Oh hello, 2019! Here you are!
I’ve been mulling this post over in my head now for a couple of weeks. When it was still a draft in my head, I thought that little would be devoted to the past. Then I started typing, and it became an exercise in self-discovery. As long as it is, large chunks of drafts were axed.
Feel free to stop reading here. I won’t mind.
Honestly, if you’re not into other people’s self-reflection, or mine specifically, skip this post and find one in my list that looks more useful to you. Or skim this one by heading. The version on my website blog has a clickable table of contents.
This post might be useful to you if you can identify and/or if my life lessons are applicable to your life.
Given how it cracks open my life and exposes some private things, I simultaneously want eyes on this article and I don’t want anyone to find it. I believe in honesty and authenticity and that these help others feel less alone. It’s also terrifying.
2018 — Work/career
The relief of a job loss with the leftover scraps of shitty feelings
I spent much of 2018 obsessing over the job contract that ended in December 2017, earlier than its original end date.
The loss of income while moving from apartment to house with double the rent was stressful. At various times I’ve been annoyed because my old employer kept my personal property.
Losing the job itself was a relief because by the end of the first month it was clear that it wasn’t the place for me.
The job was terrible for my mental health and was one of the reasons that my depression and anxiety returned.
This wasn’t entirely a bad thing.
It was this job that inspired me to create my ADHD coaching program, a program that had been inside me for years. My ADHD symptoms came back, and I had to deal with them, and so I was inspired to help myself and others.
→This is an example of an uncomfortable situation being an opportunity for learning and growth.←
I’m grateful for that.
What I obsessed over, about the job, was less the job loss and more what lead to it. I gave it way too much energy in 2018. I spent way too much time reflecting on it.
I kept wavering about how much to reveal here publicly and with each draft of this post, it got whittled away. I decided to say a little bit and attempted to keep the language mild.
Depression and anxiety leave you vulnerable, with little energy to fight.
Depression and anxiety leave you vulnerable, with little energy to fight and when you don’t know what the environment will be like (louder or quieter) or what your manager’s mood will be like, it can keep you on edge. I was on edge for several months, which is detrimental for mental and physical health and can tax the immune system. (Cortisol levels and all that.)
When I overheard my boss in a stressful situation, I had the urge to flee.
There was also gaslighting.
When facing off against my boss I often yelled at myself inside my head, watching myself surrender rather than assert myself as if I was viewing someone else’s life.
When faced with the options of a “Fight, flight or freeze” response, which happened regularly, I nearly always chose the latter two. This was no way to live.
I would take it day-by-day.
The final situation where shit hit the fan came after I made a decision that I still believe was the right one based on the information I had. For that, I have no regrets.
So, there was that, and I’ve finally made peace with it.
In 2018 I remembered how awesome I am, how qualified I am, how skilled I am.
After I left my day job, I devoted much more time to help build a restaurant business. A few months ago I finally put that on my resume. I suppose that I’d previously thought that it didn’t count because it was my partner’s restaurant.
It very much counts. Here’s something that I’ve put on my resume and mention in job interviews for digital marketing roles: “Bums in seats” as the result of social media, newsletters and event planning. Real diners, people who spend money in exchange for food and drink, validate my experience more than metrics such as likes, comments and shares ever could.
Working for family counts. Got it.
I learned lots of lessons in 2018.
THE ELDER, DYING AS OLD PEOPLE DO
Almost a year ago, my grandmother died. She was months from turning 99. She had a good run. It was sad but not tragic, as her quality of life had been drastically reduced. It was undoubtedly her time. We thought it would come sooner. She completed the cycle of life. She was a fantastic woman. I loved my grandparents very much.
THE YOUNG WOMAN WHO COULD HAVE HAD A LONG LIFE
On May 31 I watched my niece on life support after her suicide attempt. She would have turned 23 in August. In my memory, I can see her face and her shoulders. I touched her and made a focused effort to memorize that moment. It wasn’t one that I wanted to forget.
Yes, I tried to help. Sometimes I wish I’d said or done more, although I don’t think that it would have resulted in a more favourable outcome.
She died amid the celebrity suicides. On the morning of her funeral on June 6, I learned that Kate Spade had similarly ended her life the day before. Anthony Bourdain’s suicide happened on June 8. I shared some thoughts at the time.
A short time later she appeared to me in a dream. Depending on your belief system, this was “just a dream,” or it was “a visit” from her spirit. Either way, she laughed joyfully and with amusement and told me that we were all overreacting. I said, “I love you.”
