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2017- another chapter

December 31, 2017

I’m writing this as I listen through the baby monitor to Skyler singing “Wheels on the Bus” to Layla as she attempts to rock her to sleep for her last afternoon nap of 2017. Their sweet interactions don’t happen often enough, but when they do I am warmed with joy and visions of them as BFFs in the future. Like once Layla goes off to college and Skyler is her successful and experienced but still cool older sister. These girls are my biggest blessing and hassle, all in one. They drive me absolutely nuts and make me want to run far away screaming, but I yet I miss them all the time I am not with them. There’s never a more complete and content feeling than when my girls are snuggled up with me on the couch. I’m so very thankful for them and the depth of emotion they add to our lives.

So here I am reflecting on 2017, as all the basic people are doing. Some say New Year resolutions are silly as is the annual self-reflection and sentimentality. But I disagree. I think it’s a part of being present and seeking to get the most out of this short life. New Years is a reminder just how quickly time is flying by, and if you don’t stop, collaborate and listen, you may wake up old and grumpy and realize you missed out on a whole awful lot that life had to offer. Ice, ice, baby!

For me, 2017 was a year that came in like a lion and went out more like lamb. It started with me working a soul-sucking job that got progressively worse as the year went on. Preceded by the fact that in late 2016 one of my BFFs found out she had aggressive lymphoma, and she lives in nowhere New Mexico, so she had to go through treatment so far away through the first half of 2017 and I hated not being able to support her more. Additionally our house was on the market for what felt like forever in a market where everyone else was receiving multiple offers within 24 hours.  Potential buyer feedback is the worst! Along with being on the market for so long was Skyler’s prolonged fear and sadness about changing schools. She basically felt like she was saying goodbye for an entire year.  With all that day to day stress, I struggled with anxiety and depression for a good half of the year. It killed my motivation for anything other than the bare minimum. I had a job to keep and kids to keep alive, but my own self-care went by the wayside. Not because I didn’t want to, but I physically had no energy to do anything. It was a helpless feeling since I knew I would feel 10 times better if I got active and ate healthier, but all I wanted to do was nothing. I felt trapped.

I powered through work, and in June we finally sold our house and found a home in an amazing new neighborhood and got moved. And soon after we got settled, my job search, which had been going on for a good nine months, finally bore some fruit, and I landed a dream job at Hallmark. I finally feel like I’m in a career that means something to me personally, and my brain is being used for something that matters. And that makes the hours I spend away from home and family totally worth it if I can be proud of that time and energy! Skyler started school and loved it after the first day and hasn’t looked back since. And best of all, my badass friend kicked cancer in the you know what and is in remission. Unfortunately, she’s still in nowhere New Mexico…

To celebrate her remission, a group of us girls went to Colorado to do some hiking. I had high expectations for that trip but it blew my expectations out of the water. Not only did we do some gorgeous hikes, we conquered a fourteener (above 14,000 feet elevation at the summit), Quandary Peak, which was one of the single hardest, most humbling yet empowering things I’ve ever done. More than running a marathon, and up there with childbirth (comparing Layla’s birth when my epidural didn’t work; Skyler’s birth was a breeze!). I had no idea how difficult it would be; the altitude and the nonstop incline on giant rocks and no shelter from the wind for the second half of that hike. I almost quit several times as we neared the top, but knew how disappointed I would be. When I finally made the summit, I hyperventilated and cried all at the same time. I spent much of the year so disappointed in my body and my fitness, since I was overweight and out of shape and always tired. But reaching that summit reminded me how amazing my body really is, combined with my mind and strong will. I was far from the fittest I’ve ever been, but I did something physically demanding that few people get to do. I was truly proud of myself and felt a little more compassion for where I was at that stage in life. But on top of the physical feats of that trip, there couldn’t have been a better group of travel companions. We took turns cooking healthy and delicious meals, sharing our struggles, tears, and essential oils. Not to mention laughter – it was therapeutic in a hundred ways at least. I didn’t want to leave those mountains, and I dream of going back there, both for the physical experiences and the spiritual ones. It truly felt like a turning point in the year – we’d all conquered some mountains, and it was time to celebrate and enjoy life.

I did a lot of soul searching this year (though when don’t I, really?), and expanded my search outside my own soul. Something wasn’t right with my spirituality. My faith felt contrite and limiting; man-made and fragile. I began questioning things and reading (or should I say listening to on my commute since I have no time to sit and read), expanding my perspectives. I dig the subjects of evolutionary psychology and biology, neuroscience, and existential philosophies. I listen and I think until my brain hurts. I listened to atheists and theists and agnostics. Debates and lectures and apologetics. I listened to thoughts from non-Christian religions. It’s been fascinating and eye-opening and it has challenged my faith. I haven’t come to many conclusions other than I think an existence without a loving God feels meaningless, and I don’t think God fits in the box I once thought He did. But I’m enjoying the exploration and look forward to my longer commute so I can keep learning!

Finally, after working with a naturopathic doctor for a bit to help me prioritize my health in a way to deal with my anxiety and depression, I have felt pretty balanced for a few months now and finally have the energy to exercise consistently and take a stronger focus on nutrition. I’ve been lifting weights 3 – 5 times per week for a solid month now, and in the last week added some cardio/CrossFit style workouts back into the mix. I no longer feel drained and am motivated and excited to workout. I no longer feel like a walking eggshell that’s about to crack into pieces, and I am enjoying everyday life again. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go at my mental health naturally, since naturopathic doctors are expensive and don’t take insurance. I know there are multiple ways to skin this cat but I am thankful to be financially able to do things from a foundational, integrative approach that will enable me for more longterm balance. I will caveat to say that I think a huge factor in my mental health was finally escaping the heartless 9 – 5 job. It’s just impossible to stay healthy and balanced when the majority of your waking hours leave you burned out and thankless. It’s rarely any one thing, but that was a big one!

In 2017 I made a vision board, and I looked at it a lot throughout the year. I was amazed as the year unfolded how much of it “came true.” They weren’t really specific goals, but just ideas and visions of things and feelings I wanted to experience. When I see how it came true, I realize what a truly incredible year it was, despite the ups and downs.  I haven’t done a visualizing activity for 2018 yet, but I hope to make that happen soon. In the meantime, I feel energized and balanced and ready for whatever 2018 brings. Cheers to another trip around the sun!

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