Considering the Past & Resolving for 2015.
Yes, here I go again. My life revolves around self-examination and reflection, desires and ambitions – all of it very conceptual. These endeavors aim at accomplishing something of greater than ordinary importance even though I know by now – the year in which I turn 75 – that I seldom achieve what I set out to do.
I am always looking for context and how I might fit in or differ from what is ostensibly going on around me. Coincidentally as I went about my annual mulling of time and the attempts it offers us, Parade, the Sunday supplement (January 4, 2015) came to the door. This issue features the talkers on the Today Show as though I am supposed to know them, but I do not. Firstly, I do not watch commercial television and have no time for what is “popular.” I have seen spots of Today when someone else is running it at Snap Fitness or in the Toyota of Maplewood service waiting room. Normally, I am focused at that time of day on one of my endless projects and turn my attention elsewhere.
Nevertheless, here fell another chance to checkup on myself for comparison’s sake. Today’s people offer their thoughts on resolutions, expressed in positive terms (“Do” this) and negative ones (“Don’t” do that).
Savannah Guthrie says practice gratitude and don’t lose perspective. Lately, I’ve noticed in church and elsewhere the brain research people find that by routine expression of gratitude, people become more grateful in thought and action. Seems like a case of res ipso loquitur to me. For sure, gratitude is not automatic; we have to appreciate good fortune and seek to share it. I learned gratitude mostly from my parents. Mother continued stalwart in unending support of the family. Dad gave much of his time to public causes and shared the fruits of a disciplined life with others. I grew up aware of many relatives, teachers, neighbors and other church and community members who made my life better. Thereby, becoming the same kind of transmitter seemed natural to me. A proper sense of perspective – an accurate recognition of the beneficent surrounding world – sets us up for gratitude.
I have long practiced a sense of gratitude, one of the drivers of my life. I live each day for a fuller perspective on my own operations and my place in the wider world.
Matt Lauer says enjoy today and don’t delay adventure. I’m glad he said “enjoy.” I have a low opinion of fun, something I regard as inferior to enjoyment. Games may be fun, but not to me. I go for a greater range of deeper emotions brought on by artful music, arresting art, and skillful literature or their human equivalents. So I bond with his use of enjoy. By adventure, Laurer indicates the exceptional, such as Machu Picchu and Easter Island, seemingly adventures of the spirit that take some effort and depth of experience. For myself, I get as much adventure out of planning to visit a place as actually going there. The adventures, I favor, are in ideas and representations, identities that I can travel to any time I want and which I find especially rewarding.
Contemplation including the experience of the arts are my regular enjoyment and have been for decades. These same enjoyments I take as my adventures.
Al Roker says feed your passions and don’t fuss over setbacks. I gather he means pursue what keeps you going without being thrown off track by any obstacles, whether or not you anticipated them. Sounds like solid everyday advice: he is, after all, the weatherman. My passions mostly revolve around learning – both an everyday and long-term commitment – and pursuit of the conceptual subjects that feed learning for me. Philosophy takes the forefront in my hierarchy of passions as well as religion, psychology, culture, history and their theoretical aspects as well as those of the social sciences, education, the arts, communication, literature, and science. My professional core, the organization and use of knowledge, threads through all these disciplines.
Natalie Morales says take time for yourself and its converse – don’t overtask. Such retreats intend to be holistic, wholesome, and renewing where our refreshments enhance without self-exhaustion. While I spend most of my time alone and largely focused on myself, I never feel that I have enough time and I feel guilty when I take a break and want diversion. I berate myself for my slow rate of progress towards my goals and the failure to prepare ahead and complete assignments: the world’s deadlines turn all other interim stuff into daily priorities. Worst of all, after nearly 60 years of trying I have yet to complete a novel to my satisfaction and thereby dread that I have wasted my life in this pursuit when I may not have the right psyche for novelizing.
Today’s other hosts advise on the more mundane aspects of our lives – our stuff, our email, our fitness, our diet and nutrition, our finances. Yes, these facets are important, and I could do better in these areas. However, I remain focused on the more transcendent, not the everyday.
