19 for 2019

Recently, I was listening to Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, and I was intrigued by the episode’s theme. Gretchen and her sister and co-host, Elizabeth Craft, spoke about creating lists at the start of 2018 — aptly titled “18 for 2018″ — after hearing from a listener who had created her own happiness project by outlining 35 fun, fearless and fabulous things to do in her 35th year. The list had changed her for the better, leaving Gretchen and Elizabeth eager to create their own.

Elizabeth had tried to cross off all 18 items on her list, but only succeeded in accomplishing 5 or 6. Gretchen, a seemingly more diligent list-crafter and all-around do-er, had been able to enact all 18. The experience had been positive for both of them, and during the podcast, they shared their new lists for 2019.

I’m clearly more of an Elizabeth than a Gretchen, but since the podcast inspired me — I’m going to put together a list of of 19 items this year and see how things go. I’m a recovering overachiever and perfectionist, sprinkled with generous doses of self-sabotage and procrastination. (It’s a fun combo. Trust me on this.) Several years ago, I created a “bucket list” with more than 100 items. It was daunting, but strangely enough, the simple act of writing and reviewing allowed me to cross off several items in a short span of time. Most of them seemed out of reach when I first scribbled them on a notepad, but many of them became achievable — simply because I wrote them down. I actualized them, instead of mentally juggling them in my head and whipping them like dodgeballs at my psyche whenever I got off track. I also realized that I didn’t want to complete some of the items that I had initially listed. I  thought I did, but once I took pen to paper (or more accurately, fingertip to keyboard) — the passion for some of those seemingly crucial bullet points quickly dissipated. That meant no longer berating myself for things I didn’t really want to do, anyway.

I still keep my larger bucket list, but I’ve decided that the “19 for 2019″ is a worthy project to embrace in the coming year. I’ve been feeling a bit depleted recently — given the current political climate, my increasing age and roller-coaster hormones, and the many transitions that life continually asks me to experience. Let me put it this way: I have two teenagers. One of whom drives. So I’m pretty fucking exhausted. I have no expectation that I will complete all 19, but I like a challenge, and I like getting out of my comfort zone. Lists like these also allow me to see the progress I’ve made, even if it’s in small increments. They offer opportunities to slow down, think through, and reassess — all welcome activities in our fast-paced lives. List-making is a worthy pursuit for someone like me. Perhaps it is for you, too.

Here, then, is my 19 for 2019 list:

1. I want to return my supermarket shopping cart to its rightful place after I load my groceries into the car. An odd choice, right? Yet, I’ve come to realize that it is meaningful for several reasons. One: it’s probably safer for everyone in the parking lot not to have errant carts rolling all willy-nilly into car doors and parking spaces and lanes of traffic. Two: I can stand to take a few more steps to return it. It’s healthy. Three: It seems more respectful for some reason. I can’t fully explain it. But I want to make this a regular practice. 1a: I want to bring my reusable bags into the supermarket on EVERY SHOPPING TRIP. Not just on the off chance that I remember them. 

2. I want to send more birthday cards this year, and write out birthday cards for family and close friends ahead of time so I don’t forget. I’ve gotten out of the habit of sending cards. I blame Facebook for this. And texting. I suppose it isn’t good for the environment to mail them, but it still seems soul-nourishing to receive an hand-addressed envelope in the mail on your birthday. One of my sisters-in-law is a consistent card-sender and birthday-rememberer, and it has been truly meaningful for our children to be so lovingly remembered by their aunt throughout their childhood. It’s the stuff of life, really. I need to do that for other people in my life. Pay it forward with a Forever stamp, so to speak. So it goes on the list.

3. I want to consider running the NYC Marathon this year. I can’t fully commit yet, but I want to at least think about it. I have a nagging case of plantar fascitis, but it’s been healing well. Not to mention the fact that my 50th birthday will be here before I know it — and that I had secretly dreamed of running this race before that date arrived. So let’s say that I’m in the exploratory stages. I’ll keep you posted.

4. I want to take the dog for a walk every morning, and walk myself in the process. I am amazed at how calm and centered I feel whenever I take a walk. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts like On Being with Krista Tippett, or Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing. Other times, I listen to music — or to absolutely nothing at all, and simply observe the beauty of another morning unfolding. My brain and my creativity are always tickled awake during these walks. Too often, I lose the kernel of an idea that arises while I stroll — but a daily walk might help to strengthen those memory muscles, and allow me to capture more of the nonsense that swirls in my head. The dog really loves his walks, too — and during the winter, we slack off far too often. All treats and no walks makes our bernedoodle a very sad boy. Time to get the leash out, and make it a habit.

