Resolutions Just Aren’t My Thing
Ahhh … ’tis the season of The Resolution. Can you smell the grit and determination in the air? Can you feel the electric current of commitment? I was talking with my mom yesterday, and she was lamenting how she and my dad were dreading going to their gym because it would be overrun with Resolutionists. Happily, she knows from experience that this influx of overly enthusiastic interlopers is only temporary. “In six to eight weeks, they will all be back on their couches with their potato chips,” she said.
I have never been one for resolutions. No matter how good my intentions are, they seem doomed to combust under the pressures of real life. Instead of inspiring me to be a better person, my resolutions become self-fulfilling prophesies of failure. After many years of false starts, I have finally learned to stop making promises that I know I won’t keep. It’s made my life a lot simpler.
Though I no longer subject myself to the rigors of resolutions, there is another New Year’s ritual that still holds a seductive appeal. As the old year winds down, I feel an irresistible urge to “set things to rights.” Like some manic Mary Poppins or overzealous Snow White, I am suddenly seized with a desire to find a place for everything and put everything in its place. I want to purge and organize. I want to file things and tie up loose ends. I want to rid my home of dust bunnies and cobwebs. In short, I want a clean slate for the New Year.
So, instead of swearing empty oaths to always or never do this or that in the year ahead, I roll up my sleeves and take immediate action to conquer the literal and figurative clutter that has built up over the course of the previous three-hundred-and-sixty odd days. After a month and a half of using the holidays as an excuse to let things slide even more than usual, there are plenty of battles to fight.
For instance, the once-manageable kitchen-counter pile of receipts and miscellaneous mail has mutated into an impressive (and unstable) tower that measures a daunting thirteen and a half inches from top to bottom and contains all manner of unidentified paper detritus. I have lived for months with this eyesore (not to mention the nagging feeling that there is some important paperwork buried in there), but it’s time to cut this beast down to size.
And that is only the beginning. There are closets to be cleaned and clothes to be donated. There are stashes of school papers and artwork to be sorted, archived, and recycled. Administrative household and business tasks are gathering like a flock of noisy seagulls coming inland ahead of a storm – bills to be paid, accounts to be updated, tax paperwork to prepare. My email inbox is overflowing (evidence that it’s time to unsubscribe from all the digital newsletters that seemed like a good idea at the time). The cat beds need to be laundered. The windows need to be washed. The car needs to be vacuumed. It’s like spring cleaning without the warm weather.
But this ritual is about more than just tidying up and putting a little spit and polish on things. It’s about reestablishing a sense of order and creating some physical and mental space. It’s about crawling out from under the weight of all the little things that have been left undone – crossing those bothersome tasks off your list so you can clear your head for more important thoughts. It’s about pulling the emergency brake so that you can take a minute to catch your breath before diving back into your usual routine.
Resolutions are a good idea in theory, but in practice they tend to create unrealistic expectations that add stress and pressure to our already-busy lives. Setting things to rights, on the other hand, is a no nonsense way to lighten your load and give yourself a fresh start. Though it may at first seem a tedious chore, putting things in order – even if only temporarily – almost always brings a sense of comfort and contentment. And doesn’t that sound like a good way to start the New Year?
What I’m Reading:
When I awoke this morning (a tad later than I’d like to admit), I realized that for the first time in a year I had missed publishing this post in its usual Saturday slot. For a moment, I was dismayed and a bit guilt-ridden, but I immediately cut myself some slack. This past week has been gloriously agenda-free to the point that I have several times lost track of which day it is. It is a strange, but liberating feeling.
In addition to untangling myself from my usual routine – school drop-offs and pick-ups, my daughter dance classes and dog walks, writing deadlines, grocery shopping, etc. etc. etc. – I forced myself to take a Real Break. (“Forced” being the operative word.) In my Real Life, I am always hustling, usually late for something, and always multi-tasking. This week, however, during our holiday staycation, I did manage to spend substantial time parked on the couch with a book and a mug of tea. It was lovely.
Though there were plenty of other activities and some chores (yesterday, we took down all the Christmas decorations and cleaned my daughter’s room!), I did carve out enough down time to finish reading Charles deLint’s hefty novel, The Little Country. It was the perfect post-holiday read – full of magic and music and adventure. I have read several of deLint’s other novels and always admired his ability to make magic tangible in a contemporary, real world setting. The way he weaves myth and fairytale into otherwise ordinary settings is almost like a kind of magic in itself. He is also a master at avoiding fantasy tropes, telling stories that are full of unique characters and plot twists.
The Little Country is actually two stories woven into one – a pretty neat trick in itself. From the book jacket:
When folk musician Janey Little finds a mysterious manuscript in an old trunk in her grandfather’s cottage, she is swept into a dangerous realm both strange and familiar. But true magic lurks within the pages of The Little Country, drawing genuine danger from across the oceans into Janey’s life, impelling her—armed only with her music—toward a terrifying confrontation.Come walk the mist-draped hills of Cornwall, come walk among the ancient standing stones. Listen to the fiddles, the wind, and the sea.
If you like smart, well-written fantasy, I highly recommend The Little Country. Just be prepared to stay up late once the action begins to climb. You’ll have a hard time putting it down!
What I’m Writing:
Despite avoiding resolutions (even writing-related ones … maybe especially writing-related ones), I am still susceptible to the ubiquitous feeling of optimistic expectancy that permeates this time of year. Off with the old and in with the new. Fresh starts. Bright horizons. I may not be nailing myself down to specific writing goals or habits, but that doesn’t mean I’m not all a-buzz with anticipation of another 365 days of writing potential.
Despite my enforced slothfulness (in order to read and recharge during this rare break), I have been noodling around with a big, scary writing project that I would really like to bring to life this year. It involves a complex story, many moving parts, art, publishing, print production, and distribution challenges (opportunities!). One minute, I feel like it’s a genius idea that can’t fail, and the next I think I’m a complete crackpot for thinking anyone would want to read it. And then, a nanosecond later, I’m back to thinking it’s a brilliant concept, but scared that I’m not the person to see it through.
It’s all a bit confusing, but still – surprisingly – exciting.
Though I’m starting to tug my reluctant brain back to its usual routine and responsibilities, I am still finding time to percolate my ideas and make notes. I’m beginning to compile all my materials and thoughts in a Scrivener document and may try to pull together a rough plan of attack soon. (I’m all for spontaneous creation, but I also know myself well enough to admit that if anything is going to get done, I need a plan.)
I hope that I am able to sustain this tingly feeling and enough courage to keep going even when Real Life butts in and Fear and Doubt pay their inevitable visits. I’m ready to bring a little of my own story magic into the world, and this might just be the year that I make that happen.
Lastly, a quote for the week:
I have been delightfully unplugged for the past couple of weeks, so I don’t have any blog posts to share. (I’m sure I’ll be doing plenty of catching up this week!) I do, however, have a quote that seems appropriate:
Here’s to discovering and unleashing your own magic – writing and otherwise – on the world. Happy New Year!
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally – trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.