2020 Motivations & Ambitions

Actress Mary Pickford writing at a desk, by Hartsook Photo Studio, San Francisco & Los Angeles, California, 23 March 1918.

Actress Mary Pickford writing at a desk, by Hartsook Photo Studio,  23 March 1918.

I really hesitate to use the word “goal” here, and much like many people I know, I shy away from talking about “resolutions.” But aren’t they all really the same thing, these earnest efforts to better ourselves in an attempt to reach, oh…I don’t know what…our final form? Our ultimate, enlightened evolution? Or maybe just plain old success and happiness? And really, what’s wrong with that? On the whole, I think it’s a grand idea.

But I think, for me, at least, it might be smarter to consider all of that in terms of little processes and practices rather than a massive end-goal or two. Sure, I could say that I want to lose 50 lbs in 2020, but that’s a big number, and a lot to expect from a body, and it’s so easy to lose motivation and become discouraged along the way when progress looks slow.

I’d rather take action with smaller check-ins. For example: make sure I’m moving enough, and not even because exercise is all that helpful toward weight loss–which I don’t believe it is–but because I feel better when I get my daily walks. And when I feel better, I make better decisions about when and where and why and how much to eat. Or maybe try my best to cook most meals at home– because I both love to cook and I am more invested and excited about food when I make it myself, and when I have made the food myself, I know exactly what ingredients and how much of them are going into it. Get enough sleep, because when I’ve had the opportunity for my body to heal and refresh and reset itself, I’m more likely to wake up for those early morning walks, and I later in the day have the mental clarity and energy to plan out meals and make them. All of those things may add up to choices more aligned toward that big goal but more importantly, I think it will get me fairly well-sorted and stronger and healthier along the way.

I realize that I am pretty well privileged to live in a place where I feel safe taking walks in the dark and that I have a body that is capable of taking those walks. That I have the access and resources to buy fresh ingredients and the time to make a nice meal for myself. That I don’t have (too many) concerns related to sleeping or getting a good night’s rest. This may look very different for you, or for someone else. I can really only speak for myself in this regard, but I am not blind to the fact that not everyone can or is able to do these things. Not everyone even wants to do these things!

Which brings me to my next point RE: weight loss and body positivity. You can be confident and healthy and beautiful whatever size or weight you are at–all body types can and should be celebrated. My body doesn’t feel like a celebration, though. And honestly, it never has, but it especially has not felt like much of a party these last few years. I have accepted that this is the only body I’ve got and there’s only so much I can do about it, and after a certain point, it’s just going to look however it looks. That’s fine. What I do not accept is being resigned to it feeling a certain way. I don’t want to feel like a creaky old house with too much pressure on the structures that are meant to be holding it together. I don’t want to feel old and stiff and sluggish and slow. Well, slow is okay, I guess. I am a Taurus after all.

I want to feel better and I have no doubt that includes losing a pound or two. I know that a great many folks find talk of this a little triggering, and I get it. I find it triggering, too. I’ve dealt with the issues attached to fat-shaming and bullying and eating disorders my whole life. But I can’t ignore the other realities here, either–which is that I am carrying around too much body for my body to manage and I have to do something about that, even though it’s not comfortable to address to myself, nor is it fun or interesting to discuss with others, or even to just share here on my blog.

I suppose this is all a disclaimer, really. I know this is my little internet space to whisper or holler about whatever I want at my leisure, but I never want to lose sight of the fact that there are actual human beings out there who are reading what I have written…and I become awfully upset with myself when I pause to think that there may be friends or acquaintances who read this thing or that thing I have written and feel hurt or betrayed by my words. Body acceptance and positivity is great, is what I am saying here, but I don’t always feel positive about my own body.  I’m sorry for how that may make you feel, but in the end, how I feel about my own body is my own business.

This list below is mostly not even about my corporeal human meat suit issues! But I suppose I felt that I had probably better make sure I said all of the above, anyhow. These are the ambitions and objectives that in 2020 and the rest of this new decade I would like to try to stay on top of, incorporate more of, or maybe just try out and see how it feels, in terms of assisting with daily goings-about in this world, and leveling up along the way. Until the end of it all, when I have hopefully done the work and put in the effort and have finally achieved my true form:

Medusa, 1892. Alice Pike Barney

Medusa, 1892. Alice Pike Barney

Move more, cook more, sleep more:

I mentioned these above, but they bear repeating. I try to walk most evenings for 45 minutes or so, and if I can wake myself before the sun is up in the morning, I take gentle wake-up walks at that time as well. I have been saying for years now I’d like to start doing yoga (I figure if I learn one new stretch every year, at the end of a decade, I will have a routine.) I would also like to start doing pilates again. I had a pilates DVD years ago, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I really liked it. I live with someone though, and I am really shy and squirrelly about working out in a place where someone could potentially walk in on me exerting myself and looking sweaty and stupid. I would trust my partner with just about anything, but I gotta draw the line somewhere. So I have to find a secret pilates nook, I guess?

