For the first time in a long time, this post doesn’t feel like an apology. This was a great year, and I can’t help but think that my theme for 2019 — emotional homesteading — is why.
As outlined in that post, my emotional homesteading plan had six main points. Let’s go over those first, and then I’ll have some things to say about what else happened this year. I might even take some time to reflect on the entire decade!
1) Meditation and mindfulness practice
This year I forged a regular meditation practice, with some help from the Calm app, which I love. I only started using Calm in May, but from the records it keeps, I estimate I meditate two out of three days, for an average of 10-12 minutes each time.
This habit has helped me to stay on an even keel despite some rough seas this year. Meditation really is a practice, like I wrote — I don’t notice an affect my mood and overall happiness if I skip one day, or a few days. But eventually it eats away at that peaceful refuge behind a waterfall that I’ve worked so hard to build. In that way, it’s a little like the sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea.
As I wrote in my original post, boundaries are about knowing the difference between what I want and what other people want. In that vein I wanted to ask “who wants this?” before taking on a new activity.
I also wanted to be more aware that what I want in the moment may be very different from my long-term needs and wants.
This is always hard to quantify, but I think I did okay. One example I can think of off the top of my head is: I turned down Matt’s plan to run a 10k before Consequences next year, because I knew that running it with other people would bring out the ugly competitive part of myself.
Relatedly, I know there were some things I wanted to do — pretty sure they were what I wanted to do, too — that I passed up because I knew it would be too much for me. (Like declining to play Dammerung larp, which looked fascinating to me, but was super far away, in PA, and would have required a high quality of kit).
It’s still tough for me to anticipate how Lise-of-the-moment will respond to a commitment that Lise-of-Christmas-Past has made, but I’m developing some heuristics. Like: don’t schedule things on the Thursday before a larp, or maybe don’t schedule plans in December when you need to prepare to host Christmas for your family, or if you can, take time off to decompress after larps.
When I wrote about self-care in the prospective, I didn’t use this fabulous quote, which really gets to the heart of what self-care means to me:
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you donâ€™t need to regularly escape from.Brianna Wiest, Thought Catalog
You know I love my escapism! But escapism can be a symptom of something wounded in me.
This past week was tough for me, for Secret Reasons. So it is perhaps not surprising that I chose to start my Saturday with a session of Craft the World, the silly dwarf building game I’ve been playing lately. And I’m at peace with the fact that that’s the best I could do at that moment. Rest is as important to the self-care journey as anything else.
That said, it can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between the need for rest, and plain ol’ experiential avoidance. I need new experiences, but I also need solitude. This quote from poet May Sarton’s journal sums up this tension:
I am here alone for the first time weeks, to take up my ‘real’ life again, at last. That is what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am aloneâ€¦May Sarton
I am still learning this balance. This year, I think I pushed it a little, trying to see where my limits lay. And in the process I had some fabulous adventures! I also learned that I’m actually more of an ambivert than I originally thought, but when my depression is bad, I definitely act more like an introvert.
At the end of the day, I feel I showed strongly in terms of self-care this year, forging the sort of life I don’t have to escape from.
First of all, I got back to walking/running in a gentler way. (I actually meant to run a race, for a charity I cared about, and not with anyone I knew — but I came down with a bad cold and couldn’t!) My fitness showed when I visited Bath in November, and was able to walk the six-mile Skyline trail and not be much the worse for wear (except covered in mud).
Then, I went through the process of getting diagnosed with ADHD, and finally got my diagnosis right at the end of December. (Combined type). I still need to get treatment, which is a challenge all its own! (Not a lot of psychiatrists in our area that are taking new patients).
Oh, and I took some baths in my new bathtub 😉
4) Simplicity and minimalism
I did okay in this area. I did a few “declutter bursts,” where you get rid of 100 items in an hour. (Honestly, counting the items was the hardest part). Plus near the end of the year Matt got into the spirit of decluttering and cleaning the house — partially because his parents were visiting, partially because he wanted to be able to work in the sewing room again — and we got rid of a LOT of stuff, including books, clothes, gadgets, and lots of unnecessary paper.
I also re-read Thoreau’s Walden this year, as promised. In the process I remembered that really everything good in Walden is in the first and last chapters, and the middle is soggy and tedious.
I did not succeed in going through my collection of indie perfumes, mostly because I boggle at what to do with all of them.
I’m pretty happy with where I landed with this goal. As promised, I did get back to writing — a.k.a. editing Lioness — but not in any sort of hurried way. I’m still working my way through it. It continues to be incredibly challenging, and I keep taking long breaks and then forgetting everything I wrote and then having to re-read.
Other things I created this year:
- An 1840s day gown for Torch of Freedom
- Twenty blog posts!
- Some poems
- Lots of nature and travel photographs
- The horker loaf and moon-sugar glazed carrots recipes from The Elder Scrolls Cookbook
- the Labyrinth of Nocturnal, my spooky ESO housing project
- My Khajiit character’s house in ESO (Sleek Creek House)
- Several batches of quick mead
- One batch of long mead, which is still aging
- My own holiday postcards! (With some help from VistaPrint)
I also made some progress on the Neverending Cross-stitch Project, and did some sketching as Melusina. I began work on getting this antique quilt I own ready to hang on the wall, but faced some obstacles with how damaged it was, and needing to repair it.
