My New year’s anti-Resolutions for 2021

I know this is technically ten days late, but given that these past ten days have felt like an unwelcome epilogue to 2020, I think it’s fair to cut a little slack for your humble narrator. Especially since it does feel like 2020 won’t be over for real until Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated next Wednesday. So as we doomscroll, cross our fingers to bleeding knuckles and purple our faces from holding our collective breath until then, let’s pause and look ahead, specifically to what we can do ourselves to make this a better year.

I don’t think I have ever kept a New Year’s resolution. I’d be hard-pressed to even remember any of them, even though they have probably been of the usual vanilla variety – lose weight, travel more, variations on the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying”. Clearly they haven’t meant enough to me if I wasn’t really that invested in keeping them. I suppose the whole idea behind a New Year’s resolution is borne of looking back at the year – at the life – that was and finding it wanting. I didn’t do X enough, I did too much of Y, I’ve always wanted to do Z. And the magical turn of the calendar page, thank you, Pope Gregory XIII, is held up as a singular opportunity to hit ctrl-alt-del, even though we are just as capable of doing so on December 27, or August 15, or March 9, or even 15 minutes from now. But we find it easier to tag these commitments to personal change to a specific moment, and more often than not, that’s exactly what dooms us to not keeping them. Real change can’t be tied to an arbitrary start date imposed by societal convention. It almost makes us more likely to fail at it, as like it or not, there’s a subconscious resentment that we have to make these promises just because a new year is dawning, not because we really want to.

I saw a clever cartoon a few days ago from Lunar Baboon that resonated. The concept is that if you always fail at New Year’s resolutions, then flip the script and make resolutions that you couldn’t possibly want to keep in the first place. To wit: instead of resolving to become fit, resolve to be more sedentary and eat more sugar and saturated fats. That is a much easier promise to yourself to break because of how ludicrous it is, and failing at keeping this resolution is doing your heart and body a great deal of good. Without further ado, here are my Anti-Resolutions for 2021:

  1. Isolate myself more, stop talking to people and let all my relationships lie fallow. Hide inside as much as possible and shun all opportunities to make new friends. Ignore my family’s calls and don’t return people’s emails. If I do condescend to talk to someone, don’t ever ask about them, don’t remember the things they tell me and instead talk more about myself.
  2. Be more ignorant, read more listicles and fewer long-form pieces, don’t take any courses and certainly don’t look at anything created by someone outside my ethnic group or economic class.
  3. Create nothing, stop writing (or, if I do continue to write, just write the same kind of content over and over again) and don’t look for any new opportunities to share my work with the world. Don’t bother with that next novel I wrote the first chapter of a few months ago and haven’t looked at since, and if by some miracle I do finish it, for the love of the FSM don’t try to publish it.
  4. Don’t learn any new skills, be afraid of trying new foods, music and entertainment, be sure I chicken out of attempting any project that requires me to use tools. Don’t bother trying to build that new office area I’ve been talking about or anything in my basement.
  5. Don’t meditate, don’t explore spirituality, don’t take walks in the woods, don’t do anything that recharges that part of myself. Fill my mind with worries about politics and most importantly, spend more time thinking about the Trump family.
  6. Don’t express emotion, stop smiling, “man up” whenever I get upset, and just fume, sulk and/or punch the wall so no one ever knows how I really feel about something. Be more resentful of everyone and everything. Get angry at every single event that is beyond my control and always overreact to people’s opinions of me.
  7. Zone out more, sit on the couch more, bury myself in my phone, distract myself with more trivia, have fewer conversations, and make sure to keep my head in the clouds at all time and never mindful of where I am and what I am doing.
  8. Last but not least, eat more red meat, sugar and saturated fats.

So here they are – eight areas of personal growth where I choose to define the worst possible outcome and work back from there, comfortable that anything short of these extremes is a move in a better direction – toward being a better friend, a better partner, a better human being – just an all around better me.

What do you think? Will you make a list of anti-resolutions for yourself as well? If you do, I heartily wish you (and myself) a year wrought with spectacular failure.

2013: A Year Well Met

A smidgen of wisdom from the good folks at WordPress:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.  Hopefully they’d put on something good.

Click here to see the complete report, you know, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

The end of the year is that time when, bloated by festive treats and wearied by revels and revelers, we turn our collective gazes navel-ward to look back on what we managed to get done despite odds and what we hope to accomplish in the coming months (usually a laundry list of everything that wasn’t finished this past year, with “losing weight” at the top of the list.)  I could launch into a tremendously dull recapitulation of everything I wrote this year and which posts connected well and which didn’t, but I suspect there’s little interest out there in such a thing.  Really, you write something, you publish it, and either people like it or they don’t, and you move on to the next, with little time available for reflecting on past glories or hardships.  And just because something hits hard once is not a guarantee that anyone sticks around.  The beast must be fed, continuously, or it wanders on like a herd across the Serengeti in search of a more consistent food source.  That’s one of the hardest lessons we have to learn.  A fan of one good piece of writing is seldom a fan for life, unless we’re discussing enthusiasts of J.D. Salinger.  Even Stephen King never rests on his laurels.

2013 will be a year recalled fondly not in terms of anything specific I did with my writing, but who it enabled me to meet.  Ksenia Anske, Rachael Spellman, Drew Chial, Jennifer Howard, Nillu Stelter, Rachel Thompson, Amy Good, Rachel Ott, Louise Gornall, Alicia Anderson, Amira Makansi, Jessica West, Colleen Albert and J. Edward Paul (and a bunch of other amazing folks I’m sure I’m forgetting, so sorry) were complete strangers a year ago and now they, their work and most importantly, their senses of humor, have become inextricable components of my journey across the pages.  They set the bar with their words, they motivate with their dedication, they inspire with their passion and they make me laugh whenever I need it.  If you have not heard of any of these incredible people, that will be remedied very soon, you can count on it.  And I’ll be right there cheering them on – from behind the 500 feet mandated by the restraining order, undoubtedly.

For myself, the keyword for 2014 will be discipline.  Ksenia’s blogged extensively about the need for focus and routine as a writer, and it isn’t enough to say that I’ll do it when I get the time.  It truly is about making time; no small challenge when you have a regular job, a spouse, a son turning thirteen and a brand spanking new gym membership.  But as I am fond of telling my boy, he will not look back on his life and wish he’d spent more time lying on the couch.  There is simply too much to do; too much world to experience, too many words to write, and precious few minutes to do it all in.  Our lives aren’t getting longer; they’re ending, as the man says, one day at a time.

So I won’t make a bunch of goals or resolutions that I can sit around on December 31st, 2014 ruing that I didn’t finish.  I’ll begin with changing my attitude about what’s possible through enough effort.  That agent didn’t like your novel?  Send it to 30 more.  Nobody cared the post about what’s wrong with Star Wars and Star Trek?  Reach deeper.  Make it more personal.  Readership drying up?  Introduce yourself to more strangers.  The great thing about Twitter is that it can give you the balls to speak to people you wouldn’t dare approach in real life.  Use that wonderful tool to make more and more lasting connections.  And read more.  Lots more.  Embarrass your Goodreads friends with the raw tonnage of literature you consume.  Talk, listen, discover, share, open up, advocate, take in, give back.  And damn the motherf@#$ing torpedoes.

See you next year, my friends.  Limitless promise is only a few hours away.  And let’s see where the road takes us together.