So, it's been forever since I've posted (four years - can you believe it???), and so much has changed.
I got married. I gained a kid. I lost a mom. I've changed jobs a few times, and I'm still not satisfied. I'm working on figuring out what I want my life's purpose and legacy to be... I've finally fully reunited with family, and it's wonderful. So much as changed!!!
However, since the days of 2016 are fading fast (like the cast of Star Wars!), I'll start off my renewed blogging with a year in review, part 1. (The 50 questions were purloined from Anuschka Rees. If you want the PDF worksheet, it's here).
2016 YEAR IN REVIEW
What event are you going to tell your grandchildren about?
- Well, I don't think I'll have grandchildren, but who knows? 2016 has been a terrible, terrible year in terms of loss and negative change, but the one standout event this year has been the election of Donald Trump. Dear freedom and stability: thanks for coming - it was wonderful while it lasted.
If you had to describe your 2016 in three words, what would they be?
What new things did you discover about yourself?
- I discovered that I'm a little resistant to change. Last year, through some really great, in depth conversations with friends, I realized that I have a much different attitude towards risk and loss than most, and I became a little more comfortable in managing my own challenges once I adjusted to the idea that I essentially live outside the curve. This year, however, I have begun to realize that I hold to the idea of who I am much tighter than to the idea of who I want to be, and that at some level, it's preventing growth. I'm hoping in 2017 to find a balance, letting go of the things that I'm not happy with, but using the lessons learned therein to foster growth into a better person. (Still working on defining what "better" entails - stand by for updates!)
What single achievement are you most proud of?
- This is a hard one. 2016 has been a year of such profound challenges that I haven't really achieved anything other than keeping my head above water. I've finally ended a toxic relationship with my mother, though I haven't laid down all the emotional baggage yet, and I've taken a good hard look at some of my own behaviors that remind me of her, to ensure I don't follow her path. So, though pride isn't the best descriptor, the thing that I've worked hardest towards in 2016 is not repeating my mother's mistakes, and so far, I think I've done fairly well.
What was the best news you received?
- That my cousin wanted me to perform her marriage ceremony. Both her and her wife are wonderful people, and they are a part of the family that I hadn't had contact with in years, as my mother had significant issues with them. I was very happy to be asked, and even more thrilled that it all worked out. They are a wonderful couple, and I am grateful for their place in my circle.
What was your favorite place that you visited in 2016?
- The only two places that I visited in 2016 both have special places in my heart, but for almost the same reason, so I'm going to give them each 50% of the vote:
- Florida - we went down twice this year - once in January with Maddy so that she could meet the Florida family, and once in April (just Shohn and I) for my aunt's wedding. My aunt Deb is one of my favorite people in the world, truly the mother of my heart, and seeing her accept and love my new family is amazingly wonderful. Her new husband, Warren, (they've been together 15+ years) is also a wonderful person with a heart of gold, and I just feel fantastic every time I go see them.
- Ireland - taking Shohn and Maddy to one of my favorite places on the planet was great. Maddy was so enthralled with everything - and all of the nightmares that I had imagined might occur on a 9 year old's first international trip never materialized. She was well behaved, incredibly polite, and enraptured by every new experience. It was also the first time that we travelled with Melissa and Sabrina, and though some days were challenging, it may be an experience worth repeating. I'm normally a better solo traveler, but there are definitely rewards to sharing travel with those that you love, and building those memories together.
Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
- I would say that my perseverance turned out to be what got me through. My husband likes to call it my "pure stubbornness,", but really, sometimes the only way out of extreme difficulty is through. Head down, one foot in front of the other, just six more inches, THROUGH. Sheer perversity and force of will carried me through the loss of a parent, the loss of a job, extreme financial hardship, (extra) marital conflict with my husband's ex wife, and all of the smaller challenges that come with being a part of a community and a family.
Who was your number one "go to" person that you could always rely on?
- My number one person was me. It's always me. I don't think that it's fair, or right, to put the burden of constant reliance on any one person in your social circle. We all surround ourselves (if we can) with people who meet different needs that we have. My husband loves me, but has no interest in some of the things that I find fascinating. My aunt loves me, and has 60+ years of experience with my family drama. My friends love me, and often call me out when I need a reality check. I have relied heavily on all of my social circle this year for clarity, for support, and for companionship, and not a single person has let me down. In retrospect, I am fortunate to have people in my life that value me as much as I value them, and who are willing to show it.
Which new skills did you learn?
