I have come to enjoy changing years and the opportunity it gives me for reflection, rebeginnings, and dreaming for the future. Because of that, I’ve been excited about writing this post for several weeks.
But as I actually sit down to write, it’s hard to find words. My mental health isn’t bad this weekend, per se, but it’s acting up, and things are muted. Enjoyment is hard to find, and words–at least the good ones–even more scarce. (Just writing this post is a way of fighting back, of trying to live through the discomfort of this low rather than numbing it.)
If I can’t find my own words, I’ll use words from someone else; Austin Kleon wrote about seasons of migration and modulation, which describes my 2018 well. It was a year of reckoning, of seeing and speaking truth. Finding safe ground for rebuilding. I hope 2019 is the year of rebuilding.
A year ago, a family member committed suicide. I took myself mostly offline soon thereafter, where the major forces in my life wrestled for control–grief, school, mental health, work, relationships. Most of the time, they tore ground from each other, meaning that I lived with constant earthquakes or balancing on tiny patches of ground.
As part of my new year reflections, I read back through my notebook from 2018. Most of early 2018 is survival writ large in the form of endless lists, plans, calendars, and reassurances to my self. “You will be fine.” “You will get through this.” “I know you did pretty well this week. Here’s what you need to change to make next week better.” It is painful to read.
With school deadlines looming, finances a constant concern, and work pressures screaming for attention, riding out the earthquakes stripped every bit of energy, attention, and optimism I had. I had nothing left for maintaining relationships, much less trying to build new ones in a city where I still had no friends.
I got through. In April I defended my thesis and passed. In May I graduated. When I planned my year, I had designated April and May as transition months. June-August were for working as many extra hours as possible to re-stabilize finances post grad school. September-December were for writing a book. But I was a mess through most of May and June, emotions all over the place and energy non-existent. In July, I visited my sister out West and reveled in daily activity and the comfort of being with family. In August, I undertook a running challenge with some family members: 30 miles in 30 days. I liked the exertion, the camaraderie, and the goal-chasing. My nervous system did not like it. By the end of the month, I had a chronic eye twitch and my anxiety was spiking regularly.
Diagnosing stress issues didn’t need a therapist, although I tried a few sessions of that. At the end of August I quit running and I quit my job. I resumed exercise in the form of yoga, walking, and biking. I interviewed for jobs. I had terrible mental health days, but my baseline had improved.
In November I started a new job. It’s going well.
That’s how I think of 2018. It was a terrible year. I learned a lot, I made many good choices, and it was a terrible year. There’s another perspective to acknowledge, though. Here’s 2018 in list form:
- 145 activities (exercise)
- 169 books read
- 8 book reviews written
- 1,001 blog views
- 23 blog posts for 13,117 words
- 35,000+ words written in journaling
- 1 archery session
- 3 therapy sessions
- 1 funeral
- 1 birding tour
- 1 dragonboat festival
- 2 graduations
- 2 weddings
- 1 zoo visit
- 2 aquarium visits
- Several amtgard sessions
- First Grand Canyon visit
- Attended ITU paratriathlon World Championship
- Ran 47 miles
- Did cat yoga
- Played kickball
- Broke my biking record 3 times, with a final distance of 31.5 miles
- Hiked 11 miles around Navajo Lake alone
- Crashed my bike
There are many ways to approach goals for the new year–resolution-setting, goal-writing, word-choosing, pure rebellion. When I sat down to contemplate what I wanted for 2019, the terror of last year–of juggling so many things and being constantly afraid–beat loudly in my head. I couldn’t bring myself to push. I’ve pushed and pushed and pushed myself. Not this year. No trying to do more, to be a “new me.” No.
Instead, I wrote about what helps, what brings me stable ground, what quiets the terror, what brightens the numb spots. I took lessons from 2018 and brought them into 2019. I chose very few things. No juggling, no feeling as if my mind will split from a dozen equally important goals.
In the end, a mantra came to me that felt very easy and very right. I created a simple way to track how close I’m staying to my values for the year, and then all of my new year work was done except for this post.
Here we go, 2019.
in motion, meditation
in words, waking