Goal: To be resolute

Commentary

As with every new year, I make a list of resolutions that I often adhere to religiously for the first month or so and then gradually, but persistently ignore until the following December rolls around. Once the reflective period sets itself in motion I rush to wrap up what resolutions can be salvaged, a pitiful attempt to stroke my ego and assuage my ever-increasing fears of not really moving forward in life. Needless to say, my resolution lists are often laughable.

My first problem with resolutions is that they are often overambitious. I’ve learned that if you set your goal way too high, you’re so disappointed with yourself that you can’t really make it happen, you actually quit ahead of schedule. I know this because my resolution last year was to run a half marathon. Have I even run a marathon? No. Does the word marathon scare me? Yes. Does the word half make it sound possibly more attainable? Yes. Did I know how much distance equates to a half marathon? I found out after I wrote down the resolution, and began researching training tips. It suddenly became an overwhelmingly ambitious goal that I decided to forfeit last January, even after I’d run my first 10K.

It consoles me that I am not the only one that falls in this trap. Just today I saw that one of the people I follow on Goodreads had set her 2015 reading challenge (for my slightly obsessive take on this, read this previous post) for 300 books. Surely that’s a little over the top? I mean, live a little, won’t you? Having been in the infuriating situation of not meeting my (what then seemed to be) high goal of 50 books a year, I’ve since toned it down to a meandering 36 for 2015.

Another issue I have with resolutions is that they sometimes don’t make sense to me when I revisit them a year later, either because they are too abstract or generic. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, this year I had to decide whether I actually achieved the following two resolutions:

1. Be less absolute

2. Write more.

The problem with exhibit #1 is that I have no idea what I meant here. Surely some kind of event took place that gave me some kind of profound insight into some obscure character weakness I have (maybe not so obscure if you know me well), but seriously, how the hell am I meant to know if I’ve pinned this one down or not? How much less counts as worthwhile and how much more writing is equal to a gold star? Who knows? Who’s checking? I’ll just quietly put a tick next to both to help my yearly stats and carry on as normal. Don’t tell on me.

So this year, I’ve decided to do things slightly differently: I’ve incorporated other people into my new year resolutions. Before you jump to conclusions, no, this doesn’t mean I’ve made resolutions for others, though I might be better at doing that than doing my own. Actually, the two resolutions I’ve written down and have already started (remember, it’s January still), are:

1. Take up trail running. Keep running. Just run. 

Now I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t make this slightly masochistic. By keep running I mean wake up at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays and go running before work. Why? Because that’s when I have time. Also, the view of the city waking up slowly is pretty breathtaking, and why should the garbage collectors be roaming the streets alone at this beautiful time? And of course, the best way to keep at this post-January is to have a running buddy, who’s more of a masochist than I am.

2. Take #bookportraits

Because of my Goodreads stats obsession, and general voracious reading appetite, I’ve decided to document what I read this year through a series of book portraits that I’ll upload on my flickr page. I’m going to try to add reviews or general thoughts to what I read through this blog (to cover that “write more” goal on my list) because if anything, I’m darn good at reflection. Duh. I’ll be taking these photos along with my partner in crime, who may or may not hate me by the end of this project.

Tune in next year, when I revisit my resolutions and determinedly add “stop collaborative goals” at the top of my list. Oh wait, sorry, that’s just me being absolutely cynical again. (Note to self: be less cynical).

What are your goals?

Restraint

Commentary

You may or may not know I’m from Cyprus.

You may or may not have become aware of the economic crisis that’s hit the island hard.

And because I may or may not have money to spend on new books, I’ve decided to make a comprehensive list of books I have on my shelves that I have yet to read, as a form of inspiration. For once, I’m happy that I have so much pending material. A list is provided below for those interested in any of the covers. I shall be posting my progress here, as a means of encouragement. You can see the current book I’m reading on my Goodreads page (see widget on sidebar).

reading list

P.S.: I know! I can’t believe I’ve amassed so much unread material either. Am I the only who does this?

I’m an easy person to please. Give me stationery and a good book with your personalized message and I’m a happy camper. As I’m writing this, I have four journals waiting to be used, all of them presents from friends; I’m looking at a fresh letter set along with a patterned sticky tape set waiting to be put to use; I’ve got a set of sharpened pencils waiting to spoil pages with my thoughtless rumbling.

