I know, it’s February. But, there’s still time to reflect. And it’s one of my favorite posts to write because I really get myself thinking and I get optimistic for the year ahead. Better late than never.
I’m taking a new approach this year. I found a new list of questions to answer about my year. 2018 started out pretty ok for me, but ended in a heap of burning trash. So, onto a new year, a new start. I hope that you all had a prosperous 2018 and that 2019 has even better to come for you.
1. What is the single best thing that happened this past year? The single best thing that happened in 2018. It is very hard to choose just one. Just one. What was the most magical? What brought me the most joy? There was our trip to San Francisco. It was lovely. It felt like we never left, which is in some ways not good but I’ll focus on the good. Scrunchies and Caboodles made a comeback. That’s pretty special. Bowie went to SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation) and took home a 3rd place trophy in his grade and category. VERY proud mama bear moment there. I also hit the 5 year post-melanoma mark. Odds of survival at this point are extremely good. I also got to go to Florida to see my brother and go to a small, special wedding, and see old friend and family members I hadn’t seen in a long time. See, how do you pick just one thing?
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened? A great many challenging things happened this year. Too many to list. Too many that are personal. Too many, and you will get bored of my pity party. But, most of it culminated in a year-end relapse of my alcoholism. Which in and of itself I do believe is the most challenging thing. I don’t know why it is, exactly, that I turn to alcohol in times of trouble, knowing full well that it won’t fix things, and often makes them worse. My psychiatrist has this amazing way of explaining things to me about the brain chemistry of it that makes me feel less morally irresponsible. For starters, an alcoholic’s brain is wired differently than a non-addicts brain, and the dopamine blasts we get are heavier. Which can explain the desire to go back for more. The downside of that is certain neurons die off in this process, making it harder and harder for us to handle our feelings logically, which explains why we continue after one short lapse, and it evolves into a relapse. Those neurons grow back quickly, but we have to maintain sobriety in order for that to happen. And those first few days are hell. And no matter what all the books and all the counselors say, you will never shake that feeling that maybe someday you will have fixed yourself and can have a drink and not go overboard or use it as a crutch. It will never happen, but you always wonder. I now have another month fully sober. I’m back at it, and have learned a lot from it. I am lucky to have a support system to help me when I fall. There are some people in my life that I feel get involved in their own self-interests, “Look at me! I know someone who is a train wreck and I’m helping!” But for the most part, people really do want to see me get better.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year? When I went to visit my brother, I got to see him and his wife as parents. It was amazing. He is 8 years younger than me, and sometimes I still see him as a 10 year old kid. He’s a grown up now, and a dad, and I loved seeing him in that role. It filled me with such joy.
4. What was an unexpected obstacle? I made a decision that was right for me. Good for me. Beneficial to others around me. And in the process, I hurt someone’s feelings. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong by making my decision. And no decision we make in life leaves everyone feeling happy for us. I know this. But this person is close to me and I thought that they would understand, and the reaction left me blindsided. I would never go to them and say, “I regret making that decision. I shouldn’t have done that.” I won’t ever regret it. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I will forever treasure the result. I will never regret it. I have to live with that, and I hope someday they may understand and also be able to live with it.
5. Pick three words to describe this past year. Milestones. Chaos. Travel.
6. Pick three words your partner or close friend would use to describe your year. Growth. Progress. Vulnerability.
7. Pick three words your partner or close friend would use to describe their year. Hectic. Challenging. Adventurous.
8. What were the best books you read this year? Technically I finished it this year, but I really enjoyed Big Little Lies. Yes I finally got around to reading it. And I would love to get my hands on the show. Hallelujah Anyway was great. Anne Lamott is absolutely my favorite author and this book did not disappoint. She has such a way of describing life, getting older, sobriety, it’s touching. If you’ve never read her books, I suggest Bird by Bird, especially if you are a writer or Operating Instructions, especially if you are a mom. My third book would have to be I am a Bunny. It’s Finley’s absolute favorite, and I love watching her face light up at each page, even though we must have read it at least 100 times by now. And at the end when she says “night night” to the bunny, I melt.
9. Who were your most valuable relationships with? Both of my brothers, letting me talk through a particular issue I was grappling with. Each person brings their own special perspective, and I find crowdsourcing that stuff to be very helpful. My husband, for always being by my side and always wanting the best for me, even though I scoff and roll my eyes at some of his suggestions. My friend Kathleen who has been there for me, though she herself has a lot going on too. We share the journey of sobriety (which we did not know when we first met) and it’s is crucial to have someone in your life who is also on the sober path to talk to. They get it in a way no one else will. The people that listened when I talked. The people that provided me support when they really had very little left to give. The people that pulled me out of the quicksand. That’s who I value the most.
10. What was your biggest personal change? I’m fully out of the muck of having a baby, and I have a toddler now. Life feels more open, and I am doing more for myself. The idea of “self care” seemed so self-indulgent and selfish. But really, it’s not. I’ve learned how important it really is. It has become a buzz word lately, I see it on all the magazine covers. But, self care has been a concept for me since my first day at rehab. You must, must, must take care of yourself. You don’t always have to put yourself first. And self care doesn’t mean ignoring life taking a nap. It doesn’t mean filling your void by shopping for new things. And getting a trip to the grocery store alone doesn’t count. I used to count my therapy sessions as self care, but no. That’s for my health. Just carve out time that’s just for you. Then fill that time with creative outlets, exercise, having coffee with friends, or even alone. Time to breathe. Time to reflect. And when you go back to your hectic life, you appreciate things more.
