Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Reflection Questions

I used these questions last year for an end of the year reflection post and I really enjoyed looking back as I wrote them; I decided to answer them again.  I got them from Simple Mom.  You can find the full original attribution information or read last year's answers by clicking here.

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

I'm gonna go splitsies on this one and say that two things were the "single biggest thing(s) that happened this year." Neither of them actually were my doing, but they both changed my life. The first was finding out E passed the Bar exam in May.  Our lives were on hold until we got that piece of news, and it felt like a door opened for us to the world.  The second was E's getting the perfect job with the state.  This job was tailor-made for him, it seems, but it was a happy accident of luck and timing that he ended up with it this year.  We're so grateful, and it has changed both our lives for him to have it.  While obvious examples come to mind--financial, especially--the biggest change has been to see him proud to do the work he does, to see him challenged by it, to see him comfortably settling into a routine.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Hands down, the single most challenging thing that happened was losing both our dogs, Gus and Cal on a single day.  I've experienced loss before, but this was tragic and it was so unexpected that it thrust us headfirst into an area of adulthood that we weren't prepared to take on.  There must be moments where every parent realizes that it's up to him or her to do what's needed from then on.  It was heart-wrenching and life changing for us to have to parent our kids through such a painful thing.

A secondary challenge was our financial situation at the start of the year as E had been out of law school for almost half a year but hadn't passed the Bar yet or successfully found a job that could keep us afloat.  It's amazing how much pretending we did when things were dire--pretending in front of the kids that things were fine, pretending to friends and family that we could handle our situation.  Money can be such an embarrassing thing to not have.  I wouldn't say we're rolling in it now, but I am thankful as ever that we've reached a place of stability.  We went from tenuous to dire but with E's new job this year we were able to pull ourselves up and out of it.  When we were in it, I didn't think it would ever end.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

An unexpected joy this past year was my quiet summer at home, and the growth I did in learning to find happiness in small, day-to-day things.  I made activities like running and walking a priority, I narrowed my focus and my list of responsibilities, and I was consequently able to enjoy my life so much more.  It feels like I'm a different person than I was two or three years ago.  I've made a lot of conscious decisions to pursue positivity this year, and they've paid off.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

An unexpected obstacle was injuring my hip in the middle of the best stretch of regular running I've had to date.  I guess God wanted me to learn a lesson about patience or taking things for granted.  You'd think that I have had enough of my share of those lessons by now, right?  I know it doesn't work that way.  I've been trying to approach this injury the right way--by taking time to let it heal and by doing my physical therapy and swimming as much as I can--I miss running, big time, but I'm hoping that a conscious choice of a positive attitude about it will help me to come back to running stronger and able to push my body harder.  There are so many blatant metaphors for life that come with running; I'm learning that sometimes one learns lessons by not running, too.

5. Pick three words to describe 2010.

Calmer, settled, improving

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2010 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).

Rested, healthy, homey

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2010 (again, without asking).

Responsible, disciplined, adult

8. What were the best books you read this year?

Most enjoyable read end-to-end: The Help
Most enlightening: In Defense of Food
Perfect sweet summer fun: My Life In France
Lost myself in another world: Cutting for Stone

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

2010 was a year to spend more time with my kids, and unlike so many people I know, I actually really dig hanging out with my two monkeys.  They're so well-behaved, so kind, so sweet... I don't deserve them, really.  Even when they're bad they're not too bad and they crack me up on a regular basis.  One of my greatest blessings is that I have a job that I love and which also happens to afford me time at home with them.

E and I continued to heal our relationship in 2010.  We've been able to graduate from the scripted marital band-aid that was Retrouvaille (which, don't get me wrong, we needed badly and still do from time to time) and begin to create our own healthier means of communication and relating to each other.  Ours is never going to be a smooth road, but it's okay.  We're hanging in there for each other, choosing love even when we don't feel it, and continuing to meet challenges together.

Another valuable relationship this year was with K.  Though she's been in my life for sixteen years, our relationship has grown and changed; I am thankful for what it is today and thankful that we spend so much time together walking and talking.  My friendship with her allowed me to see some things differently this year, and for that I am grateful.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

I am definitely more happy.  Happy is a silly thing--trying to chase it makes you nuts, but letting go helps you find it.  I don't think I've ever felt more happy and peaceful in my marriage.  It rocks.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

I don't know if this falls under emotional or physical growth--probably it's more psychological--but I feel like I had some big growth when it comes to my anxiety.  My Crazies have been around a long time and I've managed them different ways (including not managing them) but this year I saw a different therapist and a few of the things she said really made sense to me.  I learned that my anxiety centers around panic attacks, and I spent some time reading about treatment and how exposure therapy makes a difference.  With that in mind I think I've been better able to handle the any Crazies that come my way by just acknowledging them and not trying to fight them or talk myself down.  Realizing that my fear response is just out of whack (or that anxiety very often equals misdirected anger) helps me to look at what's going on like an outsider, and it's not nearly as scary.  The growth feels deeply personal--nobody else knows the ups and downs of The Crazies as they come--but I believe that understanding myself in that way has had an effect on my emotions.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

