02 Jan

As I look back on the previous year’s progress, I’m left with the wish I’d accomplished more. Each year I start out strong and accomplish some things before life invariably gets in the way, sometimes as early as mid-January.

I’ve been a New Year’s resolution fanatic for decades, always eager to wipe the slate clean and make another run up that huge mountain to that imaginary pinnacle where I’ll feel satisfied. Lists, meditations, planners, intention-setting workshops—all are tools I’ve used to chart my projected path. New Year’s is my favorite holiday—and not just for the champagne or midnight kissing. It’s the sense of renewal I savor. There is nothing better than a newborn baby of a year, fresh and unsullied, its entire life, or at least 365 days, ahead.

Us humans have been practicing the resolution ritual for several hundred years, so I guess there’s something about it that we find useful. Resolutions represent hope and possibility, and in our downer times, dealing with climate grief and a pandemic stretching into eternity, we may need them more than ever.

Our society is obsessed with success, so it’s no wonder we’re all so obsessed with success. Making money, being famous, making your mark. We only have one life to life, and as the party line goes, we must life it to the fullest. Half full is a failure, half empty even worse.I’ve known for a long time that I’m goal oriented and driven. One of those people who looks forward to completing tasks in order to move on to other tasks. I’m wedded to the idea of progress. It’s been my religion. But as I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve come to realize that progress is an artificial construct, or that progress can be measured in myriad ways. And that at its root, the pursuit of progress stems from a vague feeling of inadequacy.

The pandemic has made me slightly less obsessed with progress. With more than 800,000 Covid deaths in the U.S. alone, I’m pretty much grateful to still be alive. I’m grateful for a roof over my head and food to eat, for friendships and family, creative pursuits and time to relax. And yet….There’s still something that drives me. Mainly to write everything I want to during this lifetime. And I like to think it has nothing to do with social influences or some obsession about accomplishing things. It’s more deeply rooted than that. Writing is just the thing I love most, the thing I can spend an infinite time doing and come away satisfied.

I’ve made my living as a writer most of my life. Making a living as a writer requires compromises—writing about things that are uninteresting, writing in formulaic structures and voices, stringing together sentences to make word counts or the rent or mortgage. All my working life, I’ve hoped there would come a time when I’d have the freedom to write what I want, ie, write without financial pressure. Take some risks. That freedom probably won’t come until I hit retirement. Until then, the act of juggling a full-time job with writerly dreams will continue. Getting up at 5 to write before work. Writing faster (this blog took less than an hour!) Trimming back the time wasted watching silly videos or staring out the window. And so, this year I will not focus as much on resolutions, will just keep doing what I’m doing, and celebrate what I have been able to accomplish. Because that is more than enough.

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