Monday, January 30, 2012

Power of a True Love

I’ve been thinking about the stereotypes of the strong male and weak female while reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I know we no longer live in caves, and women don’t need to be defended by men, but we still treasure the idea of the knight in shining armor, and so very many male and female characters in fiction (or movies) continue to follow the stereotypical male-female balance of power.

Graceling turns these stereotypes on their heads. The novel follows the adventures of Katsa, a woman graced with the ability to kill but also with extraordinary compassion. Katsa meets Po, who is graced with knowing what people think and feel toward him. Po can sense what an opponent is going to do next, and he is also a talented fighter, though no match for Katsa.

Po is deeply attuned to the emotions of every living thing around him. He can sense not just humans but trees and animals. Katsa is independent, powerful, a strategist. She can fight hundreds of men and come out unscathed, seemingly immune to pain. It seems impossible that they fall in love with each other, and yet when the moment comes it feels natural. Still, I find myself wondering: can a man truly love an invincible woman so strong that he will never have to be protect her? Who, on the contrary, will likely be the one protecting him? Can they overcome the conditioning of the strong man and weak woman?

Po believes he can, telling Katsa, “you’re better than I am, Katsa, and it doesn’t humiliate me.” Then he adds, “It humbles me. But it doesn’t humiliate me.” He loves Katsa for herself, accepting her indestructible powers. He seems happy, though, to offer her protection against King Leck (who they suspect is graced with charm). Katsa decides “She would accept his protection... if truly she needed it. ...And she would protect him as fiercely, if it were ever his need.” She understands she needs to relax her supreme independence and allow for a balance of protection, a give and take.

I can’t help but wonder where the author will take this precarious balance. I am about halfway through the novel and find myself fascinated by this intricate male-female interaction within the story line. I’m looking forward to the moment Katsa must face her vulnerabilities, as I hope will happen. I hope there will come a point in the novel when accepting help is no longer a matter of thought but of action.

I love that there are novels like this, where the woman requires no protection, where she is strong, smart and perfectly capable of fending for herself and surviving even the most extreme conditions. I love Katsa’s compassion, her need to be more than a killer, her desire to help others become as independent and strong as she. But the novel is most amazing, to me, in that it rewrites conventions, a strong woman, a feeling man. The rest is just love, two halves meeting and recognizing each other because of their differences and similarities, as they are.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Green-Eyed Monster

Forgive me, but I’m going to whine for a bit. I promise I’ll have an optimistic, shining, joyful end befitting a lilcornerofjoy blog. But I’m feeling dreadfully bummed this morning. I’ve been browsing twitter, and it’s like every one there is either published or at the SCBWI conference this weekend. I think I might be the only writer in the world who doesn’t write. Mind you, I know this isn’t true. Why, I’m writing right now, and there’s thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of writers who are unpublished and not attending NY12SCBWI. But knowing others share my predicament does nothing to make me feel better. Whining is easier than cheering up, in case you didn’t know.

I’ve typed 500 words in my romance novel in an attempt to get back to my pre-vacation flow, but it’s like the flow has gone, the faucet dried, or at best only trickling saline. Instead, I looked up other writers’ websites, as though to depress myself even more, and admired (with a touch of jealousy) their beautiful cover art.

Jealousy is defined in the dictionary as “resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage.” I’m pretty sure the only person I feel resentment against is myself, but I won’t deny that I wish I was prolific and motivated and had dozens of published books. If I stopped stopping myself, perhaps I too could have a website  teeming with novels, characters, links to my favorite indie bookstore and faqs.

I know it’s bad to play the “if only” game, but.... If only I stopped being my own worst judge, my own worst critic. If only I’d be nicer to myself, more accepting of myself, less apt to beat myself up. If only, right? But giving up self criticism might be easier than trying to live with it. I mean, look at me! I’m beating myself up for beating myself up!

Anyways, as I always like to say, tomorrow is a new day. Except of course, I wish I stopped saying that and started doing things today. I once went to a Dan Yaccarino talk, and he spoke about saying “yes!” to opportunities. Amazing, I think. Almost incomprehensible. Imagine that, saying “yes!”

So, could I say “yes!” to my romance novel even if it is limping along right now? I suppose I could. Or, I could manifest myself flowing with words like a fast river, and stop resisting the periods of drought as much as I’m wont to do. I believe in “if you can dream it, you can do it.” But I also believe in “stop dreaming and start doing.” It’s a conflict of interests, what can I say.

