As my three followers will know, instead of creating a list of New Year’s resolutions, I use the New Year to create a list of projects for the year. In 2011 it was “11×11″ and in 2012 it was “12×12.” Can you guess what this year’s is?
If you’re asking what the difference is between my annual projects and New Year’s resolutions, I can only answer:
Projects are more structured with more defined and measurable goals to occasionally reach and more often disappointingly fall short of.
Projects cleverly and not-so-cleverly use the number of the year as part of their composition (I hope I don’t live to see the year 2050 or so).
Project encompass more areas of life–and those areas more specifically–so are somehow broader and more specific at the same time. I am large and contain multitudes. And see #1.
As many experience with their resolutions, though, I have consistently fallen far short of meeting my project goals. So far short that I’ve removed the project pages for the last few years…leaving only the option of manual searching and counting for those who wish to know exactly how decided my failure was.
So this year I am choosing to avoid two planning traps that have sabotaged me in past years: I tried to be less ambitious (aka lowering my standards), and I didn’t dream up my annual project while in the sweet spot of holiday vacation, when everything seems possible and the misery of day-to-day “real life” is a mere repressed memory.
A few themes have emerged as I’ve considered the next year of my life and how I plan to (try to) intentionally approach it, and I’m happy with them: being mindful, making, sharing, connecting, and reflecting.
The only rule for 13×13 is there are no rules, which means I can double-dip and count twofers and threefers and pretty much anything else I want to do.
With that, 13×13 for 2013:
I have a lot to be grateful for but I very rarely take time to think about it, instead spending my time complaining, whinging, arguing, and protecting myself with layer upon layer of sarcasm and irony. Note also: I hate the term “charming notes” but it is Carolyn See’s name for her good idea, so I’m leaving it as is.
- Perform 31 new intentional new Acts of Kindness
I’m not a kind person. I’ve hurt far too many people in my life. I’ve never been particularly generous, in part because I’ve always feared losing everything. In both cases, what was a protective mechanism has become something that leaches my soul of much of life’s richness.
So here I mean acts of kindness and generosity that go beyond the every day little things of opening doors and yielding at a traffic stop. They don’t have to be grand but they need to be planned. And it should cost me something, and I don’t mean monetarily. If I give away a book, for example, it should be a book I like and would otherwise want to keep, not some junk I’d never keep for myself anyway. It’s also hard for me to act in ways that aren’t anonymous, which means I need to challenge myself in that way.
Plenty of forms to choose from…and I won’t beat myself up for going with simpler examples.
The Universe knows I don’t need to eat more baked goods, so friends/co-workers should benefit from my carby largesse.
- Send 52 Letters
This better be a gimme…I should double that number. But I’m not going to because this is the new, more reasonable Chris.
- Create a 13 page accordion folded Commonplace Book.
- Add 31 entries to my online Commonplace Book
- Add 4 new entries to my Sevens series
The first should be something like my earlier accordion folded commonplace book, but using a handmade book.
- Populate a Flickr photo set sharing 13 new folds I can be proud of.
The hardest part about this one will be subduing my internal critic long enough to be proud of anything I fold.
I’d like to come up with something better to capture this, but the reasoning is this: I rarely just sit and really listen to music the way I used to. Music has become, for the most part, the accompaniment to (at best) or background noise for (at worst) doing other things…a habit that has the most detrimental effect on jazz and classical music, whose complexity demands listening, not just hearing.
Pathetic, huh? But exercising once-a-week is better than none-a-week, which is pretty close to my average here. My goal is probably not enough to get into the exercise habit, but I’m not sure that’s in my future anyway. However, even I can’t count walking as exercise.
Zazen is, paradoxically, exercise for the mind.
Read/re-read and reflect on more Montaigne essays, including these 7 (in no particular order):
- Of Vanity
- Of Cannibals
- Of Experience
- Of Solitude
- Of Books
- Of the Art of Discussion
- Of Repentance
On deck: “Of Virtue” and “Of Anger”
Read/re-read and reflect on six more Shakespeare plays, most likely these six (also in no particular order):
- Henry V
- Richard III
- Romeo and Juliet
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Much Ado About Nothing
I’m skipping Henry VI altogether for now. Don’t judge.
- Create and do my best to adhere to 13 life routines
Explanation: I need more routine in my life. I live all over the map with almost no consistency in my daily life or creative work. This poses particular challenges for me as a sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder. It also allows for the “space between stimulus and response” or, as David Foster Wallace put it:
If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Routines may be very small (sort, store and file letters once a week) or very practical (night-time, before-sleep). They may be something that is done daily, weekly, even monthly. I’m not quantifying stick-to-it-iveness at this point, though I might include some measures later as I figure out the routines that will be most beneficial to myself.
Like I said: I’m trying to set achievable goals. And by purge I mean books a) going out to friends, 2) being left anonymously as small acts of kindness, 3) donated to the literacy council, or 4) being traded in at the local used book store. CDs will be ripped to my digital collection and likewise distributed. I’d love to do at least double or triple both of these numbers!
I also need to generally de-clutter, but I’m not sure how to quantify other categories (office supplies, knickknacks and tchotchkes, obsolete-ish electronics, etc.)
- Complete a 13-poem sprint
- Add 13 entries to my Listography
- Add 13 entries to my Abecedarian
- Submit new work to 13 different publications
I write a fair amount…I just don’t share much of it. Sprints help me focus on getting back into daily practice. The list-related writing provides not just a focus when I need one, but I’m fascinated by the work that is comprised of our collections of smaller work, whether by simple collection, curation, accretion, or collage.
Re: submitting for publication, I’ll count new work, old work, tiny work, long work…whatever. I’m not sure I care about being published and I’m not sure anything I’ve written in the last 5+ years is worth publishing. This part of the project is one of principal: I want to tell one of my most vocal inner critics to STFU.
By my calculations, this amounts to the following monthly activities:
- 1.1 Charming Notes written
- 2.5 Notes of Gratitude written
- 2.5 Acts of Kindness performed
- 1.1 Books made
- 1.1 New baked goods baked
- 1.1 New recipes cooked
- 2 Letters written
- .07 parts of an Accordion Book made and written
- 2.5 Entries in my Commonplace Book committed
- .07 parts of an Accordion Book made and written
- 2.5 Entries in my Commonplace Book
- .33 Parts of a Sevens exhibit compiled
- 1.1 Origami models folded
- 2.2 Albums listened to
- 2 Exercise sessions done
- 2 Long walks done
- 2 Meditation sessions completed
- .5 Shakespeare plays read
- .6 Montaigne essays read
- 1.1 routines created and implemented
- 1.1 Listography entries written
- 1.1 Abecederian pieces written
- 1.1 Works submitted for publication
That seems completely doable to me. Time will tell.