First, I am going to say what I always say: it doesn’t matter whether or not I ever succeed in keeping to my New Year’s resolutions. What matters is that I’m in a constant state of introspection, evaluation, and improvement. I am always, always in some stage of trying to make myself better at something, better in some way. It’s the only way to approach life, with a belief that I’ve got a long way to go, but that I’ve come a long way, too. People who don’t make resolutions have no hope. They will call themselves “realistic,” but what they really are is cynical at worst. At best, they are just party-poopers, adding something like, “I don’t need the new year to inspire me to self-improvement.” Psssh. Of course you don’t NEED it. But it’s a great time for it. You can celebrate the new year on some other night than the 31st of December, but you’re just doing it to urinate on everyone else’s celebration, and we’re probably better off without you.
I feel less resolute this year than most, I think because I’ve had kind of a downer of an end to 2015. Over all, it was a great year, but it ended on a stressful note, and the self-loathing in this house was thick enough to choke on, which I often found myself (figuratively) doing.
So let’s resolve to do something about that. I already mentioned one of my goals: 75K steps weekly, possibly to be increased as the year progresses if I find it too easy to manage. I’m finding it pretty easy lately, but I walk slowly, which means this is time taken away from other stuff I might need to be doing. It’s still a bit unclear to me how I might maintain this, but I want this to be part of my lifestyle, at least until I’m back in the water on a regular basis. We’ll call this my physical health resolution.
I have very slowly been getting my house tidied. It’s taking really long, but I’m making baby steps. In recent years, I’ve tried to set schedules for having certain parts of the house tidy enough to show visitors (if ever I decide to have visitors), but that hasn’t worked, so I’m going with something more like the walking goal. Let’s call it two-and-a-half hours of tidying per week, to be increased if I find it sustainable, and this will be my mental health resolution. It averages to half-hour bursts five days per week. I’m going to go easy on myself some days, if the task I choose is especially unpleasant.
For example, the other night, I finally went through a shopping bag full of stuff R left for me. There are more than just the shopping bag, but this one was different. She was about to move to California, and I helped her clean out her house and put stuff in storage, and this bag contained some of the half-used stuff from her kitchen, stuff I typically used on a regular basis, like boxes of brown sugar, a bag of flour, and some bottles of spices.
That was more than ten years ago, and I’ve never opened the bag. I have enough experience with stuff like this (tales of horror for some other day), and I knew what I would probably find: tiny holes chewed into the plastic zippered bags, and the corpses of multiple generations of bugs that had been born in that stuff, lived their short lives there, and then died, leaving whatever was left for their progeny.
I don’t know exactly if that’s what I found or not, because I didn’t inspect the items very closely. But they are tossed out. I didn’t just toss the shopping bag and its contents in one blind swoop, in case there was something else in there (CDs I might have lent her, or some memento from some night out), but everything ended up in the trash one item at a time except for a half-consumed bottle of brandy, which I might still toss, but it deserves some thoughtful consideration before I decide.
Anyway, that didn’t take thirty minutes. It took ten years and fifteen minutes, I guess, but the real fifteen minutes of effort it took was considerable, and so I’m counting that as half an hour.
There is a third resolution, something related to creating content, but I’m not going to think seriously about it until I have my living room and hallway tidy, which will hopefully be within three weeks.
About a year and a half ago, I went through a life-change I neither wanted nor anticipated, one which I still have not detailed in this space, ‘though I have every intention of doing so once the entire thing is resolved, which it still isn’t. Just over a year ago, it looked like things were finally settling down in that one huge area of my life, but there was just one little detail that needed finishing up before I could exhale. It was anticipated by those around me who’d know that this resolution should come at any moment. They kept saying that, and it kept not happening, and I kept waiting, hanging around in this limbo I’ve referred to on multiple occasions here.
Then at the end of last year, while one piece of the resolution seemed to be appearing, the ground shifted beneath me again, completely out of my influence or desire, and not only was the ground I stood upon still in the midst of a strange limbo, the rest of the atmosphere was too, from the air surrounding me to the sky above me. It was all a bit strange.
I imagine apparating (ask a Harry Potter fan if you don’t know) to be kind of like this, minus the one-and-a-half years part of it. The whirling seems to be slowing, and I’m getting a glimpse of where I’m landing, but I’m not ready to stand up yet, and there’s still a chance (albeit a slim one) that I’ll find myself yanked somewhere else. On the other hand, if this ground will stop spinning for a moment, I may just step away from it and walk to wherever I’m going next. Other options are presenting themselves, some of them more secure than others, some more exciting than others. And for once, the more secure (which is still not really that secure) possibility is also the more exciting one.
