Happy New Year - the Julia Calendar

I start my year on my birthday. The Julia Calendar is far more reasonable than the Julian. It’s silly to try to start some brand new habit on January 1st. We’ve all been in the national orgy of holidays and celebrations and travel and general unrest. My birthday, today, is close enough to the beginning of the year to still feel new, clear, with a bite of winter.

I had random ideas for this past year, but I couldn’t have planned it. In fact, I didn’t. I tried. I kept coming up with The Plan and then changing it. What happened this year wasn’t so much about what I did or where I went, but about taking the time to just be. I can’t explain easily what that did for me, but I can tell you the resolutions it gave me for the new year.

New Year’s Resolutions

  • Keep writing. I finished a novel this year. I started another one. I’ve got a third brewing in my brain. Ideas for a fifth and a sixth….
  • Keep interviewing people. I love talking to them about their lives, their work, their dreams. Yes, please.
  • Keep traveling. I must return to Edinburgh. Period. Other places too. And not “some day.” Soon.
  • Keep being curious. About life, about myself.
  • Keep being passionate about what I love, no matter how random. Color. "That’s not even a thing," you say. It is. It is.
  • Keep giving myself space to be the person I am.

It’s been an enlightening year. A year ago, the Monday after my last birthday, I resigned from my job to take a year-long sabbatical. I’d decided that one day wasn’t enough to celebrate a half century.

This whole year has been a celebration of this birthday. The sabbatical has ended, but The Bliss Tour continues.

Getting Here

Traveling to the future is time consuming, although relatively easy. It didn’t require me to dematerialize or enter a space time continuum. There was driving, then waiting, then flying, then waiting, then flying again, then a relatively short cab ride. If seems like it was almost as much waiting as traveling. I left Ft. Pierce, Florida, my hometown at 4:00pm and I got to the flat at about 17:30 local time (look at me! I’m British!).

My first faux pas as an American traveling abroad was trying to exchange dollars for pounds at the Dublin airport. The nice lady informed me that I should wait until I got to the UK to do that so I wouldn’t get charged a double fee, because she’d have to exchange the dollars into to Euros, and then into pounds. “Aren’t we in the UK?” I inquired.

“No,” she said with a hint of fierceness in her voice (I think, I couldn’t really tell because of the accent), she declared. “We are not in the UK. This is Ireland.”

Ireland, I'm doing it for you.

Ireland, I'm doing it for you.

“Oh. Ok,” I said. I was sleep deprived, brain addled, I was still confused and not yet embarrassed. Also, I am American. About 10 minutes later, sitting, trying to connect to the airport’s wifi, I threw my head back and said out loud “European Union” like it was the answer to a trivia question. I had a 5 hour layover in the Dublin airport, so I waited until that nice lady went on break and exchanged a few dollars for the Euros I needed to buy lunch.

As penance, I ordered the Full Irish Breakfast: bacon and sausage, black and white puddings, potato and wheat toasts, and eggs. Apparently this is a thing. I’m not sure why the redundancy in each category is needed, but I tasted everything. The only thing I’d never heard of was the white pudding. I know black pudding is a blood sausage. I have no idea what’s in white pudding. And I’m not looking it up.

After another flight, I landed in Edinburgh, Scotland which is indeed a part of the UK (really, they just voted on it). I had expected it to be cold and rainy, but as I exited the airport I had to shed my wool sweater and dig out my shades from my bag. My cab driver took vacations roadtripping in the US. She'd been to Orlando and Vegas, Austin and even to Abilene, TX to see a band. That must have been a really good band.


She dropped me off at the flat right on the beach. I had no idea Edinburgh had a beach, but there it is right outside my window. In fact, I hadn’t realized it until I booked this place less than 10 days ago. I'd waited until the last minute and was in a panic looking for a place to stay in Edinburgh. Then I saw this place with its beach views.

Sometimes procrastination is good.

Less Is More. Maybe...

