The New Year is what (and when) you make it

All too true. I expect my gym to be way busy in January.
All too true. I expect my gym to be way busy in January.

So we’re winding down the year … in North America, anyway.

The Chinese New Year will be marked Jan. 31, with the Vietnamese celebrating their Tết Nguyên Đán the same day. The Persian New Year in Iran falls on March 21, and in Bali it will be March 31, with the observance including a day of silence.

In Tibet, the year opens on our March 2. It also will not be 2014 there, but 2141, the year of the wood horse.

Going by religion? Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, will run the evenings of Sept. 24 through 26. The Islamic New Year will not begin until Nov. 4, 2014.

You don’t have to jump on the Dec. 31 bandwagon. Reflection, rejuvenation, renewal can happen anytime you are truly ready.

I like the Jewish tradition of atonement, in which one is to reflect on one’s wrongdoing over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. Frankly, though, I have been all too aware of my wrongdoing and shortcomings for the past two years or so, and it’s high time to forgive myself and move on. I’m not saying I’m actually ready to forgive, mind you, but I am all for not beating myself up anymore.

I also am looking at Rebelle Society’s 30 questions to ask yourself before you die. It was an exercise in reflection upon turning 30, but as I’m staring hard at 50, I have even more fodder and urgency.

Resolutions I’m not so into. I’ve tried them before (2012, for example), but they weren’t a system change.

Instead, I’m taking stock and making some changes, but not promises. Darren Rowse and Chris Guillebeau are among my influences.

I have a few other ideas brewing. What about you?

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Day by day 2012, the July checkup

Many moons ago, on New Year’s Day, resolutions occurred to me and, madwoman that I am, I threw them on the web for all to see. Having done so, I thought a public poke at the results might be in order.
1) Write. Meh. I write almost every day for work. Most days I have no thought of writing anything further.
EXCEPT … I’m pretty decent with dialogue, and it occurred to me that as I craft scenes in my head, maybe I should stick them down somewhere. Eventually a few of them might hook up. Maybe then a few more.
I’m finding myself more inclined to think about drawing than writing. Still a creative outlet I miss, so fine.
2) Read. I did finish the book I got for Christmas. I didn’t quite finish the summer book. I have read two autobiographies recently, both by Russell Brand, whom I adore. He’s quite entertaining with words, so he counts.
3) Read the Bible. I tried, but Genesis and all those 700-year-old people with 70 progeny just wore me out. Also, women were raped or threatened with rape a bit too often for my taste. Maybe a study of a particular book is something I could do at some point, but right now I’m not feeling compelled to absorb every page.
4) Work on earning more money. I did a little of that, then depression body slammed its way back into my life and anything that required motivation ceased to exist. I looked at my spreadsheet and realized I hadn’t bid on anything in more than three months, but I’m back at it.
5) Exercise. The premature (to me; I wanted more than 217,000 miles) death of my car helped fulfill this one. Meetings two miles away that end after the last bus run? Oops, missed the inbound bus by one house length? Some weeks I have walked 10 miles or more.
If I were to write out a list now, it would look more like this:
1) Draw.
2) Read.
3) Work on building a long-term freelance career.
4) Keep exercising.
5) Regain mental health. Everything got torn down, then I got stuck somewhere in the rebuilding process, pissed off for a couple of weeks and now back at it. It is slow going … but it is going, and that’s something.

Day by day, 2012

I feel like I imagine many people do about New Year’s resolutions: I don’t like being pressured to make them. On New Year’s Eve I was feeling rather annoyed and completely unlike celebrating, and went to bed about 11:20 p.m. My husband already had been drifting off to sleep, and I decided I would rather sleep through midnight than sit through it alone.
A while after I drifted off, the dogs set to barking as the Sunday paper hit the porch. Not long after, fireworks began, and the dogs insisted on sharing with us how little they were enjoying the mysterious booming racket. I refused to look at the clock, pulled the sheets tight and resumed counting backward.
This morning, resolutions started occurring to me. Too many, I thought. But it seemed so organic. No pressure, entirely unbidden, just a calm rolling out.
My first thought was to do everything every day. I knew that might be unrealistic, and guess what? At 9:20 p.m. I know it to be so. But I’m cool with that. I know the things I want to do, and as long as I’m making steady progress, I’m still ahead. So here’s the list:
1) Write. Not just “want to write” or “think of myself as a writer,” but write. This one has to happen every day. Tweets and Facebook posts don’t count. Blog posts do, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be posting here daily. And while I’ll be a beat reporter again soon for the first time in about eight years, that writing won’t count by itself.
2) Read. I have a book I started last summer that I still haven’t finished. I have another I got for Christmas that I’m halfway through. You can’t write if you don’t read, and websites and magazines aren’t enough.
3) Read the Bible. Surprise! This one started as maybe some sort of prayer or reflection, maybe aided by the “little books” our diocese puts out, but I rooted out a Bible and decided this year I would read it. As a cradle Catholic, I’ve had lots of Scripture read to me, but I couldn’t find most of it in a Bible at gunpoint.
4) Work on earning more money. This one really needs to happen every day, too, even if it’s just a single bid on a single freelancing website. I’ve had some success with this, but a more concerted effort should lead to more success … or at least that’s the theory. I never in my life have expected to be rich, but more money = more comfort and less stress, plus the possibility I might be able to retire before age 80. And did I mention that journalism isn’t exactly the most stable field?
5) Exercise. I’d say “exercise more,” but anything more involved than walking around the house or throwing a ball for the Lab would be more. So exercise = lifting weights and periodic walks of half an hour or more, and especially the couch to 5K program that I abandoned. But hey, I got a friend hooked on it and he lost something like 25 pounds, so I know it works. I don’t care about weight loss, and I know I will not change how I eat or drink. But I do want to live in this body a very long time, and I do want it to be stronger and more agile, and that means making more use of the muscles, not just the gray matter.
That’s a long list. But like I said, I’m cool with it.