It’s New Years again and that means it’s time for my annual recap of what’s been going on the past twelve months. This was the first year of my son’s life, so as I mentioned in last year’s post, I spent much of the beginning of the year in a dazed state. I couldn’t even tell you how many weeks I spent getting sleep in two hour increments and staying awake from midnight until 4AM. It was a very full year. Good, but hard. I know I have grown as a result, but that growth is still in progress. I can barely believe the year is already over, there’s so much that feels unfinished about 2018, even after taking this look back. Maybe I’ll blame that on the lack of sleep too, it’s hard to say. At least I can say it has been a memorable year. Something happened every single month. Here is an (admittedly lengthy) account of this past year.
I was recently reminded how far I have come. Last year in September I was juggling the on-boarding of a fourth addition to our team in as many months, reviewing code written by team mates on the other side of the globe, and still getting to work on any tasks myself. Two years ago I was struggling with my involvement the decision to terminate a new hire I had been training who was not a good fit for the role. Three years ago I was working on some of the first projects I took a lead in designing and implementing, which turned out to be some of the most frustrating projects at the company for the year.
Now that the weather is turning warmer, life is returning to some sense of normalcy. The major holidays of the year are over, the school bus has returned to the neighborhood to pick up the children huddled on the corner in the blowing wind.
I’ve been noticing lately that I’m finding myself exactly where I need to be in different parts of my life. Hindsight is 20-20 but I’m even beginning to recognize it in the moment as well.
Last year, when I desperately wanted to grow my family after finally moving out of an apartment, my sister helped me find the perfect little puppy for our lifestyle, in the perfect timing for us to spend glorious weeks off enjoying him. Continue reading “Where I Need To Be”
This post is kind of similar to my New Year’s Eve post, in that a lot of the low points of 2016 are also covered in what made the last two years so rough. While my repetition of the subject feels a bit like complaining, sympathy is not my goal.
I don’t generally like to share how I’m feeling with people around me. If I’m upset about something, I’m more likely to be found hiding than running to someone for comfort. My emotions show on my face a lot more easily than I want them to. I’d rather stuff my feelings down until I can deal with them alone. Instead, I wind up brooding about what’s going on in my life instead of facing it and recognizing that it is OK to not be OK.
Today I am claiming my pain. I’ve survived through it all and become stronger because of it.
I don’t want to play the comparison game, my struggles are just as valid as anyone else’s, and they don’t make me any more or less important than anyone else. I just want to share all the “stuff” that got to me in the past two years. Maybe as an explanation for my behavior. Maybe as a way to put it fully behind me and move on to a place where I can actually have peace.
Two years ago, at Easter time, I lost my first grandparent. That really started me down the rough path that followed. Being very far away from my family while they were suffering was difficult, to say the least.
It wasn’t much later that my grandma moved back to be near my parents and spent the summer in and out of the hospital herself. I wasn’t the one who spent those days with her at the hospital, but being unable to even visit hurt.
Work was stressful, we had some big projects that were not staying on track and some personality clashes that added to the strain. I’m very team oriented, so having all of us on edge and sometimes at each other’s throats was unsettling. At one point I was given a lead role on a project in the absence of some of the more senior employees, but even that trust and responsibility made me more on edge.
I remember at the end of that summer I was nearing the end of my patience with everything. I escaped. I took a trip to a campground at a state park with a beach. I unplugged and had no choice but to ignore all the stuff at work clamoring for my attention. I didn’t even talk to my family. I came back with enough peace to continue on. I credit that trip with stalling my tailspin.
Stress was its toll on my whole family. My sisters had some of the worst semesters of their lives. At times I didn’t even recognize them. When I finally got the time to go see my family it was to say good-bye to my grandma. I’m glad I was able to see her, but she had changed so much in the months since Grandpa’s funeral.
While I was home my mom was in the middle of finally getting her diagnosis. Through all of this I had my husband by my side. Through a blessing in disguise, he was laid off from his job a few weeks before this perfect storm of crazy hit its craziest. That’s not to say that him being without a job was easy. In fact that heightened the panic for a while. Being downsized is never a good feeling, but it gave him the opportunity to take off as much time as needed to be with me and my family. It also meant he could be home to pick up the slack while I was reeling from Grandma’s death and Mom’s diagnosis.
Another way I ended up benefiting from the job change situation was that when he was eventually hired into the department I work in, he could be there for me at the office when I got bad news phone calls, like the one for the death of my other grandmother in the early spring.