- I began sewing this year, and surprisingly, I love it. My mother has always been the seamstress, and I have been the more esoteric crafter. I've always experimented with new media, invested in the complex projects, done very elaborate projects for very mundane reasons, and my mother has always been the one to make costumes and draperies and small clothing repairs. However, given that 2016 marked the end of our relationship, I've taken up the needle myself. A large part of that is thanks to Madison, my stepdaughter, whose love of dolls has inspired my venture into doll clothes making, and who I am teaching to sew as well. As I teach her, the gaps in my own knowledge become clearer, and so by teaching her I am becoming better myself. I can only imagine the wonderful projects that are in store once I master this new craft.
What, or who, are you most thankful for?
- Straight up my spouse on this one, folks. Shohn is almost my complete opposite in temperament, in personality, and in volume. He is once of the nicest people I have ever met (and everyone remarks on that when they finally meet him: "Wait, you guys are married? But he's so nice!" Yeah.) and I am so glad that he agreed to spend his life with me. He keeps me grounded, sees beneath the surface, and just does really sweet things when I most need them. He also blames his worst farts on a dog that passed away two years ago, but that's just a part of his charm.
If someone wrote a book about your year, what genre would it be?
What was the most important lesson you learned in 2016?
- That sometimes you just need to take a minute. Even when you think you don't have a minute to take, you have to.
Which mental block did you overcome?
- The idea that my life wouldn't be complete without my mom in it. My mom and I have always had a difficult relationship, but this year things got just down right ridiculous. I had a lot of heart-wrenching conversations with friends and mentors about my difficulty in being in this toxic relationship with a person who society says should be one of the corner stones of my foundation. What I came to realize, after months of painful introspection and brutal conversation was that:
- "should" doesn't mean "is"
- It isn't fair to me to expect things like emotional support, comfort, and understanding that I need and am just not going to get, especially when there isn't a history of receiving these things from her.
- It isn't fair to her to expect for her to give me things like emotional support, comfort, and understanding when she is simply not capable of it.
- It isn't productive or just to project my own priorities onto another person. My priorities have always been people based, and revolve around being an ethical, moral, valuable person to myself, my community, and my planet. My mother's have always revolved around money and power, and it isn't OK to ask her to change those to conform to mine simply because I disagree.
- So, I've ended the relationship with my mother, and other than occasional twinges of remorse, all in all it's been an improvement. I'm still working through 40 years of emotional entanglement, but the first brick on a road to a healthier place has been laid.
What five people did you most enjoy spending time with?
- This is a difficult one, since I have a TREMENDOUS amount of wonderful people in my circle, and they are all people that I enjoy immensely. As time ebbs and flows, however, so do our relationships and the needs we have from them. This year in particular:
- My aunt Deb has been a bulwark against the confusion, and grief, and loss, and rage of maternal severance. Her ability to listen without judgment is a gift, and she is just a beautiful human being in every way.
- My friend Radhika has been a vivid conversationalist who, in her willingness to spend hours on the phone in search of spiritual meaning and depth, has brought me clarity and peace. We are of an age, and have often commiserated on the issues that self introspection can stir up.
- My cousin Melissa, who is contentious, brusque, irreverent, and steadfast. She and I are very alike in many ways, and her support during some difficult times this year has provided handholds when the storms have raged.
- My stepdaughter Madison, who despite the violence of the abuse from her mother, is an incredibly sweet kid, and who has grown tremendously this year. They say that it takes an average of seven years to fully blend a stepfamily, and we've hit that threshold - I've known Maddy since she was an infant, and though I never planned on having children, having this tiny person reflect parts of me back is an excellent incentive to keep my own life clean and accountable. Her presence has added a depth of perception that I never expected, and the rewards are tangible.
- My husband Shohn, who is the best partner that I've ever had. We've faced challenges for the past few years that I think would have led to divorce in other couples, but he has a level of loyalty and commitment that matches mine - which I had never expected to find. He has a depth of character that sometimes still surprises me, and marrying this quiet, methodical man is still the best decision that I've ever made.
What was your biggest breakthrough career-wise?
- Unfortunately, 2016 didn't really hold any breakthroughs for me in terms of career. My contract with the DoD ended abruptly, the contractor who handled the pass through money for my contract declared bankruptcy, taking tens of thousands of my dollars with him, and the timing of my clearance renewal utterly interfered with my employment. I finally found another position, but the resulting misery of an unsuitable job and months of accumulated debt has left me in a position where I need to evaluate how my life goals have been affected and readjust.
What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?
