Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New Year Journalling

What was the single best thing that happened this year?

There are some really nice things that happened this year… I got to go to Ireland and see a lot of things that I’ve only heard about the last ten years. We took the kids on a cruise, and that was a lot of fun. We got a kid into counselling, and over the course of the year, that’s helped to make the year end a lot better than it started. I made a new friend in a quarter I hadn’t anticipated. But, perhaps, I’m most glad about some of the changes in myself. I’m not sure still where they will all lead, but I feel more confident in myself. I feel less beholden to certain power dynamics that have existed in some relationships, and more expectant of a certain level of respect and honor… and in some cases, simply willing to let them go.

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Hands down, this has to be the challenges we went through with one of my children. It was long and hard, requiring a lot of patience and emotional energy. I was exhausted and ended with me giving up just about everything I’ve ever done for self-care, and having to start over with slowly building those things back up.

What was an unexpected joy this year?

For this, I think I’ll go with a new friendship. I’d kind of thought that they didn’t really like me that much… Well, that’s not precise. I eventually believed it wasn’t necessarily personal and not something I needed to be torn up about, but at the same time, something I was a little sorry about. Anyway… at some point, I felt moved to act in kindness in a certain way. I didn’t expect that to turn into anything… but just to honor my own values and be compassionate.

That has turned into a new friendship that I’m happy with. It is a new and surprising joy. She’s been really good for me, too… given me a lot to think about in regard to my own relationships and expectations and self-respect. I have too often accepted less than I should. I hope we can be good for each other.

What was an unexpected obstacle?

Perhaps my biggest obstacle this year was myself. I felt like I had to throw myself so intently into being a mom this year… my kids needed me. But the way that I did that was at the expense of my own health. Little by little, everything went out the window. Me time. Healthy eating. Exercise. Being on top of what I WANT to get done and accomplished and to become. I also somehow managed to cut myself off from a lot of my friendships and I end the year feeling a bit lonely, which I guess is my own damn fault.

Pick three words to describe 2016.

Challenging. Exhausting. Baffling.

What were the three best books you read this year?

Well, I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to… I’m hoping to work on some of that this year. I read most of the way through a couple of Brene Brown’s books, which were all really good. I don’t know why I have such a hard time ACTUALLY finishing those. I read a lot of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project book, which I’d like to give a try. And I read most of the Harry Potter series, so Casey will love me again. I’d like to read more this year – I’d like to give myself more SPACE to read more -- Cleaning off my bookshelves was part of that goal.

With whom were your most valuable relationships?

I feel like my relationships changed a lot this year, and not for the better. I raised my walls. I held everyone at arm’s length. I refused help. So… that wasn’t good.

That said… there were bright moments. I feel like, even though it’s terribly bumpy right now, my relationship with someone I’ve long cared about is getting healthier. My relationship with my family is strong. I’m developing a new friendship with someone I like. That’s a start for the new year, anyway.

What was your biggest personal change from January to December?

Man, I don’t even know. So much of this year was just making it through and surviving. Mostly all the changes were small things that added up to big things. A bit of conversation here prompted one thing. A bit of conversation there prompted another. Perhaps the common theme through most of them was letting go of who I used to be, giving myself permission to not be the same person, and to embrace the worth of who I’ve been becoming, warts and all. In parts, letting go made me feel lonely… and there has been temptation to pretend I wasn’t changing. If I just acted like I felt the same way about everything, pretended I was the same person I’d always been, then no one would notice. Nothing would change. My relationships would stay steady if I just didn’t let on. But that wouldn’t be authentic. I could’ve done all of it better. In some places, I think some of my relationships floundered because what had been our common link had faded… but I could have done more to establish new ones, to forge bonds over new things but old commitments. And I didn’t do that… partly out of busy, partly out of fear and insecurity, probably.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

January Changes

I began 2017 with some new changes – some planned, some I fell into out of necessity. But I wanted them to be small. January is a cold dark month, and small is the only way I can get through it.

So, a few of them…

I started a couple small body-health related goals.
a.     Eating and tracking breakfast
b.    Walking a short (5k) route 3x/week

These are both really important to my body for a number of reasons. 1, they’re small and achievable. I so often set myself up for failure by asking too much, too soon. I am tryng to exceptionally mindful of that.  Which is just breakfast. Which is why a short-for-me route. Which is why just 3 days.

It's not Blue Dots. It’s not a 10k. It’s not even running, unless I feel like it. But it’s more than I was doing. It’s successfully more than I was doing. And that’s something.

I started a morning ritual.
a.     15 minutes-ish of reading and journaling
b.    Writing a To-Do list

These both have served the purpose of grounding my thoughts for the day. The journaling helps to center my emotions, to channel my thoughts’ squirrely nature into a straighter line. It calms me and lets me start the day on a positive foot. It’s like meditation, I suppose, in that it helps me to breathe out the negative that has already crowded in and to keep centered on the good.

In a way, the To-Do list does the same thing. That’s less glamourous, but it helps me to, at the start of the day, make a list of things I would realistically like to get done that day. I don’t really have an expectation that I’ll finish them all, and I’m not upset if I don’t. But it helps me to not feel like I’m always behind, always have too much to do than my day will hold.

I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone.

This was for my sanity. I’d gotten too involved, too invested… too crazed.  I need some space from it. It’s not gone completely --  if I really need it, I can access it through my web browser – and I could do more at home to control my exposure. But I’m not getting notifications on my phone anymore, outside Messenger, and that has made it a little easier to be less married to it. I am learning to engage with my surroundings again, I suppose.

The last is a personal approach to life and relationships.

In December, I was sharing with a friend about a different friendship where I felt frustration over a power imbalance. How I kept waiting for the other person to be willing to change that. The friend I was speaking to paused in thought and then said, “I’m not sure that’s how it works. I think maybe that’s something you choose to change.”

This, combined with a lesson in our DBT class on positive reinforcement, made me think deeply about how I’ve given my own power/self-respect away by not being willing to stand up for myself. And if I wanted that to change, I needed to stop reinforcing situations where I felt less-than with my acceptance. That if I wanted more, I needed to re-establish the expectation that I could expect more, no longer giving away a free pass.

I’m not sure that’s a good explanation of it… but I feel positive.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Possibility of January

I always imagine January as a big open field covered by a blanket of fresh snow - bright, white, and blinding as far as the eye can see -- unblemished by footprints. It's a new canvas to paint on, a blank journal to fill.

Of course that's not entirely true. A new year brings the old with it. Last year's relationships, experiences, triumphs and mistakes -- they all come, too. Consequences don't have a December 31st expiration date.


January holds promise simply for its capacity for possibility. Anything can happen in a January. Anything can be begun again.

Perhaps it's not just its possibility - but its hope.
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