Click here to go straight to my 2020 New Year’s “resolves”!
It’s an interesting revelation to realize well into your adulthood that you are pretty much unchanged, personality-wise, from when you were a child. If you were neat as a kid, instinctively putting your toys away after playing, you probably still find sweet pleasure in maintaining that cleanliness in your home. If you were a bossy kid, always telling the rest of the neighborhood how to manage the kickball league in the street, you’re probably just itching to become manager in your current department at work.
As a child, I always appreciated the quiet and intimacy that nature and my closest loved ones provided. For example, when my family and I lived in Illinois up until I was nine, my mother would take my older sister and I into St. Louis, where we would visit one of the city’s most notable landmarks, Forest Park. I couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time (I could still fit in my stroller, though goodness knows my mother should have kicked me out by then), but I remember the long strolls we took through the winding pathways beneath ageless trees. The inherent silence of the area (my mother preferred off-peak park hours) as our footfalls padded upon the wide pathways and the wind nestled into the lush crowns above our heads, created a sense of security that I wished could last forever.
At the time I began this post, I was sitting before an artificial fireplace with a cat dozing to my right and my older sister crocheting in an armchair to the left, and I found the sentiment rising in me again. Over thirty years have passed since I last set foot (or stroller) into Forest Park, but the silence of my current stance and the company kept have not diminished my adoration for quiet moments. No TV blaring in the background; not even the pleasing trills of music. Just…quiet and good company.
2019: Last Looks
Reflection into the past naturally brings me into reflection of this year alone. Though I did set a few resolutions to give me structure and a sense of stability, that is a far cry from having any control on the outcome. I can be a very emotional, stress-influenced person: if I don’t set a plan or a schedule on how my life is supposed to proceed, I freak out and shut down. This results in no progress being made, sending me further into a panic.
That’s why my primary resolution for 2019 was to spend time with the people I love. Though the emotional toils of 2018 drove this decision, it could have been easy to make this priority almost mechanical. Hanging out with friends and calling family on a regular basis seemed simple enough.
But when the lives of your friends and your family are just as real and complicated as your own, you can’t simply tuck time to talk to them in whatever gaps are available. I also learned that just hanging out or talking more didn’t make me a better friend or daughter.
And then, something else happened that I didn’t expect.
My own life started to break down.
And then I broke down.
For a few months in, I tried to ignore my own physical symptoms–the exhaustion, the lethargy, the insomnia, the anxiety, the brain fog, the migraines–and forced myself to keep going.
Keep working. Keep giving. Keep helping. Keep nodding yes.
When Winston Churchill said famously, “When going through hell, keep going,” I’d like to think that he didn’t mean until you physically can’t get up. I certainly don’t think he meant stand at your desk, take a look at the To-Do List–filled with tasks you’ve done over and over again for years–and burst into tears because your head has been throbbing for nearly six months and you’re just so sick and tired of being sick and tired.
It’s a shame that it took half a year and a point where I was dizzy and near-fainting before I realized why. I was paying attention to everything but my own well-being.
The Turning Point
By mid-summer, I was visiting doctors, counselors, and therapists at least three times a week to figure out what was wrong. I was on heavy medications and getting bloodwork and CTs to find a deeper meaning to my ailments than simply psychological. It wasn’t until September that I finally received some kind of answer.
“Surgery?” Numbly, I held the phone to my ear as the physician’s assistant provided me with the vague results of my head CT. “It’s bad enough where I need surgery?”
The PA wouldn’t expand on her original instructions. “Just come into the office. You can discuss the procedural options with your surgeon then.”
When I arrived later that week for my appointment, the surgeon explained that most of my symptoms were a results of increasingly severe inflammation in my nasal cavities that had been growing worse over the last year–“and probably longer,” he said. This was the reason for many of my physical symptoms: my brain and body were literally being deprived of oxygen it needed to function normally. “Sounds like you just only started feeling the severity of everything this last year.”
Since I was no longer responding to any of the medications they were giving me, endoscopic surgery was the next best solution.
One month later, I lay on my couch with gauze strapped to my bloody nose. I was fully congested but forbidden to sneeze, blow my nose, or even sniff. My mouth was parched from hanging open every night in my attempts to sleep through the pain. Sufficed to say, I felt like all my symptoms of the last year had multiplied tenfold.
But even through my recovery, my 2019 resolution rose to occasion on its own in a way I hadn’t expected. Though I had felt too miserable to remember to check on my friends, they had been kind enough to check up on me.
In fact, they did more than just check up on me. As I lay prone, eating nothing but rice, bananas and chicken broth every day, so swollen internally I could only breath through my mouth, my loved ones came to me. My father stayed with me for a few hours after surgery while the anesthesia wore off, taking the “day shift” while one of my closest friends (who had volunteered to drive me to the hospital) took the night between her shifts at work. Friends dropped off groceries at my front door when I was too sick to even text them.
On my birthday, while I was still too nauseous and dizzy to even wear my glasses, the well wishes poured in through texts and Facebook notifications. I held four-hour phone calls with my mother. I even heard from old friends I hadn’t spoken to in years.
By the time I returned to work, even my coworkers–some I hadn’t thought even noticed that I was gone–lit up in smiles when they saw me enter the office. This notion surprised me–I had spent years living under a radar and assumed that not many people noticed me. I assumed that even less of them cared.
Appreciate Them, Appreciate You
After seeing the amount of people who reached out as I dealt with not only physical problems, but mental and emotional ones, too, I was struck with the amount of damage my low self-esteem and dismissive attitude has possibly done. How many friendships had I lost by assuming that people didn’t like me? How many people’s opinions did I unintentionally disrespect because it was faster and easier to believe that they were just being nice instead of actually saying something out of love?
