For a week or two, or in the odd case of extraordinary perseverance maybe a month, you have the highest ambitions for what you will achieve this year—the healthy diet, the three times weekly exercise, the daily writing—and then your will power invariably tapers off and to hell with all the good intentions.
And every time, it will leave you depressed and disappointed with the goddamn slacker that you have again proven to be.
So I really liked it the uplifting New Year’s post my friend and Gateless Writing founder Suzanne Kingsbury posted on her Facebook page for her Gateless Salonistas.
Not being a fan of the restrictive “resolutions” scheme, she instead suggested to make the New Year all about absolution: “Freedom, release, indulgence, clemency, mercy. … See what happens when you write from that unbound, enchanted place. I imagine in this divine space every single goal you thought you wanted will be blown into a million beautiful pieces and come back to you as better gifts, packages tied with golden ribbons of exquisite possibility.”
(Yes, that’s how she writes and thinks, and it’s contagious, and that’s why she is such an amazing writing coach. You should check out one of her retreats or, if you live nearby, attend one of her weekly writing salons.)
Okay, so bliss and freedom and absolution it was—I vowed to treat myself better this year, which in itself is not such an easy task sometimes if you’re a freaking perfectionist. But the principle is enticing, and once you get going, there’s liberation hidden behind Door #2.
Didn’t get all your chores done? Forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Starting to write a New Year’s Resolutions blog post on January 20? Forgive yourself and get going now.
Now, now, it all seems to be about the Now… being present instead of living in the past, regretting things done or not done or not done properly, or fretting about the future that will never arrive, that doesn’t even exist, because it’s always just “now,” today… never tomorrow. It can’t be.
I used to be pretty good living in the Now, and now I’m pretty bad at it, but I forgive myself for that too and move on. Tomorrow, I’m telling myself, I’m going to do better with my Now. Or maybe the day after…
I got another a-ha moment when on the occasion of the sky-high Powerball jackpot--$1.5 billion—Suzanne posted that everyone should share their wildest and most unabashed dreams what they would do with such a humongous lottery win.
Yachts, luxury vacations, living on tropical islands, personal housekeepers, massages every day… The dreams were piling up, so I started thinking about what I would want, and I realized that my material dreams were rather small, no matter how I fought to inflate them.
I didn’t want to spend time on a tropical island—I don’t do very well with heat and humidity, or heat in general, and sandy beaches hold no attraction for me. I don’t snorkel, scuba dive, or water ski, so there’d be nothing to do but lounging around with an umbrella’ed drink in my hand and turning over every hour to bake evenly on both sides. Which, with my fair skin, would be a very bad idea anyway. I don’t tan well—my colors are white or lobster, with little variation in between. And did I mention I get bored really easily?
How about a yacht? Same problem with boredom, I would imagine—and add to that the fact that after watching “Jaws” for the first time, I never felt confident swimming in the ocean again. Getting eaten by sharks is one of my “10 Ways I Would Hate to Die,” and it’s pretty close to the top.
So one by one, I was ruling out the things most other people would consider the best of the best. Turned out that my lottery dreams were all about independence. I would:
- Not have to work for other people anymore
- Have enough money for a secure retirement (though I’m always wondering what I really have to retire FROM… I love writing and editing; I do it even if I don’t have to, so why would I ever give that up?)
- Pay off the mortgage and own our house free and clear
- Have a second home in a place like Sedona, to spend the long winter months that here in Vermont can get pretty oppressive if you’re not a skier or snowboarder
- Travel more—visit Europe and take my son to show him the world
- Attend every workshop and retreat I want (because learning new things and meeting new people in a closed-group setting is MY idea of a nice vacation)
But that’s just about it. I was stunned. I truly had no bigger dreams than that?
And then it hit me. These were MY big dreams:
- Finish the middle-grade and YA novels I already started
- Finish the non-fiction book that’s been sitting on my hard drive waiting to be finished because I felt I’d have to erase all imperfections from my life before I could be a good example for others
- Get a great book deal
- Get an even better book deal
- Get so successful that publishers engage in bidding wars for my books, and bookstores fill up when I do a signing
And every single one of these big dreams was something that could only come true with talent and elbow grease and creativity—not by throwing money at the problem.
In other words, none of the things I REALLY wanted could be bought. That was a true wake-up call for me.
It also means I can start making them happen right now… taking baby steps and always remembering to forgive myself for not living up to my expectations, to use the small awareness bubbles throughout the day to feel the bliss. Seems like a pretty good New Year’s Resolution to me.