I spent the last moments of 2018 finishing the novel that refused to be. It was rough. Ugly. A Hail Mary effort to have something to show for a year that was full of stress and fear and a pressing sense of deep unease. And, it worked. Kind of. Just as the neighborhood erupted in celebratory fireworks, I wrote the last words of a draft I honestly did not think I would ever finish. Then I went to bed, exhausted by the work and the doubt, yet exhilarated by the knowledge that what I thought was going to work won’t because now I understood why. Now I can do something about it. I have hope – maybe only a smidge, but hope just the same. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in quite a while.
I allowed 2019 to ease in without a lot of fanfare, hoopla, resolutions, or even my traditional goal-setting session. I spent the first week of 2019 resting. I read. I fiddled with end of the year tasks. I ran errands, rediscovered old TV shows, watched the snow fall, and even worked out a bit. And I didn’t set a single goal or make a single plan.
I already know what I want do and what I want to accomplish. The list hasn’t changed. But one thing I’ve learned in the last year and a half is something the poet Robert Burns knew long ago – that“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” I’ve also learned that so many of my goals rely heavily on things outside of my control. So, instead of making goals, I listed what mattered to me in the world. The reasons I sit at my keyboard every day. The things I’m trying to do with my writing. The actions that make me feel like I’m on the right path.
I hope to remember what matters to me this year and to shape my days accordingly. To ease-up, on myself, on my desires, on my day-to-day worries, and even on those around me.
A friend reminded me of a poem this week. One that lives on my refrigerator as a reminder of a brave and unconventional way to be in the world. I’m moving the poem from my refrigerator to my desk this week. I’m moving my energy from desperation to ease.
And, I’m taking Louise Erdrich’s wonderful advice to “Leave the dishes.”
Maybe you will too.