“Why December 31? If you want to make a change in your life, you shouldn’t wait for this one magical day to make it happen.” That’s my husband’s argument against New Year’s resolutions. And in recent years, I’ve agreed with him. I’d grown sick of making ridiculous promises to myself every year, and inevitably breaking them before even a month had passed. But this year I realized, I am a sucker for “that one magical day.” I am still under the spell of the stroke of midnight on what we in the Caribbean call Old Year’s Night, that feeling that washes over you as you watch the ball drop in Times Square. And in the recent years where I’ve gone resolutionless, I’ve noticed a feeling of helpless stagnancy wash over me. So here’s hoping that by publicly divulging five of my resolutions, I will set some cosmic wheels in motion, and simultaneously shame myself into actually getting off my duff and making things happen in the ’08.
1. To take time out of every day to give my body the respect it deserves. Like most Americans — at least, according to this Reuters article — I’m done with diets. Now I opt to just eat healthy, and create a hodgepodge healthy cuisine guide of my own that relies heavily on Weight Watchers, South Beach Diet, and Cooking Light recipes, with a healthy dose of 100 calorie snacks and fruit in between. I make a healthy menu every week, and I’m working on controlling my ludicrous urges for an afternoon Sunkist at work, and salt and vinegar chips. They just added them to the vending machine at my office, and all I can say is, God give me strength. So I’m totally into eating part of living healthy, and seeing positive results. But I need to make time for exercise — more time than I made in 2007. I own an elliptical trainer and a total body gym. No more frickin’ excuses.
So far, so good. I’ve been more motivated, and that’s because of my reading material. I’m usually not one for diet books, but I’m currently reading Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs, and it’s kicking my butt into action like no other book has. The fact that she was once overweight and knows the emotions and excuses that come with that, goes a long way in making her arguments resonate with me. Here’s an excerpt, if you need a kick in the butt, too. I’m trying to remind myself that my body is a temple. I need to treat it like one every day of my life, if I want to live as long and as happily as I can. Which brings me to resolution #2.
2. McDonalds and Burger King are not seeing a penny more of my money in 2008. I pick those two particular fast food joints because they’ve been my I-really-can’t-stand-the-idea-of-cooking-right-now fallback for too long now. It needs to stop.
Sometimes, fast food is an unavoidable evil. But this year, instead of surrendering to the lazy chef blues, I’m gonna fight those urges, get off my butt, and make my own fast food. Yup, you heard me. Maybe it won’t be AS fast… but at least it’ll be real food that will satisfy my immediate craving for a burger or chicken or whatever.
For burger-and-fries in a hurry, I keep veggie burgers in stock, they’re healthier. Taste is essential, so I usually reach for one of Amy’s veggie burgers — the Texas burgers are delicious. I do make those Ore-Ida fries, but I recently discovered Lesser Evil Krinklesticks through Hungry Girl. I am dying to try these potato chip alternatives.
Most recently, I stopped myself from getting a tropichop max from Pollo Tropical, and made one myself! Check out my photo. Oh yeah, we got a new camera, so expect more food photos! This was so easy, and really didn’t take that long. There’s a base of brown rice, (I had some leftover from the day before, or you could just use Annie Chun’s Rice Express sprouted brown rice, two minutes in the microwave and you’re golden). I spiced my chicken breasts with Mrs. Dash (I heart Mrs. Dash!) and cooked it in my grill pan — psst, if you’re looking for a grill pan, don’t buy it at the department store. You can get ’em for less than $20 at your local Marshalls or my BFF Ross. Then added some shredded lettuce, and the topping, diced tomato and onion with Gia Russa’s balsamic glaze. It was healthy, delicious, and took almost the same the time it would have taken me to get in the car, drive to the fast food joint, and come back home. I’m back on the recipe kick, so look for more of those in 2008.
3. To make the most of my time, and be good to myself always. Believe me, I am a SPECTACULAR procrastinator. Sometimes, I amaze even myself. If I have a task to do, I’ll find ways to stall until the last minute. I’ve always been one of those people who declares, “I work best under pressure!” I’ve been lying to myself for years. That’s total BS. Don’t get me wrong — I always meet my deadlines, but last year, I stressed myself out way more than I should have. Feeling stressed out and under pressure all the time is not cool, and it’s not happening for the ’08.
Tackling this resolution is a two-step strategy. I need to be more organized, and to seriously improve my time management. I thrive on writing out things-to-do lists, and a good day planner always helps me get my life together.
Edesse designs has exactly what I need to plan out 2008! Her day planners are bright, beautiful, and fun. I love the lollipop planner, but to go with resolution #2, I should stick to the salad. (psst, Edesse also has adorable notebooks, journals, furniture and more, and she’s a bella who comments and visits all the time. So check out her wares and show her some love!