But I promised you to end on a bright note. So... rainbows! Cupcakes! Chocolate! Steaming platters of chicken, potatoes and eggs! I wish you all a wonderful, happy, productive day. And I cheered myself up, while whining to you. So thank! I hope we can talk again another day.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spending the Day in Paris with Anna and the French Kiss

Growing up, I had glasses and snot running down my nose. I was not the most popular girl in class. I was down there, at the bottom of the popularity ladder, with Zohara (who had the misfortune of being overweight), Oshrit (overweight and tall), and Oshrat (spectacled with curly hair).

As a young girl, I did not understand that Zohara, Oshrat, Oshrit and I could become friends and be popular to each other. I am ashamed to say that I did not like them very much. I had one best friend with whom I am grateful to be friends to this day.

And I had books. I read eight books a week, sometimes more. I devoured anything resembling a book, including Ma’ayan Encyclopedia which had stories of great discoveries and story versions of Shakespeare’s plays. I read walking to school and while doing homework (you put your notebook on top of the desk and Ivanhoe in a partially opened drawer just beneath so you can slam it shut quickly in case your mother comes into the room).

Today my social life is better than when I was a kid. I have less need to run away to books, but I still absolutely love it when I find a book so engrossing that for a while I forget I have a life. This happened yesterday while reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Young love, romance, Paris, kissing in the park while rolling on the grass -- what can be better than that?

The novel is extremely well-written, but best of all: Anna thinks intelligent thoughts! I could understand why she makes her decisions. More than that: I knew her decisions were made out of deep compassion and love. Ms. Perkins allows Anna to find the conflict, simply and clearly, within herself: “Do we talk about it? Or do I act like it never happened?” Anna asks herself after St. Clair tells her he likes her as more than a friend. “He needs friendship right now, not relationship drama. Which is why it’s really crappy that it’s become a lot harder to kid myself that St. Clair’s attention hasn’t been as flattering--or as welcome--as it has.”

Anna welcomes life with an open heart. When she is afraid or confused, she admits it. She knows when she is in love, and she loves enough to be there for St. Clair without demanding anything in return -- true unconditional love. Loving him, however, doesn’t mean she won’t tell him off if she thinks he is taking advantage of her.

I loved this novel. I was sad when I finished it, and it is hard to say goodbye. But the great thing about novels is that I can always read Anna and the French Kiss again. A good book, like good wine, never grows old, and this book is one of the best antidotes to a bad day I have read in a long time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bad Boys, Bad Girls

Yesterday I read a twitter discussion about the current lack of bad girls in YA fiction. It got me thinking about my early love of eighteenth century British novels, in which bad boys, or rakes, as they were called, abound.

To me, the ultimate bad boy is Lovelace of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. Smooth-talking to outright lying, Lovelace maneuvers his way into the heart of the sweet, innocent Clarissa and then betrays her. Poor Clarissa. For one thousand pages she is almost forced to marry a repulsive older man and kidnapped by Lovelace. In the second one thousand pages of the novel, after Lovelace (shockingly!) rapes her, she slowly and agonizingly dies. Lovelace’s remorse and his offers to marry her fail to change her mind. Life without her virtue is unthinkable. We the readers know the underlying tragic truth: Clarissa loves Lovelace despite his unworthiness, and he, dishonorable though he proves himself to be, loves her back.

Another Richardson novel, Pamela, features an immorality and innocence clash, but the end is happier. Pamela, a servant in a young man’s house, succeeds in overcoming her rakish master’s advances, and he finally marries her.

Clarissa and Pamela are moralistic tales meant to teach girls the danger of giving up their virtue through the use of characteristic bad boy good girl stereotypes. But not all eighteenth century characters were written under these premises. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defore (the author of Robinson Crusoe) centers around a bad girl. The title of the novel gives an idea of how bad Moll is: “Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once was to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon....” Moll’s exciting (yet by eighteenth century standards quite depraved) free-spirit adventures sadly end by the novel’s finale. She marries her last husband and is reunited with her brother and their son.

John Cleland’s eighteenth century novel Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is another example of a bad girl novel whose main character, Fanny Hill, is a happy and successful prostitute. While this novel does end on a redeeming note (Fanny marries her first love and settles down), it is filled to the brim with modern and sexually explicit descriptions which Fanny gives in a straight-forward, clear and unembarrassed voice.

