1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?This one stumped me for a while. I am very much a glass half empty kind of gal (shocking revelation, I realize) so it was hard to come up with something that was good enough to write about. Waking up every day is a pretty good thing. Being in the best shape of my life is a pretty good thing. Getting one of the very few (itty bitty) monetary awards given at work this year was sort of nice, watching K do so well this summer and win the 8U county championship in butterfly was cool but wasn’t something that I had anything to do with except to cheer like a fool. Doing so much officiating last year was a good thing. Vacation at the shore was nice. But THE best thing? Hard to come up with.
The other night while B was helping me with one of the questions that a spouse is supposed to answer (see #6), he pointed me in the direction where my answer lay. And I can say with reasonable confidence that the single best thing that happened this year was repairing/renewing/rejuvenating my relationship with my sister and her family. As anyone who knows me knows, this difficult period in our relationship which on hind sight had to no good cause but can probably be chalked up to bilateral stress and stubbornness, was so painful for me. I worried about it, I thought about it way too much. It bothered me and it bothered K who didn’t understand why, if she and her cousins could get along, their parents could not. I missed hearing about and seeing pictures of my nieces. I am a terrible pray-er but this is one area about which I prayed consistently nearly every day…asking God to make things right again or show me the way to fix things. I knew that I couldn’t do it, that He would have to do it for us.And then Kocoa died. And she reached out. And in my sadness, I SO appreciated that short e-mail and told her so. And from there, we started to e-mail a little. And then they planned a trip to PA for a race and a visit and we e-mailed a little more. And then they were here and it was a little…awkward...at first. But by the time they left, it had gotten so much better and more relaxed and “normal” and overall I was so very pleased with how the visit went. We never talked about what happened or didn’t happen and I don’t think we need to…as far as I am concerned it is just water under the bridge and a new relationship started to replace the old. This is one thing I actually succeeded in putting in God’s hands and He showed me unequivocally why that is such a good idea.
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?Another tough one to pin down. It was a year of challenges (aren’t they all)? There were some financial challenges, some health challenges, some professional challenges, etc. This fall, I found myself screwing around on my own (i.e., without consulting an actual doctor) with various and sundry prescribed medications to try and 1) prove that I don’t need them and/or 2) limit the side effects such as migraines. So I stopped taking one thing that I have been on forever for my PMDD and anxiety and…essentially melted down in all sectors, especially at work. I stopped sleeping, my anxiety went through the roof, I was short tempered, irritable, and cried at the drop of a hat. And I was still getting migraines 2 or 3 a week. And then the whole “thing” happened at work and I was exhausted and totally ill equipped to deal with it like the semi-mature, semi-professional person that I claim to be. It was ugly and I still dread coming to work more often than is probably healthy. I did finally see my family doctor during the height of the mess, admitted what I had done with the meds and why, and agreed that while it was not the dumbest move in the history of dumb moves it probably ranked pretty high. It has taken a couple of months to get things smoothed out medically but equilibrium has once again been achieved. The anxiety is back to being readily manageable, I’m sleeping much better, and I’ve stopped crying every time someone looks at me sideways. I’m debating what to do about work (if anything) to make me dread it less but I may have to reserve that for my 2012 planning.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?See my response to No.1 But also…coaching.
LJ’s call came at the start of school, as I was already mourning the loss of my role as substitute worship leader at my church. Up until that summer, I had fancied myself sort of an assistant to our music director. I played and led worship whenever she wasn’t there, I suggested music, I pulled and filed music for her and the band, etc. I thought I was pretty good at what I did. Then they decided to hire someone in that role officially but made it the position unpalatable and arranged the application process in such a way that it was clear that I had no shot at it should I apply. Rightly or wrongly, I felt like a door had been slammed in my face.Then I picked up the phone one day and was offered a position as assistant swim coach with K’s team. Say what? I promised I would think about it and then proceeded to freak out. I had ZERO coaching experience, one year of actual involvement in competitive swimming after a 20 year break, and when I did swim myself it wasn’t like I every set the world on fire. I dropped out of the “elite” ranks at about age 12 and quit all but summer and synchro shortly thereafter. So, my initial reaction was confusion and terror.
