Posts Tagged ‘New Year’s resolutions’

Years That Ask Questions and Years That Answer

Ah, yes, a happy new year — a fresh beginning, a set of resolutions, a word-of-the-year, a reset/renew, a detox, a turning of the page. Only, for me, not this round.

Don’t get me wrong: I still did my little hippie productivity yearly planner, I still set up my little time-keeping/scheduling system, I have goals and desires and things I’d like to accomplish. But in 2015, I’m cutting myself some slack.

Not that I’m pooh-poohing anyone who’s embarking on a type-A super-planning kind of thing in terms of setting up their new year. There are some years that call for that — years where time is malleable, putty in your hands, able to be molded and filled with whatever your endeavor. Where intention and action align with ease, and everything on your to-do list seems to expand and move you to growth.

I think of these as kind of “Athenian” years — you know, after the Greek goddess of wisdom, the great war strategist and city-builder and patroness of craftspeople, the great grey-eyed lady of discernment and skilled action. These are years that weave threads into fabric, fabric into useful shapes and garments — years that build, solidify, consolidate.

But then there are other kinds of years. To keep with the Greek goddess groove (bear with me here, I’m feeling Jungian!), perhaps you could call some years “Persephone” years — years of walking in shadow, treading the underworld, confronting fears, anxieties, sadness and unresolved wounds and griefs.

(Of course, you can expand this whole metaphor towards the entire mythological pantheon — I’ve definitely had my Artemisian years of trawling the psychological wilderness in a glorious solitude, as well as those super-fun, glamorous Aphrodite years of romance, good times and carousing!)

Looking back at my 2014, though, I realized a lot of my angst was wanting to have an Athenian year so badly, but being immersed in a huge Persephone kind of year. Beyond the actual specifics of the circumstances and events, underneath I was grappling with a sense of disappointment and failure that my intentions were so derailed. I still did a lot of what I wanted, but I also was so overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and fear that I couldn’t savor any accomplishment or experience very much. It kind of sucked. There’s no use knocking off items on your bucket list or to-do list or whatever if the experience of them is so clouded and polluted with negative emotions.

So for 2015, yes, I still have intentions and goals and such, but I’m holding onto them lightly. Already, looking ahead, I can see huge mountains to scale on the path. The big changes set into motion last year are still unfolding, and even bigger ones are coming — ones whose outcomes and tranformations I can’t predict in the least. In the face of such challenges, I think all I can do is be present as possible, be kind and gentle to myself and others around me and have as much fun and joy as I can. I think that’s just the perfect amount of enough to begin my New Year.

Zora Neale Hurston actually has one of my favorite quotes about years, and it’s one that gives the title to this post:

There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.

Whatever year you desire, I hope yours is off to a beautiful start!

On Wonder (Or, Listening to Unwound in Cars)


I always seem to say this a lot these days, but how can it be May already? This year is flying by so quickly. It just seemed like New Years not so long ago, and we had a spandy-new year to fill with experiences, emotions, projects and meaning. So far I have been humming along in life — my work and job situation has shifted and evolved, I (FINALLY!) finished writing the novel I started in the fall, and life has felt very rich and full in many ways in terms of friendship, community, and expansive new experiences. Yes, there have been lots of tumult, but it bulldozed a lot of unnecessary attachments out of my life and forced me to look at deep underlying emotions and patterns within myself, and I can truly say I’ve learned a lot.

But I’ve been thinking about my original New Year’s intention, which was to have a simple yet profound experience of wonder. Of course, that was kind of a nutsy resolution to begin with…because WTF is wonder, anyway? What makes it profound? It’s definitely way more amorphous, ambiguous and elusive than the usual “Exercise more” routine you pledge to follow starting January 1. It was a fun thing to announce — and a sincere wish and longing — but taking it apart to really analyze what wonder is and how to create experiences of it seemed so big and unwieldy. And honestly, life got so crazy and nutso right at the beginning of the year that I just forgot.

And then I read Arianna Huffington’s new book Thrive Overall a pretty average book about the need to incorporate wisdom and well-being into our definitions of what constitutes success — nice message, but with about as much depth as, yes, a HuffPo article. But she has a chapter about wonder in there, which functioned as a kind of pinch, a wakeup call, a Post-It to remember and ask, “Oh yeah, how is that whole wonder thing going for you, Kat?”

