Goals for 2012

It’s been a month. One month without mom. Without her voice, her touch, her face, her thoughts. I expected to be immovable, stranded on an island of grief and away from the world that I understand. But grief defies expectations, and so does faith. When the two interact, we often find ourselves in unfamiliar territory; rough, but not impossible. 

This is where I find myself, one month into this new chapter of life, this new year where nothing and everything is different. The thing is, for me, the girl that moved away from home nearly seven years ago ne’er to return, my life looks the same in so many ways. But it feels different on the deepest levels. 
And so when I started working through the idea of change, writing this post a couple of weeks ago prompted me to think about tangible ways to embrace that change. I’m not one to make resolutions; I’m usually one to break them. When I have made new year resolutions, February usually marks the end of effort and there’s a celebratory burning of the resolution list. I can be just that rebellious against myself. 
But this February is different. I am different.
Maybe it seems inappropriately belated to share a resolution list in February. But life is short. And in one of the last conversations my mom had, she told one of our family members, with clarity and conviction and absolute love, “It’s never too late.” 
If we’re not intentional, time rushes past and most of it is wasted. So I’m sharing with you the goals I have for 2012, the ones that will help me embrace change. Next week I’ll share another goal list, my 30 Before 30. Tell me, do you have any goals for 2012? Or goals before you turn a certain age? Now that it’s February, how would you rate your progress with those goals?
P E R S O N A L : 
- get a physical (for the first time in 2 years) 
- visit the optometrist and get a new pair of glasses (for the first time in 5 years) 
- visit the dentist (for the first time in 5 years)
- take a bubble bath once per week (this one is going VERY well, I should mention.)
- give myself a weekly manicure (this one has also been a success!)
- read at least 12 books (an average of one per month, but I don’t have to finish each one within 30 days)
P R O F E S S I O N A L : 
- redesign blog and/or convert to WordPress
- double my blog readership 
- contribute 11 guest posts for other blogs (average of one per month from February to December) 
- write and share at least one new poem per month on my blog
- get one article or poem published in an online or print magazine
- create writing portfolio for graduate school and job interviews
- get business cards for my writiting, editing, and art
- create and sell at least 100 paintings through my Etsy shop
- get up early enough to eat breakfast and write for 30 minutes each morning (working on this one, but not quite there yet)
[Image via]

Guest Poem : Jim Woods

I feel the wind in my face.
I see nothing but space, color and light.
I dream.
I drift as the sky carries me away.
I close my eyes and savor the moment.
I feel the warm light against my face.
I am lifted higher.
I begin to soar, up and down, all around.
I drift away as the sky continues to open.
I find even more colors above.
I continue to drift in the heavens.
As I drift towards you.

~

Jim Woods is a dreamer, writer, and guitar junkie living in Nashville. Jim writes to inspire others to pursue their passions and follow their dreams. You can read Jim’s blog at www.unknownjim.com.

Poem : Saturday

Yes, I suppose I’ve stayed in bed too long,
till noon,
tangling myself between sheets,
roaming the untouched corners of my mind
while my head is held comforted
by pillows.
It’s the only way,
these lazy Saturdays,
while the white noise of neighbors’ water runs
and planes of busy people
fly high above me.
At the peak of daytime, I am only just beginning;
better that I make this transition
slowly,
than rush myself through
taking note of nothing.
Run along without me.
Let me savor sleep
and hold myself
in the quietness of simply being.

book·ish : Favorite Film Adaptations of Literature.

Oscar season is upon us! Do you watch them every year? Last night the hubs and I watched the Ides of March, which is a nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay. I haven’t read the book, but it got me thinking about best adapted films from literature. I find it interesting that The Help is not on the list; I felt that the film did great justice to this beloved novel! But that’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with Oscar picks. [Here is the full list of Oscar nominees for 2012.]

My all time favorite adapted film is Atonement. It is also in my top favorites of books and films in general. It was nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 80th Academy Awards in 2007, but fell to No Country for Old Men on both counts.

Tell me, what is your favorite film adaptation of a novel?

~

book·ish/ˈbo͝okiSH/Adjective


1. (of a person or way of life) Devoted to reading and studying rather than worldly interests.
2. (of language or writing) Literary in style or allusion.
3. (of art and all manner of lovely things) devoted to the written word as a form of art and as a way of seeing the world.
4. (of SheWritesandRights.blogspot.com) anything of the aforementioned characteristics as they are found on the interwebs and reposted by Bethany, because bookish and writerly things always give reason for amusement.

Inspired By.

I’ve wanted to get my hands on it for a long time, and now I am finally and blissfully engrossed in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It is as good as everyone has insisted, and it’s just what I need right now. I love the imagery in this, 

“I wish I had a secret I could let you in on, some formula my father passed on to me in a whisper just before he died, some code word that has enabled me to sit at my desk and land flights of creative inspiration like an air-traffic controller. But I don’t.” 

