Gonna Fly Now, Birthday Update

(I wrote this in January 2016. See updates below.)

This weekend, I read another writer’s list of New Year’s resolutions. Boy, did it get my thong in a twist. No, I don’t really wear those.

I subscribe to the guy’s blog. Like all of his other posts, it arrived via e-mail. But this one? Oh, this über-lofty index of 2016 personal and professional goals quietly lurked in my in-box, just waiting to be opened and read — and to smash my head repeatedly into a virtual row of middle school lockers. I innocently clicked on the message while emptying my trove of MacMail, thinking it was an ordinary post about his kids, his wife or his car — and I got swiftly knocked on my sweet, middle-aged ass.

This guy didn’t want to finish his first novel. He wanted to complete his sixth. BECAUSE HE’D ALREADY WRITTEN FIVE. He wanted to write three picture books. He wanted to win not one, not two, but THREE Moth storyslams in 2016. This, from a man who had already won eighteen storyslams in the past four years. And get this. He wanted to do yoga. Mother. Fucking. Yoga. I mean, Jesus H. — we  all “want” to do yoga — but this guy planned on going to class consistently. As in, three times a week consistently. And he shared that with other people, as if it were actually possible. Like it was nothing. Honestly? I fool myself into believing that bending over to move the rolled-up, dusty yoga mat in the basement while I’m vacuuming is something akin to a sun salutation. I’m stretching something in my lower back, because ow ow ow holding the wall OK I’m back up to a standing position while I lean on the vacuum. That counts for something Kundalinesque, doesn’t it? Fine. Hatha. Let’s call it downward mother pose. It counts, damnit. It just does. I’m too tired to even Google “yoga schedule” and just READ ABOUT when classes are available.

As I stared at this guy’s words on my glowing — nay, mocking — computer screen, I felt brutally beaten about the midsection. I felt like I’d been kidney-punched. Seven times. By God. And then chatch-kicked twice by Buddha, for good measure. I heard Burgess Meredith yelling in my head, growling at me to get up, Rocky McKitty, get back up. Eat lightning and crap thunder, kid! But I couldn’t. Not right away. God, I felt so flattened by his statements. So many worthy goals that this writer set before me. So much that he had already achieved. Like any good self-sabotager worth her salt in the ring, I kept reading. With my one good eye that didn’t need to get cut open.

This writer had lost thirty-three pounds, and wanted to lose twenty more. He wanted to launch a podcast. He wanted to publish AT LEAST one Op-Ed in The New York Times. At. Least. He hoped to deliver the kind of talk whose name we shall not name because it just hurts too much to say, but which rhymes with FRED. A goddamn SOUNDS-LIKE-FRED TALK. But that’s not all. He wants to pen a musical. Of course he does. For a summer camp. For the kids who go there and roast marshmallows. Of course he wants to write a musical for the happy summer camp for the kids who go there and roast marshmallows. This isn’t a goal so far out of reach for him, apparently. Because he has a composer-slash-lyricist in his virtual Rolodex, with whom he’s previously collaborated. Kill me now.

I reared up from my desk chair in a burst of adrenaline, reeling from the blows, and staggered over to the kitchen counter. My unsuspecting husband entered the room. I implored him to read the list while I lay my head on the cool granite counter, whimpering. He sat in silence for a few minutes, and then exploded while reading the text. “WHO IS THIS GUY?” he said, almost too conspiratorially. “DOES HE HAVE A JOB? WHEN DOES HE EAT?”

At that very moment, I wanted nothing more than to jump on the resulting bandwagon of snark, and summarily take this dude down, with my husband riding snarky-snark shotgun. How dare he flaunt his desires in front of all of us? (YEAH!) How dare he achieve, and make us all look woefully bad? (YEAH!) Entertaining and moral-building musicals geared towards children, for Chrissakes? Will this man stop at nothing? HARUMPH!

