Of Gateways, Gangplanks and Clean Sheets (or How to Write Non-Binding Resloutions)

Gateways between the old and new, past and future (The Arch of Janus)

Resolutions = I am in need of some sort of rehab…

The pomp of the resolution ritual is defined by the glorified image of the more perfected self – me, BUT  as a 40 pound lighter pillar of the community, friend to stray ferrets and celebrated mother, daughter, wife, artist and employee. The challenge of resolution writing is to wrap up my ideal self in a pretty bow with a promise that I can allow myself to be changed by. Caught up in the holiday revelry, we can promise ourselves anything with vows that are sure to be grandiose, difficult to read and impossible to remember.

The trouble with BIG New Year’s resolutions…

is that they are the harbingers of major change, chaos, crisis, guilt and failure. (What’s not to love?) The kinder, gentler resolutions encouraged by well-meaning pundits encourage us to envision small, manageable changes in our lives rather than extreme makeovers. Given the human nature of self-preserving forgetfulness, isn’t it likely that these comfy, cozy, low-cal resolutions will be misremembered faster than yesterday’s Chinese takeout? So what is the goal-setting creative to do? Avoidance seems like a good first step.

There has to be an app for this

Once these portals to a “better me” are crafted, where will I post them for daily reminding? I will lose a scrawled  scrap paper list. I suppose I could make a fancy fabric covered cork board, but then piles of other important memorabilia will get pinned on top of the list. Stick it to a mirror? Mark it in a Yahoo calendar? Maybe I should learn how to make an app?  (note to self: Call son – request custom app – “no, I do not have a list yet, I need the app first.”). This will save countless hours of stressful list-building today.

Googling Resolution Nirvana

Surely someone out there on the web has written the go-to list for how to make my creative life more _________ (insert desired effect here: more rewarding, more significant, more MORE).

I remember that Lesley Riley once had an intriguing LIST of Reasons to LOVE this New Year’s Day rather than a collection of resolutions. She hinted about an upcoming change, and then made it happen with her Artist Success program.

My Google spelunking led from Artsy strategies to rabbit holes of anything from Designer Resolutions (“live beyond your desk”) to  Dr. Phil-isms (surprisingly, there is a book to purchase). Three hours later … I enjoyed what (most) everyone had written, but had no list of my own that I believed in. I could just as easily click-through a random phrase generator to discern my call-to-New Year’s Action: Pop Trustingly!, Curve Decreasingly!, Cricket Cliquishly Pile!, Bed Sidewards Revenge! (really?)

Non-Binding Resolutions

I could go with random resolution solutions, but maybe a teensy bit more focus is needed: Melanie Testa wrote about non-resolutions and the focus on selected words for creative exploration instead. I like her use of “intuit” and “slow cloth.” These don’t pinch or chafe or infer that I need to head off to the Betty Ford. What words can make my life of tomorrow different than that of today?

Janus: Roma god of gateways & doorways


The Roman god Janus is pictured as having two faces: one to look behind with forgiveness and one to look ahead with hope. He is associated with gateways and passages that lead from one state of being to another. The month of January is named for Janus, so what better time to examine the year passed and the one ahead. Look for gateways; fearlessly pass through them; move forward without regret, Pass Go!, collect $200. Okay, I can live with this word.


Lest we get too touchy-feely fearlessly passing through gateways, lets kick up the adrenaline: Cruise ship gangplanks can be crossed without trepidation, but creativity offers the more piratey version with “walk the plank.” Words like “sink” or “swim” come to mind, followed by “sharkbait.” Sometimes we have to put ourselves on the plank and take the plunge into the unknown, and sometimes we sink. The cool thing about being a creative-type is that we get “do-overs.” These were called Health Paks when I played Doom- blast one open and you’re good to go for the next round of Make Art like a Pirate!

Boo yeah!

“Clean Sheets”

Okay, that’s two words, but nothing says ‘fresh start’ like crisp linens. We can easily put off this ritual, but when we strip off the old and snap on the new our beds just feel better. Our serotonin levels ooze to new heights and we can practically create in our sleep. Fresh starts need not only come with the New Year. We can tap into them on an as needed basis all year-long.


We can choose to focus on a Word of the Day or our own Word of the Year; the important part is that we are owning our vocabulary and choosing what we will pay attention to. I have my favourites: hope, blossom, blunder, delve, yearn… “Fill the well.” “Feed the beast.” “Scare yourself.” “Lose yourself.”  We have to somehow trick our brains into remembering that we have goals. Our creative goals may be fraught with fear, peril and the occasional shark of criticism, competition, expectation or public exposure. What doesn’t eat us lets us live.

Some days, changing the sheets will be all that we can manage. We can shoot for the BIG resolution, destined to change our lives; but more often, we will be slowly saved, changed and morphed by simple words and actions. I think that it is called “growth.”

I will close with best wishes for our collective happy endings, tantalizing fresh new starts, bright and shiny New Years, peaceful resolutions and these words shared by Van and his exceptional Quotes of the Day:

The bad thing about good things is that they come to an end;
and the good thing about bad things is that they also end.
– Anamaria Rabatte y Cervi

late addition: this link to Janus as the HOTWORD at ditionary.com:



One thought on “Of Gateways, Gangplanks and Clean Sheets (or How to Write Non-Binding Resloutions)

  1. Debbie – I love this post! And thank you so much for reminding me of my own post a year ago. I had forgotten all about it and it really made me shiver to read that I had hinted about an upcoming change and then made it happen. Of course i KNEW that, but to see that I put it in writing for all the “world” to see made me feel exceptionally proud that I did indeed, make it happen.

    Hope your 2011 desires reach fruition as well.

please chime in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s