Monday, January 06, 2014

2014: Looking Ahead

In my previous post, I looked back over the major events of my life in 2013. Now I'd like to look ahead a bit and think about what I'd like to accomplish in the New Year 2014. It's been frequently noted (indeed, I'm sure most of us can see it in our own lives) that most "New Year's Resolutions" fail miserably. As my Facebook friend and fellow blogger William "Billy" Newton observes, based on statistical evidence, human beings tend to make grand, noble-sounding plans to "lose weight," "get in shape," "get organized," or "be a better person," but usually give up in a short time because our goals aren't specific and measurable enough. If your goal isn't specific enough to be measured, how will you know when you've reached it? If you don't know when you've reached your goal, what will motivate you to keep pressing on until you've achieved it?

I myself am notorious for making grand plans, announcing a course of action, and then failing to follow through, usually when I realize it's going to take more work than I figured to reach my goal. Yet at the same time I've been thinking about how the New Year does gives us an opportunity to take stock, start over again with a clean slate, and maybe, just maybe, do things a little differently, and a little better than we did in the past. I'm especially conscious of this, having recently relocated to a new city and a new and better living situation than I've had for many years. I'd like to set out some goals (I hesitate to call them "resolutions" because somehow that seems more formal, grand, and ominous) that I'd like to achieve in the new year. In setting them down here, I realize I'm committing myself to something. I may look back on this post in a year and realize I've failed miserably and embarrassed myself, but on the other hand, writing these goals down and posting them in public may just shame me into keeping them. Here goes.

I have three broad areas of interest in my life right now: broadening and deepening my Catholic faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ; resuming and continuing my genealogical and family history research; and resuming and continuing my creative writing. I have specific goals I'd like to achieve in each of these areas.

As far as my Catholic faith is concerned, I would like to continue attending the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the Traditional Latin Mass) and learn more about the spirituality behind it until I am as comfortable and familiar with the Traditional or Extraordinary Form as I am with the vernacular or Ordinary Form. I would like to go through the entire calendar year (from this past June when I started to going to EF Masses until next June) and through the entire liturgical year (from Advent to Advent) with the Extraordinary Form. I've said on Facebook that somebody needs to write The Extraordinary Form for Dummies or something like it, and lately, I've even begun to entertain the preposterous idea that I could be that somebody. I would know when the book would reach its intended audience of dummies because I would be the Chief Dummy. I'm not a theologian, liturgist, priest, or religious; I'm just a poor, dumb schmuck in the pews, trying to get to heaven like everybody else. If the book made sense and was helpful to me, maybe it would make sense and be helpful to other people. I've begun making notes and doing preliminary research. I will aim to have a first draft ready by this time next year.

I would also like to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but this may be too ambitious if I am also writing and doing research. I purchased a breviary and The Divine Office for Dodos by Madeline Pecora Nugent, a guide for learning the Divine Office, by several years ago, but found both the learning process and the guidebook more difficult than expected. Nugent tries so hard to make her writing style cheerful and encouraging that it actually backfires and comes across as annoyingly chirpy and a bit condescending, cheering the reader on as if he is a slightly dimwitted child. Daria Sockey's book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, has been recommended to me, and I'd like to try it. I will purchase the book this week and see how far I can get with praying the Hours by this time next year.

As far as my genealogical research is concerned, my research has been stalled for over a year and I'd really like to change that. I've been able to establish that my great-great grandfather James E. Leslie (1823-1875) was born in Iredell County, NC,  moved to Lowndes County, AL some time before 1850, set up a blacksmith business, and served in a Confederate cavalry regiment as a blacksmith during the Civil War. However, I don't know where in Iredell County he was born, who his parents were, and when or why he moved to Alabama. I sent e-mail and made a phone call to the Genealogical Society of Iredell County but received no reply whatsoever. I will make contact with the GSIC by the end of this month, and if that fails, I will see what I can find through other channels including the Iredell County Courthouse and the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

Finally, as far as my creative writing goes, I have no fewer than three unfinished superhero origin stories (which sometimes feel like three versions of the same story) on my hard drive waiting to be completed. My interest in the superhero concept has waxed and waned periodically over the years since I first discovered the HeroMachine website and software, but I'm still intrigued by these characters I've created with it, and it's always bothered me that I haven't yet been able to finish their stories. Maybe this is the year. I will have a completed draft of at least one origin story ready by this time next year.

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