2015 Recap

Another year, another recap. This time before the ball drops!

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

I went to The Netherlands. It was a blast! I’d never been anywhere that public transit works so well and is so ingrained in the culture. The number of people on bikes and the fact that bikes had their own traffic signals was amazing.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

 

LOL, apparently I didn’t make any resolutions last year and that trend will stay strong for next year. I failed at the 2015 Reading Challenge. I just didn’t get the books in the categories, though I read over 100 books. I found I just wanted to read what I wanted to read, not according to some list.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but I found out someone in the family is pregnant. That’s super cool.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My godmother’s husband died from a heart attack.

5. What countries did you visit?

Brazil and The Netherlands!

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

More energy. Less pain. I have no idea how those will happen, but I would like to get it figured out. I plan on going to Ireland in July. I’d like to be able to walk around more easily. Or, fine, really medicated.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

 

June 11 – Foot surgery. The surgery itself was fine. The recovery not so much.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Like last year I don’t really think I had one. I think making it through the year without losing it completely may count as an achievement. So much did not go as anticipated.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Maintaining expectations about…anything. I was consistently disappointed and it was my own fault.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

This question is just sort of comical. I haven’t had a pain-free day since January 28, 2014. I am perpetually sick. I have pain every day. The better question for me may be when I didn’t suffer illness or injury.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I love my iPhone 6. But I think all the cross-stitch stuff is pretty cool. It’s keeping me occupied and giving me a creative outlet.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mr. Lyndsy still ranks in here. Being married to me cannot be easy with how often I’m sick and in pain. I think some of my friends have also done a great job being supportive of me while I’m trying to figure out how to live like this.

Some of my friends have also gone through a lot of shit this year and are still standing. That definitely deserves to be celebrated.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Keeping this from last year, “Also, what the hell is wrong with people? All over the internet I saw people who just have no respect or regard for their fellow human beings.”

14. Where did most of your money go?

Fucking student loans. Again.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Going to Brazil and meeting Mr. Lyndsy’s family, finally having foot surgery, and going to The Netherlands.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

Cookie Jar by Gym Class Heroes. That shit is hilarious.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • happier or sadder? Sadder
  • thinner or fatter?  I feel fatter. Fuck it.
  • richer or poorer? Richer in life, poorer in money.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Listening to my body. Also, I wish I’d saved money better.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

I wish I’d spent less money. I wish I’d gone to doctors more to get things sorted out. Not that that seems to work that well for me, but at least I’d feel like I tried.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?

Yes, with our crazy and ridiculous dog.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Criminal Minds, probably. Did binge watch How to Get Away with Murder. That shit is messed up.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Not anyone specific.

24. What was the best book you read?

Me Before You. Holy shit. I cried so much, but it was such a beautiful book. I’m excited to read the sequel.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Taylor Swift.

26. What did you want and get?

The stupid iPhone 6. I also got my mom and godmother on iPhones so now messaging and communicating with them is easier.

27. What did you want and not get?

A pink iPhone 6s. I don’t really need it, but it’s so pretty.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Inside Out, probably. I love Disney/Pixar movies. It made me cry. Damn them.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Dinner with friends at a Brazilian restaurant. So much meat. I’m the decrepit age of 34!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having someone magically pay my loans off.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Quoting 2014: Lazy and comfortable because that’s how I roll. Most days now I don’t get out of my pajamas. Working from home has its benefits.

32. What kept you sane?

Cross-stitch, internet communications with friends, a couple trips to the US for things I miss, and Mr. Lyndsy.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

STILL Benedict Cumberbatch. That man. Hot damn.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Still the killings of unarmed black men by cops, continued idiocy over vaccinations.

35. Who did you miss?

My friends. All of them.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

This cat-loving crazy woman. Sadly, she wasn’t here long. Now I have to find a NEW cat-loving crazy woman.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

Let go of expectation. Things will be what they’ll be. Just ride the tide.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“What do I have to do??”

New Year, No Goals

Well, it’s that time of year again. As the calendar flips form 2015 to 2016, most of us have a good think about the past year and how we’d like to do 2016 different. We resolve to be better about x, y, or z or we set goals like losing a certain number of pounds or whatever.

What I have come to learn this year is that goal-setting and resolving to do things only matters as long as your situation doesn’t change. My health went into the shitter last year. I don’t have the energy to do a lot of things I’d like to do. Getting on the elliptical 3 times per week would be a great goal, but sometimes my body just won’t do it.