I was really drawn this year towards the advice espoused in Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism: fix or create something every week. (I’m paraphrasing; I don’t have the book in front of me right now).
I feel mostly satisfied here, although there are some further steps I could have taken.
I definitely was more involved with family — I went out to my Uncle Joe’s house twice for family events, and I hosted a visit from Matt’s parents, and my dad. I went to visit my mom a couple of times, in addition to our annual trip to Stratford, and I also went camping with my dad.
I sent out holiday cards this year! And I’m getting in the habit of sending out postcards regularly. (Let me know if you’d like to be on the postcard/holiday card list. Everyone likes getting mail, right?)
One area I would like to expand: I’ve realized I have a need for what my pal EB terms “intimate friendships.” i.e. emotionally deep, connective, platonic relationships. (Funnily enough, exactly the sort of friendship I have with EB!) I’ve identified a few people I’d like to try to forge these with, but I was shy about reaching out. I hope to do so in 2020.
Living with the theme of “emotional homesteading” worked well for me. You may recall I was worried that, given the number of goals, and the vastness of the mandate, I might judge myself too harshly when I got to the end of the year. But on the contrary, it all feels like a win to me. Maybe I have learned to be more gentle with myself.
I’m happy with what I learned, what I did, and who I was in 2019.
Other stuff wot I did in 2019
Many of these things were in fulfillment of my famous 101 Goals in 1,001 Days list, the period of which ends in February. At 45 items completed out of 101, I’ve knocked the socks off every other time I’ve done this list. If nothing else, I’ve gotten better at setting achievable goals and following through with them!
So this year Iâ€¦
- Read 26 books
- Visited Bath, England
- Attended Lucky Consequences in Christchurch, England
- Attended the UK Freeforms run of Torch of Freedom in Retford, England
- Did an “authors and American revolution” tour of historic Lexington and Concord, MA
- Celebrated my birthday in New York City
- Made an impromptu trip to Cape Cod, and rolled around in the ocean surf at Race Point Beach
- Went rock-climbing
- Increased my retirement account balance by 66% over 2017
- Built a bridge for the stream 🙂 Although it got washed away…
- Attended the Stratford Festival with my mom
- Went camping with my dad, and visited Ausable Chasm
- Planned and executed a “Skyrim dinner” with Alison
- Painted and decorated the guest bedroom
- Completed our bathroom remodel (okay, my part in this was merely organizational, but STILL…)
- Took a knife skills class
- Played in four theater-style larps
- NPCed five Madrigal 3 events
- PCed four Shadowvale events
- Read Jane Eyre, which I’ve been meaning to read since forever
- Donated blood, at great personal discomfort
- Attended the Big E
- Went peach-picking
- Had a picnic on an island in our lake
- Hiked Mount Wachusett
- Slept out under the stars
- Visited New Haven, CT and ate a hamburger at the famous Louis’ Lunch
- Visited 30 (!) new-to-me Atlas Obscura sites
- Attended two beer festivals, and visited a number of microbreweries
- Set up a new compost bin
The toll of the decade
At the New Year’s Eve party I attended, I was trying to figure out where I was physically ten years ago, on December 31st, 2009. I couldn’t recall precisely — maybe at Chad and Amanda’s New Year’s Eve party, when they were still holding them?– but it brought up a whole storm of memories about my life at that time.
In the past decade Iâ€¦
Changed careers. I’d lost my job in May of 2009, and used it as an opportunity to change careers, from statistics/research analysis to front-end web development. For about a year I pursued a number of part-time gigs in both fields. I was probably just beginning my contract as a full-stack developer at Nowspeed around the time of that poorly-remembered NYE party. In June of 2010 I would start my job as a junior front-end developer at IDG, where I still am today — though a lot more senior now!
Wrote a theater-style larp! (Cracks in the Orb, which I mostly won’t run any more, because Reasons)
Got into boffer larp. NPCed my first one, then PCed one, then staffed one for a time. Because I didn’t have enough expensive hobbies, apparently!
Wrote a couple of novels: Gods and Fathers, my last trunked novel, and well as Lioness, which, it seems, I will never be finished editing!
Attended Viable Paradise 17, an SFF writing workshop, and thus joined a community of amazing, brilliant people.
Got serious about my health. I sought treatment for a bunch of chronic health conditions — PCOS, sleep apnea, and my familial high cholesterol — and I am happier for it.
Started running. I’m the most casual of casual runners, but I’m still doin’ it!
Fired my shitty therapist, and got a new, awesome one.
Broke my left ankle.
Had cubital tunnel release surgery after my left hand went numb suddenly.
Traveled to England eight times (!), and Canada three? four? times.
Paid off our second mortgage.
Made some major renovations to the house.
Lost my cat Yamamaya to kidney disease, and thus mourned the first death of a pet as an adult.
Watched my mother become sick with a chronic lung disease, and was powerless to help.
Went to many, many weddings, was an attendant in four (!), and blessedly attended zero funerals.
Drove the same car (a 2007 Yaris) for most of that time. It’s still going strong, at thirteen years and 230k miles!
Didâ€¦ four? 101 Goals in 1001 Days challenges. I’m on track for this to be the best challenge yet, in terms of number of goals completed.
Overall? I think I’m much happier than I was back then, so despite the trash fire of a world we live in today, it was a good decade for me.
Let’s do this again in ten years’ time.