For the past 20 years, I have done a New Year’s ritual that includes a review of the old year. Tomorrow I will post my resolutions for the New Year. Reviewing the past year should include appreciation for happy times, celebration of milestones reached, and acknowledgment of mistakes. This is how we figure out how to do fewer dumb things while putting more energy into what worked. This is also how we continue to make the connection that we have the powers of free will and attitude adjustment, no matter what fate throws in our path.
Our 2017 started badly. Really badly. We both rang in the New Year with a nasty cold. On my hubby’s first day back to work, he found out he was laid off. Almost immediately afterward, he was diagnosed with a squamous cell carcinoma in the middle of his cheek. This was very scary because his mom had died of cancer barely six months earlier. While he got an amazing new job offer shortly afterward, we went through a brief period fairly described as HOMELESS WITH FACE CANCER. Yay, neat. This would have been the worst time to lose one’s health insurance ever. Thanks to Obamacare, my husband was able to have the cancer surgery even while unemployed. He started his new job with a 2” gauze pad on his face. Now he’s fine, with barely a scar, and the moral is: WEAR SUNSCREEN.
Then our dog got a corneal ulcer (that’s Latin for “expensive veterinary emergency”) and had to wear a cone while we were packing to move. Strangely, I got a scleral abrasion in my own eye (same side) a couple of months later, although they didn’t put me in a cone.
Fate is weird.
As of January 6, all our carefully crafted resolutions and goals and projects and plans for the New Year were upended, thrown into the air like a chessboard at the rodeo.
In March, we found ourselves living in a beach resort. My husband got a promotion, a raise, and a team of four engineers, two lab techs, and two interns. He now goes to work in a private office with a door. Denhams always land on their feet.
You can choose to confront your fears proactively, or you can try your best to avoid them. Either way, life is coming at you in an endless tidal wave of BS. This is the point of the annual review. What do you still have control over, even when everything sucks?
I did something that was really difficult for me, something I had feared and avoided for many years. Even though I was scared, for the very first time, I finally tried... a breakfast burrito. With mango salsa. I loved it and now it’s one of my new favorites.
Highlights from 2017:
Went to my grandmother’s 80th birthday party!
My brother got married!
Moved to the beach
Did not lose sight in my eye
Finally prevailed in four-year tax dispute after being summonsed by the City of Los Angeles
Attended World Domination Summit for the second time
Taught my first workshop
Camped in the Grand Tetons
Saw a pair of sandhill cranes
Saw a sage grouse mama and her chicks
Saw the eclipse in its totality, in a clear sky
Spent our wedding anniversary in Las Vegas
Became a Competent Leader in Toastmasters
Became a club officer in Toastmasters
Competed in two speech competitions
Completed the work for Advanced Leader Bronze in Toastmasters
Doubled the readership on this blog (thanks, guys)
Published 1044 pages on this blog (261,069 words)
Published a blog post every business day in 2017
Made my activity goals every single day of 2017
Maintaining a 383-day move streak
Averaged 11,054 steps per day in 2017
Read 336 books (101,132 pages, or an average of 300 pages each)
Personal: My personal goal was to follow a set schedule. For the achievement of this goal, I can thank my adorable upstairs neighbors, who so charmingly run appliances at 7 AM, even on weekends. They even vacuumed their bedroom at 8:30 AM on Christmas morning, right over my head! Wake up, sleepyhead! This is a reminder that external circumstances are what they are. They’ll either give us a tailwind and push us along, or give us a headwind to make us stronger and more focused. There’s nothing like having 1500 near neighbors to instill patience and bring home the need to always be considerate of others. Also, I was right that having a more consistent daily schedule, contrary to my nature and proclivities, would make me more productive. This one is a keeper.
Career: My career goal was to form an LLC. This seemed like the obvious next step in January 2017. This became a non-goal for various reasons. 1. Prototype tools were not able to meet our production needs, even after multiple revisions. 2. Business model and viable product pricing did not cover cost of production, much less profit. 3. Bad timing for all parties concerned. 4. All parties had other business interests that were equally or more compelling. These were all very valuable lessons, worth more than the sunk cost of money and time that we had already invested. The moral: Just because there is a market for a product, does not mean it can be supplied at a profit. My takeaway is that I now understand the process of forming an LLC and feel that it is straightforward and simple.