Perhaps if I weren’t so hard on myself it may be okay to set goals. But if I say I’m going to do something 3 times per week and then I don’t do it, REGARDLESS OF THE REASON, I feel like I failed at it. That just makes me feel worse. I don’t see any point in driving myself crazy over something I don’t consider “mission critical.”

My only focus right now is trying to feel as good as possible as much of the time. Right now I just don’t know what that will entail exactly. I will probably figure it out as I go. I’m planning on going to Ireland this summer and that will be a lot of walking and carrying things. I need to feel pretty good going into that trip, so I suspect I will spend some time working out so that my back and leg don’t collapse on me while I’m there.

I’m debating whether to set another reading goal for myself. At times I felt pressured to read more, but reading makes me happy and forces me to relax. I love the reading challenge on Goodreads and seeing the progress bar move is hugely satisfying. My goal was 100 books for 2015 and I don’t know whether I feel like that was too ambitious or not. I did get t done AND ahead of schedule. I have a while to decide.

I will continue with my 30-Day Projects. They’re fun and I’m amused by them. I had ideas at first, but now I’m just sort of winging it. That seems to be working out okay though.

The big thing is that I won’t be setting any workout goals or weight loss goals. That’s more pressure than I can handle given the state of my body and my emotional state. I want 2016 to be pressure-free and happy. I have the luxury of being able to do that so I may as well take advantage.

To 2016 and feeling good!

Making a List

I just read an article online about increasing dopamine levels (in turn making you feel better). It included things like avoiding addiction, sleeping well, exercise, and taking supplements. The article said that making lists and checking things off helps increase dopamine because of the sense of accomplishment you get when you complete a task. Before anyone gets their panties in a twist, I  know it was an internet article about science. It’s accuracy may not be real high. However,  I do think there was something to what I read, particularly the part about making lists and checking stuff off when you get it done.

I’ve been making lists recently because I swear I can’t remember shit if I don’t. It’s a horrible thing, not to have my memory be what it used to be. It’s like this fog descends over my brain and I lose all ability to remember stuff.

I recommended it to a coaching client who normally feels anxiety about making lists. Instead of feeling the joy of seeing things checked of, she could only focus on the things that were left undone. I suggested that if she saw the same things left undone over and over, that perhaps they weren’t that important to her to do. I think that changed her perspective only it a little bit.

I think there is a lot to be said about feeling a sense of accomplishment for even routine things. Routine things take up loads of time. As we’re crawling into bed at night completely exhausted, we wonder where our day has gone. It’s things like laundry, grocery shopping, and paying the bills that eat up our time.

For someone like me, with chronic health issues, all of those activities is a real energy drain. I had so much pain in my back earlier today that I thought I might have to go to the doctor. It’s subsided now, but I had to lay down for a while to get it under control. I read a book while I was resting, but that doesn’t mean that the time was a waste, by any stretch. Since I couldn’t do anything else I needed to do, like finish unpacking or more laundry, I used the time to do something else that’s important to me. I feel a *little* better about the time spent laying on my back.

I think tracking everything I do during the day and then crossing it off will make me feel better about my illness. Some days it’s hard to et out of bed at all, let alone do all the stuff I need to do around the house and for work. I’m hoping that if I can see everything I’ve done (without focusing on what remained undone), I’ll not feel like a lazy bum. Also, if I make a list of what needs to be done the following day, before I got to sleep at night, I may be able to remember all of it a little but better!

What about you? Are you a list maker? Does it help?

Book Review: Cries in the Night: A Low Country Ghost Story by Lori Roberts

Overall I found this book quite enjoyable. I don’t usually read ghost stories, but it was also a mystery which I do usually read. The combination intrigued me.

Two people move into a house, hoping it will be their dream home, only to find they’re not the only ones living there. The author does a great job introducing us to the characters and spreading their story throughout the book. You want them to be happy and figure out what’s going wrong in their home so they can live in peace. It gets surprisingly suspenseful given that they’re dealing with ghosts and not live people.

While the concept of the book was good, it had some difficulties as well. There were inconsistencies in descriptions (for example, the author wrote that the main character and her friend drove to pick up lunch, but in the next few pages they’re walking back from the sandwich shop) and typos which I found a bit distracting. When you have to go back a few pages to see if you’ve missed something, the books loses the rhythm it developed.

Even with the inconsistencies and typos I found it a fun read and would definitely read other works by the author.

