Voo Doo Economics

Numbers aren’t my thing. In school, math came slowly, as elusive as spring in February. Each lightbulb moment—grasping Pythagorean theory, solving a quadratic equation—felt worthy of its own holiday.

Words, though. I’ve always been a fan.

Freshman year in college, I switched majors with alarming frequency, first studying law then linguistics then journalism. Somewhere along the line I was forced into two semesters of economics: macro and micro. It was the only class I got a “D” in and I hated it energetically. Eighteen years, two husbands, three states and a foreign country later, I graduated with a bachelors in English.

And inexplicably, a 25-year career in insurance. For someone not particularly fond of numbers, it was an interesting galaxy to orbit, that universe of actuarial tables, rate-setting, production goals and budgets. Living the writer’s life my eight-year-old self once dreamily envisioned was as distant as Pluto.

After relinquishing the spreadsheets to the home office cubicle farm a few years ago, I returned home to care for my mom with Alzheimer’s. I returned to writing too, and slowly, handwritten words transformed into a flash blog. Later, a novella written entirely in tweets. Flash fiction, haiku and microessays published in lit journals.

This year, I launched a new writing project, the micro mashup, a weekly microburst of restless words.

And now I get it. How numbers and words collaborate in their own economies of scale. How, when I write with fewer words, my production level increases. How, so often, less is more.

UNresolutions

Ahhh…the last week of the year. That magic retrospective space for relaxing and recharging. And yet, the contradictory messages tossed about like confetti: Set intentions, create goals, make resolutions, plan for a New Year.

We plan for the future because the calendar—and employers, influencers, peers and life coaches, even our own overachieving selves—tell us we should.

Fail to plan, plan to fail: This was how I rolled for 25 years in my old life as a corporate sales VP, where 5-Year Business Plans and SMART goals fueled the last gasp of year-end planning.

But in these past six years of family caregiving, overlaid with a relentless pandemic, planning and goal setting feel beyond difficult, too vast. “Everything is just too big,” my mother used to say when she was writing on deadline.

Same.

So instead, I keep a mental list of what my former boss called the “Nice To Do’s,” those agenda items that never quite get done: Celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in Hawaii; move home to Maine permanently; get a part-time job at the island general store. But it’s a little tough with two old guys in my life, especially one pushing 90 with a fractured hip, and I’m still mourning my mother’s passing earlier this year.

Watching the future collide with itself, as unreachable as the stars, yet close as a breath.

And once again, I embrace the unplanned, revel in the unfinished and celebrate the unresolved.

PS: If you can’t imagine a new year without plans and goals, here’s a detailed workbook shared by an Insta writing friend. Fair warning, it’s work.

The Process of Progress

Behold the “Work In Progress,” fondly known in the writing community as the WIP. A million ideas crammed into digital folders and old-school file drawers. Half-started, almost-finished stories and essays and collages and poems.

I have written before about unfinishing, about how we are all works-in-progress. And if my current WIP count is somewhere between 60 and 100, then I say: whatever. Rather than beat myself up over lack of completion, I choose to embrace the wellspring of inspiration that flows between places and moments, a yoga mat, the pen, a candle, the sea, the desert.

I used to believe the WIP folder was where dreams went to die, but now I see how works in progress lead to words in progress and eventually, words in print.

I have also come to appreciate the effervescence of these projects. My writing and art—completed or not—is a reflection of my real self. With a tug of my ancestral threads, I fashion a patchwork of the writers and artists who went before me: grandfathers, a grandmother; uncles and aunts; my mother, my father.

Excerpt from “This Demented Life” novella-in-flash

And as I occasionally share some of these creative scraps, I invite you to join me in celebrating the unfinished as we view progress through the imperfect lens of reality.