2018 in review, January to December.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” –Soren Kierkegaard
I think one of the best consequences of experiencing a loss is the way that we grow to value intentionality. When the universe pulls aside the curtain and shows us how brutal and tedious life can be–when you realize it can all be over in the most ordinary second– one finally understands in the clearest and most resonating way how finite time is. Logically we know that being alive comes with an expiration date, but losing someone close to you or having your own brush with death is a tangible way to understand the precarious nature of a human existence. Here one day, gone tomorrow.
Personally, I am much more intentional about how I live because of it. What I want to get out of each day. Who I want to be around. How I want to take care of the things that are important to me. What is important to me. I pay closer attention to what I like, and I tend to notice the smaller details that I would have ignored in my previous life.
Recently I met a friend who I liked more than most people who I encounter. This person was interesting, smart, and very funny. I enjoyed their company, and we had an energy between us that added something special to the daily hum of life. One of those friendships that give you a perpetual stupid grin on your face.
Life lesson #589, when it seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
I made the fatal mistake of getting too close, too fast. When I realized that this person had a penchant for drama and a boatload of issues to deal with, I made a quick decision to return to the safe space inside of my boundaries. It wasn’t that I didn’t like this person, but this quote succinctly summarizes the gut feeling I reacted to:
“As we gain confidence in ourselves, red flags are no longer red flags. They are deal breakers.” – Mandy Hale
Around the same time that this friendship imploded, one of my children had a classmate say something extremely inappropriate to them (like call-CPS-inappropriate). We had to have conversations about the kind of friends we pick, who we should avoid, and the terrible things we might encounter in society. The children and I discussed the importance of a referent group, how our social circles influence us, what boundaries are, and how our boundaries are our best line of defense in a sometimes crappy world.
It might sound mean, but in my limited time and with my scarce energy, there are only so many people I can let inside of my inner circle, closest to my emotionally-scarred heart. I like meeting new people and think it’s important to make connections with lots of diverse humans. However, there are different levels of connections. Most people are going to stay in the acquaintance category because maybe we don’t have a super strong connection. Sometimes it’s just a situation of trying to tolerate each other in an environment where we are forced to coexist, like in the work place, and we attempt to make it as friendly as possible. Often I do not allow a person inside of my inner circle because of their drama and “Pig Pen” dust. I simply can not allow any of that into my precariously pieced together life. I just can’t. I have to pick my close friends wisely. And to be honest, a really close friend has to bring something to the table. Chit-chatting or longevity isn’t enough. We have to have things in common and shared values. There has to be a certain kind of energy between us. Over time we should have built a history of consideration and reciprocity toward each other. There are friendships, and then there are friendships with (platonic) intimacy. There is a difference. I like people who I can learn from. People who can inspire me (and this can be in the way that they garden, their job, the books they read, their open-mindness, compassion, whatever. Inspiration comes from all areas of living and in many different forms).
All of this is part of a curated life. We pick and choose who and what we want inside of our boundaries.
My oldest child is turning 9-years-old and had a slumber party this past weekend. I was pleased that all of his friends were well-mannered. They settled their disagreements amongst each other without needing my interference. They were not rude or mean to each other. The boys were kind and polite to me. I felt validated in the way that I tend to be strict with my kids about how they choose their friends, and it appears my son has done well in choosing his.
I’ve been reading the book “The Curated Closet.” I am still working through it, but so far the experience has involved taking a picture of what I wore for two weeks and making inspiration boards. This was an excellent way of focusing my observing ego squarely on myself with photographic evidence. If only there was such an effective way of capturing the same thing with mood, thoughts, health, etc. Around the same time that I started reading the book, I also listened to the Forever 35 podcast (episode #50) about sustainable style with Natalie Harris. I enjoyed Natalie’s ideas about being mindful regarding how your clothes are made, where they come from, how much you have, etc. Many of us would do the research and spend the time to really plan and decide where to go on a vacation, what car to purchase, or any other big ticket item that we spend money on. But what about all of the micro-expenses that we incur on a daily basis? The food we eat. The crap we overspend on during a trip to Target or Costco. How much we spend during the holidays and birthdays. On so many levels–financial, environmental, or even the clutter in our houses– what we buy matters.