11. In what ways did you grow emotionally? I have stopped letting people walk all over me. I have stopped letting people manipulate my thoughts and feelings. I have begun to understand that it’s ok to step up for myself when it’s necessary. I was, and still am a bit, a complete pushover. I would rather see everyone else in my life be happy and get what they want than to do anything for myself. I’m not perfect at this yet, but I am finding more balance.
12. In what ways did you grow spiritually? It would shock a lot of family members reading this right now, but I’ve let go of the idea of the Christian God I was raised to believe in. I just try to be a good person, do the right thing. In AA there is a heavy emphasis on having a “higher power” and I feel like spreading kindness is my higher power. I have come to terms with the idea that we all have a purpose here, and I feel that my purpose is to raise my children to also be good, well-rounded, healthy adults. Finding my place in the universe used to feel so overwhelming, but then I discovered that my place can be small and simple. Not unimportant, just smaller. I’m at peace with that idea.
13. In what ways did you grow physically? I have tried to find balance in my diet. I’m not looking for perfection here, just some balance. Technically I started early this year, but I have been going to hot yoga classes. I have found a tremendous amount of strength and determination that I didn’t know I had. I am also sleeping better at night, which gives me the stamina to take on my crazy, hectic days.
14. In what ways did you grow in your relationships with others? I have learned to stand my ground with problematic people. I have learned to open up to others, rather than keep things bottled up inside. I have learned to see marriage as a friendship, a partnership. When the romance fades, and it will, your focus should be more on creating and maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with your partner. This is how marriages last. You don’t fall out of love, you just lose touch with them. Keep in touch with them.
15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? “Professionally” I am an Airbnb host. It is a very good source of extra income for us, especially November through February. So, I’m really in the thick of it right now. I like that I send most guests off feeling very good about their stay and vowing to stay with us again. I have taken some things into account that can be improved in the space and am excited to implement them. At home? Well, that’s my real profession I suppose. The most enjoyable part of that has been watching Finley go from baby to toddler, and really coming into her own. Her personality is strong and is showing in the funniest ways. I have also enjoyed watching Bowie grow into a little man. Yes, he’s hormonal and kind of a pill to deal with most of the time. But, he’s making decisions, he forming opinions, he’s making close friends, he has ideas for what he’d like to do with his future. It’s amazing. He’s a person and I made him. Ferris cannot be left out of this exchange. He is a man who knows what he wants and is not afraid to ask for it. Which can be a little harrowing at times. Like, “I hope I never get fat!” when I am pushing my cart at Target behind an overweight person. Overall, I’ve put more effort into making our house a home. The move here was hard for me, and for a while it was just a house, protection from the elements, a place for the kids to reside and feel safe. But, as I start making small areas the way I’d like them to be, it starts to feel more like our home.
16. What has been the most challenging part of your work? Each of my children is in a different life phase. Toddler, Kindergartner, and prepping for middle school. So, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of that. Not to expect too much from the younger ones, and not to underestimate the oldest. It’s like walking a tightrope. I’ve also fallen into a rut when it comes to cooking. I have to meet all of these criteria: a) at least marginally healthy b) something the children will deign to allow to touch their lips c) my husband won’t complain that I’m feeding him kid food again and d) won’t break the bank. So, it can be difficult. Sometimes I just say f@&$ all and make whatever I want and they can all just deal with it. Keeping up with cleaning is hard too. I spend so much of my time meticulously cleaning the Airbnb that it feels exhausting to try to come back to the house and do the same thing. I try to concentrate on one thing a day. The floors. The bathrooms. The boys’ toys. And there’s laundry every day of course.
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? Oh my gosh. It’s this farm game I have on my phone. It’s called Hay Day. I love keeping an eye on the farm, making this and that, checking on the animals, it’s fun. I spend too much time doing it though. And not enough time reading, writing, cleaning, all the things one really should be doing.
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year? Volunteering at the boys’ school. Taking Finley to the park or the Children’s Museum. Taking time to go out and write without kids around. Journaling.
19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year? I have learned that no matter how daunting the day ahead of you may seem, and how impossible it all feels, you will get it done. You will do it, because that’s just what we do. And even looking back, we don’t know how we did it, but we did. Human endurance and drive are amazing. Even when you are depressed and feel like you have no drive, you can still manage to get done what you need to. Shower. Work. Buy groceries. Sneak in some social time. And all the microscopic things we all do each and every day that seem like nothing, but do take a toll. I learned that I am determined and resilient, even when I don’t feel like it.
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I hope your 2019 is already moving along swimmingly and I hope it has great things in store for all of us. Happy (late) new year to you all!
If you are still reading! Comment here or find me on Twitter (@verybloggybeth) and AMA (ask me anything)! I’d love to answer people’s questions in future posts. I’m also crowdsourcing ideas for posts on my Top 5 Favorite [fill in the blank]. Pass on those ideas too!