At the start of the day, week, year, or decade, it’s tempting to set goals. “I will lose X pounds by my next birthday!” or, “This house WILL be de-cluttered by summer!” “I will read at least forty books by Christmas!” We’re told to make our goals SMART, or better still, FAST.
Except… I don’t do very well with goal-setting. The process feels fake to me. If I want to achieve something, I will do my best to get ‘er done. I might succeed, I might not, but not for lack of trying. If I’m lukewarm about an objective, all the charts, acronyms, refrigerator charts, or schedules aren’t going to make me passionate about it.
But I came across the notion recently of choosing a theme rather than a goal to inspire reflection and growth. I know as an author, when I have a sense of a book’s theme, of the residual message the story tells, then the tale usually has more impact and is easier to write.
I’m finishing up a story for Orion Goddard and Ann Pearson (you’ll meet them in Sycamore’s book, The Last True Gentleman). Ann, who is a dedicated cook, needs to realize that you can starve emotionally while serving up banquets, while Orion has to see that the respect of fools, no matter their rank or consequence, isn’t worth pursuing. Their theme is about the difference between the appearances society values, and the substance that can only be found by listening to the heart. The result, I hope, is a story with an extra layer of depth and weight. (There’s also plenty of smoochin’ too!)
In my horseback riding these days, my theme is, “If you can’t do great things, then do humble things greatly.” That approach is working to shore up the foundation of all good riding–the ability to craft a dialogue with the horse.
In my house work, the theme is, “Micro-tasks.” Wipe a counter as I wait for the tea water to heat, pick the kitty litters between writing scenes, toss the bird seed up behind the barn while the tea bag is steeping. The result is that I never feel oppressed into procrastination by a monumental chore list, and the nest remains habitable.
Are there themes lurking on the edges of your life these days? Are some new themes trying to get your attention along with the new year? To three commenters, I will send e-ARCs of The Last True Gentleman.
It started the summer of 2019, with a pipe failing in our basement. After years of needing to get all the STUFF in the basement sifted though and organized, we were forced to do it. Hubby kept quoting Rahm Emmanuel, “never let a good crisis go to waste,” and we haven’t. Stuff (heirlooms, books, our kids clobber, etc.) have been duly gone through and saved and used, tossed or donated. Basement renovated by Thanksgiving and another wonderful living space created–wish we had done this YEARS AGO. We are about to begin a kitchen re-fresh on Monday because we got a discount from the basement contractor.
Would we have renovated the basement if we hadn’t been forced to? Probably not. And we’ve talked about the kitchen re-fresh for three years but just were not motivated. Renovation during COVID, you ask? These folks are more careful than we are and we are pretty darn careful! Plus, we feel good about hiring a small business (which is why we got a discount for the kitchen I think)and I have the time to be here because I am not able to work due to COVID restrictions.
But getting back to your question, Grace. Our theme for over 18 months has been “never let a good crisis go to waste.” We’ve accomplished many things because we were forced to, things we would have not thought of doing if not for that pipe fail. I’ve learned s lot about lemons and lemonade lately. And I’m grateful! 🙂
My theme is to stay in touch with my family and friends. I text and call my Mom, brother, sister and two friends that are isolated due to Covid 19. I message work friends. My friend and I walk over the weekend and I look forward to seeing her and sharing with her.
Another ongoing theme is to eat healthier and manage my weight. I am at -27 and hope to get to -35 by my birthday. It’s been fun finding WW friendly meals. I am glad Gregory the corgi eats everything you put in his dish.
I am trying to keep up with the housework by doing one or two tasks before work at home starts. That’s one theme I need to rewrite. I can’t ever get it done.
I am trying to enjoy living in the moment …which is hard for me.
Have decided to try to take one day at a time…. any enjoy my coffee, pat my old girl Rose and get lost in a good book!
Have a great week.
Peg Bracken wrote in a cookbook about using the same wine in a sauce that would be served at the table, musing that “the elegant echoes add up.” Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” comes to mind… Once there is a theme, the rest is variation and embellishment.
My themes are changing these days. Lately, I’m trying to be more concerned with being instead of doing.
It’s a hard changes to wrap my brain around! Many, many decades of being a Type A person have trained me to worry about Doing. But I’m a work in progress
I like your theme. Use wait times to do essential tasks.
