a 6:15 p.m. Open Level class.
Sama’s calm approach and super-friendly teaching staff instantly take the sheer awkwardness out of being a penitent, lapsed yoga practitioner like me. Founder Rebekah Jacobs has created something of a unicorn in the Fairfield County fitness world: acceptance, encouragement, and a sufficiently challenging entry point for all types of yogis to hone their practice. After my fourth failed Warrior 3 pose, I flapped my arms apologetically. I used to be better at this, my arms tried to say. But nobody in the room cared. A judgment-free space to get back in touch with the great energy of group exercise? I’ll stay the whole hour and go back for more on Friday.
Sama has expanded its studio footprint and installed molecular air filters in an effort to create a safer space to practice. You can attend classes maskless, but only if you’re vaccinated and boosted–they keep a copy of your card on file. For anyone medically unable to resume in-person group exercise classes, you can attend many of the classes on their schedule virtually. Just promise that you’ll be a better virtual athlete than I am.
Resolution 3: Care about Self-Care
Self-care, that phenomenon we all started taking seriously when the pandemic started, is a marvelous catch-all. It encompasses everything from 9 p.m. bedtime with a mug of tea to ghosting your jerk friend. And while I used to treat self-care as an emergency measure, staying home from work after a 14-hour flight or going to bed early after some harrowing work emergency, I’m going to make self-care the rule this year, not the exception. And for some self-care, you need an extra set of hands.
You could accurately point out that a hike and some yoga hardly constitute cause for celebration, but nobody likes a stone-cold bummer. So I took myself and my chronic, mysterious neck pain to Egia Day Spa for a 90-minute massage. I love Egia; situated in a little house on Cherry Street, it feels cozy and sincere rather than glitzy and Greenwich-y. When I need a massage, I find myself seeking comfort and calm over the terrifying tones of Fairfield County day spa chatter.
Ninety minutes of whale song later, I emerged into the New Canaan dusk, my neck better cared for, my brain better rested. Egia uses only organic products for anyone concerned about skincare toxicity. Also, look for their prepaid massage packages as a means of ensuring yourself lots of massages in the coming year.
Resolution 4: Keep Drinking Tequila
Dry January and Sober October might be cute names, and I’m sure they’re effective entry points for the billions of mocktail brands new to the market. But teetotaling just isn’t my scene. I don’t do juice cleanses in order to mainline ballpark nacho cheese later; I just want to build a better, more sustainable set of habits. Enter my Janu-rita, inspired by and pretty much stolen from the cocktail menu at South End Back End.
- 1 ounce Aldez reposado tequila
- Half a lime
- 6 ounces Topo Chico mineral water (this is mandatory)
- 5-6 cubes regular fridge ice, nothing fancy
- Tajin chili-lime seasoning
Topo Chico is the new mineral water and, I’m told, the only acceptable water for hipsters to drink nowadays. Bottled in Monterrey, Mexico, it has gorgeous, old-fashioned graphic design and, according to my connoisseur friend, “ideal bubble size.”
Pour tequila, mineral water, and ice into the shaker. Squeeze lime. Shake. Add to a fun, festive glass, and shake a little Tajin into it because life is for the living.
Enjoy your new year, New Canaan.
Not to get all serious, but if you are a tequila drinker, try doing 1/2 tequila and 1/2 Ritual non-alcoholic tequila. It’s pretty good, a very spicy. (Ritual’s rum is disgusting). Also, I have found a decent wine: Luminary Chardonnay. David at DB Wines orders it for me. It’s a little too tart for me, so I put in a little bit of agave syrup, or 1/4 Fre, a sweet non-alcoholic wine.
Love your column!
Loved reading your column…..very entertaining and so relatable! The Winter Hike Challenge is a great idea and a reminder about all the wonderful things NCLT does for our open spaces.
Thank you Laura, great job! Alice