This year I was much more conscious of a daily dialogue with God.  The pain of 2008 and 2009 made that so difficult, and as I am sure is true for most people who face obstacles, my prayers then had devolved into pleas for help and improvement. I think I felt a better sense of balance in 2010.   I also think that my conscious efforts at positivity and gratitude helped this along.  It's so much easier to be thankful when I'm focusing on the here and now, not what's to come.  My biggest regret, spiritually, is the same as it has been for several years: that I haven't been able to find a way to integrate church into our family routine.  There's a multitude of reasons I won't go into here, but it remains on my heart that I wish I had a church family, and I want that for our kids as well because it was a huge part of my childhood and it profoundly influenced who I grew up to be.  Something to work on, I suppose.  It wasn't possible to fix my entire life at the same time.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

My running stalled in the early months of the year as we started to do P90X.  I enjoyed working out with E, but then I didn't return to running until late spring.  It's so hard for me to work out when it's dark.  I'm such a sun addict.  I grew, however, when I returned to running this summer.  I was better at sticking to my schedule than ever, I ran with PEOPLE for the first time in my life, I really felt like running changed me, and I shaved some time off of last year's half marathon time when I ran the Urban Cow in October.  Running is here to stay, but swimming has formed a nice little place in my heart too.  I hope 2011 brings lots and lots of cross-training.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

Last year I talked about how I essentially let most of my non-marriage relationships go out of necessity, and that I was looking forward to rejoining the rest of the world.  I did, and it came withe some more growing.  This growth for me came in mid-May when I had a difficult situation with a friend.  I know that even in my dealings with E and our marriage and all the growth I did there last year, I was still hanging on to the idea that things could/should be always made right between people, that people needed to see when they hurt others and apologize or deal with every single thing that transpired.  I had to let go of that not just in my marriage, but in my friendships too.  

This year I tried to accept the imperfection of things, to show other people (for probably the first time) the same forgiveness and acceptance of imperfection that I would want shown to me, to realize that things are not ever going to be perfect, but that by showing forgiveness and asking for it, things can be good.  I had to take a good look at how I'd been acting and own up to my behavior too.  I tried to better understand how people might act out of hurt or pain because I'd been there myself.  Doing so also helped me release a little fear of imperfection in myself and it changed how I relate to people.  I had been too hard on me and on other people.  People aren't perfect; things are never black and white.  Last year I learned to choose love with E even when I don't feel it; this year I learned to do the same with others in my life.

15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?

E's ridiculous (sorry, honey) food allergies forced a diet change last year, but with the addition of all the new known allergies this year, I had to adapt even more.  As the person most responsible for what we eat around here, I took my job seriously.  I read a lot about food, allergies, cooking, and health.  As a result, our diet changed substantially from what we'd both been eating our whole lives.  I came to love cooking in a new way that included shopping for fresh produce, understanding what organic, cage-free and grass-fed meant, and allowing natural flavors to flavor and influence our meals.  I enjoy all of the steps of the cooking and eating process--shopping at supermarkets, fruit stands and farmers markets, growing our own veggies and fruit, prepping food and meal planning, cooking, reading recipes and eating.  This year was a good year for good food.

16. What was your most challenging area of home management?

I repeat my answer from last year: Laundry.  Effing never-ending laundry. Ugh.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

I spent a lot of time on Facebook again, but I'm at a place of acceptance with that so I won't call it a waste.  Too many good things have come out of it to give it a bad rap.  I feel good about the choices I made this past year, even the ones to "waste" time in leisure or things I enjoy that don't serve a purpose.  I didn't guilt myself to death about relaxing and I made sure to leave time in my schedule for life to just happen.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?

The best way I used my time was at home and in my real life.  Rather than letting my family time be what happened in between obligations elsewhere, I made it a priority.  Cooking, spending time with family and friends, walking, running, reading, blogging, crocheting--these things are small but they allowed me to be happy in 2010.  In order to do that I had to get better at saying no but I'm beginning to realize that the small disappointment someone feels when you tell them no often fades away quickly and it's worth the grief you'll skip in the long run.  Allowing myself to enjoy my real life was the best thing I did.

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

Forgiveness.  I continue to be humbled by its importance in all my relationships.  It's a challenge for me to give it or to ask for it, but I feel like so doing makes me a better person every time I'm able.  It's a complex thing between humans, don't you think?  I am sure it will continue to be something I work on for a long time.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2010 for you.

Real life is what matters.  Choose accordingly.

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