Happy New Year, everyone! I am jazzed up and ready to go. So let's do this!
2017. This is the first year that started without that usual fresh! clean! slate! optimism of every other year. Even our drunken NYE toast at midnight ended with "until the bombs start falling." While we are all learning to live with a heightened base line of anxiety, I decided to make a goal list this year that would give me a framework to cling to. It took only a few minutes to come up with 17 specific things I wanted to commit to for 2017. Here's a small sampling: 1. Use what I have. (like reading the books already on my Kindle) 2. Listen to podcasts during the day. (rather than have TV on that I'm not watching) 3. Sell or donate extra stuff in the house and get rid of our external storage unit. 4. Write 5 days a week. 5. Never use the new President's name or repost his words. Refuse to be a part of his propaganda mechanism.
Forest bathing. I once heard that if you see or hear something at least three times, you should pay attention to it. I kept seeing references to forest bathing (a Japanese concept) and have become quite enamored with the thought that spending time in nature can be considered luxurious enough to be categorized as "bathing." For a quick hit on the topic, read this article.
Holiday time with family and friends. It's not always Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood with us and it can feel unruly enough that I ask myself every year why we choose to host. But we do laugh. A lot. This year was all of that and I'm grateful for it.
My endodontist. Just before Christmas, I started to feel a terrible pain in my jaw all the way up to my ear. Turns out my filling had fallen out and I had an infected tooth. My dentist sent me to the best specialist out there who was able to do a root canal in under an hour. What was supposed to be a two-visit procedure was done in time for me to enjoy our Christmas Roast Beast! And I felt very little pain during and after the procedure. Yay for smart people who go to school for a million years so they can fix us!
The OA. I'll try to keep this spoiler-free. I SO loved this show!! It pulled me in and messed with my head and then whacked me in the face and dumped me back out confused and inspired and wondering what just happened. Watch it and see if you can shake it from your head afterwards.
The 100 (Season 3). As a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica and a total AI-skeptic (I even refuse to speak to Siri and removed that Cylon from my phone), I am finding The 100 to be a great story in the BSG-tradition.
Pom pom rug. I started making one over the summer when I was stuck in the house during my flare-up. I hope to have it done this winter.
Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders. I have had this book of short stories on my list forever. They are whacky and at times hard to figure out but they are intriguing. The first story about an attempted abduction continues to unsettle me.
Latterly 2016 Anthology. With essays from independent journalists around the world, Latterly has gathered their best from the year like "They don't want food. They want seeds" (about Haitian mistrust of institutions).
A Year to Clear. I like year-long projects. One of my favorites was the 365 Photo Project that I completed several years ago. This one is all about space-clearing, which seems to be especially relevant to me right now. I like having a prescribed format that details something for me to do each day in making progress towards the goal. So far, it's a lot of thinking.
Radio Lab's More Perfect podcast. I am learning so much listening to this. Each episode features an issue or case that impacts the Supreme Court. The first episode on the death penalty and lethal injection had me hanging on every word. And the episode entitled, "Kittens Kicked The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer," will have you laughing while you learn some important history about the court itself. You may even find yourself singing the theme song the rest of the day.
Anjunadeep 08. I'm a longtime Anjunadeep compilation fan. There are a few tracks at the beginning that I don't care for but, after that, it settles nicely into that trance-producing background music perfect for writing or reading or doing absolutely nothing.
Eating + Drinking:
Thrive Market. Even though we try to buy local, it can be hard to get some things in the offseason out here. I've been a member for over a year and order some speciality items from there every couple of months. My favorite items: 1. organic turkey bone broth -- I make a super easy lunch meal out of this. I boil it with some ditalini and then add olive oil and parmesan chunks. Eat with some buttered crusty bread and you have yourself a hygge of a lunch. 2. Lesser Evil Organic Himalayan Sweetness Popcorn -- It's made with coconut oil so you have that slight coconut taste with a salty-sweet flavor. Unlike anything else I've tried! 3. Epic Chicken Sriracha Bars -- Oh my gosh are these good! They are perfect for travel snacks -- lots of protein, lots of flavor, and it feels like you've eaten a meal. 4. Nutiva Organic Hazelnut Spread -- GREAT organic alternative to Nutella. Better for you and they have a yummy dark chocolate version.
Skillshare. Another intention I have for 2017 is to take a Skillshare class on something new every month. They have a special for the first three months of this year: 99 cents for three months of access.
