Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Year Of

We flew into Salt Lake City a few hours ago and I'm trying desperately not to fall asleep until at least 9:00 PM. I don't think I've really slept for about 30 hours. At the moment it feels like a Biblical miracle that my brain has been able to conjure up enough unique words to write these sentences so far.

Am I a saint now? Is that how that works?

I don't have the capacity to write what I want to write about leaving Palau, so I'll save that for next week. Instead I want to tell you about my theme for 2020, and I want to hear yours as well (or whatever resolutions/goals you have).

I started doing the yearly themes when I was living in Palau at the beginning of 2013. I had always been a resolutions person, even though those typically went as well for me as they do for most people. Determination and dedication, for a few weeks. Then a falter and total abandonment.

In Palau I was really struggling, and I realized that I needed, desperately, to change something. At the time I believed a huge part of my problem was an attitude issue. I was very much in the depths of despair and flailing in my Palauan life. So one afternoon while sitting in my little suffocating office I decided to make a concerted effort to stop thinking of that office as suffocating.


I was going to be grateful for it and for the beauty around me and for the unbelievably incredible opportunity I had to be in that beautiful country in the first place. As cheesy as it sounds, I pulled out a yellow sticky note and wrote "Year of Attitude" on it. I stuck it to the bottom of my computer monitor.

Over the next many months every time I felt an urge to complain or feel sorry for myself, that sticky note would pop back into my mind. "Eli, this is the Year of Attitude," I would tell myself. "You aren't going to think like that during the Year of Attitude."

Beautiful Palau

It worked. It worked so well for me. This wasn't a resolution I could fail. This was an ideology I strived for. That made a difference for me. And when that year ended, having a positive attitude, looking for reasons to be grateful, was so much more natural for me than it had been at the beginning of the year.

That exercise truly changed my life.

Since then I've picked a different theme for each year. Every single one of them has been special to me.

2014: The Year of Honesty
2015: The Year of Standing Up For Myself
2016: The Year of Productivity
2017: The Year of Creativity
2018: The Year of New
2019: The Year of Health

Through those years I have become more brave and I've worked harder and I've pursued creative projects I've always wanted to try but hadn't dared to previously and this has all become such a positive and wonderful tradition for me--something I look forward to every January.

This year while wandering Palau--those same streets--those same beaches--the same spots where I thought about what a "Year of Attitude" would look like, I decided what I want my 2020 to be.

I want this to be The Year of Perspective for me.

One of my most debilitating ongoing challenges is what I would call obsessive anxiety. I worry constantly, usually about things I can't control. This dramatically affects my quality of life and I think it hurts my relationships. One of the most eye-opening aspects of being with Skylar is having a front-row seat to what the opposite of this looks like. Sky is carefree. He doesn't stress about things that don't matter (and he only mildly stresses about things that do). I think because of this, things work out for him. He walks through this life in a state of pleasant bliss.

He makes me so mad. Doesn't he know 50% of the sleeping hours are for lying in bed with your eyes completely wide open and panicking because you just realized you said something in 2010 that might have been misinterpreted as racist?

He doesn't know that. And he doesn't do it. Instead he climbs onto stages to dance his heart out and sing "It's Raining Men" at the top of his lungs, completely uninterested in whether or not people are going to like him for it. (And they do.)

I want to be more like that.

As I got to thinking about what makes us different in this way, it hit me that a lot of this has to do with perspective. Sometimes when I'm rambling through a list of reasons I think we should be panicking over something, Skylar will say "that's not going to happen but even if it does, we'll be fine." He's always right.

What he's really telling me is "have some perspective."

This year I want to think about what it means to put things into perspective. I want to use that to prioritize relationships that matter to me. When anxiety starts bubbling, I want to remind myself to put the worry into perspective. Does this really matter? Is this actually important? Is my worrying about it going to help?

I have a life I love. I won the lottery on spouses. I've been given a great amount of privilege to do so many of things I want to do. Worrying about whether I forgot to turn off a light before leaving the house isn't going to undo any of that.

I also read recently some advice from someone who said that worrying about a thing that might happen guarantees you'll experience the hardship once, and maybe even twice.

I want to remember that this year. By the end of 2020 I want to be able to say that I'm calmer. That I'm not triggered by an angry work email. That I'm sleeping better.

Please hold me to it!

And so we can all help one another, go! It's your turn! What is 2020 going to be for you?

~It Just Gets Stranger

54 comments:

  1. Year of Perspective. I love it! Thank you for sharing all that you do, and thank you for bringing Skylar into our lives.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This year will be the Year of Fun. I work a lot and, as a result, never seem to get around to the things that I would like to do for fun. So, this year I am going to ride my bike more, teach myself calligraphy, travel more, read, read, read, set up a bird feeding station, take ballroom dancing lessons. Just for fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This sounds like how I approached my "Year of Creativity." It has honestly changed my life. Good for you! Find what makes you happy and love it!

