Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

2008: Where Hedonism and Ascetism Meet


I’ve been pondering my word for 2008. My word for 2006 was travel, and for 2007, it was beauty. However, this year I realised I needed a more spiritual word, a word that would encapsulate the things I want to achieve in my fortieth year, my goals both public and personal, and a word that would inspire me whenever I returned to it. My word – with such a lot of baggage wanting to attach to it – was eluding me, but I am glad to say I have found it. My word for 2008 is:


I am good at luxuriousness and at rewarding myself. I don’t stint when it comes to food, books or long, hot baths. I love a delicious glass of red wine and a langourous chat with a friend. I can wallow. When allowed, I can lose a day on the sofa. I am not afraid of fun, laughter or pleasure. Living in the moment, relishing the now, is not a challenge for me. I am a big fan of the here and now.

That said, I feel my inner ascetic call. Healthier eating, regular daily writing, more frequent exercise are all required to nourish my soul. Self-discipline means organizing my work better, being more up-to-date with my taxes and getting my invoices in on time, but it also means soul work. I want to be the disciple of me – allowing my self to grow and develop through more regular disciplines of daily writing, exercise and cleansing eating.

This is not just a response to the excesses of Christmas, birthday and New Year in 14 short days, but also a genuine need to tame my tendency to lavishness with a more streamlined personal approach. I want to shop less, acquire less, need less and with that spare time I want to think, write and meditate more. Also, I feel very strongly as I approach 40 that I need to include in my daily life things that are good for my soul. It is a discipline for me to remember and perform them.

Having come to this decision, it was fascinating to have read parts of a book that once belonged to my grandmother and that is now being lent to me by my mother. Joel S Goldsmith’s Infinite Way Letters 1955 is a series of meditations on leading a spiritual life. As I flicked through it before starting to read, I came across a passage noted in my grandmother’s beautiful curlicue handwriting. “V. important”, she notes. It reads:

For all the glorious Gifts of God, the great price is self-discipline. Each of us has the right to accept these Gifts in proportion to the degree to which we develop our ability to discipline ourselves. This is the price of truth!

I will probably have to meditate for some time to understand exactly what this means for me, but how apposite that my darling grandmother had this passage already marked for me, that my mother decided to send it with my brother and that in the last few days I’ve had the time to pick up the book and browse through it. Always my spiritual teacher, she has sent me a message through the years and in the pages of an old and crumbling book.

Along with this more serious bent, comes some different goals for my blog. It’s nearly two years old now, which makes it a grown-up in blog years. I gave myself serious blog fatigue in November posting every day, and now I want to swing away from that towards fewer posts of higher quality. I need to take some time away from blogging for my own writing because this is the year that I am committing to writing and submitting work. Blogging has opened my eyes and my mind to a new and fascinating world but it can also be a vortex into which I am sucked. I will be trying to discipline both my blogging and my reading of blogs into smaller and more manageable chunks of time, leaving time for creative writing, reading and thinking. However it is more than likely that I will break down, take part in memes and tease the Germans.

I have had fun reading everyone’s resolutions and goals for 2008, and I wish you all a wonderful, creative and happy year. I hope your dreams come true.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

14 thoughts on “2008: Where Hedonism and Ascetism Meet

  1. I think you’ve started off on the right track in thinking about self-discipline as nourishing for the soul, instead of as doing without or being strict. (Which of course are not wrong per se, just slightly negative in connotation. Positive thinking is a better route to success, I think.)

    I look forward to what you consider “higher quality” blog posts…since the ones over the last year have been wonderful!

  2. Good thing you choose to write fewer posts. You see, you are on my top-priority list. The more you write, the less I can read other blogs. I have had little time of late, meaning that I could keep up with only a few blogs, and I have really fallen behind with many other fine blogs (I have not visited Dorr’s in ages — please could you convince her to write less too?)

    As for self-discipline, my experience is that one should avoid trying too much at a time (like my sister-in-law does just before she fails). I was quite worried by all the rigid planning endeavours some of us posted about recently.

  3. Thank you for writing this post. It is, as always, thought provoking. In line with one of my New Year’s resolutions, I am de-lurking to say hello and to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. I initially came across it with a search for ‘life in Germany’, as I was looking to read of other people’s experiences of living here. I’ve been hooked ever since. I look forward to reading about your self disciplined 2008.

  4. Mandarine — I am tempted to write less, believe me. I’d write about it … but that would defeat the purpose, and I’ve gone on about that before. We’ll see. Charlotte — beautiful post! I love that you have a word for the year, and that you have had such a wonderful conduit for spiritual wisdom. I respect your new goals for the blog too — I’m still trying to find the right balance.

