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On Life: A Manifesto

Another new year.

Jesus, it seems like Thanksgiving was only last week and now suddenly we're halfway through January already. As I get older, it seems like time gets significantly more capricious each year. It's like "I can't wait for spring / where did spring go? / Why is it so hot? / Oh God, will it ever be warm again? / How can the holidays be here already I thought it was still summer?"

 At the end of last year, I was feeling kind of lost and directionless. A bit like a paper boat that had gotten stuck in an eddy--just swirling around and around in circles, not sure how to go forward...not even entirely certain which direction WAS forward. I was feeling trapped, with no idea what to do about it. Lucky for me, a good friend did me a solid and gently lifted my little boat out of the whirlpool, dispensing some good advice and depositing me back into the stream, ready to surge forward toward the horizon. (Thanks, friend. I hope to have the chance to return the favor some day.)

Traditionally, this is the time of year to make resolutions. I generally don't bother, as they usually turn out to be things I am totally not going to do, so instead they become just one more thing to add to the stack of stuff I did not get done, which leads to guilt. And guilt is really nobody's friend. Therefore, instead of resolutions, I have some looser declarations which--like the Pirate code--are more guidelines than anything else.

1. On Writing: Last year, I didn't manage to get my Cannonball Read even close to finished. Although I continued doing the same amount of reading, I had trouble forcing myself to do the reviews. "After all," I figured, "no one is reading them, except my mom. What's the point?" The point, of course, is that goals need to be set and conquered once in a while, if for no other reason than to prove it's possible. Also, writing breeds writing (hence this blog entry). On a related note, if I DO manage to finish Cannonball Read 6, I am going to throw myself a party to celebrate.

2. On Art: When asked recently what I'd want to do if I could do anything, I surprised myself by immediately answering "Art." I've always enjoyed it, but since I left school I haven't done much with it. My reasons have mostly been about lack of time, or space, or materials, or inspiration, but clearly those are just excuses. This year, I am going to try and "art" at least once a week for an hour or two. Maybe not daily, but enough. And I am going to try new mediums, and probably inundate my hapless loved ones with sketches and comics and cross-stitches and slightly lopsided sculpey figurines of yaks. I have realized that I can't art for myself, but I am great at arting for others, so that's what I'll do. What I'll get out of it is the process of creating, exercises for a muscle I'd almost forgotten I had.

3. On Exercise: I would like to say that I am going to take up a focused exercise program and learn to love working out, but that would be a bald-faced lie. What I AM going to do is continue looking for something active that I like to do. Monday I've committed to trying a Bollywood dance fitness class. Maybe I'll like it. Maybe I won't. But I'm not going to let the possibility of a bunch of skinny, flexible people giving me the hairy eyeball keep me from trying it. If I don't like it, maybe I'll find something else I do like. And if I like it but don't like them...there's always dvds.

4. On Weddings: According to The Knot, there are exactly 499 days until the Boyfriend and I are scheduled to get married. You'd think after ten years of couplehood I'd be more than ready for it, but I must say that my feet are a little cold now and then. The idea of such a massive undertaking is daunting, particularly for someone like me who has trouble even organizing a meal where all the parts finish at roughly the same time. However, I am going to try to relax and remember that this is not about throwing the social event of the season. It is about celebrating the Boyfriend and my commitment to spending our lives together with our most beloved family and friends. It is not about aisle runners, centerpieces, sand ceremonies, passed hor d'oeuvres, unity candles, save-the-dates, or any of the other bullshit that the WIC (wedding industrial complex) is pushing. We will have the wedding we want, doing things that make sense for us, and we will put aside traditions or trappings that don't. And we will make it super fun. That is my number one priority, and I will be sure to keep that at the top of my mind when making decisions.

5. On Diets: I have decided to give up on dieting. I don't like it, it doesn't like me, and frankly it does me very little good. I will say that making an effort to eat more healthy this year (i.e. more vegetables, fewer processed foods) is on my list of things to do, as well as the aforementioned exercise. However, I am not going to count or calculate or weigh or watch. I am a fat person. I am also a healthy person--my blood pressure and cholesterol are basically perfect, my asthma's improved, and since I started taking vitamins I've been sick a whole lot less. I am not going to torture myself  anymore about my weight. I am who I am, and those who don't like it are welcome to exit stage left. Also, comments about "don't you want to be a beautiful bride?" will be met by hostility, as I would be a be a beautiful bride if I were to get married tomorrow, motherfucker, and don't you forget it.

6. On Outlook (no, not the email program): A friend recently described my personality as a "reliable little grey cloud." I am pretty sure that he meant that affectionately, but that makes it no less depressing. Nobody likes to be thought of as a rain cloud--we all want to be the sunbeam in others' lives. Now, I'm aware that he was totally accurate in that my natural personality does not trend toward sunny or optimistic, but I suspect that is something that can be learned (or at least faked with concerted effort). I also suspect that once I make the effort, it will begin to become second nature through sheer habit. This is a tough one, and I'm not sure how much progress I can make, but it's worth a shot.

7. On Openness: This last is the most difficult, but also potentially the most rewarding. It ties in with the Outlook issue, in that it's going to be a major change and will require a certain amount of brutally painful effort. This year, I intend to become more open and available to people. It should not take someone more than two (or even six or eight) years to feel as though they are friends with me. I'm not saying I plan to become a Barnacle Girl, glomming on to everyone in sight and declaring them my very bestest friend. But I should definitely be capable of making conversation and possibly arranging plans. I've been told by a number of people over the years that they would have liked to get to know me better, but that I come off very aloof. It's true; I do come off aloof, and it's both a function of genetics (my father's photo may actually be next to the word "aloof" in the dictionary) and experience (it's tough to reject someone who wasn't interested in you in the first place, after all). But I am not twelve years old anymore, and I need to stop expecting people to behave the way they did back then. Seriously, it's not brain surgery! It's "Let's hang out...okay, how about this time at this place?" God knows that once I'm comfortable with someone it's nearly impossible to get me to shut up, I just need to start opening my mouth sooner. 

And there you have it. I think seven declarations are enough for the time being. Some are easier than others, but I think all are totally manageable in context. Now it's just a matter of getting started...

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