Note about the featured photo: My husband gave me this perfect tote bag for Christmas. (I’m a Jane Austen geek, and I already have the “I [Heart] Mr. Darcy” tote bag.) “I am excessively diverted” is something Elizabeth Bennet says, but also what the invisible sign over my head says whenever I’m completely engrossed in an activity. In 2018, what will I choose to be “excessively diverted” by?
We survived 2017! When future historians and archaeologists look back on us, reading our Facebook and Twitter posts, watching our news clips and YouTube videos, sifting through our fossilized garbage, they will likely wonder about the mental health of the average American in this particular period of history. In his entertaining and thorough “2017 Year in Review,” Dave Barry noted that the fidget spinner fad—”an idiotic, brain-cell-destroying waste of time”—was “the perfect fad for 2017,” a year in which brain-cell destruction was probably the least of our worries.
Hundreds of years in the future (if humans are still around then), it’s possible that you and I will be included in the group of sad, misguided humans known collectively as The Fidget Spinners. We’re the people who had the potential to do great things, perhaps, with all this advanced technology at our fingertips, but chose instead to play with fidget spinners and insult each other on Twitter and binge-watch lousy TV shows and let our Amazon Echos reorder our toilet paper for us (step one in the rise of our robot overlords).
I’m guilty of wasting my time on idiotic, brain-cell-destroying things, but I try really hard to balance out the waste with creative, life-affirming interests and pursuits. I don’t know if it was the prospect of turning 40 that ignited me in 2017; or watching my younger brother getting rid of literally all of his stuff to move from Kansas to Indonesia; or all of the human rights activists, kneeling football players, and #MeToo-ers; or the hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires; but I am not the same patient, submissive, optimistic person I was at the end of 2016. Doesn’t it feel like all the filth and injustice and chaos, like anything and everything that could possibly terrify and anger and humiliate and confound all of us, has emerged from the deepest, darkest recesses of the earth, or gone airborne, spewing from the mouths (and rapidly Tweeting fingers) of our esteemed “leaders” and “representatives”?
We can’t take anything for granted in 2018! Common decency—what’s that? Common sense—huh? Common knowledge—dear God, it’s all “fake news”! Common ground—literally, the surface of our planet that is warming and changing in seriously disturbing ways! Tulips poking out of the ground in late December in Kansas? Sure, that’s TOTALLY NORMAL. Nothing to worry about. Let’s say that climate scientists are fools and go golf and piss off another world leader—someone we haven’t already pissed off (is there anyone left?).
There’s a fire burning under my ass that wasn’t there in 2016, an urgent drive to do the things I’m passionate about NOW and be the person I want to be NOW. Who do I want to be? Myself! Myself entirely. Someone who doesn’t put her dreams on hold or waste any more time being a dull facsimile of someone else. Someone who loves to cook and appreciates nature and the value of exercise and vegetables, who practically worships the Arts (capitalized on purpose!): literature, paintings, sculptures, architecture, movies, theatre, music, dance. I love all of it! And I love learning about people, especially artists and inventors; all people who unabashedly pursue their unique interests fascinate me. I envy them. It’s time to stop envying them and start being more like them—by being more like myself.
In 2017, I resolved to write my second novel, something I’d been wanting to do for a long, long time. I started writing in January, promising myself that I would write at least an hour a day, five days a week, and I finished my first draft right before my 40th birthday in late July. That was definitely my biggest personal achievement last year, closely followed by starting this blog in September (thanks for your support!), and finding a new job—one I actually like!—in October. I’m proud of my accomplishments in 2017, and I step into 2018 feeling more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.
