A couple of years ago I decided to begin recommitting to my best self each new year; I still find the calendar year somewhat arbitrary, and prefer my birthday and seasonal holidays (solstices and equinoxes and the like) as marking points in time for ritual and centering. However, it is nice to engage in renewal in solidarity with others while still making it my own, so I began creating yearly Practices to Enact. I’m sure I did them for 2013, but must have felt that they didn’t need to be publicly posted. 2012’s Practices are here though.
Each year, coming up with practices is an exercise in balance between the practical/measurable, and the nebulous big picture sorts of projects and self improvements that I am truly most interested in. I refuse to set myself up for failure, so too many ‘I will do x thing y number of times per week/month’ is no good. But if everything is huge and general then how do I check in later in the year to see where I am? In a way I think I subconsciously modeled 2014’s Practices after my post bike tour life focuses, because it was really the first time I was able to make an honest assessment of myself and my priorities and set ambitious yet realistic goals for myself.
In 2014 I shall:
Commit to being a writer, to cultivating this skill, to practicing my craft, and to giving myself the gift of time to do this. Perhaps at least a two hour, undistracted portion of time each week? At least to begin with.
I commit to continuing on my path to fully loving my body, to treating this part of myself with respect through good food and continual strengthening through work outs and bike trips and really ambitious sex.
I commit to letting go of shame an guilt in my life, recognizing that these are a tragic waste of my life energy, and instead will love my Self and my emotions, as well as those around me.
I commit to solitude, to noticing when I want/need it, and to attending to that desire, recognizing that I am the best version of myself when I have time with myself.
I commit to saying YES to life, to new friends and opportunities. This life in this body is short, and the time where I am this physically and mentally able is even shorter. Memories are not made through routine and caution, and I will trust in both my intuition and my support network to keep me from harm.
I commit to continuing to expand the boundaries of both my patience and my vulnerability, so that I might be in deeper relationship with others.
I recommit to noticing and noting beauty, and to sharing those moments with others without embarrassment or expectation.
I commit to drinking less, and i am lucky to have many wonderful people in my life who support this. My body is already thanking me for this one.
So let’s say one had reason for a midsummer day’s trip to the library, because one had a couple of items on hold and one just finished another wonderful novel by the fabulous Marion Zimmer Bradley, and one is craving more fantasy. Why did is that woman no longer alive, btw??? Amazing female fantasy writers who re-envision foundational mythologies should be immortal.
Digression aside, said individual, upon perusal of the fantasy/sci fi section of her local library, finds that not only are a mere 1/10 of the books in this already small section written by women, but NEARLY ALL of those 10% are something along the line of paranormal detective romances. Yuck. (no offense to those that like this genre; to each their own). So our brave lover of literature to do?
1. She-hulk SMASH!
2. Become the writer she’s always wanted to be and create the things she wants to read. Not that there aren’t fantastic current and past female fantasy/sci fi writers out there, but the ratio is still HORRIBLE.
So lady friends and other wonderful, chronically underrepresented people: be critical of our culture and then CREATE THE WORLD YOU WANT TO SEE.
The United States is by far not the worst place to be a woman in the modern era. We can do things like vote, marry and divorce who we want (even another woman in some states now – good job Minnesota!), and work any number of jobs. However, it’s not the best place to be a woman either. We still face constant mixed messaging about our bodies and our minds from companies like Dove. We still risk victim blaming when we are harassed, molested, and raped. And we are still not taken seriously in the realm of ‘real art’ by many critics.
But there is hope. As a young-ish woman in the United States I am inspired by publications like Rookie, a website and now yearbook created solely by teenage women. I am encouraged by the fact that one of my favorite neighborhood bookstores posted their 2012 bestseller list and 13 out of 20 of the books listed were written by women. And I am delighted by the fact that the neighborhood I work for is continuing to draw women entrepreneurs to set up shop.
I am sure that the rest of my 20s (and likely my entire life) will be filled with rants and critical conversations about being a modern woman, particularly in a world where many declare that feminism is unnecessary. We will form salon and book groups, make meals and drink wine together, and question everything. And then write about it. Or paint. Or sing. Because if being a modern woman means anything, it is expressing your own individual experience of woman-ness as generations of kick-ass feminists, from the suffragists to the riotgrrls, have done before us.
I historically never was one for essays. I’m far too addicted to the drama of novels and the in depth intellectualism of well written nonfiction. But recently I find myself drawn to short stories and collections of essays. Perhaps it is a deficit in attention span, my brain unwilling to commit to follow through. But perhaps it is also (or instead) an appreciate for the succinct, the simple, the ability of a writer to capture meaning in merely a few pages. Barbara Kingsolver does just this in her essay collection from the mid 90s, High Tide in Tucson.
A marvelous collection of pieces that is at once academic and emotional, Barbara eloquently recreates moments in time, from wild pigs uprooting her Arizona garden to the silently horrifying experience of touring an old missile site outside Tucson. The latter essay spoke to me in particular in its wild array of reactions and reflections, from calculated observation of statistics on nuclear spending in the United States to raw grief.
“Why did I not scream at the top of my lungs down in that hole?”
Barbara has held a high place for years in my list of favorite authors, particularly Prodigal Summer, and remains so despite many years of many marvelous tales, triumphs, and tragedies. A key element of this standing is Barbara’s quiet encouragement of the reader (and, I would argue, an aspiring writer such as myself) to both think critically and feel deeply. Far too many authors fall one one side or the other of this false dichotomy, either relishing in overwrought emotionality or denying the feeling brain in favor of the cerebral. As a human being, an activist, and a creator of any number of things I value fellow creators that can hold both of these things as Barbara does, a precarious balance to be sure, but one that is critical to our humanity.
I’ve written about weltschmerz before, but I’ve always been aware that English does a particularly poor job describing interesting and complex emotions. This infograph from Fast Company is case in point.
Tocka (Russian, great spiritual anguish without any cause), and pretty much all of the words related to but more specific than ‘togetherness’ are my favorites. And I could probably use some of the Chinese word for ‘relaxed’ and ‘nothingness’, ie less worrying.
We now break for our regularly scheduled programming of poetry and sustainability for a moment of geekery.
If I didn’t already adore Pokemon, I would after discovering this. –>
Everything about Pokemon is just…delightful. Adorable creatures? Check. Powers based on elements? Check. Easily accessible culture and game for children and nerdy adults alike with innumerable permutation (cards, video games, board game, etc)? Check.
I got into Pokemon waaaay late in the game. When I was in my early 20s to be precise. But Pokemon love evolved into playing D&D, and the rest is history.
The other important geekery in my life at present: I registered for CONvergence. The theme is Wonder Women. Tamora Pierce, one of my absolute favorite fantasy writers of my young adult life, will be there. I am taking any and all ideas for awesome costumes as well as friends who want to join me for this extravaganza 🙂
Whether it’s a blog post, journal entry, poem, letter, or working on my book on home (very much in the idea stages as of yet, I assure you), I commit to writing at least a little bit every day. I think I’ve read enough books on writing to have finally internalized that creativity is equal parts spontaneous muse and practice practice practice.