I’ll continue to be vague until things settle down, as I’ve been saying for the past year and a half, but I do expect to emerge from this limbo within six months. Three, if I can swing it. Nine as a probable worst-case scenario.
I feel like that video game character who has to make a huge leap to safety, but has to time it just right. The ground I’m standing on is about to dissolve, but the ground to which I hope to spring hasn’t swung into reach yet. I know I’ve got a lot of leeway on this end, but the window of opportunity on the other end seems tiny. Just gotta pick my spot, I think.
My job has turned into something I haven’t had much of as a college graduate: just a job. I know how to have just a job; I’ve had several during my career as a teacher. But the just-a-job job has always been a second, side-job. Now my primary job is just a job, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, I have the time and mental energy to pursue a few other things, things I’ve neglected because my teaching gig was both a major timesuck and energysuck. This has made my life better in multiple ways, not the least of which is that it’s satisfying a long-back-burnered part of my soul. On the other, it’s not a very satisfying way to spend a third of my life, five days a week.
Thank goodness it doesn’t suck, and thank goodness I like the people. In fact, there’s really nothing bad about the job or the workplace itself. It’s just the peripherals.
This weekend is all about that paid writing I’ve been doing for the past few months. I’m trying to get ahead of schedule (yes, I know I keep promising details; I’ll continue to promise them), at which point my responsibilities will be added to, something I welcome whole-heartedly. For now, it’s a lot of my away-from-work time, including most of my weekend time, plus several nights during the working week after my regular work. I feel it getting easier, though, which is a most welcome sign.
I will also squeeze in time to catch up on some house-cleaning, and I’m going to start an enormous crockpot of beef stew, which I did two weekends ago as well. I can make ten meals out of twenty bucks worth of ingredients, usually, and in these lean days, this is key. Plus, my stew is delicious. @aipohaku sent me some DVDs and I’m hoping to watch at least one this weekend too. Netflix delivered Tiger Eyes, a film directed by Judy Blume’s son based on her very best novel. Can’t wait to give that a look, too.
And Allegiant. I don’t think I’ll finish it (I have about a third left), but I would like to indulge just a little while I’m not researching these articles I’m hoping to have done by Sunday night.
I have got to find some way to be more productive on weekends. I think I slept twelve hours Friday night and Saturday day, and then another twelve Saturday night and Sunday day. I had a ton of stuff I wanted to get done and I got very, very little of it outside of my domestic chores, which I’m just finishing up now while I have the Oscars on, via TiVo, an hour or so after the broadcast was finished.
I don’t know what it is, really. I get up. I do things, but not the things that are on my list, some of which I’m getting paid for. I move to the bed for a few minutes, maybe to take my WwF turns or to respond to a few text messages. Then I wake up two hours later. It’s extremely frustrating. And yeah, I know that the solution is easy: just don’t get back into bed once I’m up. But it’s not that easy because, well just because.
I keep thinking there is some way I can get some work done at home, but for years that has proven almost every time to be impossible. Or maybe not impossible, but too difficult, and maybe I am just too undisciplined. But where I used to able to go to a neighborhood cafe and just get to work, that’s been challenging too lately for different reasons, and I’m not very efficient there anymore either, at least not on weekends. On weeknights, it’s different. I have a little bit of desperation on weeknights, and that helps a lot, but it’s not sustainable.
My brain has been feeling kind of strained lately, exhausted in a weird way I’m unaccustomed to. I don’t know where this is coming from or what it is, but it is a regular, constant presence, this feeling that I just want to put my brain on cruise control for an extended time and do nothing more challenging than read murder mysteries or complete crossword puzzles.
There was a screw-up with my paycheck at work on my most recent payday, something that’s really the by-product of a weird bureaucratic situation, and I only got half a paycheck, with a promise that the rest of it is coming not on my <i>next</i> payday, but the payday after that. Because of my new year’s resolutions, I had just liberated a chunk of money from a place I probably should have left it, but I was feeling more concerned about solving a couple of problems than about the repercussions of moving that money. I can’t tell you how enraged and discouraged I was to have to use that money just for normal everyday expenses like paying the rent and putting gas in my car.