I worked hard on squashing the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts – sorry while I get all psychbabble on you) that plague me and talked myself down off the ledge. In early September, with encouragement from the people that matter most – B, K, my sister, and my parents – I took the plunge. I decided to do something that doesn’t come overly easy for me – believing in myself – and trusted in JS’s recommendation, LJ’s belief that I could do it, and my husband’s faith in me and accepted the job. Most importantly though, I trusted in God’s plan for me. I came to believe, strongly, that if that other door had indeed been closed, God was opening a window right in front of me. So I climbed on through.And coaching? I have discovered I love it.
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?Unexpected? I think lack of time and energy is the biggest obstacle I faced all year, but that certainly wasn’t unexpected. I guess see, #2 - I never expected the physical and mental fall-out from one ill advised medical decision.
5. Pick three words to describe 2011The first three I picked were: anxious, hectic, and tiring. I think in further contemplation I’d like to change those to: busy, unexpected, and blessed.
6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011Again, my first three were: anxious, disappointing, and hectic. His actual words were: busy, new challenges (see #3), and renewal (see #1).
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe his 2011Busy, stimulating, blessed. He is disgustingly positive.
8. What were the best books you read this year?I’m not sure I can pick the best books…I’ve read so many this year, most of them fluff. How about I list my three favorite authors from this year instead? 1) Richard Paul Evans – he was a new addition to my list of faves. His books are simple and sweet yet compelling. I read a ton by him and listened to several as well. Some of my favorites this year were The Walk series, Michael Vey, and Lost December. 2) Jane Austen – I listened to (does that count?) several of her books this year. I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice, but now I also love Emma and Persuasion. 3) Brad Thor – thankfully Thor redeemed himself after the last less-than-super effort. Full Black was great.
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?B, obviously; K too – she constantly teaches me new things, makes me appreciate everything, and broaches what turn out to be the most interesting topics of conversation; my parents – I am so grateful to have them in my life; my sister and her family. Also, I value my friends J, H, and M at work – they supported me through the whole mess and listened to my whining and complaining without walking out on me even once. H even had to deal with tears a few times, poor guy.
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December?I think adjusting to getting up so much earlier every day was hard. Does that count? With the addition of Pippy to our family, I committed to walking her every morning before work/church/whatever. On work in the office days, it means getting up at 3:20am. On work at home days, it means getting up at 4:30am or earlier. It is only about 30 minutes earlier than I used to get up to get to the gym and to work on time, but it made a big difference.
11. In what ways did you grow emotionally?I have gotten SO much better at quieting that mean little voice in my head and squashing the ANTs. I still have a long way to go to make it a life style though. I also made some good strides in accepting and embracing things the way they are right now and thanking God for the opportunity. Also, I have gotten better at accepting a certain level of dirt and disorder in my house in exchange for time with my family or sleep. There are entire work weeks that go by without me vacuuming even once.
12. In what ways did you grow spiritually?I don’t feel like I did, actually. It has been a “dark night of the soul” kind of year, faith wise.
13. In what ways did you grow physically?I have gotten much faster and stronger in the pool in the last 5 months or so since I started to actually do some endurance training. I am still old and slow and will make a total a$$ out of myself this weekend, but…I’m faster and stronger than I was before.
14. In what ways did you grow in your relationships with others?I think overall, my relationships suffered (see, #2 and 1st part of #3) because I don’t spend a lot of time building them, but some of them, like with B and my sister grew stronger.
15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?Enjoyable professional work? Sigh. The best part of working at home without a doubt is having K come into my office when she wakes up, all warm and sleepy, and climb on my lap for a morning snuggle. That is the best part of my professional work and of my professional work at home. The most enjoyable part of my home work, besides hugging the sweetest, most wonderful little girl every day, was spending time learning how to coach 8-11 year olds. I also really like walking Pippi every day too. It is very quiet in our neighborhood at 3:30am which makes for good contemplation. Plus, she makes me laugh.
16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?Asked and answered re: professional challenges. Home? Having time to do everything I wanted to do or that I felt like I needed to do. I may now be able to leave the floor unvacuumed for days at a time, but I’m still get frustrated now and again that the house didn’t magically clean itself while I was busy on a pool deck. The whole thing with church/music was tough as well.
17. What was your single biggest time waster this past year?Facebook!
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?Coaching and getting to know the kids I coach. I love them all. Some of them I like more than others, but I do love them all.
19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?I CAN be a good coach. I know how very much I need to learn but I can actually teach these young kids how to do their strokes correctly! Also, life doesn’t end b/c the floor is dirty.
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.Disappointment often leads to new opportunities. Also: This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!