Happy New Year!

Like many, I’m not a fan of resolutions. I don’t like putting too much pressure on milestone dates because I think life is a process and real change happens so slowly over time that it’s almost imperceptible. That said, I do think there are some benefits in setting an intention for the year. “Intention” may just be a dressed up version of “resolution” without all the cliche the latter carries. Still, I think having a guiding principle for the year can be a good thing.

I view resolutions as specific, non-negotiable goals for the year which are difficult for me because I think it’s too hard to predict what life will throw at you in a year, and I don’t like the inflexibility. Intentions are broad enough to be malleable. They can stretch to fit the situation and help keep me on track with my main focus for the year.

My intention for 2014 (though I don’t know if I realized it until about halfway through) was to take care of myself first. I’ve heard it called, the “oxygen mask theory.” You know how on a plane, the safety walkthrough (always pay attention to the safety walkthrough!) explains that in the event oxygen masks are needed, they will drop down from the ceiling; always put on your own mask before helping others. The metaphor is not subtle. You cannot be there for others in their time of need if you are struggling to breathe.

2014 was not the year of people pleasing. I made a lot of decisions that didn’t sit well with others. The most major event of my 2014 was, of course, planning a wedding. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, you can’t make most any wedding decision without bothering someone. Our families were thrilled we decided to get married, and that was about all we could all agree on. But that’s really all that matters. Keeping that in mind made it easier to make a million small decisions that bothered someone. Easier, but not easy.

In the past, I would have totally buckled under the pressure of trying to please everybody. Once I realized that was impossible, I decided that if the only person I could please was myself (and my husband of course), then I should at least strive to do that. If I wasn’t happy and neither was anyone else, what was the point? I made the decisions I wanted, and our wedding was amazing. I loved it, and everyone else had a great time too. Six months later, our families still rave about it.

It wasn’t just the wedding though. Looking back I made a lot of decisions in 2014 that I wouldn’t have made in the past based on how others felt about them. I got a dog that really only I knew our family was ready for. She’s the perfect addition to our family, and everyone loves her now, but it wasn’t an easy adjustment. Her integration didn’t always go smoothly, and I wondered nearly every day if it was the right call. Almost a year later, I can’t imagine not having her, and neither can anyone else.

I lost a friend who just wasn’t a good fit for my life anymore. Ending that relationship wasn’t easy, but it was absolutely the right choice for me. I feel happy with my decision, and I’m glad I trusted my own moral compass above anything else. Once again, taking care of myself had a ripple effect on the rest of my life. I didn’t realize how much time and energy I was spending on an area of my life that was bearing no fruit. Walking away, opened up a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had.

And then I ran a marathon. I spent 18 weeks on an inherently selfish pursuit. In the past, I would, and often did, shy aways from personal goals because they took up too much time that I could have been devoting to others. The marathon was the biggest eye opener in this year of taking care of myself first. Spending 18 weeks pursuing a goal that really only should have benefitted me, enhanced almost all my relationships. Accomplishing smaller goals every weekend in the form of longer and longer runs made me feel so fulfilled that each week was just happier. I found myself becoming more joyful and patient in my interactions with my friends and family. I wasn’t distracted by all the things I wanted to do but wasn’t doing. I was doing something great for me, and that made me more present for others.

Also, I found time I didn’t know existed. Being so busy forced me to focus on the things that mattered. It’s amazing how much time I have when I’m not wasting any of it. I actually spent more time with my husband, and the time we spent together felt more valuable.

Taken piece by piece, it seems silly. Getting married, getting a dog, ending a friendship, running a marathon. Those would have been an odd and disjointed list of resolutions. And honestly only the wedding was expected for the year on January 1, 2014. The rest just happened, but having an intention for the year guided my actions every time I had a difficult decision to make. I wanted to be able to look back on this year and feel like I really took care of myself first, and now I can honestly say I did.

I’m not yet sure exactly what 2015’s intention will be, but I think it’s time to fulfill the second half of the “oxygen mask theory.” I’ve helped myself, and now it’s time to help others. Making decisions that made me happy had the unexpected effect of making me better in my relationships, but I can do more. Sometimes, I find myself judging others based on my own insecurities, and that judgment can get in the way of a good relationship. I too often fall into the trap of thinking that another’s accomplishments are a reflection on my own failings, but it’s not a zero sum game. There is enough success in the world for everyone.

In 2014, I learned that it’s ok to be a little selfish when pursuing the things that make me happy. I want to keep doing that. I want to prioritize my own happiness, but this year, I want to rejoice in the happiness of others as well. I think the insecurity that leads to the judgement (and truthfully, toxic resentment) comes from thinking things like, “Wow I could never do that.” Or worse, “I guess I could do that, but I never would because how selfish!” It’s embarrassing to write these thoughts down, but it’s the truth.