It was depressing. I’ve been super, super blessed in recent years to be making the money I make. It’s not a lot, compared to my friends who chose non-teaching careers, but it’s been enough, you know? To pay the rent and to feed myself and to clothe myself and occasionally to treat myself to a nice dinner. But right now, I’m making quite a bit less than I’d been making, and I’ve been able to trim some of the excess in my life, but I envisioned checking a couple of problems off my list and that’s just not going to happen yet.
I had to refocus. Had to set my sights on the near future and rewrite my plan, and I had to kind of survive and endure these past couple of weeks in a limbo within my now-normal limbo. It’s been kind of surreal. I’m not suffering the way I’ve suffered in the past when money problems have arisen; but because I told myself I was going to deny myself certain pleasures until certain problems were resolved (like going to the beach in the mornings before work, or seeing movies after work once a week) just to motivate myself to take these things seriously, I’ve been living in a condition of denying myself some of the things I love most in my daily life, for a time extended beyond my intentions.
The psychic toll that’s taken is kind of ridiculous, and I feel maybe I should loosen the restrictions a little, and I still may, but what is the point of putting sanctions on one’s behavior if one doesn’t intend to stick to them, even when something unforeseen should pop up?
In my calmer, less depressed moments, I’ve been able to restructure the plan, to reprioritize the resolving of these problems based on the funds that will be available for the next few months. I don’t like it quite as much, but it will feel good to get some things taken care of on my next payday and then other things on the one after that, and then I’ll take another look and see what’s what.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep my head up. I’ve been through worse.
U2 just performed “Ordinary Love” on the Oscars. And holy cow!
Okay. Here it is.
One of my best qualities, I believe, is that I don’t get too stressed out about little things. In the plus column, you could write things like: I stay calm in problematic situations, I don’t get worked up about things beyond my control, and I cut people a lot of slack. In the minus column: Little things often snowball if I let them (and I let them); my let-it-be attitude often causes other people stress, and my priorities sometimes seem out of whack. I’ve noticed this has really become a problem in certain areas of my life in the past ten years, because my decision-making tends to favor what’s important today at the expense of tomorrow, and because little problems become big problems, and I’m the sort to kind of push big problems to the back of my mind so they don’t freak me out and cause me more stress. And the big things often require larger amounts of money to deal with, and if there’s one thing I just don’t have enough of, it’s money.
I’ll avoid some of the specifics, but how it usually works is like this: I have everything under control. Then something unfortunate but normal happens, the kind of thing I should probably take care of right away, but if I don’t it’ll be okay if I take care of it in a certain amount of time. But when I don’t, the problem gets bigger and then it often has an unworkable deadline attached to it, and then when I spend my resources (time, money, and mental energy) on finally fixing the problem, I don’t have much else for other things that would be really fun or really beneficial to people I care about. I had to make excuses about going to Ross’s bachelor party because I was in the middle of such a crisis and couldn’t bring myself to show up without a gift. Ugh.
I’ve spent December and January practicing regaining control of these kinds of things, and I’m pleased with my progress, and have decided this is a lifestyle change I can find a way to make over the course of 2014. I wanted my main resolution to have something to do with adventure, but adventure is difficult to manage when one doesn’t have control over one’s mundanities. I need to get that back, if I ever really had it in the first place.
So (here come the specifics), now that I’ve finally got the student loans paid off (thanks to help from Bank of Dad), here are the three things that cause me the most long-term stress, things which I have let get out of control.
Car: I have four car things that need taking care of. I will take care of Car Thing One within ten days from now. It’s a big deal but a small, easy fix and hasn’t gotten out of control yet, but I would like to avoid its becoming a big deal. I’ll take care of Car Thing One Point Five by March 15, and then Car Things Two and Three by the end of March. This will pretty much put me and my car back in good health, something I’ve come to rely on in a way I didn’t stress about too much in the past. Bus riding wasn’t that big a deal to me just a couple of years ago, but it doesn’t fit anymore with the life I want to live.
When it’s all taken care of, I need to set up a car fund, money specifically set aside for the big deals that come up without announcement. My radiator cracked right before Christmas, and I was able to take care of it right away, and then to get a set of new tires (one of the things I’d been putting off) the next day. I need to put myself in a position where I can do that all the time, so beginning in April, I will contribute to my own car fund, if not with religious fervor, with a kind of regularity that will give me some amount of peace. I have a figure in mind but won’t disclose it here yet. I’ll reflect on how this is all going at the beginning of May, and adjust the resolution from there if necessary. Obviously, if something big comes up between now and then, it’s going to throw the timing off.