5. I want to meditate most days of the week. There’s no question that I benefit from this practice. I am saner, calmer and sleep better when I meditate. So it goes on the list.

6. I want to read a book a week. That’s not a lofty goal. That’s completely possible. Especially if I remember to bring my book along with me during the day. I am forever waiting in doctor’s offices, on checkout lines and in parking lots. I can sit there, twiddling my thumbs or scrolling on my phone mindlessly. Or — I can read. You do the math.  Leave the phone, McKitty. Take the hardcover novel.

7. I want to drink a shit-ton of water. I forget to drink water. And it shows. No more. Drink up, Irish.

8. I want to take our kids to some great New York restaurants this year.  We always say that we will. We need to do it this year.

9. I want to host Sunday dinners for friends 5 or 6 times this year. I used to entertain more often, but life has — per usual — gotten in the way. Years ago, when my husband and I were younger and living in San Francisco, I cooked nearly every Sunday, and usually invited someone to sit at our table. We hosted East Coast ex-pats like ourselves, single guys in desperate need of home cooking and comfort, many friends and neighbors, and just about everyone who came to visit us so they could get their first look at the Golden Gate Bridge. I loved those days. That practice has fallen by the wayside, but several friends have told me that they miss that same practice of breaking bread and wine drinking and laughter and dishes and little kids everywhere and camaraderie. So, 5 or 6 Sundays seem do-able.

10. I want to take our children to Ireland this summer. They’ve never been. I’d love to take them.

11. I want to finish the first draft of the screenplay that’s been rattling around in my head for the past five years. “The past five years.” Oy.

12. I want to commit to two restorative yoga sessions a week. I’m stiff and cramped and my back hurts and my hip is tight and…I need to stretch. Lordy, Lord, do I need to stretch. On the list. I also want to encourage my husband to get back to hot yoga classes. He had a brutal case of frozen shoulder last year, and hot yoga was the only cure. His new work situation has made class attendance difficult for him. I need to gently encourage him, and help him get back on track.

13. I want to host two or three storytelling events this year. I hosted one in my backyard in the fall. It was hard work — and incredibly rewarding. The best part? Guests who came up to me afterwards and said that they felt connection and comfort by taking part. They felt energized. Alive. Happy. Moved. Man, that’s everything for me. That’s life itself, isn’t it?

14. I want to have an essay published, one that is terribly close to the bone for me. I’m reticent to be so vulnerable, but I’ll never grow as a writer if I play it safe.

15. I want to continue to perform at storytelling events in the tristate area. The Moth? 650 Reads? A PBS program? I’m not sure yet. Storytelling has been life-changing for me, and has allowed me to meet some of the most dynamic and interesting people. Here’s to more of it in 2019!

16. Buy less crap. I’ve been happily Marie Kondo-ed. Less clutter, more joy.

17. Volunteer on a regular basis. Years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, I volunteered once a week at a food bank for residents living with HIV/AIDS. The work was heartbreaking and uplifting, and selfishly, I gained a great deal from the experience. Service to others gets you out of your head and into the real world. I need to stop bitching and moaning about the state of the world, get out of my head and make a difference — no matter how small it might be.

18. Get to a healthier weight. Gretchen and Elizabeth noted that these lists shouldn’t include things like “lose 30 pounds,” because the goal is too vague. So I guess this is good enough for now. I’ll say this. Genes are hard. Perimenopause is harder. It’s an uphill battle, but I want to win this fight. Or at least die by sugar detox while trying.

19. Get closer to my writing goals. I’ve had some success with my writing, but I need to keep moving the ball down the field. A collection of essays, a memoir and a novel are all possible for me in this lifetime — at least in final draft form, ready to send out into the world. I need and want to incorporate daily practice and discipline, workshopping, networking and community-building, and possible pursuit of an MFA program in the distant future to make this happen. I also need to sit ass in chair, as Anne Lamott says, and get it all down. To stop being afraid of failure — and success. To stop being afraid of being seen, being judged, and being disliked because of what I might have to say. It’s my voice. I may as well use it before it goes silent.





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  1. I don’t commonly comment but I gotta state regards for the post on this perfect one :D.

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