Yes. Exactly. 
And today my thoughts are flighty and somewhat incomprehensible and so I’m thankful that this weekend is here, and that I can fly around with them, exploring new ideas, and hopefully capture them on a page somehow. 
These are the words and ideas that inspired me this week, the ones that are still floating around in my head, among other things. I hope you find them as delightful as I have. 
“We lost the bet and won everything.” A beautiful post on marriage
Are you a midnight hustler? Ryan Gosling has something to tell you.
Bones and bodies : the mystery of our physical selves.
[Photo : my peace lily. The one living thing in my apartment besides me and husband. I find it fascinating. Also, do you follow me on Instagram? Let's be photo friends.]

Mingus at the Showplace : Digesting Experience

I heard an excerpt of this poem on my favorite morning radio show this morning, during a report about the Poetry Foundation. I howled with laughter at the first line, and delighted in the words as they flowed on. 

Mingus at the Showplace  

BY WILLIAM MATTHEWS 

I was miserable, of course, for I was seventeen,
and so I swung into action and wrote a poem,
and it was miserable, for that was how I thought
poetry worked: you digested experience and shat
literature. 

Read the rest of the poem here
And I am so thankful that in the digital age, radio hasn’t died, and neither has poetry. Happy Wednesday, friends. 

Poem : The Movement



The Movement 

I’ve never been able to cartwheel.
Even as a kid.
But since everything in my life is changing,
Upside down and backwards to how
I thought I would feel,
I figure,
I should do things differently.
Make changes.
Try, for once, to feel triumphant,
exuberant,
because
YES!
I did it!
I’ll stretch my body out.
Reach my hands to the firm ground.
Let my feet feel the wind,
the free-flowing sky.
Let my stomach muscles loosen
and my belly-button see daylight.
Because I am capable of movement.
I am capable of being moved.

Inspired By.

I feel compelled to say something.

I hope that my posts this week didn’t mislead you.

Let me explain.

I lost my mom less than three weeks ago, and yes, I feel totally different than I anticipated.

But.

I hope that my motivation and my words and my thoughts didn’t lead you to believe anything other than that this grief is real. I’ll be honest with you, I’m getting the “you’re doing so great!” line a lot. Maybe that’s my fault. I’ve been giving the blanket, generic, “I’m doing fine” line, too. And I appreciate the support and encouragement. Really, I do.

Yes, I have newfound motivation for my morning routine when I expected to be unable to get out of bed. Yes, I am writing now more than ever when I expected my words to run dry. Yes, I am focused at work when I expected to be incapable of functioning. Yes, I am making plans and goals for the new year when I expected to be stagnant indefinitely.

But this difference that I feel in my everyday, in my faith, in my self, is downright befuddling. Confusing. Strange. Surreal. It is not a “great” or a “fine” or a word that denotes anything close to easy.

I’ve encountered something, and it has stolen my breath away. I sense the vastness of life, and it feels so much larger and deeper than before. And it is a terrifying magnificence that evokes wonder and awe and worship and shock and fear. Maybe something like the astronauts felt the first time they looked back to earth from the moon. Or how a mother feels at the peel of an infant cry in childbirth. Or how a diver feels when he happens upon the Lions Mane Jellyfish. It is all surreptitiously heartbreaking and beautiful. I feel grief, and also peace.

And I don’t get it.

But I do get it.

But I don’t.

And so really, all I want to tell you, is that should you survive loss, like most of us have to do at some point or other, don’t expect anything. Prepare yourself for the reality of life and death, but try to let nature run it’s course, not just in the person you are losing, but in you. Let life overwhelm you and change you. I hope that you get that part of it, at least.

Meantime, here is some good reading for the weekend.

What makes me feel beautiful : wine and words.

“The real question at the heart of Harry Potter is, Can love win? And it’s answered in Snape, the second cruelest person in the world, next to Voldemort, who is somehow transformed by love.” – Snape is my type of hero.
“Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you.” Sound advice, no? House of Reps, are you reading this?
Oh, and this photo.

