Friday, December 31, 2021

The turning of the year

 It's time for the annual re-assessment of life, where we look at where we've been and where we're going, and make any course corrections necessary.

But it could hardly come at a worse time. I don't want to think about 2021. I also don't want to think about 2022. I want to hide under my covers and eat Christmas chocolate.

My resolutions for 2021 were:

Things I would like to have happen, COVID willing and the crick don't rise:
  • I want my COVID vaccine.
  • I want to go to WorldCon, the convention where the Hugo Awards are happening.
  • I want to relearn how to spend time with people. And hug them. I'm gonna hug so many people.
  • I want to spend as much time as possible this summer outside. In the pool if at all possible. I finally have pool-age kids and we missed a whole summer.
  • I'd like to sign my kids up for ballet, gymnastics, or martial arts next fall.
  • I'd like to take a long break from writing, because of burnout, but then write something completely new in November.
  • If I run through my agent list and still don't have an agent, I'm submitting my novel to indie presses. The publishing industry is consolidating too much and sometimes small is better.
  • Pick up some freelance writing contracts maybe.
It's going to be a sad year if most of this stuff has to be canceled. Please stay home till you get vaccinated so we can have a real summer this year.

That last line just walked on my grave. Yikes.

Anyway, I did get a lot of this done. I got vaccinated. I went to WorldCon. I signed up the kids for ballet and taekwondo. I finished one novel and started another. I sent books to indie presses and got some very nice rejections.

I did not hug very many people. I did not spend much time in pools because we moved and the pools here cost a million dollars. I made so much money at my writing job that I didn't bother looking for more contracts. Basically, my limit on my current job is only the time I have to spend on it.

The year just feels very static. Sure, I moved 40 miles and got everyone signed up for new schools and battled with Child Find for three months and took a cross-country trip. And still. I feel like nothing is any different from last year, and all I wanted was for things to be different from last year.

In a pandemic, when you're vaccinated, and when no new vaccine-resistant variant is sending the COVID numbers to new records, you can hang out with your friends. That is a good and pleasant thing to do.

But if what you were hoping was to make new friends, relearn how to exist in public, maybe join some activities . . . you can't do that. Nothing is happening. There's some zoom stuff, if you want to confront your social awkwardness while receiving not even one molecule of dopamine for your trouble. But none of the activities I would like to participate in are happening.

I did try. After we moved, I met some internet friends I now live closer to than before. I met my boss. I met lots of people at WorldCon, and signed up for a writers' group that currently meets on zoom but which I could theoretically attend in person someday, if life ever changes.

But in general, post-move, I am less social than ever. The two families we used to hang out with, we still see, but it now takes an hour each way to get there and it's no wonder we're doing it a lot less.

I am getting out of the house more, thanks to having to drive Jackie to preschool every day, and getting a little better about existing in public with a mask on and not having a total meltdown. I "smile with my eyes" at people and perhaps they can tell, I dunno. I talk to the neighbors sometimes. I'm trying, dangit. But I feel intensely lonely a lot, more than I did last year. There's nothing so lonely as being in a crowd but not knowing a soul, and that's how this new town feels to me.

In the face of all this, it's just hard to make any kind of plans. Lord knows what Greek letter we'll be on this time next year. Perhaps we'll be into futhark runes by then. I certainly can't imagine I'll be hugging people barefaced. Heck, I can't even watch a movie without feeling vaguely uncomfortable seeing how close everybody is standing. Even once the danger is gone, we'll all have some major trauma to unpack.

So what can I reasonably, and with a straight face, aim for in the year to come?

The word that is coming to me for the year is something self-care-ish. Maybe NURTURE. I want to actually take care of myself, which does not mean hiding under the covers eating chocolate. I would like to eat actual lunches and ride my exercise bike more than once a month. I need to make myself go outside, because it always helps me feel better. Maybe I should get back to meditating and writing in my journal.

I just know that I have a lot of recovering to do already, and the new year may very well bring me more things to recover from. So I can only do that by treating myself as a person who matters, who maybe needs to be coaxed out from under the bed and reminded to try the stuff that helps her feel better.

Other resolutions/hopes/wishes include:

  • Go on a vacation. Probably not anywhere far away. I just really need to take at least a weekend in a place closer to nature than this place. A week would be better. I want few responsibilities and spotty internet and a stack of books. I usually am not very pro-vacation because I believe in building a life you don't need to take a vacation from. But I failed on that goal, so I just need to take a dang vacation like everyone else.
  • Submit the next book to agents. It's ready to go and I'm starting tomorrow. This book has been a real struggle to write and it's hard to say if it's any good. If I get an agent with it, I'm going to laugh and laugh and laugh.
  • I'd like to look into taking some classes at the community college in the fall. By then, all four kids should be in school full time. (This is the third year I have said this.) I will at last have time for something I want to do. And the thought of being in a classroom again makes me feel happy. I like learning. I'd also like to meet people there.
  • I have already found a pool I would like to purchase a membership for in the summer. I didn't last year because I only found out about it 2/3 through the summer, and the price is for the whole season. But I think I can afford to do it if I get the whole season out of it. And it's outdoor. Our closest pool is indoor and it's just a shame to do that in the summer--as well as a COVID risk.
  • Finish my solar sailing trilogy and keep looking for a small publisher for it. I believe hardest in this book, of any of them. If I get through my entire long list of possible publishers--right down to the newest and sketchiest--and still can't sell it, I think I might self-publish. I just need people to read this thing! I know it's good. I don't know what is wrong with the industry that nobody has given me a million dollars for it. 2020 was probably a bad year to query book 1 of it, but I can't undo that.
  • Keep writing and submitting short stories. I sold one this past year, did I tell you that? So next year, if I sell one more story at pro rates, I'll be eligible to join the Science Fiction Writers of America. That's definitely a big career goal for me.
  • I want to make sure to take my boat out a lot in the coming year. This will be a challenge, because not all of the kids like to go in it, and I do need John to pick me up or drop me off. So I can only do it on days he's home. But still. I have a boat! I want to do lots of boating. Preferably without tearing giant holes in it this time. But if I do . . . I have stuff to patch it now.
That is a lot of goals, I'd better stop there to cut down on the amount of tragic laughing 2022 Sheila has to do.

Mostly, I just want to make it a year that makes me happy. I am not resolving to keep the house cleaner or be nicer to my kids or cook better dinners. I already work hard on those things and if I poured any more energy into them, it would have to be taken from other things important to me like occasionally sitting down and cracking a book. I might try to spend less time on social media, to find out if that makes me happier or not. But in general, it does make me happy because that's where all my friends are, so I'm not going to set a whole goal about that or anything.

Basically, I just want to have a year where I take care of myself without forgetting what I owe to other people. I owe my children the most, and have no intention of neglecting them. And I owe it to the vulnerable to not spread COVID around like glitter at a Pride march. But I am going to still take care of myself as best I can. It's been a hard . . . *checks notes* eight years or so. I'm due for it.

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