The next day, what amused me about the dream was this: In the dream, my niece tried to relay this message by phone, but the connection was poor. If there is an afterlife and she’s in it, no cell phone provider would provide coverage, especially mine.
I mentioned the suicide on Medium, never on Facebook. I told friends as part of a general life update rather than a huge piece of news. At the time, I didn’t want it to seem like I was only calling because of the death, even though that would have been acceptable.
My reasons for how I handled communicating the news included these:
-Everyone’s got their own feelings about suicide. Those feelings are personal. They might be controversial
-It wasn’t about me. When I imaged posting the news to Facebook, I envisioned an outpouring of condolences. While this might sound nice, I didn’t want that attention. I didn’t want it to be about me.
THERE’S NO “RIGHT” WAY TO PROCESS DEATH
I want to emphasize here that there are my own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Everyone should communicate news of a death in a way that they feel is right for them.
I chose not to share the incident on Facebook because I didn’t feel that I needed support or expressions of sympathy. I didn’t want to read about other people’s experiences with death. It didn’t seem helpful at that time. My niece being at peace is was felt — and still feels — important. It’s not about me.
Furthermore, I had experienced well-meaning words of support when someone close to me accidentally died when I was 20 and he was 21, when “social media” meant special interest “newsgroups” with names such as alt.tv.buffy. Many expressions of sympathy made me angry.
When supporters shared statements such as, “I know how you feel.” I wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves because they didn’t know how I felt and to say so sounded presumptuous to me. My feelings were mine.
I’ve since given this advice to people who have lost people close to them:
The grieving process is yours and yours alone
“Well-meaning people will say what sounds like stupid shit. It’s okay to want to tell them (including me, now) to go fuck themselves. It’s less okay to say it. The grieving process is yours and yours alone, and everyone experiences it differently.”
That said, I did appreciate those sentiments, and I was thankful for the gesture, and I know that there’s no “right” thing to say. Maybe acknowledging that there’s no right thing to say IS the right thing to say. With my niece’s death, I wanted to give little opportunity for people to say anything.
In retrospect, I think that I was afraid of having my feelings (my grieving process) and opinions (about suicide) judged, even by friends.
Of course, I know this is ridiculous.
I didn’t want to put friends in the position of not knowing what to say to me. I didn’t want them to feel awkward, so I took that on myself. This is what I often do.
I very much put other people’s feelings before my own, except for when I impulsively don’t. I’m learning to protect myself, though. More on that later, and enough talk of death!
2018: A time of personal transformation:
THE ENERGY SHIFT
In the last few months, I felt an energy shift. In late November I wrote this on Medium:
As I lay in a Restorative Yoga class on a Sunday night, two evenings after hanging out with a couple of friends that I met at my last “day job,” the following came to me with the noted emphasis: “I’m a leader. I’m a warrior. I’m a fucking leader.” I also “heard” the advice to step out of the shadow and into my greatness, to stop hiding myself and step into the light.
Impostor Syndrome is an ongoing challenge in my life.
→Late November really kicked off some transformation in my life.←
DISCOMFORT AS A TOOL FOR GROWTH
Days later I wrote pieces on my website blog and Medium blog about allowing discomfort. The post began as a flow of thoughts on Instagram, moved to Finding Health & Wellness, and then got imported and slightly altered for Medium.
The general idea: Discomfort isn’t bad. We shouldn’t fear it. Fighting against discomfort can lead to suffering, which we don’t want. Discomfort helps us navigate the world and helps us improve our lives.
Being sick with a cold became a metaphor for other areas of life.
BOUNDARIES & FRIENDSHIPS
I had an incident in late December that reminded me of my boundaries. This incident was the gift that kept on giving, in a good way. I consider it a turning point.
Like leftovers from meals, I found multiple ways to repurpose that lesson into other lessons. I gave that incident a lot of brain space for a couple of weeks — and especially in the first few days — but now, nearly a month later, it pops up only when relevant.
I am grateful for this.
Someone recently read my energy and such. She told me that I’m good at setting boundaries and always have been. I questioned it for a moment until she clarified it with, “You’re over here, they’re over there.” with accompanying gestures. I realized what she meant; I’ve always compartmentalized the people in my life. I don’t know why.