I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions, but it worked out for me last year, so here I go again: In 2018, I will finish the second and third drafts of my novel, and then find a literary agent by the end of the year. I will do so by writing/revising/tightening/asking myself critical questions about my novel-in-progress for at least an hour a day, five days a week. I will research and make a list of literary agents who seem to be a good fit for my writing style and subject matter. I won’t be discouraged by rejections from agents, and by all the writing contests I enter and don’t win. (I just found out about two such losses this morning. I was so sure I’d get at least an honorable mention in one of them. Whine, grumble, moan.) I’ll listen to the people who believe in me and listen to my own heart, which tells me to GO FOR IT. Go, go, go.
After I’m done working on my current novel, while I’m querying literary agents, I will begin writing my next novel. I already have an idea for it, and I’m very excited to get started. I also resolve to continue adding to this blog; my official goal is at least one new post a week. (Gee, Maria, if you didn’t write such loooooooong posts, you could probably post a lot more frequently. Did ya ever think of that? Huh?)
I should probably also have some goals that involve being a better mother and wife, right? A vague promise to “create a sustainable work/life balance” sounds good, but how will I actually do it? Well, I recently cut back on the overall number of hours I’m working outside of the home, which I hope will help me to be a less-stressed mom and more relaxed wife, in addition to being a more disciplined writer. So far, so good. I almost enjoyed last Christmas, which is a huge step in the right direction. My kids deserve a pleasant, happy mom.
I have all the usual goals, too. Eat healthy. Continue exercising at the gym, but stop forcing my arms to carry more weight than they’re made to carry (this is a literal and figurative goal: I’m dealing with tennis elbow and recovering from Martyr Syndrome at the same time). Worry less; laugh more. Embrace new experiences; remain curious and full of childlike wonder. Accept new challenges gracefully. Be a kind, compassionate, honest, open-minded human being.
It’s hard to read as many books as I want to read, but I’ll read as many as I can in 2018, and write as much as I can. And visit as many historical places of interest and museums as I can. I can’t wait to cook new things in my kitchen and plant new things in my yard (I swear, one of these years I’m going to have to plant cacti—because CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL!). I’ll drag my kids along, kicking and screaming, on as many adventures as possible this year, because they’re already over halfway grown-up, and I love exploring and learning and sharing with them. (You should see the sheer joy on my almost-sixteen-year-old son’s face when I tell him we’re going to a museum! Priceless!) I’ll write about some of my adventures here, and the rest will be filed away in my memories for future novels.
That’s how I’ll find some peace amidst the sociopolitical madness and discord. I’m having a lot of trouble accepting certain challenges gracefully, and I’d like to escape and pretend that a bunch of heartless, obtuse hypocrites aren’t ignoring the threats posed by climate change and outrageously loose gun-control laws, and trying to take healthcare away from poor people and children—cancer survivors like my daughter. I’ve got to somehow remain present and aware without getting bitter and depressed (if I figure out how to do that, I’ll let you know). And I’ll forgive myself when I need to chill out with idiotic, brain-cell-destroying forms of entertainment. Maybe I should buy a fidget spinner.
Happy new YOU, and all that jazz, in 2018! Create something fresh and beautiful! Imagine me on the sidelines cheering for you as I write my masterpiece. Let’s all be “excessively diverted” by the things we truly love this year. There’s no time to waste.
Related Articles and Fun Stuff:
Here’s Dave Barry’s “2017 Year in Review,” in case you missed the first link:
Don’t think climate change is a problem? Read this and weep: Scientists Expect Chocolate to Go Extinct by 2050
Did you already read my blog about the future of artificial intelligence—how robots will take all our jobs and make us question what it means to be human? If not, here it is: A Letter to My Future Robot Overlords
Now you have to read this: Hacked Sex Robots Could Murder People, Security Expert Warns. Watch your backs (and butts, and other body parts), people. Better change the password on your sex robot, just to be safe.
My post from Thanksgiving, bragging about my new job: Thanksgiving Tidbits
My post from Christmas Eve, complaining about Christmas in general and celebrating the fact that my husband didn’t die at my company holiday party four weeks ago: Grinchy Christmas Musings and a Holiday Party to Remember