My husband lost his first grandparent a few short months after that. I hated how I knew what the pain felt like and how I knew there was nothing I could do to make a difference. Everyone grieves in their own way, and I believe everyone should be left to do so in the way they want to. By this point almost every one of my group of college friends had had a grandparent die that year. I wasn’t always able to be there for them because of my own struggle to stay afloat in the throes of grief and fear. I was deadly afraid I would soon be attending my own mother’s funeral.
My Mom’s surgery was in the summer, and my youngest sister came today stay with me while Mom recovered. Being with both of my sisters during the most nerve-racking part of the whole treatment plan helped, but also made me feel responsible for how my emotions were reflected in my behavior. I tried to keep my crying to behind closed doors. For the more than six months leading up to the surgery I couldn’t go even a week without a good cry, but I still tried to hide it when I did.
Even after it seemed Mom was out of immediate danger I kept making trouble for myself. I managed to stress myself out at work again with coworkers who both quit and got fired, both of whom I was feeling partially responsible for. I put a lot of energy into worrying over friends’ job situations as well as my own family’s.
We bought our house while Mom was still in the hospital, and the associated responsibilities did not make the already busy summer any easier. Towards the end of crunch time on the house we weren’t getting the right amount of sleep anymore, putting in 8 hours at work then another 8 on the house before turning in for the night, and I do not do well emotionally with lack of sleep.
The middle of no sleep brought me to some difficult positions with respect to people I care deeply about. A place where I had to step back from the relationships for the sake of their maintenance. I struggled a lot with guilt over severing ties, but my own self-preservation won out. This is one of the lessons I learned in the middle of all the pain. I have to make sure I’m OK before I can worry about what my perceived attitude is doing to others around me. Otherwise I’ll be in no position to do anything for either of us.
Another camping trip to my happy place put me right again for a while. I smiled the most that I had in a year, and finally felt my jaw unlock after being clenched for over a month. I wanted to keep wandering down the beach forever, but had to return to normal life again.
The months since have been a blur, they’re filled with moving ourselves and then my mother and sister into the new house, to say nothing of the craziness the puppy brought with him. Even with Christmas and a vacation I still don’t feel like I’ve had time to breathe in a long time. I managed to say “no” to a lot this winter, but even so, I was only home maybe one night out of the week. Now that most of my extracurriculars are wrapped up for the school year, I’m trying my hardest not to get overwhelmed at all the things I’ve put off in the meantime.
I’m starting to learn that it’s OK to feel feelings and let others know about them. How else can we grow other than through vulnerability? I’ve been feeling run down, put out, and just plain upset. I don’t want to be, but that’s the truth.
It’s been a long time in coming, but I think I’m due for a break. I’m calling it now: I’m ready to stop running and I’m ready to stop hiding.
I am a very chronologically aware individual. I love dates, relative events, and time. As much as I can, I spend time reminiscing and remembering, because I put value in being able to recall things that are important to me. My skill in remembering things I care about often bleeds over into useless memories, or unpleasant ones I wish I could forget. When I remember that dumb thing I said last week in a meeting, or bring up an inside joke I thought of that no one else remembers, I’m reminded that this skill takes a level of control to be valuable to me.
People around me with shorter memories can get annoyed when I bring up things they no longer remember, and it makes me feel really awkward. But I remind them that if something were important to them, they would remember it. My brain just decides a lot of strange things are extremely important to remember, and I let it.
In fact, I have realized that I actually tend to cultivate it through some of my behavior.
I used to spend a lot of time in front of a calendar, my life wasn’t particularly scheduled, but I loved looking forward to big events coming up in the month and mentally count down to them. I also have some very memorable milestones in my life that help me be able to place other memories in time by whether they came before or after… [fill in the blank]. And when it comes to this time of the year, I have a tradition that I think really makes the difference: Right around midnight on New Years, I look back over the months past and think of at least one thing that happened in each month. Mentally re-running the year in review, hitting the highlights, and all the Big Things that impacted my life.
This year has been a big year. I remember shortly into the first week of January joking with a friend, “Can we return this year and get a new one?” At the end of the year I can confidently say I wouldn’t give it up even though it has been so rough.
Take a look back with me at the personal and public peaks and valleys I’ve been through in 2016:
- Got to spend some quality time with my family on vacation from work. Thankful for a team at work who allowed me to relax and enjoy that time.
- Mom started chemo and I said “good-bye” to fly back home.
- My husband started working at the company I work for (on a different team, of course, still in the R&D department).
- Mom’s scans revealed a need for more chemo and radiation with a tentative surgery date set for July.