As a child, I found it weird when my “camp friends” mingled with my “school friends”. That’s changed in adulthood, especially as some of my work friends became personal friends. There might still be some separation, though. Everyone has “friends groups”, right?
I’ve always seen friendship as a continuum. Acquaintances at one end, besties on the other. That might be a boundary.
I think that Facebook sometimes encourages people to believe that they’re closer to the “friend” end of the continuum when they’re really on the “acquaintance” end. The label “friends list” is wildly inaccurate. If a user has hundreds of “Facebook friends” there’s no way they can be personally connected with them all. And this is one of the reasons I’ve mostly left Facebook.
Truthfully, I spent a lot less time on Facebook in 2018 than in other years. I gave my attention to other activities, and then the number of notifications overwhelmed me. Time away from Facebook is more productive and has other positive effects. The link at the end of the previous paragraph explains more.
→Strutting Into 2019←
I’m bringing new energy and new self-awareness.
1) I’ve stopped trying to get coaching clients
I’ve finally acknowledged that I don’t want to coach people 1:1. I never wanted to. I knew this when I pursued my nutritionist certification. I knew this when I created my program. And yet, I offered personal coaching on my website and social media because I felt that it was the best way to help people.
I couldn’t fake it until I made it because I didn’t really want to make it.
I didn’t take the necessary actions to get clients because even when I thought that I “sort of maybe” wanted clients, I really didn’t. It would be inaccurate to say that I was half-assing my client acquisition activities, but maybe “73%-assing”?
→Acknowledging what you don’t want is huge and awesome.←
I haven’t abandoned my ADHD coaching program. I haven’t abandoned my ADHD coaching program. I still very much believe in my system, will continue to work on written materials and will teach the process. Writing and teaching are my strengths! I have ideas. After I’m done this post, which is taking several days to write, I’m going to create an action plan. I’m also in the process of creating a day planner.
I’m looking for a full-time job. I’ve recently had a bunch of interviews. I won’t reveal any more about that.
2) Multiple income streams
I know this will continue. I look forward to it. I need to be engaged in numerous activities. I need to be creative. Side hustles are necessary for me.
Big changes are coming. I feel inspired in a new way. I feel lighter. I feel the shift.
Also in late November, inspired by the birthday of one of my best friends, I acknowledged on Facebook that I don’t think I’m good at being a friend. “My brain tends to function as “out of sight, out of mind” and it is NOT deliberate,” I said. “ I feel that I don’t reach out to people enough,” I shared.
I assured my friends that I love them. I encouraged them to make plans with me.
I say this here rather than sharing it above because recently I’ve been making friends. I feel like at age 42 I might finally be getting the hang of this friendship thing again.
I suddenly feel more strongly tied with people whom I’ve known for years.
One friend moved closer, one invited me out, I went into semi-retirement with Facebook, and I feel more open.
I’ve also been talking to strangers more often. This is new to me, the shy one. I feel braver in social situations. I feel less socially awkward or don’t care if I am. Years ago I started verbally acknowledging when I felt awkward or very introverted, but recently I’ve experienced some breaking through it.
Once, in my mid-30s, I chatted with a stranger on the subway as she chaperoned a bunch of children on a school field trip. She used the phrase, “Fuck you forties.” Maybe this is it.
It’s all connected
This brings me to my 2019 “word”.
I wasn’t going to do a “word of the year” or any variation thereof. I didn’t want to engage in an exercise of trying to discover it.
However, it discovered me. It kept bashing me over the head, metaphorically of course.
This word kept coming up in my posts on Medium, in my website blog and personal Facebook posts.
When a word or concept keeps coming up, one must pay attention!
My goals for 2019 include more personal connection & shifting my energy and time towards productive activities that I feel are worth it (another form of connection). I will give my fucks (time, attention) to what and whom I choose.
I will strive to have more offline play dates, like the days before the internet.
Books. Remember those?
Also, like the days before the internet, I will read more books. I’m currently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight. The book was recommended by a friend. Before that, I read Think and Grow Rich.
I will continue to be grateful for the rough patches and lean into the discomfort, asking myself what I can learn from it before grabbing sweet relief. I want to listen to my body.
These aren’t “new year’s resolutions”, they are ongoing life skills.
I’m really looking forward to this year. There’s so much to do and learn. Fewer fucks to give, more attention to give to those things and people that matter. More meaningful moments, fewer empty moments.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations! I feel like I owe you a prize, but I give you lots of gratitude. 13 minutes out of your day is half of a sitcom.