So, here we are, nearly two full weeks into 2015. What do you think of it so far? Because of a tiny win at the casino and a melancholy-free birthday last week (very unusual for me), I was liking the new year a lot until things got hateful in Paris, and now I just don’t know. But still, it seems way too early to be pessimistic, doesn’t it? Maybe this is the year the world will get its act together.
For years, my mom and stepfather have wanted bluebirds to move into one of the birdhouses that litter their two acres, to no avail. So I took it as a good sign for the new year while I was in Indiana that a family of bluebirds momentarily poked their heads into the See Rock City birdhouse hanging on branch in the front yard. They usually snub us, but these seemed like they were ready to make a down payment. Then something spooked them off. The result is the same: no bluebirds, but I’m opting to see it as a positive sign that Mom was “this” close to bluebird neighbors.
My friend Jane and I were talking about how to us it feels like 2014 never happened. It was just 365 days of blur. Basically, I made a list of resolutions last year on December 31st, posted them to the blog, and then woke up and it was a whole year later with nothing of consequence achieved. I vaguely remember a stretch of several months where I made my bed every day and that felt like a real accomplishment, but beyond that? How did I spend those days? I didn’t change the world or even myself very much. Though I did discover Gilmore Girls.
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One of my resolutions this year is to take advantage of this city I live in. In Seattle, I squander opportunities that I would have killed for when I was living in Richmond. Not a day goes by when there aren’t at least five good things I could do here. In Richmond, if there had been an author reading or Warhol exhibit or a chance for a ferry ride anywhere, I would have been over the moon. But here, I too often think I’ll do those things “next time.” So last Wednesday, in an effort to put one of my resolutions in action, I went to a neighborhood meeting around the corner at Town Hall which focused on what the city is planning to do to create more green space/park space on First Hill, where I’ve been living now for five years.
Full confession: because of the recent Gilmore Girls binge-watch, I was hoping that going to a community meeting for our little “downtown adjacent” neighborhood would make me feel like I was at one of the town meetings in Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow led by the insufferable Taylor Doose. I was looking forward to seeing Miss Patty, Sookie, Babette and Kirk, while tolerantly listening to some blowhard talk about his plans for our little patch of the city. I’d like to say it’s because I woke up on January 1st feeling more civically engaged, but there you have it: I went to feel like a character on a fictional show set in New England that aired a decade ago.
Sadly, Miss Patty, Sookie, Babette, and Kirk were not in attendance. Furthermore, despite my very middle-agedness, I brought down the average age at Town Hall by about twenty-five years, so there was a certain air of crankiness about change in the air.
We watched a Powerpoint presentation about possible plans for First Hill, and then we got to use clickers to give feedback on what was most important to us. Some of the oldest, crankiest citizens in attendance weren’t happy because only a little more than half of the clickers were working. The outrage expressed made it seem like a hanging-chad situation in a general election instead of an information gathering forum. Another, crankier attendee wasn’t happy with the plan to do the clicking before the different plans had been fully discussed by the masses. Her tch-tching was audible. One man was concerned that new park space would end up like current park space, which is to say a place that is overrun by junkies and pooping dogs and vagrants, while a younger man was concerned that the homeless would be further disenfranchised if the future parks were over-policed. Who knew there would be so many concerns about something as awesome as parks? Though admittedly, I felt a little twitchy when the presenter suggested they’d be removing a few parking spots from our street in order to extend the park frontage of a current park. We may not have a car here, but when we rent one, we like to be able to park within a three-block radius of our place.
A man came in late and sat two rows over from me reeking of garlic and—though I like garlic, it only really smells good on food you are about to eat yourself and not so much on humans—I found it hard to concentrate on which action plan should be acted upon first because I was trying to position myself so my nose was pointed away from him without seeming rude. It began to dawn on me that when the meeting was over, I wouldn’t be able to saunter over to Luke’s Diner and get a burger and a Coke with Loralei and Rory Gilmore. Plus, my friend Leibovitz had texted just as the meeting started and wanted to have a phone conversation, and I couldn’t help but feel my time might have been better spent talking to her since these parks won’t appear for several years if they appear at all, but a chat with her would have made me feel all warm and homey inside.
But hey, for an hour and 45 minutes there, I was an engaged citizen, and I was hopeful about the future.
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Frankly, I was a little horrified when I read last year’s blog post and saw that I’d made a promise to myself, and you as my witnesses, that I was going to read something like 70 books and clear off the shelf behind the sofa that has my stacks and stacks of “what I’m reading next” books. It was a lovely post with photos as proof of how out of hand my book obsession is as well as my belief that shaming myself might make me more committed to meeting my goals. But apparently I forgot about my promise as soon as I hit publish. I read about five of the shelf books and everything else I read last year—which didn’t come close to 70 books because I was so busy reading Jezebel (and watching Gilmore Girls)—came from the library or off some other shelf of mine that is tidier with titles that were less pressing.
I believe I’ve mentioned the time-space vacuum I live in, in which I firmly believe that Future Beth will be a better, more accomplished person than Present Beth. Future Beth is like a superhero who not only gets things done, is more perfect, and better organized than I am, but who is also an extroverted humanitarian with networking skills as well being handy with household tools. Future Beth is my idol, but she just doesn’t come round often enough. She’s as elusive as Bigfoot.
I wish I could adopt Jane’s relationship to time, in which she has no faith that Future Jane will do anything but sit around flipping through magazines and eating bonbons, so she in her present state does everything immediately. Jane gets a lot more done than I do because she’s worried that her future, lazy, slug-a-bed self will bring the whole house of cards tumbling down.
But alas, Jane’s way is not my way. Doing something ahead of time is as foreign and awkward to me as when I try to use chopsticks or attempt to network at a conference. Future Beth’s failure to arrive is one of the reasons I didn’t get married until I was a Woman of a Certain Age (though I’m grateful for her delay since it resulted in Z instead of some of the less desirable options I might have ended up with). The fact that she is so often AWOL is also how I forgot to have children, buy a house, send out my manuscripts to publishers until I wore one of them down, or “Lean In” to a career at a Fortune 500 company. Strangely enough, I still have faith that Future Beth will take care of all of that—one day. Later. (Except maybe the kid thing. I think Future Beth knows I’m too tired for kids and possibly always was.)
Since you know my success rate with resolutions, it seems a little pointless to tell you about the reading pledge I made on Good Reads of 50 books in 2015, or the number of essays I’ll be submitting to various publications around the globe, or how clean my house is going to be at year’s end because of my commitment to Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. Why would I waste your time telling you all the ways I’m going to “show up” to my dirty dishes, my writing desk, my walks-to-better-health, my yoga mat, my meditation corner, or anything else, since there’s a good chance Future Beth is never going to arrive to make these things happen.
Still, I am nothing if not full of hope. Future Beth might show up. The lottery might really pay out. The inhabitants of the planet might wake up tomorrow and decide not to be such jerks to each other. And bluebirds, like the blurry ones up above, might decide not to just check out the available real estate at my parents’ house but actually take the plunge and move right on in.
Next week on my Resolution 2015 to-do list: give up my Indiana driver’s license for a Washington one, even though an Indiana license is much more attractive, makes an excellent conversation starter (you’d be surprised how many people out here have Hoosier connections), and contributes to my general sense of never having left home. I’ve lived here almost five years now. It’s probably time.