It is possible that readers find bad boys more attractive than bad girls. I am not qualified to judge. But I admit I did always like Lovelace better than Moll. Then again, it might just be because Moll deserts all eight of her children in the novel. Lovelace, though, always struck me as a tragic character. He does not realize till it is too late that what he really wanted was Clarissa’s love, and desperate and inconsolably remorseful, he allows himself to be killed in a duel with Clarissa’s cousin. How sad is that?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's the Atmosphere that Matters

There are so many factors that can bring me pleasure in any given situation. I enjoy an activity because of what I’m doing, or because of the people I’m with. Sometimes it’s because the atmosphere is unique, and other times happiness is my friend that day, and nothing can damage my mood. Most often I find enjoyment in situations because the food is great. On my trip to Prague, for example, all of these were in perfect synchrony: walking through the romantic, beautiful old town, arm in arm with my beloved, lounging at Cafe Savoy over chicken soup with liver dumplings.

My perfect book-reading time is in the morning, over breakfast. I’ve had this habit ever since I was a child. My mother and I would meet early on Saturday before any other members of the family got up, and we would sit quietly together, each perusing her own book. I loved that. I read at other times throughout the day, of course, but my preferred time, my most treasured time, is still early in the morning.

For the last few mornings, my companion in this ritual was Victoria Schwab’s The Near Witch. I downloaded this book to my kindle a few months ago, and though it came highly recommended on so many blogs, I found it hard to begin to read. I know that I’m not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but I just didn’t like the cover of this one. The girl walking through shrouds motif just didn’t do it for me. But, once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down (including last night, as I was finishing it, when I snapped at the kids because they wanted to tell me good night).

The Near Witch is rich on atmosphere. From the first page I knew that the wind was going to play an important role in shaping the novel. It weaves its way, menacing and kind, romantic and violent, seductive and dangerous, throughout this beautiful novel. “The wind on the moors is a tricky thing,” Lexi says as she begins to tell her young sister the story of the Near Witch. “It whispers and howls and it sings. It can bend its voice and cast it into any shape, long and thin enough to slide beneath the door, stout enough to seem a thing of weight and breath and bone.”

There is so much in this novel: a gentle, sweet falling in love, a search for missing children, a dead witch, her bones interlaced with the soil, stones and sticks of the moor. But more than anything, there is the wind, blowing through the novel, braiding it together, making the characters, scenery, and the world of the novel come alive. It caresses the hills and blows through the grass like the waves of the ocean. It creates a mythical, mystical atmosphere that drew me in, enchanted and awed, till the last word finally released me to go and kiss the children good night.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts About Joy and Angst

An agent once told me that the difference between young adult and middle grade fiction is sex and angst. As a general guideline, young adult novels are aimed at teenagers fourteen and above, while middle grade novels are written for the 9-13 crowd. This division exists from bookstore all the way down through publishing houses and literary agencies, to the writer who sits at home and writes. You might think that distinguishing between teenagers and pre-teens means that young adult novels deal with more complex, adult themes than middle grade. This is true, but not always. Most often I find that YAs really do have the obvious and double advantage of focusing on sex and angst.

So what is angst? I looked it up in the urban dictionary and found these definitions: “Angst...combines the unbearable anguish of life with the hopes of overcoming this seemingly impossible situation.” And specifically about teens: “Angst is about downtrodden teenagers thinking they’re the only bloody people in the world who have it tough, and think that gives them an excuse to wallow in their own self-pity instead of actually doing something about their situation.” Pretty serious wording. Do teenagers really feel like that?

I have an image of myself as a teenager. I think at least in my last two years of high school I suffered from depression. I remember myself mostly painting in my bedroom, listening to Shlomo Artzi on my tape recorder. As a two-time transplant (Israel to South Africa to California in three years), I too carried the weight of the world. I felt like I didn’t belong either with other kids from my class or with the pack of Israeli Tzofim (scouts) who made up my main source of social life. Anguish? Yes. Downtrodden? Yes. Impossible, unbearable and alone.

But here’s the thing. I write to you today in this blog whose name is “Lil’ Corner of Joy,” and to tell you the truth, I don’t want to write about angst. What I want to write about is the diamonds that hide in all of our lives, the precious moments of utter being, of pure pleasure, that make everything else worthwhile. I don’t want to add more negativity to a world already beset by newspaper gossip and televised violence. I want my writing to be a haven, a bubble of peace in the midst of life, a place to rest the mind and come out rejuvenated, inspired, loved.

