Currently // December 2018: This Year’s Past, Present, and the Future

Decembers are strange months. They force us—through our grieving over the last year, our anticipation and expectation for the next, and the celebration of the present with good food, family, and friends—to live fully in all aspects of our lives. The past, the present, and the future. Decembers can be exhausting, sad, and overwhelming, but they can also be joyful, hopeful, and so very warm. It all depends on what this year’s past, the present, and the future feel like to you.

I’ve had many Decembers full of loathing, curmudgeonry, and gloom because, well, the holidays were never happy times for me. They were the time of year that pretending to be merry and bright only brought out the worst in my family. This year felt different. This December was a warm one. I felt loved, and I allowed myself to be loving too. Time certainly heals and I have come far enough from those sad Christmases I used to know to a place where I can give myself over fully to the season.

But now it’s come to an end. Now is the time to let go of Christmas and to think of the New Year. Now is the time to muster up the best of ourselves. Now is the time—fueled by all that good food and deep love—to become who we’d like to think we are.

But first, here is what I am…

Writing slowly but steadily, on big projects and small. I had high hopes of starting a daily blogging habit for the new year but upon further reflection and introspection, daily blogging just isn’t for me, yet. Turns out I just don’t have a ton of energy to go around and focusing on blogging so much means less time and energy for my dream projects. Not only that, but failing to post daily makes me feel like, well, a failure, and being so filled with disappointed makes it impossible for me to write anything at all. So, I’m writing here, and for Zen and Pi, and I’m even resurrecting my newsletter too! but I’m only committing to one piece per online space per week for now and looking forward to creating and sharing more meaningful work with you soon.

Making promises. I promise to spend less time in from of the TV and more time in my “creativity room”. I promise to keep a list of dreams and projects in front of me rather than my Twitter timeline. I promise that whenever I feel bored, I won’t let my first instinct be to pick up my phone. I promise to read a book instead. I promise to write every day. I promise to stop apologizing for my weaknesses and to embrace my vulnerability. I promise to keep on doing what I have been doing but to use the lessons I have learned to do better.

Planning everything. I have been experimenting with using Trello to keep track of tasks for all my big projects and my blogs. I have a list for each project and lists titled “this year”, “this month”, “this week”, “today”, and one for “every day”. I’ve been moving items (or cards) from their project lists into the “time frame” lists once I feel I’m ready to begin. Each card can have a description, a checklist, attachments, and I can add comments and links underneath too. I love that I can keep both short-term and long-term to-do lists in front of me without getting confused or overwhelmed and it’s easy to shuffle them around as needed.

Anticipating a “Dry January”. For those who’ve never heard the term, Dry January is a movement where people pledge not drink any alcohol for the first month of the year. I don’t consider my relationship with alcohol to be problematic per se, but the medication I am on for my ulcerative colitis is affecting my liver and cutting out my daily drink proved harder than I thought it would be. A hard cider or a glass of red wine can be a real comfort at the end of a long day but I need to take care of myself and learn to decompress in new ways. I look forward to the money saved and maybe losing a few pounds too.

Reading The Iliad, still. I knew I would be reading it to the end of the year but with the holidays and this weird period of laziness and listlessness between Christmas time and the new year I haven’t been able to finish the book. That’s ok though. I’ll pick it back up as soon as I feel ready. I’ve set new reading goals for the year too, 30 books once again. I am determined to make 2019 the first year I meet this goal by making reading a priority, something I must do, every day.

Watching old episodes of Veep on HBO while I wait for most of my usual shows to come back between now and April. Before that, I was watching Killing Eve on Amazon Video and I cannot recommend it enough. I have been a fan of Sandra Oh since her days on Grey’s Anatomy (another show I anxiously awaiting both the return and the end of). I saw Bird Box on Netflix; it was good but not great, and I finally got around to Isle of Dogs which was exactly the work of art I knew it would be.

Feeling tired. December was, as all Decembers are, exhausting. I feel bad for having been so lazy this past week off from work but it felt so good that I know I needed it, mentally as well as physically. I regret nothing but I do resolve to get off my ass starting today.