      Delete
  3. I've been thinking about this for a while and I think I actually started my "year of" in November when my husband decided we were moving. You read that right - we didn't decide - my husband decided. And within three weeks we had made and offer on a house and sold our house. We are actually in the process of moving as I type this . . .

    This is something that would have completely put me over the edge previously. But I've worked hard to remain calm. It doesn't mean that I'm not physically anxious. I have anxiety and I can't control the physiological responses to it. But I can control my thinking and that's what I'm trying to do - take reasonable assessment of the situation I'm facing and move forward.

    I recently watched Season Two of Lost in Space and one of the characters was given advice by her dad that fits this outlook. Roughly, it was that when things don't go as planned you need to asses your situation, pick a course of action, and move forward.

    So this is my goal for 2020 - but I'm not really sure what to call it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you moving with him? If my husband made a decision that big unilaterally, I would be rethinking my marriage.

      Delete
    2. Nicole--I feel like I know you from our interactions on this silly site and on our one phone call not long ago. I love you, and support you, and have total faith in your ability to navigate any complicated aspect of life. Thank you for constantly inspiring me to wear callouses with pride. You got this.

      Delete
    3. First note: I re-read my post and realized I put asses instead of assess . . . . it may have been a Freudian slip.

      Second note: I live in a household with an ADHD husband and son. I've learned to pick my battles and when not to. My focus with this move has been that a house is not my home - my husband is my home. The battle here would have been to fight to stay someplace he wasn't happy. There are times in his life when he needs to take action. I knew this was one of those times so I went along with it. I did help pick out the house (the first one he wanted to look at was AWFUL).

      Third note: Eli - you have no idea (or maybe you do) how much it delights me to read your comments. I often talk about your blog to my friends like you're a "real" person in my life. You write so well that I feel like I know you - like you're someone we'd have over for our housewarming for the new house. It warms me that you feel like you know me as well. Someday I'll make it to SLC and we'll have drinks :)

      Delete
  4. I've been doing your "year of..." challenges since 2017. I have LOVED the perspective it's given me, that life is about trying again, not giving up after a few weeks and just saying "oh well" to self improvement. This year, I've chosen the Year Of Forgiveness. Forgiving others for big things and little things, but mostly forgiving others for differences in personality, values, and priorities. I usually allow myself to judge others or be frustrated with them simply because I don't see things the way they do. Not that they did anything wrong or that I need an apology... Just that I can accept their choices and accept them. So far it's been mentally challenging, and yet I feel so much lighter.
    I love your 2020... Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a great Year of . . . but don't forget to include forgiveness of yourself!

      Delete
    2. Bloomsygirl, you are wonderful. I believe the people who are happiest in this life are the ones who figure out how to honestly forgive. And Nicole is right--forgiveness of self is part of that.

      Delete
  5. My word this year is Brave. I let my fears control what I do way too often. If I didn't have commitment issues and a fear of needles I'd get it tattooed on my arm to remind me all the time!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha. Well, I think it's ok to not want to commit to a tattoo. But good for you. I honestly believe the people who are the most inspiring are the ones who actively work on becoming more brave.

      Delete
    2. I'd love to hear more about your year of Brave and how you're conquering your fears this year. This is a big lesson I've been trying to teach my son and it would be great to hear other perspectives.

      Delete
  6. This is the Year of Student Loans (paying them off!) My husband and I are hyper-focused on them, and we want them gone and paid off. For you, and the Year of Perspective, I have a bit of advice someone gave to me. Instead of telling someone (or yourself) "It could be worse", say, "It's not as bad as I think."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Matt got me listening to Dave Ramsey this year and it has been so eye-opening for me. Financial freedom is big. And thank you for the saying. I've been thinking about it all day.

      Delete
  7. Step one for all of us

    https://youtu.be/Z1zg_h3O94U

    ReplyDelete
  8. So I ended my Year of Faith with a huge leap of faith by moving to Alaska for a new job. (I definitely feel akin to the foreign experience Eli had in Palau). I really want to find the right balance of maintaining old friendships and being open to new friendships. Also, this is my first time having zero roommates, so I will actually need to go actively seek out more friends instead of using roommates as my default social interactions.

    2020 will be My Year of Connection.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, that's perfect! I love that idea! When I think about the things I'm most proud of in my life, they always involve my connection with another person. Bless you on your quest!

      Delete
    2. Sarah - please tell me you binge-watched Northern Exposure as research for your new home . . .

