Blank Slate

I entered 2019 a week late. Not really, of course, but it seemed like it because I had all my kids and grandkids together in one place for five whole days during the holidays. Daughter Meg and her little ones stayed on until January 5, so I didn’t toss my frayed-at-the-edges and down-to-one-page 2018 calendar until a couple of days ago.

When I took this year’s calendar out of the closet and placed it lovingly in the middle of my desk, I actually said “aaahhh” out loud. Because there’s nothing in this world more wonderful than 365 pristine days laid out where you can see them.

Days filled with all kinds of possibilities. Read more. Write more. Hike more. Bike more. Save more. Give more. Eat lobster in Maine. Go on a cattle drive out west. Visit friends I haven’t seen in years. Visit kinfolk I haven’t seen in years. Learn a new skill. (This will include changing the ink in my printer, I hope.) Get better at a skill I already have. (Today, for the second time in recent memory, I successfully used an accordion plunger to unstop a toilet. So yay for that.)

Yeah, but. We all know that goals are easier to meet if they’re couched in specific terms and broken down into manageable tasks. That’s why I’m using January to get my surroundings in order and my plans in place.

The clothes closet is easy. Ditto for the refrigerator and pantry and even the garage.

It’s the papers that get to me. They’re piled on my worktable. Tossed into baskets. Crammed into file cabinets. Stuffed into cardboard boxes and plastic bins. I have one of those mail slot thingies in my office closet that was supposed to keep me organized but hasn’t. Ditto for a rolling set of multi-colored drawers. I have so many projects going on at once and so many ideas swirling in my head that sometimes I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round that won’t slow down.

This year I’m determined to produce a polished draft of “Half a Mile to the Dollar Store,” a novel I’ve been working on for forever. I’d like to try writing a literary short story. Maybe even a poem. And perhaps a collection of essays about online dating. But I can’t do any of those things well until I know what’s what and where it is. And until I commit to a regular schedule attacking each project.

The good news is that the first step is easy. And incredibly difficult. I must commit to working without interruption. That means leaving the cell phone alone. Face-down with the sound turned off. Better yet, in another room entirely. Because it’s just too easy to pick it up and fall down the Facebook rabbit hole. That hole sometimes includes arguments with people I don’t even know. But that’s the subject for next week’s column.

(January 13, 2019)