Week 4: Little Goals

Honestly, I know this might sound dramatic, but this week’s prompt made me tear up a little. Bad feelings came flooding in: overwhelm, fear, powerlessness. Ahh.

            I am afraid to set bold goals that I cannot keep. I am afraid to set too many goals and get buried alive – I’ve done that so many times. I am afraid of the things I want that lie outside my control. The pandemic only exacerbates these fears.

            In the spirit of the Little Way, then, I am setting little goals. I have spent much of my life focused on big goals, but I don’t think that this is the time for me to set big goals about the course of my life. Like it or not, I feel like I’m in a holding pattern. Maybe I’m surrendering to the holding pattern, but I think there are real reasons for me to take this slowly. A dream about building community feels scary in the best of times, and we are not living in the best of times. These are interior goals, trying to both care for myself and develop the habits that will facilitate the cultivation of my dream in the long-term.

  • Be present and patient with my family and friends. Concretely, this means responding to people who reach out to me, not arguing with my parents, not complaining about my cousin’s bad habits (or my sister’s bad habits, or my grandmother’s bad habits…). Practice charity at home. It’s so often easier for me to practice charity among strangers than it is to do so here.
  • Reduce tech time, which leaves me drained and distracted. (This will be easier when I finish binge-watching my current TV show and DON’T start another one.) This also means avoiding “rabbit hole” websites like youtube.
  • Get up at 8 am daily. Re-establish routines like wake-up times, bedtime, eating breakfast, scheduled CTA work hours. 
  • Write: journal daily. Cultivate creative habits and energies by brainstorming and drafting the pieces that have been floating around in my head. Set aside an hour each day as writing time: pick a block and stick to it. Submit a few things for publication from the list that I keep. Continue to examine my relationship with writing.
  •  VT Catholic Worker history research. This project has fallen to the wayside because I wasn’t able to get material from the Rutland Historical Society, but explore other avenues… can I get anything remotely from Marquette archives?
  • Learn about other CW communities beyond NY – book list, new contacts.
  • Who to work with/talk to/dream with:  Martha, Zach, maybe Rick. This list feels too short. I have so many dear friends, but many of them won’t understand or relate to my dreams and fears for one reason or another.
  • But also (re)invest in relationships with people who matter to me. Try for one phone call per week, respond to texts and such within a few days.
  • Evaluate at least once a month: does it still make sense for me to stay at home? What are my options? Keep my eyes peeled for employment opportunities, but don’t stress too much about this right now. I am in a stable place and don’t need to rush into anything.
  • Get my St. Francis statue for the backyard shrine
  • Cross-stitch! Photo of the project I made this week: a medieval herb garden bookmark, a kit that my mom brought back from Westminster Abbey a few years ago. I include it because it’s emblematic of the slowness and smallness that I name here.  

I’m really not sure why, but this exercise made me emotional. My goals feel simultaneously impossibly overambitious and pathetically small potatoes… such a distance between my dream post and my goal post! I don’t know if I’m refusing to dream big or if I’m being realistically minimal in my expectations.

7 thoughts on “Week 4: Little Goals

  1. Abby, I want to respond more fully to this, but know that since I am physically in Milwaukee and may have access to the MU archives as an alum, and am geographically close, I may be able to assist.


  2. Abby, I think small goals are great, but it feels like you have too many of them. I’d find all of them taken together kinda daunting. Maybe cut your list in half.

  3. Abby, It sounds like you have done a lot of reflecting since last week and seem to be in a much better place. I, too, think you should pick a few goals that seem the most important and concentrate on them. How do you think you might determine what are the most important? I know that I find that hard to do.

  4. My kid’s preschool has this quote when you walk in:
    “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives”

    I see you rediscovering and reclaiming how you want to spend your days, trusting that the bigger dreams can emerge from within that daily commitment: loving those right around you, praying, writing, building structure for your creative life, avoiding distractions.

    It’s the hardest work. SO HARD. There are so many temptations — away from those right in front of us, away from the work we are most positioned to actually do.

    I’m excited to see what fruit can come from this commitment to a daily presence to your own life. What work in CTA? What seeds continue growing in hopes for CW-community.

    PS – be sure to connect with Sheila McCarthy. She’s been quiet in this workshop, but is a lifelong Catholic Worker and might be a welcome part of your growing circle for dreaming & talking.

  5. No pathetic here. You got this. Sometimes we do have to scaleback but thats not a blow to who we are, its part of the journey. Keep cross stiching…my beloved finds knitting meditative, perhaps see what thoughts come to you as you cross stich.

    One of the things I have found helpful in my dreaming and scheming is thinking outside of the box of folks I can engage. I hear you about the challenge of folks not understanding (having to explain ministry and an MDiv and being a queer person of faith and all the things is tiring). Its been helpful to seek voices outside of the usual suspects, I am here if you ever want to scheme and dream brainstorm. Also, there are many connected to CTA like Ellen Euclid who lived in Catholic Workers homes/ministries.

    The small things and whispers are also important to explore as they can ripple in amazingness in ways that expand our hopes and dreams. Lean into the small things, baby steps are for real for real.

    You being you is bold!

  6. Abby,
    As I reread your goals, I want to call them good. Your fear that they are too small is worth gazing lovingly at. My friend said to me two days ago: “OK, you keep saying you want to throw yourself into 60 hr/wk commitments. Where’s that coming from?” To you I’d say: can you describe your fear of having so-called ‘small’ goals (maybe we could call them ‘local goals’?) What is that fear? How can we support you in saying that yes, you may be called to take a next step soon (moving, new job or ministry)—but that until the next step emerges (for as long as that takes), you taking this time for whatever you choose is totally worth it?
    What if Jesus’s invitation for you was to lay in the sun, dance barefoot on the soil, and bake strawberry shortcake? Discover you’re a songwriter and write some lyrics? Call a Holy Spirit friend?
    Last thought…I am so curious what genres you write in!
    -What story ideas you have
    -If you are a long-form/short-form person

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