This morning, I drew a tarot card to give my day some shape, and it was Death.
It was the card I’ve needed to see for a while. This post is about scaling back your goals and killing off that which does not serve, in light of new priorities.
Instead of resolutions for the new year, I spend each December crafting my writing goals for the following year. I write them and pin them above my computer so that I have to stare at them every day, and so that every day I take a step toward them. And this works. I’ve had a really productive and prolific run these past few years- I landed a literary agent with a killer book proposal, I made headway on my first academic manuscript, and I wrote a few novels. This is in addition to the writing and publishing (academic articles, press releases, etc.) that I do for my jobs. I’ve been riding that cloud of smugness for years now, with no real empathy for the people who have to bleed all over the page just to get a few sentences down.
And then disaster struck.
It’s no secret that the new administration hell-bent on running our country into the ground has got me raging. Anyone even on the peripheries of my life has heard it from me, several times. Their misbegotten and selfish decisions already affect me, and most of the people I love, in countless little ways. It’s as if the administration wants to kill us with the death of a thousand cuts: someone’s health insurance here, someone’s livelihood there, someone’s ability to own property, to plan their family, to live the American dream.
And that has real-life consequences.
Suddenly, writing feels less important.
It’s still what I do, and who I am, but now a new priority has cropped up. In the face of autocracy, resistance is the only way to claw back rights and freedoms and protect a population’s most vulnerable.
So unsurprisingly, when I checked in with myself and my goals at the end of January, I was behind. Really far behind. I have barely written anything for my personal goals. I’ve written only that which I need to get done for my jobs. Usually I clock in about 3,000 words a week on my own time, but this January, I did not produce near my 12,000 words. I barley produced 1,000.
This is for two reasons:
- Our political situation has me in psychological turmoil.
- I’ve been busy resisting. In January I clocked in 4 protests, 2 town halls, and hours on the phone to my representatives. I made extra signs to give away to those who did not bring their own. I stopped by the store on the way to buy cases of bottled water for the protesters. I spent time with friends who feel as rattled as I do, validating their fears and helping to figure out the best ways to keep their relationships, assets, and lives safe.
And that stuff takes time- I used almost all of my writing time for that.
I regret nothing.
But I do need some balance, for my own sanity.
In Jungian archetypes, I am a warrior. But I’m also a writer. Leaning too far into any one direction causes the other to feel jumpy and pop out at inopportune times. The writer in me is currently raging as the warrior absorbs the blows.
Plus, that first reason I had for not writing-the psychological turmoil- that’s not useful. It’s a normal reaction to a very abnormal situation, but still it doesn’t help.
This morning, I drew a tarot card to give my day some shape, and it was Death. Death is the card for endings and new beginnings- letting go of that which does not serve.
So today, I am killing the rattled part of me. The new normal is resistance and writing. I will keep resisting, but I will trade feeling rattled (and day-drinking) for writing.
And I will adjust my goals accordingly.
Maybe 2017 is the year I get half of my goals done. That’s still ok, because resistance takes a priority now. Neither me nor my friends are going gently into that good night if I can help it.