Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lists and Resolutions

My name is Ann and I’m a list-maker.

(ALL: Hi, Ann.)

Left-handed list-maker. Born this way. Can’t help it.

There’s the satisfaction that comes from crossing something off a list. First, there's the list itself — one created thoughtfully or reminders scribbled one at a time on a scrap piece of paper with each pass through the kitchen. A list reduces my anxiety better than Ativan could, and it gives me the feeling that I know what I have to do and where I need to go. And woe to me if I do not have a list. Things are forgotten. The ball is dropped.

I have a list of important dates for friends and family (birthdays, anniversaries); another for the books I have read and the ones I would like to read. Rudy Maxa and Rick Steves would come to blows over my Vacation Packing List.

My favorite list is one I create every year at this time. Call them resolutions, call them goals. These are promises I make to myself, including the most important one I don’t write down: I will try to not beat myself up if I don’t accomplish all of my goals. This list is small: at least five items, but less than a dozen. Writing them down thoughtfully, I make sure that they are within the reach of a normal human being. Many years ago, one of my friends said her goal for the coming year was to “be famous.” It is best not to make goals like that. Too broad.

I often resolve to do things that end up being integrated into my life. One year, this was on my list: find out about volunteering for Radio Talking Book. For four years, the entry reappeared. At last, I went over to the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, did my audition, and I am still involved in being a volunteer reader for Radio Talking Book.

Because of this end-of-the-year ritual, I have paid off a bill, taken a bike repair class, become a year-round bicycle commuter, and learned how to use a couple of interesting pieces of software more effectively. Those are just a few.

There is, of course, a list of the goals I did not reach. I take a good look at why they were not accomplished and understand that perhaps I set the bar a little high. Maybe there was a lack of time. A few are carried over to the next year.

And then there are those that beg the question: What was I thinking?

I resolve to write in my journal each day. I made that goal three years ago and I have not missed a day. The secret? Knowing I do not have to be Proust; I just need to write something. Anything. There are entries like this one: “Too tired. See you tomorrow.”

For the coming year, here are a few things on my list:
Finish the first draft of a play
Take a meditation class
Ride the Root River Trail in southern Minnesota. (It’s 60 miles. I’ve done little parts of it, but I’d like to do the whole thing.)

So, go on. Go ahead, set a few things out in front of you. Start small. Checking things off on even the shortest list is a gift in itself.

Wishing you and those you hold dear a healthy, sane, and loving year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life Gets Real

It is a fact of my life that if I join a trend, it is approaching its expiration date. When the latest and greatest begins, and something else has arrived to replace it, that’s my signal to jump right in. Do I have an iPad? No, I do not. Am I on Facebook? Yes, as of last year — right about the time when pundits starting saying it was so yesterday. Now that there are articles commenting on the death of blogging, I thought I might try it.

I am a week past celebrating my 57th birthday, and my mother just celebrated her 94th. My father was a man who did not eat right or exercise regularly; he started smoking when he was 14 and never stopped. Even in the nursing home, we found out that he had been bribing his roommate, Al, to go get him some smokes. That’s right. My father bribed Al, a man who, when he was not using a nebulizer, was rolling up and down the hallways in his wheelchair. My dad was a wiry Norwegian, stubborn as they come. He died at age 84. All of this is to say it occurs to me that I may live awhile. I will add (she says, not wanting to tempt the Evil Eye) that one never knows. Cancer, blood clots, the Crosstown bus. It’s a minefield out there. As long as there are decent odds that I will continue on for a while in this life, I want to make sure I can still grab a new experience or two as I wander down the path. This is why she’s blogging? I hear you ask. Well, yes. And no.

I wrote my first song when I was 17. It was terrible but there was something about the process of writing that I could not get enough of. The blank page is like an older sibling who sits there and tells you every idea you have is just too stupid. Then you sweat out something wonderful and it is received, perhaps even respected, and you feel washed and refreshed on the inside. Working with words and music helps me make sense of my world, sort things out. It was my armor in adolescence, and remains a treasured tool, a shovel to dig my way out of collapsed emotional tunnels. Time is ticking and I’d like to finish one of the six plays or maybe a couple of the four short stories I have started. I find I cannot always summon the discipline required to write. It has been said that politics is the slow boring of hard boards. Same can be said for writing, although I would choose working with words over working with politicians any day.

My website [] has a link to a newsletter. When the newsletter was added to the site, there was an expectation that I would be writing a newsletter each month. That has not happened. Will having a blog encourage me to write more often? I don’t know. What the heck is the difference? Either way, I have to sit and write something, send it to my friend, who takes out her red pencil and has her way with my offenses, both in punctuation and grammar. Maybe it just sounds better to say “I have a blog” rather than “I have a newsletter.” My mother’s senior apartment complex has a newsletter.

I’m looking at this blog not only as a replacement for the newsletter but also another way to grease the cogs and wheels in my aging brain, and keep it as flexible as I try to keep my body. How often will this blog appear? We’ll see.

It’s a new activity for me. I’ll try it and see how it feels. This time of life, this post-midlife adjustment, is a curious place. Even as I hold firm to the comfortable and familiar, there’s room to try new things.