Not another cliche New Year post

A friend of mine, someone I’ve known basically since birth – we used to “perform” very elaborate imagined productions in our neighbor’s backyard, and then we got to actually perform together in high school drama club productions of varying quality, and now we volunteer together and also habitually eat delicious food and drink delicious cocktails while gabbing about anything and everything, and really, how rare is it that someone you’ve known for multiple decades persists into your adult life and you still somehow have shared interests and passions after all this time? Anyway, I digress. The point is, he’s a friend I’ve known forever and whose ideas I respect, and he recently pointed out that years are these totally random things that someone decided on a really long time ago, and so why do we invest so much meaning in them?

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I didn’t tell Brian I was stealing this screencap, so, sorry, Brian. If you like this particular brand of irreverent witticism, you can follow him over on Twitter at @brianmdudley.

I definitely feel where Brian’s coming from with that. I joined everyone else in bemoaning just how truly and completely terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad 2016 turned out to be, and I’m cautiously optimistic that 2017 could be a year of positive growth in my life, but I’m also not jumping into January 2017 declaring all the new resolutions and life-changing decisions I’ll be making to turn this year around.

Two songs have been playing in my brain these past few days: “What a Year for a New Year,” by Dan Wilson (I first heard this when it was included on Maybe This Christmas compilation released in 2002, which apparently does not legally exist anywhere on the internet, and I’m opposed to embedding YouTube videos that are 100% not authorized to be sharing the song, so you guys can go ahead and google this one), and “Lights and Buzz,” by Jack’s Mannequin (thanks for coming in clutch here, Spotify – give it a listen).

Dan Wilson may have had a premonition about what life would feel like, come 2016, when he wrote this song, though I suppose the early ’00s had their fair share of problems. The song opens, “What a year for a new year / We need it like we needed life, I guess / The last one left us lying in a mess / What a year for a new year.” It’s the bridge, however, that really rings true for me this year: “Hope we’ll forget about this place /  Let it go without a trace /  Wipe the teardrops from our faces.” I cried a lot in 2016. I cried too much. I don’t want to cry as much in 2017. Let’s work on that.

The Jack’s Mannequin track is gorgeous, melancholy, honest. Andrew McMahon wrote this song while battling cancer – specifically, it was the first track he wrote after receiving a stem cell transplant from his sister, which saved his life. The song opens, “I’m coming home from my hardest year / I’m making plans not to make plans while I’m here.” 2016 wasn’t my all-time hardest year, but it’s certainly worthy of an honorable mention. If nothing else, this year felt relentless, like I could never quite catch my breath before the next universal bitch slap descended.

That second line of “Lights and Buzz,” though, that’s the attitude I’m taking into 2017. I’m making plans not to make plans. I’m trying to free up space in my life for life to happen to me, in the hopes that perhaps the tides will change. I can’t get into specifics here, but there have been some positive developments that I hope will come to fruition in the next few weeks, and they’d bring about major shifts in my life.

The biggest change is one that I can share – I’m moving next week. While my cousin is in India for the next two years, I’ll be living in her condo, in a great neighborhood. I’m so excited about this change. I’ve been living at home and haven’t put myself first in a really long time – especially over the past year – so it will be really good to have some distance and space for myself. My family will still be only a 20 minute car ride away, but to not come home to that every night will be so freeing. I feel guilty saying things like that, but it’s the truth. I get to prioritize myself first, and I’ll have the room to do so.

So that’s the theme as we enter into this arbitrarily chosen span of time we call a new year – creating space, giving myself time, and not making plans. Letting things come as they may, and I’ll make the most of them. No expectations, either high or low – just openness and willingness to experience life as it happens.

Bring it on.

Another mimosa, please.

I spent the long weekend in my favorite place on earth with my favorite people, and I. Am. Exhausted.

Things I learned this weekend:

  1. When you’re out with a friend you don’t get to see very often and you’re ordering wine by the glass, it’s really easy to lose track of how much you’ve had, especially when the bartender has a heavy pour. Then you get the bill and you realize you’ve had a bottle and a half of wine. Each. Whoops.
  2. It has been four and a half years since my last marathon bottomless brunch (an especially memorable visit to Lasagna’s the day of our 5-year college reunion, when they finally kicked us out because the restaurant was flipping over to dinner and apparently that’s when the mimosas stop being bottomless). Turns out 31 is officially too old for bottomless brunch, especially when you approach it as a challenge. “Oh? You’re cutting us off after two hours? I ACCEPT THIS QUEST.” Again. Whoops.
  3. I know a lot of people get into trouble because when they’re drunk they start craving junk food and end up overeating. I am the exact opposite. I completely forgot to feed myself during Saturday’s marathon outing. There were the token breakfast foods consumed alongside the bottomless mimosas, but let’s be honest, those are only there to add an air of legitimacy to the quite frankly inhuman quantities of champagne you’re consuming. And then I forgot to eat anything else. For twelve hours. When we made it to Crif Dogs at 1am I greeted that hot dog like I had never seen food before. Honestly, I’m astounded I didn’t black out in a corner around 4pm. And once again. Whoops.
  4. I decided to stick around the city and drive home on Monday, officially giving “We’re going to watch the debate!” and “Who wants to drive in a hurricane?” as my rationale. The unofficial but very real reason: I fell asleep sitting up at a bar during the Patriots game at 2pm (luckily I remained upright and spared myself the indignity of face-planting into a plate of buffalo wings) and subsequently napped straight through the 4pm games. Driving four hours back to Massachusetts was a non-starter. The drive wasn’t much better on Monday, culminating with me getting pulled over at a toll booth on the Mass Pike (….and getting off with a warning because my last speeding violation was five years ago, almost exactly to the day, also received while on the Mass Pike on a Monday morning driving home from a weekend of NYC ridiculousness – noticing a trend here?) It turns out things that came easily at 24 are just painful at 31. Who knew?

