Friday, January 1, 2021

My Happier New Year Resolutions Post

My wife loves setting goals; she inspired me to set more
of my own for the new year--which we celebrated last
night by playing Jackbox games with friends on Zoom.
I was recently asked to deliver a sermon on writing one’s way through grief, which led me to read a slew of books on how writing and the creation of other expressive arts helps people find their way out of the painful darkness that will overtake nearly all of us at some point in our lives.  The sermon went well, I think, and the benefits to me of having done research into this topic are continuing.

My favorite of the books I read was twenty years old but seemed highly relevant to this moment in our world: Writing As a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives by Louise DeSalvo. The author, extensively quoting research by James Pennebaker on how much better people feel if they develop a practice of writing about their emotions, reminded me that if I commit this year to write just five pages a week, I will wind up with more than 250 pages by the end of the year, enough to constitute a small book. I have determined to set and keep that writing goal, even if each week’s five pages aren’t going to add up to anything, let alone a book. Five pages of journal entries, poems, letters to friends, blog posts, parts of a short story--all the pages I write will count. And I will hope to devote at least 30 minutes to writing six days out of seven; four days a week I already have writing dates with accountability buddies, which helps ensure I write for two or three hours at a stretch for more than half the days.

DeSalvo quotes May Sarton’s  Journal of Solitude to encourage us to reap the benefits of steady writing: “We write not to create works of art,, but to build character, develop integrity, discipline, judgment, balance, order, restraint, and other valued inner attributes. …We develop self-mastery, which contributes to our emotional and spiritual growth.”

In other words, setting a goal to write five pages a week and keeping that goal will make me feel good about myself. Meeting any goal will enhance my belief in myself. “Seeing ourselves stick with a writing process is transformative,” DeSalvo promises, and I believe her.

This in mind, I’ve created my first bullet journal and set myself daily goals to write, floss, do yoga, and drink 64 ounces of water, and I’ve set myself the weekly goals of one-hour  devoted to card and letter-writing and one hour devoted to submitting my work for publication. 

I’ve also committed to scroll less--to take a book with me into the bathroom instead of my phone, for one thing, to take Facebook off my phone, for another. I can’t make myself give up Facebook entirely (at least not yet) as this month I’ve made a 30-day poetry commitment with an online group, Dive Into Poetry, which requires us to share our poems on that platform. And there's a Facebook page I love for  women and non-binary poets that sets a 100-rejections-a-year goal to help us keep our sense of humor about the odds against having our poetry accepted anywhere.

In one of the most important commitments I've made to reclaim my time for a life of the mind, I've committed to giving up the use of Buy Nothing, a Facebook page through which I give and receive free items such as books, shoes, clothing and home furnishings. I have obtained many, many items in my home, hundreds of items that I cherish, from fellow members of this group. I have brought meals to sick members, made pick-ups and drop-offs for those with no cars, given away rather than sold anything of mine that no longer serves us, made several friends in my community through our shared use of the site. But mainly I have acquired material objects and taken to compulsively scrolling the Buy Nothing page to ensure I see an object being given away as soon as it's posted, as quicker respondents get the most gifts. But I already have more than enough material items; I could die without ever acquiring another non-edible item and still live a full, happy life. Continuing to acquire things will not make me happy. And therefore, I must recognize my Buy-Nothing compulsion as just an addictive distraction and give it up to do more of what I know will feed my soul,

In my previous post, I made a resolution, which I thought would be my only one, to give up my self-pity about my granddaughter, who hasn’t been allowed to see me nor anyone in my dead son’s family since February of 2019, Just putting that resolution in writing made me feel it was already accomplished. I have accepted and released Maggie and her future to the universe, though I still hope someday she’ll find me. I accept that there’s nothing I can do anymore to hurry this process nor pressure Maggie’s mother into letting Maggie know us, so I am happy to turn my energy to things more within my control-- like writing five pages a day. Avoiding wallowing in self-pity will require me to focus my energy on other matters, which, along with my wife's excited love of goals, is part of what prompted me to make these additional resolutions. And here, today, are pages one and two of this week's five pages – which means I’m already 40% done with my top goal for the week. Not bad for day one.

What do you hope to get done in 2021? I'd love to hear your goals in the comments.  Happy 2021, everyone! 

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