2015 will be the year of letting go of my insecurities by continuing to do the things I’m scared to do. In letting go of those insecurities, I want to let go of the resentment that tags along. I will support my friends and family in their endeavors. I will rejoice in their successes and lift them up when they falter. I will be a better wife, sister, granddaughter, daughter and friend. I want to be a stronger member of the community, a better citizen. Lofty enough? Yeah I think so too.

2013… What a year

I dragged my feet on writing this because I just can’t bear to say goodbye to this year. 2013 has been, hands down, the biggest year of my life. I’ve felt so, so blessed with everything that has happened, and I’m so thankful.

I’ve already covered the many life changes that have taken place this year, but just to quickly sum it up, we bought our car in January, got engaged in February. I passed my CIA exam after 2 years of studying. We bought our first home in May, moved in June. I quit my first real job in July and started with my new company in August. I started my RCIA candidacy in November. It’s been quite a year.

I can say with all honestly that I did not foresee any of this at this moment last year. I had a feeling Chris might propose, but I thought it equally likely that we’d get engaged in 2014. I thought we might start looking at houses but had no idea we’d find, close on and move into our new home in less than 90 days. I had been looking for other job opportunities, but my current company was the first one to grant me an interview, so it was a big surprise to actually get the job.

It really taught me a lot about life. I thought about recapping my 2013 resolutions, but they all seem so silly now. I had little idea what was coming for me this year, and my resolutions don’t even make sense anymore. This year has been all about rolling with the changing tides and just trying to soak it all in. It would have been silly to hold myself to the goals I set in January at the expense of all the new opportunities that opened up to me this year. That was an eye opener for me because I am nothing if not a planner. This year really forced me to let go of some of that and just take each week or day (sometimes hour) as it comes. I feel very lucky that I learned this lesson in a good year as I am not naive enough to think life will always be as sweet as it is now. I know I’ll have even less control over the bad times, so I’m happy I loosened my death grip on my own life a bit.

There is no way I can say what I’m about to without sounding incredibly ungrateful, so just know that I am truly so grateful and fully realize how wonderful this year has been for me. However, even great, wonderful change is still change, and one of the things I certainly didn’t expect this year was how much I’d resist these changes.

I liked being single well enough, but I’m not someone who would have been described as having a fear of commitment. I always wanted to get married, and I knew I wanted to marry Chris after the first half hour of our first date (really, truly; it was that obvious). Still, I really struggled this year as we moved towards marriage. Issues from my past, my family history, my own identity and my thoughts about what makes (or breaks) a marriage came rushing to the surface.

Similarly, I was ready to leave Jersey City. I loved living there so much, but the city was wearing me down mentally, and I remember maybe even uttering “so long stink town” as we drove out. Yet, predictably I guess, I missed it so much. I’d cry when we’d catch that stunning NYC view on the drive in. I felt so claustrophobic in a house 4 times the size of our old apartment. I even missed my old job!

I didn’t share any of these thoughts with anyone. I was fully aware of how bratty it all sounded. I mean it had been a great year for me. I should be happy as hell right? Well, then I remembered how much I hated high school and how thrilled I was to go to Rutgers. Yet I still cried like a baby on graduation day. I was so excited to leave and start fresh, and then it just hit me like a tidal wave. I wasn’t ready to leave. I had made a mistake! Obviously, I ended up (quickly!) getting over this and loved every single second of college (talk about crying like a baby on graduation; I still think leaving college was a mistake- can I go back??). I just had no idea how I really felt about it until I was in the moment.

This year has been a lot like that. I never knew how much I’d miss saying goodbye to the life I’d been building for years. And once I thought about it like that, it seemed so much less crazy and ungrateful. I mean my job and address have changed, and I’m about to relinquish my last name. It’d be weird if I wasn’t a little wary of the change.

Of course, once I actually started bring these things to the surface rather than stuffing them down deep, it got so much easier to deal with. I remembered all the reasons I’m changing. I’m not losing a part of myself by marrying Chris. His love and support have allowed me to be my truest self and go grow into a person I’m so proud to be. I miss Jersey City, but I couldn’t have picked a better community in Cranford. It’s absolutely the place I want to live forever (or at least until I win the lotto and get the heck out of this cold!). My job is challenging at times and has forced me to work like an animal to keep up, but that’s exactly what I wanted!

It took me almost the entire year to get to this point, but it was worth it. I thought I was appreciating all my blessings by only focusing on the good parts and trying to ignore the bad, but I feel so much happier looking at my life from every angle.

I don’t have any resolutions for 2014, but I do have a hope. I hope I can continue to embrace change. There are a few things I’ve put off exploring because the status quo is so easy. Change has been good to me this year, so I think I’m ready for more!

Happy New Year!