Monthly Archives: January 2019

New Year: Resolutions, Remembering, and Resolve

the view down my driveway

“Instead of wasting all day grooming superficial stuff on social media, pour your energy into mastering a difficult skill…The solution, rather than trying to endlessly spruce up your website and social media posts, is to put in the hard work. Get up early, or stay up late honing your skills.”
~John P. Weiss

Since I have not yet made my usual concrete plans for the new year, everything is still up in the air. Resolutions, undertaken normally with enthusiasm on January 1st, and tossed aside in failure before the end of February, have not been written. Changes in lifestyle, artistic work and blogging schedule are still only floating around in my mind. Now, one week into 2019, it’s time to set some guidelines.

This morning, having slept until I woke without an alarm, I moved through my normal morning routine: coffee; news; social media. When I finally picked up my notebook to write “Morning Pages,” I noticed that it was almost noon. A day half gone, with little to show for it! If I’d made my usual promises for more exercise, better organization and regular studio time, I would have already blown it. Seven days in.

With that in mind, I drafted my very first – and possibly my only – new year’s resolution for 2019: No morning computer time. Right off the top, I can see where it will make getting to work on time much more likely. It will open up time for a morning walk before work, or an exercise routine before I get in the shower. So, there it is.

That decision prompted another. A blog post scheduled for Tuesday should be written the day before. That led me to the question, “what to write about?” I have finished my second book of lists, that was the basis of one weekly post, and haven’t found another that piqued my interest. I’ve pretty much abandoned my Thursday “Timeout for Art” posts, and have been struggling for material to write about on Tuesdays. Sometimes I feel that I’ve exhausted all of my material.

In times of desperation, I have turned to the bookshelf behind me, where I have no less than a dozen books on writing, with suggestions and prompts. With so many to choose from, it was easy to spend an hour paging through various tomes until I found just exactly the right inspiration. More time wasted! This year, instead, I am going to work my way through one book: Old Friend from Far Away (the Practice of Writing Memoir) by Natalie Goldberg.

I’ve used her prompts before, but always just randomly and never on a regular basis. This year, I am starting at the beginning, and taking whatever assignment is given. I’d love it if some of you other writers out there would do it along with me. As many of her instructions include a ten-minute structure, this is not a huge time commitment. It would be fun to see how many varied responses could come out of her open-ended writing prompts!

At this time, I am going to plan on posting a blog twice a week, Tuesday and one other day. I’m hoping my new morning routine will open up many new possibilities and successes. I may have to add a post just to tell you all about it!

Beginning the Year with A, B, and C

some books on my nightstand

A brand new year. New expectations; new promises to myself. A new journal to keep track of my life…or to keep my life on track, I’m not sure which. It will be filled, soon enough, with resolutions, plans and good intentions, and a number of graphs, lists and charts to record my progress…or lack thereof. I start by noting accomplishments and memorable things from the year just past.

For that, I page through last year’s journal. It is a wealth of information, often discouraging and sad. I can see, for instance, that, though I devoted lines each month in my “Habit and Activity Tracker” to “weights,” “yoga/pilates” and “walk,” I fulfilled those goals only a tiny fraction of the times planned. I did better in other areas. I rarely missed a scheduled work day. I posted a blog twice a week, occasionally more, almost without fail. I read every single day. From the pages I devoted to “Books I Read, 2018,” I see that I completed thirty-three books last year.

With that in mind, I’m going to start this year off on a positive note, focusing on the books I am reading right now. It just happens – coincidentally – that they begin with the first three letters of the alphabet.

Atomic Habits by James Clear is the perfect book to have first on my reading list at the start of a new year. So far, it has given me such confidence that change (improvement) is possible, that I have put off all my usual resolution-making until I finish this book. Clear suggests that it is not helpful to focus on goals; we should, instead, focus on “systems,” the behaviors that will help us get to the results we want. “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” Systems are the steps you take to get the desired outcome. This is a highly technical – i.e.: lots of graphs and studies – but very easy-to-read book. I’m thinking it just might change my life!

