No, I am not operating from the calendar of an alternate universe. I realize that January 1st is a ways off, but aren't calendars man-made devices? Don't the trees see this as the end of their year? Thus, the beginning of another? And trees, like chickens, have strength in numbers, so who am I to argue? Therefore, I have decided to acknowledge November 1st as New Year's Day.
Since last October, I have felt as though I have been walking around with a sign that reads "Kick Me" taped to my forehead, and although my family and I have been spared serious illness and catastrophic loss, I am a little sore. But now that Halloween has passed, I am ready to approach the new year, armed with the lessons I have learned over the course of the past 12 months. I share them now in the form of a numerated Note to Self:
1. Inspect your bank statements. Don't allow them to pile up in a laundry basket. Open them, for the love of Mike. Or better yet, join the information age and enroll in online banking. Make certain that $4.99 is not being deducted from your savings account each month as a result of carrying a balance less than $300. Do this before your account dwindles to $14.99. Before the bank manager tries to sell you a low-interest rate mortgage when tasked with closing said savings account. When she tells you she is trying to do you a favor, offering you a great deal on a home-equity loan because you seem to be experiencing 'cash-flow' problems, speak to her as you would the dog: "Shame on you. Deep shame."
2. Do not assume it is safe to cross the parking lot of a grocery store, even after looking both ways. Remember that demons drive at the speed of sound. You will not hear them until after they've almost flattened you. Until they've unfurled their forked tongues. Shouted "You're a little too fat to be running out in front of traffic," in your general direction. In the future, park your car next to the cart return, thereby avoiding the crossing of any lanes on foot. Or better yet - stand in the middle of the road and wait for that woman to return. Wait through rain and sleet. Drive to the same store every damn day, and wait.
3. When someone in a position of power offers you 'the opportunity of a lifetime', say, "No. Back to the depths with ye!" Worship no one but the Hero upstairs.
4. Write thank you notes to guest editors who give sage advice to aspiring authors in the forewords of yearly anthologies. Be grateful for gems like these:
Go see the world. Stay there for as long as you can - maybe then, after you've shaken off the stink of your own living room - your preoccupation with food allergies and infidelity - when you've taken on the odour of foreign living rooms and become sickened by foods native to far-off lands - sickness which is inherently more interesting because it is co-opted - you will become a real writer.
Rush to the nearest travel agent. But, alas, remember that you are experiencing cash-flow problems, and a plane ticket to the world probably costs more than $14.99. Try not to despair. Eudora Welty said, "Write what you don't know about what you know." Remember that Alice Monro (hailed as the greatest short story writer since Chekov) writes almost exclusively about her native Canada. And Chekov, for that matter, was a Russian writer who wrote about Russian people. Russian babies and a Russian Lady with a Dog who runs off with a Russian man - not, by the way - her Russian husband.
5. Trust that despite the kicks to the head, the year will provide many wonderful surprises as well. Gracious, gifted writers who share their time and stories with you. Goodness in the form of unexpected emails from editorial assistants at large commerical magazines. People will like you. Really like you - you (and Sally Fields) for exactly who you are.