Last year on my birthday I took myself to breakfast so I could have some time to reflect on the past and coming years. I was a little bit blue -- and it wasn't just the ongoing COVID epidemic, or my worry about the climate crisis, or the gun violence epidemic, or the sorry state of local politics here in Los Angeles. I was feeling disconnected from myself, so I asked myself the following question:
What did I love to do, when I was 12 years old and had basically no real responsibilities or burdens beside school and family?
Here's what I came up with:
Here's what I realized:
I hadn't been doing any of those things in years, and I wanted and needed to do all of them to be truly happy.
Before I paid the bill for my delicious breakfast -- eggs boiled in polenta, YUM -- I had made a plan to fold writing, reading, and riding back into my life in 2022.
Here's how all of that went:
I had been kicking around a novel in the back of my head for months and months -- so I set a goal to write 300 words a day on my novel, longhand, in an effort to write with the freedom I'd had as a twelve year old kid writing poems all day long. I found it easy to fit that kind of goal into my every day routine -- 300 words is about 2 notebook pages, and took me about 15 minutes a day. When my real job began to get so nuts I couldn't find those 15 minutes, I started waking up an hour before my kids each day to write during that "magic hour," and it was magic. Even when I didn't love the words I wrote, I loved having that quiet time to myself each day, and those quiet hours helped generate a lot of other ideas I'm pursuing today, too. One year later, I've written 50,000 words on my novel, and hope to have a first draft done in early 2023, with an eye toward completing a stronger, second draft in the later part of the year.
I set a goal to read 52 novels this year. As of today, I have read 35, so I'm a little short, but that's still dozens of books more than I have read in recent years! I started a list of books I wanted to read on Goodreads at my birthday breakfast, and headed straight to the bookstore to buy the first book on the list. Then I signed up for book subscription boxes from the Strand Bookstore in New York, Skylight Books in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Review of Books. Every month new and wonderful novels I might not have stumbled upon myself arrived at home -- what a joy! I made time to actually read them by reading every day for about half an hour before bed. I also signed up for Audible, and got more books "read" while sitting in traffic, commuting for my real job. I will absolutely be repeating all of these things in 2023!
I have been horseback riding in a casual way since I was five years old, and my aunt took me for my first riding lesson. I got my first horse when I was 12, and am a competent all-around English and Western rider. I've cut cows, barrel-raced, and trained as a hunter/jumper and a dressage rider, too. Over the last 35 years I've owned half a dozen horses, but in the last 10 or so, hadn't had much time in the saddle. Work and family took up too much time and space, and I couldn't manage the expense of keeping a horse fulltime. On my birthday last year, I owned an ancient pony who was basically a lawn ornament, and a seven-year old mare I'd bought on a whim as a newborn, never had time for, and only a few months earlier, listed for sale. But at my birthday breakfast, I realized I was paying just as much to feed and board my mare in Colorado as it would cost to have her with me in Los Angeles, where I would actually get to see and ride her everyday. It wouldn't be cheap, but either is therapy or a gym membership -- and for me, horses are both. By the end of lunch I'd called my trainer friend who was caring for the pony and the mare in Colorado and told him she was no longer for sale, and I called a trainer friend of mine in Burbank and said I was bringing a horse in. That afternoon, my Burbank trainer friend and I were picking out a stall. Three weeks later, my horse arrived, and I can honestly say that going to the barn each day has been the highlight of this year. My horse, Birdie, is a dream. We get along great, we are madly in love, and I'm cantering around the arena like a kid. I can't wait to see what Birdie and I accomplish next year.
All this to say:
2022 has been mostly delightful, from my point of view. I have worked like crazy, I have managed our home and our kids, we have faced challenging medical diagnoses and dental conundrums, and all manner of general chaos, but I have been mostly over-the-moon happy overall, because I am finding time to feed the writing/reading/riding me that has been starved for so many years.
I've been married 18 years, and a Mom for nearly 16 years, and I say with great authority I have never been a better wife or mother than I have been this year, because I put my oxygen mask on first.
I am taking all the joys of my 2022 forward into next year, and adding new layers of joy, too.
Here's what I'm vision-ing out for next year:
Super-charging our life.
Reconnecting to friends and family, outside of the hell-scape of social media.