2020: Year of Resolves and Transformation

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?

In summary:

#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!

Giving In To The Dip — Goodbye, JusB Proofreading

(To skip to the official announcement, click here. 🙂 )

In January of this year, I posted the following tweet:

What this week taught me:

It’s not always shameful to quit.

Sometimes, it’s braver to stop for the right reasons than to continue on for the wrong ones.

By the end of the day, I’d received several likes, a retweet, and a reply from a Twitter-er I’d met in 2017, modern-day Renaissance man (and longtime Renaissance Festival player) MordantRiki (@MordantWorld). It simply said–

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)
by Seth Godin

I wasn’t sure how he managed all that epic formatting in his tweet, but hey–quitters can’t be choosers, amiright?

…sorry. Blog joke.

I had not written my initial tweet frivolously, so MordantRiki’s recommendation intrigued me.  I had several projects I was juggling at the time, and trying to decide if they were all still worth the strain was…well, putting a strain on me.

But, I didn’t want to stop.  I wanted to succeed in all of my endeavors, because they were all so great!

Unfortunately, by trying to do everything, I was reaching the point where I was achieving nothing.

I had created my own “The Dip,” whether I knew it or not.  So, I bought the book to learn how I could work myself out and regroup to regain my motivation.

What Is “The Dip”?

I’m glad you asked, giant header.

[Sorry; I’m using a new WordPress editor, and it’s really making me aware of my dividers.]

The Dip, according to its namesake, is a lull in notable progress after starting an exciting new project.  After launching a business, it’s the first year of establishing yourself and building a clientele.  When writing a book, it’s the time spent editing and re-editing and re-re-editing and re-re-re…you get the point.

The book explains that the difference between those who succeed in life and those who don’t, is knowing when to quit and if they should quit in conjunction with this progress.  If you determine you must quit, you have two options:

  • Quit before you start, knowing you don’t have the bandwidth to even make it to the Dip. (aka the brave thing to do, according to the book.)
  • Quit during the Dip, after much time and money have been invested. (aka the stupid thing to do)

2011: My “The Dip”

The Launch

Seven years ago, I decided to start my own freelance proofreading and editing business.  It was nothing extremely elaborate; I was (am 🙂 ) good at proofreading, editing and writing, and I felt that I could help people while also making a living out of it.  Much research and budgeting later, and I launched JusB Proofreading, LLC.

The first few years were not easy.  I was forced to be sales and marking as well as the actual service department, creating business cards and telling everyone I knew about what I offered.  I bought equipment (a new iMac and all-in-one printer, among them) with money I didn’t have, and learned how to create a presentable website thanks to knowledgeable web design friends.  Requests for services were few and far between.

Pushing Through The Dip

Still, I made myself keep going.  I wanted to have my own hours; I wanted to know everything I provided so I could explain everything I provided.  My goal was to be fully independent through my company so I could make this my primary source of income.

I generally lucked out: nearly all of my clients paid for services rendered.  However, there were a few–friends, even–who I quickly found out I could not have a working relationship with and happily refunded their money.  There were others who wanted all the work done first, but balked when I gave them a binding contract and an earful of financial obligations.  One event planner called me for weeks, verbally abusing me long after I’d told him I wasn’t “the right person for the job” when the job entailed a list of services I didn’t even offer.

On the Other Side

But, I learned.  As time passed, my business leveled out and evolved from merely proofreading and editing, to resume-writing and job interview preparation.  In fact, all of the customers I’ve served over the last five years have exclusively requested resumes.  I had my niche: I trained myself in it, and I liked it.  Work arrived slowly, but consistently.

In fact, it became too consistent.

With my still having a full-time office job outside of my business, preparing resumes for multiple clients began to take on more time than I had available.  I was losing sleep and even human interaction with friends and family.  In 2017, I joined a choir.  I still had to finish editing my novel.  And I’d started training as a voice actor.

None of these choices were spur of the moment.  These were desires and life-long objectives that I had been putting off for years. I wanted to pursue them all.

But…something had to give.

Present Day

Since January, my active life has increased exponentially.  At first, I didn’t really give it much thought other than to think, Wow; I am managing my time really badly.

When I started having to tell my friends I couldn’t make one meet-up date due to another engagement, or I had to stay home and work on “something,” their eyebrows would rise. “Wow. You are super busy.”

“No, I’m not!” I’d scoff. “I’m just doing stuff at inconvenient times.  I’m free next week.  Oh, wait; not next week.  The week after–well, make that the following…huh.”

“Uh huh,” they’d say.

I started using Google Calendar to mark my appointments. Now, when my friends and family ask me to visit or attend events, I actually have to consult my calendar.  Like, un-ironically.

I’m surprised they haven’t swatted me yet.

JusB Proofreading–Its Current Status

All this brings me back to JusB Proofreading, LLC.  My baby.  One of the first creations in my adult life that I made myself.

I am so proud of this business and the growth and maturity it has brought me.

Deciding its fate has been a tough decision–one that I didn’t come by lightly or quickly.  I’ve been contemplating this since January, and I finally had to be honest with myself.

I’m busy.

I’m stressed.

I’m losing sleep.

And I can’t handle everything that I thought I could.