And yet something has changed. I like all of these things, but feel disconnected from them. And I have had a lifetime of absolute fidelity to writing, reading, recording this or that insignificant detail. I have my thoughts on paper from the age of 8 — a shelf full of journals that pin down my  naive childhood, my tempered adolescence, my youthful adultness. I have successfully made it here, to almost 30 so that I can come to an unforeseeable halt?

And it’s not just the writing, it’s the reading too. After a lukewarm start to the New Year, I’ve managed to read about four books that have neither excited nor inspired me. I’ve even resorted to audiobooks, which only occurred to me as a feasible idea after reading this somewhat inspiring, if not impossibly ambitious, article.  I’m currently reading Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, which I’m finding atrociously boring, two-dimensional and stale. I also own in audiobook (don’t ask why), and have been trudging my way through it for the past three weeks despite reading at home and listening to it on my way to and from work. If nothing else, at least I’ve discovered that I’m definitely not an audiobook person.

So recently, in the hopes of regaining some form of inspiration to jumpstart my imagination, I have began transcribing my diary entries, from that very first journal. It dates back to January 1992 and I could not feel more far removed from myself as I do now. I have decided to share the first entry with you (translated from Greek):

6 January 1992, Monday

Tomorrow we’re going back to school. Oh! What bad luck. And we are so used to sleeping at midnight whereas now we will have to sleep at 9 p.m. Unfortunately we have to go to school. But then again, I will see my friends. 

xx

Maybe this will get me out of the rut. Oh and this blog, which I hope to revive slowly. Your encouragement is a welcome delight.

I told you I was easy to please.

 

 

Commentary

Don’t let me down

Commentary

You won’t often find me admitting to be in the wrong, but I think it’s high-time I face the music. My problem is that I always set the bar too high. Some of you may think that this is surely a good trait: after all, what’s wrong with a little aspiration? And better yet, how great is it when that unachievable task you set on your list is conquered and quite determinedly crossed off your list?

It’s not that great, really. Ask any perfectionist. Any high goal achieved will automatically mean that the next time, the goal should be even higher. The adrenaline of a challenge is unparalleled, the threat of defeat such an ulcer-inducing experience, the fervor of achievement only a punch-drunk second. I fall for it again and again and again.

I first realized this in December. I greeted the 12 days of Christmas with utter anti-consumerist spite and had decided to do something more personal and genuine for our long list of friends for Christmas 2010 (last year). I ended up baking a series of cookies and treats, boxing them up with personalized gingerbread men and adding Dutch stamps and twine in an attempt at a faux-parcel. It was a great surprise for everyone, but mostly for myself, for pulling off 12 boxes filled with at least 5 different baked goods by yours truly. This year, I knew that if anything, I had to exceed expectations, if not meet them. The overachiever in me wanted to go all out, convinced that I couldn’t bake the same goods. What complete shame to deliver the same box of goodies a year later? I scavenged for recipes that would impress, I drafted ideas for a theme, in fact, I spent entirely too much time on something that didn’t really merit it. Testament to this was our friends’ response: 1 second appraisal of box, before ripping it open to begin devouring contents. Who cared about presentation? Who stopped to think, Boy I’ve eaten this before

No one. And that’s normal. Now I know this.

And though I recognize my over-ambition as, perhaps, my biggest flaw, I can’t help but feel disappointed at myself whenever I underperform by my standards. Take the summer, for instance. Come this glorious season of smelly armpits and drones of mosquitoes, I make a list of goals I wish to see through by the end of my two month vacation (the perks of teaching, I’m afraid). And on my list, around the top, float the same words year in, year out: Read a lot of books. I assume that this is on the list of most ordinary people in the summer, with the possible omission of the words “a lot of” for obvious reasons. Now, the problem this year,  is that sometime in December again, I decided to join the online book community Goodreads, which eagerly prompted me to set a reading goal for 2012. At that point I had just received an order by Amazon for 15 books and I was overjoyed and optimistic at my reading capabilities during the year. So I decided to set the goal to what I considered an acceptable, if not essential, target of 50 books in the year. During the two-week Christmas vacation, I read four books and I was in such a high spirit that I thought I had regained my peace of mind and my fast reading pace. That number dwindled to a staggering three books until the next vacation, Easter, during which I managed to trudge through a mere 130 pages of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. What an embarrassment.

