MY GOAL for 2009 was to stop setting goals. Having been a compulsive goal setter from the age of 10 when I posted my New Year’s Resolutions on a lined paper beside my bed, by my enlightened mid-twenties I had come to believe that I should accept myself, flaws and all. So I made the difficult resolution not to make any resolutions at all.
Well, I didn’t keep that resolution. So my goal for 2010 is to become a scarily literate, well-educated, sophisticated person who can summon cogent opinions on every topic from healthcare reform to tannins in wine, and someone whose apartment looks like a page from Martha Stewart Living (if Martha Stewart Living featured apartments in ghetto neighborhoods).
And yet one of the several shrinks my family frequents said that you accomplish big goals by setting very, very small ones. For instance, instead of deciding you are going to batter your lumpy body into the shape of Kim Kardashian’s by next month, you first set the goal of putting on your gym clothes every day. That’s all. No gym, no workout-just wearing your gym clothes. Once you achieve this goal, then you drive to the gym. No working out-just driving your car to the gym. Then, of course, eventually you start working out and then look like Kim Kardashian. Surely.
My final goal is to become the type of person goes to the farmer’s market with a canvas bag and cooks gourmet food and knows what pate is and can totally taste the difference between a locally-grown organic peach and a regular one. But I am currently the kind of person who opens a container of cottage cheese, gets a spoon and eats it sitting next to her computer. I spend about 3.5 minutes total on meal prep and eating each day.
Despite wanting to be the Martha Stewart of ghetto New York, I am currently the type of person who gets claustrophobic walking into Crate and Barrel because the thought of identifying two complementary colors is overwhelming. (Ok, honestly-I am not the type of person who walks into Crate and Barrel. Ever.) My apartment isn’t a slovenly hovel. It’s just that I have never gotten around to getting curtains because I’ve been meaning to buy a new bedspread but I’ve never gotten around to that either because I am paralyzed at the thought of finding a bedspread that matches the walls. I have also never gotten around to putting pictures up on the wall because I am waiting until I become an art connoisseur with taste and tens of thousands of dollars.
There are moments at the end of the day, as a writer working from home, that I look around and realize my hair looks like a train-wrecked bum’s, I have been working from on top of my rumpled bed all day while wearing pajamas, my work has spilled over all my home and I can’t get away from it and sadly, I have not talked to a real live soul face to face all day.
So my goal is this: First, to get dressed every morning. Then to make my bed every day. I’m not going to start with cooking one meal a week or even cooking one dish a week. I’m going to start with closing my computer once a day. I’m going to clear the table of electric bills and J. Crew catalogs, put a placemat down, put a fork on the left and a spoon and a knife on the right, fold a napkin, put food -not glamorous, not made-from-scratch, not organic or locally-grown or Whole Foods-bought, just food-on a real plate and sit down and eat.
I want to do these things not for appearance’s sake but to claim order, sanity and humanity. I want to learn to cook not because I want to become more feminine or domestic or more a part of the Whole-Foods-eating New York City crowds. I want to cook because taking the time to sit down and chew and swallow food that you put on a glass plate with a fork on the left and a knife on the right is part of being civilized, which is part of feeling human. Every time I do it, I am telling myself: Having a daily rhythm of rest and work is good. Taking time to nourish yourself will help you do your work better. Getting dressed every morning will tell me: There is a separation between work and the rest of life. When you are working you’re a professional, whether anyone is there to see it or not. When you’re done, you can climb back into pajamas. There is a time to work, and there is a time to stop.
Maybe setting these daily rhythms will help me set others and by January 2011 at the latest I will have become the scarily literate, well-balanced, locavore I imagine I’ll be.
Or not. I have just one more goal, one regarding becoming a wine expert: Drink more wine. Drink more slowly. Learn about brix and bouquets sometime before 2020 or so.
This article also appeared on The Curator, an online culture magazine published in New York by the International Arts Movement.
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