goals, life, Writing

Life goals

Several months ago, when I stumbled across the Life List Club, I started thinking about how I have been driving on ice through life. For the Southerners among you, I will explain that driving on ice is simply impossible, unlike driving on snow, which is a pain, but usually manageable. Driving on ice means that turning the wheel often has no effect on the inertia of this 1-2,000 pound car, which merrily continues  in the same direction, whether that be into a guardrail, a parked vehicle, or a pond. In fact, when driving on ice, not turning the wheel is not the safe option it seems, because the tires may hit a little ruffle in the ice, or a ridge left by a snowplow, or any slight inconsistency, and also take off like a dog after a squirrel: perhaps a very old, very slow, dog, but just as intent and purposeful. I very much dislike ice. I have fallen on ice many, many times; in three cases, I broke bones; in a fourth, I dislocated my shoulder.

I went to graduate school to become a professor, but it became clear as I was planning my dissertation there were no positions in medieval studies.  I went to library school, and then proceeded to join the working world. The problem? I have missed teaching and research and writing. Also, part of why I wanted to teach included (perhaps incorrectly, since I hear complaints from my friends who are professors) having the time to write creative fiction and non-fiction that didn’t require twenty footnotes a page.

But I stuck my head in the sand, barely touching the wheel of the car, praying that it wouldn’t careen into the guardrail or a parked car. Last year, my first wake-up call came when my brother had a serious illness. I began thinking about my life, and why I was hiding from what I wanted to do. The second wake-up call came this summer when a woman I knew only online was killed in an auto accident. I had never met her, but in a way some of you will understand, felt I knew her rather well, She was young, had married the year before, and was a doctor who went to Pakistan to help out following the floods, had gone to Haiti to help after the earthquakes, a person whom I admired greatly. Suddenly, I realized that I was pinning all my writing time on retirement, and that life had given me no guarantees that I would survive to reach retirement.

Many participants in the Round of Words have been talking about life goals, beyond the writing goals. I signed up for a webinar on finding time to write; the presenter talked about having five areas that were of paramount importance and one would answer yes to any request from these areas. Other areas had to fit in where they could, or more often, get told “No.” My first four were easy: health, family, friends, and writing. Not to say that I haven’t neglected these areas recently, especially friends, but they were easily in the top five. The fifth one is much harder to add to the list, because it is the day job. I am often expected to be on call in the evenings and on days off or vacations any time my superiors want me. No, I’m not a neurologist, I’m a librarian. Yes, it is ridiculous, so please go ahead and laugh. As a first step, I would love to have a job that I could leave at the workplace; one where I am not made to feel guilty for each and every day that I take off (yes, I earn vacation, but the corporate culture is to retire with months of it saved up). However,  the best I can do right now is say no as much as I can without jeopardizing my job.

So, I haven’t yet made SMART goals (for the definition of those, see Kait Nolan’s post here), but I do have some idea of where I am headed.

My first area is health. I feel slightly guilty about putting this first, as it is all about me, but I also realize that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else. I gained weight when I shattered both my tibia and fibula fourteen years ago and was confined to a wheelchair for several months; given the amount of time I’ve been heavy, it will take some time to come off. I have about fifty pounds to lose; I am hoping to lose between a half-pound and a pound per week through exercising at least forty-five minutes a day and careful meal planning. I tend to eat when I’m stressed, so I hope to transfer my stress relief from food to exercise.

My second area is family. I realized during this last trip that I like my kids (what a concept!) and that I need to have more contact with them.  I tend to withdraw from people, even family, when I am stressed or depressed. I had a strange and unhappy childhood, so I grew up as this strange, withdrawn child. I forget sometimes that I worked very hard not to pass that on to my children. I plan to be in contact with each of the four kids at least once a week, even if only a short text conversation. I am also going to devote one weekend evening to a date night with my husband.  We started out as great friends, and while we still are very close, we are so used to looking at one another over a row of kids, we need to get re-acquainted.

The third area is friends. I am a terrible friend, more so as I come under stress or during bad times. As I was a strange, withdrawn child, I had a lot of trouble making friends, and found rejection hard to bear. In the strange logic of the preemptive strike, I hide from my friends at the times I need them the most, so as not to be rejected. This leads to my not knowing what may be going on with them, not offering any help or support, purely out of ignorance. I plan to get in touch with one friend each week until I’ve re-established contact, and can maintain more contact. Depending on the closeness of the friend and our respective circumstances, I will keep in touch anywhere from once a week to once a month.