Fearing a new year that will be just like the last. I’m afraid that I won’t get anything done at all and that I will fail all the challenges I start and the goals I’ve set. I’m afraid 365 days from now I will be sitting at this same desk writing this same post saying all the same things about how I failed, but it’s okay, I have a plan for 2020 and this time I’m going to get it right! I’m afraid that I am not capable of the work I need to do or worthy of the successes I hope to achieve.

Reflecting on 2018 and what it meant to me. This year I completed a Year Compass booklet for the first time and it really helped me get over the initial disappointment I felt over all the things I didn’t get done. I realized that while 2018 wasn’t productive in all the ways I had hoped it would be; it was still an amazing year. Looking back, I had a year full of warmth and love, friendship, family, and fun and I’m pretty proud of that.

Needing willpower like I have never had before. Willpower is the word I chose for 2019. I wrote it in my Year Compass under the coming year and underneath I wrote: “productivity is planning for the future weaker, stupider you”. I was thinking of a Tumblr post from Stowe Boyd, “Will Power Is A Myth, So Take The Damn Nap“. I’m asking for the strength to do the work, or do what needs to be done now so I can pick the work back up again later.

Learning Classical Sociological Theory! I’ve been looking for some free online courses to take for a while now and this was one that looked good. I’m on a mission to learn how to practice and I think taking a structured course would help me cultivate a habit of daily discipline and fuel my writing with new information and perspectives! Win, win and all for free right? I haven’t enrolled just yet (I’m implementing new habits in a more staggered fashion for 2019 rather than all at once) but by February I hope to start.

Loving this past year. I know it was a horrible year politically here in America and in many places around the world because of America but personally, in my own little suburban bubble, it was a pretty good year. That isn’t to say I didn’t have my ups and downs, or that the bigger picture not affected me but what I did have was an amazing support system and what I did was take breaks as needed from said bigger picture. I know that is a privilege many don’t have, and I am grateful that I do.

Hating that this past year was so politically ugly and divisive. I hate how much we hurt one another out of fear and of pride. I hate how the unknown makes us so cruel and how easily we justify suffering and death. From the growing threat to immigrants, the frequency of mass shootings, the number of animals that went extinct, and the abandonment of our responsibility to the global climate crisis, 2018 was the year that humanity broke my heart and I hate that I have no expectation that 2019 will mend it.

Hoping, on this last day of 2018, that all of us all around the world can find the courage to forgive and begin again. I hope that we can start a new year with a little less of the past holding us back or holding us apart. I hope the new year can begin with more clarity and that 2019 brings out more of what is good in us. I hope you all have a safe night and a productive start—in whatever way is meaningful to you—to your brand new year.


So, yeah, all in all, December was beautiful. It was by far the best December I’ve ever had, emotionally anyway. I look forward to ringing in the new year with my fiance, in our home, while enjoying good food, getting some writing in, and completing a few projects in the house. It’s just the tone I want to set.

But what about you? How did December treat you? How did 2018 treat you? Did you have a wonderful Christmas and will you ring in 2019 quietly with close friends and family, or will you attend a grand gathering somewhere and meet it with flare?

Let me know in the comments.

“The first of December was a wintry day…and the year seemed getting ready for its death.”

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Featured photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

Currently // November 2018: The Last Chance Has Passed

Despite, or, more likely, because of, the Thanksgiving holiday and all the planning and prepping, and the time with family, and the time off from work too, November seems to have come and gone faster than any other month this year. It was a bit jarring, and a tad frightening to wake up this morning and realize I am suddenly so close to the end of the year. 

Honestly, initially, I felt really disappointed. Not just the usual general disappointment I always feel over the passing time, but a deeper disappointment—in myself. There were so many things I had hoped to do and accomplish and thinking about all the ways I failed to do and accomplish it just made me feel really bad about myself. How could I let myself down like this? Why didn’t I push harder? Why didn’t I even try?

