I'm always better when I have the things I need to do written down. I used to not be like this. I used to avoid thinking about or writing down my responsibilities because it felt like too much. But then they'd overtake and overwhelm me. I find I do better when it's all down on paper, and then I can start to attack one thing at a time.
The questions are many, though, so I'll be breaking my answers into two parts again. I'll post the second half tomorrow.
I. Personal Growth
1. What healthy character traits would you like to see developed in your life this year? What are some specific steps you can take to develop these?
This year I'd like to be more focused. I am good at setting aside time to do tasks, but when I actually sit down to do them, I have a hard time paying attention. I think this is going to come down to controlling my environment more, and putting myself in places where I'm going to be successful, rather than fail. For example, my couch isn't the best place to get work done. Comfy, yes, but there are too many lovely distractions within easy reach. I want to figure out how to set myself up to focus, and then I want to focus more.
I'd also like to be more definite and assertive about what I want. I think I spend a lot of time doing things I'm not 100% thrilled about because I'm too afraid to say no or say what it is that I really want in the first place. I want to try harder to be honest up front so I'm spending my time on things that feel more satisfying.
2. What is your plan for maintaining accountability for progressing in personal growth?
As far as being focused, I'll have lots of opportunities to practice. I have a lot of writing ahead of me in the coming year. Every day I spend writing (which is most days) is an opportunity to put this into practice. A group of friends from school started a "500 words a day" group on Facebook and it has the lovely side effect of kicking my butt into gear because I don't want to be the person who didn't post because she didn't write. So I think I'm covered as far as accountability, there. And really the only person I'm accountable to in terms of focus is me. I guess I could make it a goal to pay attention to what's working. I'm getting better at hacking my own life... this could be the next big thing.
I think the people close to me know the assertiveness is something I work on. I definitely talk to E about it as it relates to work and other responsibilities I take on. I think he's going to be instrumental in the process--he's my sounding board, and he likes to remind me that I have set this as a goal. He's a good accountabili-buddy.
3. What are some of your learning goals for this year?
This year I am going to graduate. Holy CRAP. This year. I don't want to leave school yet.
So, graduating and finishing out my program bring up some pretty substantial, very specific goals (and as I type this I can't believe it's only been two years since I used these goals to decide that I wanted to finally start applying to MFA programs in creative writing).
I have some minor, but time consuming goals: finish my required reading and write my short critical papers for winter and spring quarters. Then I have some biggies: I need to write my 20 page big critical paper and lecture by December. I need to have a manuscript (my thesis/novel) written by December, also. I need to get good grades. I need to remain in the good graces of the wonderful people who run my program. I need to attend two more residencies.
But in terms of learning goals that can't be checked off a list? I want to continue to soak up every blessed minute of school. I want to be present and focused in every moment and get as much as possible out of it because this is a privilege that comes with an expiration date. I want to continue to be bolder and take advantage of the opportunities set before me. I want to meet people and I want to be open to everything that my program has to teach me. I want to be humble, so I can really learn.
4. What books would you like to read this year?
There are so many books I want to read. So many. But here are just a few:
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Man Who Tasted Shapes by Richard E. Cytowic
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks,
Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
We the Animals by Justin Torres
We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane
Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
5. Do you enjoy your job or jobs (include being a stay-at-home mother, if this pertains to you)? If so, what are your favorite things about your work? If not, what are some ways you can change this?
Hmm. I do love my job, but I feel like it's time for a change. Things I love: my students, my curriculum, the freedom to develop and teach lessons in my area of expertise. I like breaking things down to their smallest components to explain them, and I love teaching writing. I like helping people discover Shakespeare and poetry and reading for fun. I like having control over what the hours of my working life look like. I like joking with kids, and comforting them, and I like planning. I love so many things about my job.
Things I don't love: the pressure that's on school teachers now to be everything, having my job politicized, worrying about whether or not the state will adequately fund education every single year, the talk of guns in the classroom that's all over the media right now, and the direction of some of the test-driven educational trends. I will always teach. I'm just starting to look beyond the boundaries of my current schedule, and to think about what it might look like to branch out a bit. Maybe not too much; maybe just in my free time, and maybe not yet. But someday. I feel a good kind of restlessness, a yearning for something more.
