Monday, January 23, 2012

Goals, Good and Bad


I read on NPR today that the Republicans have stated as their number one goal for the new term to defeat Barack Obama at every turn. I get that politics is a game, that the people playing it are just looking for votes, and that ideology has run amok in our country, but still, this just struck me as wrong. Perhaps I'm being naive here, but I thought that the number one goal for any legislator would be to serve the constituents. I'm not Barack Obama's biggest fan (though I do like his Al Green imitation), but working to block everything he might try to get done sounds like the wrong goal to have.

At least it prompted me to think about goals and the things that I work toward.

Yesterday, I wrote about how I blew a 104-day streak of writing on the site 750words.com. (Go there now, set up an account, and get your own streak going. No, stop reading and do it now. I'm not kidding.) I wrote it first thing in the morning, shortly after waking up and realizing that I had forgotten to write my entry the night before. Reading it back, I see that it really was a whine-fest and that it's no wonder people chimed in to say that I should keep going, pick it up where I left off, screw the streak, and so on.

It was awfully nice to have so many people writing so many encouraging things to me. One friend wrote the following question: "Did you expect to write 750 words every day for the rest of your life?" The answer, truth to tell, is that I did believe that. Talk about naive. Today, my goal is a bit different.

I still want to build up a streak of writing 750 words, that's the kind of gameplay that 750words.com encourages and I enjoy. This time around I am ready to go over 104 days straight. It would be fun to hit 365 days. Or 500. Or 1000. But it won't really be that much fun. It will be cool about as long as turning over another 100,000 on the odometer is in the car. Then there's the 100,001st mile to drive and the 100,002nd and so on.

In other words, the streak is fun and putting up a number is neat and peachy-keen, but the thrill wears off pretty quickly.

What hasn't worn off is that there are people actually reading this thing. That's a shocking thought and it's the second most important thing for me to keep in mind. I am writing for others, trying to engage them, trying to intrigue them. And so far, I'm having some success. Like a dieter, I'm stepping on the scale each day and seeing some good numbers.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that I'm getting better at writing and I'm writing more. These little essays that I post on the blog are factoring into how I write poetry, how I teach, how I speak, and (most important) how I think and feel. This writing is making me a better person and taking one day off (by accident) doesn't derail that.

Cool.

Let me see if I can connect this with the Republicans in the House of Representatives and their leader John Boehner. When he was first elected Speaker, all the stories were about how he cried and sobbed over things. I'll admit that I was in on it too. I was shocked by it, troubled by it, and I kept thinking, "If this guy was a Democrat, the Republicans would be savaging him." If I had been in Congress, I can easily see how my goal would have been something along the lines of "let's make sure this guy cries all the time." Yeah, real mature.

I'm a ways away from that because of this writing (and regular visits to my therapist) and it seems to me that the goal shouldn't be to defeat John Boehner so much as to change the nature of politics. I feel like that's what Obama went in thinking he could do. He hasn't been able to do it and that's disappointing. But the goal remains: change the nature of politics in this country.

I'm changing some of my goals too. It's not really about a streak of daily writings. It's not about losing a certain number of pounds on the scale. The goal is to be present throughout the day. I'll have a lot more to say about that and ways that I hope to achieve it as we go forward with this new streak of writings. I really would like to hear what other people are doing to make their world better and, in the process, change the world for the rest of us.

What do I do. Well, I just write on.