Reflections on 2017
In 2016, my word was FLOURISH. But as the year came to a close, I didn’t feel I had done much flourishing. In fact, I was feeling rundown and lost. Life was getting away from me and I needed to shift my focus. I couldn’t flourish if I didn’t make an effort to refill my buckets.
So I chose NOURISH for 2017. I didn’t know at the time how very necessary that concept would be. I was thinking of adding a little hygge to my life and calling it good.
But in 2017, every single day has felt like an assault on my well-being. Most of that comes from the news. The horrible, terrifying news. From catastrophic hurricanes and wildfires, to possible nuclear war and the continued misogynistic treatment of women.
It’s not just the news
My son is now a teenager and is growing more and more distant. My partner is suffering from Huntington’s Disease and is no longer able to be the partner I need in our relationship. My mood was shifting; there were more days spent in apathy and depression than not.
I was self-aware enough to see the trend, so I re-entered therapy. We talked a lot about the idea of self-care. It became obvious that self-care is so much more than lighting candles and cozying up with a comfy blanket and a book.
Like a good student, I did my homework. I created a list of the buckets in my life. Things like Livelihood & Lifestyle and Body & Wellness. Then I made a list of different activities I could do for each bucket. Doing yoga every day, “visiting” my city like a tourist, making my house more of a home.
I was off to a good start. Yoga is an almost daily practice. I painted my living room and dining room, hung new art, and brought in some plants. I tried new restaurants in Des Moines, started hiking on a regular basis.
Then in September my partner was diagnosed with dementia, a result of HD. Hearing those words, even if I had witnessed his decline, completely changed our world. We couldn’t ignore how serious things had become. We couldn’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend like everything was the same.
The diagnosis meant several changes to our lives. He could no longer drive his car or operate heavy machinery (i.e. the lawn mower). I would need to be more aware of his day-to-day activities, as well as become more involved in his medical care. Because he couldn’t drive, we needed to find outlets that allowed him to be social. That meant adult day care and finding financial help to support this.
As I write this, I hate that this is THE EVENT of 2017. When he was first diagnosed with HD, I swore my life would not revolve around his disease. I remember losing myself completely when I first became a mom, how miserable I had become as I focused all my energy on caring for someone else. I swore that this would never happen again. So I made a promise that HD would not define my life.
Sitting here at the end of 2017, I see that this is exactly what is happening. I’m almost an empty-nester. Doesn’t that mean life is supposed to be all about living my life on my terms, not devoting so much energy to providing care to others? I’ve let the despair of anticipatory grief and the stress of being a caregiver suck me into shadow comforts.
I choose Netflix binges. They are mindless and unengaging, a time when I can ignore what is happening in and to my life. I choose LONG mornings under the covers, reading to escape life rather than face it.
Instead of actively and intentionally engaging in my life, I’m sliding into apathy and negligence. I chose activities that allow me to hide over activities that light me up and contribute to my well-being.
In reality, my word for 2017 wasn't NOURISH. It was HIDE.
It's not like I don't know exactly what I am doing. I am very aware of what hitting play on one more episode of Battlestar Galactica means (a show I've already watched 4 times through). I know precisely what I am giving up when I refuse to climb out of bed on Sundays and read until noon (a glorious hike in the woods and cleaning my home so it feels comfortable).
As I reflect back on 2017, I see that I set up my year to be restless, uncomfortable, and unfulfilling. I created my Ideal Day, but not for 2017. I created an Ideal Day for five years in the future. And while I acknowledged that there were things I could do to capture the feelings of that day now, there was always an impossible standard floating around in my head.
I was looking too far into the future. And secretly, unconsciously, I believed I could only be happy when I was living THAT life.
As I move into 2018, as I consider my intentions for the coming year, my desire is to embrace my life as it is in this moment. The discomfort, sorrow, and grief. And of course, the joy, contentment, and love. I don't want to look forward to 2022 and compare my 2018 to it. It's a dream off in my future. A plan for years to come. But two of the most important people in my life will be leaving it sooner than I want. My son will graduate from high school in 2020. I don't know how long I have with my partner.
So no more hiding in 2018.