In my New Year’s resolutions, I am taking my cue from MIT friend/colleague Jessie, who frames hers this way:
I try to look at what I have wanted, but allowed myself to be distracted from; what I have enjoyed, but not prioritized; what I need, but haven’t chosen.
I’m good on tasks and short-term goals, and I get them done. In the next few days I want to finish a full draft of a project I’m collaborating on, and I will do it. In the next three months I am taking a skating test (February 3rd) and going to AWP in Boston (March 6 – 9), and I will be ready for them. I have formulated a plan for getting the tasks done that help meet the goals.
In that spirit, here are my three resolutions for 2013.
Get more rest. Once Christmas ends, I give myself over to catching up on sleep and sitting down to read or close my eyes when I feel like it. I’ve been getting 8 hours a night and chipping away at the sleep deficit. My face looks better; I feel better. Life looks rosy, and my cheeks are even noticeably pink. This is less true during the semester, when the demands of work and the kids’ routines are so burgeoning that the most expendable resource seems to be rest. And I feel a perverse pride in doing more on less fuel. Jimmy, also busy — and so many of us are — has said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” He’s tired too.
Rest is an umbrella term for many things. It’s sitting on the couch and watching good television. It’s going to bed before 11 o’clock. It’s scaling back the improvement projects. It may even be taking a non-aerobic stroll around the neighborhood, or floating in the pool instead of swimming in it. It’s sitting at the kitchen table while the kids are baking and scrolling through Spotify. It’s ignoring social media, and it’s not getting stuff done.
Enjoy more recreation. Recently I said rather contritely to my skating coach, “I don’t think I skate hard enough when I’m on my own. And sometimes I just skate and socialize with my friends.” He, a professional skater, replied surprisingly, “That’s good! You should have fun skating.” I already said above that I have a skating goal, dated February 3, so I am goal oriented in the next few weeks, but I’m making room for the fun of it too. Sometimes my friends skate at lunch; we go around and around the rink like hamsters, and we talk. This is fun. I noticed that, when the skating club meets, sometimes the old-timers socialize on the ice and do more than work on their programs; I will propose this more myself, and even last week asked another club skater to “go around a few times with me.”
This is also about family and friendship. During the semester, I see and talk to my MIT friends, and they are important to me. I see Jimmy and the kids, and same there. However, it’s easy to set old friends and wider family aside as people I’ll come back to when the task at hand is done. And I miss them. It’s not enough to email or phone them. There should be lunches, knitting dates, or walks around the block. On Labor Day, the entire Kokernak gang (minus Eli, already at UVM) did a 5K on Cape Cod, for the fun and togetherness of it all. My friend Betsy and I have tried snowshoeing and cross-country skiing together, because it’s something to do. Last summer with the kids, we went hiking in Maine, and we keep meaning to get back to it locally. I hope to see James at AWP, and for coffee excursions, in March. A neighbor of mine has invited me to sit and knit, and I keep putting her off. And I like them, the people and the activities.
Be creative in greater amounts. I write a lot, for work. I sew a lot, for mending. I drill and hammer a lot, for repairs. I do not write, sew, or tinker enough for the sheer open-ended of exploring of ideas or materials and making something that may not be necessary. I can even talk myself out of writing a poem or story or getting back to twig garden sculptures: “It would be better to use that time more effectively.”
This last resolution is the one I am most worried about, and yet it is the aspiration most tied to that inner state characterized as “flow,” which is so wonderful to be in when I am in it. It may be, in fact, that I am avoiding it, fear it, distrust it. Et cetera. The getting carried away or the not getting carried away. It is undefined; there is no underlying task necessarily. It’s more than making cinchy SmartArt in PowerPoint (which is how I made the graphic above). It is more than putting a carrot rose on a platter of little sandwiches. It would mean making something that does not currently exist. And I don’t know what that is, or if I can make it.
But if I aspire to it, I will find out what it is.