In The Rearview Mirror: 2017

WHOOSH! Another year passed. It’s certainly not a myth that the years seem to go by faster and faster as we age. I keep wondering if time is moving faster? Or if I’m slowing down so much that time is passing me by? Yup, come here for the Big Questions.

Every year I choose a word or phrase that embodies what I’m trying to work toward and 2017 was the year of Challenge Everything. I started out the year doing just that — challenging my preconceived notions about what I was capable of and specifically pushing myself out of my comfort zone (where I’ve got a blanket fort built and hot cocoa with mini marshmallows on the stove). And after all that, I feel like I ended the year with a different word entirely:  acceptance.

Now, I don’t mean “acceptance” as in accepting the status quo in a fatalistic, poor-me sort of way. That would get old pretty quickly. But rather, it’s an understanding that there are many things beyond my control and to constantly fight against them is wasted effort. Importantly, I don’t view acceptance as a way to excuse inaction; no, it’s a way to focus my efforts on areas where I can truly affect change. I might not be able to control my weight, but I can control what I eat and how much I work out. I can’t control my moods, but I can be mindful of my thoughts and understand that thoughts are fleeting and what matters is my reaction to them. Acceptance is being at peace with everything outside my sphere of control. And I have to admit: it’s an absolutely freeing way to live.

Thinking about the year, I realize that while I had some really big things happened, most weren’t on my original list of resolutions. Some grew out of them, others hit with serendipity playing a major role. Regardless, my top three Best Things for 2017:

  1. Starting a daily meditation practice. This came out of my monthly Challenge Everything effort, and it kind of stuck. It came around at just the right time — I had read the book 10% Happier (by Dan Harris) and started listening to the podcast of the same name, which, more than anything, proved to me that anyone could meditate. I’m anything but perfect. In fact, I’m so far from perfect at it that it initially kept me from meditating consistently because I felt like I couldn’t possibly be getting anything good out of it. Most times when I sit, I can’t barely stay still, much less make my mind behave. But that’s the beauty of it: no matter how many times your mind wanders, you just bring it back to the breath or the intention. There’s no failure, just a recognition and a course correction. No guilt, no bad feelings, no recriminations. The practice of it is what counts. It’s made me more mindful, better able to breathe and relax in stressful situations and heightened my awareness that I don’t need to react to every thought the moment I have it.
  2. Inviting myself along to the Steelhead Half Ironman that my friends did in August. I needed a break from every day life and they were headed to Michigan to race and there was room in the house for me, so I tagged along. It was there, among all these athletes and the fantastic race venue, that I rediscovered my desire to run again. Like, really run again. For a hot moment I thought I might want to do triathlons again, but then I took another look at Lake Michigan, laughed and put that thought out of my head. But the running — that part stayed. I will likely never be the runner I was 7 years ago, but I can build a new Runner Laura. I got home from that weekend and started training — not just going for walks, but going for walks interspersed with runs. And then runs interspersed with walking. And I’m getting closer to what I would call “real” running — by which I simply mean running that leaves me feeling better when I’m done rather than wrecked. Running that provides stress relief and is something to look forward to rather than something to dread.
  3. Very impulsively deciding, a week before the event, to attend the Women’s Summit in AZ. I was online stalking my very best friend Elizabeth Gilbert on her website, learned she was going to be at the Summit, and pulled the trigger without anything more than simply checking my work schedule to make sure I could take the days off. And I’m so glad I went! First, there were the speakers — an incredible array of voices that made me think and consider viewpoints other than my own. I heard messages about being resilient yet flexible; taking the time for self-care; how to be an effective ally; the skill required to say “no”; the utter importance of setting boundaries and sticking with them. Second, the experience opened me up to the idea that I could enjoy attending a conference like this by myself — and that I would have no trouble making friends and finding people to connect with. Mind. Blown. As an introvert, I never thought I’d be comfortable sitting down at a table with people I didn’t know and not only making conversation, but initiating conversations. It was truly enlightening and it’s allowed me to explore new adventures that I might not have otherwise considered.

Now, that’s all the good stuff, but a year wouldn’t be complete without actually going down the list of resolutions from the beginning of the year and seeing what happened, right? So without further ado, my 2017 Resolutions and how they ended up:

Join a running group  I kind of did this. In a half-assed sort of way. I went (a few times). I met people (some of them, at least). I made a commitment (which I then sort of broke). But I’ll say this — they are a friendly group and I’ll join them again at some point. I’m working my way towards getting back to all running and for very ego-driven reasons, I want to wait until then to fully commit. So, I feel like I accomplished what I needed to in 2017 — I found a group that I’m comfortable with that I will definitely start running with, once I’m actually running.

Take some classes at the local community college  I signed up for a yoga class and only went 3 times. And didn’t sign up for anything else. Mostly a fail on this one.

Complete my 2017 Challenge Everything challenge  This one kind of derailed around mid-year-ish. I didn’t do everything I was supposed to do. But, a lot of good did come of it: I now have a daily meditation practice. I move my body at least a mile on most days. I might not eat vegetables as much as I ought, but I’m at least very aware that I’m not eating enough vegetables. Since I make the rules, I’m going to call this mostly a win.

Spend less money  I wasn’t supposed to spend money unless it was from my PayPal account (meaning, I sold something since only eBay earnings go there) or from my Amazon Prime rewards. This stuck for quite awhile, actually, but didn’t make it for the whole year. But, on the other hand, my spending was down almost 20% this year. All good, right?

Travel somewhere new to hike  A trip to Sedona fit the bill, which was somewhere I had been before but not for 20 years. I also spent some time exploring Brown County on foot, which I hadn’t done before (it’s always been a mountain biking destination). And there was a short hike in Purgatory Chasm near my sister’s new digs in the Boston area. Traveling was hampered this year by a week-long bout of the flu that sucked up 5 vacation days, which are already hard to come by.

Online book club  Why are online groups so hard to keep active? Yea, this was a fail.

Keep active  I was shooting for an 80% adherence rate to moving my body at least a mile every day and managed to hit 82% even with ending the year with a 2.5 week bout of headaches that kept me sidelined. I started running again. I found myself really enjoying getting outside, sometimes even despite bad weather. Movement makes me feel good. Definitely a win for 2017.

Complete the Storycourse fiction writing class  I just really don’t like writing fiction. The closest I get is fabricating the truth a little bit. This didn’t get done. And I’m not sorry, either. So there.

On the whole, not entirely successful, but many positives grew out of these initial ideas, so I’ll call it an overall win. My game, my rules, remember?

And with that, the book on 2017 is closed. It’s not only fun to look back, but also pretty enlightening; this serves as a set of guideposts for moving forward. Because that’s the direction where all the good stuff is happening.

Thanks, 2017. You taught me a lot. You were a good year.

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