'Little by Little, Day by Day'

Kam kam, ruz bih ruz. The words, in my mother's handwriting on a hot pink index card, stood out from the surrounding phone numbers, notes, and directions. The small slip was one of many tacked to our kitchen bulletin board, within arm's length of the phone attached to the wall. I saw it daily from the age of 9 or 10 until the board and its contents were downsized and eventually entirely removed from the family environs, along with the corded wall phone they accompanied.

I don't know where, exactly, Mom had come across the phrase, or when. But I do know that she was quite taken with it, because it was apparently something Abdu'l-Baha often used as a guide for how to go about completing a Herculean task. It's akin to the familiar business advice that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

That's where I see myself at the beginning of 2018. As much as I would like to be raring to go and full of excited energy, as I have been at the turn of recent years ... I'm just not. In fact, I'm battling the periodic depression that runs through half of my family. Don't be alarmed: It's not the critical, existential crisis type of mental illness that requires professional intervention. This just makes each day both too long and too short, amplifies each emotional trigger, and makes me feel as though I'm slogging through never-ending mud. I've been through it before and I'm sure I'll face it again. At least this time, I know what it is and I can fight against the urge to let it drag me down (onto the couch, with pints of Ben and Jerry's and all the sappy movies ever made).

If you're a long-term reader of the blog, then you know I don't make "resolutions" for the new year. But I do set a few goals around which I can focus my energy. Unlike the last couple of years, when I've attached hard numbers to these efforts, I'm concentrating on progress this year. After all, I need to push myself, but I also need to cut myself some slack. Little by little, day by day. 

So, here's the list I've tacked to the kitchen wall:

1. Develop and stick to a healthy routine. I'd like to say that my lack of an existing routine is due to finishing grad school earlier this year, spending three months working at an incredible pace, spending four more months on the road, and then moving into a four-walled backup plan. But the fact is, when you live by yourself for a really long time, it's easy to lose track of "good" routines because there are no external influences on your habits. Approaching each day in a measured and predictable fashion, though, redirects my focus to simple steps that show real rewards. Not only does a healthy routine keep the depression issues somewhat controlled, but it mitigates the desire to become a hermit by preventing the inevitable self-castigation and withdrawn socialization that follow more indulgent living. That's why I'll be doing my best to stick to predictable sleep, nutrition, and exercise schedules this year.

2. Find a place to call home. As much as I am happy to have a place to live right now, it's not home. My landing here serves some essential purposes, but it's a one-year, temporary solution (given the heating system and the rare cold streak this winter, that's now evident). I'd also be lying if I said I didn't fear getting stuck here; a year is a longish time and circumstances can change quickly. That possibility is really doing a number on me, right now. So to keep that feeling from winning, I'm tentatively making plans to be back out in Albuquerque this spring to investigate an actual move in detail ... complete with LLC information, real estate chats, pipe band introductions, and a round of visits to the local Baha'i communities. At the same time, though, I'll be seeking out free or low-cost events with my friends right here, because if I don't make that effort, I can go weeks without speaking to anyone except the checkers at the grocery store. And, in an effort to stay sane, I'll start planning and packing for a November move in August. If all goes well, I'll head west; and if not, I'll at least find someplace that feels a little more "me."

3. Build the business with long-term contracts. I like having a mix of projects in the hopper at any given time (I'm line-editing a book this month, among other things!). I'm also a fan of predictable cash flow. So this year, I'll be taking the practical step of making sure my moderate ongoing costs are covered every month by ongoing engagements with a few different clients. I'm nearly there already, between firming up plans with a few existing folks and reaching out to new prospects, especially during the next couple of months. To make it all work, I'll be experimenting a bit to see what sustainable schedule will let me produce the highest quality work most efficiently ... while giving me the freedom to go outside, even when my planner seems full. That should allow for plenty of less predictable work endeavors, too, built on a stable base. I'll leave the elimination of net 30 terms for another post! 

4. Prepare the book for print as best as possible. There are an awful lot of people looking out for this book and I feel very much behind. I've decided to force myself through an exercise that may seem crazy, but should get things moving. This week, I'll rework the structure (again), with the summer's trip to guide me. Through the rest of this month, I'll transcribe my interviews, thereby overcoming the inertia that set in because I'm not a very fast typist and I don't like my own voice. There's no option but to do it myself, though, because I can't use a transcription service due to sensitivities around information and sources, as well as the English spoken with a heavy Persian accent (go figure). Then, starting in February, I'll be writing five pages per day, no more, no less, until the middle of April. It can be absolutely horrible, and that's fine. I have to get the manuscript through what amounts to a security review to ensure it won't put people in Iran in danger before I can start seriously querying agents and publishers, and I can continue editing and refining during those months. So the goal is to get a rough draft into review this spring, while I turn my attention to chasing down possible agents and refining the proposal.

5. Stabilize finances and planning. Everybody has self-soothing techniques when they are sad or stressed. I, for example, try to organize every aspect of my world to perfection. That's very time-consuming. So I'm going to square away the area I revisit most. To make it work, I'll be doing my best to stick to a modest budget that allows for purchasing needs but makes me identify and delay the purchase of most wants. Sounds like fun, right? Well, fun takes different forms. In this case, I'll have a much better view of what a normal year looks like (less the fun, chaos and expense of the last two). It should let me max out my contribution to my solo health savings account in the first half of the year and fund my next move in the fall. Anything else I save can go toward filling my emergency savings and paying off a chunk of my graduate loans. All of which increases my ability to start looking forward again. 

All of this sounds very ambitious, I know. But if this year is going to be good for anything, perhaps it's advancing where I am in each of these areas. I've already got my eyes fixed on a check-in for myself at Naw-Ruz, New Year in the Baha'i calendar, which falls at the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere and involves a lot more sunlight and the promise of temperatures above freezing. 

Kam kam, ruz bih ruz. Little by little, day by day.