II. Physical Health
1. What is one area of progress you’d like to see this year for maintaining or improving your physical health?
I need to get back on the healthy train. It was too hard last year with all of my school and work responsibilities, and I had to let it go, even though I didn't really want to. I think I could pass for a healthy person, and since I'm healthier than most, I think I allow myself sometimes to feel like that's enough. It isn't. It's a slippery slope and I don't want to end up at the bottom. I want to lose a very specific amount of weight and I want to do it through regular exercise and healthy eating. I want to apply the same kind of focus and determination to this that I have been able to apply in my work, my school, my writing, and my running life. And I would like to have a running life again, actually.
2. What are some tangible, daily choices you can add to your life that will improve your health?
I can get back to drinking my beloved Green Monster smoothies for breakfast, and I can take a damn salad to school for lunch every day. I can forget about soda. I can cut back on the fast food. I can run three times a week. These decisions are not mysteries to me. But I find that it's less about whether I want to do it or not--I do--and more about the fact that sometimes I am just so wrung out from work and parenting and school that I physically can't do it. So I think the answer is that I need to sleep more. I need to protect that, because if I don't, everything else suffers.
3. In what way would you like to be physically healthier by December of this year?
I would like to lose 16.8 pounds before the end of the year. And no, I'm not going to tell you where I'm starting. And I'd like to run another half marathon, or be able to. No full marathons again until I'm out of school.
4. What is your plan this month for starting this progress towards a healthier you?
I think so far this month (well not this month, but basically since I've been home from school) I've done what I need to do. I've been eating the way I know makes a difference, and I went back to the gym. I've been walking. I've lost about 4 pounds since then, so I think I'm doing okay. I know weight isn't the only thing that matters, but I feel like it's what needs my attention at the moment.
III. Marriage & Family Life
1. What are some goals you have as a couple to strengthen your marriage?
This is all me, here, since I didn't ask E about what he'd say yet. But my goal for us this year is for us both to be better about making counseling a priority. In whatever form that takes, specifically as a preventative measure--or maintenance. So we don't wait until things get rough and we have to do damage control.
2. In what ways can you grow in intimacy with your spouse this year?
That word, intimacy, is so gross. Pass.
3. What are your plans for having regular date nights? How will you handle childcare?
Date nights are going well. We've got a good system, and a generous, volunteering babysitter. I think we can just go ahead and maintain what we've got, because it's wonderful.
4. What plans will you make to have “family meetings” together? What books would you like to read together this year?
Last year I wanted to make it a priority to eat more of our meals together; I think we did well with that. We can keep that up. One of the only things E and I are consistently, awesomely good at is making sure things come to a grinding halt if there's any family stuff that needs discussing. I think we're covered, here. I just hope we can continue to be good parents to our kids this way as they grow and change.
5. What will deliberate, regular family time look like this year?
As a unit of 4, we're doing okay with family time. I'd like to see us keep up the camping, the meals, the little trips here and there. That's all good. But I think my personal goal for this year is more one-on-one time. Me and Ad, me and Henry, E and each of the kids, etc. I think that strengthens us in a different way.
6. Do you have specific planned vacation time in mind for this year? What needs to happen to make this vacation a reality?
No specific vacations planned, other than the family coming down when I graduate in December. This time of year is hard, as I said last year, because we're done with Christmas and we haven't figured out our taxes yet. It's hard to think about being spendy right now. But I'm sure we'll do some things, and I think we've been more proactive in the past year about planning and saving. All good.
7. How is your current physical living space working for your family? Do you need to make changes to this? If so, what are they?
Last year I was really feeling the tightness of our space around us. I wanted to move so, so badly. We actually looked at houses but decided the timing wasn't right. So we're still upside down in this house, it still doesn't have an office for me or a place to write, but we made some substantial changes to the house to make it better and more suitable to what we need. We have an awesome patio cover that expands our living space into the backyard. I can't wait until it's a bit warmer and I can sit out in the yard to write... or read...
I think 2013 is about coming to terms with how lucky we are to have this space. And of letting go of the idea that we need to move soon. Our house is very nice and we're lucky to have it. I think a good goal for me is to think about how I might appreciate it more, or change some small things to make it better for all of us.
And, just like last year I split the list in two. Tune in tomorrow for Part II.