I’m an idealist. I am also really good at burying my head, ostrich-like, in the ground. The world needs its share of social revolution and political reform, but it also requires dreamers. Like Leo Lionni’s Frederick, the mouse who collects the rays of the sun, the colors of the flowers, and words to help his fellow mice survive winter, I believe food for the soul can make a difference in the world as great, or greater, than any struggle.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It Is Good to Die for One’s Country

Saving the world is a favored literary theme. Like Atlas, nearly every hero or heroine of fantasy must carry the burden of the world on his or her shoulder, an often thankless job. Most of them, in true “reluctant hero form,” dislike the job very much. And yet someone has to do it. The same someone (or sometimes someone else) has to pay the price.

In Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade Trilogy, that price is measured in freedom fighters, the searchers. The searchers risk their lives fighting magical beings who cannot be killed so that Shay, Calla, Ren and their friends can save the rest of mankind.

As I read through the three novels, I wondered at the single-mindedness of the searchers. They know that many of them will not return from their missions, but though overwhelmed by truly supernatural odds, they still do not hesitate to volunteer their lives for what they believe is the greater good. Like ants, they work together for a single purpose, some dying so that others, more important than them, could go on. More than that, the sacrifice of a loved one is accepted as honorable and vital.

Having grown up with Joseph Trumpeldor’s famous last words, “It is good to die for one’s country,” I am torn between admiration and resentment for this utter dedication to a cause. Trumpeldor’s death as defender of Tel Hai is, in fact, inspiring when remembering how many Jews had gone like sheep to the slaughter throughout history. Fighting for one’s country, being willing to risk one’s life for one’s country -- I was raised on these values, and they still fill me with a sense of pride at belonging to a nation where such heroes abide. And yet sometimes, hearing that soldiers, young men, were killed defending (for example) a grave which may or may not be the grave of a forefather who had died thousands of years ago, I am filled with anger at the sacrifice.

It is much easier for me to sort through my emotions when I’m only reading a work of fiction. Everything is so much clearer when there is really only one (or maybe two) plots going on. Love and war -- those are the two themes in Nightshade and its sequels. Some love and lose, others love and triumph. Some dedicate themselves to the fight, sacrificing themselves so that their son or daughter, their friends, or simply the next generation could survive.  It is so simple, really. The world must be saved. There is only one way to do it, and it is called self sacrifice.

We have a world to save, the young characters say. Indeed, they do. The story unflinchingly propels them forward through one sacrifice after another, through the deaths of comrades and parents. It is good to die for one’s country, for one’s group, for the greater good, for the world. Maybe, because it is fiction, those who die could come back, but still, they never do.

Friday, January 20, 2012

If Only I Learned From My Mistakes!

One of my friends told me a tale in five chapters about making mistakes. I hope my retelling is not too far off from the original.

Chapter one: Walking down the street, I fell in a hole. I didn’t see the hole before falling in and didn’t know how to get out.

Chapter two: Walking down the street, I fell in a hole. I remembered I fell in once before and tried to get out.

Chapter three: Walking down the street, I remembered the hole but still fell in. I remembered how to get out and got out quickly.

Chapter four: Walking down the street, I remembered the hole and managed not to fall in.

Chapter five: I chose a different street.

I love this story because it reminds me that there is a learning curve to learning from mistakes. I often hear it’s important to learn from my mistakes (my father often suggests that instead of making my own mistakes I should learn from his), but it’s just so hard! I find myself making the same mistakes over and over again, even after I’m aware of them, even after I find a solution in order to avoid them! I could add chapter six to the tale: Walking down the new street, I fell in a hole. I didn’t see the hole before falling in and didn’t know how to get out.

And here I am, back from Israel where despite all my prior insights and blog post on the subject, I fell in the same hole that I almost always fall into when I go there: wanting to please everyone. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my grandmother, my aunt, my cousins, with my brother, his wife and their rosy new baby. I wanted to see my friends, shop for gifts for the kids and maybe for myself. I wanted Dar to enjoy this first visit to Israel, fall in love with my country and want to come back.

In ten days, what were the chances of accomplishing all that?

Strangely enough, I think the chances were high. I think yet again, I failed to see the forest, or really any trees, because of my obsession with not being (or doing) enough. I fell in the hole of my old nemesis, perfectionism. I was disappointed because I expected more of myself: less stress, less needing to please, more self care. And yet we had fun in Israel. We saw almost everyone we wanted to see. We bought lots of gifts for the kids. We went to see the cranes in Hula Lake and to the Banias. We ate good food and drank lots of pomegranate juice. And I think everyone had fun seeing us.