The best part of the curated closet is that all of this bleeds into other domains of your life. Building an intentional life includes everything from what’s in your kitchen drawers, the vacations you go on, what you wear, the people you hang around, how you spend your time, and when you say yes or no.
Saying no is something I am going to work on in 2019. Guarding my boundaries and honoring my authentic self. This may be the #1 secret to a well-curated life: saying no to that which does not serve us.
Intentionality is not solely about the materialistic things in our lives. It also includes managing our emotions. When we have healthy headspace, we have more control over the thoughts and feelings that we allow to take up room in our minds.
Recently someone who suffered a loss asked me for advice about getting through the holidays. I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to plan ahead. Be intentional. What do you want the special days to look like this year? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be around? Create a vision for yourself and execute that plan. Flying by the seat of your pants will have you crashing on the bathroom floor in a puddle of self-pitying tears. I do not recommend it.
The truth is, the rest of the world won’t make your anguish their priority during the holiday season. Everyone else is consumed by their own realities, and yours is probably nothing more than a blip on their radar, if it even registers at all. I know this truth is a harsh one to swallow, but it’s the way life is.
Plan. Pick. Choose. What do I want on my Christmas tree? What do I want to eat? Who do I want to see? What new traditions can I create? All of this is me curating my life. Planning is key. Knowing what you want. Identifying action steps. Putting it in the calendar.
Even though I executed all of these things this year, I was still an emotional mess on Christmas Day. But by December 26th, I was fine again. I think being very intentional in the way that we curate our life–including our emotions–helps us process our feelings more quickly. I was still sad on Christmas because I’m not a feeling-less robot, but I didn’t get stuck there. Those feelings did not consume me, because living a curated life means I get to choose what stays and what doesn’t.
I think about that friend I made and unmade in the span of a couple months. I wish things had been different between us, but I’m not really upset about it either. We have to take chances in life where we see potential, but sometimes those chances lead to dead-ends. That’s okay. You don’t bang your head on the same wall over and over again. You find a new direction and you keep trying. When you are intentional about the way that you live, you can’t let yourself get caught up on one person, one thing, one bad day, one wrong turn, one anything.
Last year I wrote “2018 Intentions” for myself. I had it printed and bound, and I referenced it throughout the year.
I know New Year resolutions get a bad rap, but I am a believer in intentions. I don’t just list goals. I include action steps. I pull out my calendar and plug things into specific dates. I schedule time to reflect on my progress and write out my progress. I revise my intentions. It’s always a work-in-progress, learning experience.
Curating isn’t a one and done deal. The definition of curate is to “select and organize.” One must sift through everything–the good and the bad–and be able to develop an eye to find the keepers. I use the same approach with my habits. I need to be able to identify the things that I do that make me successful, and the ways that I sabotage myself. Then, I need to be intentional about getting rid of the bad habits and cultivating the good ones. It is a process that requires constant recalibration.
And since our brains crave novelty, just when I think I have something that works, I find myself needing to make adjustments. Curating your life is kind of like searching for gemstones amongst a pile of worthless rubble. Or hunting for great finds at garage sales. Or shopping at the mall for a great deal. Or any of the other things that we like to do that requires us to search for the diamond in the rough. There is something innate to us that makes us enjoy a good treasure hunt. Trial and error, patience, and an eye for potential. We just need to apply all of this to the various aspects of our day-to-day lives to help us find the treasure that is our authentic self.
I made my 2019 Intentions. I am getting fancier with my booklets, and it has become a favorite ritual of mine for welcoming a new year. I closed out 2018 with my final reflection and put those intentions on the shelf with all of my old planners and journals. I look forward to opening it up sometime in the future and marvel at how far I’ve come along. It’s reaffirming to look back and think, wow, look how much I’ve grown.
I think the beginning of a new year is magical. There is so much promise and hope mixed with trepidation and anxiousness about what might transpire in the coming days and weeks and months. Thinking about who I want to be this year, and what I want to do. It’s kind of fun and stressful at the same time.
2016 was a terrible year for me. My worst nightmare of a year. Horrendous. Unexpectedly losing my husband. A stressful election. I spent the majority of the year numb, submerged in a dark fog (and stuck with a 1-year old, 3-year-old, and 6-year-old on my own).