I feel this way at the end of every month though, and I bet a lot of other people do too, but this time it hit particularly hard. This month felt like my last chance. I mean, December will be too filled with activities, obligations, and holiday stress to make up for the all the time I wasted until now. That means my project won’t get finished and I won’t achieve my goals. How things are now is how they will end.

Fortunately, that initial disappointment didn’t last very long because, fortunately, I had so much to be thankful for in November. So, instead of trying to fix what I fucked up, I will use what is left of 2018 to simply celebrate and plan. I will let myself feel good and I do what I can to make sure I have the motivation and the optimism I need to give it another try in 2019.

But first, here is what I am…

Writing much, much more often and much more efficiently too. They say that the tools aren’t as important as the passion, but having shitty tools can really sap your drive to create. I’m thankful that my old slow and buggy laptop finally bit the dust and forced me into getting a new Chromebook. I no longer have to pause and wait for the cursor to catch up and I can have as many tabs as I need open at once. I can edit photos without crashing and take my writing wherever I go again. I’m getting used to enjoying writing again, but my ability doesn’t quite match my enthusiasm yet, so I’m sticking to purely blogging right now. I’m just practicing.

Making more blackout poems and collages for Instagram, because they are fun to make and I miss pouring over newspapers and magazine articles looking for words to pop out at me, begging to be reimagined. I like to take those words, someone else’s words, and make them my own. To reshape them to tell my story and reveal who I am and what I think. There is a sick satisfaction in such a simple medium.

Planning a month-long body fitness challenge for myself in January. I’m not sure I can do everything I want to with the limited space and equipment I have but I am sure that anything I can come up with is better than the nothing-at-all I am doing now. I can start slow if it will just help me start, you know? I’ve been feeling so tired and weak lately and I know it’s because I am growing soft from inactivity and age. I’ve been gaining weight I can’t seem to get off and I struggle with stamina and endurance. This past summer I was running and hiking but since the cold has moved in I’ve gotten lazy. I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made.

Anticipating Christmas break! I usually try to work as much as possible during the breaks because I need the money, but this year I’m considering taking a significant amount of time off. I’d like to spend some time holed up in my “creativity room” making progress on one of my dream projects. I’d have to isolate myself—no screens, no notifications, no internet access, no dopamine hits at all—and just brainstorm, design, and write. I don’t have to finish the project. I just want to feel like I really gotten started on something.

Reading The Iliad, still…I love the book, I swear, but it is not at all easy to read. Epic poems, I learned after reading The Odyssey, require more time for pausing and thinking, for letting the story work into you. They require the imagination to take an active role. So, I read a chapter and sit with it, sometimes for a week or more. I reimagine it. I weigh the actions and the morals of the characters, and I look up all the heroes and gods I’ve never heard of before. Next time I read something like this I think I’ll carry around a second, easier book to read while I ruminate. It looks like I’ll be spending the rest of 2018 with The Iliad and wait to start anything new until 2019 since this years reading challenge goals are shot to hell anyway.

Watching the second season of True Detective on HBO, but only because I want to feel like I’ve gotten through it before season 3 starts in January. The show is an anthology series so each season is a different story. Season one was amazing and I highly recommend you check it out. The problem is, it’s so good that season two just doesn’t measure up. Season 3 looks like it’ll make up for it though. I’m also in the middle of Homecoming on Amazon, a psychological thriller that follows a counselor working with vets at an experimental facility. I like it but it isn’t keeping my attention easily. Most nights I’m rewatching The Walking Dead, and at work, I’ve been working my way through both Castlevania and She-Ra, two awesome animated shows on Netflix.

Feeling stressed and depressed, already, just like many of you this holiday season. There is so much pressure to be cheerful and expectations to buy the right gifts and spend the most amount of money. It’s hard to balance all that pressure and expectation with my bank account and this chronic fatigue. I think this year I’ll put my foot down and ask that people refrain from buying me gifts at all, or if they must, to donate to a charity in my name. I just don’t want to spend the money and I don’t want to stress about what to get for everyone. I don’t want to feel bad for getting the wrong thing, or for not spending enough money, or for secretly hating what I get. 