I do have a goalpost which is my retirement later this year. The question is when which doesn’t entirely depend upon me. I owe it to the one woman who could (possibly) do my work to finish out some tasks. They would be an added burden on an already overworked woman. Part of what I need to do depends upon contracts being signed and a new software system installed. That whole process seems to be glacial. I was hoping for May 1 but it may be close to the end of the year. I’m ready to go now. Home is calling me. That is my theme. I want to be home most of the time, rather than working a more than full time job. It’s harder now that I am older to juggle house and job.
As the pandemic has gone on and on and on, I simultaneously feel like I have all the time in the world and yet I get nothing done! I’m embarrassed to admit that as I write this, we still have our Christmas decorations up! Now I’ll admit that seeing the house still “Christmassy” makes me smile on this 24th day of January, just for the sheer lunacy of it (my family revels in being weird!). However, I also feel that it’s beyond time to straighten out the house and revert back to normal (whatever that is in these days of Covid). So our theme is to appreciate baby steps, to tackle one box of decorations a day for as long as it takes, and still enjoy lighting the two Christmas trees until we get to them. Similarly, I’ve wanted to typeset my Mom’s autobiography for two years now, since she passed. I finally got to it by taking baby steps. As a graphic designer, editing someone else’s text is not my favorite thing to do, but designing pages and book covers? Now that’s fun!!! So by starting on the fun parts, I managed to get through the task and am now awaiting my print copies from Amazon. Running off that success, I’m working on my next project, compiling all my Mom’s and Dad’s recipes into a cookbook. Again I started with the cover. I will plow through typing over a hundred recipes just so I can see my gorgeous cover in print! Baby steps will lead to a goal. It just takes longer!
This weekend(sat) was my 73rd birthday and the first in lockdown.I told my family to keep it low key and not to worry about presents,cards would do fine.I said the same to friends.What a special day did it turn out to be .A basket of flowers were left on the door step by my best friend.Tulips and wine delivered by another good friend and her husband socially distanced and masked outside.My neighbour rang and said go and look outside on garden table, sitting there was a cake and a gin and tonic.Then my daughter and hubby came masked and carrying a tray with a lovely dinner on it.Also birthday cake and wine.I was amazed and humble that they had all done this for me.It made my day and I felt so special.I truly am thankful to them all.My theme is to give them on their birthdays special treatment that they made me feel yesterday.Whether in lockdown or not.They found a way around all that is going on and made an aging woman happy.
I like your term of Micro-tasks! I’ve decided I need to focus on the small steps. If I can get a little bit done each day – without letting other things go undone – I will eventually organize, pack for storage, or give away all the extra things that we have. Much of it is stuff belonging to our kids that they want to keep, but never packed up. If I had been stricter about that when they were younger and still living at home, it wouldn’t be up to me now. If we had taken those small steps years ago, I wouldn’t have so many ahead of me.
I finished Truly Beloved and truly loved reading it! Thank you for all the wonderful books, Grace!
I think my theme right at the moment is just trying to keep my head above water and try not to panic.
Dang… I wish I had something brilliant to say right now.
I need to remember that all things are connected in a way. So, when there is a person not listening to me, I don’t want to yell at them… their mother may be my best friend’s auntie… that kind of stuff. So, I want to work harder at seeing others as doing the best that they can in that moment.
I really like the idea of micro-tasks. It does make maintenance feel more manageable.
My theme in quarantine is appreciating moments of contentment. Even the most challenging days have moments of peace or beauty or kindness and I have been consciously noticing and holding onto them.
Not sure this is a theme…………but I am trying very hard to limit or control the things I worry about. So many issues are totally outside of my control, and yet I worry about them excessively. Either my MD will or will not have the vaccine for my appointment next week. Either the radiation will or will not help my sibling.
So I try to stop my self from worrying about this type of thing. I have known for a long time that this would be a smart thing to do, but have been unable to do it.
For some reason, the oppressiveness of the pandemic has actually allowed me to work on this trait.
Oh gosh. My immediate goal is to get my energy back after being diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases. The next one is to clean up my home so that I can get some urgent repairs done (ie rotting kitchen floor b/c no energy). The third one is to look into “things” that have held me back my entire life. Big plateful, huh? Present, past, future – they are all connected. I need to stop reading your books . . .
I really like the idea of small tasks. I get overwhelmed & under motivated when it comes to cleaning the house, even though I feel better when it’s clean. My 4 children (5-14) virtual learning, sports & work make cleaning house a never ending task. I’ve learned it’s better to let the dishes sit for a couple hours to snuggle with a kid who still wants to snuggle. I own once I put something off it’s harder to do, but some things are worth putting off a chore for a little while as long as they give you joy. **Being happy is better than being right**