It’s 2021, and I feel like I just tore my way out of a street fight

Beaten within an inch of my life, I’m running, bruised, and bloody – but I’m still here.

George Floyd. COVID. The death of my dad (not from COVID). 2020 was the nightmare that just would not quit. Until it did. I will never be the same after what it put me through, but with a COVID vaccine and a black woman vice president to look forward to, I am feeling hopeful and a little bit happy.

I spent the holiday break getting clear on what is important. I tend to overcommit and overjuggle. (I’m a woman and a librarian – how could I not?) COVID and aging have sharpened my focus. Squandering time is no longer on the agenda.

Here’s what the soul-head-and-butt whooping of 2020 drilled into my head: Life is fragile. Death is sneaky. Let go of the dead weight, hold tight to the here-and-now, and be prepared for ANYthing.

I embark on 2021 with these three priorities:

Books to finish: Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 by W.E.B. Du Bois – and something else

I’d been wanting to read it for at least 21 years. What was I waiting on? Last fall, I ordered an affordable paperback copy of Black Reconstruction and got down to business. I’m digging into it a little at a time, savoring each page like a spoonful of chocolate pudding. At two to 10 pages a day, I’m already halfway in. The book is ALL that (no surprise – this is Du Bois we’re talking about, yes?). What stuns me is how closely the legislative dramas and political debates of Reconstruction mirror those of today. (Stay tuned for the “Stacy Recommends” post where I’ll go into this in more detail.)

The other book I need to finish? My own. I delayed the publication of my third poetry volume because I just could not pull it together under last year’s circumstances. I have resumed work on it and hope to wrap it up over the next year.

A habit to break: Self-destructive rumination

This will be tough. Rumination is actually a big part of a writer’s job. I have to mull things over and chew them up at least 13 times to figure out what is going on in my head and what it is I want to say. Ruminative self-criticism is an occupational requirement and an occupational hazard of being a writer, but I take it too far sometimes. Certain things and thoughts are just not worth the trouble. Every second I spend obsessing is a second I cannot spend loving myself and loving my people.

A promise to keep

I’ve spent a good chunk of my years doing the things I love. I have also spent way too much time doing things I did not want to do. From this point on, I promise to ask myself some questions when faced with a choice or a task, big or small. Why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for? Do I want to do this? If not, do I have to do this? And if I must do it – do I have to do it indefinitely?

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