Wonder, according to the book, is basically a feeling of astonishment or admiration, often brought about by a change in perspective — in other words, feeling the immensity of the world around you, or feeling the utter smallness of yourself in a way that is both awe-inspiring and humbling. And when I looked at it this way, I realized how narrow and humdrum my perspective has been lately — my tumult had made me focus on my 99 problems, so to speak, and while I had to attend or else life would fall apart, it came at the expense of a larger, broader perspective on everything.

But what provokes wonder? For me, it’s been: seeing the ocean, or any immense, beautiful nature scene; seeing sublimely stunning art; listening to breathtakingly moving music. I remember feeling wonder in the redwood groves of Muir Woods, or seeing the Pacific for the first time. I felt wonder when I held my newborn niece in my arms and she first opened her eyes, or holding my nephew after he was born and feeling amazed at having a whole new member of my family to love. Wonder often sneaks up on you, often in the eddies of quiet and silence, so you just can’t go out and think, “Oh, yeah, let’s go out and experience some wonder!”

So I’d been thinking about all this, thinking wonder is out of my reach…and then I had an experience of it, in the most unexpected way: in a car, listening to a band.


Okay, Okay, One Actual “Resolution”


So I forgot to tell you about my New Years itself, and how it was a cold, snowy night, and how driving out to dinner was this perilous affair as my poor car trudged down the road at 20 mph, fishtailing here and there. I was so scared, and yet I felt determined to at least end 2013 with some kind of festivity.

I tried to put myself in a festive mood earlier by wearing a peacock blue wrap dress — my one dress purchase of 2013, believe it or not! — with my fancy drop pearl earrings and Chanel perfume. But I had spent most of the day either working or filling out my hippie yearly planner while listening to Bjork’s Vespertine, so I was in a minor-key kind of mood. Driving on crazy-snowy roads didn’t help, so when I got to dinner I was pretty quiet, maybe even a little tense. (I hate winter driving, and I’m not a driver at my ease even in the best of weather.)

I tried to shake off that weirdly isolating “stuck in your head” feeling, trying to enjoy the night and the company of my beau. The food was good, the fire was warm. And yet it was like my head was in so many places at once: still stressed from the drive, still in “2013 retrospective” mode, still wondering if my dress was hanging okay and did I look old or grown-up and how sad that we can’t order the cheese plate tonight and oh, how the march of time is so inexorable! So many places a head can be!

My mind actually was a direct reflection of the year that just passed: it was a full mind, and had accomplished many things. And yet it felt splintered and discontinuous, shards of feelings, sensations and experiences held together by messy, ungraceful knots. I couldn’t even see the smooth fabric anymore — all I saw were stray threads, ripped seams and hasty darning. My 2013 hung together well, and I was proud of it, but metaphorically it resembled a droopy sock puppet.

All that would’ve been okay, I suppose, but I felt like I was missing something, like some crucial ingredient hadn’t been added. You know like how pico de gallo just doesn’t taste right without cilantro, or just a bit of lemon really makes guacamole great? (And, uh, why are all my metaphors involving Mexican food? I think it’s almost time for lunch!) I was missing something from my 2013 — the life experience equivalent of lemon or cilantro, just to continue my goofy metaphor.

And then it hit me, sitting there by the fire in the restaurant, watching people drink wine and raise glasses in celebration. I wanted an experience of profound joy and wonderment this year. That was it! That was the thing my heart has been craving all along!

Maybe it was a funny thing to have as a New Year’s resolution, something both odd and completely impossible. It was definitely an “aha!” type of feeling, like when you’ve nailed something so squarely on the head. Even the phrasing came to me perfectly: profound joy and wonderment.

I mean, I feel joy everyday. Maybe not 24/7, but there is always a moment in the day that I deeply enjoy and appreciate, even if it is as simple as stepping outside on a sunny morning and inhaling some fresh air, or listening to a Neil Young song, or hugging my nieces and nephews and looking down at their poppylike faces full of excitement and smiles. Or, yes, wearing a nice dress and some Chanel perfume. I’m up with my small pleasures.

But profound joy? And wonderment? Is that asking too much of life? Is that too immense and grandiose and pretentious?

But it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s funny, because I learned in college when you start to study something, you need to at first look at the language and understand the terminology, and then go onto the rules and underlying assumptions of whatever subject you’re into. Even as dinner finished — it was delicious — and we sped downtown and later found ourselves in a loud, crowded bar being plied with mountains of champagne and dancing — in the back of my mind I knew I carried some big questions inside me. What does “profound joy” look like? What makes it profound vs., I don’t know, humble or ordinary? What is wonderment?

