"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fearless Resolutions

For several years, I did not make any formal New Year’s resolutions.  It was just too much pressure.  Not only the pressure of accomplishing them, but the pressure of choosing them, of coming up with the right ones. What makes something a good resolution? Should I shoot for the moon or make them more realistic?  How many goals should I have?  Where should I write them down?  Yep, I used to be a stress ball.

Then, last year on January 1st, I put all those fears aside and made a list of goals.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.  I had decided to end my teaching career and try to be a writer—in fact, I was getting ready to tell my principal my decision the very next day—and by coincidence I had just finished a journal and had a brand new one to start.  I couldn’t ask for a better time and place to make some resolutions for the future.  So there on the very first page of my new notebook, without over-thinking or self-doubting, I listed ten things I wanted to do in 2012.  Then, a couple of days later, I added two more.

Yesterday I was able to put a checkmark next to nine and a half of the twelve.  Not bad.

Now I have a new list.  Fourteen goals I’d like to accomplish in 2013.  I’ve tried to keep them simple.  I am not going to second-guess my decisions.  I am not going to feel bad about myself if I don’t complete them all.  They are not there to stress me out or taunt me.  They are there to remind me of all that is possible, to keep me focused on the life I want to live, the things I want to do.  And while some of them are private, there are a few I want to share here, just in case there is anyone else out there who also fears resolutions and wants to borrow or adapt some of mine for themselves.

Resolution #2:  I will finish my first novel.
I probably need a new title.

I’m not sure when I first had the urge to write a book.  I think the vague desire has probably been there since birth, gelling into a hazy dream aspiration somewhere around middle school (I remember listing “author” or “writer” as one of my job choices when playing MASH), and then finally forming into a no-seriously-I-want-to-actually-do-this-someday goal about ten years ago.  But it has never been something concrete enough, something anywhere close to achievable enough to be a resolution.  Until now.  I am overjoyed to see those words in my journal and have every intention of crossing that item off the list.

Resolution #5:  I will take a trip with my mom.

When it comes to parents, I won the lottery.  My mom and dad are wonderful, caring, supportive, funny people, and I am fortunate in the fact that I can say I love them both as my parents and as my friends.  We spend a lot of time together, playing card games, being entertained by pets, and talking talking talking talking talking.  I can’t imagine a day when we can’t find something to talk about or laugh about. 

When I hang out with my parents separately, we do different things.  My dad and I get in the car and drive.  We take road trips together.  We go shooting.  He tells me stories about growing up and gives impromptu history lessons on Texas towns and Texas used-to-be-towns.  We look around antique stores and take pictures.  My mom and I take walks and go to yoga classes.  We bake pies and cookies.  We go see movies and play Scrabble and sit down in comfy chairs to read our books but rarely get a paragraph finished before one of us thinks of something else to say. 

Well, I’ve decided to mix things up a bit.  This year, I want to take a trip with my mom.  I want to get in the car with her and go and see what there is to see, just us girls.  It’s going to be fun, no matter what we do.

Maybe next year I’ll take my dad to a yoga class…

Resolution #6:  I will read at least thirty-five books.

For a look at what I read this year, click here:

My 2013 To-Read list includes:
* We the Living by Ayn Rand (I am halfway through—beautiful writing)
* On Writing by Stephen King
* The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
* Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp
* October Country by Ray Bradbury
* The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Resolution #9:  I will monitor my have to’s, need to’s, and want to’s.

Even above finishing my novel, I think this is my most important resolution this year.

A few months ago, I listened, smiling, as some good friends of mine began teaching their two-year-old daughter the difference between “need to” and “want to”.  When she wailed, “I need to go outside!” her dad patiently responded, “Remember what we talked about.  Do you need to go outside or do you want to go outside.”  It took some thought—you could see the wheels turning behind those big beautiful eyes—but eventually she said it.  Want to.”  And I thought, what a wonderful lesson.  For any age.  After that, I began listening for those phrases in the conversations around me.  The “need to’s” were not hard to find.  They vastly outnumbered the “want to’s”. 

But among adults, I found that the “have to’s” actually won by a landslide.  Time and time again, I heard friends say things like:  “I can’t hang out tomorrow—I have to go to yoga.”  Or… “Work is crazy this week, I have a baby shower to go to on Saturday, and at some point I have to decorate my house for Christmas.”  And I thought, You don’t have to go to yoga, you want to go to yoga, and good for you for going!  Or… You don’t have to decorate for Christmas, you want to.  Maybe if you stop seeing it as a chore, it will be more fun to get it done.
Who wouldn't want
to play with this guy?

But then I started listening to myself (try it—it’s scary) and I realized that I am just as bad as everyone else, and it’s worse because, in truth, my life has very few “have tos” right now.  I catch myself telling my husband that I have to finish this book before the movie comes out or I have to play with the dog when I get home or I have to go buy some gloves at Old Navy while they’re on sale.  Um… no.  I want to finish the book and play with my dog and buy gloves, and it is irritating, even to me, to hear myself make such frivolous things sound mandatory.

So, for me, 2013 will be the year of monitoring my have to’s, need to’s, and want to’s.  I’ve already started working on it, and it feels really good to say to myself, I want to do this and then do it.  We all deserve to put the need to’s and have to’s aside for awhile and accomplish a goal that’s just want.  I suggest you give it a try.  (But you don’t have to.)

That’s it.  Four of my fourteen New Year’s resolutions.  Good luck with your own, and if you don’t make any, that’s ok too.  Happy New Year to you all, regardless.  May it be a year of books and trips and wants fulfilled.

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