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January 2, 2009

Happy New Year 2009!

Los Angeles is cold and shrouded today, a big thick blanket of heavy fog is just sitting on downtown and the valleys and it feels toasty inside and wintery out. New years start out one way and end another... but this one especially, I think. This year is starting out with fog (metaphorically, too) but by the end of 2009 we could be anywhere, most likely we'll all be someplace better than we are right now. It's kind of exciting to know anything at all could happen. It's kind of exciting to think the stock market might go back above 9000 or that the side-ponytail could come back in style or that California might go bankrupt and the Valley could secede not just from Los Angeles but the whole state and think of all the jokes we can tell about that one!

The beginning of a new year is exciting anyway just because it's such a nice way to mentally dump the old stuff that's broken and not working, and take on some new stuff that feels hopeful and possible. Usually at the end of the year I make a whole list of resolutions, I love them, I love lists. I waited until the year officially began this time around, mostly because I've been traveling and busy and visiting with my family and working and so it took me a while to find a stretch of uninterrupted time to just sit and think and write about my hopes and ideas and wants for the next year.

People are so funny about New Year's Resolutions. Some folks think they're laughable, some folks get really stressed out at the mention. Me, I just love goals and lists and thinking of changes to make. Goals aren't really what they used to be -- I used to check things off on a list and wonder why I was still so unfulfilled, so unhappy. Now my goals are just a way to move me through life, from here to there, and when I get "there" I already have new goals, new things to do and see and think about. Nothing ever really gets finished and thank God! Because it seems to be working -- I mean I'm still alive, still coming back for more, still making lists!

So this is my Big List For 2009. It seems to be largely cliche-based, which is funny since I do love a finely tuned platitude. I think 2008 was the year I learned that common sayings are common for a reason -- eventually they come true, they come to mean something real.

Big List of New Year's Resolutions 2009

1) Listen to my instincts. They're always right.
This is something I already knew of course, but in 2008 I got a whole new complex addendum to the "listen to your instincts" cliche. When you are faced with some kind of challenge in real life and you have to weigh your instinctual desire against the conflicting desires of others, you get an opportunity to know yourself real quicklike. One way or another.

There was that whole magazine incident back over the summer, where I felt myself getting cornered into something I was not at all comfortable with. And in the end if I had just listened to myself at the very beginning and not tried to please others, not tried to be The Good Girl, or be so polite, or be so focused on what others want I probably could have made than incident last a few short minutes instead of drag out mercilessly over the span of weeks. Lesson learned.

And later in the year it happened again, a situation where I should have listened to my instincts but I tried to talk myself into something. Dumb, really. I met a guy and just a few months into our relationship something happened that set off my radar. And I should have just listened to myself, just ended it right then and there. But maybe I liked the idea of the relationship, and I made some excuses for him ("We just have different styles of communication, I guess...") or maybe I thought I was being too hard on him. "You're not a very forgiving person," he said to me, when I confronted him about the incident. And of course when people are trying to talk you into something, especially by trying to guilt you into a thing, that's a dead give-away you should proceed with extreme expediency to the nearest available exit.

But did I listen immediately, trust myself without fail? Oh Lord. Would we be having this conversation if I did? No, I fell for it, I wanted to be such a Good Girl like usual, be a nice person, give him the benefit of the doubt. And as usual, my gut instinct was right on target and it was only a few more weeks before I wanted out so completely that I couldn't believe I had ignored my own instincts again.

It's not that dramatic of a thing, really, just some goofy thing with some guy. But had I ended it the moment it felt wrong, I sure could have saved us both a lot of trouble! Just like the magazine interview, just like so many other things that are too numerous to list all in one day. My instinct told me what to do and I ignored myself because ... why? To be pleasing? To be nice? So people would like me? So I wouldn't feel bad for saying no, or saying good-bye or saying what I wanted? That is INSANE.

What a pain in the ass all of these incidents were -- but they taught me everything I need to know about listening to myself. I have taken that class and now I am done, I do not want to repeat Remedial Instinct Listening 101 -- again. And so it's my job to listen to myself and follow my instincts and stop doubting myself. Which brings me to 2009 Resolution #2...

2) Ditch the doubt.
Drew keeps reminding me that doubt is about as useless an emotion as you can come by, because it just robs you of happiness. But I am so naturally skilled at doubting and worrying that it has taken me a long while to realize that perhaps I could do without it. Perhaps I should perfect some other skills, like yodeling or eye-shadow application. They'd be about as useful for life skills.

Whatever you end up doing -- or deciding, or choosing or making -- gets you to where you are and it's always where you're meant to be, somehow or another. So why spend time and energy doubting every single step along the path?