Mel Brooks once said: “As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes.” Of course, he didn’t say anything about making the same mistakes over and over again. But then again, he also didn’t say they needed to be new ones.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Love at First Sight

Today we had lunch in honor of my grandmother’s 95th birthday, a small gathering which included my grandmother, her youngest sister (who is 85), her sister-in-law (just about to turn 80), my aunt, Dar and I. We engaged in a lengthy discussion of what to order (I thought we ordered enough for seventeen hale young men), complained about the saltiness of the soup and mashed potatoes, smacked our lips over dessert, and sang birthday songs. My grandmother and aunt told my favorite story, how at age sixteen my aunt mistook the bagged sandwiches (which my grandmother had toiled over for hours) for the garbage bag. The trash bin outside was too full, and so my aunt not only put the bag inside the bin but jumped on the sandwich bag to make it fit.

My grandmother still sighs over this story today, more than forty years after.

So many of my memories are tied with my Safta. I loved her old house in Yad Eliyahu, Tel Aviv. She used to live in one of those houses that looks like a train, with three or four entrances and three or four floors. My grandma lived on the first floor, and because of that had a small yard attached to her apartment. The apartment was tiny, a small entrance hall, one bedroom, a narrow kitchen, a corridor, and two rooms that served as a dining room and a living room (and which always seemed to me to be furnished royally in furniture that ought not be touched).

In her closet my grandma had treasures, antique jewelry that she allowed us to play with, buttons the likes of which we don’t see anymore today, articles of clothing that she no longer wore. Outside buses ran, and their smog darkened the walls. Inside, we could hear the water running down the pipes whenever the neighbors used their toilets. Seems to me I remember the sound of my own eager two feet running on the path and up the three stairs leading to Safta’s door.

I am so lucky with my grandma, lucky that I can go on creating memories with her. Even though I live so far away, on my visits with the kids we spend as much time as we can with her. My daughter Eden had to write an essay at school about an important older person in her life. She chose to write about my grandmother, her great-grandmother. After describing my grandma (with particular emphasis on her hair and teeth) and what we do together when we visit her in Israel, she ended her essay by saying that she will always remember playing Rummikub with Safta Miri, and that Safta Miri always won. That story is totally true (Safta tends to bend the rules to fit her needs). And so now a third generation is creating memories with the grandmother I love so much.

So happy birthday Safta! I’m so happy I got to be in Israel for your birthday this year, and I hope to celebrate with you many many more! Mazal tov!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wilderness Medicine -- Reading to Remember

For the past week or so, I’ve been struggling through eighty-something pages in my Wilderness First Responder book. On the first weekend in February I’m signed up for a recertification WFR class, and not having (luckily) had a chance to exercise my WFR skills, I am distinctly worried about how much (or rather how little) I remember.

The WFR book is heavy reading material. Almost every chapter begins with a version of: “Few traumatic injuries offer Wilderness First Responders as great an opportunity to watch a patient die....” This is true, apparently, for chest injuries, abdominal injuries, head injuries, cardiac emergencies, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been plodding through the book, making my way from fibula to tibia, trying to distinguish between ligaments and tendons and to remember how many breaths for how many chest compressions. Mostly, I’ve been trying to lower my own heart rate and blood pressure, which have become dangerously alarming from thinking about all these stressful conditions that could transpire in the wild. Thinking that I might be responsible to assess someone’s condition, make decisions about treatment, and carry out that treatment cause an overwhelming panic -- not the most desirable trait of a WFR, I’m sure. I know a calm and competent WFR would be capable of dealing with many injuries in the wild. The question which I am longing to ask is, with only this training, and without any experience, would I?

The WFR course I took two years ago was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Eight days of eight hours intense study and two of twelve, including a day test scenario in which I played a woman with a penumothorax (apparently I had fallen from a hot air balloon with the other victims and gotten my lung punctured by a broken clavicle), and a night test scenario in which two of my group members suddenly collapsed, one with a broken leg and one with seizures. Venturing into the world of wilderness medicine was exciting and amazing, frightening and unbelievable. But the class just attempted to simulate the pressure of real-life scenarios. What would happen when it was real life? When there was no instructor nearby?

So I am not sure what to think. Am I, perhaps, unqualified to become a WFR due to my fearful lack of confidence? Or perhaps, when push comes to shove, my memory, my training as a WFR will come to the front and produce a calm that comes from knowing that I can help? Am I, as usual, just too hard on myself?

