Good for You

I’m thinking that the reason New Year’s resolutions are so powerfully seductive has nothing to do with the new year, in so many words.

I think it’s because, in our culture, the early January return to “real life” demands that we change patterns anyway. No more with the sloth and gluttony. Here we are setting the alarms again, getting up for work, not eating Christmas cookies for breakfast. Since we have to deal with the offense of an electronic wake-up at an offensive hour, why not go for that extra half-hour that would allow me to cook a healthier breakfast? And if I’m cooking a healthy breakfast, why not try to plan healthier menus all around?

It’s been fun seeing everyone “return” from the holiday hiatus. FaceBook and Twitter are full of grumblings and resolve.

It was also interesting to see how many people took “vacation” from the internet also. As if that, too, is work. Which, I’m beginning to think, it really is.

I did it, too. On New Year’s Day, when I did nothing, I never turned on the computer. What I did was lay about and read. And it’s funny to me, that reading now falls under “doing nothing” in my mind. I really needed that relaxed time, however, to get back in the reading groove.

We’ve all noticed we’re not reading much. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books posted an article on the topic, triggered by an NPR article on how ebooks are changing us, which cites an article in the Atlantic Monthly by writer Nicholas Carr on whether the internet is making us stupid. If you can pick only one of the three, read Carr’s, even though it’s long. It will be good for you.

I don’t believe the internet is a bad thing. This kind of linking of essay to article, one provoking another’s thought is a wonderful tool. I also think that rewiring our brains to process more information in faster slices is okay, too.

And, like the readers Carr talked to, I agree that I’m losing something.

I, too, can feel my attention wander after a few paragraphs. I skim. I get a taste and move on. Even something I want to read, I sometimes find I just can’t. I made a deliberate choice many years ago not to watch TV, because I do believe it undermines the imagination and trains you to follow other people’s ideas. But I hadn’t realized how profoundly the internet is affecting me, until I spend the last year writing and reading blogs, posting to FaceBook and following Twitter. And not reading nearly as much.

So, this morning I’m back at it. Got up right at 6am, exercised, fixed my healthy breakfast and sat down to write this post at 7. In a few minutes, I’ll move to the novel I’m working on. Or the novella. I actually have six projects I’m drafting at this time, which might be a problem. And one novel I’m trying to sell that I may yet have to revisit.

When I finish my work day, I’m now inserting an hour previously spent noodling on the internet. I’m going to walk away from the computer and just read. By the end of my day of reading, I found I had it back. I relearned my old trick of sinking into a book.

And damn, it felt really good.

When I sell my novel and have to make edits, while writing the sequel and finishing the novella, I’ll want to be able to access my ability to move quickly from project to project. And then to stop it all and just read.

It’s good for me.

No, Thank YOU!

I’m not a Thank-You Note writer.

I’m one of those, yes. Not that I wasn’t raised right. My mother tried to teach me to do it. Made me do it on occasion. She also had a little sculpture my first boyfriend, Kev, gave her, of a man tugging on the reins of a stubbornly sitting mule.

Ha ha, guys.

I don’t do Christmas cards either. I tried a few years to do it. One year I did Valentines to everyone instead. After that, well, not so much. I am deeply grateful to the friends that have retained me on their lists, despite my non-reciprocation. To me that’s love — that they know I’ll never send a card back and they accept this in me.

I’m a bad correspondent, too. Since I’m confessing. When I went to college, my stepfather, Leo, gave me a stack of stamped envelopes with their address, so I could easily write home. He often harrumphed that it was the worst investment he ever made. Of course, that was just a gambit to try to keep me and my mother from running up the long-distance bill (remember when it used to cost by the minute to talk on the phone?), which was a failed premise from the start.

Ironically, I think all of this is because I’m a writer. When I do write a letter, it goes on for pages and pages. And once I’ve written a “story,” I feel I’ve written it and I’m done. I don’t want to write it again.

I know people really hate it when they’re asked “did you read my blog?” so I try not to say that. And yet I find myself in conversations where I’m telling a story and the other person will say, oh yeah, I read that on your blog. So, I try to mentally track who I know reads this regularly. You can imagine how well that goes.

At any rate, my lovely stepsister, Hope, sent me a Thank-You Note for her birthday gifts, for her December birthday. And two days later, sent me another for the Christmas presents. Even though she knows we don’t do Thank-You Notes. Yes, my mother told her, having given up on them herself. And yes, Hope reads this blog.

I was planning, Hope, to threaten you at this point. That if you persist in sending Thank-You Notes, worse, multiple ones, that I’d have to escalate by sending Thank-You Gifts. (Note: no writing involved.)

But then, I re-read Hope’s birthday thank-you and it’s so sweet. And I love hearing how she liked what I sent.

Hope and I don’t get to talk much. We’re new to sisterhood with each other and we’re both busy. We don’t have an established pattern of communication, really. We only talk when we’re together. So it goes.

Maybe this is okay then. I send my gifts and she sends her thank-yous. I tell my stories here.

What’s most important is embracing each other for who we are.

Me and My Dream of Doing Nothing

Yesterday, I did absolutely nothing.

And it was everything I thought it could be.

Actually, I don’t have a dream of doing nothing — but the line from Office Space feels inevitable. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should drop everything you’re doing and go rent the movie right now. At any rate, I am generally a busy person. David says I am always busy. I’m willing to concede the point. I’m the person who, (AVATAR SPOILER ALERT) after the triumphant end of Avatar starts wondering what he’s going to *do* there now. Sure it was challenging and exciting when he had the steep learning curve and the conflict and all that. But, while tribal life looks so peaceful and bucolic, wouldn’t you get, well, bored after a while?

I think it mainly looks attractive to us because we are so busy.

And busy I have been. This new project I’ve been working on that’s so political involves countless meetings and hours of phone calls. Visiting and revisiting deadlines. Then I had another project that I had to deliver by midnight on December 31, which is not nearly as magical as it sounds. My colleague worked all week on it, when I wasn’t on other calls or going to meetings. She read over it while I took a shower at 6:30pm on New Years Eve and then I emailed it off. David and I made our 7:30 dinner reservation.

Normally, January 1 is a busy day for me. I come from Marie McGee’s School of How to Make Them Think You’re a Lady (Even If You’re Not) and one of the tenets written in stone is Thou Shalt Take Down Thy Christmas Decorations on New Years Day. Anything else TACKY. (Nothing is worse than “tacky” in Marie McGee’s world.) And normally I like that, starting the new year clean and fresh.

But you know, I just wasn’t feeling it yesterday.

I started this blog one year ago on January 1, so I had planned a bit of a year in review. Revisit the metrics. Discuss how it went. That sort of thing.

Wasn’t feeling that either.

I dragged myself out of bed at 9am, which is the longest I’ve slept in for quite a while. Though we did stay up until 1, which was also impressive. 9am is just the time the sun hits the big armchair on the west side of the living room. David brought me coffee. Then oatmeal. I sat in my nightgown and read.

When the sun moved off the chair, I spread a blanket on the floor, and followed the sun across the floor all day — until 4:17 pm, in fact — reading and gazing at the sky.

I watched the sunset. I took a bath and used all of my scrubs and lotions. We watched a movie and I went to bed at 10.

I did load the dishwasher before bed, but that was my lone concession to productivity.

I’ve never had a dream of doing nothing, but it truly was all I thought it could be.