      Delete
  9. I haven't thought about it, but maybe the Year of Attempts. My therapist is trying to get me to actually TRY things, and not just settle for whatever crumbs settle on me. Go to that audition. Apply for that job. Start on that disaster that's too big to clean up. It's okay to fail, so I can at least make an attempt. Maybe some of those attempts will surprise me with success.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny, I think I might steal this from you one day. I love it. I've never regretted trying something. I've only ever regretted *not* trying something. I can't wait to hear what you learn from 2020.

      Delete
  10. This is The Year of Brave for me. I’m working on finding my Brave. In my mind I can do it but then when I think of actually doing whatever it is (being honest about some things) the anxiety approaches swiftly. They won’t Actually hate me, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deciding to be more courageous and telling others about it is already a big step in accomplishing that very thing. Rachel, you are special, and I have no doubt you know how to make 2020 a year that matters to you. Bless you, from this one Stranger.

      Delete
    2. Another person used this as well and my comment is the same to you - I'd love to hear more about how you approach this.

      Delete
  11. I guess I'm going for a hybrid Year of Health/Perspective. I was very sick last fall, in the hospital for 11 days. That has produced a whole new slew of problems that keep cropping up, still, to this day. Literally a new one today. So I need to work on getting that all in line and under control. I also need to focus on keeping my cool. Trying very hard to realize, hey, it ain't killed me yet. And if it does, there's nothing I can do about that either, so stop obsessing.

    That's the goal anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kjax, love from the Strangerverse. I feel like I know you just from your constant thoughtfulness here on the interwebs. You got this! I have no doubt you got this.

      Delete
  12. I want to say 'purpose'. I have a 4yr old, 2yr old and 5mo old and have basically been in survival mode just trying to keep my head above water for awhile. But it has weighed heavy on my heart lately that I have very little time to devote to teaching and nurturing these children and I must be intentional. Purposeful. I need to figure out what that looks like and be devoted to it every day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bless you, Becca. I wonder if those who worry about this the most are often the ones who are unintentionally living life with the *most* purpose. Who wouldn't want a mom who cares that much?

      Delete
  13. The Year of Joy for me. I want to focus on (1) doing more of the things that bring me joy, and(2) finding more joy even in the mundane or frustrating aspects of life. Life shouldn't feel like drudgery so much of the time, and when it does, I need to do something about it, whether externally or internally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bless you. Joy is often a choice and I constantly find that the people who best understand that are the ones who experience it the most.

      Delete
  14. 2019 (The Year of Decisions) started out pretty well and ended pretty rough for me. I'm still terrible at making decisions, but at least I was intentional about it.

    During a therapeutic nature retreat a couple months ago, I kept hearing others say the word "honor" and it really resonated with me. I had it in my mind for 2020, but I'm also leaning toward "grace". Maybe it's the Year of Honor and Grace. I can't decide. RIP 2019 theme haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grace and honor seem like compatible themes to me! Maybe the Year of Charity?

      Delete
    2. Oh, that's lovely! I may change it, if I'm not already too stuck in my ways...

      Delete
  15. 2020 is going to be the Year of Living for me. I am a very cautious, anxious, reserved person. I want to go out and do exciting things, but I always find an excuse not to. This is the year I go out and live!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have our support! If I could do an emoji now I would do that one with a flexed bicep!

      Delete
  16. The Year of Stairs for me. In a literal sense I’ve committed to using stairs instead of the elevator anytime it’s 3 flights or less (or if I’m with my husband obviously). In a deeper sense it’s representative of me doing the harder thing in the moment because it’s better for me as a whole and in the long term. So far taking the stairs instead of the elevator has reminded me that years of indulging every whim and self-medicating with instant gratification is causing me harm in the long run. Each step is a reminder that I want to make choices to respect my body, my emotional and mental health, my career, my friendships, and my marriage every day even when those benefits aren’t immediate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love this thought! Good luck on your stair-climbing!

      Delete
    2. Jessica, you constantly inspire me. You have for years. All the loves.

      Delete
  17. I LOVE this approach! What a great way to spend a year-with a theme. As I read thus I had the inspiration for my own theme. For me, 2020 is going to be my year of being deliberate. Thank-you for the thoughtful post that has changed my perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that idea! There is so much power in taking responsibility for our actions and "owning" them. Bless you, Becky!

      Delete
  18. This is the year of creative for me. "Creative for Me" . I'm an artist for a living and create for others. So much so, I haven't let my own horses out in many a long year. I just spent a week moving an easel into my office space at home so that I may find it easy to just paint when I need a break from other things. And this feels like an epiphany of sorts. Last june and July i was circling the drain with breast cancer; I thought death would take me. Now I am much better, 40 lbs lighter, missing a breast, but I am having such a movement in my mind to CREATE! :) life is short. And I am here, now. It's my year to create -for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you. Bonnie, if you see this and might be interested, I would love to talk with you about sharing your story with the Strangerverse. Would you shoot me an email at itjustgetsstranger@gmail.com? No worries either way.