Whatever the truth, I know two things for sure: I am going to take that recertification class because I want to be ready, but I’m also hoping very much to encounter always only healthy people in the wild. I manifest health and happiness to every hiker within a hundred miles of me. Be safe. Stay hydrated. Stretch. Be well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Singing Mozart in the Desert

I wonder if Mozart was interested in anything other than music. For 35 years he pursued, with single-minded passion, a career in music and composition, producing over 600 works that people love till today. Supposing that he started composing at around age 5 (which is not far from the truth), Mozart produced an average of 20 musical compositions a year. 41 of these are symphonies, which are probably as difficult to bring to life as a novel, with many musical threads, ideas and instruments flowing through.

Then again, Mozart did so much more than write music. He was a comedian, writing funny music that makes fun of operatic characters or instruments. He was a student of human character, an actor who could bring a scene to life without words, a politician who could maneuver the royal houses of Europe, and much more. He was a genius, born with the ability to juggle many talents and channel them into a creative output that remains alive all these years after his death.

You might be wondering why I am haranguing you about Mozart this evening. It’s not his birthday or the anniversary of his death. And it’s not even as though I was thinking about Mozart when I sat to write this blog. He just popped into my head, because I had been thinking about creativity. Mine, to be exact.

I pride myself on being a creative person. I write, paint and sing. I cook and bake. I also  often lack the ability to follow through on projects. I am not writing this to be hard on myself. Sometimes I want, very much, to find a way to channel my creativity so that it doesn’t flutter here and there and get lost in the breeze, to find focus and concentration.

But the truth is I love the way I am. I love the fact that one minute I am writing this blog, and the next I am talking to my cousin Iris on the phone and describing to her with excitement how horrible our vacation to Honduras was. I love that when the kids come home I am totally theirs, and how when I read I can’t hear it when people talk to me. I enjoy being a wild butterfly with antennas that dip into many flowers.

I guess I’m not going to be a Mozart. Maybe it will take me ten years to produce each novel. Or maybe not. I know it will take me a lifetime to parent the kids (I’m totally sitting in their living room and telling them what to do when they grow up). I’m just having fun, mostly, with all these talents. I think that is what they are for: cooking chicken and potatoes for dinner, writing this blog, reading a book to the kids while doing all the different voices, singing a silly song to wake Eden up in the morning.

What are you most enjoying with your talents?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking Forward

The last few weeks of 2011 rolled by me like a whirlwind, and now, almost unexpectedly, it is 2012. Many bloggers have been talking about their new year’s resolutions, how to keep them, choose them and not become bogged down by them. This blog post by Rachelle Gardner suggests that it is the process of choosing goals, of planning what the year could become, that really matters. The process sets the intention to better ourselves or improve in some way.

I wrote no resolution as yet. I told a friend that since childhood I remained stuck in the notion of the year stretching from the first day of school to the last day of summer vacation. I remember myself as a child flipping through my new textbooks, marveling at all the new material I will have learned by the end of the year. That was my moment for making resolutions and plans, and though these days I no longer go to school, the promise of self-growth, of learning something new every day, remains a powerful influence on what I want from life.

Perhaps some new year’s resolution could benefit me. Or maybe at least some goals, hopes and dreams, wishes. Some words to frame what I want to achieve. I like the idea of setting an intention for the next twelve months.

Writing daily, being more patient with the children, managing my chores, feeling less stressed -- are these worthwhile goals? Meditating more, chewing more, appreciating more, exercising more. Funny how my goals can be lofty and banal at the same time. How about enjoying life more?

I love the Buddha’s first Noble Truth: “Suffering Is.” My joy is ever colored by the nagging fear that if I embrace my gratitude, my appreciation, the object of my enjoyment will instantly disappear or change. Perhaps my goal for this year could be to make some headway in accepting change, in believing that “finding joy in life” can coexist (or perhaps can really only exist) hand in hand with “Suffering Is.”

As Abraham says, the buffet of life is filled with choices, and that is how I want it to stay. In a chaotic, crazy, out-of-control, stressed-out way, I’m actually pleased with how my life is progressing. I don’t ask for peace, because I enjoy the energy and overwhelment of  growth. I love running around. I love feeling useful and active. I love being bigger than my own life, even if I do only imagine it.

So this is my resolution for the year. As I wrestle, I mean, flow down the river of life, I will enjoy the quiet sections of the river, revel in flailing through waterfalls (the life-changing parts), and let the current carry me to (hopefully) ever more fantastic realms: new novels, new ideas, new projects, to watching the children grow and change, to growing old and happy with Dar, to bettering myself.

I feel inspired already. Happy new year everyone!