I am not exactly a model of discipline or moderation or even a consistent laundry schedule, so the standard ‘Time To Make A Resolution’ does not hold a lot of appeal. It’s just not realistic. For starters, making resolutions involves making a list, and then keeping resolutions involves finding the damn list after immediately misplacing it, so we can all agree this is a system that is riddled with opportunities for failure. Besides, when focusing on my shortcomings, mere resolutions don’t begin to address what needs addressing. I need the kind of motivation that involves someone blowing a whistle in my face at 5AM and calling me a maggot. I am absolutely not going to let anyone do that, because anyone who does that is getting punched, and that judge told me the next time I punch someone I “risk incarceration”. I need solutions that don’t involve having to locate lost objects or put innocent drill sergeants in harm’s way.
I really do dream of getting my shit together, though, and what with resolutions being boring and/or violent, I need alternative inspiration avenues. When it comes time to make life improvements, it’s a better idea to look around to find people who are good at life. Why reinvent the wheel when you can mimic the best? I want iconic trendsetters, people who know how to get it done with style and panache. Like all my problems, I am solving this with books, and with those criteria, it was pretty easy to come up with a short list of candidates and choose my life coaches. Noël Coward and Shonda Rhimes, congratulations. You can start immediately.
You: two feels like overkill
Me: one to coach me
Me: and one to look for my lost resolutions list
Noël Coward (1899-1973) was a brilliant playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, and cabaret performer. You know, because well-rounded. His sly wit and deft wordplay largely defined British theater in the period between the world wars. Blithe Spirit, Hay Fever, Design For Living-Coward’s plays are about grownups doing provocative things. In his personal life, Coward was was an enthusiastic and prolific letter writer and The Letters Of Noël Coward, edited by Barry Day, captures Coward’s correspondence in all its intimate, bitchy, blisteringly smart style. His letters are endlessly entertaining, gossipy, and loaded with Coward’s razor-sharp humor, and they give the impression that Coward was always on his way from having a great time on his way to have another great time. In fact, he is such a good salesman that after reading this book I have a longing to be British in the 1920s. As a runner up, I would take being British in the 1890s too, but I would not want to be British in the 1980s because my hair never would have done that Princess-Diana-Simon-LeBon bang swoop that was so critical to social success.
Me: I would like to be British
Me: I can pronounce Worchestershire sauce
England: Anything else?
Me: I’ve been drunk at Heathrow
Shonda Rhimes creates, writes, and produces some of the most compelling television you’re probably watching. Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Private Practice—at some point listing all her shows out loud in one sentence became too exhausting for everyone so now her creative genius is collectively referred to as ShondaLand. In the middle of kicking ass all over Thursday night network TV, she published Year of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person (2015). Wildly successful in her writing and show development, Rhimes found herself retreating by inches to hide behind her work, essentially disappearing from her own life. Year of Yes describes her epiphany about her invisibility and recounts how she methodically overcomes her inhibitions. Using the word yes as her password, she completely renegotiates how she interacts with the world. The book’s rapid-fire, staccato style captures Rhimes’ joy as she opens up and finds her place in the sun. I want to be Rhimesish almost as much as I want to be British.
Me: I would like to be Rhimesish
Me: I know how to spell anatomy
ShondaLand: Anything else?
Me: my favorite color is grey
When I get right down to it, I have gravity problems. That’s right-my issues are scientific. I will dig a rut, fall into it, and whine myself into a state of slug-izontal. Random resolutions don’t have enough in the tractor beam to break me out of my self-induced inertia. My big ideas begin with figuring out how I can sleep late and end with figuring out how I can justify cheese fries for lunch. Giving myself a pep talk doesn’t get results because I can easily buy myself off with more cheese fries. What really fires my rockets? Cadging someone else’s gumption. It’s ultimately a question of perspective. Imagining trying to justify my slothy ass to Team Coward-Rhimes, cheese fries suddenly lose their luster.
Cheese fries: was it something I said
Me: it’s not you, it’s me
Cheese fries: I can add chili
Me: I hope we can be friends
My favorite Noël Coward play is Private Lives (1930). Private Lives is a comedy of manners about Amanda Prynne and Elyot Chase, a divorced couple married to new people and struggling with infidelity. Well, the kind of infidelity that occurs when you find yourself on your honeymoon with your new spouse in a suite next door to your old spouse who is with HIS new spouse and then you realize you really still want your old spouse so you ditch the new spouses and pull a spouseappearing act. The characters are British hot messes who suffer through their collective crises impeccably dressed and with perfect comic timing. Amanda Prynne knows there will be fallout when she re-elopes with her first hushand on her second honeymoon, but she’s going for it. Shonda Rhimes chronicles the same philosophy (non-fiction version with 100% fewer extra spouses) in Year of Yes. You don’t get an option to stop the clock, so you might as well get off the couch, fling on a classy outfit and enjoy the ride. OOOOH and speak in a British accent while you are at it.
Me: just a little one?
England: accent appropriation not approved
Me: English alliteration is excellent
I’m not making a list of resolutions, but I am resolute. I’ll try new stuff and try to be better at my old stuff, and when I need a good shove I’ll look to my Dream Role Model Team. I’ll read Noel Coward’s letters detailing how he worked as a British intelligence agent during WWII. (Yeah—in addition to all the other stuff, he took up intelligence work. WELL-ROUNDED). When I’m working up my nerve to do something that’s a little scary, I’ll conjure my best Shonda Rhimes-making-a-speech attitude, and suddenly I’ll start tossing my hair and screaming ‘BRING IT ON’. It’s not that I want to be my role models–I just need to borrow their brilliance every once in while. I promise to return it in original pristine condition.