To think, that in college, I read at least 25 books per semester and that’s not counting the ones I devoured for pleasure. At the back of my mind, this was my most productive reading time, I assume, and for that I hold on to it with a competitive ardor that even intimidates me on some days. You see, in all honesty, a part of me knows that it doesn’t really matter how many books I read this summer. In fact, I’m doing quite well, I’ve managed to go through 5 books in the last month. But yet another, more empirical side of me, seeks the quantitative data with strong desire to hold it up as a trophy of achievement, so I can look back at my former younger self who is quite surely disappointed at my sluggish reading. And even when I’m trying to not think of anything, there’s still that parenthetical reminder on Goodreads that furtively informs me: “Congratulations! You’ve read 13 books out of 50. (At your current pace you’re 18 books behind).”

It’s a castigation of sorts. It inflames my inner pride. It makes me the wrong kind of reader, too. Immersing myself in a book has nothing to do with numbers, after all. It’s about striking that connection, getting lost, even momentarily, from lists and personal insecurities and entering a world that I’m sure I value more now, in my 29-year-old worrisome head, that I did as a 20-something student.

Ode to siesta

Odes

Fatigue creeps up on me

like a hungry bitch after lunchtime

looking for scraps of dreams

and pillow feathers to cling on.

She invites me to her bed,

warm and soft,

and gently kisses my eyelids

to a lingering state of limbo.

I let myself go between fragments

of whatifs and havetos

until I lose control.

It’s quite the fiesta,

if you know what I mean.

On deadlines

Rants

Day by day, I become more convinced that I am one of the few remaining people who respect deadlines. Cypriots everywhere: a deadline is a deadline is a deadline. SHAPE UP!

Hello deadline, nice to meet you! I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Mega Procrastinator and I’m very happy to finally get to talk to you. I know, I know, I hate blind dates too, but hey we’re here but let’s make the most of it, despite the awkwardness. So, my friend Lazy Ass mentioned that you’re really into punctuality. Can I ask you something? Why? I mean, isn’t punctuality an internal thing? If you’re OK with the timing, isn’t that punctuality that’s true to yourself? Why are you shaking your head so vehemently, relax. All I’m saying is, that it’s good to let go. I don’t ever wear a watch even — I’m not a slave to time.  Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize that you’d be so offended with my lateness. I was pretty proud of myself for remembering that today is Friday; after all, I hardly keep track of days. What’s the point? They’re all the same anyway right? OK, OK, I’ll change the topic.

So where do you hang out? Oh at Post-It! I kinda hate that place — it’s full of people worrying about insignificant things. Oh, yes, I see. So are you turned on by people enumerating things to do? Really?! I’d rather watch 3 non-stop hours of YouTube videos than go to that bar. Sure, it’s fun. I do it with Lazy Ass all the fucking time. It’s a riot. Don’t even get me started on the fun we have commenting on them on Facebook! You use the events function only on Facebook? Nah, I never reply. I show up if I feel like it, whatever time. It still works all the same. What’s that? An urgent call you need to take? Sure, go ahead.

(Pause)

What do you mean you need to go, we’re hanging out here, chillaxin’… Oh I’m sorry to hear that. No I don’t know any Dignity or Responsibility, they’re not in my circle. Do you want me to take you to the hospital? Are you sure? It’s no problem, I’ll take right after this song finishes. I fucking love Kings of Convenience.

On a lighter, less cynical note, enjoy this video:

Ode to muscles

Odes

I am asking for definition,

Let my body hate me

with every bounce, even more.

On the tips of my toes

— on the verge of collapse —

I breathe out CO2,

bend my body to an illegible question mark,

stretch my back like a paralyzed cat.

My belly dances, the music beats

like a hammer on my muscles.

Contracting, detracting, contracting,

retracting. The image of my body

glares from the mirror.

The aching begins,

a better version of me,

sooner than requested,

should be with you shortly.

Ode to wii

Odes

First there was me,

three-dimensional and quirky,

stumbling onto to misspelled words with joy

ravenously dining on question marks and what ifs.

Then there was mii,

decked in hot pink attitude,

a competitive beast roaring for a challenge.

My sweet side parting might fool

the casual observer, easily

I slip in and out of personas

and I am me,

and then mii

and we are both fun to be with.

Charmingly playful,

we indulge in petty forgiveness

and persevere onto the next level

before time runs out.

 

 

Ode to circuses

Odes

The savagery of fear

caged behind bars for exhibition,

laughing men cry out in cheers

for a round of applause, they pray

for a snicker or two-cent appreciation.

Vast canopies of entertainment of days begone

randomly make appearances in the mundane.

It’s a circus, we say

a play of the absurd,

an ode to all things stupid,

a staged production of no essence.

It’s entertainment these days:

slapstick on your plate,

served cold and rotten.

A meal we digest well, it seems.