As often as I remember, I do this thing every new year where I mourn the worsts of the past year, celebrate the bests of the past year, and dream for the musts in the coming year — here are the worbemusties for the 2017 new year.
WORSTS OF 2016 :
- night of sleep: the night Echo (our spaniel) ate my sleep apnea mask early in the year
- death : Deno Bubba, one of two grandpas after whom I’m basing my next novel, passed away suddenly. This was preceded by Uncle Bryan, Grandma Della, Aunt Midge, my 20-year-old cousin, Tara’s grandpa and a surrogate grandfather of ours over the course of the last two years. Of course when you consider all the celebs that died too, it was a year of endings.
- song : I was singing my version of “Democracy” by Cohen as the results rolled in from Ohio and Cohen died. It’s the worst song simply because it broke my heart.
- blood pressure spike : Some people turn out to be not who you thought they were. In those situations, I’ve started to listen to Maya Angelou who said, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time.” I should have heeded that instead of ignoring the warning signs. I had a personal betrayal this year that eclipsed much of May and my blood pressure spiked in a really dangerous way because of it.
- failure : The novel I worked on for three years flopped. The Kickstarter thing I didn’t really care about as much, deep down, but I really, really loved this novel. And I’ll return to it one day, I think. But I learned some seriously great lessons about failing well, failing quickly, and assessing failure in order to course correct. The biggest piece I learned is don’t dabble: write with a fury because time is precious and even the thing you’re working on for a long, long time might fail. Take courage and write hard and in a fury.
- work slog: the lead up to our five-week tour was pretty brutal on the prep work front.
- election moment: Basically the start to the climactic ‘American carnage’ finish. There’s not one moment I could pick.
BESTS OF 2016 :
- my nephew and niece both turned one — they each brought very timely joy to both sides of our family and hearing them struggle to learn language makes me rub my workhands together…
- podcast : The Boredom Experiment. Pushed Tara and I to quit social media for a year, maybe more, and to return to letter writing. I feel so much more myself… I might as well be a freshman in college again. All things return to their source, water seeks the lower place, and space flows into space as I said in Dead Christ.
- infographic : All of the U.S. Energy data in one beautiful location.
- map : Amtrak as a subway map.
- finish: getting my fourth novel done, failure or no, was a pretty big milestone for me. I’m starting to feel the momentum of my writing career pick up in a powerful way, failure or no.
- rally: Washington Square for Bernie. Not only was this a huge undertaking on an event coordination front, being a part of this rally was, for me, possibly the best birthday present ever. It wasn’t about the candidate. It was about the issues and the proof was in the moving speech by the CWA union workers. So happy I contributed to this.
- infrastructure visualization: all of these maps
- song : Saturn by Sleeping at Last expressed the great bulk of the pain in my heart.
- protest song : See, this is how I cheat and get two options in for a category in which I’d normally have just one. Buffalo Flower probably made me cry more than any song in the last five years.
- show: Stranger Things. Followed closely by The Crown.
- novel: The Man in the High Castle
- nonfiction book: The Snowball by Shroeder
- travel: The five-week tour in which I got to see many of you!
MUSTS FOR 2017 :
For the musts of 2017, I’m focusing less on projects I want to complete because if they fail — as invariably some will — then I beat myself up for not completing my goals. Rather if I focus on the kind of person I want to be by the end of the year, invariably many of the projects will succeed and I will improve into a better man.
One of my mentors, a good man named Jeff White, recently introduced me to the idea of a litany — or liturgy — of his marriage. Rather than set some sort of deadline or project for them to accomplish as a married couple, he instead established a rhythm that they could live by and that rhythm has gotten them through the good times and bad.
In that same spirit, I’m thinking of this year’s MUSTIES in terms of the pace — the gallop — I fashion for myself between doing good and being good:
Fashion my liturgy of marriage.
- pray as daily as possible together, whether in waking or before sleeping
- weekly have a 2-hour free-for-all talk in which we are free to air grievances, dream, sync schedules, and so forth.
- protect our day of rest
- weekly intimacy
- weekly date night separate from the 2-hour talk in which we can goof off with one another and play board games or ice skate
- wield all of my power to make her dreams come true and to include her more in my process
Rebuild my liturgy of personal transformation.
- work out at least three mornings a week — what Mark and I are calling #damnsexy2017
- rebuild my pattern of morning memorization, morning study, and morning prayer
- find ways to get out of the city for short overnighters regularly. Something like an overnighter every other month or so, a multi-day retreat every quarter, and a full-blown vacation once a year that is shared only between my wife and I and no one else.
- Become even more of an advocate for the poor and the marginalized in my neighborhood.
Compound my liturgy of writing.
- 10,000 words per week. The “daily” thing hasn’t quite worked for me, but before that five-week tour, I figured out a pace that almost worked. I think this is the year that I finally get it right.
- read more fiction. I’ve come to face the fact that I will never be an academic. I likely won’t even be able to study another dead language until I have the money to afford college again and that will not happen likely in the next decade unless writing really takes off. That means I need to double down on my reading of fiction and a craft books.
- Redouble the submission and publication schedule I had a couple years back.
Simplify my liturgy of dialectics.
- Stay off social media.
- Have written 300 letters to you folks by the end of the year, some how.
- Double the number of blog posts on my site from 431 to 862. At one point I had a couple thousand up and took almost all of them down prior to New York as I redefined what I wanted this space to become. I’m now quite comfortable with who I am and moving forward, I’m very excited about the stuff I plan to host here.
- More personal newsletters that go out twice a month
I may not accomplish all of those rhythms, but since many are already in play, my hope is that I can strengthen and grow in discipline so that I might turn into a more courageous, generous, bold, good, honorable, and meek man.
Yes, Lance, but how did you do on last year’s musts?
Musts for 2016 ::
- Write — every morning. Got out of the habit and it shows in my wordcount and exhaustion in trying to fit it in everywhere.
Half check. “Every morning” is a bit of a stretch.
- Healthy it up — by working out at least four mornings a week, taking my full Sabbath, using Freedom to stay off the internet for useless things, and actually writing in “quality time with Tara” as an actual task on my action step list — in general, my action step list has gone by the wayside, so I might need to reread Making Ideas Happen myself soon.
Check. Mostly. Still a work in progress.
- Blog — 100 posts before 2017. They don’t have to be big, profound, or even great. The simply need to be steady. I’ve been away from regularity for far too long on here. That changes now.