Fearing the new year. I wish there was time to reflect on the last year before you had to hit the ground running on the new one. It’s scary to have all those days looming ahead of you and you moving toward them so quickly. As of right now, all those days are still pure, full of potential and promise. As of right now, you haven’t screwed it all up yet, but once they start coming you know you will. Mistakes are always made and we always fall short. We’re never who we thought we’d be, and even if we are still good, we’re never good enough. I’m afraid that a year from now, after all those pure and promising days have come and gone, I will feel just as disappointed and for all the same reasons that I do today. I pray that this fear will grant me focus and courage.

Reflecting on the lessons of November. I’m reflecting on what it means to be grateful and how I can express my gratitude better. This year for Thanksgiving my family created turkey hats and each of wrote notes to one another expressing what we were grateful for in every family member. This level of expression and vulnerability has never been the norm in my family so I struggled not only to find the right words but the courage too. I did my best, but there was so much more I wanted to say. I know I am very lucky to have so much warmth and love surrounding me and to have so many people I can run to and trust. Next year, I want to have the right words, and I want to be brave enough.

Needing a good writing class. Learning on your own, through practice and experience is great but sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. I think I would benefit from being shown ways of thinking and doing things that have never occurred to me. I also think pushing myself in a structured and supervised setting would give me a sense of accomplishment and inject a new energy into my work. I’m looking at this course from Roxane Gay, but I’m open to other (affordable) suggestions for beginners too.

Learning how to “deep work“, or rather, to work on one task or project for hours at a time without distraction. I’m learning how to embrace and use boredom and to keep the wildly important in the front of my mind always. 2019 is right around the corner and while I don’t feel regret per se in the way I spent 2018, there are definitely changes I want to make, goals I want to accomplish, and projects I want to see brought to fruition. There is so much to learn and do, but first I have to relearn how to learn and to work. I have to unlearn what social media, capitalism, and technology have taught me about what it means to be busy vs. being productive and learn to resist temptation and keep my thoughts on a tighter leash.

Loving how close we are to the new year! I know, I know, I said I was afraid of the new year, but I am just as excited as I am afraid. A new year with this year’s lessons sounds like a year when I finally make something big happen. I’m looking forward to once again applying for the Bitch Media Writing Fellowship for Writers. I’m looking forward to trying—for the third time—to complete the Blogging A to Z Challenge. I’m looking forward to building new relationships and discovering new writers and being discovered too. This coming year, like all years, is mine!

Hating anxiety. I hate being so scared and feeling so frustrated all the time. I hate how tense I am, how boring I have become, and how exhausting all this fear and frustration can be. I hate fighting myself, hating myself, and falling short of everyone’s expectations. I hate being so weak. Most of all though, I hate all the ways my anxiety affects the people around me. I hate that I can’t control it, only cope, and I hate that they have to cope too. I think it’s time I looked into getting some help and doing more to take back my life.

Hoping, as the days grow short and the temperatures dip lower and lower, that this winter won’t be too hard on us—or on me in particular. I’ve never done well in winter. There’s nothing to do, it’s too cold and cloudy, the nights start too early, the holidays are stressful, and it always feels like it will never end! No, I really don’t do well in the winter but I’m hoping that this year I can get through it in better spirits by changing my perspective. Seasons aren’t always comfortable, but they can be useful triggers for the change we need. Winter is a good time for introspection, to go inside yourself and face what is there. It’s a good time to fall in love with solitude and silence. It’s a good time to learn to be resilient again and to take care of the home and the mind. Winter is when we prepare to face the world again come spring, and I will be prepared.


So, yeah, all in all, this November was…better than most Novembers. I can’t bring myself to call it a good month considering it’s still autumn, and I really dislike autumn, plus it’s so close to winter, and I really, really hate winter, but it wasn’t bad at all. Hell, even the weather was decent this November. We only had a few little snow storms here and there and a lot of days the temps climbed well above the 50s. It was the best November I’ve ever had, and that is something.

