Happy New Year! So, call me crazy, but here I go again, looking at a new year and new hopes/goals to come. The past 18 months or so have been really tumultuous, as you may (or not) be able to tell by my sporadic blogging. It was less about blogging no longer being a priority (or even paid work getting in the way of unpaid writing) than it was about where I was emotionally/spiritually/mentally. I am no Pollyanna, but I do feel like a cloud has lifted and I hope that 2015 will be a much better year for me in pretty much every sphere.
While I typically have resolutions, this year I’m picking up a challenge thrown down by my sister (in addition to or–more accurately–augmented by my own New Year’s goals): The 52 Weeks Challenge. Basically the idea is to come up with 52 new things to change/add during the year. Whether you try to do one thing a week or make lasting changes is up to you. My sister had forwarded me 52 Challenges for Writers, which got me thinking about my own list.
My list is both serious and whimsical, practical and NSFW (ha ha! wouldn’t be me if it were totally PG-rated), simple in the most banal way and complicated by factors that may be beyond my control. When I first began my brainstorming 52 challenges, I thought I would never manage to corral that many. However, it only took me a couple hours of jotting notes to get to 52 and a few more.
I already determined a few days ago (getting a jump start on those resolutions) that I really need to make some major life changes this year. None of us is getting any younger, but some of us are getting quite old! As I approach 50, I appreciate that an aging body is a foregone conclusion, but I do not have to go quietly into my denouement. There’s still quite a bit of time left for me to do those things I want to do, assuming I do the things I need to do.
I began by devising a chart (basically I just grabbed a piece of graph paper and put dates and column headers through Memorial Day), which will offer me some level of accountability to my actions each and every day this year (or half-year at the minimum; I can flip the page over come June!). I wanted to address the many areas of my life that need addressing; the one thing I left off this list is finances, which I think is a bigger issue that I may not be able to tackle this year (for a great post about the correlation between merging weight loss and financial gain, see here).
The categories on my chart are lettered:
- E = Exercise
- D = Drinking
- d (lower case because–believe it or not–this really isn’t my biggest problem; I have a pretty good diet) = diet (in the eating sense; not in the starving/fad sense)
- P = Productivity (which is separate from work: that day you get organized or de-clutter or run a bunch of errands, etc., is not a great work day but deserves a point for effort!)
- S = Spiritual (and note that my form of spiritual awakening might also be S = Sex; to each her own!)
- W = Work (i.e. paid stuff or at least effort that could lead to more money coming in)
Note: A few of these are already on my calendar this year, so they’re a bit of a cheat.That said, here are my 52 Challenges in roughly the order of my check sheet (and while some are blends between two categories, I tried to put each in the most appropriate area):
E = Exercise
1. Lose weight. Yeah, I know, it’s banal as hell, but I need to trim down 50 pounds. I joked to my sister that I could complete my 52 Challenges in about six seconds if I just wrote, “Lose a pound a week for a year.” And that’s really my goal: to be able to come back here in a year’s time and weigh less than I do now… even if it’s not all 50 of those terribly clingy Adipose.
2. Do at least one Shorewalkers event per quarter. And do The Great Saunter again on May 2nd. I used to be a prolific walker, but I lost my walking partner (the one who was a partial inspiration for the character Elise in The Truth) and pretty much stopped being involved with this fantastic group of people who explore NYC and its surrounds on foot.
3. Get to the gym twice/week or cancel my membership. I joined the Y about four months ago, and while it’s pretty cheap ($50/month), I never go. It’s more than 2 miles from here, requiring a bus ride to get there. This is why I don’t join gyms, because despite how nice the facilities, the inconvenience is enough to knock my willpower out cold.
4. Exercise at least 5 times/week, including at least 3 times/week of cardiovascular. I want to say “exercise daily” but at the same time, I know that inevitably there will be days that for whatever reason, my get up and go will have “got up and went.” I don’t want to beat myself up over a day lost, so I want to give myself that leeway. I’m already back to doing my daily practice (see below), so ideally I’ll be doing yoga every morning and running at least a few afternoons/evenings each week. I know without the cardio I’m doomed to failure. I even purchased a new pair of running shoes for Christmas as incentive (and they’re very good on the concrete where I’m forced to run, especially if I don’t manage to do #3!).
