I welcome January with a busy pen, scribbling in various daybooks, laptops, napkins, notecards, and Moleskine notebooks. Whatever I can get my hands on, really. My writing has been furious, immediate, thoughtful, raw, superficial, deep. I’ve scribbled lousy lines of verse and brilliant slices of life without self-condemnation or overzealous praise. I am, in every sense of the profession, living as the writer I’ve always imagined possible.
I do this in tandem with a revitalized yogic practice that explores my own spirituality as much as I might practice pranayama (breathing) and asanas (postures). I am shedding this tired, old, obese body for a lighter, spirited, peaceful soul, one that emanates kindness and love more clearly, more effectively, to all whom I might meet. Friend, stranger, self.
For weeks, I’ve thought deeply about my goals for 2008. I toyed around with the notion of having no goals, no expectations; I’ve also contemplated rehashing the same goals I set every year (lose 75 pounds, publish whatever book I’m working on, etc.). But during these past few weeks, I have realized that such goals never really work for me because they are so impossibly unfulfilling. If I set a goal to lose 75 pounds, I cannot be successful until I reach that magical number. And for what reason? What do I gain by reaching Destination B? I succeeded once in playing this type of game, setting this kind of goal. And the moment that I reached it–the very moment I claimed victory–I celebrated by eating many foods I had managed to stay away from for many months. Before I knew it, all of the weight I had lost (plus 20 pounds) had returned.
The same is true for my writing. My goals are too lofty, too dreamy. They are too far in the distance and falling short of publication makes all of my efforts a dismal failure.
This game that I have been playing, whether I like it or not, has been nothing more than a pretty good defense mechanism for just putting my head down and getting some work done, day in and day out. All of those things that I have wanted so desperately will come to me anyway if I just do the things I want to do anyway. Why make the whole journey about some terminal destination? The only thing that matters about my journey is that, today, I put one foot in front of the other and live the life I know best. To live the life that defines who I am, genuinely and sincerely.
That’s all I have to do. And that’s all that I am doing.
So my goals this year are quite different than the ones I’ve chosen in the past. I am immersing myself into three projects that will help improve my health and my writing, all at the same time.
The first project is to interact with a book I picked up called Meditations from the Mat, which is all about the practice of yoga, meditation, and spiritual health. I didn’t wait for the new year to begin to start this project. I began the day after Christmas, and I haven’t missed a day since then. Committing myself to these readings and writings has helped establish a sacred practice in my life, a foundation that is being solidified by my discipline and commitment to living a more intentional life.
The second project is do a virtual thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. More on this soon, but in preparing for this hike, I am now walking daily and building up the number of steps I take (what a difference a pedometer is making in my life!). This hike will begin on my birthday, on March 3. I’ve section-hiked much of the AT, but I’ve always wanted to thru-hike it. When I decided to get married and have a family, though, I tabled my dreams of thru-hiking for at least 15 years. By then, I’ll be in my mid-to-late fifties, and I cannot wait that long to fulfill this goal (such a goal, anyway, is flawed like all of the other goals I have set in the past). However, I can do a virtual thru-hike by tracking my travels (governed by the number of miles i walk each day) on a separate blog. I will have all of the same intentions as a thru-hiker who is actually on the Appalachian Trail; the difference is that I will be transferring my miles walked daily to the hike I’ll be chronicling online. Not only will I be walking daily, I’ll be familiarizing myself with every step on the 2167-mile trail and losing weight in the process. Such a journey will work well with my Meditations project.
My third project is to develop and refine, through writing and workshops, a new approach to writing. This concept, which I am calling metalogical writing, focuses on the writer’s awareness and application of three things: who s/he is as a writer (awareness of voice) and how s/he thinks and learns, the form the piece needs to take to serve its ultimate purpose, and the needs and the attitude the audience brings to the piece. I launch my first workshop on this concept on January 26 at Towson University.
These three projects and active, dynamic, where success is not contingent upon a certain weight being achieved or a piece of writing being published. Every day I am immersed in the journey I am taking, and my success comes from the steps I take today and not the things that, for whatever reasons within and beyond my control, may never even have the chance to happen.