Left: Glass plate I made a couple of years ago, about 12 x 12 inches square. A friend and I went to investigate an open studio situation where you could be trained on the equipment and then rent space and kiln time. I loved my plate, and I loved the process, but neither have any room in my life at the moment. I'm one of those people who doesn't like to dust, so I don't like to have lots of things around to dust (something I'm always working at because there are always books to dust and well—stuff—it's a process). This year I called up a friend who has a lot of glass pieces in her home and asked her if she would give my plate a home. To her credit she accepted it over the phone unseen. I know she'll give it a fine home where it will be filled with decorative bits as appropriate to the season, and even dusted. But most important, this thing I made makes her a little happy, and it wasn't making me happy at all because I had to dust it and move it out of the way so it wouldn't get broken when I was making other stuff—things are always under construction here, and I don't mean the breakfast nook! And it also always drew me away from what I really needed to be doing, and by that I mean it was always calling me to make more glass plates—but I know however fun that might be that isn't what my life is about. Click on the image to view an enlargement. Photo by Tom Nelson.
It's the end of another year. If you wonder how I'll be spending my New Year's Day you can read Happy 2009 (One Day Early).
I'm pretty much a creature of habit—it helps me get a lot done.
Despite the title of this post I'm not against goals and resolutions. I am against the arbitrary approach we sometimes layer over them—that things have to happen by this time or that day or it's all a bust. I think we need balance in our lives and we get that by being present in our lives, really sitting with whatever is happening around us (not texting on our cell phones or using those phones to search the internet!). I guess that bit about cell phones makes me old school.
I have two great thrills of gratitude about my life and times (as opposed to my life and the people I've met, for which I also have lots of gratitude).
I'm grateful (and ecstatic) that I lived in an age when printing was practiced in all modes from letterpress to digital, and that I have been a practitioner of it all. It gives me a sense of pleasure to be in that stream of work which includes church reformation (Gutenberg's Bible), country reformation (U.S. Revolutionary broadsides), and personal transformation (just about everything else from zines to prints to you name it). Everyone always talks about "standing on the shoulders of giants." Knowledge of the line of comunications (and its wonderful subversive possibilities for transformation) is something that greets me every day when I sit down to work. I love it. I'm humbled by it. I'm excited by it.
And the other thrill of gratitude I have about my life is that I lived, at least for a spell, in an age where people actually wrote real letters to each other.
But I digress. (The point is that neither of my great thrills of gratitude about my life and times relates to the cell phone or internet.)
I'm all for setting goals and making contracts with myself (as well as others). But what I would really like to advocate today, at the end of another year, is a bit of self-reflection, a real dose of honesty, and the embracing of possibilities that result from that course. Then you can actually be present in your life, working hard, with a hope of meeting goals, because they are realistic and bear some relationship to the life you are actually living.
This isn't about settling for something "less than," and it isn't about acceptance. I couldn't be more opposed to either of those approaches. (We settle for something "less than" and we wallow in acceptance when we don't look at what is really happening in our lives—when we aren't honest with ourselves.)
If your goals don't bear any relationship to the life you're living, then EVERY DAY, or ANY DAY, is the day you need to sit yourself down and work out why—and then do something about it. And maybe it's simple steps like actually putting that pilates DVD you bought into the DVD player.
The thing is humans can be adaptable and changeable beings. Have you adapted to something unhealthy? Have your goals changed since you were younger? Are you chasing after goals that no longer really matter to you, have no place in your life, and make you miserable because they stay on the to-do list?
At the end of every day you need to stop and look a moment at that. Not to beat yourself up over lapses and digressions but to reset your course, just as you would check a compass if you were out in the wilderness. You need to ask "Am I making choices that make sense in my life? If not, why not?"
If you are present in the life you actually have you'll draw all the benefits you can from it, but you'll also see ways to change it. Small incremental ways, or large catastrophic ways.
For me that seems to trump goals and resolutions. Being present in your life is the only thing that makes goals and resolutions even possible.
I want to thank all of you for reading another year of posts from me. It has been great fun to hear from you. It has been especially fun to hear how many of you have started journaling, or returned to journaling.
May your to-do list always wax and wane in direct relationship to your energy. And may that to-do list be built upon a profound awareness of who you are. I hope all your creative endeavors in 2011 bring balance to your life.
Don't wait for a special day to change your life.