5. Run competitively. I haven’t done this since I was in middle school cross country, but even if it’s just a 5K, I want to get in at least one competitive run this year.
6. Moisturize daily. I know this doesn’t really fall under “exercise,” but it is a health/better looks issue. I’m not vain, but I can see my skin drying out and I don’t want to get too wrinkly if I can avoid it! Plus, moisturizing has been shown to reduce age spots, so AMEN to that!
7. Get that damn root canal. Again, not exercise, but speaks to general health issues. And, no, I still haven’t gotten it!
D = Drinking + d = diet
8. Drink more water and tea; drink less beer and coffee. Honestly, I’m pretty good about hydration, and I don’t drink much caffeinated coffee (I switched to 1/2 decaf about four years ago). However, I could benefit from more tea and less beer, especially as involves my overall calorie consumption. As I always joke when someone talks about beer being fattening: “Beer doesn’t make you fat! But calories do!” And (herbal) tea has the triple benefit of hydration, making you feel full, and providing comfort (nothing like holding a hot mug on a cold day).
P = Productivity
9. Have a technology-free day each month. Believe it or not, this is probably the hardest challenge on this list! I would love to think I could do a technology-free day every week, but the reality is that I would immediately be making exceptions (e.g. my cell phone, typing on the computer even without Internet). So, I’m thinking one day per month would be very challenging indeed!
10. Do one thing at a time. Not only does multi-tasking not work, it really keeps me from being present. Also, see “Mindfulness,” below.
11. Do NaNoWriMo. The National Novel Writing Month doesn’t happen until November. While writing more fiction is on my work list (below), this is really a test of commitment, which is really the essence of productivity. Plus, every year someone asks me if I’m participating. It would be nice for once to be able to answer in the affirmative.
12. Establish a budget. Honestly, I don’t know if this is about being productive or if it’s more appropriately cataloged elsewhere. As already noted, I don’t think I can really commit to a better financial life this year; it’s too overwhelming. However, looking at a budget means I know where I am headed… and hopefully that won’t be down a worse path!
13. Learn to use my DSLR camera. I used to use an SLR back when there was still film to develop, but for the last few years (decades?), I’ve used a digital point-and-shoot. Now I have the fancy-shmancy camera and I’m clueless. I need to take a class or read the manual and make it a priority to figure out where my F-Stop is. Because my depth of field is a nightmare (and I put this under productivity rather than work because it’s a matter of being more efficient with the camera as opposed to monetizing my work; I’m still a writer, which is why there are way more words than photos in my blog posts!).
14. Do not wait until January 2016 to track my income/expenses. Whenever someone asks me why I don’t hire an accountant to do my (or my daughter’s taxes), I say with exasperation that 98 percent of the effort is in paper collecting. I always have a huge pile of receipts by the end of the year, and every year I pledge to enter them into a ledger before I have to do my taxes. Because I don’t, I typically overpay on estimated taxes and have a ton of work to do in order to fill out my daughter’s FAFSA form each spring (not to mention the evil pile of paperwork that goes to the IRS).
15. Organize my desk and keep it clean. Speaking of piles of paperwork. My desk invariably is a nightmare. I tend to know where everything is, but every few months I get fed up and shove everything into a box to be sorted at a date TBD. It’s a vicious cycle of mess and procrastination that needs to end.
16. Clean the apartment once/week. While I would like to say I have a love-hate relationship with my apartment (see below), it’s heavier on the hate than the love. That said, a dirty apartment definitely messes with my feng shui (no, I don’t practice, that’s a joke). I need to be better about keeping the apartment in better order, especially as it gets dusty about 30 seconds after I finish dusting.
17. Get up at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays. Honestly, this could fall under exercise or spiritual, especially as getting up at that time is definitely a struggle for mind over matter. However, the reality is that if I get up at 4:30 on school days, I get my yoga and meditation over before I have to address kid issues at 6 a.m. I feel so much better and more centered, not the least of which is owing to getting an “extra” 90 minutes to my morning.
