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DEC
31

What's in a Year?

What is a year, really? There’s that iconic Rent song, of course, that boils it all down to love—probably a more accurate measure than we realize. But if you really take a look at a year, what is it?

Is it measured by the things we do? Six jewelry trade shows, one sunrise hot air balloon ride, two book parties, one eclipse viewed in complete totality, four holidays with family, one stolen suitcase, three days at Disney with a nephew, one international vacation, forty mini gingerbread loaves baked, one dear friend’s funeral, one NBA finals game attended, two resolutions kept…

Or is it better measured by the things we don’t do? Twelve more eggs lost, the man I should have let go sooner, or maybe the one I didn’t keep but should have, the zoo membership not renewed, work projects not completed, books I didn’t read, chapters I didn’t write. Do these things carry more weight when taking inventory of our five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes?

Sometimes it’s easy at the end of a year to feel more haunted than happy; more regret than resolve. And you should know me well enough by now to know that this is usually the camp I sit in. It’s not that there’s anything irresistibly romantic about melancholy (read: it is the very definition of irresistibly romantic), it’s that there is value, at least to me, in pining for what might have been. What we do not accomplish. What we fail to achieve. To me, it gives us the opportunity to evaluate how badly we want it. And failing either makes us double our efforts to get or achieve this thing, or it allows us to let go of what turns out to be less important than we first thought.

I only set two resolutions in 2017, and I hit them both. I’m very proud of that, however minor they are in the grand scheme of my life. In addition to resolutions, however, I always write a letter to myself in preparation for each new year. It’s part encouragement, part tough love, and in general serves as a road map for the kind of person I want to be in the upcoming year. The letter that sat taped to by bedside table each day of 2017 was written last Christmas Eve while sitting inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. There was a pretty significant personal change I wanted to make this year; a rather toxic situation I counseled myself to get out of. I remember tears spilling down my cheeks as I rested my head against the cold cement of a cathedral column while composing the letter. Yet early on in 2017, I had already failed in my effort. And I won’t say it didn’t affect me greatly to wake up each morning and see my letter, knowing I hadn’t taken my own advice. But failing at this has brought about the doubling of effort I spoke of a moment earlier.

Something else that helps me in the wake of regret or falling short is to expand my perspective beyond a single year. It’s less about what’s in a year. It more like, what’s in a life? I was able to spend a few days in my hometown over Christmas, something I rarely do, and it was incredibly grounding to be amongst people who have known me since I was a child. Our lives are about everything we do, see. And the foundation we set is large; it is always present, regardless of how any individual year shakes out. We’re more than the sum of our years, so keep that in mind as you resolve, refocus, and reprioritize for the next five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

Happy New Year!

JUL
16

Tradeoffs

I would give a writing update, only I don't have one. Like, none at all. Because I haven't been writing. It's shameful. Not to say there's nothing in the works, because I did recently get asked to contribute to a book of essays being published and had a fun (read: rather torturously self-reflective) time writing that one, and I may be part of a group of single women writers launching a blog forum in the near future, so, there are writerly things happening. But as for progress toward my next book, who has the time? The answer is, not me.

There's a reason all my writing (and reading) time has disappeared, and it's because I joined a gym at the start of the year. Yes, I've become a gym rat. And I hate it. Or maybe what I mean is that I hate that I love it. In my defense though, it's not a typical gym. No sweaty, beefy body-building types. It's actually a wellness center that partners with a local hospital and focuses on rehabilitation, but also offers stellar classes and top-notch amenities. Honestly, it's nice. And while I do at times grapple with feeling like by paying the hefty membership fee that I'm contributing to White Privilege at its finest, it's a pretty incredible facility.

So there go all my weekday evenings.

And weekend mornings.

It's not so much that I want to get my money's worth (I totally want to get my money's worth), it's more that I set a fitness resolution at the beginning of the year. My usual method when it comes to resolutions is to set a crap load of them and then hope to hit at least some of them, at least the easy ones like "Take more vacations." But when you split yourself and your intentions so widely, I find it harder to really make progress. So this year I set only two resolutions, one fitness oriented and the other finance oriented. So while my writing efforts have gone to pot, we're halfway through the year, and both my fitness and financial resolutions are still on track, and to me that is satisfying.

