Monday, January 1, 2018

Resolute, 2017 Edition

Every year, I post last year's New Year's resolutions with a short analysis of how well I think I succeeded at them, and then I post this year's. So, here are last year's (in greater detail here):

1. Stay calm. A draw, I think. My equanimity grows with each passing year, and I perceive this as a less-passionate and totally preferable way to live. But I lost my cool a couple of times this year, and I lost my temper in private. I will say that the emotional aspects of my PMS worsened really badly in 2017 (like, from 2 out of 10 to 8 out of 10), and I wish I could figure out how to mitigate that.

2. Get off Facebook. No, really, I mean it. Fail. I'm going to stop making this resolution. Every time I really step away from Facebook, my emotional health improves measurably, but I miss important events in my friends' lives and my self-promotion falters. The friends and the promotion matter too much to me right now to make that trade.

3. Stay a healthy distance from smug. Success. Visibly walking the middle politically proved impossible this year, so I tried instead to keep my mouth shut to avoid hurting others. This isn't everyone's best solution, but it is mine.

4. Go toward the crazy, weird, awesome, instinctual. Big success. All of my happiest results personally and professionally came from this choice.

I've already meditated on what 2017 was like for me as a writer. 2018 will mark my seventh year keeping this blog. I don't know how that happened. I look back and all those little bits have added up to something.

I think that's the shape of a life, too.

For the last couple of years, I've had a difficult time coming up with resolutions, but man, this year's were easy.

1. Hustle. Keep up the momentum I've built as a writer in 2017. Working a little bit all the time will be better for me, better for making things happen continuously on the long line between words on the page and publication. I've begun rolling down the hill and I don't want to swerve off into one of those runaway truck ramps and come to a halt in a flurry of sand and ignominy. (Even though I've always wanted to, less metaphorically, swerve off into one of those runaway truck ramps in my car, just to see what would happen.)

2. Keep to my own rhythms. After we got back from the UK I took on the habit for a week or so of two sleeps. I went to bed at a laughable hour, like 7:30, and then woke up in the wee hours and read or wrote for a few hours, and then went back to sleep until 7 or 8. It was great. I felt well-rested, the line between sleeping and waking wasn't as intimidating as it usually is, and I got a lot done. But once the jet lag wore off, and I had to get up for work at 6 again, it wasn't feasible anymore.

I sleep a lot on the weekends, especially during the day. I used to find this pathetic, lazy, and generally an excuse to beat myself up. But now I realize that I function better (I'm more creative, friendly, relaxed, focused) when I nap at some point during the day. I am just one of those people who needs more sleep. Instead of fighting this or insisting that it makes me a sucky person, how nice if I could accept it, and use it to run my life better. There's all kinds of stuff in my life like this, rhythms of my own preference that make me better when I keep to them.

3. Fight fear. I've gotten pretty good at courage in the face of anxiety over the last few years, especially since the first Ojai workshop. I don't find myself victim to fear too often, but I do still feel it in my body on a regular basis, and that is something I can battle against. There's no reason to be afraid of asking for what I want or need, whether it's publication or more ice in my tea.

4. Plan better on a small scale. Planning down to the minute doesn't work for me. Even planning down to the hour is too granular. I get resentful and self-sabotage and nothing whatsoever gets done. But leaving things wide open (so I feel free, instead of feeling trapped) overwhelms me and makes me waste the whole day. It's a fiddly balance to strike and I think, through trial and error, I've finally gotten the process down:
  1. Decide what to do in the morning and what to do in the afternoon [on non-work days]. General goals for four-hour blocks seem right. E.g. "read particular book" in the morning and "write x, y, and z pitches" in the afternoon. 
  2. Keep the goals small, even underwhelming. 
  3. If you feel good/productive, keep going, and accomplish something unexpected (e.g. "do laundry") (because there's always laundry). 
  4. If you fail, do not do not do not yell at self. 
The last step is the most important, because yelling at myself wrecks the entire thing. I get so caught up in how much I suck that I can't keep my plans for the next block of time and I just play solitaire and eat cheese. Which makes me feel like I suck. Which takes me into the next block of time.

I'm recording this not just because I hope it helps you, but also because I need to see this strategy put down in detail in a place I can refer to all year to make myself stick to it.

5. Give myself credit for hard work. These resolutions are much nicer to myself than in past years. It's almost as if I'm learning not to be so hard on myself. Almost as if that had been the primary focus of my therapy since around 2015. Hm.

Anyway, this resolution has to do with not chalking my successes entirely up to luck, or circumstances outside my control. Luck is an integral part of success, as is privilege and talent and other things not determined by one's own will or mettle. But I believe hard work is more than half of success, and possibly a much greater proportion of greater successes. People have said about Marilyn Monroe and Tom Cruise (whatever you think of him) - and probably a number of other exceptionally famous people about whom I haven't specifically read this - that yeah, they had It, something intangible and predestined, but they also worked harder than the reporting person had ever seen anyone work. That always made me feel better about how stardom happens. Hard fucking work.

So yeah. I worked hard in 2017. Luck and privilege and talent had plenty to do with the visible results, but I think hard work had more to do with it. If you know the right people and catch the right wave of the zeitgeist, you can get mediocre books published, but they'll always be mediocre. Good books come from hard work.

6. Let go, let go, let go. A couple of weeks ago, I opened a cabinet at work and found that the computer supplies I had carefully curated (because we sometimes need oddball peripherals, and I keep them in stock so I don't have to send to China for them in a rush), some of which I had been storing in order to bring a batch to the recycling center so as not to dump rare earth metals into the landfill, had all been discarded. Poof. Gone. I almost cried. My boss has been in a slash-n-burn mood lately as we prepare to expand our office, so I understood why this happened, but I was still pretty upset that she had asked someone else - someone who hadn't been in charge of the computer supplies - to clean them out.

Later I remembered that I am winding up my employment here, moving down to two days a week and then to one by spring, and there's no reason I should be so personally upset. Even though I worked hard on this curation, it's not really up to me, nor is it a credit or deficit on my character, what this office does with its supplies. Let go, Kat. This isn't yours anymore.

It's hard. I worked hard on that cabinet, little things here and there, for two years.

7. Take better care of my body and my home. Why don't I brush and floss every night? I don't know. It's not because of the time it takes, and it's not because I don't like flossing. Why don't I go for a half-hour walk after dinner? I don't know. Because I don't remember to. Why don't I put my clothes away at night instead of tossing them over chairs and on the floor? I don't know. Doing these things right takes marginally more time than not doing them at all, and forming good habits will help me live longer and prosper more. So this year I will try to form good habits on little crap like this.

8. Avoid travel. I mean, sort of. Late 2017 had so much travel in it that right now I'd be happy to not travel again until 2019, but I'm sure that'll wear off by spring and I'll return to well-I-suppose instead of no-way-no-how.

Happy New Year, readers and friends. I was happy to know you this year. Stick around and stay strong for 2018.

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