Expectation isn’t your friend

Expectation is the root of most disappointment. I expected to be married right out of college. It didn’t happen and for years I was crushed by that. I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what was wrong with me that I wasn’t married yet. And then I met Mr. Lyndsy. Right out of college I wasn’t ready for what I have now. I wasn’t the person I needed to be to get married. I never expected my life to be what it is now, but I cannot express in words how grateful I am that I found Mr. Lyndsy and that our relationship is what it is.

It breaks my heart to see so many people I care about suffer because of expectation. They worry about the progression of their relationships because things aren’t happening as expected. The “right” Christmas gift isn’t gotten. It’s been two, three, or four years and there’s no engagement ring.

We get so focused on what we expect that we forget to look at what we have. All we see is what we don’t have. That perception of lack drives unhappiness and distorts our behavior. The people we care about may not have done anything to hurt us, but we lash out at them anyway.

We’ve created a situation of unhappiness for ourselves. Generally speaking it’s because we aren’t communicating well. So rather than getting an answer to the real problem, we’re stewing in our own shit. We assume the worst because we don’t give the people in our lives a chance to give us answers.

For more than a few people I know, engagement proposals didn’t come soon enough. It seemed like everyone around them was getting engaged, married, or having kids, and they were just chilling with a boyfriend who didn’t seem like he was ever going to do anything to take that next step.

My beautiful friends thought their boyfriends didn’t love them because they hadn’t gotten a ring yet. That was clearly not the case, or their boyfriends wouldn’t have been with them in the first place. All of those boyfriends had every intention of spending the rest of their lives with my friends. The men were just waiting for the right time to propose, some trying to meet their girlfriends’ dream proposals.

Panic set in for some, and their behavior told their boyfriends got a little dramatic. Instead of openly communicating with their boyfriends about their concerns about the future, they kept it bottled up. They were stressed for months for no reason.

If, instead of letting the pressure build, they had just had open conversations, their fears would have been alleviated so much more quickly and they would have been able to enjoy their relationships!*

Expectation is one of the reasons I didn’t love New Year’s Eve or the focus on the change of the year. I used to get so excited for NYE, expecting that the next year was going to bring me so many more wonderful things. Inevitably when the next year came around not much in my life had changed.

I suppose I should have realized that the flip of the calendar page isn’t what brings new and better things into my life. I should have known that it’s only me changing my mindset and working to achieve something different that will bring about the life I want to lead. It took me a long while to learn that the only behavior I can control is my own. I can decide whether I want someone else’s behavior to affect me, but I can’t affect a chance in how they treat me.

Expecting someone to behave a certain way or do a certain thing is a waste of time and energy. It’s not going to change who the person is. It’s not going to change how they behave. All expectation really does is show us what we think we want or what we think society wants for us.

We aren’t in relationships with expectations, we’re in them with people. I don’t want anyone else dropping their expectations on me. The only thing I want people to expect from me is that I will act authentically. That I will be who I am. I believe that’s why Mr. Lyndsy and I work so well. That’s really all he wants from me. It’s all I want from him.

The pressure of other people’s expectations can be overwhelming. I’m pretty sure my mom expected me to do something with my life other than what I’ve always done. For a long time I felt pressured to do and be what she expected. Until I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I was suffocating. I finally just had to be myself. As a result, I became a much happier person. I also got to experience things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve lived in places I never thought I would. Met people who have touched my life and made me a better person.

I try not to expect things from people or situations anymore. They are what they are. If I don’t like what’s going on, I leave. I can’t change them or the situation. I can just take myself out of the equation.

When I find myself having expectations, I work to get to the root of the situation. Usually the real root of the problem is fear. I’m afraid someone doesn’t care about me like I want them to, I’m afraid I won’t get something I feel I need or something I want. Once I realize that fear is the culprit, I can work to address that, rather than getting all bent out of shape at someone who hasn’t actually done anything wrong. My stress level goes down and harmony is restored.

How would losing expectations help you in your life?

*This all made me insane since I was single for so much of this time. I wondered how my friends could be so upset when they had a partner who clearly loved them, and I was sitting in my apartment, talking to my guinea pig!

 

Not feeling the holiday spirit

It could be because I live in a Muslim country and there aren’t really any decorations up (though some of the stores sell them). It could be because we’re moving this weekend and trying to get organized for that is just exhausting.

Whatever the reason, I am NOT feeling the holiday spirit. I’m mostly crabby. Mr. Lyndsy isn’t really into commercialized holidays so there won’t be a gift exchange. He was shocked when my mom and I did it last year. (How he thought we’d have a tree up and no gifts underneath it is beyond me.)

