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."
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