18. Don’t go to bed before the dishes are done. I am trying to get my son to be better about helping with chores, but the reality is that I still am the one to do the dishes on a regular basis. Since moving to this apartment, I no longer have a dishwasher (other than me or the kid!), which means there are always dishes in the sink. Nothing starts my day off worse than walking in to a sink full of dirty dishes. I guess this challenge could fall under spiritual, as well!
S = Spiritual
19. Practice Mindfulness daily. About a year and a half ago, my daughter talked me into taking a meditation class with her. While I probably wasted my money, it did teach me about mindfulness, the practice of being present, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Studies have shown that mindfulness leads to lower stress and fewer emotional outbursts, and I have been incorporating meditation back into my daily practice in the hopes to reap these benefits. Not to mention, if you let your mind wander all the time, you miss out on stuff (not to mention waste your time).
20. Buy fewer books; use the library more. This is tough, but honestly, I have no more room for books in my apartment. And while I love supporting authors by purchasing their work, books can get really expensive. The problem with the library, of course, is that 90 percent of the time a book has to be waitlisted (and then read quickly). However, if I am not determined to wait a few weeks to get my text and then read it in a timely fashion, maybe that’s not a book I really need to begin with (she says, knowing she has several new books in her “to read” pile).
21. Read daily. Speaking of which… I read every day, but I don’t always read a book. For this one, I want to commit to reading offline on a daily basis.
22. Read In Search of Lost Time. I’m still kicking it with The Long Hard Book Club, and we recently began reading Proust. If we like Swann’s Way, we hope to continue with all 3,000 pages of his magnum opus. Not a bad way to spend a year… searching for lost time!
23. Make my bed every day. When I first split up from my husband, one of the changes I made in my life was to make my bed every morning (he would always get up after me and never make the damn bed). I would joke that if I made my bed, I had accomplished at least one thing that day. Well, since moving to the new place (read on), I never make my bed, in large part due to the fact that I can barely get around it (my room is about seven feet wide). However, it does make me feel a tad better when I do walk into my room and see the bed made, even if it’s in a room over-loaded with boxes that have nowhere to be stored.
24. Find a better place to live. This, in fact, may turn out to be where I currently live, but I need to figure out a home space that doesn’t drive me crazy. Maybe that means buying an a/c unit to get through the summer or building some shelves to store my books (or at least finishing unpacking… I ran out of room months ago and hated it here so much, I figured what was the point in trying to find a place for the rest of my stuff). Or maybe I’ll get into a better place altogether should the rental gods smile upon me.
25. Explore Bed Stuy. I haven’t really done much to explore my hood, in large part owing to the fact that where I live is ungentrified. Let’s face it: if you’ve seen one bodega, you’ve seen them all. But if I am willing to get on a bus (or even just hoof it the two miles down to where that gym is), there are a lot of cool independently owned businesses that are worth checking out.
26. Play more board games. Last year I taught the kids how to play a card game that my family loves to hate (a variation on a game formerly known as “Horse Thief”: we call it “Oh, Hell!”). The kids also got games for Christmas (we burned through Cards Against Humanity in record time, I’m not ashamed to say). Point is, games are fun and we’ve really gotten away from non-digital gaming. I want to play more with my children.
27. Go to Harry Potter World. Speaking of playing, my daughter wants to go here for her 21st birthday. At least she’ll be able to order a butter beer with, well, beer in it (and purests, I do know that Butter Beer isn’t made with beer; go with me on this one)!
28. Go camping. On my bucket list. Maybe this is the year.
29. Find a girlfriend. Here’s where the S descends into sex, which is to me a perfectly acceptable way to express one’s spirituality. I currently have two regular boyfriends and another man I see when I can (living in London, so one hell of a commute), and I enjoy them all in different ways. But it would be nice to add a woman to that mix. It’s been a couple years since I last went out with a girl, and if there’s someone out there looking for a polyamorous, drama-free, middle-aged bisexual… well, here I am!
30. Get more involved in Fet Life (mature content warning). Fet Life is like Facebook for kinksters. I have a profile, but I’m rarely on there. I’m thinking it might be a more rewarding timesuck than traditional vanilla social media platforms. Since I am finally comfortable living a poly life, I don’t want to limit the possibilities of meeting more awesome people in the scene.
