That’s the question I will try to answer in four speeches this month—Resolved: To Reclaim Joy in 2019. I know the answer—that’s what my memoir is all about—and 2018 was hardly joyless. However, I let the publication and media attention surrounding Reclaiming Joy to take over my life. I want 2019 to be better.
I first wrote formal New Year’s Resolutions at the end of 2015, my first year of blogging. A year later I simply updated them. I could check off as done only one item—to get paper shredded. In late December 2017 I reposted my resolutions (the only thing that had changed was progress with Reclaiming Joy), with the naïve stated intention to “write about how I’ve done this year and how I want to change and grow in the coming year.”
Instead, I was so swamped with meeting my publisher’s deadlines for preparing my memoir for publication that my life was busier than ever and I didn’t blog again until April. And that was just the beginning. As the year went on, I got further and further behind on every front, and I had to settle for an “it’ll do” Christmas.
Now, my life is about to change. I spent the New Year’s holiday reflecting on what I want my life to be in 2019. Though I acknowledge I still have not achieved every one of those goals of the last three years, I also know that I never finish a “to do” list. My life is too full, and I can’t imagine waking up in the morning and not knowing what to do. Thanks to my parents, I embody the Protestant work ethic on steroids.
1. Finish All My Half-Finished Projects
That means to dust off previous years’ resolutions, take care of necessary household repairs, organize the file room and my writing files and get back on a regular writing and blogging routine. I have too many half-read books and half-written essays. I need to finish some and discard the rest. It’s time to curate my life.
2. Plan for Life After the Book
Though January may be my busiest month yet, with five speaking engagements in three cities, I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the promotion going forward will come from me, not the publisher or publicist. I will have more control of my life and my calendar.
One of the great advantages of having Reclaiming Joy published by the Baylor University Press is that it will not go out of print. It will remain available indefinitely through on-demand printing. Sadly, there will always be a market for a primer for widowhood, and I may continue to get occasional invitations to speak, but the book will no longer own me.
Lev died in April 2009, and I first thought, “I should write a book to help other widows reclaim joy!”, four years later, at the very beginning of my journey from grief. Reclaiming Joy has consumed me ever since. My entire Nantucket experience—six summers—has been driven by the book. What will my life look like going forward? I need to think about that.
3. Go in New Directions in Study and Writing
During my years of “marinating in Philippians” as I focused on grief and reclaiming joy, several serious ideas flitted into my consciousness, but I have not had the time to read serious books, interview experts and write serious essays. Here’s what’s on my mind:
One of the grands is a neuroscientist and another has a psychology degree. They have explained that the frontal cortex, where reason and analytical thinking reside, and the amygdala, which controls our emotions, work like a seesaw. When the emotions take over, the frontal cortex shuts down, and vice versa. I have found studies online that confirm this in more technical language, and I suspect that it is a key to understanding the threat to the family in times of great stress and grief. No one is thinking analytically. The “fight or flight” reaction has taken over. The implications fascinate me, and I want to explore them more.
Mindfulness began to attract attention about the time I completed my manuscript. I write about how meditation has helped me in times of deep grief and overwhelming stress, but I need to understand this concept of mindfulness better. I think it may hold promise for those who want to reclaim joy.
Loss of a spouse is like no other grief. We have lost the person we saw first thing every morning and last thing every night. Our lives are forever changed. Is it accurate to say that while other losses are events in our lives, loss of a spouse is a condition? I know the scholars with whom I need to discuss this concept. I simply need to find the time to do it.
4. Go in New Directions on Nantucket
This will be my seventh summer on Nantucket. What will I do post-Reclaiming Joy?
5. Regain American Airlines Platinum-Pro Status
Nonstop travel has been a major source of joy for me as a widow, and elite status furnishes a security blanket when I travel alone. When my flight is canceled and I am 94th in the standby line for the next flight, that 800 number to reschedule my flight is invaluable. Except for one fabulous week in southwest France in April, I was stuck in the U.S.—mostly in Texas—all year. I needed two trips to Europe in December to requalify. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I have dusted off my bucket list, and I’m taking a hard look at my calendar to squeeze in as many trips as possible in 2019.
6. Take Better Care of Myself
As always, my health and fitness are at the bottom of my list of priorities. In all my busyness last fall, I cooked too little and grazed and ate out too often. I fell back into my old habit of sandwiches instead of salads for lunch. I spent every free moment at my desk instead of taking a walk, working in the yard or—heaven forbid—going to the gym. Since I lost 20 pounds in summer 2015, I have not allowed myself to vary more than 2.5 pounds in either direction. Amazingly, I have managed not to cross the line, but I have hovered around the maximum. It’s time to lose a few pounds, to walk away from my desk and to start moving.
Happy New Year!
If you are interested in my New Year’s resolutions and blogs from previous years, go to Looking Backward, Looking Forward.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
January 10, 2019 – “Resolved: To Reclaim Joy in 2019,” Deja Vu Crew, 9:45 a.m., followed by book signing, Recreation Center, First Baptist Church, 3115 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas. Open to the public.
January 13, 2019 – “Resolved to Claim Joy”; interviews during 8:30 and 11 a.m. worship services, guest speaker at 12:30 p.m. luncheon, book signing between services and after the luncheon, Great Hall, Wilshire Baptist Church, 4316 Abrams Road, Dallas, Texas.*
January 24, 2019 -“Resolved: To Reclaim Joy in 2019,” Women of All Saints, 5–7 p.m., River Crest Country Club, 1501 Western Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas.*
January 29, 2019 – Featured speaker, Frost Bank women’s event, 4–6 p.m., Art Center of Corpus Christi, 100 N. Shoreline Boulevard, Corpus Christi Art Center.
*Guests are welcomed at the events, but please RSVP to Ella here several days in advance if you plan to attend.
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Please visit Ella’s book page to order Reclaiming Joy online and to read book reviews and interviews.