2017 had a lot of growing pains, but just as I suspected, it was only up from 2016. We rang in the New Year in Japan and spent the summer in Europe. Things hurt, but we were growing into the pain and we were taking time to enjoy life.
2018 was much better, with all of us settling into the hollowness that 2016 created, and overall getting comfortable with our new normal. The year before had been an adjustment year, and this year was finding our pace, feeling the dust settle and pushing forward as we left behind the emotional baggage of the past. 2018 was the year of re-growth.
I have no idea what awaits me. I know that the shoe can drop at any time, which scares the hell of me. I also know that the year might be filled with amazing surprises, and if past trends remain true, I will like myself more this time next year than I do right now. There is so much I can not predict or control. I let those things go. There are also things I can curate to position myself to have the best year that I can possibly have in any circumstance. That’s why I make intentions for the new year. That’s why I’m a list person. A journaler. A picture-taker. That’s why I believe in taking advantage of the choices we can make for ourselves. I want to be fully engaged in every second of time that I have left. Life is too tenuous and fleeting to be a passive bystander. Suck the marrow out of its bones and be present to experience all of it.
I sincerely wish and hope everyone has a happy and healthy New Year, but more importantly, I hope you spend the next year living the journey that is authentically your own. I will be trying to do the same.
I appreciate that you took the time to read this. It is an honor that you share your time with me. I plan to share much more with you in 2019.
I will leave you with some of the things I enjoyed this year:
Getting Things Done with David Allen on Cut the Crap podcast. I also read David Allen’s book, but listening to this podcast helped me figure out his method.
How to Be Happy in the NY Times. Lots of tips packed into this article.
What if you never find the one. I think this article is good for anyone regardless of marital status. It gets you to think about how you would structure your life without basing it on another person, which helps you reflect about whether you are living an authentic life.
You Need a Budget. A goal of mine for 2019– be better with money.
Favorite Instagram accounts: Mari Andrew, Glennon Doyle, Barb Schmidt, Gary Janetti.
Favorite Podcasts: S Town Podcast. (I was addicted to this one and couldn’t get John out of my head for weeks.) I also liked Forever 35, The Cut the Crap Show, Modern Love, The Chase Jarvis Live Show, Beautiful/Anonymous, The Unmistakable Creative, Tara Brach, and I am on the hunt for more great ones. If you have any suggestions, I would love to add more to my 2019 podcast docket.
Learning more about Buddhism.
“An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones. I really liked the twist on what happens to love when you are forced to be separated. I also like reading books written with diverse perspectives.
Spindrift. I never liked sparkling water until I found this. My favorites flavors are lemon and the tea/lemon.
Reaching the point in my life where eye cream is becoming a thing.
I don’t really watch any shows, but I did enjoy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Doctor Foster this year.
What did you discover and/or enjoy this year? Please share! I am always on the hunt for inspiration. Being a life curator requires finding new material 24/7, and I have an insatiable appetite.
I also had three essays out on different sites: here, here, and here!
Your post today was so meaningful and comforting in so many ways. For the first time since my husband passed away in October 2017, I sat down to journal, something I’ve never had a talent (or focus) for.
When I realized that the last few days of 2018 were the Last days I could say “last year” and have it still be US, traveling, being, doing, living our lives. So I turned off all media and wrote and wrote and wrote about my first full year of widowhood. I’m not done yet, still one more day to go.
It is so painful to move further away from our magical time together, 28 years. I should perhaps think of it as moving closer to him, but right now that doesn’t work well for me.
It’s been a sad learning curve with friends and family who have stepped away from me, so your thoughts on curating our lives is very meaningful. I’m 75 and I feel blessed to have you in my life. Thank you.
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You are a wonderfully insightful person and reading your work feels like a real gift to me. Thank you. Blessings to you and your family in the New Year.
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Teresa…your comment re the teachers strike some moments ago, saying “horrifying” got caught in between mine and Neil’s and then Leslye’s…so sorry for that tech glitch. But it led me to read your page and ask to be friended. I am so taken with your writing and want to be on your mailing list. Look forward to more communication. Be well and fulfilled. Ellen Lubic