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Resolutions – the TMI Edition

What a strange year this has been. The highs have been very high, indeed – heady, even. New jobs, new friends, Obama’s election, dinner at Lola, recognition for working hard to make my City a better place to live, and recognition that I am actually a writer in my old age. On the other hand, the lows have been terribly low. My mother falling down the stairs and spending months in the hospital and a rehab facility, the emptiness after working hard on a campaign and losing not only the election but the intense personal connections that went with it, the reappearance of a painful (but not dangerous) medical condition, and the loss of friends to death, relocation and irreconcilable differences. I have often felt, this year, that I am repeatedly shot from a rocket into space, surviving the return trips south only because I am cushioned by the tremendous love and goodwill of my family, my friends, and the constant comforts of cooking, reading, writing and snuggling with dogs and cats.

I am not given to making resolutions. I have in the past, only to inflate them, break them, and lament them. I am not any more likely to lose 20 pounds, plant a garden, floss twice a day, learn Spanish, medidate daily, or keep the kitchen floor clean in 2009 than I was in 2008, 2007, or (Lord help me) 1997.

So I am making one, sweeping, over-arching resolution which may or may not be kept, but which should at least give me a point of reference when I slip or struggle. I am going to BALANCE. I have always believed that only the hard things in life had any value, and operated on a byzantine system of internal points. I get points if I write something for work that does not interest me, because it’s difficult. I get no points if I write something that does interest me (even if it is longer, more complex and objectively better) because the work is enjoyable. I get points if I clean the bathroom, which I hate, but I get no points if I cook something highly complex and it turns out well, because I like to cook. I get points for listening to a difficult acquaintance who calls periodically to dump extraordinarily long tales of woe, because it’s exhausting, but I get no points if I have several conversations with a beloved friend who is having a difficult time with a parent, spouse, job or child because that feels rewarding to me, and leaves me happy. Helping Sam with a report on the time line of Colombia gets me a bevvy of points because there are tears and there is yelling, but lying in bed with him and reading a book is “pointless” because it is, well, delightful.

This perpetual weighing, measuring and judging makes it difficult, if not impossible, to pass a day talking to friends, enjoying my family, cooking, working and writing a blog post without feeling that I have done “nothing.” I have failed to clean the grout, return the call to the cranky neighbor, push back my cuticles, clean out the dog crates, find the lost mitten, paint the porch, etc.. I get a sense of elation bordering on psychosis when I “skip” something I don’t want to do,  like a social engagement that I agreed to out of guilt, or a meeting (I hate all meetings with a passion), although the elation is inevitably replaced with guilt. I have come to believe that my factory settings are askew; that the “Duty” triggers are in place, but that those for “Relaxation” and “Acceptance” were left on the conveyor belt by a worker who was…relaxing. See what happens when you relax?!

So, if I can do it, this is the year I stop the point system and see the value in the things that bring me peace and pleasure. I am not planning (or advocating) the abandonment of duty, or the beginning of a life of selfish dissolution (as if…), I am going to try to give myself credit when I “do good” and love it, just as I have always done when I “did good” and hated it. Maybe, if I keep re-focusing, I can come to believe that a delicious dinner served to my family or friends, a conversation with someone that is punctuated with hysterical laughter, a blog post well written, or volunteer work that makes me smile the rest of the day is GOOD. I still need to keep the bathrooms clean, go to PTA meetings and research icky legal stuff, but maybe, just maybe, if I have allowed myself to enjoy the things and people that I love, the hard parts will come easier.

There is an argument to be made, if one is a religious type (which I am), that the things that come easily are gifts from God, and that to fight them, avoid them, or otherwise contravert them is really just as morally wrong as, well, living a life of selfish enjoyment without helping anyone else. Hmmmm. I’m also guessing that this is not an issue unique to me, and that many of my fellow sufferers are women, although I will gladly accept correction on that point.