If I wanted to truly show loved ones how much they mattered to me, I also had to believe how much I mattered to them.
Sound a little self-serving? It certainly did to me.
But, think about it like this:
How many times has someone complimented you, your clothes, a solution you gave in a meeting, or who you are in general?
What was your knee-jerk reaction to the compliment?
Did you wave it off in embarrassment?
Did you say, “Oh, I’ve gained so many pounds; it’s not fitting like it used to”?
Did you defer it to another person: “Oh, Joey mentioned the word ‘bootstrap’ earlier, so he was really the brainchild for it.”
Why did you blow the compliment off? To sound humble? Because you don’t feel like you deserve it?
Look at it from another angle. Instead of questioning why you said it for yourself, recognize that you just blew off someone’s verbal positivity in your direction. Someone literally tossed you a lovely gift, and instead of catching it, you slapped it away. Or, you caught it and immediately began criticizing the gift itself. Or, you caught the gift and, right in front of the person who gave it to you, gave it to someone else.
Accepting a compliment isn’t just allowing yourself to feel good. It’s receiving the person’s kindness towards you, letting it sink in, and appreciating to the full extent.
2020 New Year “Resolves”
Which brings us–finally!–to my 2020 resolutions.
Or–as I have determined to call them–my 2020 resolves.
As I do every year after Christmas day, I consult with my family and encourage them to set goals as we all march into the New Year. Years ago, they didn’t take this ritual nearly as seriously as I did. I don’t know if I had a direct effect on their changed minds, but they have commented on how incredible and fun-filled my last few years have been–and how they seem to be getting better and more fulfilling as each new one rolls around. Though 2019 was…a smidgen rough, I certainly can’t fault it on the level of activity or the lessons learned.
Regardless of the reason, I was immensely pleased when, as the New York Square New Year’s clock chimed past midnight on the TV, my family nestled themselves into a makeshift circle and took turns sharing our resolutions and goals for 2020.
Since I felt I had to pause my progress halfway through 2019, I’ve decided to stay on the current path of internal work and well-being. Though I do have New Year’s resolutions (concrete goals like achieving the splits or taking a dance class or finally gaining a voice-over agent), my main focus will be on my resolves–adjusting lifelong habits, emotional hangups, and overall life perspectives into more positive, assertive, productive, true-to-self manifestations. Focusing appreciation on my loved ones will continue, of course; however, I am also going to focus on improving my own self-esteem, well-being and mindfulness.
Novel, ain’t it?
#1: Take Yourself More Seriously
For years, I often felt like not much was expected of me. This I felt on both a personal and a professional level. When I was busy victimizing myself (which I applied throughout my adolescence and 20s), I blamed my parents, my teachers and managers for this point of view–everyone but myself. Even worse, instead of choosing to defy this stigma, I played it up. I was loud and bouncy and perky all the time. I bumbled and pretended I couldn’t do things well, especially not the first time. I laughed at myself and acted like a silly ten-year-old well into my twenties.
Until I thought–why?
Why did I keep selling myself short? Why did I act like some silly, ditzy little girl all the time? It wasn’t me–at least, not all of me.
It’s been a defense mechanism I’ve used for years, but it’s not one that I want anymore. It no longer serves any purpose. It’s not fun. It’s annoying.
I’m ready to start blaming the one person who perpetuated this behavior in me–and I’m also ready to hold her accountable so that she never makes excuses for herself ever again.
The way I want to truly be will require me to cut the crap–something that should have been said and done a long, long time ago.
#2: Self-aware, Self Care, and Self Prepare
Funny what you notice once you start feeling better mentally, emotionally, physically.
What are a few things I noticed after my nose surgery?
- Huh. My house is really dirty.
- When did I accumulate all this clutter in my house?
- Why am I nearly 40 and still never had a long-term romantic relationship?
- When did I gain all this weight? Why do I feel so old?
- Omigosh, I cut off a LOT of my hair last year.
These are all small things by comparison, but when you’re trying to succeed in the world of “adulting,” it’s when all the little things build up that can really make you feel out of sorts. So, now is as good a time as any to begin sorting through it all–both with the internal work and the external work.
I’ll touch on a few of the changes in future posts, but in the meantime–changes will definitely, definitely be made.
Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself, that brings you peace of mind.
#3: You Have a Choice
As I said in my last post last year, it’s easy to go through life on autopilot, living each day in a reactive way. But what would happen if we lived proactively? Just because we’re used to waking up and climbing out of bed on the right side, doesn’t mean we can’t try climbing out on the left side for once. What about the art classes or the dance classes you always wanted to take but never did? The smile you chose not to give the cute guy or girl, because you assumed they were out of your league?
When you choose not to do something because you assume you already know the results, that’s just it. You are assuming. You don’t know for sure. You assume you’ll be a horrible dancer. You assume your art will suck. You assume you aren’t attractive enough and will make a fool of yourself. But you don’t know. And you will never know the actual results until you freakin’ suck it up and try.
You have a choice to live life exactly the way you want to live it. You entered this world with yourself, and you will escort yourself out. Don’t you two deserve to have conscious control with what you want to do with it?
I certainly do. After 37 years of ignoring myself and assuming I was not pretty, talented, smart, good enough to do or be anything, I finally had another thought.
“I’ve spent enough time feeling like I’m not worth the time or energy. How would it look if I spent less time focused on my endless ‘faults,’ and more time turning my life into one that makes me feel happy, empowered and fulfilled?”
I don’t know the answer to this. But it sure will be interesting to find out.
Happy flippin’ new year, ya’ll. 🙂
Want to recap on my 2019 resolutions? Read my old post below!