So, it’s almost December. Who remembers their New Year’s Resolutions? Anyone, anyone?
I know a lot of people who don’t like to make them. They have various reasons, like:
a) they never keep them anyway,
b) if there’s something they want to do, they just do it (not sure I believe this one), or
c) they’re tired of people like me asking about their resolutions.
Me, I love resolutions. I found a list from a couple of years ago that ambitiously outlined a dozen goals for the year, on a sweeping range of topics. Clearly I’d been feeling very motivated. I think I even did half of them.
This past January, I scaled back and made only two resolutions. Make a website (check) and read 24 books. That’s two a month, which seemed doable, but considering that the scores for the last four years were 14, 11, 16, and 9 (yes, I keep track), 24 was going to be a stretch.
I am happy to report that, with five weeks to go, I am halfway through two books that are vying to be lucky #24! The first is the very serious A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik, author of the enthralling You Deserve Nothing, which I wrote about earlier this year. It’s a read-a-bit-at-a-time book for me, maybe because it’s an unhappy story, at least so far. I’m not very good at unhappy – usually, if Oprah’s raving about how gut-wrenching a book is, you can count me out. But Maksik’s writing is beautiful, and You Deserve Nothing still won’t let me go, so I persevere.
The second book on my current pile is Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. I’m a bit late to the party on Cheryl Strayed. It seems everywhere I look someone is reading or talking about her hit memoir Wild, but this is the first time I’ve read her. It’s definitely not going to be the last.
Strayed is the formerly-anonymous advice columnist Dear Sugar, and Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of her best work. It’s a perfect purse book – you know, something to carry around in case you have to take a bus or wait in line and have time to read a few pages.
The letters are heartfelt and complex, and you’ll marvel at Strayed’s responses. She writes pages and pages to these strangers, often sharing very personal stories from her own past to help them find answers. She’s funny and smart and she’s a delight. Many of the letters are from writers, and she finds beautiful ways to motivate them:
Writing is hard for every last one of us . . . Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.
Most of Strayed’s lovely advice boils down to plain old trying:
What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart.
. . . It’s up to you to make your life.
I couldn’t have picked a better #24.