Then, I decided to look back at his earlier posts — ones he had written about resolutions in earlier years. This, from 2010: “Participate in The Moth as a storyteller.” For the first time. Ever. In 2009: “Land at least one paying client for my fledgling life coach business.” He admitted that he had failed in the pursuit so far. In 2011: “Publish an Op-Ed in a national newspaper. A failed resolution from last year.” He went on to list three more goals, all of which he failed at achieving in the prior year. I softened. I liked him a little bit more. Most of all — I admired him. He’s fucking accountable, a quality in which I am seemingly, perpetually lacking. He’d endured a great deal of hardship in his childhood, as I’d read in other posts. He simply wanted the most he could possibly squeeze out of his life, and he wasn’t afraid to fail at the attempt, year after glorious year. Good on him, I thought.

Some things would come to pass, I realized, as I read his yearly entries. Others would be achieved. Still others would fall off the radar. I thought about this for a few minutes. While I did so, the skies opened outside. My daughter gasped at the sound and sight of it. God had clearly left the hose running while he was away on vacation. Torrents, sheets, buckets — what have you — fell from the darkened skies. Then, as soon as it started — the rain stopped.

Just then, my daughter noticed a text from a friend. “Jessica says there’s a double rainbow outside!” she yelled, and bolted from the table to get a glimpse of it from our back porch. I followed behind her. One colorful arch, and a second, somewhat fainter, appeared above our garage. We called for my husband and son to join us, and stood in momentary quiet — considering the apparition.

I’d like to say that this event tied everything up neatly for me this afternoon — but of course, it didn’t. The rainbow faded as the sunlight receded. There was more homework to do, more cleaning, more messiness of life. The beauty was, as always, temporary.

[Writer’s postscript: Later news accounts indicated that this seems to have been the same time when David Bowie was passing through this life and entering the next. That moment stays with me, foolish and fabricated though it may seem. That much energy, that much creativity, that much life still left within him — producing such an effect on the world. I need to use all of mine up before I go. Even if it only amounts to an organized attic and a well-documented family history for future generations.)

The event did, however, cause me to think about the way I view difficult, dark times in my life, and how I view goals so often left by the side of my road. I see them as insurmountable and impossible, as forever, never-ending, Jesus oh Jesus why are things going to be like this until the very end of time don’t tell me any different because they will be they just will be. So what’s the use of trying? What’s the point of doing?

Because maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll shift things, McKitty. Maybe you’ll make it happen this time. Maybe you’ll get there, kid. So get up off the mat. Eat lightning and crap thunder. Just like you always have. Risk it. Give yourself another fucking chance. Do this. Go and get your goddamned life.

That hard-working writer assumes nothing is owed to him in this life. That’s the right approach. He shoots at all the targets with bravado. And he’s bound to hit something. God bless him for never losing aim, or looking away. His brass-coated cojones inspired the fuck out of me today. Mostly because I got pissed. Which is often the very best way to motivate my Irish tuchus.

What angered me most — and what shamefully lessened me — was not his own achievement. I truly don’t begrudge him that. I was angry about the fact that forced me to look at my own damn self, and at every excuse I’d offered up to bypass accomplishments. He’s earned every goddamned minute of whatever glory he feels. I’ve earned every small feeling I have about being less-than, underachieving, and unproductive. If happy little fucking bluebirds and writers fly beyond the rainbow — then, why oh why, can’t I?

There’s no good reason why, Judy. Simply no good reason.

So here then, are my goals for 2016. They are lofty and cocky. Far-reaching and exhausting. I’ll fail at most of them. But I’m gonna fly now, ummmkay? So stand back. I don’t know how big my wingspan gets. XO k.

Writer’s postscript: I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before and I’ve been moved by her observations. I seem to be an Obliger — one who is accountable to others, but not to herself. Like all of you didn’t know that already. If you’re struggling with habit-making, it’s an interesting book to read, and consider. 

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016 — MID-YEAR ASSESSMENT AS MY BIRTHDAY NEARS:

HEALTH

1. Lose 30 pounds in 2016. I’m going to San Francisco and Sonoma County for eight days. We’ll table that one until I get back from vacation.

2. Meditate several nights and several mornings a week. I had meditated most nights throughout much of the school year with my husband and son, but the practice has falled by the wayside during the summer. Just told my husband at dinner last night that we need to be 10 percent slower in our lives, once the school year begins again. “How can we take things away from the schedule and do that?” he said. “We can’t,” I answered. “We can only add something to make it so.”