Becoming by Michelle Obama. My daughter and I were talking about this book just before Christmas. “Do you have it?” she asked. “No,” I told her, “I’ve seen so many good, in depth interviews with her, I feel kind of like I know how it goes. Maybe I don’t need to read it.” That wasn’t quite true. I had seen many wonderful interviews, and I was telling myself that it was unnecessary to invest in another freshly published hard cover book right now. However, when I received the book on Christmas Eve – a gift from that same wily daughter – I was thrilled! I’ve only just started it, but Michelle Obama is an extremely engaging writer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying her book!

Calypso by David Sedaris is the third book I’m reading right now. My two daughters and I met in Lansing last year, to see Sedaris at the Whiting Auditorium. I’ve loved his books, and his readings on NPR for years, and his talk there did not disappoint. To commemorate that special get-together, I got each of my daughters a David Sedaris book for Christmas. For Jen, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. I own that book, and re-read it whenever I need to improve my mood. I can’t get through the first essay in that book without tears of laughter running down my face! I hope Jen likes it as much as I have. For Kate, Calypso. Because I had not yet read that one, I bought it for myself as well…an early Christmas present for me. Unnecessary, gift-wise, as I was very generously inundated with all kinds of wonderful, thoughtful presents, but I appreciate this book anyway.

So, A, B and C. I’m sure reading – my biggest success – will continue through the year. I can’t say if it will continue to follow the alphabet!

Ends and Beginnings

a section of the model train and miniature village at the Redford Theater

Here we are, once again, at the brink of a new year. Though this blog won’t “go live” until tomorrow, January 1st, I am writing on New Year’s Eve. That’s because I don’t seem to have the energy to move out of the desk chair I am sitting in. Surrounded by a hundred other things that I should be doing, this has, at least, the semblance of productivity.

On the morning I was scheduled to leave my sister’s house in lower Michigan, I had a bit of a scratchy throat. I thought nothing of it as I stripped the bed, packed up clothes, gifts and other acquisitions. It didn’t stop me from a lovely lunch with my daughter and granddaughter, or from an enjoyable wander through an antique shop afterward.

By the time all the “good-byes” were said, though, and I was on the freeway headed north, my symptoms had increased. I had a miserable headache, a painful cough and a seriously sore throat. My ears ached. I was too hot, then too cold, and had occasional wild bouts of sneezing. No denying it, I had caught a cold.

I arrived late, driving in the dark and through freezing rain, to the small town where I was meeting my friend Donna for an overnight visit. She greeted me warmly, welcomed me into her charming home, and did her best to make me comfortable. I’m afraid I was not the best company.

The next day, I set off on the second half of my trip, which ended with a plane ride back home to Beaver Island. I could have cried with relief – and kissed the young man who’d retrieved it – when I saw that my car had already been brought from the back lot, and was right there waiting for me. With help, I loaded it with all my belongings, and headed down the road to pick up the dogs.

With Rosa Parks and Darla sharing the front seat with me, we pulled in to my own driveway after more than a week away. I unloaded the car while the dogs sniffed around to determine what wildlife had visited while we were gone. I shoved boxes, bags, totes and suitcases unceremoniously into the house before collapsing into bed. Two days later, they are still there.

I have barely begun unpacking. I still feel miserable. This, at the time when the calendar tells me I should be making my usual big plans for a fresh start. I have a new sketchbook, which begs a new commitment to daily drawing. I have a brand new bullet journal to set up for 2019. I have plans, of course, as always, for a new start on diet and exercise. My enthusiasm is absent. I have no energy for any of it.

And that, I am thinking, may be the biggest change that is happening in this new year. This may be the first time in my life when I simply let one year end and another begin. I think it’s going to happen, too! Even without my big agenda, and my active participation in it. Even as I sit here, coughing and sniffling, one year ends and another begins. Let’s just see how it goes.

Happy New Year!