  5. Thanks, Henitserk. Yes, instead of making loads of small resolutions that I soon break, I am rather aiming for mindfulness. It’s been quite an exciting revelation to see self-discipline as a positive thing.

    Mandarine, I aim to please! Glad that my blogging goals work out for you too. As for the rigid planning endeavours, I noted them, but for myself tend to aim for a more general goal.

    Heliospheric, welcome and nice to meet you! Thank you for delurking and announcing yourself. I’m glad that’s your resolution because it means I can come back and visit you.

    Hi Dorothy, thank you. My experience has become that blogging was starting to eat into the rest of my life. It has become time to reclaim some of that for pursuits of self-discipline like regular walking, yoga, contemplation and creative writing.

  6. Charlotte,

    I love the idea of having one word. Thinking of one word that conjures up your goals is brilliant. It sounds wonderful to shop less, need less. It is so hard for me. I’m constantly saying I don’t need anything, but everytime I go out…I buy something, that apparently I don’t need.

    Good for you. I’m so excited you are turning 40 this year! I had such a great 40 and it just seems to be getting better. Wishing you all the best.

  7. Charlotte,

    I have a hard time figuring out how you could improve on your blog, but if cutting down the frequency to improve the content is the way you feel you should go, then go! Personally, I think that blog-writing month – whatever it’s called – is like an alcoholic binge, enough to drive anyone to swear off the stuff forever, or at most a little nip now and then.

    But everything in moderation, I always say – including moderation. Do lose some of that self-discipline from time to time, just to keep my rss reader happy?

    And if you are doing some published writing, why not point it out to us via your blog? Would like to see what you do in the “real world.”

  8. Charlotte – I loved reading this post! Despite the ten year difference it seems we are somewhat on the same page this year (although I’ve simply resolved to blog more about all the things I’m working on throughout the year in addition to my usual naval gazing, so probably I will be blogging more..) Anyway, this is my year to impose self-discipline on my writing and submit my work! Knowing you are out there doing the same thing is inspirational.
    Now, if only I wasn’t starting 2008 off with a horrible head cold, a torn contact lens and work drama….

  9. In thinking through my resolutions for 2008, it was a toss up at the end between take more risks (the eventual winner) and cultivate discipline. I think I went with “take more risks” because I also vowed to write and do yoga every single day (I think that takes care of the cultivating discipline part). My hope is that leading a more disciplined life will lead not to rigididy, but to a more supple, expansive and yielding soul.

  10. I like this. I’m fighting the tigers of procrastination. I’m working on scrapbooks for 4 boys that I have not started for 12 years. I have the stuff — in boxes and boxes. Today, self-discipline reared its head as I wouldn’t let myself out of the room until each box had one child’s name on it. Now for the gluing. Self-discipline is the key.

  11. Charlotte, I loved reading about your word for 2008. I like your choice and your goals. Looking forward to reading less, but more, of you this year.

  12. Mindfulness. That’s what I probably need more of this year. And definitely less consumption. I hear you about blogging – I need to seriously rethink one of my blogs and start over. Or accept that I just don’t have the bandwidth and move on.

  13. My word for 2008 is ‘courage’. I will need courage to accomplish the goals I have, take hold of the opportunities with which I am blessed, and deal with past issues that have raised their heads. In short, if I am courageous, I will have the best year of my life.

    So, thank you for putting the thought in my head.

  14. OK, let me just check – you’re SURE we aren’t sisters separated at birth?? Much of that could just as easily have appeared on my blog and been equally true. I have such a tough time with self-discipline which leads to my terrible procrastination, and I have resolved to try practising some self-disciplne this year.

    I also came back form skiing pondering why I am so happy when I ski, and boiled it down to this: simplicity. No, I don’t mean spartan. I mean simple. You don’t have to worry about what to wear – form follows function and you wear what keeps frostbite at bay, every day. There is no agony of indecision as to what to do with each day of your holiday – you get up, dress and go up the mountain so as to hurl yourself down it! Visually, it’s wonderfully uncluttered, with just the blue sky, white snow and green trees. It’s just so different to my daily life, but I’m sure that if I could simplify things at home, I’d be more at peace. Less consumption (I have gradually shopped less and less for clothes and other stuff I don’t really need, every year since I arrived here). Fewer things (ONE type of body lotion, ONE type of jam, ONE type of honey, a freezer where you can actually see open space). I know it’s an ambitious goal, but it’s one of those ones you can chip away at and achieve incrementally. And even the smallest improvement is tremendously rewarding.

    Good luck with your resolutions and, indeed, your year! Look forward to many of your excellent posts (and the novel!!)

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