Every year, I learn how to set goals that are a little more flexible, a little gentler, and a little better than those from years prior. The Quest helps me walk a small labyrinth to zoom in on the center of who I am, and who I envision myself becoming.
The other thing that I do every year (whether or not I post it publicly on the blog), is review the previous year – what I set out to do, what I actually accomplished, what surprises happened along the way, and which things I originally held as goals, that were deprioritized through the year.
I did happen to post this review last year, as I set out my 2017 goals. I wrote my goals just 21 days before my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis. Just 19 days before I had to call in sick because I was in too much pain to get dressed.
That was the first of the many surprises that 2017 held for me, and probably the one that shaped more choices than anything else.
For 2017, my goal was to “create space by setting boundaries”. This feels like a goal that I indeed kept. I set a whole lot of new boundaries this year, and forcibly created space to heal.
Concrete Goals Are Easy To Check Off.
My concrete 2017 goals were to:
- Be enrolled in a graduate program on Mythological studies
- Have Salvaged published – regardless of method
- Take good care of my health – including losing the weight that I gained in 2016
- Hone my storytelling skills
I give myself a 65% or so on these, overall.
I am indeed enrolled in a graduate program on Mythological studies, and in fact, am very nearly done with the reading required for the early January session. 25%! In addition to gaining a new alma mater, I also honored my old one. Camille graduated, and I attended my 20th year reunion at Sweet Briar.
I did not publish Salvaged. I paid a professional editor to help me with the problems that I knew it had, and she spent a month bleeding red ink all over it. It ultimately came down to the fact that I no longer wanted to spend my time in that dystopian world. That project has been trunked – possibly permanently. 0%
I actually gained 60 lbs this year thanks to the pain, the fatigue, and the steroids. However, I still get 15% of the credit for this one, because I sure as hell did take good care of my health. My health just got larger and trickier than it ever had been before. I learned about my own sensory sensitivities, and how to better cope with them. I had to give up on my backpacking plans for the summer. And ultimately, I took remission of my psoriatic arthritis off my list, too. “Exquisite self-care” were the words written on my Q4 goals.
I’m giving myself a full 25% for the storytelling one, though it’s harder to nail down than the others. I didn’t join the story teller’s guild like I intended to, nor did I attend the festivals. I did however finish my draft of my next novel, and got great beta-reader feedback on the work. I had – at some point – added querying agents with that novel to the list, but that never happened. I still have too many revisions to write. I also blogged a lot in 2017, particularly about cultural shadow work and the underpinnings of our current sociopolitical tension.
Oh, and I randomly made this video.
Surprises are Harder to Quantify
2017 buried deep grace under the guise of sorrow and destruction.
I keep staring at that line and feeling its truth echo through my torso with each heartbeat. I hadn’t titled this post. This is the title for this post. I almost don’t need to keep typing. That is the truth of all of the words I was about to muster.
In January 2017, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that I will cope with for the rest of my life. I was prescribed expensive immune-suppressing and chemotherapy drugs with hopes of remission. I suddenly had to deal with debilitating pain, and even more debilitating levels of exhaustion. Psoriatic arthritis impacted whether I could work. It impacted my marriage. It impacted which clothing I could put on each day, or whether I’d be able to walk even as far as the mailbox. In short, it fucking sucks.
And deep within the folds of pain and self-pity, grace was hidden. I had no choice but to look hard at my life and the status quo that led me to the flare that started this year. I got coaching from my friend Nancy (who I highly recommend to anyone going through a big transition). As a result of her techniques to understand myself, in March, I was able to make a huge decision and leave WebMD, joining Hipcamp instead.
Leaving WebMD was a bittersweet goodbye. I loved the smart, passionate people I worked with there. But again, it was sorrow wrapped around grace. I’ve stayed in touch with a number of them, meeting up for coffee, for adventures, for hugs. And my new job is lower-stress. Working from home full-time is a necessary part of my life. And I have a whole new team of smart, passionate coworkers who I love working with.
My home and marriage were no less impacted. Being home with the hyper dog meant that we had to have a place where he and I could play without my wrists and ankles taking the damage of a walk on leash. So, we redid the back yard. My husband and I had to learn an entirely new set of roles in the household. He suddenly had to help with things like groceries and housekeeping I could no longer do.
More than any of that, though, I was forced to learn the very hard lesson of asking for and receiving help from others. When I researched a pile of things that might make my life easier, and set up an amazon wishlist, I expected a few people to chip in. I did not expect the entire wishlist to be empty in 48 hours. I did not expect amazon boxes for days of no-twist pill bottles, zipper pulls, comfy pants, fuzzy socks, etc. I did not expect it to be nearly so hard to accept them. There is a point, with this disease, where no one can do anything to help. When I’m cuddled under an electric blanket and I’ve taken every remedy available, there’s just an overwhelming helplessness that we all feel. If and when there is anything I can let someone else do for me, I’m getting way better about asking for it, and accepting. Maybe it can take the edge off of the collective sense of helplessness in the face of this.
I honestly can’t think of any grace that was hidden in the heartbreak of my cats dying. That, too, fucking sucked. The death of the sneezy cat, Keesli, did inspire me to redo the bedroom. So there’s that, I guess.