Not setting a new goal, but choosing a direction

There’s this whole new year thing coming up, all that evaluating life and setting new goals. It’s the sort of stuff I do obsessively anyway. I’m self-centred, overly introspective and often get lost in daydream about the bigger picture whilst being completely ignorant of what’s going on in front of me.

The Mother taught me that goals should be SMART. That is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. This was reiterated at work where my ability to point out floppy goals is seen as very useful. (Although we do screw up ‘timely’ on a regular basis.)

Anyway. My plan as such, and I pretty much always have a plan, is not to set another SMART goal. Nope. I’ve thought of a whole new aim that I’m very excited about.

You see I kept coming up against these blog posts that suggested that you should have a word for the year. I could have sworn I read one by Gretchen Rubin – but maybe it was someone else… Of course in Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert has a word for herself, and says cities have words. From her prison cell Rarasaur has a word.

So I thought I could have a word too.

But I don’t want a word that describes me. I’m obsessed enough thank you very much.

I’ve been pondering it, and I’ve decided on a simple word: ‘kind’.

Not because I’m unkind, but I know I can be a little difficult at times, and stubborn, and overly critical, or pushy, or grumpy. Or all the above all at once.

‘Kind’ isn’t a complicated concept. I ain’t going to forget it and it’s something I can try to be every day without too much hassle.

It’s up to you to determine if it works.

Hunting for Wally, ladybugs and a purpose

The desire to be something

Everybody wants to be something. Often that something isn’t well-defined. Sometimes it’s outright hazy.

Nobody wants to be nothing.

Being something is satisfying. It’s meaningful. It’s a reason for getting up in the morning, for your heart to gallop and your cheeks to flush. It’s an excuse for expressing yourself across the waves of the internet. It’s a reason to be the one to speak.

Not everyone wants to be the same something. My obsession might be your greatest bore. What’s your life-long quest and holy grail might be meaningless to me.

And then you want to be something more.

It doesn’t necessarily mean fame, it doesn’t mean changing a million, a thousand or even a hundred lives – although many do. It simply means that your life adds meaning to something somewhere, and then somewhere more. Always a little more.

In practice, being something worthy takes time. Meaning takes work to create. And patience.

A childhood dream

From when you’re a child playing dressing up it’s implied that you ought to know the name of your something. But most people don’t, and many who do change their mind.

In primary school I copied my best friend, the Noph. She wanted to be a vet.

In secondary school, in some sort of citizenship lesson, I was sat down in front of a survey on a computer screen and told I had to fill it in. The wise computer informed me I should be a technology teacher.

Aim higher.” The schools careers advisor wanted to push me. He told me to find out about being an academic. Professor Kate stood at the front of a lecture theatre talking symbols?

No, thank you.

The university careers advisor scratched his head and told me he couldn’t tell me what I wanted to be. He could tell me how to become many things. He could tell me how to get an internship. He could tell me how to get onto a Masters or a PhD course. He could tell me how to get a job in banking.

I know my something isn’t a physicist. But it used to be.

How to catch your something / How to find your purpose

I could see my something playing a game of Where’s Wally with me. Every time I thought I’d found it I’d turn the page and have to begin the search again.

Finding somethings, and finding love probably have a lot in common. When things ever get tricky with boys, the Noph throws me a piece of wisdom from a book we’ve both read (It’s not an exact quote as I don’t own the book, but wisdom isn’t dependent on exact phrasing).

Treat them like woodland creatures.

– Sarra Manning, Unsticky

I think it applies to men and my elusive sense of purpose equally. You have to stay alert. You have to keep watching. You have to be there to see it, but you have to be patient and you have to be gentle because it’s very easy to get carried away with ‘supposed to’, forget to listen and miss everything.

One purpose was never going to be enough for me. I’m hunting Wally’s whole family, not just Wally himself.

I don’t know how I’m going to change the world. I don’t know how I’ll describe my life when I reach 100. But all that fuss of feeling there should be a specific goal has dissipated.

I am something, and for now, even though I don’t know how to describe it or define it, I’m happy.

Listen, when I was a little girl I used to spend hours looking for ladybugs. Finally, I’d just give up and fall asleep in the grass. When I woke up, they were crawling all over me.

– Katherine, Under the Tuscan Sun (film)

How to be blissfully happy – notes to myself

I woke up this morning, and then waited in bed for a couple of hours until I wanted to get up. I made myself a cup of tea, shook the last of my cereal into a bowl, dropped the cereal packet into the recycling box (just a large cardboard box since the real recycling boxes have mysteriously disappeared) and poured on the last of the milk.

My food situation is a cross between a surplus and a famine. I have plenty of biscuits, tinned fruit and custard, having inherited the Nonna’s tin supply, but in terms of fresh food I’m down to an apple, a reduced-price mini-courgette and a lemon.

None-the-less this isn’t at all bad. There was enough milk for one bowl of cereal and since there’s only me one bowl of cereal was enough. With my cereal I returned to bed, opened the curtain to let in the stunning sunshine, and set about practising Italian.

I am very much monolingual, but I have a bilingual dictionary and a wonderful curiosity.

An hour later it was 11:00 am. I got up, switched on my old computer, Alexandra, because the new shiny fast computer is having a hiccup. Whilst Alexandra was loading up I floated around the kitchen, relocated all the washing-up to a single surface and made coffee in the magic pot on the hob. Black of course because of the milk crisis.

I meandered around the internet for a while, finding pictures that make me smile and stories that fill my imagination with wonder. I never sit still for too long. Today I drifted between the computer and the kitchen to the sound of Italian pop classics and the gurgle of the washing machine.

I am trying to learn Italian. Casually, on the basis that if it works out like my obsession over Ancient Egypt I’ll be fluent in no time. If it doesn’t then I’ve better things to do. My efforts to speak Italian are somewhat hindered by my lack of attentiveness to sounds and my beautiful Yorkshire accent. When we were travelling Betty and I split the language learning. I remembered what words we needed, she said them. I can read the road signs, she can order salami. Her ears are trained in the study of phonetics and so she at least knows what sounds she’s saying.

I swept the kitchen floor – it was foul – using a dustpan and brush. The hoover refuses to turn on after it’s last encounter with the hovel’s floors. That burning smell…

And then, because it’s sunny and I am happy, and when I’m happy I don’t really mind chores, I mopped the floor too.