3. Take a restorative yoga class once a week. I’m not meant for Kundalini or Iyengar. I know this about myself. And I’m really fine with that. But I do need to be very, very gentle with myself. I know this about myself now, too. I need to be still. To rest. To stretch and relax. It is not weak to lie down somewhere for 45 minutes and breathe deeply, and feel loved and cared for. It is necessary. I attended a gentle yoga class with my daughter last week and loved it. I’m returning at the end of August.

4. Recommit to twice-weekly weightlifting and several days of cardio exercise. It’s happening! Back on the horse. I’m up at 5:30 am several days a week — because I have to meet someone else at the gym. Again with the Obliging thing.

WRITING

5.  Have an essay published in the New York Times’s Motherlode column. No longer possible. Column is closed. 

6. Have an essay published in the Boston Globe’s Connections column.  This is possible.

7. Write several days a week. About anything. I’ve been doubting my ability. I need to get back into practice and not give a shit about the outcome.

8. Write the first draft of my screenplay. I have twenty-five pages written. More pages are possible. Just not right now.

9. Have an essay published in a print anthology somewhere. Could be about hats. Could be about French fries and the aiolis I have loved. Could be about being a survivor. I’m not picky. Sent one essay out. Need to send more.

10. Be diligent about submitting regularly to a variety of magazines. DONE! Two essays out now for literary journals. One essay hanging in limbo until I receive confirmation of publication from the editor.

11. Work on the elderly storytelling project with Nicki. Not sure about the status of this project. What is it? Why are we doing it?

STORYTELLING

12. Perform in — at least — one Moth StorySlam this year. Preferably before mid-year 2016. Win one, too.  I just have to get the damn tickets. These shows sell out in minutes these days. Thanks a lot, Lena Dunham.

13. Perform at the Woodstock Writers Festival StorySlam this year, and win it. DONE! Performed and won!

14. Perform at several other storytelling events in the Northeast. At least two other venues. Need to research this.

NEW PROJECTS

15. Build a creative writing space for me to hole up in and make epic shit. DONE! We even made a crafty space for my daughter nearby.

16. Organize all photos/video so you don’t panic at 3 am about losing the visual talismans of your children’s lives, when DVDs get scratched and computer files get corrupted. Make photo books. Print out hard copies. Organize them by year. Make duplicates, so there’s no fighting over photos when they move out, or if they’re lost to the ages. Terrified of the enormity of this project. Not happening as of yet.

17. Continue the Creative Coven. Not sure where this stands. What should this become? Is it still needed? 

18. Volunteer regularly and include my children in this activity. Head out of ass. Ditto for kids. Be a better human being. Consider others more often. Give away more of myself. Help people.

19. Clean out and organize our attic. Make better use of available space. Give away things no longer needed. Let go. Still in process. Made progress in the spring.

MISCELLANEOUS

20. Get into New York City more often. I am me, I am alive, I am closer to everything I am capable of becoming when I am at home in that world. Go time is September – November, and again between April – June. Make plans. Write things down. GO.

21. Spend more time with my husband. I fucking hate the phrase “date night.” Ewww. But there it is. I love him awful, Ma. Even more important, I like him. I want to be around him more — you know, when we’re both conscious. Happening. See CA trip above. 

22. See more movies.  They spark my creativity. Need to do more of that.

23. Read. Crucial to my progression as a writer. Why am I avoiding it? Because my attention span has been shot to shit by social media. I want to severely limit my presence there. See below. 

24. Make peace with social media. I can’t eliminate it from my life. But I can continue to lessen it. Major goal for me throughout the rest of the year. I need to step away from social media. 

25. Keep playing drums. Don’t give a fuck about how good or bad I may be.

26. Play my guitar more often. Not happening. 

27. Learn to crochet or knit. Make something warm and comforting for someone whom I love. Not happening. 

28. Fall deeply in love with myself.  Not like an asshole. Like a good, caring, decent, kind and wise woman should. Fits and spurts. 

 

 

 

 

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