Monday, January 5, 2009


Every year for as long as I can remember I've made New Year's resolutions. And have mostly kept them, at least for the better part of the year.  But by September or October I've often relapsed on a couple of them, so when I look at my past journals, I find myself making the same resolutions, year in and year out, for most of my adult life.  It's like I have this battery that goes and goes and then it runs out of juice and I don't replace it.  So I lose the same 10 pounds every first six months of the year that I then gain back the second half of the year and resolve to lose again the next January.  And I resolve once again to write more regularly and with more discipline.  And not to bite my fingernails, which grow the first six months and somehow disappear the last half.

In addition to the resolutions to lose weight  (translated in later years as "have a more healthy lifestyle") and write more, I also have social and spiritual categories that have varied a bit over the years depending on the situation:  I almost always resolve to make some small change to lessen my environmental footprint, to have more patience and be kinder to everyone I come in contact with, and to set firmer boundaries with my son or in some cases a lover.  I will be a better mother, I resolve, a better citizen, a better dog and cat owner.  

There are some who make fun of New Year's resolutions (almost every man I have ever been with),  but I like to think of them as annual opportunities for taking stock of our lives, for reflecting on what's gone wrong, and of beginning again.  It's like a new blanket of snow, a new narrative you can create to inspire and nurture your spirit.  I suppose my own resolutions are pretty boring; the only interesting thing to me about them over the years is how  my physical health and my writing health seem connected in my mind.  When I am not attending to my health I'm also not attending to my writing life.  Both take a kind of mindfulness that can't take a back-seat to anything else if you want to be successful.  So this year I've resolved to spend my first waking hours in the morning writing and working out, to remind me, in case I would forget, that I am both a writer and a body that needs to feel good about itself in order to write well. 

It's easy, as a teacher and administrator of a large writing program, to spend all my quality time with students and working on the program, and to push my own writing aside.  But when I'm disciplined I can spend that first lovely, pure hour after waking writing.  One hour a day, five days a week, is enough to produce a collection of poems or essays by the end of the year. Or a book-length memoir, which is what I'm working on right now.  

The key, I think, is to make small, regular, and disciplined changes, something writers and artists aren't always so good at doing.  But it works for me. Now I just have to figure out how to have a New Year in September so that I continue with all the great and small changes.


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