It might be sad if I never had a really big “high” in 2009, or ever again, but often, the price of the 2008 rocket rides was time with my family, sleep, peace of mind and the inevitable crash. I’m resolving to even my keel in 2009, and to view my value in the universe based not only how often I “do the needful,” or accomplish the Big Stuff, but on how often I do what is natural and lovely and pleasing, even if I enjoy it too much (damn it). I’ll be back to food and cooking next time you see me; thanks for indulging me as I stick my toe into the water of the balanced life. Of course, if you have the secret key to this balance thing (as long as it doesn’t involve grain alcohol, self-help books or moving to Sedona) I would love for you to share.

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

7 responses »

  1. Ann,

    Could it possibly be as good for you to write this blog as it is for us to read it? I should like to think that you could reach a point that it is so.

    Do not ask me how to find the place of balance, it is as elusive here. Stealing the moments of satisfaction amid the guilt of the undone would indeed be an adjustment to the very soul. Slovak Lutherans were extremely good at instilling this same conflict deep inside me. I cannot advise………

    So lets start in the last hours before your resolution goes into full effect.

    Ann, this is the best written and most personal thing you have ever shared with your fans. We are all better for your thoughts. Today was a very good day, if only for the fact you put down in words what you have been distilling all year. It is the first step toward a more peaceful mind.

    Oh, and you’ll need to scrape that porch first………..

    Reply
  2. ann, (and robert too)

    the words are wonderfully written, and the message is – of course – real and true and good.

    the religious thing is not my thing. what matters is only what you make matter. it all means nothing and in 100 years after we die no one will know much less care. personally, i find that delightful news… and it helps put things in perspective. we live, we die – most of us take ourselves, our thoughts way way too seriously…

    so i am resolute to spend 2009 being an observer. to live in wonder of the universe. and to relinquish control. because that control thing is all a sham. you do your best (hopefully most days – not all), and you move on – and as a wise friend recently noted to me, you hope to wake up every single day in this, the best year of our lives – if only because it’s the one we will be living…

    Reply
  3. i’m in awe of the wisdom i’m surrounded by this morning.
    balance is something that escapes me, year after year so this year, instead, i am resolving to do more for more. i’ve gotten rather apathetic in recent years and this is my time to shake it off and be a do-er rather than a talker.
    wish me luck

    Reply
  4. Ladies and Gentleman, I’m all verklempt.

    Robert, you are too kind – I was really worried about posting this, since this blog is supposed to be about, well, food, but it just wouldn’t rest until it was written. My mind is actually more peaceful for having gotten my thoughts “down on paper,” so to speak; and I am saying Yes to more things that please me and No to things that serve no purpose other than extending the infinite to-do list. Of course I’d scrape first – I don;t leave “holidays” when I mow a lawn, or forget to spackle holes before I paint walls, either.

    Claudia, if I can learn to relinquish even some control, I will have come a long way. It’s hard for me to observe; I have the urge, always to be a “macher” and make everything right for everybody. If I’m honest, it’s really an ego thing about wanting to be the Saver. My mantra may have to be “control is an illusion….”

    jayedee, from what I see, you are already a do-er, although I’m guessing you have some big plans. I know that you have stepped up and supported me several times, and i don’t even really “know” you. (Although I sort of do). I always wish you luck; just don’t do so many things that I don’t hear from you any more…?

    Reply
  5. if i have learned anything it is this… that when you try and control people or a situation, it is harder on both them and you. and when you can just let it go, you feel lighter and breathe easier – and the world rewards you. it takes practice but then it comes easier the more you do it…

    quite simply, people need to be who they are. so let them. and they will have their life, as you have yours. imperfect, as it may be…

    because in the end, even if we all DO get to frollick with god in heaven, it all means so little down here. so let’s go easier on each other while we exist since this go around is already in full swing… and is the only definite.

    i really really believe this….

    Reply
  6. Claudia, I say “amen,” but it will take some work. I have always believed that I was personally holding the cosmos together by sheer force of will. Imagine what I could do with all of that energy if I…stopped.

    Reply

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