SMART (and Creative) Goals

I turned in my professional goals for the upcoming academic year today. I’m good at setting goals. Our goals had to be SMART:


I love the start of a new school year, where we are always beginning. Like New Year’s resolutions. Usually, my resolutions consist of having nicely manicured nails and working out regularly.

The first year at this new teaching job, I made a ton of goals. And my mentor told me, basically, “Don’t overreach.” Wow! Really?! Okay, but I love the dramatic big goal. I followed her advice and set myself up to read an excellent book about teaching, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. And I shadowed some brilliant teachers and colleagues. And that was all and it was enough.

This time around my professional goals are again fairly humble.

And in my personal goals, I aim to cultivate creativity. To live contentedly. To squelch the dramatic impulse. To remain calm in the face of adversity.

And to read. Let’s face it, there’s nothing I love more than reading a book in bed, on the couch, or on a picnic blanket. But I don’t do it because there are bills to pay and news to catch up on. Especially in this crazy day and age. I don’t want to miss a news alert or a pithy tweet.

I believe I have this desire to know every little thing because I grew up in a large family and married into a large family. And we were (and are?) always in each other’s business.

But today, I don’t have to know every emotional twist and turn of my siblings, my in-laws, or even, yes, my children.

This brings me to the hardest part of my current empty nest quandry. I flounder and flutter, wondering what are my kids up to. I don’t get to see their ever-changing emotions on a daily basis. And sometimes, I think I’m only hearing from them when things are challenging. Naturally, I worry.

I remind myself to be the captain of my own ship. Cultivate my own creative life. Detach.

So, although my SMART goals for the school year are modest , my life goals include.

1. Stay healthy.
2. Mind my own business.
3. Read a book.
4. Do my best.

And today, in the course of the day, I received a couple of messages from the universe. The first was from the Mass for Saint Francis. “Let me not seek so much to be understood as to understand.”

And then, I noticed this on a colleague’s desk: “Remember when you wanted what you currently have.”  Amen to gratitude.


Seeing My Life as an Adventure

the view from my office

This year I will notice the sun. My life is enshrouded in office dullness. I want nothing more than light — the shine and vitamin D of the sun.

In my sadness, in my busyness, I rush by, failing to notice the sun, the sky, the birds, the laughter, the people.

The sun is now setting; the day is gone. I noticed in a meeting earlier today how everyone ducked their head into their laptops as if their computer screens were a shield, protecting them from what? Each other? Very few of us made eye contact.

New Year’s Resolution: I will notice the color of people’s eyes.

I will be a people person, not a screen person. I will listen more deeply.

I often have something to say; I open my mouth quite easily. There is hardly a topic that you can mention that I don’t know one fact or have one statistic about. I have an opinion on everything.

I do not know everything. There is wisdom in not knowing, in noticing. There is quiet. There can be lulls in conversations. Usually when there’s a void, I tend to jump in. I hate the chasm. Like in a Harry Potter movie, a wide open space must be jumped across. But what if the wide open space simply was a place to meander, to linger.

I am so tired of being the engine that makes every little thing go. “I can’t do it, I can’t do,” I sobbed the other night when I couldn’t sleep. Yes, literally sobbed. The worries of my day multiplied, work worries times Chris’s decline times the kids growing up.

But what if I just stood at the side of the chasm and did nothing? I could stand there like a spelunker at the side of a cave. I have loved a mystery, an adventure. What if — ah, this is good — I saw my life as a quest?

I saw myself as going after something — I am Dorothy in the land of Oz, trying to find her way home.

I open to the chasm. I walk the yellow brick road. I am an adventurer at a crossroads. I am looking this way and that. I am listening for clues. For the sound of a waterfall or the barking of my dog ToTo.

I am not alone, yet I must make my quest alone. And when I come out the other side of the chasm, I can look back and think, I have come far, I have crossed that. Or maybe I’ll just fall into the fiery pit and be burnt to a crisp. That, too, happens in an adventure story.

But to see life as a journey, as a quest, this is the path to follow.

My Four Directions

Today I took a walk in the North woods.
  • East is the direction of new beginnings, a sunrise or a new friend.
  • South is for the brightest light, the way the Southern sky fills the outside world so completely that the light must tumble into your room and heart too.
  • West is the land of the sunset and of letting go.
  • North is the direction of the North Star, the unchangeable and fixed beam in a velvet black night.

Native Americans value theses four directions and offer prayers and gratitude for Mother Earth and her four directions.

To say good bye to 2011 and hello to 2012, here is my take on my four directions.

My East is my mastery with writing. In 2011 I wrote a lot. I was published in cool places and won a few nice awards. I taught some amazing people and made new friends. My writing and indulgence in creativity made every day new.

My South is, of course, my kids. They brighten every single day. And as my neighbor Ron says, “Not one of them is a shrinking violet.” They bring me so much light and laughter (and yes, tears and frustration and hard work too.) But always, they fill my life with light.

My West is the sadness around the decline in intimacy with Chris due to his Parkinson’s Disease and our differing levels of energy and engagement. This is a place of light and dark for me, and a sunset on certain dreams that we used to share.

My North is my faith in a Higher Power, not always seen but always felt in a tug towards compassion and creative living.

This post was inspired by The Circle of Wholeness: New Year’s Reflections by Joel and Michelle Levey

What are your four directions? Your beginnings? Your light? Your sunset? Your North Star?

Some New Year’s Goals

I like lists.
Here are my goals for the next 30 days. from 12/24 to 1/24/10
– 5 work outs/runs/yoga classes
– 30 blogs
– 10 lunches with friends
– 15 minutes a day on novel
– 15 photos posted
– 5 support group/meetings
– 15 minutes a day on apartment organization