Holy shit I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff! "Stuff" seems vague. Like it might not be important. I’ll be more specific. I’ve let go of about 90% of my kitchen. Maybe more. And I had a significant kitchen. Tools, appliances, pots, pans, dishes, etc. Everything for cooking, baking, entertaining. I don’t feel bad about it. Some of the things I hadn’t used in years. Some I never used more than once a year, if that. Some I used every day.

Other pieces that survived the move from the house, didn’t survive this. My couch that was an awesome daybed, still looked fresh after 7 years as I gave it away; my Big Comfy Chair (the BCC) as I called it from the moment I got it when I lived in Brooklyn; the TV; the bookcases, the desks, etc.

The movers haven't come and gone. This is all that's left.

The movers haven't come and gone. This is all that's left.

Gone. Sold, given to friends, donated to Goodwill (seriously if you want cool/good kitchen stuff, you might want to swing by the Goodwill at Lamar and 2222 soon). I still have the dinner table I’m using it to write on right now. But as I type, three people are asking for it. It won’t stay long.

Last but not least my beloved washer and dryer. Of all the things I’m letting go of, I’m most traumatized by that. When I moved to Austin, for the first time I had my own private washer and dryer, no coins required. It was a glorious thing, to do laundry at any time, in my own space, instead of down in a basement or blocks away. I will miss my washer and dryer and I already dream of their replacement.

I’m not sure I’ll miss other things though. We Americans shop constantly but we don’t get rid of anything, so then we get bigger and bigger houses and fill them up to the point that a 2000 square foot house is too small for two people. I’m not sure if I’m a budding minimalist, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to re-purchase the popover pan. I could be wrong. At some point in the future, I could get an violent desire to make popovers. But right now, I’m doubting that.

But I have to admit, I feel as if I’m regressing a bit. I went from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house to a 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment. I had no idea how much I would need to scale down. Even after I moved I sold more stuff and donated a couple of carloads of stuff. Now I could easily fit into a small studio, but could I function? I don’t have a pot to boil an egg in. How would this work?

I’m excited to see what my taste is like now as opposed to 15 or 20 years ago. What draws my eye? I moved to Austin with a bed, a table, my BCC, and 30 boxes, probably a third of which were filled with books. I have two boxes of books now. That’s it. I’m leaving Austin (permanently? temporarily? still don’t know) with less. But I’m thinking less is more. Maybe...

P.S. The dinner table is gone.


The feeling that I’m going to “waste” this sabbatical year keeps nagging me. What is this year about? Do I want to take an epic road trip (no, see: Marfa posts)? Do I want to go someplace and stay for a few months (see: original idea and still a contender, aka the Eat Pray Love model)? Do I want to stay in Austin the whole time writing? Or some combination? The year might be over before I make a decision.

I am not, usually, a ‘strike while the iron is hot’ kind of person. I’m more of a ‘hot iron is really dangerous, why don’t I let it cool off’ kind of person. I have an idea. It flames bright, lights up my imagination, and then I think about it. And think about it. Then I think about it some more. I cool the idea down with all its imperfections, then once the it's cold, I let it go. Sometimes this takes seconds. Sometimes it takes years.

I shocked myself by selling my house. I freaking quit my job. And for the first time I actually managed to escape cube life. That’s huge. HUGE.

This is where my anxiety about “wasting” the year seeps in thought. This year has never been about writing, traveling, learning new things, whatever else is on my long list, although those are all important. This year has always been about trying to escape cube life, permanently.

Whenever I think of escape, I always remember Mr. Day, my Greek professor at Vassar. He taught us the pluperfect tense by using the word “escape.” I don’t know the Greek word for "escape," but I remember his explanation. “If you escaped from prison,” he said, “and you were caught, you didn’t really escape. You attempted to escape. You tried to escape. To truly signify that someone 'escaped' – that she escaped and was never caught – you have to use the pluperfect. ‘She made good her escape’.”

I need to strike while the iron is hot, make good my escape.

The House

A year ago I sold my house.

I loved that house. It was happiness in house form, bright yellow, a big smiley face of a house. It was the house from which Sunny D emerged, filled with possibilities and sunshine. It was everything I could want in a house.

