Saturday, September 19, 2009


Rosh Hashonah - dawn of the first morning of the new year. The clouds are just turning pink high above the pines on the Chico skyline. I am visiting Harvey and his family of beautiful women, Lisa and their daughters Mia, not quite seven, and Lucy, two. How good is it to live surrounded by people one loves in a city that has trees rather than buildings as its skyline?

Last night in the synagogue at the kiddush after services, people were wishing each other and me a good year, as is the custom. But it occurred to me that having a good year, without a plan of how to do it, is just that - a wish. Having a good year is not just something that happens, though it can. In general it is a deliberate choice or set of choices.

A set of choices is a plan. I am going to create a plan, probably in the form of an Excel spreadsheet of how to spend the year.

I have made some version of such plans before and they have worked. The years between my retirement in 2004 and the summer of 2007 were largely scripted and they were some of the best years of my life. But I have not had one for a while because they degenerated into a series of travel plans and I hadn't much planned for when I was home. Also, since last fall's buttkickathon in the stock market I have been less sanguine about what sorts of things I can do and more tied to staying home and being an innkeeper.

My daily plans have degenerated into a series of errands and a few pious wishes that rarely happen.

I am going to try a new kind of plan, one based on quantum theory. Life, like the universe, has a quantum nature. The quanta of life are days. Just as it is meaningless to specify the location of an electron in an atom rather than its quantum energy state, it is meaningless for me to specify a series of things that I will do during a day. Some of them might happen, some not. Looking at my day book afterward, it does appear that most things do eventually get done, but it feels somewhat random and not intentional. My planning to do something during the day gives it a certain probability it will happen, just as there is a probability that a photon will pass through a detector, but no certainty, even if it is aimed right at it, even if it is on my list of things to do.

So I am going to experiment with doing what I do well, which is to somewhat obsess on one thing for a whole day and do only that the whole day. Obviously errands and small tasks have to get done too, but that can be made a category of day. The moral trick is to feel the tug of the need and desire for small tasks and easy closures and not give in. Maybe limiting small task days to two or three a week will mean I will get more of them done on their allotted days.

Now that I think of it, even a one-task day has to be planned. Going out to whack my yard won't amount to much if I don't plan on chopping out the now-crappy-looking and overgrown daisy bushes, then buying a weed whacker, then blah blah blah. But that is just making a hierarchy within a kind of task, it is not a palette of competing tasks.

Another thing I learned during my kiddush reverie was that I can make the prospect of spending the winter in New Zealand less intimidating if I make the first month a trial period. I have been afraid that I will get bored or lonesome or just find it pointless. Since I plan to come home for the family Chanukkah party in early December in any case, I can make November a trial period. If I am not enjoying it, I don't have to go back. Committing to November is much easier than committing to the whole winter.

So the coming year, heretofore shapeless and blank, begins to hove into view. Having a plan, even one not consistently adhered to, is light. Not having one is stumbling in darkness. Without a plan, no one is minding the store, not even me.

1 comment:

  1. Nick Danger12:40 AM


    You need to get out more. Also, the word "prioritize" comes to mind.