I think the only reason I even notice that I’m not in the holiday spirit is because everyone is posting about how they’re getting ready or how they’re also not feeling the holiday spirit this year either.

I am generally sort of overwhelmed by the negativity that’s everywhere. We definitely should be talking about how Donald Trump is a racist, xenophobic piece of trash, how Ted Cruz is batshit insane, how there’s obviously some kind of problem in the US or people wouldn’t be shooting each other all the damn time, and it would be very nice if cops could stop shooting people while they’re unarmed or not a threat to the officer. All of that stuff matters. It’s just really intense right now. It’s hard to feel festive when shit is this out of control.

Maybe it’s all working toward some kind of breaking point where there will be massive change. When we’ll finally get our heads out of our collective asses and start working together to help each other. Maybe that’ll be the Christmas gift for everyone this year. I doubt it, but a girl can hope.

Trying to get over the guilt

I went to school. A lot. I have two advanced degrees. Both from private schools. The initial problem with those degrees is that I wanted to use them in the public sector – prosecution and then law enforcement. Why was that a problem? Well, as soon as I decided to do it, the economy tanked and money just wasn’t going to either of those anymore. There weren’t many positions with the government and the ones that did exist were being given to people already in the federal system or veterans (I’m okay with both of those).

I did get a job doing something else, but then my health took a dive and my back went out and my leg was all jacked up. Now, even if they were hiring, I wouldn’t be able to take a job. I still can’t sit for too long, stand for too long, or walk for too long.

Last year I got on income-based repayment for my federal student loans. This resulted in a dramatic drop in the amount I owe each month. I’m working on the annual certification for the loans now and it looks like, for my federal student loans only, my payment may drop to $0/month. Yes, you read that correctly. Nothing owed per month.

As much as I hate paying on those stupid loans, I feel worse that I may not be paying anything. I bored the money and I know I owe it. (Though I do totally understand those people who are suing their law schools – the job market is shit and people couldn’t really get placed. I also think that they interest rate they charge for student loans is bullshit. Let’s stop helping corporations and start helping people. The economy would really benefit if people like me could actually buy a damn house and not make the equivalent of a mortgage payment in student loans.)

But I was talking to one of the customer service reps and I mentioned how bad I felt that I wouldn’t be paying much or anything. Her response? “Don’t feel bad.” Apparently she agrees that it’s all a racket.

Maybe one day soon I’ll feel amazing and be able to work like a healthy person again. In the meantime, I’m glad for this little break. Maybe now my stress level will drop some.

Reading Recommendation: Chick Lit – Jojo Moyes

As part of the 2015 Reading Challenge, I picked up a copy of Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. The cover was pink and black and that’s often all I need to pick up a chick lit book. What I didn’t expect was how moved I was by the book. It was long and emotionally challenging. I cried. Not a little. The story is just that moving. The sequel, After You, has been published and I cannot wait to read it (after the millions of people who are ahead of me on the hold list finish with it).

Since I loved Me Before You, I checked out reviews on other books written by Moyes. All had absolutely rave reviews. I went to check another out at the library and discovered that about a thousand other people had figured out the same thing I had. I finally got One Plus One and read it.

I don’t think I like it as much as I liked Me Before You. However, Me Before You was *really* intense. Almost overwhelmingly so at times. I’m not sure I could have handled that kind of book right now. One Plus One is still serious, but a lot more light-hearted. The writing is still really high quality so I got through the book pretty quickly. For me that’s not usually a sign that the book is bad. I know that it is for some people. They feel like they can’t get any substance from a book that only takes a few hours, but for me it’s a sign that the story is compelling. It usually means I’m too intrigued to put it down.

I am really looking forward to more of her books, especially After You. If you’re in the market for Chick Lit and want something that’s well written and interesting, find your way to a Jojo Moyes book!

A Lucky Girl

It’s almost 4am and I’m the only one awake. Mr. Lyndsy is tossing and turning, sick. I hope I didn’t give it to him. He says it’s the change of weather, but who knows what I picked up on the plane. The dog is passed the hell out at the opposite end of our sofa. Not sure why she left the comfort of the bed. Maybe she thought I needed protection.

