Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2013: A Year in Review and Looking Ahead

Another year, gone. As tradition dictates since 2009 it is once again time to reflect on the previous year; to stop and take stock for both the purpose of remembering, and for the purpose of planning.

2013 was a tough, tough year. Of course, it had some very high notes, for which I am tremendously grateful! But as a whole, it was stressful and emotional to an alarming degree. I fear that perhaps maybe I did take on a bit too much this year (although I vehemently denied it all year). Or perhaps the constant effort of quitting smoking affected my moods and chemical make-up coupled with what were maybe normal stresses? Perhaps this year I have been suffering from depression...? I honestly and truly don't know. But considering I gained 20 pounds this past year even though I worked out more than ever and didn't change my eating habits (that much - I have been quitting smoking and probably stress eating) I can't help but believe that my body was in a fairly constant state of fight or flight and storing fat and energy as if it were under attack. I have been stressed all year, from beginning to end and for various reasons, and coming off of a stressful 2012 as well.

I think it was just too much (two promotions at work, weddings, school, responsibilities to my writing group) and I'm only realizing this all now. Now that the semester is over and the holidays are over and I'm finding myself with a wee break (with the exception of one more deadline), I'm noticing that I've just been constantly adjusting to everything I "had" to do, and really hanging on by a thread. I accomplished everything (and to my usual high standard), but I fear that I did so at the expense of my well being. There was just nothing left at the end of the day.

I am seriously hoping that is why I have been crying and feeling depressed nearly every single day. For some reason, especially the past few months, I am feeling too much and thinking too much. So much so that I started talking to someone about it in September. Something isn't right. And I don't like the person I was this past year.

I can't keep living like this. It would be impossible to look back on 2013 without acknowledging all of this, as it was the near-constant shadow cast over the year, and without planning some sort of defense for the coming year. I can only hope that everything I have been feeling is some basket weave of stress and quitting smoking that will loosen its grip on my mind and body.

Which is why I am acknowledging that here now and practicing identifying these feelings, sending them love and gratitude, and then sending them on their way.

I quit smoking, finally, in 2013. As of today, I am cigarette free 30 days! For whatever weight I've gained and whatever emotional turbulence I have put myself through as a result of quitting and failing over and over and withdrawal from cigarettes, I am grateful because I feel free. Year after year after year I have tried and failed to quit smoking and finally, FINALLY, I don't have to quit smoking today or write those words on the top of my resolutions list. For all of this, I am so grateful.

Later this month I will begin my final semester at Saint Joseph's University! It has NOT been easy, but in May I will don a cap and gown and FINALLY get my elusive Bachelors Degree with all manner of pomp and circumstance and I will have achieved a major accomplishment. For all the stress, late nights, early mornings and deadlines, I am so grateful. I am a smarter, more confident woman because of my education and I am proud of myself for my stellar grades.

I had the honor, as Matron of Honor, to stand beside my best friend Jess on her wedding day this past June. The Bridal Shower was wonderful, if I do say so myself, the bachelorette party an absolute blast and the wedding was beautiful. Most beautiful of all was the Bride. I was so happy to be a part of it all.

The Bride and Matron of Honor at the Shower

As for travel and leisure, our annual week-long vacation with the Cape May Crew became a long weekend instead. It was super fun, as always, however we did not take our annual photo in front of Kelly's Pub unfortunately. As best as we try to keep traditions, sometimes they're just not possible... the photo that should be here below this paragraph is missed.

Speaking of traditions, we did maintain our Oktoberfest tradition and breathed some fresh life into it adding a new game and some new faces (but more on that in a moment). It was a great time, or so I'm told since I blacked out pretty early (woops). I'm told I was a hoot and a great host so thank goodness for that.

In August I went out to Washington (the second time in 8 months) for a 3rd big brother/little sister adventure (the last before Doug sets out with Kristin on their round the world bicycle tour). We headed out to Doug's favorite part of Washington, the Cascade Mountains, Methow Valley and Winthrop. We spent a couple days just hanging out, hiking, and riding bikes in Stehekin, a community nestled in the North Cascades only accessible by boat, plane, or foot. It was a wonderful experience for a city gal like me and one I will never forget. Not only did I get to experience nature and the beautiful views and a few days of unplugged living, but the time spent with my brother was so wonderful. Drinking coffee and talking for hours in the lodge after a morning of hiking, reading together at the bakery, playing a game at night enjoying a few beers, reading each other's stories... all with the most amazing backdrop imaginable. It was a wonderful trip.

Hanging out near Agnes Gorge

Crossing off item #59 on my bucket list, I finally saw Pearl Jam. It was a great show and wonderful to see them after being a fan for twenty years.

For all that we gained, we also suffered some losses. Mike lost his job in the fall and was unemployed for four weeks. He's back to work now, but not happy so we'll see what the New Year brings. We also lost two very special people, Mike's Grandma Stephanie and our good friend's dad, Mr. Kobryn. They will both be missed.

But when God closes doors, he opens windows and he opened a big one, one that let in a tremendous amount of light, in August when I met April, and Mike and I gained an entire family into our lives who live just a few doors down.

I was out walking one day when a woman I had waved to countless times since we moved here said that if I ever wanted someone to go walking with that she would like to go. I said sure and right then we set up a date and time to walk. I didn't even know her name. I met her in front of her house a few days later and we introduced ourselves and that was it - we were very fast friends. We started walking regularly then a few weeks later we had the family over and Mike and April's husband Joe hit it off splendidly and their kids, Joey and Angelina, are so wonderful and sweet. It's been amazing and we are so happy to have made such wonderful friends.

We took in the New Year with our new friends and it was great. It's funny how sometimes you have no idea what's missing until you find it and then you have no idea how you got by all this time without it. I guess everything happens for a reason. The universe works... and somehow always knows the perfect time to step in.

So that's 2013 in a nutshell. One last highlight; I wrote more in 2013 than I have in years (and I don't mean for school). That's something I really want to continue focusing on in 2014. I am realizing just how good it is for me, mentally, to get things out of me. I may even get to see two of my stories in print... but more on that in a later post.

My number one first and foremost goal for 2014 is quite simple but very hard: I want to be kinder to myself (and by extension to Mike and my Mom). I was not kind to myself in 2013. Maybe that's another reason I have been so sad... But that is going to change.

There are so many other more specific goals I could write about, but I realize now that they all fall under being kinder to myself. Allowing myself to do the things I have been wanting to do (like taking surfing lessons this summer), taking my weight off in a loving way, rather than starving myself and winding up being resentful, giving myself permission to say no more often, making meditation more of a priority as a gift to myself, being a better wife, a better daughter... all these things will come if I can just be kinder to myself. And I started today. After taking several hours to write all of this down for myself, I already feel better. I'm learning what works for me. A lot of people say it's best to keep your eyes forward, but as the name of this blog indicates, I think reflection is critical in order to move ahead. We need to know where we've been in order to plan for where we're going...

...and I'm moving forward in 2014.

Happy New Year!


Joanne Costantino said...

Beautiful sentiments and recap of your very full and ambitious year! Happy New Year!

Victoria Marie Lees said...

What a wonderful year you had, Jessica. Fond memories to cherish. I love hiking and camping with the family and recording memories, too. I love the photos you included. Thanks for sharing. ~Victoria Marie Lees