House: When R started dating G, I decided I had enough in me to keep doing my job well, but nothing else. I let a whole bunch of stuff go that year, and I have never really reined them all back in. The state of my living space is the most obvious, most stressful example. There are seven months between now and the beginning of September, and I think that’s enough time for me to continue to regain control of my living space to the point where I can have people over. There are five areas of the house that need reclaiming; I’m going to have them in acceptable condition, one per month except the living room, which may need two months. My kitchen and bathroom are decent enough already, because those are the two areas where you really can’t lose control, and my bedroom can probably be taken care of in a day or two, but I shall still allow it one month just in case. I will pause for reflection and evaluation on the first weekend of every month. I’m leaving the rest of the year (September to December) to practice keeping everything up, plus to figure out what to do about my garage and back porch, which I am not counting among the before-September spaces. I need a limbo for stuff I’m not sure about, like my teaching materials.
Those two major areas are going under the heading of CONTROL.
My other major category is WRITING. Thanks to the new writers group, I have a pretty reliable schedule for getting together and sharing work, and it’s been a healthy, encouraging environment for creating. I’m not producing quite as much as I’d like, but I’m getting better and don’t see any problems with continuing the trend. So my goal is related to the novel in progress: I will have a first draft done by the beginning of May. I’ll have a first major revision done by the beginning of July. I’ll have a second major revision done by September or October, leaving me a little bit of room for a third revision if I think I need it, because by December 1, I’m sending a manuscript to an agent. I already have one picked out, the identity of whom I will keep secret for now. He or she may be a bit too big-time for me, but I might as well shoot big. I will reflect and evaluate at the beginnings of May, July, and September, and adjust as necessary.
If I can take care of those three major things, I will have a great year. However, I think I need to add something fun. So between now and December 31, I’m going to record myself singing 52 songs and post them somewhere public (probably just here). That will be one song per weekend between now and then, plus a few extras here and there. I’m not going to approach them in the spirit of NaNoWriMo: most of them will be awful, but if just a few of them are decent, that will be a few more songs than I’ve recorded in years. Most will just be covers of stuff I like to play, but I think I’m going to shoot for one original per month. That means 11 originals between now and 2015.
Exceptions: Original poetry can take the place of recorded songs on a one-to-one basis. I don’t really see this happening very often, but if I get an idea, I want to ride it and not have to worry about a song while I work on it.
And one more fun thing: I’m going to revisit and rewrite my 43 Things list and start attacking that at some to-be-determined rate. More on this later.
There we go. It’s a huge, ambitious list, but as I have said, I’ve sort of been practicing for the past two months, and I think this is doable.
This is what I am thinking. I usually get to the beach, on mornings when I go (it’s four or five mornings a week), at about 5:00. It’s too dark to swim then, so I walk to a nearby Starbucks and grab a latte, then wander about until about 6. Then I jump in the water and am usually back in my car at about 7:00.
If I get to the beach at 4:45, I increase my chances of getting the parking spot I like, and I can get to the Starbucks at 5:00, when it opens. Then I can sit there at the cafe for forty-five minutes and write. Then walk back to my car and jump into the water.
Forty-five minutes four times a week isn’t much, but it’s more than I’ve been spending. And now that I’m in a writers group that meets every other week, I need to be more productive.
I think I’ll try it Monday.
I no longer have the attention span for football, even though I still love the game. So Sundays have been the day when I put the games on but only sit still for twenty minutes at a time. I’ve been saving up a bunch of chores for those Sundays, and it’s been mostly working. I’m trying to do each week’s chores on Sunday plus a little more, hoping eventually to get caught up on the multitude of things I’ve let get out of control. So far so good.
I haven’t really needed a daily planner for a few years. I need one now. Keeping track of things in my brain in this new working environment is just completely different from what I’m used to. My brain is used to thinking of things in the short time as a series of periods punctuated by bells. It’s used to thinking of things in the long term as a school calendar. All kinds of things are not finding their place in my daily remembrance, and I’ve done some stupid things, like miss meetings and forget to return calls or emails. Not a LOT, but enough to concern me.
So this week will be devoted to finding a planner that works for me. Electronic options don’t really do it for me, because I need scribble space and I need a place to STICK things that I can file later, like business cards. With Evernote I’ve been able to photograph certain things for filing later, but that doesn’t work for everything.
It’s almost October and I think I finally have my Best Songs of 2012 list done. I will unveil it sometime in October, I guess. Hope nobody’s been holding his or her breath. Much to my surprise, there is a Muse song on it.
