I’m noticing a pattern in this thing I do in early January every year where I project a desire to be more something: efficient, positive, essential—it seems to depend on my mood at the time. This projection manifests as a narrative that is pegged to the new year and focused on a range of improvement tactics, like the best productivity hack (2019), or beauty purge ritual (2018), or case for layman survival (2017).
I didn’t realize I do this until I got back to work last Thursday, firing on all cylinders, revved up like the battery-operated Hess truck my grandmother gave to my daughters for Hannukah, with words dying to spill out of my fingertips like the battery-operated Hess truck my grandmother gave to my daughters for Hannukah (I’m just kidding, this doesn’t make sense, but is my editor reading? Is she? Hmm? I guess we’ll find out [Ed note: Present!]), even though I don’t actually know what I want the words to say.
Does that ever happen to you? You come back from a brief break sprightly as fuck, ready to do, rubbing the tips of your fingers together, unconsciously thinking that the harder you rub, the more likely it will be that something will manifest. It’s such a good feeling—it’s the feeling of hope! And the hope challenges all the setbacks and roadblocks and disappointments that have seemingly separated you by immovable cement cinderblock from reaching your potential.
Until you return to who you were last December. It becomes who you are in the new year and shocks you if you’re aware enough, because without your even having noticed, the humdrum is back and the hope is gone. So you have to wonder: will I have to wait until the end of this year or the beginning of next year to rev back up?
I didn’t even know I felt like this until I wrote it down. And now that I’m here I can’t unsee it, and now that you’re here, I don’t want you to unsee it either, so consider this an open thread that tracks what happens when the cinderblock returns and holds all of us accountable to keep the flame of hope burning by asking, then answering the question: how?
How do I keep the flame of hope alive?
I am embarrassed as fuck typing this out because it feels menial and trivial and probably too earnest but in the interest of camaraderie, I’ll share my half portion of the penne primavera. I realized that the hope starts to fade when I get too comfortable. When I am satisfied enough by the feeling that I am ready to move forward but make the mistake of not actually moving.
Instead, I ease back. Into a couch that is covered in the very same lint I thought I rolled and discarded in December. And look, it’s not that I’m too hard on myself — I’m pretty nice to me — it’s just that autopilot is hard to shut down. Sometimes you forget it’s on, so it sneaks back up on you then all of a sudden two weeks have passed, three weeks have passed, a month has passed!, and boom: hope’s gone.
So here’s what I did. I made a checklist of questions to go over on Sunday to keep me accountable for all the ways in which I have expressed thy lint will shed. And so I will ask myself:
0) Have I spent enough time with the four areas of professional focus (editorial, podcast, video, macro business development) I have declared for the year? (They all ladder up to a ten-year vision, which I uncovered by very earnestly filling out this worksheet, which is written out on a post-it on my bathroom mirror.)
1) Have I scheduled a recreational activity to do with someone I really like who is neither my husband nor my kids, but who I don’t work with either? I say it all the time, and am yet the first to forget it: we need each other to survive. And though I have a great partner and kids and work comrades I admire, I have to, have to, have to, poke my head out of the social radius where these interactions occur day in and out in order to build perspective to grow and learn and listen, dare I even sayyyyyyyyyy teach?
2) Has it been longer than three weeks since I last ate a meal solo with my dad? I came to the conclusion that I should see him 1x monthly because in trying to figure out what fills me with hope the most, I realized that it’s dreaming, and my dad has always been my partner in dreaming. Spending time with him motivates me in an impractical, but highly inspiring way, so, don’t let me forget this, pls.
3) Have I looked at my personal checking and savings accounts this month? How much did I make, and save, and spend and do I have to send my kids to nursery school? Rly?
And if the answer to any of these questions is no, I hit myself over the head with a sledgehammer.
Lol, jk, then I just do the thing I said I would and perhaps if hope is slipping and I’m feeling kind of down, or caught between a cinderblock and a purpose, I’ll revisit this story to remember what spright tastes like. Get it? Like Sprite?
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.