Tradeoffs are such a bitch.

(PS - if you're looking for an interesting read featuring an excellent essay about how women have taken back "bitch" and are now coming for "crazy," check out All the Lives I Want. From Anjelica Huston to Sylvia Plath, the author delves into societal topics, mostly related to women, that don't get talked about enough. Or really ever.)

JAN
09

Resolutions: Week 1

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This was my view as I mulled over the new year and the areas on which I wanted to focus, to improve, to accomplish, or to at least spend more time on in 2016. The beach is an incredibly inspiring place for such thoughts, and I left feeling both refreshed and energized to get started. Nevermind that on the walk back to my house a bird pooped on my head--a warm, wet glob that fell from a tree and seemed to clearly indicate that the universe was rejecting the goals I'd just set, but whatever. I'm ignoring the whole incident. Because shit happens, yo.

I won't bore you with the details (some undoubtedly very pathetic) of my New Year's resolutions, but I will say that in many areas, week 1 was a complete success. I want to volunteer more and I signed up with two local San Diego charities that will hopefully give me the opportunity to do so. I want to be more social so I've lined up some events that will get me out of the house and meeting people more often. (Clarification: There's nothing wrong with being an introvert, but I'd like to make more of an effort to go to events that typically have me rationalizing that I'd much rather go home and write and spend time with my cat. Which is pretty much what I say about every social event.) I want to cook more and made potato soup from scratch like four times this week. (San Diego is in the dearth of winter right now with temps sometimes no higher than the fifties. Look what California has done to me???) I could continue in this vein, because there is more, but hopefully you get the point. Which is that I am doing things. Which is so much more powerful than trying to do things or saying you will do things or postponing things until a more convenient time.

That time is now, for all of us. So I leave you with the challenge of action as you delve more fully into the new year. Do the thing. Do all of the things. Just maybe wear a hat if any of those things involve walking on the beach.

MAY
27

Gemologist

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It is a bit sad that as we grow older, there seem to be fewer dreams to chase. Maybe not so much because we in actuality have fewer dreams, but because it just gets so easy to justify not chasing them. It's too hard. It's too late. Our lives are already too set. People depend on us. Our lifestyles might suffer. We fear failure. Our lives took other paths. Other things are more important.

It's been almost 4 years since I decided to pursue becoming a gemologist, a childhood dream of mine, and I battled many of these justifications over the years that preceded my decision, and certainly many times over these 4 years they have continued to surface to some extent...particularly when it came down to giving up a successful, lucrative career in order to sufficiently focus on finishing. I have worked harder at this than possibly anything else. And even though my finishing mattered less than other educational pursuits and goals usually do (this one started as a hobby, for crying out loud, and neither my job nor livelihood depended on it), it's come to mean more to me than any of the others. Because this one was for me. This one was for my childhood-and-teenaged self who always said I would. This one was for passion.

The culmination of a gemology education is a grueling six-hour exam, one you must get 100% on in order to pass. It's an exam I have dreaded from the first day of my first class, an exam which as recently as last week has had me in tears over the impossibility of ever being good enough to pass. So it wasn't exactly confidence I felt as I walked to campus yesterday morning for my first attempt. Yet if I told you there was something about the song that came on my iPod when I turned onto Jewelry Way, something about the first few stones going so smoothly, something about the look in my eye from the reflection in the campus bathroom mirror as I washed the RI liquid off my hands after I'd handed in the test that told me I had it, would you know what I mean? My instructor handed back my perfect test, and I walked back to my apartment having fulfilled a lifelong dream. Like I said, these kinds of experiences (ie. chasing and fulfilling dreams) don't come around every day, so I'm going to revel. I'm going to revel long and hard, and then I'm going to find myself a new dream. I'm telling you right now though, this one'll be hard to beat.