      Delete
  19. This year my word is "chill." I find myself getting too uptight and snappy more than I would like. I want to be more chill when I react to my children's antics or misbehavior--more able to laugh instead of get upset. I used to be more like that but that has changed as I've had more kids and the chaos around me has increased, and I'd like to get back to being the calm in the storm. Plus more able to be chill about other people's decisions that I totally can't change or influence, like some of my family members. I want to be chill instead of letting other people's moods affect my own.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Year of the next right thing.

    Yes, I was inspired by Frozen II.

    There is a lot that I am not looking forward to in 2020, and so I want to not look too far into the uncontrollable future. I will focus on right now.

    Regardless of what just happened, no matter whether I was just depressed or rude or grumpy, and despite what is about to happen—I can choose right now to do the next right thing.

    (Eli, did you like—really, truly like—the em dashes I’ve thrown in for you?)

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is the year of respecting my body. I had a baby last year and found that suddenly it was really hard for me to make the choices that I know are good for me, in the short and long term, while also trying to keep a tiny human alive.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks for the idea and example, Eli! I've been doing this for the past couple of years, and it really works for me (better than "lose weight, get in shape, clean the house" resolutions, for sure). The theme that popped into my head around Thanksgiving, and won't go away, is "shine." I'm getting along in years (which for me means I spend a lot more time reviewing my place in the world), and have a reasonable amount of talents and accomplishments, but I can't remember the last time I intentionally tried to shine. I *can* shine, but I am in the habit of letting others shine and being the support staff. This results in things such as not being recognized for projects, ideas, feats of strength, etc. For most of my life, I didn't care about (or seek) credit for things. I'm happy with myself, I know what I do, and if you notice it too, that's great! But . . . I realized this fall that I've been in a low-grade depression for the past couple of years. I rarely feel like anything I do will matter or does matter. So I guess I need to do something. I'm going to try to shine! Not to get credit, but to remind myself that I'm pretty okay sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Please share your progress during the year!! I think I need this focus too. Not just for little things, but also major things... bad things in the news, natural disasters etc cause me such immense pain and anxiety but that doesn’t help me (or the people affected) in any way!! Not that I don’t want to have empathy, but the extreme anxiety about things that aren’t happening to me is detrimental! I have enough anxiety about things that are or might happen to me and I need to tame that ;)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I teach art. I've been using this idea of reflecting on last year and choosing a theme for the new year as a prompt for my students for years because of you! This year it was the year of Keys. What is key in your life, what is the key to your success, what do you need to unlock to move forward, what door do you need to go through next, what mask do you need to unlock, etc. I give the students questions like that as a prompt then they make art about it. Pretty cool way to come back to school in January. We've done Journey, Change, Reflection and others over the years.

    Prompted by this I have been working on the same theme for a couple of years- What if it works? So often we think "I can't" or "I've tried before and it didn't work." so I started on the idea of figuring out what goal I could set and just see if it did work. 1 paper left and I'll have my masters! My next idea is, "I've been teaching forever, how can I pass on what I've learned?" I think having a guiding question is a great way to set goals!

    ReplyDelete
  25. This is the year of engagement/commitment for me. There's a Ron Swanson quote that I love that is what kind of inspired this. Ron says: Never half-ass two things; whole-ass one thing. My life kind of exploded in October, and I feel like I haven't really tried to get it back on track since then. It's been a few months of doing the bare minimum, and hoping that I don't fall to pieces. So, this year, I want to actually engage in my life. I want to do my best at things (and my best is allowed to vary from day to day). I want to try new things. I want to get better at flossing--the hygiene, not the dance move. I want to deal with emotions I've been bottling up. It's time to make conscious decisions to engage in my life. So, here's to a year of "whole-assery"!

    ReplyDelete
  26. When I was in the classroom, I did this as a project with my kids every year. We would read your blogs on the process and examples, brainstorm our own, and then create cards or posters to put up in the classroom. I miss doing it, and might try to find a way to include it with my pull-out classes...

    Last year was the year of following through. I wanted to focus on actually doing the things I said I was going to do. Sometimes I did, sometimes I did not. But it was there and I liked that.

    This year, I think I want to be the Year of Growth. I want to grow professionally, hopefully towards becoming a librarian. I want to work on being a better gardener. I want to grow as a person, and work on being better about my depression. I want to grow in my marriage and, honestly, q number of other areas.

    Eli, thank you for creating a space for us to be a community, and for sharing so much of yourself that many of us feel like we're your friends and part of your life too.

    ReplyDelete
  27. This year is my motto is MAKE WAVES. I have been playing it safe for so long and afraid to do things. I'm going to be like George Costanza and do the opposite of what I would normally do!

    ReplyDelete