This year, again, I’m trying to reset my priorities, to think about how I can achieve my goals by setting aside the time to do what matters: writing without neglecting the children. That’s a big and continuing challenge.

In graduate school, two of my very best friends and I went to New Orleans and got obsessed with Mardi Gras beads. We all noticed the pleasure we took in the pretty little things and, in them, we saw some parallels to the intense detailed work we were doing on our dissertations. My friends have gone on to storied careers and academe.

As for me, I’m doing fine, but I still think that little beads are a good metaphor for my magpie mind.

So, as I think about resetting my priorities, I can see all these little beads and seeds, scattered through my life, randomly, with more hope and enthusiasm than actual forethought. I have sewn so many seeds, scattered so many beads, promised so many small pieces of writing, set in motion so many arguments, so many relationships, so many promises, that when they come back to me, I am sometimes surprised to see them.

Sometimes, I step on a bead and it hurts like that last tiny Lego, invisible on the patterned carpet.

Sometimes, for days (no great housekeeper I), I notice the bead’s presence without ever actually thinking about it, without ever really letting it enter my mind in a way that would let me nourish it into growth. Then, it’s like the little toy or barrette, forgotten in some forlorn corner of the apartment, a tiny gamepiece that I notice for days without ever being able to muster the focus to pick up and take to the toy chest because to put it away properly just feels too hard and to throw it into the dark chaos of the toy chest feels like a worse kind of giving up.

Sometimes, after weeks or months of real forgetfulness, I turn to find that the little seed has grown up like one of the more primitive and terrifying weeds in our backyard, sprung up overnight, leafy, rangy, wild and demanding: the deadline was a week ago, the email says, can you deliver? A shudder goes through me and gradually, with a hollow and panicked feeling, I remember that yes, I did promise to write that review, send in that recommendation, apply for that grant, organize that meeting.

So, what to do?

Well, here is the current plan: I’m good at exercising 3 days a week. What if I got up at the same time on the other two and spent that time writing? It worked yesterday. That’s one.

I’ll let you know how it goes.