New Year’s Rulin’s

In 1942 Woody Guthrie opened up a book of ruled paper and wrote an ambitious and charming list of New Year’s Resolutions. 72 years later, these resolutions are still pretty relevant. I guess when someone is looking to improve the way they live their lives, there are bound to be common themes that never go out of style.

Normally, when the New Year comes, I don’t succumb to the trend of resolving to do things better, faster and/or more efficiently. Generally speaking, I don’t document my resolutions because I believe that making them is a way of just setting yourself up for failure. I mean, who am I kidding? I won’t lose 30 pounds, I won’t stop having diabetes, I won’t stop living paycheck to paycheck and I won’t write the next award-winning play/novel. Does that make me a realist or does it make me a pessimist bound to fulfill her own prophecy? Hard to tell.

This year, I’m going to do things differently. Why the hell not? 2016 sucked balls. 2016 sucked big, hairy, smelly moose balls. Dreams died, people failed me and, even worse, I disappointed myself. Thankfully, I have the ability see the silver lining: I am employed, I have a roof over my head, my family is awesome and, for the most part, I’m healthy. But this year, as I’ve done in years past, I didn’t eat lobster or crab legs on New Year’s Eve because apparently, it’s bad luck. Also, I saved the pork and kraut for tomorrow, because eating it for the first meal of the New Year allegedly brings good luck. (Can you tell I love food?) So, whilst in my rebellious state of mind, I decided that I would make resolutions. Perhaps changing it up is the way to go. For what they’re worth, here they are in black and white. I hereby resolve, before one and all and in alphabetical order, to do the following in 2017:

  1. Be accountable for my actions and the impact those actions have on my life and on the lives of others.
  2. Be more honest with myself and with the people in my life. Especially myself.
  3. Be more relentless about saying “I love you” to the people that matter.
  4. Clean the basement and attic and utilize the space for something that is more effective than being a hiding place for our junk.
  5. Complain less. Comparatively speaking, I’ve got it pretty good.
  6. Do more jigsaw puzzles.
  7. Eat more fruits, vegetables and seafood. Eat less fatty meats, cheese and carbs.
  8. Eliminate jealousy from my life and realize that another person’s success does not mean that I have failed.
  9. Invite my friends into my home more often, for no special reason, and not worry about how clean the house is before I do it.
  10. Knock the socks off of the people I work with. Impress someone and get that long overdue promotion.
  11. Learn to say “no” more.
  12. Learn to sew using my sewing machine – even if it’s just basic things like placemats, pillows or the hem on a pair of pants.
  13. Let go of the need to do more and be more and realize that, for today, I’ve done the best I can, and that’s enough.
  14. Limit alcohol intake to weekends and special occasions.
  15. Lower my A1C.
  16. Master my “fancy camera” and learn how to take really good photographs.
  17. Read more books.
  18. Resist the temptation for the following behaviors on Facebook: vague booking, passive aggression, attention seeking statuses or self-deprecation. Better to say nothing at all.
  19. Save $20 a week and use the money to fund one of the following in 2015: a writer’s retreat to Oregon for myself or a short cruise with my husband.
  20. See more movies at the movie theatre with a big bucket of popcorn in my lap and someone I care about by my side.
  21. Send more handwritten correspondence.
  22. Spend no more than a half an hour a day on social media.
  23. Take more chances. Take those chances with the understanding that the answer might be “no” and that being told “no” is okay.
  24. Volunteer somewhere I am truly needed that is a place that will remind me of how blessed I am.
  25. Write every day.

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night…

While the scant eight posts I’ve made have eluded to this fact, I feel the need to proclaim to my readers early on that I am, at the core of my soul, a writer. Or, more accurately, I am a storyteller. Saying you are a writer implies that you earn your living putting words to paper. While I have, indeed, earned money for my writing skills, it is not my primary source of income. I do strongly believe, without pause, that I am a storyteller. I feel there is a tremendous importance to telling stories and there is an affinity I feel towards people that make it their life’s work to tell stories: writers, directors, performers, illustrators, cinematographers and the list goes on. I have assumed several of those roles in my lifetime and, if dreams were to come true, I would earn my living by being one or more of them.

I come from a lineage of writers. My paternal grandfather was a disciplined writer. From what little I’ve been told of his early years, his service in World War II was as a correspondent of sorts. After his service, he was an English professor and, as my father likes to tell it (with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek), my grandfather would write every day. His regimen was so rigorous that he would write only a specific number of words each day, no more, no less, even if it was mid-sentence. I asked my mother about this and she scoffed at that assessment, scoffing, I’m sure, because it came from my father and she believes that recollection is tainted marital discord or the fact that my father has a selective memory.

My father, also a writer, raised me from the age of six onward. He, too, was an English professor. He also identifies himself as a writer. To the best of my knowledge, he has published a book of poems and has had several of his plays produced but, truth be told, he is no more a writer than I am.

My father’s father was also a writer of sorts. Perhaps not a writer with a capital “W” but he had the critical element of discipline nailed. He kept journals for years. Every morning, as part of his routine, he wrote in his journals before he attended to the tasks of the day, which are still a little elusive to me.

I am 45 years old. My father is 70. My grandfathers are dead. As I see it, I am the only one that stands a chance to make a living as a writer/storyteller. Since I think 90 is a reasonable age to die, I am going to presume that I have half my life yet to live. Since the last 20 or so years of my life will likely be encumbered by illness or some other old-age malady, I think it’s safe to say that I have roughly 25 years to become a writer. A writer with a capital “W.” One that makes their living putting stories on paper.

When my mother left, my father was teaching and, as best I can tell, was in the prime of his writing career. So, there he was, a promising writer in the 70s, abandoned by his wife and left to care for two very young girls. Over the years I’ve heard several excuses for why his writing career never took off, including having to care for me and my sister, having to deal with his alcoholic wives, having to pay the bills, having to take his mother-in-law to the hairdresser, having to fill in the blank.

I love my father. I do. However, I can see the writing on the wall and I want to erase it. I want to take a gallon of Oxy Clean and wipe it away before it is written. I don’t want to be the one to say, “I could have written the great American novel if it weren’t for the fact that I have three kids, a chronic illness, a mortgage and an affinity for martinis.” Hemingway had all those things and he did it, why can’t I? Oh, wait, he shot himself. Maybe not the best example. But at least he won the Nobel Prize before ending it all. The point is that I don’t want to blame my lack of fortitude on anyone or anything. Instead, I want to push through it.

Writing is a discipline. It is easy to find an excuse not to write. From what I gather, the great writers of our time write in the morning, before the follies of the day take hold. Perhaps that is the key. Perhaps I need to stand up while writing. Or apply some sort of “stream of consciousness” exercise to get the juices flowing. Some of my favorite contemporary writers have habits similar to the greatest writers of all time, so there must be something to it, don’t you think?

Can I commit to setting the alarm for 5:00am and write 500-1,000 words before the rest of the household awakens? Tomorrow, I will set my alarm. While it isn’t with the specific task of writing in mind, it will be to head to the city to spend the day in a creative writing workshop and being inspired by art and artists that speak to me.

Tomorrow I am winning. Because tomorrow I will be writing.