Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Year of Living Differently

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I used to make lists every January and September (having been a student for a ridiculous number of years, September feels like the start of the new year to me more than January does), but one of two things always happened. Either I forgot about them altogether or—always the rebel—I revolted against my own authority. Don’t try to tell me what to do!

Then I had kids and my time became much more unpredictable. The most carefully made plans could be destroyed in seconds by one of them throwing up or dissolving into a tantrum. And now, although my kids are old enough that I don’t have to carry them screaming out of the store, leaving behind a full cart of groceries and knowing that I’ll have to come back and start the shopping all over again, my time is still unpredictable. A business to run, kids to raise, an aging mother to help—all of these mean that any resolutions I make are bound to be pre-empted by someone else’s crisis.

Making resolutions that I know—from the moment I write them down—I either won’t be able to keep or have no intention of keeping adds an additional layer of stress to my already stressed-out life. If I do try to keep up with them, they become a chore. If I don’t, I feel like I’ve failed. Who needs that?

So I’ve accepted the fact that, for me, saying “This year I will eat properly” and “This year I will paint every room in the house” guarantees that twelve months from now I will be found sitting in one of the mushroom-soup-colored rooms much loved by the previous owner of our house, stuffing cookies into my mouth. I’ve replaced the lists of resolutions with an ongoing list of things I’d like to do—not things I have to do. Instead of duties, these are goals or ideas about how to spend the little bit of time I have control over.

And late last year, as I was thinking about a person I know who has spent most of her life in a deep rut of her own making, a theme for this new year popped into my head: the Year of Living Differently. This year I won’t resolve to eat more vegetables or reorganize my closets (although that is on the list of things I’d like to get done). Instead I will just try to live differently, in ways big and small—cooking different foods, visiting different places, reading different authors, recognizing my knee-jerk reactions and changing my approach to things that aren’t working.

And this brings me to this blog, which I have (temporarily, maybe) called “Always an Editor.” I love to write—anybody who gets email from me knows this. A writer is someone who (a) writes a lot or (b) has been published or (c) gets paid to write, and I’ve been all of these. But over the last several years, I’ve been so busy editing other people’s work that I haven’t taken the time to write much more than email.

There’s no point in my resolving to spend x minutes a day writing. But I’ve started this blog, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. As I was trying to think of a title so I could fill in that field on the Blogger set-up page and get on with it, another phrase popped into my head (yes, this does happen to me a lot): always a bridesmaid, never a bride. At this point, I am always an editor, never a writer. As part of my Year of Living Differently, that’s one of the things I want to change.


pastel.maiden said...

Hello Susan! As I've already remarked in my comment on your Afghans for Afghans hat, your concept of "living differently" deeply resonates with me.
Like yourself, I would like to call myself a writer. I write both for profit and for pleasure. I, too, spent many years working as an editor in electronic reference publishing.
What have you done differently today?
I would very much like to stay in touch with you and see how things change for you.
Good luck!
With warmest wishes,

Susan said...

Hi Malgosia! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. And your question has given me an idea, which I'm going to think about for a while.

I hope to see you here again!