Friday, January 01, 2016

And So It Begins

Happy New Year, one and all!

I hope your New Year's Eve was as pleasant as mine (spent quietly with friends, eating and playing board games). I stayed up to see the New Year in and then went off to bed, grateful to have gotten through another year that brought me a bit closer to my goals and hoping that the world will be a better, safer, kinder place for all us in 2016. But my Type M colleagues have already written eloquently about that.

I do want to pick up a thread that Rick began – New Year's resolutions. I used to have a long list, categorized in order of importance (A,B,C) and even broken down into “do-able tasks”.  I still like the idea of thinking about what it is that I really want to achieve. And breaking each goal down into small tasks that I can act on does get me up and moving when I'm overwhelmed by the enormity or complexity of what I want to achieve. As I have been working on my non-fiction book, thinking about the tasks (what I need to know and where to find that information) has kept me on track. Remembering my goal – to finish the book – has kept me from wandering off and spending another year or two reading about topics that intrigue me but that are only marginally relevant to this particular book. Remembering that this book is a top priority (an A rather than a C goal) has kept me from pushing it aside and working on something else that would be easier and less demanding of my time and effort.

My old strategy for making New Year's resolutions has something to be said for it. But what I have realized after many efforts to make and keep a long list of resolutions is that I should give attention to the few that will bring me to the end of the year feeling good about who I am both as a writer and a person. One resolution that I make each year is to treat my body better – more healthy food and less sugar, more exercise and fewer long sessions in front of the computer when the only part of my body moving is my fingers. This resolution – never fully achieved and subject to numerous lapses during each year – is the one that makes me feel hopeful each new year when I get a “start over” and distressed and annoyed with myself when I realize at the end of the year that I'm still human and imperfect. In 2015, I learn to love Brussels sprouts, but I ended the year by munching my way through numerous candy canes.

This year, my top resolution is to be more tolerant of my imperfections. I will continue to work on eating more fruits and veggies and getting up from desk and out the door to walk – or at least getting in my 30 minutes of aerobics before I sit down at my desk. I will walk down the hall at work to fill my environmentally friendly water bottle and I will drink that water even though I don't love it because being semi-dehydrated affects ones ability to think. I will be gentle with myself on those days and nights when I go to bed late, eat poorly, and get no exercise at all.

Under this heading of being more tolerant of my imperfections, I will also remember to treat my envy with respect. Here, I'm referring to the envy that most of us (unless we are saints) feel toward those who seem to have what we want. I will remember that even though I feel twinges of envy when I look on the success of other writers who make the bestsellers lists, receive nominations and awards, have their books made into films and television series, and gets recognized when they stop to admire the display of their books in airport bookstores – I will remember that the best use of my very human envy is to think about how I define success and what I am willing to do or give up to achieve it. After careful consideration, I'm pretty sure I don't want people to recognize me when I'm walking through an airport, but I wouldn't mind spotting my book in an airport bookstore or seeing someone reading my book on a plane. I'd like an Edgar (maybe two, one for fiction and another for nonfiction) and I'd like to make the New York Times bestseller list. And although I intend to market smarter in 2016, I will continue to focus on writing better because I believe quality is important.

My second resolution: I will learn to clip my cat Harry's nails. Or, rather, I will become better at persuading Harry to allow me to clip his nails. I'm up to two or three nails at a time now. I will get to one paw at a time before the year is over. This may seem a low-value resolution, but it is important. Harry likes to sit on my lap, especially when I'm sitting in front of my computer. When his nails grow too long, I am pricked when he jumps from the floor or steps from the desk onto my lap. I am pricked again when he stretches his paw up to touch my neck. This is a sign of feline affection – and Harry's love of stretching (a habit I am trying to emulate) – but it has sent me to my collection of casual, at-home-tops with high collars when I don't have the time to try to clip nails and no visit from his pet sitter or to the vet is upcoming. Besides, clipping his nails myself will save me a bit of money. And, as much as I love him, avoiding being scratched by my cat may keep me healthier. So I will work on my nail clipping technique.

Resolved:  This year, I will be more tolerant of my failures and celebrate even small successes. I will give myself more credit for what I'm trying to achieve and less scorn when I sometimes stumble.


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