Jet lag is keeping me up, but so are the thoughts constantly running through my head. I have paperwork to get done so my student loans don’t skyrocket. I owe so much money that I’m not sure it’ll ever get paid back. At this point, I have a hard time caring. I thought I’d be able to work one of any several jobs but that didn’t pan out. At first it was budget issues since everything I wanted to do was government-related. Now it’s pain and health issues. Sitting at a desk doing anything for 8 hours a day just doesn’t feel like a possibility. I can’t get through a movie without my back and/or leg screaming at me. The fog that envelops my brain a lot of the time doesn’t help either. Hard to do anything detail-oriented if you can’t remember why you opened the computer in the first place.

I have no idea if my back, leg, or other issues will ever get better. I’m learning to live with what seems to be my new normal. I use the reminder app on my phone to keep lists (which helps, except when I can’t remember what I wanted to remember in the first place. (Seriously, I once thought, “I need Q-tips!” So I opened the app on my phone and then started making a list that included everything eXCEPT Q-tips.) I make sure I give myself plenty of time if what I’m doing requires walking or moving about very much. I have recovery days. Sometimes it’s just making sure I get a nap.

But then I think about our insane little dog who really is a bundle of love. I think about our fish who thinks the dog is insane (he told me so). I think about Mr. Lyndsy and his continuing support while I try to work out what the fuck is going on with my life. I think about the friends who were so happy to see me when I came to visit and the fact that I was able to visit. I think about my family, who are a little crazy, but generally a good group of people. I think about the toys I have to play with, a constant supply of craft materials, and that I have a bed that’s comfy even when I can’t sleep.

No, my life isn’t perfect. Far from it. But when I take a step back and think about all I do have, I realize just how lucky I am. And for now, that’s enough to get me through the shit of it.

Perhaps not a writer after all…

For years now, probably since my first National Novel Writing go in 2005, I have wanted to be a fiction writer. My mom has said that there was always at least a part of me that wanted to write, even as a kid. I got beaten down a little by my stepfather about it. He was an English teacher and just didn’t think I was any good at it. I don’t really think I felt like my mom thought I was much good either. I could do academic papers just fine, but I completely abandoned the fiction side of things until 2005.

Once I got married, took a part-time job, and moved across the world, I decided I would commit to writing. I was going to be a PUBLISHED AUTHOR! I had way more free time than I’d ever had before so clearly now was THE TIME.

I’ve been here over a year and I have just about no writing to show for it. I got 20,000 words into a mystery book last National Novel Writing Month and then just stopped. I got almost 10,000 in this year and then somehow wrote another 7,000 or so on the plane to visit family for Thanksgiving. Then didn’t pursue it any further.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas, I do. They’re not terrible ones either. Definitely books I think should exist. But I cannot seem to push myself to do anything about them.

There have been big things going on in my life over the last year and some. I had a major back surgery (that I didn’t think was that major – have since learned my lesson on that one since when they fuse anything, especially in your back, it’s a big deal), had complications, got married, moved overseas, didn’t have many local friends, had more surgery to deal with the complications of the back fusion, dealt with depression and anxiety. It’s enough to make anyone take some time.

But even when I was doing relatively okay, I wasn’t writing. November rolled around and I was like, “AHA! NOW is the time to write!” as though other months are off-limits from writing. Then, when November started, it was too much pressure and I just couldn’t.

Some of the time I think I forgot about the idea of just writing for fun and focused on the wrong thing – becoming published and making money. That isn’t why I started writing in the first place anyway. I started writing because I wanted to write happy endings for the people I knew when their lives weren’t really taking them to happy places. But once it stopped being about that and started being about other things, it didn’t hold the same interest.

I started working as a life coach in October. I only have one client, but so far I think it’s been great for both of us. One of the things we discussed was making lists. Lists give you a great sense of accomplishment when you can check something off as being done or not needing to be done. Lists can also let you know what you really value in your life. f you have a task on there (WRITE BOOK) that just doesn’t seem to be getting done no matter how many days, weeks, or months it spends on your list, it may just be something that isn’t that important to you.

And that’s where I am with the fiction writing. Rather than continue trying and beating myself up when it doesn’t happen, I’m going to let it go. Perhaps in the future my interest will swell and the words will flow. I’m too tuckered out with everything else in my life to beat myself up over this.

It’s also not like I don’t write. I do. It’s just not fiction. This blog is a place I can always come to get sorted out. I enjoy it. I have ideas at night that keep me up and it seems like if I just get them down on virtual paper, that my mind can rest a bit more easily.

So for now I’m going to focus on getting thoughts down onto paper when I have them, even if they’re about real people and real things and they aren’t going to make me any money.