Physical: My physical goals were to get back up to running five miles and to do P90X. Then, less than a week later, we found out we had to move, and we wound up in a tiny apartment with only 3’ of space in front of the TV. I am back up to running the five miles (5.5 as of December). I also signed up for an 8k in March. Oh, and? It turns out you can do P90X even when you only have about enough space to roll out a beach towel. I literally just finished a workout 20 minutes before posting this so I wouldn’t have to say I never tried. There is no ‘done’ in fitness. They say your max today will be your warmup one day, and I know that’s true.
Home: My home goal was to ‘digitize, downsize, minimize.’ I had NO IDEA WHATSOEVER that we would be living in a 680-square-foot apartment with one closet just two months later. We downsized our entire yard, garage, and several truckloads of stuff. Now I know that if we were given the opportunity to travel the world or live on a yacht for a year, we could be ready over a long weekend.
Couples: Our couples goals were to go to WDS and to make homemade pickles together. Then we had to move, yadda yadda. Our pressure canner won’t fit on our stove because there’s a microwave installed in the cabinet above it. We did of course attend WDS, and we bought our tickets for WDS 2018, too. And we’re still testing recipes for refrigerator pickles. After taste-testing at least five different brands of store-bought pickles, we simply aren’t satisfied. The quest for a mutually enjoyable luncheon garnish continues. When circumstances interfere with your goal, modify, improvise, and brainstorm with your partner.
Stop goal: My stop goal was to stop being the last person to pack up my tent on camping trips. I did go camping and I did succeed in not being last! The key was to solve my problem of refusing to get out of my sleeping bag until it was “warm enough” outside.
Lifestyle upgrades: I wanted the upgrades of fixing our tent after a raccoon tore it up (done), getting a new work bag (done), and upgrading my phone (done). I also got the extra upgrade of moving to a beach resort. This goes to show that however grandiose your wishes, Spirit always has something extra in the bag for you. Plus I got to keep my eye and my husband didn’t die.
Do the obvious: My ‘do the obvious’ goal was to transform my appearance. I did this by getting a frantic, last-minute makeover for my first game show audition. The results were so stunning (especially for my husband) that I went straight home and learned to straighten my hair. While I am alienated and annoyed by the concept of “beauty” as applied to women’s fashion, I wish I had spent some time learning this stuff twenty years earlier. It has about 1000x more impact than it deserves for about 1/3 the effort than I had assumed.
Quest: My quest this year was to BE RIDICULOUS. This was the absolute stupidest quest I have ever chosen. Remind me to be exquisitely careful about choosing my words from now on. I had planned to spend the year doing amazing stuff like taking exciting risks and learning to solve a Rubik’s Cube while riding a unicycle. Instead we got “homeless with face cancer with a dog in a cone,” followed by “cut my eyeball on a bird-of-paradise plant and have to get a tetanus shot.” I did audition for two different game shows, so that’s something ridiculous for you.
Wish: My wish was to pay off my student loan. This has not quite happened yet, but I did pay off 1/4 of it in one lump sum! I also voluntarily increased my monthly payments by 50%.
To sum up: I made all my goals for the year, even though we had a lot of disaster and chaos, with the exception of my stated business goal and my wish. My external surroundings have been utterly transformed. I was also crazily productive, to the point that I’m having to reexamine how much I can get done in a year. My biggest takeaways from 2017 are to make goals that can be accomplished 1. Regardless of location and 2. Without the participation of any other specific person.
Personal: Follow a set schedule. SUCCESS
Career: LLC. CANCELED
Physical: P90X, run five miles. SUCCESS
Home: Digitize, downsize, minimize. SUCCESS+
Couples: WDS, homemade pickles. SUCCESS
Stop goal: Stop being the last person to pack up my tent. SUCCESS
Lifestyle upgrades: Phone and work bag, tent. SUCCESS
Do the Obvious: Transform my appearance. SUCCESS+
Quest: BE RIDICULOUS. Um, SUCCESS+++
Wish: Pay off my student loan. PROGRESS
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.