The wheels are back beneath me, and there is much rejoicing. Car guy said it was just one of those old-car problems, and he liked the way the rest of what he saw looked. I’m so grateful for parents who bail me out of problems like this, and although I fully intend to pay my folks back for the needed dough, I’m pretty sure they’re not even thinking about it.
I haven’t been reviewing films lately because my mental energies have been exhausted on other pursuits, but I expect to get caught up this weekend.
In the past few days, I’ve asked six college students if they knew who Hawaii’s lieutenant governor is, and none of them did. It’s a tough question, one that I think a lot of people, not just college students, would have trouble with, since he was appointed and not elected, so his name hasn’t been broadcast nearly as much as if he’d been elected. My point in asking this question is not to say there’s something wrong with young people today; rather, it’s to illustrate to myself that there’s a huge disconnect between young adults and the stuff that most news agencies consider news. It’s a problem I’m forced to confront for work-related purposes, and I don’t have an answer. I totally don’t blame young people for not caring enough about local government to pick up a newspaper once in a while. The feeling that knowing what’s going on is either too hard or simply not rewarding is something I won’t dispute. But I wish I could make young people believe that forcing yourself to pay attention makes it harder for those in power to do whatever they want. I wish sometimes that I could convince myself.
This past weekend, I re-read Ender’s Game for the first time since 1993, and ti was actually better than I remembered it. Poor Ender. And poor Valentine. I’m almost always drawn to a good alienation (not a pun!) story, but in this case it isn’t Ender I relate to, the way I’ve always related to Bart Simpson, Harry Potter, and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast (the Disney version). I feel myself connecting more to the kids who admire Ender and understand what an important person he is, who love him without his even really knowing it. I don’t think I’m a world-saver, but maybe I’m part of the support system of someone who is.
- What’s something non food-related you have to go to a nearby town to do because the town where you live doesn’t have it?
I live in Honolulu, which is a real city of some fairly impressive geographic size. The next towns (not part of Honolulu) are Kaneohe to the north, and several suburban and rural towns to the west, most immediately Aiea (the only town in America whose name doesn’t have a consonant) and Pearl City. Aiea has the nearest bowling alley (can it be that there are no bowling alleys left in Honolulu? It can…), and Kaneohe has a huge botanical garden which allows overnight camping.
- What’s something you go to a nearby town to do because your town’s version of it isn’t as good?
One of our unofficial state meals is something called a plate lunch. Wikipedia says it’s similar to the southern US’s “meat and three” but of course the cuisine is different here, influenced as it is by Asian, Pacific Island, and American flavors. And my favorite place to get one is at KJ’s in Kaneohe. Many of my graduate classes were on my school’s Kaneohe campus, and I ate there a LOT while working on that degree. I sorta go to church in Kaneohe too, but not because churches in Honolulu aren’t as good. Ha.
- What’s something people in nearby towns come to your town to do?
Since Honolulu is the county seat, state capital, largest city in the state, there are multiple things people come from out of town to do, including work. During the Christmas season, a lot of people who live on the other islands fly in to do their Christmas shopping. There are many, many things you can ONLY do in Honolulu, something many people from the other islands resent it for.
- In what way are residents of a nearby town different from residents in your town?
In general, because I live in the big city, I live where people are (overall) less friendly. But you know, I think people in my homestate are very friendly anyway (something many of my friends who’ve moved here from other states would dispute), and most of the time, I really like the people I encounter on a daily basis, as long as I don’t have to (a) share a movie theater with them or (b) ride the bus with them. Yet as friendly as Honoluluans are, they are not nearly as friendly and laid-back as people from the nearby rural towns. I’m going to cite Waimanalo (though my dad would contest that) as one of the pleasanter nearby towns to hang out.
- Many towns give themselves nicknames, like “______ Capital of America” or “America’s ___________est Town” or “Home of __________.” What would be a good nickname along these lines to give the town where you live?
I am kind of wishing I’d written these questions to be about neighborhoods and not towns, because Kalihi, where I live, is a great neighborhood with many things that separate it from the other urban Honolulu neighborhoods. But I can still wax poetic of my dear Honolulu, and I’ll go back to one of the metaphors many people use for Hawaii itself: that it is not so much a melting pot as it is a beef stew, with each ingredient maintaining its separate identity and flavor while still contributing to the sense of the whole. So welcome to my Honolulu: America’s Mixed Plate.