But what about you? How was your Thanksgiving? If you celebrate it that is. How was the weather where you are? I fall a favorite season of yours? Or is it just one long, drawn-out reminder that the endless cold dark winter is about to envelop us?

Let me know in the comments.


“Wind warns November’s done with. The blown leaves make bat-shapes, Web-winged and furious.”

Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems

Featured photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

A New Place to Start

“We have not seen enough of the rough drafts of those we admire. Confidence means forgiving ourselves for the horrors of our first attempts.”

The School of Life Confidence Prompt Card

Hello, hello, and welcome. My name is Lisa, and I’m very glad to meet you.

Some of you may already know me from Zen and Pi where I have been blogging for a couple of years now. This blog is new. I made it after months and months of struggling to write and realizing that much of what was holding me back was not having a place where I felt truly free to experiment.

For those who don’t know me yet, I’m a 33-years-old aspiring writer born, raised, and currently residing in Denver, Colorado. I work as a Bus Assistant, riding school bus routes with Special Needs children keeping them safe, and entertained, to and from school every day. 

I live with my girlfriend. We’ve been together for over 16 years now and less than a year from now we’ll be calling each other wife. We share our home with an anxious dog, a grumpy cat, and two very shy snakes. I come from a pretty big family that could be described as dysfunctional, but we’re close and we’re trying to be better and that’s enough for me.

I’ve been writing in journals since I was a teenager and have always had some small place on the internet to share my stories and secrets, usually anonymously. About two or three years ago I started writing under my own name and since then I’ve had a couple of pieces picked up by small online publications. I was initially very excited, but the recognition terrified me. I suffered intense imposter syndrome and lost all of my momentum and focus.

I’m trying a few different things to get my mojo back. I’m submitting work to publications again, entering contests, and joining challenges. I’ve also decided to convert Zen and Pi to something separate from myself, a place with its own niche and focus, and writing for myself here.

This is a place to learn how to practice. It’s a place for all my bad ideas and horrible first attempts to go. It’s a place to be accountable. A home base to return to, and start out from, again and again. It’s a place I will become a better writer in.

I like to write short, creative nonfiction and particularly personal, confessional, and memoir pieces but I’m working on perfecting my hand at persuasive and informative posts too. I enjoy poetry and have dabbled in micro-fiction as well. I am cultivating a habit of writing daily in a physical journal, excerpts of which may appear here too. When I’m not writing I like making little collages with words and images I find in magazines or old books.

Like most writers, I started out as a reader first. Right now I’m obsessed with Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and ancient Greek literature. Philosophy is another passion of mine and I’m working my way through authors like Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus. I also read graphic novels though not as much as I used to. My favorite at the moment is the Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan.

Science has always been an interest of mine, especially astronomy and biology. I watch a lot of movies particularly from the horror genre but I’m also into superheroes, documentaries, anything the makes me feel deeply, and anything from A24. I enjoy hiking and consider napping an art form. I’m an admitted coffee snob and a staunch political liberal.

I believe in honest painful self-reflection. I believe in sharing our stories, even the ugly and terrible ones, especially the ugly and terrible ones. I believe that beauty and profound truth can be found in ordinary and everyday places. I believe in being authentic and flawed and in love with humanity. I believe in grey areas.

I am a collector of quotes, perspectives, and interesting facts. I take what is useful—from the past, from religion, from schools of philosophy, from stories, from tradition, from ideologies—and leave the rest. I am a weigher of points, arguments, and ideas, and I am a talker.

Like most talkers, I guess I’m just looking for a place to shout myself out into the void and waiting for someone out there—or something inside me—to answer back. 

What I mean to say is, even though I am writing here for me first, I’m hoping that you’ll find something you need too and that we both might find a way forward. So, follow along, leave comments, say hello, and leave all the feedback you can.

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Photo by Simon Goetz on Unsplash