Morning : A New Routine

I am not a morning person. When the alarm goes off at 6:15 my body feels like a dead weight. My ears don’t really hear it until 6:30. And the purpose behind that annoying jingle doesn’t really register in my brain until 6:45. And then the dread sets in : the effort of getting out of my warm bed, making myself presentable, going out in the cold, dealing with morning traffic, answering emails at work, doesn’t make sense from the comfort of my fetal position beneath a pile of blankets. To my shame, I have been known to sleep until 8 a.m. 
The bright spot, the one motivating event of my every morning, was my phone chat with mom on the commute to work. I would climb into my car, put on my headset, dial her, pull out of my parking space, and before I reached the end of the lot and started on the road she would greet me with a cheerful, 
“Good morning, my Bethy.” 
As the months of 2011 waned on and cancer took its toll on her body, this routine changed. The cheer in her voice lost its color and vibrancy. Conversations grew shorter. And there were many mornings when instead of that phone call, I received another one from my dad or my grandmother saying that they were taking her to the hospital again. I let the depression settle into me, keep me in bed a little longer each morning, away from the world, away from work, away from writing and everything “wrong” with my life. 
You can imagine how different my mornings feel now, to know that our routine is forever changed. No phone calls, no cheery chats. It would be all too easy to justify staying in bed permanently. 
Yesterday I pondered words for 2011. Today I ponder words for the first weeks of 2012. 

The one word that seems to fit for this time : 

C H A N G E . 

2012 is my year to accept that change. To live with it, work with it, respond to it. I figure that since my mornings are fundamentally different now, why not roll with it? I know what my mother would do to me if she knew I was sleeping in and arriving late to work every day. I can’t dishonor her like that. 
So I’m getting up early, when my alarm actually goes off… Okay, here’s a secret : I employed the help of my best friend, who has to be AT work at 7 a.m., to text me repeatedly until I answer her that I am out of bed. And I can’t lie to her, so I might as well actually get up when I say I am going to. 
And from my bed I walk to the kitchen, where our shiny new french press awaits, and my bright yellow tea kettle sings hello, good morning, and I pour a mug for myself, mom’s mug. 
From there the day begins. I’ve even allotted time to pack my lunch. And instead of dwelling in the silence of a morning commute without my mother, I call my grandmother; it doesn’t do to dwell in the loneliness. 
So let the change I feel be the change I need in order to rise early and greet the day in a new way, with gratitude, with discipline, with determination.

Five Words for 2011























1. S A V O R :
The bittersweetness of this year taught me to savor every moment. Through it I learned to be intentional about making memories. Life is so rich with blessings, even when times are hard. I see the whole of 2011 in the memorable moments : trips to the beach, long drives to and from Chicago, visits from my brothers, good conversations and good music and city excursions and goodbyes and birthdays. Every moment is a gift; let yourself enjoy the present.
2. C R E A T E :
2011 taught me so much about creativity. For the first time in years, I allowed myself to explore poetry and the visual arts. And those things, which seemed so secondary to who I am, became lifelines for me. They steadied me in a way that I did not anticipate, and also gave me a freedom that I could not attain in my work life or family life. Once I began, the instinct and drive were a force that kept me moving forward. Creative drive is transformative when we allow it to be. In 2012 I fully intend on pursuing these things further.
3. C O N N E C T :
I’ve crossed paths with so many amazing people this year, almost all of them as a result of this blog. I always thought of writing as a solitary experience, but words are universal; they have a way of tying us to another in a spirit of truth and creativity. I branched out in a big way by meeting with some of them in person, and I’m excited to meet more of you in 2012. I met Ally and Darrell in September when they came to Chicago for the Story Conference and I guest posted for both of their blogs. And I met Abby, Melissa, and Jess at the Business in the City event in December.
And as for the friends I “virtually” connected with,
- Missy and I exchanged her book for one of my paintings and have been connecting online ever since
- Sam and I discovered in one another twin bookish tastes (among many other similarities)
- An old college friend and I bonded over shared experience with loss.
- And Brynna, Mandy, Helena, Elizabeth, Rachel, and Blane all shared their writing with me, too.
4. R E F L E C T :
I wrote a lot this year through journaling, poetry and blogging. I am so thankful I did, because now in my desperation to hold on to the blessings that seemed few and far between in 2011, I have written record of them. Scanning through my blog archives and the pages of my journal, I see now that the year was full of good things. My reflections in my writing then created an opportunity to reflect on them in the future, too. I can reflect on those for years to come and keep those moments alive in my memory.
5. F O C U S :
2011 was full of distractions. I didn’t pursue freelancing in the last six months because I needed time to be at home with my family. I didn’t pursue grad school for the same reason. I didn’t make any changes to my blog over Christmas break because I was at home spending time with my mom, too. If you want me to be really honest, it also affected my finances, my marriage, my friendship, and my office job.
And though for a long time it seemed that I was being plagued by all these inconveniences and injustices, I realized as time went on that it was, in fact, one really important thing helping me weed out all the other inconsequential things which distract me from what’s truly important.
2011 taught me to say “no” in order to say “yes.” It taught me to work, blog, write, relate, and create with intention. It taught me to see life in death. It focused my priorities.
I wonder what my words will be for 2012. I think enough has happened so far that I can come up with at least one word before the week is through. Stick around. And tell me, what are your words for 2011?
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