Saturday, December 28, 2013


The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve always feels so oddly paced. With the breathless rush to Christmas taking over so much of December (plus November and maybe October, if you're psychotically festive), and the quick turnaround to the champagne-and-President's Choice-finger-food event we know as New Year's Eve, there are only a few days to try to regain our footing in normalcy. Most of us choose to eat our way through it, resolving to start dieting or look at the credit card statement in January, when winter really sets in. Of course I'm one of these people; I can't believe you even had to ask.

I usually find myself thinking about New Year's resolutions this week: those promises we make to ourselves to become better people, to lose weight, quit smoking, stop eating so many hotdogs wrapped in puff pastry, what have you. I love resolutions, because they represent the person I want to be; I hate them, too, because inevitably I let myself down.

But 'tis the season, am I right? And since my last few large-scale experiments in lifestyle change have been relative home runs—weight loss, booze hiatuses, creative projects—I think adding some more personal challenges to the mix might be fun. And at least, in January, I have company (although by February, the gym is awfully empty once more).

I'd like to swear less. I swear a lot: when I'm cracking a joke, when I'm expressing frustration, when I'm angry, when I'm having sex. I favour the F-word, maybe because its shock value is high and it sounds exactly right when I need a word to spit out of my mouth with anger or disdain. But I'm a writer. I should be able to replace fuck with a word that expresses my sentiments without alienating my mother. And the other, lesser swear words—crap, hell, shit, damn—are low-sounding and vulgar. This is perfect when I'm a bar that has, for instance, a mechanical bull that patrons are invited to ride; or when I join a gang of rag-tag but good-hearted sailors in the 1940s. This is less appropriate when my webpage is slow to load, or when I accidentally drop a container full of lefter spaghetti squash on the floor. I need something that expresses the mundane, acutely suburban/21st century annoyance factor of those moments. Not the f-bomb.

I'd like to submit more writing. I think this is best done with measurable, concrete goals ("more" is pretty vague when my current track record is "not a lot"), so I'll put it out there that I'd like to submit at least six pieces of short fiction this year, along with at least one monthly pitch for a non-fiction or journalism market. This makes is less of a wishy-washy idea and more of a to-do list. I like to-do lists.

I'd like to keep a gratitude journal. One of the key indicators of happiness the ability to recognize joyful moments and be thankful for them. Saying "Hey, that was a really great time" is so important. When it's because of other people, thanking them—out loud, with words—for creating those moments is paramount. Sometimes, it's just important to remember that nice things happen and to pay attention. Even just taking a couple moments before bedtime to jot down a good moment enlarges the moment in the day's lens. It makes the good seem bigger.

(There are, like, three or four depressed people in my life that could probably benefit from this kind of thought exercise. It seems like every time I see them, their lives have somehow become even more hopeless and nothing good has ever happened, not even once. It's terribly selfish to admit, because depression is difficult to surmount, but those people are exhausting. They create this vacuum around themselves where nothing good can live; quite frankly, I'm never excited to enter their spheres, because there's no air in there. I'm not sure if there's a resolution in there—after all, I can't do their soul homework for them—but I can recognize the good in my own sphere.)

I'd like to continue my body work. God, what a eye-rollingly Gwyneth Paltrow phrase; what I mean is, re-commit to my successful paleo-ish diet, to lifting weights, to running, to stretching, and to dancing. I love moving my body, I enjoy working out, I like cooking, and I really like the benefits of all those things. I like my flattish stomach, my well-defined shoulders, my ability to wear short-shorts and to eat cheesecake whenever I want. Lord knows maintaining a strong and healthy body will only get harder as I get older, so laying the foundation when I was 28 was likely the best gift I ever gave myself.

I'd like to live with more art. Art is so unapologetically non-functional that it can be tough to rationalize in the face of, say, groceries, but I think its value is so high. I admire and engage with the creative process in my own life, in several facets (writing and writer's groups, knitting, stamp-making, collage, and other, more nebulously define activities), and I come from a long line of creative types. Supporting other artists in their endeavors by buying their stuff and putting up in my house is one important way of saying firmly, "I believe in the value of this work."

Successfully resolving to change depends on paying attention, to commitment, to discomfort and making different choices than the ones that feel safe. They push our boundaries, in other words, and they can be tough to pull off. But I want to try. Change is good. Changes is the place where growth comes from. Let's get a little more grown in 2014, right?