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Monday, February 1, 2021

My Goals Have Been So Good for Me, I'm Making More!

I just ended my best month ever since the death of my son. (I suppose every superlative will always have to be qualified now with a "before-or-after-my-son's-death" extension, because I am two different people in those divided worlds.)

But let me not get maudlin; I am here to share a reason to celebrate. It’s been four years and four
months since my son died, and last month – despite an attempted mob-coup and the choke hold of our national anxiety as we awaited the Biden-Harris inauguration--was the best month I’ve had since Kyle’s death. I felt productive and fully present, as if I were firing on all cylinders for the first time since my loss. I feel happy. It turns out keeping one's promises to oneself feels really good.

I had set out at the beginning of 2021 to live more “a life of the mind,” to waste less time scrolling and acquiring things and to spend more time reading, writing and reflecting. I also knew I needed to start planning the launch of my book (a poetry collection about the loss of my son to addiction and overdose), which goes into pre-sales with Finishing Line Press on March 29th. 

"I've done it!" I said to my wife yesterday in triumph. "I had an incredible life of the mind this month!" 

"Really?" she replied. "Are you sure? You don't feel you have to spend too much time cooking?"

Which just shows you how kind and encouraging of my goals she is.

(Don't tell her, but I have actual fun, often listening to an audiobook, as I prepare our dinners. Who ever dreamed I would be able to eat food that tasted this good every day? Who even knew there *was* food that tasted this good? And how awesome that I know how to create it and am privileged to be able to afford it. As someone who felt I was giving my kids a balanced meal when I heated up a bag of frozen peas to serve with boxed mac and cheese, I'm really proud of myself for the fresh, healthy mix of meats and veggies I whip into meals now.) 

Anyway, over the month of January:
  • I read and listened to lots of books – the best of which were Machines Like Me by Ian MacEwen,
    for which I am leading a Forbes book group on Feb. 8th, The Cold Millions by Jess Walter, and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  
  • I wrote lots of pages of poetry, essays and journal entries. If you would like to see my favorite poem I wrote over the past month, please subscribe or send me an email. (I can't share poems on my blog or they're considered published, but if you promise not to share, I can send one to you.) 
  • I signed up to take a five-week short-story course that started the last week of January, and as a result read a Raymond Carver short story, "Cathedral," for the first time. (What a pleasure.)
  • I attended multiple workshops and poetry presentations, some of them breathtakingly good, including hours spent live-listening to Jane Hirshfield, Jo Harjo, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Natasha Threthewey read their work.
  • I watched an energetic workshop by John Sibley Williams on submitting poems that inspired me to send out a dozen submissions last week, which made the encouraging rejection letter I just received today a little less hard to take. (And now, the workshop taught me, I should send out two more submissions in response: one back at the rejector with new poems, and one to send the rejected poems somewhere else.) I highly recommend this workshop, which you can see here.
  • I received an acceptance of a poem about my boobs that I’ve been trying to get published for years! Now it’s going into Logic86’s journal about the service industry, which comes out next month. You can check out their website here.
  • I kept twice-weekly writing dates with two writing friends, giving me about 10 hours a week of scheduled writing time with witnesses, and I launched a new monthly writing date with another friend.
  • I agreed to write two poetry reviews, volunteered to host a Florence Poets Society event on April 28th for all of the members with new books out, got myself scheduled to be the featured reader at a Straw Dog Writer’s event on Sept. 7th, and have been invited to be the opening act for one of the members' book launches on May 26th.
  • I submitted an application to be a featured poetry reader in Phosphorescence, a new Emily Dickinson monthly series launching this year -- and I found out I'm having an interview published with Kenyon Review in their online "Poetry Today" column. (!!)
  • Renee and I decided to run for local town government positions, and we sent away for the paperwork we need to gather signatures. I’m running for library trustee and Renee is running for select board.
  • I started tracking daily goals and habits in a bullet journal, which I used about half the time.  A good start.
  • I played lots of bridge with my mother (and some on my own and with Larry). And although I’m apparently still a really terrible player (based on my coming in near last most of the time no matter who is my partner), I must be learning something! (Right?)
  • I had online game nights with friends and family, arts and crafts and nature time with Jamie (below, who took me on several adventures in January), and 
    some family dinners where we played new games. Renee beat my ass at Scrabble (and more importantly, sweetly agreed to play Scrabble with me though I don’t think she loves the game). 
  • I had therapy every week to help me keep working on setting better boundaries. Better boundaries mean more time for this life of the mind I’m building. Boundaries are easier to keep when they help me reach concrete goals. 
  • I have begun working on an article about post-traumatic growth, which I just learned is not a concept familiar to all PTSD sufferers, which seems a shame
Not everything was about the mind last month. I also took care of my body:
  • I continued to do Yoga with Adriene every single day, which is keeping my body mostly pain-free. (As I said to the doctor at my annual physical last month, “If I’d known how great the return on investment would be on just 20 to 30 minutes of yoga a day, I would have started doing this years ago.” )
  • I flossed most days and recovered from losing a tooth. Those two items are connected. I wish I’d done more of the former to prevent the latter.
  • I started using a daily tincture that is working on my winter sadness like a miracle.
I’m also excited by what I did not do:
  • I did not use Buy Nothing at all (nor did I miss it), though I did enlist my wife to get rid of a few surplus items. Renee is invested in my getting rid of things, so I knew she’d be willing to help them find a new home. However, I’m pretty sure I am not increasing her fondness for the use of the Buy Nothing Facebook page, which is fine.
Now I have a confession: my meta-awareness of how I was spending my time this month helped reveal  one more area in which I am still a bit of a hoarder of free things: I have a frightening number of library books checked out, on hold, downloaded or in stacks all over my house. The audiobooks and ebooks are OK, because they disappear when their time runs out (leaving me half done with several books I have to keep taking out again.) But the number of library books in my house is out of control. I cannot possibly return all of them on time and still get them read. So… I have made the decision not to take out any more library books until every one of these is read. I know this may sound like a small goal to many of you (and will result in an anxiety-provoking number of late fees wracking up, though I know they’ll all be wiped out when the books go back), but I have been hoarding library books all my life (since early childhood), always feeling the need to take home great big stacks of every book I see that I could possibly want to read… and if I can learn to take out just one or two at a time, that will be an accomplishment.  

Also, while I’m confessing my book crimes, I have one borrowed book I haven’t been able to bring myself to return because I keep thinking I’ll finish it; I’m going to send a new copy to the kind lender who must think I am never giving that book back. You know who you are, Britt, and I’m sorry. 

Finally, my added goal for February is to do two blog posts a week. That way they’ll be shorter than this one. If you’re still reading, God bless you. 

How are you all doing on your New Year’s resolutions?


  1. Let the record reflect that I almost NEVER beat you at Scrabble, so that was crazy. <3

  2. I am very proud of you both. xoxo

  3. Wow Lanette- I read about all you have accomplished and your ambitious goals and I feel like the laziest person on earth! You are such a dynamo! Go get'em.

    1. Ha! You are one of *my* inspirations, so I don't think so. But hey, why does it say this comment is from Barbara Upton and Beth Dulay. Are you two people on Blogger?

  4. I have no friggin' idea.
    Beth and I started the blog- Hudson Valley for No GMOs I told you about today that disappeared. It's my google email- so maybe that has something to do with it? Anyway- you are inspiring.

  5. What an amazing month. And may I borrow this intention? "to live more “a life of the mind,” to waste less time scrolling and acquiring things and to spend more time reading, writing and reflecting." I love it an awful lot.


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