Step Two: Not just any list

Gosh – it wasn’t so very long ago I was feeling really rather proud of myself…I’d made all this space!  And I really had – just a few days of extra work got me well ahead of the game so that instead of feeling like I was doggy-paddling out of breath in icy cold water, I felt a bit more like somewhere in the middle of a long, challenging jog.

And then.

At the high school all the teachers have their own personal cubbyhole.  More often than not I can get updates about what the union’s got going on, which are of more or less no interest to a sub, so I use them to practice my articulation…progressives are wordy as hell.  A few weeks back, though, I happened upon a letter from the Rectorat (school district) informing me that I had training in January.

“Oh, bah!”  I moaned to a colleague. “Are we ever allowed to get out of these?  It’s on a Friday!  I teach 6 classes on Fridays!”

“Not usually…sometimes…when you have a really good excuse.”  So I was stuck.  So be it.  That was a Thursday or Friday.  The Sunday after I thought I might look into the cost of transportation and what have you when I realized there were two separate trainings convocations (summons) – a second one was stapled behind.  And while the one on the front wasn’t until January, and was only for one day, the one behind was for two days and was the following week.  On the days I typically lesson plan and grade papers and do all that afore-mentioned space-making I was on about all those weeks ago.

Bah.  Bah, I repeat.  Just like that, all the space I created disappeared *poof!* into thin air.  It is what it is.  Life is really about sprinting to catch up, then catching your breath as soon as the opportunity presents itself.  I’ve got the week ahead to do some sprinting, and Pachamama knows I’ve got some sprinting to do.  In fact, that’s only distantly related to this post, and that relation is this:  when creating space isn’t enough (or even when it is), another magical tool for getting all my ducks in a row involves less doing and more planning.

Over the last couple of years, Chris and I have gotten into the habit of reflecting back over the year as the New Year approaches, thinking critically about what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what we need to do differently in the year ahead to make fewer of the same mistakes.  It really started way back in St Tropez, not long after we arrived in France.  And what it really comes down to is my personal obsession with to-do lists.  But in my efforts to write only SMART (specific/measurable/achievable/realistic/time-bound) goals, my list-writing got a little BORING (just boring).

Chris and I agreed to have a look over our lists last night, and when the time came, I decided to forgo the looking-over-last-year’s-list part, namely because my entire world has changed so profoundly since I sat down to write it.  I felt like looking at those hopes and dreams might actually make me ill, and I was really thinking about dropping the whole thing for half a second when Chris suddenly said, “I printed this out for my list this year…do you want me to print you one?”

(Just in case you missed that link:  HERE YOU GO – it’s by Susannah Conway, who has her own website and does all sorts of inspiring interesting things besides creating nifty workbooks for New Year’s resolutions)

It seems pertinent (or rather, it became apparent after Chris read my first draft of this post) to enter here a brief discussion of what I mean when I say “New Year’s resolution”.  I do not mean the list of 10 incredibly vague and difficult goals (I will lose weight, I will be more understanding, etc.) about which we’ve forgotten already by mid-February – too soon for them to come to fruition, but too late to get our money back on that gym subscription.  I think these resolutions don’t work because there isn’t enough invested into them tactically.  There’s plenty of heart and soul and hope and faith invested, but – and this is the hopeless manager in me – they have no concrete action plan, and so we’ve got no way of measuring why and how they didn’t work if they don’t, or why or how they worked if they did.  And all that does is make them seem like a bit of wishy-washy silly old pointless blah-blah, indeed.  The sort of list I’m on about – and of which the above links provide an excellent sample – is an involved process that takes all that heart and soul, and then maps out the specific steps we have to take to get from hoping and praying to making and creating.

Listen, I’m not saying this will definitely work for you – I’m not even saying lists themselves work for everyone (yes I am.  I definitely am).  But it’s a thought.  Because I find that the end of the year brings a touch of melancholy along with it.  We aren’t getting any younger, and while the days are getting longer, they’ll be grey and cold for some time yet, and there will be rain and snow to trudge through and sometimes thinking about all the things we can do and be and change in the year to come is like a bolt of sunshine or a breath of fresh air

And this list was that in spades for me (and I think for Chris as well).  It’s not really a list as much as it’s a guided journal entry of several pages, taking you on a journey through how you felt about yourself and your life over the last year, what went right and what went wrong, letting go of the wrong stuff, holding on to the right stuff, and — if you know you need some big changes (and I do), identifying the reasons why, what those changes are precisely, and just exactly what you need to do to get there.

At any rate, I know a lot of people turn their noses up at New Year’s resolutions, but I’m a stickler for them.  Any opportunity – particularly in solidarity – for concerted efforts at self-improvement ranks high on my list of traditions, even – maybe especially – when that self-improvement includes working toward loving and accepting ourselves a little more.

Do you have New Year’s rituals?  Are you a list writer?  Are you thinking about using this workbook?

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6 thoughts on “Step Two: Not just any list

  1. I will check out the workbook, talk to the significant other, who is a list maniac, and let you know. i need the resolutions and need to learn to accept, if not love, the list concept. Flying by the seat of my pants has only marginally worked so far…time for a change.

    All the best, really the best, to you and Chris this new year.

    • Ann says:

      oh, well, now let’s not get carried away…flying by the seat of one’s pants can be a terribly romantic way to make it through life. if i wasn’t such a control freak i’d like to do a bit more of that myself. anyway, i think 2013 was mighty successful for you, ron, and i hope you’re looking back on it with pride. all the best to you and your anne for 2014 as well!

  2. I stopped making lists a long time ago. I also think having a kid kind of takes away from me even thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. However, reading the “list” that you have here…. it’s kind of inspiring. It makes you take a deeper look and really think about what you’ve done and what you want to be. I like it. I’m not usually into those kinds of things, but I like this one. Maybe I’ll start actually doing some thinking about the new year. =)

    • Ann says:

      if it seems that way now, lemme tell yah, it’s even better than that. i didn’t read the first page of the booklet because c just printed off the writing bits, but somehow after flipping through just a couple pages, i felt like i should turn down the lights, light a couple candles, clear the table, put on some good music (i know what you’re thinking here), and settle down into the exercise for the whole evening. we literally burned through 2/3 of the candles – four hours later and we’d nearly finished. obviously i’m the wordsmith and so i wrote about 50 x more than c, but that’s the thing – it’s such a natural process of thinking that no matter how differently our heads work, this seemed to work equally well for both of us. the only things i would add are that 1 – the map and planning bits are important, so even though they come near the end, they need a lot of attention, and 2 – this isn’t something i’d do and then forget about for the year…i’m going to be reviewing it at least bimonthly if not monthly to see where i’m at in terms of keeping my promises to myself and meeting the goals i’ve set.

  3. colgore says:

    Good call on the workbook. It’s actually pretty inspiring. I could probably stand to do a little reflective list making. Happy New Year about a month late. Hope it’s overflowing with good things.

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