I love New Year's Resolutions: I love thinking about them, writing journal entries about them, and finally writing them down somewhere I will be able to find them. In the past I have kept my resolutions in a folder -- then, each year, I could review the last year's resolutions as I thought about resolutions for the new year. Now I find it easier to write my resolutions in my journal; I work through my list in the journal pages, then I write the year's resolutions on the inside cover, where I will see them frequently. Last year I resolved to "practice mindfulness meditation"; write every day, and to "read the classics." The first resolution I barely kept. I did practice meditation, but not mindfully. Then I visited my 76-year-old mother, and found that she was practicing daily meditation with the aid of a CD. Why didn't I think of that? So simple.
My introduction to mindfulness meditation came from a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn called Full Catastrophe Living. This is a book that I pick up and put down. I am working my way through the book, but it isn't like a novel that I will pick up and read straight through to the end. Kabat-Zinn also has a very good audio CD called Mindfulness Meditation that I recommend for anyone who wants to begin a serious daily practice of meditation. But what if you are like me, not fully committed, and you want something a little less full-throttle. I like the CD my mother uses, Color Meditation: Align Your Chakras by Margaret Ann Lembo. This CD is very non-intimidating. There is a certain home-made feel to it, as if the author might have made it in her living room. And, I should note, that I don't have any particular belief in chakras, don't know what chakras are or do....and yet I find the CD soothing, and find myself calmer when I listen to it on a regular basis.
Writing every day has been easy. I write in my journal, I write on facebook, I write shopping lists, I write poetry. As far as I'm concerned, it all counts. And here's the thing: as soon as I begin letting the words flow out of my pen, I can feel my blood pressure lower, I can feel a calm envelope me.
Reading the classics wasn't really a stretch either. I love classic literature, and defining classic literature could open an argument if anyone were actually reading this blog--but I will talk to myself about that on another day. In my opinion, I did read classics, although I also read instructional literature, genre fiction, and other types of books.
I am still working on my resolutions for 2010, but I know one of them will be to read more Trollope. I can't believe I didn't read a single book by Trollope in 2009. In 2008 I read several titles by Trollope, and I thought I was well on my way to my life's ambition to read every novel Trollope ever wrote. Originally I meant to read the novels in the order in which they were written, but that is just a little too obsessive.
What is it exactly that is so very enchanting about Trollope? First of all, there is the prodigious quantity of novels Trollope wrote. This would be impressive no matter what, but when you realize that Trollope was fully employed by the British postal service, and that he wrote his novels in the mornings before work, his output is awe-inspiring. But it is not just the quantity of his work that is impressive, but also the fully imagined worlds he created. In the Barsetshire novels, Trollope creates a world of the church, the clergy, and village life. In his political novels, Trollope indulges his fascination with the machinery and processes of politics, as well as the interaction between the political sphere and the spheres of aristocracy, money, and power.
So far I have read the following novels by Anthony Trollope (1815-1882):
The Small House at Allington
Can You Forgive Her?
The Last Chronicle of Barset
The Eustace Diamonds
I have already read the first three novels in the Palliser series (Can You Forgive Her; Phineas Finn; The Eustace Diamonds), and there are just six in the series, so it makes sense for me to read Phineas Redux next, and then The Prime Minister and The Duke's Children. One of the continuing pleasures of the Palliser novels is that the characters recur, and the more deeply knowledgeable the reader is of the characters, their pasts, and the way those pasts intertwine, the deeper the enjoyment of the novels.
So as the year ends and a new one begins, I will have Trollope at my side, and will begin 2010 with Phineas Redux