2017. Wow. After 2016, I figured things had to get better. And they did. But pretty much only for me. And it’s been a very strange year of living in the reality that life is worse-off for most of the world, including many of my closest friends and family members, while also recognizing that life has been pretty great for me.
I had a beautiful, restful summer which restored so much of my exhausted body and spirit. I experienced the best semester of my graduate school career this fall. I invested in new relationships. I remembered how much I love to volunteer. I received so much practical and emotional support from Husband and took joy from trying to reciprocate back to him. I practiced being more direct with my wants and needs. I took on new responsibilities at church. I rejoiced when my sister moved five streets away. I hosted parties. I traveled to Iceland. I went to the gym (a lot). I experienced increased success with my blog. I modeled self-care. I finished reading whole books. I remained healthy and safe. I completed class readings and participated in group discussions. I bought some new clothes. I watched television. I ate really good food.
I know I’ll have personally harder years, but this year was not one of them. And that was probably a good thing as I tried to use my strength to encourage others during challenging times. I felt I approached difficult situations from a place of rest and reflection and was able to apply a logical framework to decision-making while still being influenced by wise emotions. (I’m a little nervous because I felt I was at my best several times this year, so if no one else felt that way, I’m screwed and really don’t know what to do next.)
I also feel I’ve been practicing a few new things that have made my life easier. I’ve finally come to a point where I realize every conversation is not for me. I used to think I had to make my opinions known, correct wrong information, and share my own feelings about pretty much everything. I’ve learned to back away. To ignore. To let (some) things pass without needing to comment or provide feedback. In these contentious times, I think I’ve avoided many arguments and much stress by riding the wave of disagreement without it affecting my day. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m practicing discernment between when my contribution will add or educate and when it will just be noise. And I’m liking it the change.
I’m also enjoying living more authentically without pretending I am superhuman. I do process information quickly and appear to take on more projects than many others I know, but I’m not embarrassed to admit I need help. I ask Husband to iron my clothes for me. I check if my sister can run my errands. I order so many things online to avoid parking and long lines. I use coupons to hire someone to mop my basement. I need gym buddies to keep motivated. I hide messes in my cabinets (I cleaned them yesterday, so now is the time to open them). I set reminders in my phone so I remember to pay my bills and cancel my subscriptions. I let the dishes pile up. I don’t go to extra things if I’m not in the mood. I catch up on sleep on the weekends. In summary, I require a whole list of things to remain successful. And I’m cool with sharing that.
In addition, I’ve been able to experiment by practicing gratefulness instead of being trapped into comparing myself to others. I have been genuinely thankful for so many things this year: winter boots, free yoga, restaurant gift cards, heated leather seats, canceled classes, friends who make time to visit from far away, etc., etc. and my gratitude has helped steer me away from finding someone who is better or worse off than me. I have been able to focus on my own life and the things that are going well instead of wishing for new things and trying to measure up to those around me. Again, not a perfect skill, but something I’m working on.
So, that’s where I am today. I already know 2018 will be a challenge: I have comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, mission trips, internship applications, Husband’s residency interviews, and general life that continues to surprise, frustrate, and inspire. But I think 2017 got me ready. Bring on those kale smoothies, I’m ready for you, New Year!