A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Before plunging into resolutions and intentions for the new year, I like to reflect on all that I accomplished in the last year, from the mundane to the profound and everything in between. So here goes. In 2010 I:

• wrote for at least five minutes every single day on a story, not counting morning pages or blogging. This one is huge and it still amazes me that I did it.

• continued to write brief reflections on all of the books I read.

• sent out several stories and now have an editor at a journal who sends me very encouraging notes even while rejecting my work (a tricky thing to do). An acceptance is on the horizon this year. I can feel it.

• worked out more days than not this year. It is no longer a thing I force myself to do. It’s just what I do.

• managed to meditate every morning for twenty minutes for about three months. Now I’m back to doing yoga with a short meditation at the end.

• went out to Colorado to help my sister and her husband take care of their new baby while she was in the NICU for the first ten days of her life.

• welcomed Izzy into our lives. Sweetest dog ever.

• finally painted our bedroom.

• finally painted my office.

• got new living room furniture.

• got a new car.

• got a new washer (out of necessity).

• had a fabulous vacation in the Poconos with my best friend since high school. Now Emily wants to move there when she grows up.

• now have a teenager driving in the family. It brings up equal parts terror and relief.

• cut way back on eating out thus saving mucho bucks as well as calories.

• stopped recording several TV shows in order to cut back on my viewing time.

• managed to be in bed by 9:00  most nights to get at least seven hours of sleep.

So, there you have it. Not a bad year. The problem is that last year my resolution was to write at least five minutes everyday and I did that. Now, I would like to up the ante a bit, challenge myself without setting myself up to fail. Not sure how to do that yet. But, here are some things I’d like to do in 2011:

• bring a plant into our home and keep it alive. Those who know me well are either laughing hysterically or shaking their heads.

• eat less processed foods. Find inspiration here.

• write for at least fifteen minutes, five days a week, five minutes on weekends. Type up what I write. Move on to 1000 words a day, five days a week.

• work with a couple of writing texts.

• send out several stories a month. Designate one day a week a business day.

• amp up my blog presence. Set up a schedule and stick with it. Visit more blogs to drive traffic to mine.

• read more books I own or borrow from library so that I buy less. (I know, I know…more laughter)

• finish mixed media painting for my office.

• finally do something creative with old door to hang in family room.

• keep sketchbook/art journal for fun.

• save up for a family vacation to an island before Katie goes off to college.

• mindfulness, gratitude and compassion.

Wishing all of you a New Year filled with joy, creativity and the passion to live each day fully.

 

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TAW Week 9

This chapter really resonated with me, from the very first paragraph on. I call myself lazy on a regular basis. For years I have done this. I never considered myself a perfectionist but now I wonder. Over the last couple of years I have said things or wrote things that made people tell me that I am much too hard on myself. I am? Was I? I realized I was. So this chapter on recovering a sense of compassion was much needed. Since I’ve been meditating on a fairly regular basis (meaning about five times a week) I’ve noticed a gentler, more compassionate voice within me that can, at times, drown out the mean, judgey, I never do enough voice that usually gets all the airtime.

I especially loved Cameron’s distinction between discipline and enthusiasm. And throughout the week I stumbled across several quotes that reiterated her point which I will take as gifts of synchronicity.

I don’t think I did an Artist’s date last week. Now I can’t remember. But with the holidays and company coming in, I plan on showing myself more than a little compassion. Did Morning Pages all but one day and that day I consciously chose not to write them which is much different than just avoiding them  and letting the day get away from me. It reminded me of something Ron Carlson has said, that you need to decide is it a writing day or a not writing day? Choose one or the other. It’s the maybe days that will kill you.

Books Read in November

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” a novel by Jennifer Egan

It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.

This novel centers around Bennie Salazar, a former punk rocker turned aging record exec and his assistant, Sasha who is dealing with her compulsion to steal. From their stories we spin into the past and future of not only Bennie and Sasha but also other characters who have entered into and passed through their lives at one time or another. Egan is a master of POV. These narratives utiliize everything from third person, first person and second person, to some with an omniscient voice able to see into the future. The most touching and original story is structured in the format of a Powerpoint presentation. Really. You have to read it.

“How to Be Alone” essays by Jonathan Franzen

My third novel, The Corrections, which I’d worked on for many years, was published a week before the World Trade Center fell.

Franzen turns his critical, thoughtful and utterly curious eye to a wide range of topics in this collection. We are exposed to the inner workings of a prison in one essay while in another he exposes the severe dysfunction of the Chicago USPS. He struggles with massive consumerism and the invasion of technology into our lives and reveals in  a moving piece his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s. For those who know of his brief and controversial stint as an Oprah author for “The Corrections,” you’ll want to read the essay where he describes exactly how he perceives what happened, not what you think you know.

“How to Buy a Love of Reading” a novel by Tanya Egan Gibson

The idea came to Carley’s father amid the whir of a hundred handheld sanders at Bunny Gardner’s Sweet Sixteen, an event that had bust into life with the birthday girl’s parents whipping a satin drape off their pedestaled daughter at the center of the Glen Club ballroom, where she held a pose she would alter tell her classmates was “Winged Victory, except not headless” through applause people would say she milked a bit too long before stepping down.

The “idea” her father had was to hire someone to write a book exactly to Carley’s specifications, in the hopes of instilling a love of reading in his daughter who had been showing complete apathy for whole reading endeavor, according to her teacher. This story is a delightful romp for bibliophiles but Gibson manages to plunge us beyond this intriguing premise into a world where not only are books color coordinated to home decor and a love of reading can be bought and paid for but also where the bonds of friendship are tested again and again, where unbearable isolation lurks in unlikely people, where betrayal is a staple and where the power of story is realized.

“Notes from the edge Times” essays by Daniel Pinchbeck

Recently, a $250 million film linked the year 2012 with a mass wipeout of humanity from earth crust displacement and super-volcano spew.

I read these compact essays with (as Pinchbeck describes) an open yet skeptical mind. More open as he discusses the financial meltdown and the need for a new way of thinking about money, more skeptical when he veers into thoughts on aliens.

On money: “We tend to forget that money is a social agreement, not a natural thing. If basic trust in our institutions evaporates, money, in its current form will become worthless.”

On capitalism: “One problem with capitalism is that it is not self-sufficient, but depends on the constant availability of new markets, forcing expansion by creating ever-increasing amounts of debt.”  This left me with the visual of a snake swallowing its tail.

After I finished reading this thought-provoking book a slight spiritual malaise clung to me. The problems we face financially, politically, globally, environmentally seem overwhelming. The political gridlock pushes me from overwhelm to outright despair at times. Then I remember Gandi’s advice to be the change you wish to see in the world comes to me and I can breathe again. I remember that I can tend to my little corner of the world and that those good intentions and actions will ripple out into the world.