- Throughout my life, there have been many, that's for sure. Books are more my speed - C.J. Cherryh's Morgaine series is a perennial favorite, in the ways that it defines love, femininity, and moral imperatives. Heinlein's Friday remains one of the novels that sparks deep conversation about identity, family, and what it means to be human. Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational is the only economics book I've ever read more than once, and I continue to revisit it. Patricia Briggs has used her fantasy novels to develop some really sharp questions about self-introspection and limits, and Emma Holly does an excellent job in erotica. Movies are less life-changing for me - there are very few that I've seen that have sparked any lasting changes - with the exception of Yentl. I'm not particularly a Streisand fan, but the movie was incredibly well done and pretty much embodies the clash between true love and true self. The only other two movies that I've seen recently that have provoked deep thought are Arrival, with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner - a great flick that delves into some really existentialist ideas about thought and choices, and The Hundred Foot Journey, a lovely film with Helen Mirren about overcoming prejudice and building community.
What new habits did you cultivate?
- As I mentioned earlier, I got into sewing this year, and the result of that choice is that I am now the default doll-clothes-maker for Maddy and all her doll-owning friends. I am surprisingly OK with this, particularly since I've found a great stash of patterns, and one brand of patterns in particular that really challenges my skills, but rewards patience with beautiful results. I've made more clothes than I've given out, in testing patterns and fabrics, and so perhaps I will have a craft booth at a fair next Christmas, and sell all the surplus - it's a thought.
What was your most common mental state?
- This one's easy: STRESS. 2016 was a year of continuous disaster, with every challenge immediately preceded by a challenge and anteceded by a predicament. The entire year was a tempest without surcease, and though we survived without drowning, we've swallowed enough water to affect our buoyancy. 2016 was an excellent year for testing tolerances, defining limits, and honing perseverance. 2017 will hopefully be a year for rebuilding, restoring, and relaxing.
Was there anything that you did for the very first time in your life?
- For the very first time in my life, I let go of someone who wanted to hold on. The people that I have excised from my life in the past have always played a willing part in the exodus, and so I have always viewed parting in terms of mutual benefit. The disintegration of my relationship with my mother was the first time in my life that I willingly, deliberately, turned my back on another human being and left because it was what was best for me.
What was your favorite moment spent with friends?
- Sparkling with sheer entertainment value, gilded by love, and burnished to a glow by years of friendship - 2016 was the year that my friend Obay came to stay with us for a while. I adore Obay - a wandering, tormented and merry soul who is one of the most fascinating people I know. He was my best man at my wedding, and though I have exhorted and cajoled him to come stay with us over the years, 2016 was the year he finally acquiesced. We built many fine memories, Obay, Shohn and I - early morning cups of coffee and soul searching, mid afternoon (ok, ok, mid morning!) gin fizzes with a side of geography, and evening gatherings around the stove where two of my favorite gentlemen cooked in delicious harmony. Obay gifted us with Lebanese comfort food, a reinvigoration of my love for pudding, and a deepened appreciation for friendship in times of strife and difficulty. His presence was a gift I am incredibly lucky to have been given.
What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
- Without a doubt - the mandolin that I bought Shohn for Christmas in 2015. 2016 was the first year it got serious use, and the home made potato chips and French fries that have resulted have made it #worthit. My ass will never be the same, and those skinny jeans need not even apply.
Which habits do you want to change, cultivate, or get rid of?
- I've got a tendency to accumulate things, but little time to organize them effectively, which leads to clutter. It is the one thing that drives my poor spouse into madness, and so I've been reading quite a bit lately on minimalism, and I think it's a path I want to travel down for 2017. It's not necessarily one singular habit, but it's a mindset that I don't currently have that I'd like to cultivate. Less time to clean and organize = more time to explore and grow.
Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
- #allofthem. No, seriously. I wasted a lot of time on stress this year, and all it did was interfere with my ability to formulate a plan, execute said plan, and swim in hundred dollar bills. Not a damn thing changed for the better because of all the worrying I did, and my health took a swan dive into no bueno. AND - with condolences to Jewish mothers everywhere, there is NO TROPHY for the Worry Olympics. In fact, there isn't even a worry competition. We're all on the same team.
What advice would you give your early 2016 self if you could?
- Hindsight always being crystalline and 20/20, I'd definitely tell my younger self not to waste time in worry. I'd tell myself not to spend so freely, and be more conservative with my dollars. I'd tell myself to love more freely, and criticize less. Listen more, speak more authentically. None of these admonitions will change an instant of the past, so perhaps I'll tell my future self instead.
There are 50 questions in Ms. Rees's list, and some are quite heavy. I thought it would be a good springboard to get back into the blogging habit, but I think that's enough for today. I'll try and post more before the year winds to a close, so that we can start 2017 off right with a clean slate and a plan.