In the days leading up to the New Year, I thought a lot about things I'd like to work on in the coming year. Say what you will about New Year's resolutions, but it's as good a time as any to make a deposit into the "living intentionally" bank. I'm pretty happy with life as I live it, so I find that most of what I want to do this year doesn't represent a radical departure from what I normally do, but rather a desire to do more of the things that I love to do. I think that will make these resolutions easier to keep because I'm simply asking myself to focus more on the best things that I do, which by default should squeeze out the time (and money) I waste on fillers.
My resolutions fall into two general categories, and while I will be more specific about the activities I'll engage in as well, I like having these strategies spelled out, so that life outside of the activities highlighted in my resolutions can also be influenced by these two lenses:
- Nurture my creativity. The way I make art is a tangled mess of elation, struggle, pride, self-reproach, empowerment and avoidance. I want to spend my year submerged in all this and see what comes out the other side.
- Be satisfied with what I have. Years ago, a colleague of mine who was an immigrant from Cote d'Ivoire said to me, "Charlotte, there are no poor Americans." Without judging the circumstances of others, I have repeated this phrase often in my head to counteract my own feelings of deprivation. This year, rather than focusing on how things could be better, I want to embrace the beauty of making do and appreciating what is. While the specifics of this have a lot to do with the material, I also mean this to cover all of the areas where I dwell on dissatisfaction.
And now for the specifics. Thanks to the internet and the vast virtual community of ideas, many of the activities I want to do are not things I've invented. They represent ideas that I've found elsewhere that have made me think, "I'd like to do that." I've adapted them to my personal circumstances, thinking deeply about what commitments I am willing to make to myself, and thereby increasing the likelihood of success. I do well with a combination of structure and a built in mechanism to be free from that structure in any way I want to that doesn't defeat what I'm trying to accomplish. So, without further ado, here are my 2013 resolutions:
- Take a photo everyday. Some days I may produce a brilliant piece of work and other days I may snap a hasty picture with my cell phone. I hope to learn as much from the days I don't feel like doing this as the days I feel inspired.
- Write two pages a day, five days a week. Some of it may end up on this blog, some of it may turn into the book I've always wanted to write, some may be for my eyes only or complete crap I end up deleting. I want to be less editorial and more prolific because I function better when I write a lot.
- Go outside more. It was seven degrees today, and I bundled up the littlest boys and pulled them around the neighborhood in our rusty red wagon (satisfied with what we have). I would love to commit to going outside every day, but being more realistic, I'm settling for something more vague, knowing that thinking about this resolution will drive me out of the house on many a day I would prefer to stay inside.
- Cut $8,000 from our annual spending. Last year we cut out $5,000 without even thinking about it. Cutting $8,000 will have us living at the princely level of $10,000 a year per person in our family. It's another step along the way toward using fewer resources and hopefully eventually becoming financially independent.
- Make peace with the house we live in. Our house is my favorite thing on which to focus my dissatisfaction and insecurities. Yet, this house is one of the main reasons that we are secure. This year, I want to focus on what I love about the place I live and to share this place unapologetically with people who are important to me.
Do you have things you're going to work on this year? Do you think resolutions are stupid? What strategies do you find effective for making changes (big or small) in your life?
Welcome, 2013. Happy New Year, dear friends!