I am in full on recovery mode. I fell asleep at 7pm Monday night after working from home for the afternoon, and I have slept like the dead the past few nights. I’m still dragging myself through my workouts, but I’m definitely not at 100%. And you know what? I don’t regret a single thing. I needed this weekend more than I even realized.

These past few days have really driven home how much your mental state impacts your physical well-being. I’ve been in a pretty dark place for the past month or so; the world has been throwing a lot my way, both at work and at home, and I wasn’t doing a great job of coping and finding balance. It showed up in my attitude, in my energy levels, in my mental health and in my physical well-being. I had no motivation to drag myself to the gym, I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t treating my body well. I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t happy.

img_3237This weekend, I got to spend time with the types of friends who make you remember who you are and where you belong. Living in another city makes me appreciate these friends so much more when I do get to see them, and every time we get together I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have these people in my life. They’re my human reset buttons. And it’s not like we all sat down to have deep, soul-searching conversations about our lives – quite the opposite. We did multiple rounds of pickle back shots, we sang early 2000s pop-punk karaoke, and we sent ridiculous snap chat stories to the friends who couldn’t be there. But that’s what I need. I need to be reminded that I don’t have to be the responsible one all the time.

My life is so much more than my job and my parents and the myriad things that make me feel stressed and pressured and pushed to go, go, go, 24/7. My life is my stories and my experiences. My life should be filled with ridiculousness and irresponsible decisions and silliness and laughter and hugs and joy. It’s about finding balance and this weekend, with these friends, they helped me to tip the scales back in my favor.

Self care is not selfish

The one lesson I seem to have to keep learning, over and over and over and over again: If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t be there to take care of other people. It’s not a crime to take time for myself. A thousand other variations on a theme: Self care is not selfish.

It took thirty freaking years for me to start realizing this, and it has really only sunk in over the past year. I most certainly did not arrive here on my own – the friends who are closest to me (those single-name-in-the-cell-phone friends, the OG ride or die team) have been trying to hammer this through my thick skull for years now.

Apparently I haven’t learned my lesson yet.

I won’t get into details here, but it’s been a real fucker of a week. 99% of the time I feel pretty at peace with the universe, and then a week like this happens, and I just have to take a hot second to shake my fist at the sky and wonder if the powers that be are deliberately malicious jerk-faces, or if someone’s just drunk at the wheel. My constant refrain when things like this happen – and they seem to keep happening, again and again and again, with unfair frequency to the people I care most about in this world. We’re told, in trying times, that God only gives us what we can handle. Well, universe, I either need God to have a little less faith in me, or the dude needs to reevaluate his definition of “handling it.” 

Frankly, y’all, for the past week, I haven’t been handling shit.

I had to send my check in to my trainer today, and I almost skipped it, because I have been a trainwreck for the past nine days. I got some bad news, and then a little more piled on top of that, and then just a bit more for good measure, and all that translated to skipping workouts, eating like shit, sleeping terribly, and letting things slide.

And the thing is, I don’t feel any better. Eating cookies and drinking wine after getting shitty news just translates to a shitty workout the next day. Skipping time at the gym just robs me of an hour that I can throw on some loud music, ignore texts and emails and voicemails, and just be with myself and without my thoughts. Nothing shuts up the voices in my head like heavy plates on the barbell for some back squats or deadlifts.

I am realizing that I need to create more space for myself. I need to give myself permission to indulge in the things that bring me joy and help me to remain centered. Those are the first things to go for me – when I drop everything to try to fix things, I just end up hurting myself in the process. And maybe I made a difference in the short term, but I’m perpetuating a terrible habit.

I want to be the best daughter and friend that I can be. And I can’t be that person if I’m not healthy, and strong, and mentally sound, and I can only be all of those things if I give myself permission to put myself first, at least once a day.

Self care isn’t selfish. If I keep learning the lesson whenever things go wrong – and history shows that things will go wrong, because history repeats itself, and my family doesn’t get a magical pass from that, this I guarantee – then maybe, someday, I’ll actually believe it and the lessons will pay off.