I do cook at home quite frequently already, but there are probably more occurrences of Chipotle runs than we need during the week, and on weekends it seems like we eat out for practically every meal. Lately, I’ve been feeling particularly inspired the Simple cookbook by Yottam Ottolenghi which features a lot of Middle Eastern flavors, and the Rabbit and Wolves blog, which has the most amazingly delicious vegan recipes (I made the mac and cheese stroganoff and holy cats, it is so good.) Cooking is the one facet of my life where I have any amount of confidence; one might even say that I approach all of my culinary endeavors with all of the certitude and bravado of a mediocre white man. I feel most at home in my kitchen, and it’s my sanctuary. I want to spend as much time there making beautiful meals as I possibly can.

And with regards to sleep, this is where I am really struggling. I like to wake up early, but I often don’t get to bed until a much later hour, and these habits, combined, make it difficult to consistently obtain an optimal amount of sleep. Finding a balance has been difficult. I like to sleep mostly because I like to dream, but otherwise I kind of wish I didn’t have to bother with it. There’s so much reading and knitting I could be doing! But I can’t because my body needs to shut down for an apparently non-negotiable amount of time, and I must say, it’s rather inconvenient.

Meditation:

I recently visited a medium, and during my reading, she observed that I had either just begun to meditate or that I would/should shortly. Well! As it happens, I had just begun, ten days prior. I am using the Headspace app and I have been doing the 3-5 minute guided meditations every morning. I know the benefits of meditation are numerous, but I’m actually not sure what I am personally hoping to get out of it. My mind can be a pretty noisy place sometimes, and there are instances that I get myself worked up over something, or perhaps blow something out of proportion and get in a fight-or-flight state, and I’d love to cultivate a practice that helps me slow and calm the escalating anxieties.

Reach out more:

I don’t know that I am always the best friend or sister that I should be. Just because I feel like I am pretty low maintenance and I don’t need much in terms of care and watering, doesn’t mean that those I love feel the same way. (And I really need to take a closer look at why think I don’t need that same care, myself.)

More phones calls–any phone calls, really–would be a good start; more texts and messages and check-ins during the week. Maybe even send a few emails or postcards. A vlogger I watch on Youtube mentioned making a practice of reaching out to 5 people a week, and I really liked that idea. But I don’t want to get so caught up in reaching out to far-flung acquaintances that those loved ones I am really close to begin to fall further down my list of priorities (I can get really caught up in things, and so I foresee how I could let this happen.) I guess like practically everything else on this list, it is a matter of balance.

And I would really like to stay more on top of my thank you card game if for no other reason than I have a massive amount of stationery that needs getting used up and well, also, it’s just a classy thing to do.

Budgeting and saving:

In the past few years, I have become a person who sees something they want and who buys that thing immediately. I don’t even pause to give it a second thought. I think there are several issues to explore and address as to what’s going on internally and giving rise to this behavior. Probably a lot of avoidance and depression, past poverty/deprivation, and something I just read about and which makes a lot of sense in terms of my experience: Symptom Substitution.

“Often when a person overcomes one type of compulsive behavior, they replace it with another, especially when they have not addressed the underlying reasons. Many women with eating disorders “graduate” to compulsive shopping.”

Ooof. Some graduation gift.

Now I have an abundance of stuff and a scarcity of savings. Some of these things have never been used, still have the tags on them. And then there’s my house full of mountains of useless clutter. Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in minimalism. I just want to enjoy the things I have without longing for more, more, more. Why does it always seem like there is something better and why do I think I need it?

I thought it might be smart to begin tracking my spending habits and to make a budget for myself. I started using the EveryDollar and I will tell you, I was shocked at what my spending actually looks like. Much of my money goes to eating out and to credit card bills. What am I, 20? Get it together, lady! Now that I am paying attention, I feel like I have at least got a place to start.

Therapy:

In 2019 I finally began to see a therapist on a regular basis. I stopped going in July because I was immersed in writing, and it just seemed like too much to deal with. But I finally went back last week, and have got an appointment scheduled for next month, so we are getting back on track.

I don’t yet know what I am getting out of these sessions, but I do know that I often talk myself to some epiphanies and revelations and flashes of self-discovery in the hour that I am there. And maybe it’s just good practice for me to talk. I’ve always been a “…no, it’s fine, I’m fine!” type of person, and if I get used to saying “no, this hurts” or “no, this isn’t comfortable for me” or “what are you, a fucking idiot?” in a setting where I feel safe, maybe one day I will be able to assertively say these things to the people who need to hear it.

Stephen King:

Ok, so this is a frivolous little project. And ok, it’s not exactly a little project. But the other day I was thinking “well if you’re such a Stephen King fan, why haven’t you read, like, his last fifteen years worth of work?” That’s an excellent question! So I am embarking on a quest to read all of his titles that I have not yet read, to listen on audiobook all of the titles that I have read already, and to watch all of the television and film that I have not yet seen. And of course, as soon as I decided to do this, Stephen King said something really out of touch and entitled and cringey on twitter the other day, and man just keep your mouth shut and go to a Red Sox game or something. We don’t need your thoughts and opinions on everything. Just keep scaring us.