How did I fare in 2014 and what will I do in 2015?
1. My Time. As the year progressed, I attained habitual time blocks for writing and pre-writing. I’m still best in the early hours and now wear out in the later afternoon unless highly motivated. It is not unusual for me to spend at least 8 hours a day at my computer. I try to get up and move around at least once an hour, but often whatever I do engrosses me. I even forget to set the timer that enlivens my attention when embedded in some routine entrapment. I feel I am in a better place now as far as time use. Because of certain health issues during the year, reality has hit – I may not live as long as I thought and ought not waste time.
2015: Stick to work habits that perform. Keep priorities. Monitor events and deadlines.
2. The Company of Seidor. As I got busy on Company, I discovered numerous problems in the writing. Although I developed a detailed character description of Seidor, other questions bothered me. I do not have a complete sequence of plot elements; story tensions evade me; the environment that ought to exemplify the Vennosi people remains underdeveloped; the time shifts of the story require distinct differences in tone and narrative style while remaining integral to the story as a whole; typical with me empathy never gains the foreground over idea. Mostly, I could never wrestle my lack of confidence to the ground. I never stop thinking about Company, but I have recessed the story in order to work on the background as I keep reaching for detail insted of the story. I am trying to calculate how much more groundwork I have to do before I confidently return to narrative.
2015: Bring background up to story timeline. Write first draft by the parts that work.
3. My Reading. It suffers. I seldom complete anything anymore unless it is for book club, grabs my attention, or becomes necessary for some presentation. I have identified priority lists of things to read necessary to enlighten inquiries and to propel me towards deeper thinking and writing. I have also identified some non-fiction work I want to do this year: Aristotle, library philosophy, essays on the first century, Magna Carta. I gave up wanting to write something in response to the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth, but found him more majestically important, complex, and elusive than I could manage to resolve.
2015: Identify the best reading times. Read every day.
4. My Blogs. I have done more with my Ceptsform library-related bloging than anything else. Also, I have tried to revive my bibliography, indexing, and poetry work by publishing them in blog format.
2015: Finish Ceptsform inventory.
5. My Work Environment. I started the year well by reducing clutter by at least a few inches each day up to a foot. I did establish more convenient filing systems to bring order to utter randomness, aka known as piles of stuff. Except for book acquisition and organization, I seem to be falling farther behind in all the other areas. All in all, my archival mentality keeps me fighting for “file, don’t pile” and losing.
2015: File every day so as not to lose ground. Take advantage of down times.
6. My Exercise. I managed a little stretching, some walking and a fair amount of bicycling, but have gone a whole year without weight resistance exercise. I have reduced to 150 pounds but lost a lot of the muscle tone I had developed. I am once again enrolled at Snap Fitness and expect to resume a regular schedule.
2015: Exercise every other day – 3 or 4 times per week. Bicycle in good weather.
7. My Stories. I have some story concepts and experimented with various story techniques of little literary value, but quickly stalled. The thought of a literary retreat intrigues me.
2015: Work on at least one good story possibility. Investigate retreats as The Clearing.
8. My Gardening. I enjoyed the patio once again though the summer was never as warm as I wanted. I did most of the gardening at the Heinseens and got a lot of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and green tomato pickles out of it. I am at my worst coordinating the Pilgrim Garden and must give up that.
2015: Quit coordinating Pilgrim Garden. Do the Heinseens’ again.
9. Language Learning. Totally postponed, but I have another year to get ready for Norway.
2015: Start on Norwegian with Nancy Arsvold’s book.
10. My Money. I am hopeless at saving money. I have contributed $50.00 a month towards taxes, but saved nothing from month to month thanks mostly to purchasing books, office supplies, and lunches with a discussion group and friends, primarily Beverly Voldseth when we get together for reading Poetry each month.
2015: Spend on magazine subscriptions instead of browsing for books. Use library loan more. Aim for saving $30 per month.
All the above follows the view that I am grappling with reality and the limits of endurance and must gain control and confidence in my life over my options.
© Copyright 2015 by Roger Sween.
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