Some Lessons From 2017

Every year I write an end of the year blog which highlights the things I have learned along the way. I usually take the last two numbers of the year and come up with that many lessons (i.e. 15 Lessons From 2015). I went about my business and pulled together 17 lessons from this year, which is pretty impressive. But then I had to actually write about them. All of sudden, 17 lessons seemed unrealistic. Why not come up with 10? 10 is a round number and more manageable. So that’s what I did.

There’s depression and then there is being depressed. – Last year I used my end of the year blog to discuss the ongoing mental health issues I had been dealing with since being diagnosed with Bipolar 2. While I had initially dealt with bouts of hypomania, by the end of last year, I was in a deep depression. Have you ever seen the commercials touting pharmaceuticals to treat bipolar depression? They talk about a treatment resistant depression and promise to lift your mood. Treatment resistant depression is like nothing I had ever experienced. I think I knew something was wrong when I started crying and could not stop. I literally could not stop and the relief that crying can bring did not exist. I just kept going down the rabbit hole. And medicine wasn’t working. I relied heavily on my friends to tell me this wouldn’t last but I didn’t believe them. I felt broken and lost and couldn’t imagine that life would ever be the same. I started to understand why people commit suicide. I started to think that I could not go on. It was the most frightened I’ve ever been. Eventually, we found a mix of drugs that brought some relief. But by then, I was a shell of who I was. The recovery has been ongoing and I am still seeing progress. But I’m not who I was. I’m still trying to figure out who I am.

Disney isn’t as magical when your kid is 15. – When Max said he wanted to go to Disney World for our Thanksgiving trip, I was pretty excited. I have such good memories of my several trips and can still see the excitement on Max’s face when he got on his first ride at 8 years old. I have always been of the belief that Disney World really is the happiest place on earth. The employees are always upbeat, the rides are upbeat and the trash is non-existent. So off we went to Disney….on the busiest week of the year. I’ve never seen crowds like this. There were upbeat employees whose jobs were to simply direct the crowds to stay to the right so traffic could flow smoothly. On day one, we went all in. We were excited. Thank God for Fast Passes or we never would have made it on to a single ride.I entered Space Mountain with high hopes. I left Space Mountain dizzy and nauseous. I started to dread getting on the rides. I knew I couldn’t keep up with Max. But I tried. And on the last day, Max announced that Disney wasn’t as magical at 15, as it was at 8. I felt a wave of relief that I wasn’t a terrible mother for failing to see the magic myself.  I figure I’ll have to wait until I have grandchildren to feel the magic again.
My kid is easy in so many ways. – I’ve always known Max was easy but he continues to surprise me. Everything appears to roll off his back and I think maybe I’m not permanently damaging his psyche in the way I have feared so much in the last few years. My favorite “easy” moment this year was at Disney World when Max refused any ride with a wait more than an hour. And then, when I asked him what we should do next, he replied “Why don’t we go back to the room to relax.” I absolutely love this kid.
I’m able to survive without teaching. – I’ve decided to take a sabbatical (which isn’t even a real thing for adjuncts) this year so I can relax and continue the healing process. This takes a direct hit to my pocketbook but I felt is was necessary. With some adjustments to my lifestyle, I am surviving on less cash.
Given a meal kit, I will cook. -This was one of my biggest lessons of 2017. I discovered meal kits! Think Hello Fresh, Home Chef and Plated. I’ve tried them all (at a discount). The beauty in a meal kit is that it comes with the exact amount of ingredients to cook 2 servings. So instead of buying a pint of sour cream, that I will use 2 tablespoons of and then throw away, the meal kit provides me with 2 tablespoons of sour cream. It’s brilliant! With the amount of money I spend on eating out and the amount of food I buy and throw away, the meal kits are worth every dollar. Give it a try.
A Longwood Gardens’ pass is worth every penny. – If your mental health is in need of some calm, soothing relaxation, Longwood Gardens’ is the place to be. My $135 annual membership is worth every penny and paid for itself after 6 visits (I went at least 20 times this year).
If you do something long enough, it will become a habit. – They say it takes 3 weeks to create a habit so I figured I’d give it a try. I started going on brisk walks around the block at work. This is kind of a big deal because I started doing it last winter. In the cold. And I kept doing it. It became a habit. The next habit I hope to cultivate is cutting back on the carbs. I feel that one will be harder.
You can outgrow people. – I think when people go through life changing events, they can lose people along the way. You go in one direction and sometimes you turn around and only a few are left standing. I used to have anxiety over losing people but now I accept it with grace.
Donald Trump is more delusional than I thought. – I’ve tried to curtail my political rants but enough is enough. This guy is frightening. He doesn’t deserve to be called President. And yet, there are people that still believe he is going to make America great again. Even more mind blowing is these people tend to be low income and rely on government subsidies. Subsidies that he doesn’t want you to have. And you like him…..why?
I’m lucky in so many ways. – I have this uncanny ability to feel gratitude in my darkest moments. Maybe this isn’t rare but it feels like it. Last winter when I hit my lowest low, the gratitude I felt for my friends was palpable . The fact that they put up with my shit every single day is just amazing to me. A shout out to Kelli and Melissa for never missing a single day of checking in on me. It’s a year later and Kelli still hasn’t missed a day. We all need people like this in our lives.  I think if you can cling to gratitude, you can survive.
Happy New Year!