My nephew Graham is a smart and inspiring person. Over the holidays, he planned a kickball tournament for his friends, family and neighbors because he’s really fun and has great ideas but also because he wanted to get better at playing kickball. He planned a tournament so he could practice. So instead of making goals or resolutions for this new year, I want to be like my cool nephew and practice the following things I want to become better at:
1. Kickball. Or any fun, not too serious group sport that gathers people I love together to play and run around outside.
2. Doing things. I think about doing things a lot and I want to do less thinking about doing things and more doing them.
3. Spending quality time alone. I am going to be away from my home and my partner for a few months this spring and I am dreading it. I hope I can date myself while I am away and enjoy the silly subtlety of my own company.
4. Less “helping". I am reading Anne Lamott’s new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING, and it’s so honest and true that I want to transcribe the whole of it here for you, but she says in it that “helping is the sunny side of control”. There are intricacies to helping and some helping is helpful, a lot of it is, but I don’t want to do the pouring water into a glass with a hole in it kind of helping anymore. I don’t want to assume I know what a person who is fighting her own battle needs anymore. I want to help where help is welcomed and wanted and not where it’s my own assertion of control or where it’s taken for granted.
5. Braver faster. I got to work on Molly Smith Metzler’s play, Cry It Out, - which is such a dazzlingly honest, quickening piece of writing - last summer with some great artists. I learned during that rehearsal process as I learn every time I try to act that I want to be braver faster in my work. The best I can ever offer any creative endeavor is more bravery faster.
6. Burn this. Writing down fears, worries, negative core beliefs and criticisms or judgements (my own and those I’ve retained of others) and then throwing them in our fire pit and watching them dissolve to ash helps me. Cruel thoughts, diminishing words have a physical life and when I ferry them from the immaterial realm to the physical one, they receive their exit papers and leave.
7. Laugh until I cry. This is what I want to do in my life and in my work. It’s my highest value in art, performance, literature, family, friendship and love. It’s my most used emoji, the laughing / crying face. It’s how I plan to move through this political climate and this devastating social and environmental crisis. I am going to practice finding the great paradox of every living thing exquisitely, painfully funny. I won't just agree to the absurdity of being alive, I will practice relishing it. The ticklish of-course-ness of our hurting, hate-addled world. Can I practice laughing until I cry about it so I can ACCEPT it, instead of standing just outside of it all, in disapproval’s cold, cold doorway, shaking my head and wishing life were somehow less life-like.
8. Love. Before being right, before opinions, before being first in line, I want to practice love. And after being really hurt, really left out, really lonely, really disappointed, really broke and really out of ideas, I want to practice love. For myself and for you and even for the hate-filled, I want to practice love. It redoubles, spills and overtakes in its giving. At dinner, a precious friend talked to me about his ex. He talked about how witnessing her unique despair was one the hardest things he’s ever done. He spoke with compassion that carried him out of his own hurt and into his heartbreaker’s hurt. Lamott says in ALMOST EVERYTHING, that her partner believes that “joy and curiosity are the same thing.” I agree with that and I saw curiosity coalesce into joy in my friend. He said it felt like a brick falling off his shoulder, the ability to see his ex’s despair - not through his own hurt or disappointed expectations - but plainly, with curiosity, even joy for its sudden, grace-rendering revelation. I want to practice that.