Sunday, January 4, 2015

Unresolutions, Cat Conundrum, and The Joy of Doing Things Halfway

I’m pretty adamant about not making New Year’s Resolutions. I think they’re a bad idea for a number of reasons. But I recently came across this list of resolutions, made by Woody Guthrie in 1942, and I found it delightful, especially “dream good”, “dance better” and “love everybody.” Also, “keep the hope machine running”. It’s simple, sweet and optimistic, even if it is a little preoccupied with basic hygiene, making me wonder just how infrequently the man showered or changed his socks. Still, even with the amusing margin sketches and super-tidy handwriting, it did not inspire me to make resolutions. I am wandering dazed into 2015 with no goals, no expectations, and no demands. Except maybe to get a second cat. However, in the time that I’ve sat down to write this, Yoshi has knocked my stapler off my desk, tried to open the Beta food jar, swatted at said Beta, rubbed his slimy wet nose all over my face, flung his corpulent bulk across my keyboard, and whined copiously when I tried to move him. Maybe one cat is enough. (Just now he hooked his claw into my mouse and swung it off my desk in a perfect arc.)

I’ve been off work since Christmas Eve, and although half my time off was spent sick, it’s been a much-needed break. I’m deeply anxious about jumping back into the fray, but I’m trying to be brave about it. Even during my time off, I enjoy accomplishing things. But during this break, I did everything half-assed. I sort of poked around editing my novel, but didn’t really commit to it. I worked on my rug, but it’s still not done. (Progress photos below!) I read submissions for Literary Bohemian, but not the long travel pieces. (Okay, to be honest, I never read the long travel pieces.) I worked out, but not really hard. Mostly I just curled up in a ball trying to recover from the ravages of 2014.  I’m not quite there yet.

I also only half-read Skipping Christmas, the John Grisham book mentioned in my last post. I don’t know why I am so preoccupied by this story, but I find it really interesting. It turns out that in the book, Luther Krank is a selfish jerk. (He was somewhat in the movie too, but he’s a real ass in the book.) He is definitely being harassed and victimized by his neighbors, who just cannot let it go that he doesn’t want to do Christmas. But it also seems that Luther is stirring the pot a little bit; using this conflict to take years of pent-up aggression out on his neighbors. I suppose I’m so fascinated because I’m interested in themes around community versus individualism, group behavior, conformity, and how those things intersect with control. The group in this case is offended by the breach of expectations. The neighborhood takes great pride in their Christmas festivities and decorations, and by not participating, the Krank’s are signaling their unwillingness to be part of the community, however briefly. If the neighbors would just shrug it off and let the Krank’s make their own choices about how to spend the holidays, everything would be fine. But their resistance only increases the Krank’s resistance, and it becomes a volatile mess. One thing not mentioned in the book so far is the toll that this is taking on Mrs. Krank, who rightly points out in the movie that it's far less acceptable for women to defy social expectations than men, and therefore she is the one taking the brunt of their ire and its attendant penalties.

Speaking of defying expectations, although I will be wandering goal-less into 2015, I will be wandering with a fresh haircut! I just got about three inches chopped off my mop, so now I have a chin-length bob. (And newly waxed brows.) I love getting my hair cut, even though I know that shorter hair on women is generally considered an affront to all that is good, holy and symbolic of our willingness to signal submission to the male gaze. Or something. Something political-ish and vaguely feminist. I’ll leave that one unfinished, too. 

Kristen McHenry

Rug progress:

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