No answers yet, but the mind is humming along, weaving threads — and hopefully the end results looks like a harmonious tapestry and not such a higgledy-piggledy ragdoll.


Occasionally I’m going to try to chit-chat in this kind of space about stuff like music and movies. I’m not up for a whole blog devoted to pop culture anymore, but come on — it’s not like I can shake that gene, right? Anyway, lately I’ve been enjoying, with about a million other people, the new Beyonce record. I sort of have this love/hate thing with her. The best music writing I ever did was an analysis of her song “Upgrade U,” and I’ve always made a case that she is a lot more eccentric, weird and progressive than her image suggests, but I can see why people find her too manicured and manufactured as a pop star. Corporate industrial pop machine kills us all, no? But now with this record, I love her. I love its weird, personal mishmash of outspoken feminist defiance, mushy motherhood and sexy beyond-MILF-y/wife anthems, and how experimental and minimal and organic and even futuristic it sounds in parts. I could write a whole feminist treatise about the record, and how interesting and frustrating and fascinating it is. And it’s fun to drive and workout to, which to me puts it in the ultimate-music category.

Gah, what else? I’m re-reading Elizabeth and Her German Garden as well, which has oddly become one of my favorite books. It’s weirdly almost proto-blogger, a diary about a woman and her travails about growing a traditional English garden in northern Germany in the 1800s, but it’s also a meditation on beauty and happiness, as well as a witty, sarcastic critique of women’s roles and marriage. It’s a good book to begin 2014, especially if gardening as a metaphor for patiently cultivating good things resonates with you. (Though actually the first book I read for the year was Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, which I ended up liking a lot because even though Pynchon is smart and dense and all kinds of semi-fearsome things, he’s also a goofball and really funny at times. But I read it for work, so in a weird way it doesn’t count in my brain.

And after months of holding onto the Netflix DVD I finally watched Spring Breakers, and while there’s no real emotional resonance and I didn’t come away with any revelations — I did think it was this hypnotically beautiful visual treat, super-saturated sheen-y glossy. I wish I’d seen it on the big-screen now, preferably half-stoned or at least coming down a major sugar high. Hopefully on tap soon: Her and Inside Llewyn Davis, which finally opened here. It’s slim pickings in this area when it comes to movie theaters, but I’ll take what I can get.

Belated 2013 Favorites, And The Word for 2014 Is…


Yes, I suppose I could do the usual “goals for 2014″ post or a resolutions one. It’s that time of the year; it’s in the air. And I do have things I want to accomplish, and a loose roadmap for what I’d like to happen and when. I am enough of a type-A personality for that.

But the one tool that I’ve found, more than anything, to help create a year that has true intention and purpose behind it is having that one word for the year. The theme. The compass. That’s real elegance and simplicity to me, which gets more and more appealing as time goes on.

More than any book to write, side hustles to launch, projects to complete, places to go, things to do — I want 2014 to feel full of ease and white space and grace and kindness and gentleness. A yin year, a year of textures and fragrances, open air, wider horizons, breathing space, peace. But none of those words quite fit for what I wanted to create this year; I needed something more sensual and earthly. What’s the purpose of all that serenity in the first place?

And then it hit me: I wanted all that space and time because I wanted to let things soak in deeper. To really feel the passing of moments. To luxuriate in everyday pleasures, and feel to the end of the echoes of the larger world around me.

To make coffee in my French press and enjoy the smell of it on a cold winter morning. To play my sweetheart’s Nick Drake records and really listen to music in a way that I haven’t in awhile. To sit down with my nieces and nephews and watch them blossom under the gift of someone’s absolute, full attention. To let the moments accumulate and take shape, rather than rush through them, even the uncomfortable ones.

To savor life and experience as deeply as I can, of course.

I keep going back to geology, and the idea of the water table and how much water the ground can hold before it saturates and can’t hold anymore. At some point, any water that wants to soak into the ground with a high water table can’t seep into the soil, and so it floods and runs off. You just can’t soak in anymore. And the earth floods and water — and emotions — overwhelm everything.

I guess this year I want to absorb more, more deeply and more steadily. And so I’ve been thinking of what keeps me over-saturated (to keep running with this metaphor) and what I need to clear out to make more room. It’s been a nice inquiry, and still something I’ve been thinking over. But yeah, savor…that feels just about right.


But in the meanwhile, something completely random: I had an whole entry on my top music that came out in 2013, but I forgot to publish it. So here it is in part, in thumbnail form, not in order: (more…)