Instead of doubting my choices and ideas and instincts and decisions, in 2009 I'm going to just lean into my life and see what happens. When I start doubting my choices I've decided I will deliberately switch the topic in my mind, immediately and with great fervor. I know myself -- I can think thoughts so obsessively that they start thinking me! So I picked a little mental fantasy that I just love, and I decided every time I start doubting myself and my decisions and my words and my blah blah blah on and on and on... I will switch deliberately to my little mental fantasyland picture and stay there until my doubt seeps out and is replaced by something else. Or I will read a book or watch some really engrossing movie or go for a run or anything at all to change the channel of doubt and worry I can get on. This is the year I switch that channel off for good. I'm just so tired of preemptively worrying about things that never get solved from worry and doubt anyway. It's time to move on.

3) Financially: keep on keeping on with good choices!
Last year I made the decision to drop out of consumerism. I have had many periods in my life where I was so broke I just couldn't shop or spend -- you know when you're too broke to even window shop? That was me after my divorce! So in the years that followed my divorce I worked so hard to get out of debt that once I finally got out I decided I wanted to stay debt-free. Forever.

Last year in May I made the crazypants decision to buy no more nonessential stuff for the rest of the year (you can read about that here and a little more about it right here). I think I did pretty well, overall (and I'll write more about this another day next week, because finances are a big topic for everyone this year.) My goal for 2009 is to keep up with my new spend-less-buy-less habits. I would much rather save my money and spend it on travel and seeing the world than buy magazines and dishes and clock radios and doodads. I am hugely fortunate to have my job and my savings and my money choices in the past few years have been good ones. I'm really proud of myself -- I'm not perfect, there have been new shoes from time to time -- but for the most part I have really managed to stick with my spending moratorium and it feels great, it feels sustainable, it feels like the right thing to do for me.

All the travel analysts and news sites claim that 2009 is going to be a great year for travel deals and I can already see how right on these predictions are. I search for travel deals like some people search for dates on match.com, and I can tell you that prices are down almost by half from where they were just six or eight months ago. If you do have the means, this is a good year to get going and see some new things. I want to try something new this year, something adventurous and who knows where I'll end up. I love traveling by myself -- it's so much fun to just do any old thing YOU want to do and not spend all that time focused on someone else's wants or needs or preferences or schedule or stomach or tastebuds or anything at all. I know there are folks out there who cannot imagine traveling alone. I used to be one, and now I cannot imagine why I waited so long to do it!

5) Focus on well-being, even if everything else gets pushed aside.
Last year I got very, very sick. It started in 2007, really, and by the end of my book tour I was so worn down and worn out that I started suspecting something might be amiss. I think I knew even then it was something more than just being tired or over-worked. It took almost an entire year to figure out what the issue was, and by the end of July of this past year I was sicker than I've ever been, and exhausted, and depressed and scared half to death I was falling apart. In late August I finally found out what the HELL was going on with my body and since I've made some changes to my lifestyle and my diet I've seen the craziest turnaround ever. I had felt so bad for so long I didn't even know what feeling good meant, and so when I started getting healthy again it was like the daylight arrived in what used to be a very dark and depressing room.

I don't share a lot of private stuff online (well, my whole divorce, but I was crazy then and no one was reading), and anyway my health situation wasn't something I wanted to talk about with anyone, even in my real life, and I had no intention of gabbing about it on the innernet. But now I feel so much better that I just want to keep it fresh and first (or fifth) on my New Year's List. I want to continue getting healthy, I want to appreciate the body I've got instead of fighting with it, I want to take care of myself and never let my own health and care come last again. I want to stay healthy and get healthier and be strong and well.

And I've learned that when something feels wrong with your body it's more important to address that challenge than anything else on your list. The commute, the job, the commitments, the bills, the housecleaning ... all of that stuff is just details, they're just topics. Your health is your gift to yourself. Everything falls into line when you're well. Even the crap that doesn't fall into line is easier to deal with when you're well! Every day I wake up and feel grateful that the light came on, that I found my way to feeling good, that I made the changes I had to make and am still doing it. I like this vantage point a whole lot better than the sick and sad one. I plan on staying well and getting even better.

- - -

So that's my list. I feel really optimistic about 2009, and of course you know I have lots of to-do lists and goals and little things, too, scribbled in my notebooks and on post-its and in binders of lists. My headstone will be a list, ya'll know it's true.

But I decided not to make 2009 about details and topics and logistics. For the most part I just want to focus on hope and health and prosperity (which means something new to me now, it doesn't come from a mall) and I want to lean into my life with a little trust that I'll do the right thing without so much time wasted on doubt and worry. In 2008 I learned that even if 100 things are going wrong you can still find one thing going right. And when I would think about the 100 screwed up things I would feel bad, and worried and anxious. But when I just thought about the one thing that's actually working, I would feel better. So I stopped making lists of what was broken and started making lists of what was working. It didn't fix the 100 broken things, but they seem a lot less urgent, a lot less scary.

Just find one thing that's going right and run with it, that's what 2009 will be for me.

Happy New Year!!!

Posted by laurie at January 2, 2009 2:31 PM