So, as of now, I am taking an indefinite hiatus from JusB Proofreading.  I will no longer be working on any proofreading, editing or resume projects.  My other projects will require 110% of my energy moving forward, and I don’t want to lose their momentum.

That being said, I don’t believe I am “closing the doors” on the business forever.  Once I’ve slowed down, perhaps in a year or so, I will revisit JBP and see how I can represent it even better.

In this scenario, I believe it’s okay to quit–because quitting doesn’t mean it’s all over.

It simply offers the chance to evolve to the next level and to push through the dip that is…The Dip.

Square B, Round Hole

…the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re damaging the peg.”  –Paul Collins

It was a concern that I’ve been pondering a lot lately, but it lifted to the forefront of my memory when my friends and I were reviewing an old quiz that I had taken when I was in my early twenties.

One of my friends stared at me as the other read the choices I’d left written in pencil nearly ten years ago.  “ ‘You look forward to how you will be punished when you arrive late.’ ”

I covered my face with my hands and buried myself into the couch cushions.  “I can’t believe I wrote that.  I honestly don’t remember writing that!”

“Suuurre.” The second friend smirked, but not maliciously.  I had brought down my book Your Erotic Personality (we’ll just save that explanation for another day) for them to check out (again, for reasons I don’t think I can really explain).  At any rate, it was a refreshing evening of food, wine, and candid talk that I haven’t really had as much as I would like.

In fact, after they had left, I began thinking about how very little I was in the mood to have more.  It was an odd dichotomy, that:  wanting more, but being afraid of it when it was arriving.

I’ve lived in Atlanta for nearly ten years, and since being here, I’ve had a lot of firsts:  first big city, first love, first real heartbreak, first job firing, first retirement plan, first martial art, first black belt, first work-from-home, first road trip with a friend.

Atlanta was also the first time that I was able to label segments of my personality — why I tended to get snippy at times and why quiet was often an important — alright, necessary — part of my life.  Words that I’d never thought about surged into my mind.  Introvert.  Hypersensitive.  Anxious.

And then there were — and are — times that make me wonder.  Was I using words like “introvert” and “hypersensitivity” and “social anxiety” as crutches to keep myself from experiencing the world?  I’d experiment by going out to a party in a location teeming with people — loud, young, boisterous, defiant people — and end up shaking and silent in a corner by the time I arrived.  A friend or family member would ask me what was wrong, and unless they knew about my struggles, I simply lied and explained that “I’m just tired; I had a long day at work,” or “I just haven’t eaten.”

What’s worse, I’d lie to myself in the process.  “Oh, I just took my 5HTP too late.”  Or, more commonly, “B, you’re being stupid.  No one’s attacking you.  No one cares what you do.  Just chat with someone — anyone.  This feeling will go away.”

This feeling will go away.

What feeling?

The feeling that your head is being squeezed like a vice every time you’re surrounded by massive amounts of stimulus.  The feeling that, every time you’re about to make a phone call or order food or even just tell a joke to a cluster of strangers, you’re holding your breath and talking yourself out of talking for long.  The feeling that, as soon as you get home from work (especially Fridays), you just want to turn off your phone, flop down on the couch, and lie catatonic for at least two days straight.  The feeling that, when invited to a public event, you need at least a week (heck, make it two) to pep-talk yourself into believing you will have a good time, and no, you won’t have 30 people laughing in your face — and that if they do, who flippin’ cares??

Yeah.  That feeling.

Looking back, I can recognize that I’ve always enjoyed the company of myself or a few to the company of many.  Some of my favorite childhood, adolescent, and college memories include me writing for eight hours straight with no interruptions, taking 10-mile rollerblading excursions with my older sister, or treating myself to a live wrestling show (or two) where the crowds were shockingly respectful and refreshingly kind to me.

That being said, I have recognized a difference in my overall sense of self that did not exist before.  While there is an exuberance and hope for the future, there is also a fear and hopelessness of the present.  While there is calm that everything will be okay, there is my fear towards how it is now.

How do I finally relax?  How do I learn how, not necessarily to fit in, but to fit?

As a child, there was a strange, billowing, orange-warm aura of naivety that made me less afraid to reach out and try new things.  Now in my thirties, that aura has become thin and brittle, blue and icily aware of too much.  The next step is finding the happy medium — a sweet, calm, soft magenta that serves as the perfect filter to my inner world and the world around me.  Finding it, and being ready for the changes it will entail.


The Fear Who Would Be King

“Everybody walks their own path. These paths may touch, they may intersect, and they may even merge for a length of time. They will never, however, be exactly the same path.” B-ism, 07/17/2012 I have a confession to make. I’m afraid of becoming a published author. I’m afraid of what will happen. I’m afraid of what it will mean. I think I have a variance of graphophobia. Considering I’m trying to become an author, these all may serve as some serious roadblocks. When I was about twelve years old, my middle school class took a trip to an ice skating…

A Day at the River

  Nothing like a trip to the river to really put your mind at ease. It’s been a week since I’ve returned from my trip from Arizona, and since that time, I’ve managed to keep the resolves I’d written down into an active practice. Things that I’d been putting off (taking items to Goodwill, enhancing my emotional, physical, and mental lifestyles – that sort of thing) are now forerunners on my list of things to do, no questions asked. Now, as I sit on a park bench and watch kayakers skate the surface while joggers cool down and spit into…