The new year has begun. Three days in, and a lot of you are already saying to yourselves, “Well this is going badly. I haven’t written anything of worth yet. I didn’t even scrawl out my resolutions.” On the other hand, my lovely Type A readers have written dozens of lists, know exactly what they will do every single day, and are busily reading over it. Despair washes over them as they realize there is no way in the world they will ever be able to accomplish these feats akin to climbing Mt. Everest, swimming the English Channel, and running a marathon all in one year. They can’t write a word now.
Oh, the New Year can be hell on writers and artists. We expect so much from ourselves. First of all, we need to quit capitalizing new year. Yes, it’s new, at least by the calendar, but really it is simply another turn of the great wheel, or the next page. I would quote Janis Joplin again when talking about tomorrow. She said, “Hell, it’s all the same f-ing day.” I tend to agree with her, coming from perhaps a more positive place. It’s one life and it lasts only so long. The cycle is endless and it really is all a mayfly day when you get right down to it. The question is, what will you do with it?
Once again, we have written (because we’re writers) an arm’s length-long list of resolutions when what we really need is a sticky note that will fit in the front of our notebook or journal; take up a tiny spot on the bathroom mirror. A small reminder we can read daily so we don’t forget what we’re up to, or up against, as the case may be. This year, Leigh (my sensible Virgo) helped me with my mile-long list by making two simple statements that she wanted to live by in 2012. I asked her permission to print them because they shortened my writing time considerably, and I think they may help you keep it simple, too.
Leigh said her markers on the playing field of life would be two question/statements she could refer to daily: 1) “Have I moved the ball forward?” This would pertain to one’s large goals in work, relationship, writing, community, personal development, both physical and spiritual. The second statement of purpose pertains to 2) “mindful maintenance.” Was I fully present when I washed those dishes, wrote in my journal, took that walk, swept the floor? Did I allow myself to be part of what I was doing instead of just doing it, grumpily at that? Meditation, prayer, journaling, housework, feeding the chickens or the children, cooking for yourself–these all fall under the category of mindful maintenance.
You can’t beat these statements for simplicity, so I quickly made them my own. Did I move the ball forward today? This blog post is proof that I did. I feel sure even those of you who are not football fans understand the metaphor. And the fact that every single yard counts towards a first down, eventually leading to the Score! You can’t get there without the incremental runs. Sometimes your daily moves will look like a “Hail Mary” pass. Other days they’ll be measured in inches. All are an effort toward achieving the long term goal. Sometimes those six inches are much harder to push for than the exciting, hard run kick-off return. You did it! Now, jump up and down and thrust a fist in the air. High five yourself.
As an Aries, I will add another to my two goals of moving the ball forward and mindful maintenance and that is: 3) one simple act of pure pleasure. Do one thing for yourself daily that brings you personal joy, for no other reason than it brings you personal joy. A cup of tea while you watch the birds feed. A slow, contemplative walk, not for exercise, but for ecstasy. A short nap in your favorite chair. Reading a poem or two. A good laugh with a friend on the phone. Life should not be, according to this minor guru, only about what purpose we serve, or achieving goals. We are here for the celebration, too. Joy is an end in itself.
So go…move the ball forward even a little today. Do some mindful maintenance of your home, body, soul. Don’t forget to experience a little (or a lot) of joy along the way. Be grateful for your great, good fortune. And have yourself a happy and productive new year.