- Got to spend “Spring Break” commuting back and forth to work from a friend’s house while watching their (adorable) dog.
- A mentor of mine at work left the company, after instilling in me sufficient wherewithal to handle his absence.
- My grandma passed away, my third grandparent in just over 12 months, leaving just one remaining grandparent.
- I got to go back to my parents’ house again for a stay-cation, to enjoy some quiet time between Mom’s treatment and surgery.
- I joined a new team at work, doing the same types of things with different people.
- Reconnected with friends and started doing things with them again!
- Got an article about STEM and Girls Who Code published on the company blog.
- Started this blog!
- Bought a house, somewhat unexpectedly, but conveniently.
- My youngest sister moved in with us for the month.
- Mom’s surgery was successful.
- My parents drove up to bring my sister back. It was great to see Mom had recovered so well.
- High stress month at work with another friend leaving the company, among other challenges.
- (Re-)Learned (a lot of) hard lessons about people and my (lack of) responsibility for their decisions.
- Participated in a panel following the screening of “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap” (and was quoted in the media)!
- Went on an amazing camping trip to recharge at the beach.
- Frantically finished up enough painting in the house to get flooring in.
- Had friends over to the work-in-progress house to hang out close to twice a week. Felt like a real hostess.
- Officially moved everything in! (Without necessarily organizing any of it…)
- Booked an honest to goodness vacation for just me and Josh. Inspired by a friend’s post: For the Sake of Your Marriage, Take a Vacation (and the length of time it has been since we look a trip that didn’t include friends or family).
- Got a puppy!
- My family moved up to live with us during the winter, especially for the Holidays.
- Hosted (what I hope is the first of many) board game parties for friends and family.
- Made it through umpteen Christmas parties with a plethora of relatives.
On top of all the personal things that have made this year a rough one for me, the world in general has had a tumultuous time of it. between political issues, humanitarian crises, attacks and deaths. It’s easy to look back at a year like this one and only see negatives, hard times, reasons to complain. By reminding myself of what happened in each given month, I can reach for the positive, and realize that even in those darker months, there is hope, peace, and joy shining through.
One year ago, last December, I had two of the worst days my family has experienced. December 3rd was when we started to finally get answers for my mom’s increasing pain and December 10th she got the official diagnosis/prognosis. Those days were hard. I felt so much panic and so little hope. It was hard to imagine any future.
This year, December 3rd and December 10th will be marked by some wonderful things. Number One being that Mom is fine. Number The-Second-One being that I have acquired a puppy. I spent all day last week out on the far side of the state where I had traveled with the express purpose of meeting a puppy that I had already adopted into my heart. As it is part of a rescue program that carefully vets its prospective owners to ensure the dogs’ best interests are kept first and foremost, we could not adopt my new baby that day. We left, after an hour plus of cuddling and falling deeper in love, without even knowing whether we’d get to see the dear thing again.
Having to wait to hear back about the fate of my future furry friend was held in parallel to the waiting game we played a year ago, but was thankfully a much more positive thing to wait for, as well as a much shorter length of time. The rescue chose our family out of the 75 applicants for the litter of 4 puppies, and (mercifully) called early on Monday afternoon. I’m sitting here in peace and joy, cuddling a bundle of cute fuzzy energy, thankful that I am able to see the difference that a year brings. The future that I couldn’t see came, and even though it came with a lot of rough stuff, I got through it. Out on the other side, it’s easier to say that next time I might see the promise of a path through more easily. I pray that this experience means that even if I do go through worse valleys in the future, I will be able to have hope more readily.
I don’t take for granted the fact that this contrast is so stark, between a year ago and today. This is the future that I was too afraid to hope for, one where everyone is OK and things are actually going well! I feel like I’ve made it out from around a bend in the road and suddenly the landscape opened up with possibility again.
This year on December 12th, instead of answering the phone to hear of my grandma’s passing, I’ll be answering the door to hear of my family’s arrival for the holidays. Anticipating something pleasant makes it so much easier to be joyful. I don’t think that it’s just because of the change in my circumstances that I’m able to feel peace and hope. I don’t want to go through a year like 2016 again, but I have learned so many valuable things and grown so much that without this year I would be missing part of my identity.
As I look forward to an exciting season of happiness, the feeling is tinged with emotions from the past year. We have a lot to celebrate this year, but we had a lot to celebrate last year too. There is a lot to look forward to this year, but there was a lot this past year to look forward to as well. I’ve learned to live in anticipation, and how no matter what I plan in my head, the expectation never matches reality. I’ve decided that’s a good thing.