My New Year’s Hangover Came Three Months Early
Updated: Feb 25
Hi All--I’m obviously a week late in delivering this Happy New Year announcement. The delay had nothing to do with trying to stand out from the rest of the social media and blog blasts by waiting a week, and everything to do with just not feeling it while all the football was on (American and Rest of the World’s). To be fully honest, I dragged myself across the finish line of 2019, so I really didn’t feel like jumping right back up and running into 2020 immediately on January 1.
But I also know it’s been a long time since I updated everyone on, well, everything. So here is my very overdue update:
Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Sincere thanks to all of you who checked in with me over the past few months to make sure I was still breathing, hadn’t been kidnapped by aliens, or wasn’t trapped under something heavy (all actual inquiries from actual friends). The final one of those is the closest to the truth, though not literally. I was trapped under a combination of things, ranging from taking on too much work to developing viral pneumonia to working through a few professional and personal disappointments. All of that swirled together and forced a shutdown of everything but the vital systems involved in getting me through each day—eat, sleep, move, work as best I could, and repeat. Before I knew it, the holidays had arrived, and I hadn’t posted anything on this blog or in my social media accounts for nearly three months.
I won’t apologize for that, but I do wish I had done some things differently. I suppose that’s what the positivity of New Year’s is supposed to be about, right? Looking back on what I didn’t do as well as I’d planned or hoped and taking steps to rectify that going forward? It’s the right kind of positivity, at least in intention. Like you, I read all the positive messages that people post all over social media and tell each other over too-expensive coffee—stay centered and grateful, accept your limits and embrace your imperfections, do a little of what you love each day—and I find those to be various degrees of helpful. Sometimes I roll my eyes, but that’s more about my mood in those moments than the advice itself. It evens out though, and I know that I intend to follow through on those improvement plans every year.
And yet, as we all know, execution is usually far more difficult. It’s why gyms are full for the first ten days after New Year’s but are back to their pre-holiday level by Super Bowl Sunday. It’s why bad habits are hard to replace with good ones. It’s why the three most recent Star Wars movies didn’t quite stick the landing for the saga (please don’t email me to complain about them or defend them. I can’t take any more. Just focus on Baby Yoda from now on and everything will be okay. He drinks bone broth). My point is that the transformation of best intentions into positive action is really tough to achieve (duh, JDK). And, oftentimes--at least in my own case--it’s because I’m focusing too much on the end goal and not on each necessary step it takes to get there. Like sledding down a snowy hill and focusing on the flat at the bottom instead of the twists and slides and bumps right in front of your tube; it’s a fantastic way to crash and splay out spread-eagled into the trees (pick your own metaphor if you don’t like that one. There have to be better ones, but it’s way past my bedtime).
Over the past handful of years, I’ve embraced the concept of the Next Indicated Step to guide me through each day of the year instead of announcing grand, long-term intentions for the year (other than ones like “be less of an asshat about historical movies” and “try to make brussels sprouts yummy somehow because they are good for you” and “get pairs of jeans without holes in them.” I made that last one up. I have no jeans. That’s made up, too. I totally do, and they are slim and chic). I know what it is I’m trying to improve or want to work on or accomplish--I shouldn’t have to try and fail to convince myself again by making grand proclamations. What I like about the Next Indicated Step is that it isn’t hard to figure out--it’s innate and easily visible, but only when we are honest with ourselves about what we are feeling and about what needs to be done, especially with something that is scary or intimidating or otherwise avoid-worthy.
Like so many healthy things, doing the Next Indicated Step is simple in concept, but it isn’t always easy to do (let’s abbreviate it NIS from now on, like it’s another CBS government agency drama spinoff of the most recent CBS government agency drama that’s somehow been on for over a dozen seasons even though none of us know anyone who has ever watched it): Take a few deep breaths, be honest about the feelings coming up and assaulting you, open yourself up to possible solutions, and the NIS will appear right in front of you. It’s delivered by Your Intuition and its partners, Plain Common Sense and Your Conscience. Then, just do the damned thing. Don’t overthink it or ask yourself how you feel about it. If you still aren’t sure about the NIS when it appears, call up That Friend who is least afraid to be brutally honest with you and run it by them. They will tell you to do the damned thing, and then you do it. Trust that the NIS will take you where you need to go, at least by another step. It makes taking the next one easier. As a wise friend of mine says regularly, “we can’t think our way into new ways of acting; we act our way into new ways of thinking.”
So act. Think about it later when you’re reflecting on how well it worked and how that kinda surprised you when it really shouldn’t have.
Other times, the NIS runs into the room and smacks you in the face out of nowhere like the cat I had as a kid. But that usually only happens after you yourself have actively sought out and intentionally experienced the NIS a few times already--you have to know what it looks like before you can recognize it for what it is when it materializes unbidden. However it shows up, though, you win.
To quote Bernie Mac in Ocean’s 13:
This isn’t anything that hasn’t been suggested in many other forms by many other writers with many more written words and published books to their credit (just wait), but I’m describing it now more as a way to summarize my last few months and to introduce you to what’s coming up for me in this new year.
During the grind that was the end of my 2019, all I had was the NIS. Literally, every day this past fall my NIS consisted of the basic functions involved in taking care of my ill body and meeting my daily responsibilities. It sucked, but it also showed me the importance of a number of things precisely because I wanted to be doing them but wouldn’t or couldn’t. Those being cast in such sharp relief, in turn, brought me full circle back to realizing that while I certainly was sick and needed to slow down, I could still keep my novel and other projects a priority if I just took teeny-tiny Baby Yoda-sized NIS’s (he drinks bone broth! From a little wooden bowl! He holds it with his tiny Force-loaded hands!). But the “why” I could wasn’t and isn't just about the truism that “small steps are how big things get done” (say it like Big Bird), but also about the sneaky truth about the NIS that has to be experienced to understand it or believe it:
When you do the NIS, crazy cool magic shit happens sooner rather than later.
I’m not joking. It’s just a matter of time. The NIS marshals forces outside of itself together with perfect timing to produce significant jumps forward in whatever part of life is getting the NIS treatment. If the NIS is one ant, it’s the one that calls together millions more via Ant-ESP to move mountains. I don’t care if it sounds like Gluten-Free Granola Woo-Woo to you--it’s (bleeping) true. I’ve seen it happen with increasing frequency in every area of my life over the past decade, and it’s changed everything for the better. I’m still waiting for that key moment with the book publishing (again, just wait), but during the end of 2019 into the first days of 2020, the NIS has been working its magic with another major project--and some shifts in direction--that I am really excited about. I’ll detail all of that later this week, but the last two words of this post will give you a hint.
And yes, I know I still owe you one more post from my Normandy trip last summer--I haven’t forgotten and that will be along soon as well.
In the meantime, Happy New Year to all of you. Run over 2020’s challenges with 365 days of NIS’s. Thanks to my regular readers for sticking around for my return, and if you are just stumbling onto this site, thanks for dropping in and please keep coming back. Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll be notified when I drop new stuff. I’ll be adding a lot more in the days and weeks ahead.
Now go try doing the NIS. It’s amazeballs. You’ll see.
And now for the hint. Say it with me:
*[Editor’s note: It’s Not a Baby Yoda Podcast. We’d get sued. This is The Way]