Step two in tackling this resolution is, learn to deal with my stress in a healthier way. At my most stressed, you might not recognize me as the cheerful Afrobella you read on your computer. I have horrible road rage and honk at the slightest provocation. And I invariably find myself mindlessly snacking or shopping on the weekends, like every weekend, to “cheer myself up”. When it came time to celebrate and let my hair down, I’d drink more than I should and suffer the consequences the next day. I’m too through with habits that are unhealthy to my spirit, body, and bank account. My first step to center my spirit and find an outlet for the pressure building inside me, is taking a free yoga class. There are several free or cheap yoga, tai chi, and meditation classes in Miami, so I’ll be looking for the best one for me. If you live in a big city, there’s probably quite a few you can check out as well, if you’re making the same resolution.
4. To get back to the kind of writing I always dreamed of doing.
See this photo? It was taken in 2005, when yours truly won an honorable mention for a short story in the Derek Walcott Writing Contest. That’s Nobel laureate Derek Walcott himself, and I can’t tell you how psyched I was to meet him. Maybe you can see it in my OMG Cheshire Cat grin. For this Caribbean girl, it felt like meeting Shakespeare or Hemingway or Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison… an idol so monumental that you can’t wrap your mind around the fact that holy crap, I’m meeting this person whose work I studied in high school, whose name I grew up hearing in only the most exalted terms, whose face comes to mind when I think of Great Writers with a capital G and W. So anyway, I entered this contest, got a lovely diploma for my honorable mention, met one of my writing idols, and then promptly stopped writing fiction completely. What happened?
Back in 2005, I had fantasies of being the next great Caribbean novelist. I’ll be real with y’all — there were many factors that helped to make me a failed fiction writer. Immediately following my MFA, I was working on a raw, sprawling heartbreak of a novel. Got about halfway through, actually. Then I got my day job, which took me completely out of the magical world of fiction and face first into reality, complete with the pressure of regular deadlines. Then the “agent in New York” I was so proud of lost patience with my writerly angst, then she up and disappeared on me (thanks and good luck, Stephanie!). That was that. Every time I tried to get back to that novel, I would sit there, stare at the keyboard for a while, weep, and feel like a failure. The subject matter was so close to my heart, it felt like I had to stop writing to try to keep an even emotional keel. Forcing myself to keep telling that particular story was murdering my joie de vivre. Then, somewhere in the middle, sadness developed into depression, which manifested itself as a textbook case of writer’s block. It got to the point where the last thing I wanted to read or write or talk about, was fiction. Books, schmooks. Who reads those anymore?
Then, for my job I interviewed renowned Jamaican author Colin Channer, who is a very friendly, real, easy-to-talk-to kind of guy. In the course of the interview, I confessed all of my big bruised feelings about this constipated novel. His rebuttal? “Well write another one, then.” Whaa? I had never even thought of such a thing. The way he said it made it sound so simple. It lingered with me. I’m still not ready to return to my novel -I know when I do complete it, it will be incredible, trust. But like Colin Channer helped me realize, if I can’t write THIS one, then this isn’t meant to be my first book. Maybe my first book could be something totally different — perhaps something nonfictional, or a children’s book. Either way, this is a bold, slightly-strange way of putting myself out there into the overwhelming world of publishing. Hello there, I’m Patrice and I’m a writer who’s ready to get back to the wonderful world of books. I’m brimming with ideas, and I’ve got a book of short stories that’s already ready to go. Are you an agent that thinks I might be a good fit for you? E mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 2008 is the year of the triumphant return, dammit.
Perhaps what I need to complete the big, scary novel is a finish party, ala Farai Chideya, ZZ Packer, Lalita Tademy (author of Cane River, and Nichelle D. Tramble. If you’re an aspiring writer, look no further for your inspiration. Sisters, doing it for themselves. It’s a beautiful thing.
5. To be a better, braver blogger. Funny how I found time to start a blog, but I can’t find time to write a book, right? Afrobella started out so amorphously, so spontaneously, that I didn’t have time to psyche myself out. Boom, the site was up, I started writing, and a month into it, I was getting e mails and developing a small circle of regular readers. It really was as simple and organic as that.
I produced so much in that first year of blogging, I felt burned out by my anniversary. And as Afrobella grew, I started to really struggle with balancing a full time job with a full time blog. I started to question the quality of my blogging, and compare myself to others. Then I started to psyche myself out of tackling stories, or I’d run out of time on hot afrobella-related — oh, I know they’ll write all about that on this site, or shoot, they already posted that photo on that other blog. I let my mojo slip through my fingers. Well, I’m gonna try my best to be the best I can be this year. I’m not any other blogger, I’m Afrobella! I’m unique, and I shouldn’t be hesitant to share photos of myself, or put my two cents in the fray. I can’t beat myself up, or compare myself to the bloggers that find time to post every day anymore. I might never be the most popular blogger in the world, I might have a slow traffic month, I might not hit all of the deadlines I create in my head. But I will keep it fresh and real. I’m working hard to bring a new look, a new attitude, and a big dose of healthy change to the site. Foremost in my mind is a complete site redesign, followed by a mailing list. There are lots of other ideas that have been suggested to me along the way. And to prove my rediscovered diligence, look out for a big, bold, amazing Afrobella of the Month tomorrow. Promise!
Like I said, 2008 is the year of the triumphant return. It’s also the year of positive change. What will your 2008 be, bellas and fellas? What are your New Year’s resolutions?