DEC
31

New

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If you must know, this wasn't actually taken at midnight. I cheated. I was there though, and I have some surpsingly close pictures of Ryan Seacrest to prove it. For the record, I am thoroughly embarrassed to have taken any pictures of him at all. Honestly, how does a person get such billing power with so little to show for it in the way of talent? Not that I'm saying that Ryan Seacrest has no talent, but what has he ever really done to show us otherwise? He can speak, he can speak into a microphone, he can speak into a microphone while keeping a show moving along at the proper pace, he can speak into a microphone while keeping a show moving along at the proper pace and simultaneously making all the girls he interviews look taller than they really are. Anyway, how did we get here? Almost a full paragraph on Ryan Seacrest?

You'll recall that I love NYE. I love Times Square. And I love that the confetti released at midnight is made up of wishes that the general public has hand-written on each little square. (See Hopes and Dreams. Or Wishing. Or even NYE Reboot.) The wish I made in 2013 that was shot into the sky a year ago didn't come true, and that's OK. It was sappy and stupid and something I knew I wouldn't get anyway, I just felt at the moment when I scrawled it on a tiny blue confetti square that it was still important for the universe to know it's what I would have wanted. This year's wish, the one released tonight, is another gamble, but it's a go big or go home kind of night.

In my book, wishes are things a person can't control herself. They need a little extra help, luck, fate, providence, miracle, whatever you want to call it. They aren't things you can bring about yourself. I love this aspect of New Years that the Times Square confetti brings, but I also love the chance New Years gives for us all to make resolutions that we can accomplish on our own. How empowering! And not because any of you are keeping track at home, but simply because I believe there is power in formally recording your goals, here are the three things I am resolving to accomplish this year:

1. Complete my gemology certification

2. Write my third book

3. Make a career switch (to something in the gemology realm)

It's going to take a lot of work, but I really think I can do it. Of course, everyone says that on January 1. It's why gyms are so crowded in January. Everyone is still on the wagon. So I'll check back in with you in a year. (And, um, also 2-3 times per week until then.) And as for my wish? I hope it enjoyed the ride down. I bet the view is pretty spectacular from up there.

MAY
25

For the Long Weekend

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Here is my weekend goal: to enter all the edits I've been scribbling on the manuscript into the computer and print out a new, clean draft. I will not reach this goal, but it is, as they say in business, a stretch goal. (stretch goal, [n] 1. a target that is impossible to hit that you are asked to try for anyway. 2. a pipe dream)

So onto page 1.

JAN
14

The Impossibility of Time Management

I went to time management workshop a few years ago as part of a weekend conference, and I remember it changing my life. Because of how horribly depressed it made me. After asking the audience to list the roles and responsibilities that require chunks of time (in other words, what we do with ourselves all day), it became painfully obvious that only a small fraction of the listed items could actually be accomplished. Not that I didn't already know there was not enough time in the day, but now, through a rather clever illustration on the board and a speaker who seemed an authority on the topic, getting done the things that you want to had been proven officially hopeless. The speaker did go on to suggest some techniques for getting more done, and I remember these changing my life too, but still, I'll never forget the sense of hopelessness that overcame me in that workshop.

As a person with a full-time job, I find it particularly hard to find time for the things I want and need to do that don't involve work. Because for at least 10 hours of every day, I am committed to my job and can do nothing else. Not that that's stopping me from writing this. From my desk. At my office. But anyway, with the time that's left in the evenings, I can pick only a handful of things to accomplish. And I've been thinking about this in conjunction with my New Year's resolutions. Because like everyone else, there are certain things I'm resolving to spend more time doing. Like reading and writing. Aside from the fact that one of my other resolutions (to do more to serve and help others) would seem to conflict with these resolutions to increase the time I spend doing things for myself (reading and writing), there's the bigger issue that increasing time doing ANY of these things means finding more time period. It means cutting time away from other activities, only I'm not sure there's anything to be cut.

I know, I know, it's the story of our lives. It's just been on my mind this month. And the excitement over goals and projects and new beginnings is once again being overshadowed by the slight depression of realizing I simply can't accomplish everything. Or anything even remotely close to a small fraction of everything. I'd attend another workshop, but who has the time??

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TaliNayBooks Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. And bring watermelon. @sdzsafaripark #butterflyjungle #HappyEaster https://t.co/dgL68a5Lxs
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