31. Go to a sex-con/play party. Think Comic Con with more displays of public nudity and bowls chock full of condoms. And, because I’m not getting any younger.
32. Curse less. Good clean fun can only get you so far (yes, that was irony), but I do curse like a sailor and maybe it’s time to curb that tendency. Just like it’s not cute when children curse, I don’t really want to end up having my memoir titled Bad Grandma. Okay, maybe I do, but cursing well timed is better than using the f-word as though I’m a character in Glengarry Glen Ross
33. Get a massage. Considering the amount of stress I endured in 2014, it’s somewhat shocking I didn’t get a massage all year long. I’ve been waiting to give myself one as a reward for losing weight, so I hope to book something in the next few months. Lord knows my shoulders need a work out!
34. Be conscientious about showing gratitude. When life is hectic (have you seen this list!?) and one is struggling, being consciously grateful is tough. Most days I really struggle with creative gratitude, but here’s hoping that practice makes perfect.
W = Work
36. Work my affiliates better. I have some awesome affiliates on my beer writing website, but I haven’t done much to promote them. However, I do have financial concerns looming large in my life, so ancillary income is something to pursue.
37. Consider a redesign of this website. I really liked this template when I launched, but I know there are more modern ones out there. I’m not a designer, and some of my graphics prove it! Might be time for a makeover.
38. Get my Cicerone Server’s license. This is actually two hours of study and one hour of test, so time to cross it from the list. I also want to take the Beer Judge’s Certification Program classes that start up in March, but I don’t know if I have it in me to become a student once again.
39. Schedule—and follow—an editorial calendar. When you are a freelance writer, paid work always seems to trump growing the business, but this can be a self-defeating cycle. I want to be more regular in my work, which means getting a schedule down.
40. Get a professional headshot. I am possibly the least photogenic person on the planet, but I really do need a nice face shot for promotional materials. While the several hundred dollars seems an extravagance, I suspect I’ll do better with a pro than just trying to take selfies!
41. Join a writers’ group. I’ve tried to do this in the past, but the quality of writers’ groups really varies and I’m looking as much for support as I am for feedback. In fact, I’m trying to work on a new beer book (see below) that I had hoped to be at least 1/3 finished by the end of 2014. It isn’t, but my friend is writing an art history piece and so we’re trying to maintain internal deadlines to forge ahead.
42. Attend more public readings. And read at one of them.
43. Add new fiction to the blog. I am working on some new fiction, and I may decide to release it serially on the blog.
44. Create more revenue streams for The Truth. This has been a hit-or-miss(adventure) enterprise for me, but the book is solid and I took the advice of agents seriously. Now, however, I need to get it into more people’s hands, which probably means exploring other ways to sell the book (is anyone still using a Nook?).
45. Do an audiobook of The Truth. Similar to #45, this is a chance to get my book out there in a format that I hadn’t really considered, but I think it would be an interesting challenge to convert the book into audio.
46. Enter at least one writing contest this year. I haven’t gone the contest route much, in part because of the kind of fiction I write (there are more opportunities for short fiction and poetry in the contest world). That said, there are novel-length competitions, and I want to dedicate myself to tossing my hat in the ring, as it were.
47. Attend this year’s Beer Bloggers Conference in Asheville. This year’s BBC is in North Carolina, and I’m really looking forward to going. That said, the European conference is in Belgium, which is where I’d really like to be heading.
48. Write one blog post per week per blog. Although not as long as this one!
49. Pitch one story per month. This means writing one story per month. Probably about beer.
50. Write a screenplay. I don’t know that this is going to happen during 2015, but I figured I’d put it on here nonetheless.
51. Visit every brewery, winery and distillery in NYC. I’ve been to some, but not all, and I need to get updates on what they’re doing as the scene continues to grow.
52. Finish my beer book and find a publisher. More likely to happen in 2015. Gotta get cracking!
So there’s my crazy and impossible list. I’m not going to view this as my check box worksheet, but I may refer to it from time to time this year and see what I managed to tackle. Or maybe I’ll just stick to “losing one pound each week.”
Joking aside, if you made it this far, I hope you are inspired (and not completely exhausted from reading this!) to come up with your own 52 Challenges list.