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.

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.