Sweaters

I have not knit a sweater since 2009 or so. My results were never that great, but they weren’t terrible, so I thought I’d try my hand at it again. I am currently knitting up a sleeve on the Emerge sweater. I’ve already screwed it up twice. Whee!

Herbs

For as long as I have lived on my own, I have always had a pot of herbs on my porch. Sometimes, depending on the amount of space, I might have had a whole porch full! I don’t exactly have a green thumb, but I know there’s a handful of green herbs that I get along quite well with: rosemary, mint, oregano, marjoram. Currently, I’ve kept a parsley plant alive for over a year, which is a minor miracle, but it’s still with us! My basil and dill always croak, and I think Florida may be too hot for lavender, but I’m giving a new lavender plant another try even as I type this.

Other than throwing a few leaves in a sauce or salad every now and again, I never do anything with these herbs…even though for years I have been intrigued by the idea of making my own teas and tinctures and candles and soaps, etc. I’ve just never even tried! Unlike my cooking and knitting confidence, I have no surefootedness when it comes to attempting new endeavors. Like many of us, I find the thought of not achieving perfection on the first try extremely prohibitive. And so… I don’t even try.

Both a reiki healer and a medium (the same one referenced above) in the course of a day, just a few hours apart really, both separately told me the same thing: they thought I was already an herbalist or someone who works very closely with herbs. These women did not work together; I am not even sure they knew each other. And yet they both recognized in me this affinity. I think I am going to get to know my herbs a little better this year. If I try something and make a mistake, or I fail completely–well, I think that just means I learned something. Maybe I’ll fail a lot. Maybe I’ll learn a lot of things.

I think that’s really what this year–this decade, maybe–is meant to be about. Little steps. Mistakes. Failures. And learning, always learning along the way.

What have you got planned for 2020? What are your motivations and ambitions and objectives? What do you plan to fail at, spectacularly? Let’s fail and learn and grow together, my strange, beautiful friends.

6 Comments on 2020 Motivations & Ambitions

  1. Kit
    January 20, 2020 at 10:21 pm (2 months ago)

    Funnily enough, one of my big ambitions for the year is to fail at something! I am very much a perfectionist (former Gifted Kid shout out!), and my fear of failure has prevented me from doing as much creative work as I would like to be doing. I’m not going to build something that fails on purpose, but if I really fuck up a 3D print or sew something that would never fit a human body then I’ve accomplished that goal.

    I’m very much guilty of the “see a thing I like and buy it” thing too (oh dang, is this me “graduating” from my eating disorder?), and in fact I just took this long weekend to do a huge purge of my clothes and shoes. I need to schedule a donation pickup, but I already feel so much better knowing that it’s *leaving my house*.

    Reply
  2. victoria
    January 20, 2020 at 11:07 pm (2 months ago)

    Re: herbs, mint is easy, and grows like crazy and making mint ice cream with fresh mint is a revelation in flavor! But, seriously, I kill all plants but mint, and it adds joy to my life just smelling it.

    Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      January 21, 2020 at 9:06 am (2 months ago)

      I love that mint is so easy, but it took me a long time to come around to its charms. I hate hate hate the smell of minty gum (gahhh even thinking about it is making me gag) and so I was always so hesitant to do anything with fresh mint. I finally realized that the scent is not at all the same, and now we’ve a bit of an uneasy friendship.

      Reply
  3. Karen
    January 21, 2020 at 6:08 am (2 months ago)

    To keep organizing and purging and donating and getting a flow of schedule. To see my friends that don’t live near. To let myself both love and be loved and not explaining it either. Cooking at home and getting my system back in line from trauma and lack of movement. To keep working on things that make me happy and stop clock watching and telling myself others would be faster or know this already. To enjoy the experience I am in while I am in it. To make that list of ten things I like about myself a monthly to do cos a few years ago I listed things I could defend about me. I am so much happier than I was 7 years ago. I am braving the choices I have made and that they were successful not by sheer luck but because I worked for them. Owning my accomplishments and rewriting that inner voice to mine own again. All of the things I dreamed about are possible because why not? Thanks for this, Sarah. xx

    Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      January 21, 2020 at 9:08 am (2 months ago)

      All of these are very good things. This one, especially: “To enjoy the experience I am in while I am in it.” I am so guilty of filing away an experience as a memory or a piece of writing, that I am often thinking of it in the past tense even when I am still in the midst of it!

      Reply
  4. Theodora
    January 23, 2020 at 6:36 am (2 months ago)

    You’ve got some great goals this year! Love the ones about reaching out and meditation. Being kind to yourself is important xxx

    I have a few that I aim to do every year (get published more etc etc) but my main one is to get out of debt. Due to a variety of factors I am thousands of pounds overdrawn at the moment. Up until now my usual way of dealing with it is being flippant, going out, buying what I want and enjoying myself XD Not the best thing to do obviously but its worked pretty well in not getting me depressed and worked up. Decided now that its not the best solution as I really want to own my own place someday and I haven’t had a vacation in around 14 years lol. I get paid next week and I’m really going to try and crack down on it!

    Reply

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