This Jojoba Oil. I read an article that said that jojoba oil is as close to our natural facial oils as you can find. So I started using it as a moisturizer every day. Stephen is constantly licking my face so I was worried that anything I put on my skin would harm him and this stuff is safe. A little goes a long way!
Non-essential TV. I am a story junkie. I'm trying to shift away from having the TV on in the background (terrible habit) and put on music or podcasts. There is so much fantastic TV these days, though, so I'm working on getting rid of shows that I've been watching out of habit (yep, even the Kardashians!)
My support efforts for fellow chronic pain sufferers. I recently joined a Facebook group for people who suffer from nerve pain similar to mine. There are over 18,000 members. 18,000! I've started responding to people's posts with my own experience if it seems it might be helpful. I'm also learning how I can get more involved in advocacy for pain research through the American Pain Society. Did you know that there are 100 million people who suffer from some form of chronic pain? And the NIH only spends about 1% of its budget on pain research initiatives? With the anti-research/anti-science administration about to take office, it's even more critical to get involved right now!
Planning + Organizing:
Excursions in Jamaica. I have spent every one of my birthdays since turning 40 in Jamaica, except for one when we were in Mexico. I've done something cool every year like a private dinner on the beach, had jerk chicken and a lobster fresh from the sea with locals in a shack, watched the cliffdivers at Rick's, toured around Negril's bars on the One Love Bar Crawl bus, and had the best taco dinner in the world that cost us all of $13. I'm looking at things like handfeeding hummingbirds, floating around a bioluminescent lagoon, and having a fancy-more-than-$13 meal at Half Moon. Luckily my birthday is early in the trip so sand gravity will not have a huge hold on us quite yet. It all depends on my physical condition that day so we'll see how it goes!
Operation Bubble Wrap. The only way I'm going to make it to Jamaica and back is if I bubble wrap my entire body. I've been trying to work out the logistics of not being able to carry heavy bags, but needing to bring extra support items -- like my folding cane, waterproof inflatable pool pillows so I can sit comfortably in the sun with my fruity cocktail for more than 15 minutes, heating pads, and heavy-ish orthopedic sandals. I may need to do several trial runs here with my suitcases before we travel in March.
I've added a new section below that covers all things political, controversial, and/or potentially upsetting to the kumbaya, can't-we-all-just-get-along, I-want-my-Facebook-feed-to-be-nice-again crowd. But that's not you, right? You're strong enough and engaged enough to read it.
Anti-intellectualism and populism. I've been reading about Poland's strong populism movement and it's subsequent transformation away from democracy. I've been thinking about all those books I read about China's Cultural Revolution and the destruction of so much of the best that humans add to this world. I watched the movie, Woman in Gold, a film about Nazi-stolen art and the fight for repatriation. I even read this slightly light-hearted but actually serious article that blames the TV show, Friends, for our current situation and calls for action to protect the nerds. And I've been thinking about the stark contrast between that guy I went to high school with who keeps posting memes about liberalism being a mental disease and climate change being fake vs. well, everyone else I know who is interested in the world. It's made me recommit to reading and learning and supporting others who do the same.
Critical reading. So much good reading out there right now. Here are the articles that had the most impact on me recently: "Want to Actually Change Someone's Mind on Social Media? Do This." Apparently, it's possible. "Anthony Bourdain: The Post-Election Interview." Reassuring in it's pessimism. "How Trump Could Slow Medical Progress." Terrifying. "The Anxiety of a Strong Mexican-American Neighborhood." Real people, real consequences. "Putin's Real Long Game." If you read just one, make it this one. (Also, High School Guy, give this one a shot.)
Action. For those of you who kept telling me that you support same sex marriage, now is your time to prove it. You insisted there was no reason to worry about this under That Guy. YOU WERE WRONG. Read up on the First Ammendment Defense Act here. Seriously, read it! Basically, it allows anyone who has a "moral conviction" about how you live your life to discriminate against you. And don't think you'll be protected if you live in a cool state like Massachusetts. There are currently 172 co-sponsors in the House, and 37 in the Senate. PLEASE contact your rep to make sure they know you want them to take a stance against FADA when it is reintroduced in the House! And for those of you who told me you supported same sex marriage, now is your chance to prove it to me. So make those calls!
I'm hoping these posts will be more frequent this year. There is a lot going on in this world and we need to support each other. And suit up! We've got work to do.