New Year’s Resolutions

While I know enough to steer clear of impossible New Year’s resolutions (i.e. I will meditate 365 days a year, I will write 500 words a day 7 days a week, I will exercise 200 days per year), I’ve always found the turning of the calendar an inspiring time to consider making small changes. Last year, I turned my general rule of using canvas shopping bags into a hard and fast promise to myself: I would go the entirety of 2013 without accepting a single plastic bag at checkout. Maybe that sounds impossible, but since I was practicing this 90% of the time anyway, the change felt small enough to accomplish yet significant enough to matter. I also managed to put $100 per month into my savings account last year. Check and check!

Heading into 2014, I’m adding to those goals and tossing one more resolution in for good measure. Thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act, my health care costs will be reduced and I think I may be able to set $150 per month aside for savings. In the waste department, I don’t use plastic bags for groceries/goods anymore, so that’s taken care of. But what I want to start avoiding now are to-go cups (ex. coffee) and bottled water. The first one will be relatively easy…just a matter of remembering my stainless steel go-cup or my collapsible Sea to Summit X-Mug (which fits conveniently into a purse or pocket and is sturdier than it looks).

The hard part is going to be
avoiding bottled water. I never buy the stuff. Trust me; that’s not the issue. But wherever writers are gathered for a shared event such as a reading, conference, or meeting, bottled water tends to show up. I can’t make sense of it: Why is this population of people, presumably interested in the good of humankind, so hellbent on the hideous convenience of bottled water? Bookstore owners and hosts of writer’s reading series are, in fact, by way of courtesy and protocol, generally expected to provide bottles of water for their presenters. I appreciate that, and many-a-bottle has saved me from choking on my words at the podium in the past. Negotiating how to politely decline this water when it is offered, or–more challenging–fishing out my X-Mug to ask if there’s a water fountain nearby just moments before an event begins…could prove tricky. With a little grace and planning ahead, however, I think it will be possible. I’m willing to try.

So what’s going to be new about 2014? What have I left behind that I wish I hadn’t? Two things: extended time outdoors and silence. The book tour life and everything it took to get where I am now with self-employment meant that I spent fewer days on the trail last year (and the year before that). It also meant I spent an insane amount of time on the Internet, an activity that I consider very “noisy.” The Internet is the opposite of silent, the opposite of settling. I need it and it makes me antsy all at the same time. Not good. 

Enter: New Year’s Resolutions 2014. In the coming year, I will spend a minimum of two nights per month outdoors. They might not be consecutive. They might even mean simply camping in my own backyard. But come hell or highwater, I’m going to put in the time. Outside. Under the stars or in a tent, in high winds and rain or squelching heat. I’ll find a way. And no, the 2 backpacking trips totaling 16 nights that I already have planned for next year will not “carry over” from month to month. I’m not aiming for 24 nights total outdoors, rather, a monthly ritual that helps me get back to my center and stay in tune with my surroundings. With these nights will also come time away from the Internet. More silence. Less frenzy. I’m stoked!

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