Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Hello 2020

The proudest accomplishment of my staycation: learning to crochet granny squares.
Afghans for everyone!

Home On Monday we all returned to our regular schedules after a two-week holiday break. After spending a week in Boston over Thanksgiving, we didn’t travel anywhere, and it felt almost decadent to have two weeks off with no major commitments other than catching up with friends and family within a two-hour radius, seeing movies, and sightseeing locally. I even had time on New Year’s Eve to sit down and work through a guided reflection on 2019, and sketch out my intentions for 2020. If you’re interested to do the same as 2020 starts to crank up to speed, here’s the link. I found it a worthwhile exercise to put the past year in perspective and prepare for the one that’s coming. I revised my New Year’s Resolutions, which over the past couple of years have followed a numerical format that I wrote about previously. Framing them this way helps me to stay on track and keep them present in my mind:

1 handmade project/month - see picture above of my first one in progress!

2 outside events/month - book club, work meeting, civic activity, volunteering: anything that will get me out of my home office and encourage face-to-face interaction with other humans

3 minutes/day meditation - this is a fixture as I'm still working on achieving this consistently, but see the benefits when I do

4 books/month - 1 fiction, 1 nonfiction, 1 children’s/YA, 1 cookbook - last year I pretty consistently managed 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction, so I'm adding a bit more to the structure

5 30-minute exercise sessions/week - another fixture I'm still working to achieve consistently

6 pages/week of creative writing - I've committed to getting up 45 minutes early to make this happen, as I'm pretty confident based on past experience that it's the only way it won't get pushed aside for something else

7 hours/month on personal admin/financial maintenance - mundane but necessary, especially as I want to continue to focus on improving financial health and literacy this year

World I would be remiss if I didn’t put my own personal focus during this period into the context of larger events which marched on, festive season or not. The two countries that were (and are) on my mind the most are the US and Australia, both contending with epic existential crises on such a scale that they are likely to leave one feeling paralyzed with horror and despair. If you, like me, feel the need to take some kind of practical and useful action, a couple of suggestions:

US: Swing Left is coordinating a range of efforts targeting the critically important 2020 election cycle, ranging from making donations to writing postcards to getting out and canvassing.

Australia: This blog post, shared originally by one of my Melbourne friends, has some excellent practical advice about how to help - and how not to. Useful for anyone who's paying attention, either in Australia or from overseas.

Food I was re-reading Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year over the break (her memoir of the year after Gourmet magazine folded and her Editor in Chief job disappeared along with it), and was struck by this comment:

“...there will never be a time when terrible trouble is not stalking the earth, and I began to see how important it is to appreciate what you have.”

(And, I feel compelled to add, recognize what a tremendous privilege it is to be able to do so.)

It can often feel frivolous to focus on food and festivities when there is so much terrible trouble in the world, but I think they are also at the heart of what we are talking about when we say things like “preserving our way of life”. Franklin Roosevelt talked about the Four Freedoms when much of the world was neck-deep in World War II, fighting to secure those freedoms for a large chunk of humanity. Plentiful, nourishing food that we can cook and share with those around us makes good times better, and provides solace - sometimes the only solace - in times of trouble.

I’m going to try to spend more time here in 2020. I wish you and yours all the best for the coming year.

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