Why I’ve Become a “Now Person”

I’ve never done well with New Year’s resolutions. Like everyone else, they’re trash and I think about doing them for ten minutes and then I find something else to do (literally anything else — the gym membership never gets cancelled before June at the earliest). You must understand: I desperately want to be that woman, the kind of person who posts dramatic before-and-after shots on muscled Reddit forums; someone disciplined in a way that is useful and important. I aspire to bullet journal, okay? I want to wash my sheets every week and recaulk the windows in my house and remember to buy milk. I think of myself as the kind of woman who, if only I were better organized or had less ADHD, could really make a difference in everything I do. I am a writer by trade: my book is due to the publisher soon and I am writing this piece as a kind of productive procrastination. But I am done with future resolutions.

Recently, we lost a member of our extended family unexpectedly. She was there, and then she wasn’t. Now she is gone, and we are trying to figure out what to do next. We thought we had more time with her. Suddenly, inexplicably, I have become a now person. I want to do everything I need to do right away; I am not about to wait ten minutes to complete a task. I used to walk by the garbage three or four or twelve times before thinking, hmm, I should probably take that out. No more. Now I walk past it, see what I need to do, put on my shoes, and march it out to the receptacle on the side of our apartment building. Need to buy a stamp? Off I truck to the Post Office. Maybe it feels wrong or weird to think about mortality in this way, but there is something about losing a member of your extended family to make you think, huh, maybe I should sign up for e-billing just in case I pass away too.

Becoming a doer helps stem our grief. We miss her. We still don’t fully understand the details of what happened, and will likely never really know. But we are grateful that all her doctor’s appointments and other obligations were taped up inside one of her kitchen cabinets. That it was easy to find everything because it was clearly labeled. We didn’t waste a lot of time pawing through things unnecessarily. Everything was organized and enabled everyone to find what they needed in what was otherwise a time of absolute crisis. That’s a hard final gift to give someone, but she gave it to all of us.

So we just do what we can. You may not be able to stem the tide of the many, many problems in the U.S. by yourself, and the midterm elections have already passed, and every day there is another disaster: either political, climate, or otherwise, but you can probably mail something you’ve been holding on to for the last three weeks. Think of it as Do 1 Thing, but every day, all the time, for the rest of your life. Make all your resolutions immediate. Maybe you just want to resolve to make more coffee at home. Make coffee now. Maybe you need to organize your personal affairs. Maybe you need a will. LegalZoom does them if you are form- and attorney-adverse, as we are. Maybe your resolution involves political activism. Maybe you are not the phone banking type. That’s okay. Find another way to get involved. Me? I’m finishing my book. It’s about the American healthcare system and the way we have both treated and failed patients. I was a longtime patient of medicine, and I became a practitioner of medicine, of sorts, as I went through EMT training and ultimately got a job at a busy level II trauma center near Chicago. As an EMT, we saw everyone on the worst day of their lives. Nearly everything was urgent. That’s usually not the case in the rest of your life, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t complete tasks quickly anyway. Sometimes a change in perspective is all you need.

For me, it was our unexpected loss. We miss her. Everything feels urgent and important. Resolve to do something — anything — immediately. Having spent the last few weeks looking through her personal effects, hoping to find what is needed to complete various tasks, I can say it doesn’t pay to wait to organize this stuff. Make sure you have a will. Make sure you have explained what you want to happen when you die. Is your 401(k) beneficiary your ex or your deadbeat brother? Change it now. Don’t think about any of these tasks too much (that’s always my problem). Try just doing instead. You might surprise yourself.

Emily Maloney sometimes writes anonymously and loves The Billfold, but her work has also appeared in Glamour, The Atlantic, Best American Essays, and elsewhere. Her first book, COST OF LIVING, is forthcoming from Flatiron Books.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash.

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