New Season Resolutions

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
— C.S. Lewis

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ”
― Anaïs Nin

Did you make resolutions for the new year? Have you already given up on them? 

After years of trying, I have decided that January first is not the optimal time to change your life philosophy. Too much holiday and new year madness. But perhaps the start of a new season is a good time to consider some reasonable changes to your life.

I wrote back in 2013 about new year resolutions by using some advice from others via quotations. I erred them as the equinox slid into place last night and the advice still seems valid – but I also have taken a new approach to resolutions. More about that in a bit…

That C.S. Lewis quote at the top is happily optimistic – more so than Lucy Montgomery (who wrote Anne of Green Gables) who said “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” which might be optimistic, but could be said in a sarcastic way too.

My new approach to a resolution, whether it starts with the new year, a new season or any time between, is to think small, practical and doable.

“The fall of dripping water hollows the stone,” said Lucretius and he’s correct that small things can over time make big differences.

I don’t suggest that you make a “doable” resolution that is self-conning. Many years ago, the faculty that I was a part of was asked by the administration to come with a personal goal for the new school year. We were told it should be something important to us and something that was doable and measurable. One of the more sarcastic members (not me!) immediately said he knew what his resolution would be: “To become more tolerant of administrative stupidity.”

Larry David & the Seinfeld cast. George was supposed to be based on Larry’s experiences.

My new direction in resolutions this year also came from a generally sarcastic source: Larry David of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. The character of “Larry David” on the latter show is very sarcastic, but the real larry is said to be much different. I saw him interviewed on a talk show in January and he was asked about new year resolutions. He said he had not believed in them but that in the past few years he has made more reasonable ones and stuck to them.

My first thought was that he would say something like the sarcastic faculty member. In a similar way, as a child growing up Catholic, we were asked to give up something for Lent. Some friend would always say they were giving up something like broccoli which they already hated.  Make it easy. But that’s not the point.

Larry gave two of his recent resolutions and I immediately bought into his approach. One was “Pee before you leave. ” As a new senior citizen, I can really identify with this. It’s just good advice, but advice I often do not follow myself and then I regret it when I get into traffic on Route 3 heading into the Lincoln Tunnel to New York City. When you have the chance, use the bathroom.

His second resolution was “Make two trips.” We try to grab everything from the car or the table or your desk to carry elsewhere and we end up dropping things, pulling a muscle or something even worse. Why? Just make two trips. 

I learned this lesson the hard way back in December. I was walking down the stairs in my home and juggling in both hands a cup of tea, my iPhone, a magazine and my slippers. Therefore, I did not hang on to the railing on the way down. As I neared the bottom, I lost my footing and went face forward into the air. I recall it all in slow motion. The tea also flew as did the cup, smashing ahead of me. Unbelievably, stupidly, I still remember thinking “Slide the phone on the floor ahead of me” which I miraculous did at the expense of my knees, wrists, and face. Flat out I went. Luckily, no long-term injuries. Lesson learned. make two trips. Also, Always Use the Handrails.

Of course, right now grabbing handrails is frowned upon as dirty, germ and virus-loaded places. Which leads right into another spring resolution which we should all have and which should continue long after: Wash your hands every opportunity you get with soap and warm water. It’s just a good, reasonable, doable resolution. And those are the best kind.



Writing the Day

I started a new daily writing practice for 2014 that I call WRITING THE DAY.

The idea is simple – and not totally original – to write a poem each day.

I wanted to impose some form on myself each day. I love haiku, tanka and other short forms, but I decided to create my own form for this project.  I wanted to do shorter poems and I thought about the many Japanese forms that I enjoy reading and writing. The haiku is the form most people are familiar with, and it is a form that gets far too little respect in the Western world,

People know that form as three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. But that’s an English interpretation, since Japanese doesn’t have syllables.

bridgerain400The main inspiration for me is the tanka form which consists of five units (often treated as separate lines when romanized or translated) usually with the following pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. Even in that short form, the tanka has two parts. The 5-7-5 is called the kami-no-ku (“upper phrase”) and the 7-7 is called the shimo-no-ku (“lower phrase”).

For my invented form, ronka, there are 5 lines, each having 7 words without concern for syllables. Like the tanka there is no rhyme.

My own ronka will focus on observations of the day as seen in the outside world and the inside worlds of dwellings and the mind.

From the haiku form I will try to use techniques like having seasonal words to show rather than tell – cherry blossoms, rather than “spring” or April.  Haiku also don’t include the poet or people as frequently as we do in Western poetry.

I am calling the form ronka – obviously a somewhat egotistical play on the tanka form.

wave crossing

William Stafford is the poet who inspired this daily practice the most for me. Stafford wrote every morning from 1950 to 1993. He left us 20,000 pages of daily writings that include early morning meditations, dream records, aphorisms, and other “visits to the unconscious.” He used sheets of yellow or white paper and sometimes spiral-bound reporters’ steno pads.

I already write every day. I teach and writing is part of the job. I do social media as a job and for myself. I work on my poetry. I have other blogs. But none of them is a daily practice or devoted to writing poems.

When Stafford was asked how he was able to produce a poem every morning, he replied, “I lower my standards.”  I like that answer, but I know that phrase “lowering standards” has a real negative connotation. I think Stafford meant that he allows himself some bad poems and some non-poems, knowing that with daily writing there will be eventually be some good work.

Read the poem, “Mindful,” by Mary Oliver and you’ll get a nice explanation of at least part of the motivation for doing this daily poetry practice – the joy I find every day in some thing, perhaps rather small, that I feel some need to record so that I will remember it in times when things seem less joyful. The poem comes her collection, Why I Wake Early, whose title fits right into the William Stafford writing practice that also inspired my project. She writes about the outdoors – crickets, toads, trout lilies, black snakes, goldenrod, bears and deer – and that is at least a third of what I expect my poems to have as inspiration. But I will be less disciplined about waking up early.

Now, I have been Writing the Day for 19 days and I don’t know if I can sustain the practice every day for an entire year. But, I know it is more pleasurable than resolving to lose weight, exercise more, spend less time online or any other of the common New Year’s boxes that so many people put themselves into in January.

Resolutions for the New Year


It is that time again. Time to resolve to be better at being ourselves.

I proceed with caution.  Not to be a pessimist, but you can overdo it on the resolutions and optimism.  You get on a new year high and set lofty goals that you then cannot meet and you are bummed out by February.

This is probably not the time to change your life philosophy. Perhaps, it is the time that is a reminder to figure out if you have a life philosophy and to consider some changes to it.

Let us look at some wise words from some wise people on this topic.

Some optimism:

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Temper that with some reality:

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” –LM. Montgomery

Though that touch of reality I likely to be true, here’s a sunnier thought:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S. Lewis

A nice mix of both sides: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

And when all else fails…

“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Maybe the secret is just to make small but steady changes.

“The fall of dripping water hollows the stone.” — Lucretius
“Don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones.” — H. J. Brown

And, as much as I love pithy quotations, they have their failings…

“He wrapped himself in quotations – as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.” — Rudyard Kipling

Ouch! That hurts.