The House

The House

The anniversary passed without my noticing it.

Like any house, my house was an anchor, a leash that said “stay”. Stay where you are, same job, same life, a leash that would only let me stray so far before maintenance and repairs and home improvement projects pulled me back.

I had that familiar itch to do something else, go somewhere else, be something else. It was an itch I’d felt before, a seven-year itch for life itself, whether you’re married or not.

I knew I was making a sacrifice. I was giving up something I loved in hopes of getting something I could, would love even more. The sacrifice didn’t hit me until I’d closed. Until the shock of moving from a 3-bedroom, 2-bath, huge-gorgeous-kitchen-house to a 1-bedroom, 1-bath apartment in a large complex. I hated it. Like hate hate.

The Green Kitchen

The Green Kitchen

I’d made a huge mistake. I was bitter, I was angry. When I heard the first thumps and bumps and strains of other people’s music coming into my apartment, when I realized there were only two drawers in the kitchen that took up half the living space.

I hated circling the street level parking, packed after work with the cars of those who wanted to park near their own apartments too. And when I had to give up, dear god, when I had to give up and park in the garage - a solid two minute walk from my apartment - I felt a bitterness I previously only held for cube life itself.

The Yoga/Craft Room

The Yoga/Craft Room

God, I loved that house.

I craved my house at every moment of learning this new space. And then I didn’t. I can’t remember when I started to forget what it was like to walk in the front door, put down my bag, walk up the stairs. The airiness of it, the openness of it. I rarely think about it now. I do miss having a house, but I don’t miss that house.

Selling that house was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. Selling it allowed me to take this sabbatical, The Bliss Tour. Now I have to make good my escape, stay off the leash.

Sabbatical-Day 36: Longer Than I Thought

I gave myself permission to accomplish absolutely nothing the first week after my last day of work . I realized I needed a “detox” from cube life. I read and watched TV and met up with friends. That’s it. That turned into two weeks. And then… well let’s just say that I’ve underestimated how long detoxing would take.

There was a week of being sick in there (it was either some sort of sore throat/coughing virus or allergies. It is Austin, so I’m leaning heavily toward allergies). Then the third week, I started writing again. Fiction, not blog posts. Obvs.

When I said I was giving myself permission to do nothing. I really meant nothing. But I’m cutting myself some slack. Not beating myself up. Doing a little self-compassion. So the “tour” part of the Bliss Tour hasn’t begun; it’ll start soon. Really, it will start soon. There’s only so much nothing I can do. I’ve only got a year here.

But I cannot tell you how much… fun – yes that’s the word – it’s been to do basically nothing but sit around reading, doing errands when it’s not crowded, kidnapping friends from work, going to crossfit a couple of times of week, and watching TV!

There’s a certain bliss in just doing nothing after decades of working. That’s what vacations sitting on the beach sipping silly drinks are all about. Detox. De-stress. De… -work? Yeah. I’m going to go with that. De-work.

When I said I was giving myself permission to do nothing. I really meant nothing. But I’m cutting myself some slack. Not beating myself up. Doing a little self-compassion. So the “tour” part of the Bliss Tour hasn’t begun; it’ll start soon. Really, it will start soon. There’s only so much nothing I can do. I’ve only got a year here.

A Flurry at the End

For most of the day, Sabbatical Day 2 was much like Day 1 in that I did nothing. But then, a flurry of activity at the end of the day: crossfit (I am not good at it, although... I did 50 push ups. No not on my toes, but still, 50 freaking pushups! I won't be able to move my arms by the end of the day), and the Austin RWA meeting (really inspiring - Julia London talked about what she's learned in her almost 20 year career as a writer). Then I stayed up until 3am reading (so good!).

I realized this morning - Sabbatical Day 3 - that I've been afraid (is that the right word?) to sit at my desk at home. To sit there and write or do anything really. Too much like work, sitting at a desk? I've been doing everything on my laptop on the couch. Which is right next to the desk. But I sat here and wrote this. Then I went for a walk, in a park, in the middle of the day, on a weekday.