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December 28, 2012

My favorite time of the year

The little space between Christmas and New Year's Day is my favorite time of the entire year. I love the possibility that comes with a fresh start. And is there any bigger fresh start than a whole new calendar year?

This is the time when you can let go of all the ways you goofed up or failed or fell behind because you're thisclose to starting all over again. That's how I think of the new year, a reboot, a clean slate, a fresh start.

I usually make resolutions because the only thing I love more than the promise of a new year is the hope-filled temptation of a new list. Some years my lists have been long and detailed, some years my resolutions are just a concept or a single word (or four).

Next year -- also known as "three days from now" -- I've decided to use my life as a little personal science experiment. I vow to spend the 365 days of 2013 doing all the things I keep saying I'm going to do but haven't gotten around to. If I discover that a certain task or activity comes up and I have the deepest urge to postpone or avoid it, I'm going to finally cross it off my life's to-do list and stop carrying it around. Or I might outsource it, or scale it down, or figure out why I'm avoiding it but there is no more postponing. This year is about transforming my day-to-day life not with grand gestures or Big Dreams or radical life changes. It is about finishing what I started and holding myself accountable for all the things I say I want.

Two months ago we hired on a temporary project coordinator for the Art Department. Our schedules had become hectic and projects were rolling in with no tracking and if you have ever worked with a group of artists you may know that we are not the best at things like "budget guidelines" and "email" and "tracking project hours using a spreadsheet." The new coordinator is a tiny little woman who lives on a houseboat and wears Uggs and laughs easily. Entertainment isn't her chosen field and I think we're driving her crazy, but she puts up with us. She's in her mid-fifties and we sit near each other and chat a lot, I like her. We're in different stages of our lives but we're both entering a year of Big Change.

The day before the studio closed for the holidays we were chatting about the break and our plans and she told me something that I can't shake.

"I decided to go to Arizona for the holidays," she said. "I have friends there that I just love and I need to be around them and start looking for a home and a new job -- a permanent place in my field that I feel right about. So I'm going."

"Wow," I said. "That's quick. That's ... tomorrow."

"If I don't do it now, then when?" she said. "I know one thing for sure, if I stay here the months will turn into years and before I know it, three or four years will have gone by and I'm still not where I want to be."

She paused for a minute. Then she looked at me and said, "I don't want to wake up one day and find out I'm 60 years old and I spent the last five years in limbo, just waiting to be happy."

This little off-hand conversation has stayed with me every day since. She's right -- days turn into weeks and months and before you know it you've been living in a temporary apartment for 21 months and putting off finishing your book because you're scared of sucking and working for someone else for 12 hours a day instead of writing.

Wisdom comes when you most need it.

I spent most of last night working on my list, drafting a schedule with tangible dates and little rewards (and a few big rewards) for accomplishment. Planning for a year this way sounds like hell to some folks, but it makes me feel happy and a little overwhelmed and a bit scared and a lot relieved. Mostly I feel hopeful. I'm at my worst when I'm avoiding stuff and ignoring my to-do list or not making a list at all. I'm at my best when I push myself, motivate myself, and keep a schedule. I'm at my best when I'm making an effort.

These next three days are my time to eat, drink, be merry and thankful. It's also my time to be quiet and still and make the list of everything I want to do "someday" and set about a plan to make it happen or take it off the list forever.

If I don't do it now, then when?

You could feed me now.

Posted by laurie at December 28, 2012 10:15 AM