The fourth area is writing. Ah, this is the tricky one. I have sacrificed my creative writing, whether non-fiction or fiction, ripping out its heart to put on the altar of keeping the day job. However, I am not going to spend as many hours on the day job as I have in the past, so that I have more time for my writing. I will spend one and one-half hours on the articles I have to write, and one half-hour a day on my writing. It will be painfully slow, but it will be more progress than I have managed in the past several months. I mentioned in an earlier check-in that I had fallen in love with the dissertation topic again; it is bittersweet that I have done so, because it has to take a back seat to the articles; however, I am going to work on the dissertation one half-hour a day.

My fifth area is the day job. I cannot change it, but I can change my attitude. Thank you, Marcia Richards for a great guest post on  Lyn Midnight’s blog for that. My goal is to be as available as I have to be, and as unavailable as I can manage. I removed my work email from my phone; I will no longer answer the phone at home on the weekends if it is a call about work. Like all of my colleagues, I do the majority of my service and research requirements on my own time, and that is more than enough to ask. I do a very good job, but what I do is neither brain surgery nor rocket science, and I will not work 50 to 60 hours a week in addition to service and research.

So, here are my goals. I’m hoping to fold several of these into the Round of Words challenge, so that I will hold myself accountable for them.

8 thoughts on “Life goals”

  1. It sounds like you understand where there is room for improvement in your life and are taking steps to work on it. There really isn’t anything more commendable than that. I too have been driving on ice and Kait’s post of 5 year goals spurred me to make mine earlier in the week.

    1. Crystal, it is largely your post and Kait’s that spurred me to continue thinking and planning about life goals. Thank you for finding it commendable; I have gotten to the point where it is sheer survival instinct I am hopeful that it will make my life better, especially once all these things become habit.. Thank you for stopping by and being so encouraging.

  2. I said over in the ROW check-in that these are great goals, and reading your little dissection of each just proves that point. I can really relate to a lot of these…actually, no, all of them, especially the family and friends one. I’m trying to work a little on those myself, but dedicating yourself to actually accomplishing them is the only way to go about goals, I’ve found I look forward to seeing how you do, because I’ve also discovered that knowing that someone else is coming from the same place you are and trying to turn things around can be the inspiration (and the kick in the pants) that you need!

    Best of luck!

    1. Thanks for looking at the full descriptions, Laura. I have been torturing myself feeling guilty about how I have been neglecting my friends and, to a lesser degree, my family. I realized finally that without concrete steps, I would merely continue to flagellate myself about it. I will gladly keep you updated on how I manage with the goals. It is going to take some time to make them habits, but I hope that the prospect of a better, less stressful life will help me along. The support I find among the ROW participants and the Life List Club, even if I am not a card-carrying member, will help immensely, I know. I very much appreciate your support.

  3. Elizabeth, your post moved me. I think the awareness you’re bringing to your life goals is going to impact the choices you make around them. I’m also so glad you’re involved in ROW and Life List Club to have a support network around you. Change is never easy, even when we want it to happen, it requires action on our part and patience when things don’t move as quickly as we want them to. Marcia’s post was a fabulous one, and a good wake up call for me too. I too have a “day job” that eats up lots and lots of hours and involves work from home, spending my own money, and texts/calls in off hours. I’ve sought other positions and the economy right now is not the best for job openings. So, like you, I needed to make some commitments to myself, where I stay on task at work so I’m not having to put in extra hours. This has meant I’ve had to cut some coworkers off who can derail you with chatter/questions they should know the answer to, but like I posted about this week, I need to make myself the main character of my life. Here’s to you being the leading lady in your own!!!

    All the best! Keep us posted!

    1. Thank you, Jess. I am touched that you would find it moving. It was borne of a long process of thinking, no longer denying what I need to do. I will be drawing on the support of the ROW participants and the Life List Club, who are a fantastic group of people, and who I know will be very helpful.

      I hear you about the coworkers who like to ask others rather than themselves for answers. I do not have an office at work, so part of my commitment is finding someplace other than my veal-fattening pen to get some work done!

      I loved your post about being the main character; I was travelling and didn’t get a chance to comment on it, but it also helped open my eyes. Thanks you for stopping by and being so encouraging.

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