2016 sucked! I mean, I thought 2015 wasn’t so fun, but then 2016 happened. On New Years Eve: the recipe that my husband wanted to cook failed because of some heavy cream I had bought that morning magically curdled in the fridge; the Chinese food we ordered to replace it was so late in getting to our home that the rice was crunchy; and in the end we popped some champagne and went to bed around 10 disillusioned. It left me feeling rather hesitant about 2017. I also found I wasn’t alone. This morning the guy who took my Starbucks order told me that he didn’t celebrate at all.
Last year left me severely anxious and depressed due to events I’ll share in some future post, but it really caused me some actual fear for this coming year. Expectations are high- the thought of another rough year was almost enough for me to hide in my bed, except that wasn’t going to make things better. So I took some time to really think about and make a plan for 2017, and I’d love to share it with you.
1.) There is Always Hope
I went to see Rogue One recently with my husband. There was a line that one of the main characters said that really stuck with me which was “We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope”. I liked it because to me the big, scary, invisible monster was the new year…and I felt like something needed to change, I needed to rebel against my monsters. Hope is not ignoring the bad, but believing that perhaps it will improve, or that good things will find their way to you.
2016 left me feeling pretty hopeless, but that doesn’t mean 2017 is going to be the same way.
2.) You Eat an Elephant One Bite at a Time.
This was one of those weird out of the blue thoughts that instantly calmed me down. There’s a lot of crazy wrapped around the New Year. You are expected to go out, which for a closet introvert like me is the last thing I usually want to do. You are expected to make resolutions which puts pressure on you to follow through with those resolutions and talk about them and then feel bad when they fail. The fact you’re even having to think about the year in such a grand scope primes the mind for anxiety.
You can’t control what’s going on a year from now…and bad things happen. So do good things however, and all you have to do is your best for the next 24 hours. Isn’t that nice to know? In fact, if the next 24 hours seems too big, remember that 8 hours of that 24 is hopefully given to sleep so you don’t have to worry about that either. You really only have to worry about the next hour really. In fact, most of our days if you really think about them are pretty boring. There’s eating, bathroom breaks, commutes, showers….most of the drama happens in your head, but even that has to end sometimes so you can sleep.
Controlling one’s thoughts is something I may write about later when I figure that out, but what I’m trying to say is that it helps if you don’t see the year as this big scary thing…it’s just one day at a time.
3.) Who Do You Think You Are?
I love watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I like watching it for a lot of reasons; it’s funny. I like the creative outfits, I like the lip sync battles, and the inspiring stories of what these drag queens have gone through to get where they are. During one season, I was having a moment of real dark depression and I just thought “man, what I wouldn’t give to have a part of me that was happy and confident and just awesome.”
As a kid I watched Star Trek and they had a concept where there’s the normal you, and then a different you in a parallel universe. So on this particular day I sat down and wrote out what I think this alternative Heather would be like. What would she eat, what would she do with her spare time, what where her passions, what did her life look like? Writing about myself as though I was some alternative fictional character helped me figure out exactly what I wanted without feeling selfish, or thinking my wants were stupid.
It also helped me to see outside myself and visualize what I wanted my life to look like. Yes, we all want to eat better and trim off extra pounds during the year, but how often do we visualize what that would look like in a normal day? For me, I wanted to work on myself a lot. I wanted to meditate more. I wanted to paint more. I wanted to write more. As I wrote and wrote I began to see who I my ultimate self would be, and I liked her!
Take time to think about yourself on that level. If you have to name yourself something different to disconnect from where you’re at do it! If you want to just think of this as an “alternative self” do that! There’s no rules. Just take a second, in a quiet space, to really ask yourself what you want to get out of life.
4.) Make a Plan.
I realized it’s extremely easy for me to take the 24 hours I have for myself, plan out every hour of it, get discouraged and then spend the day sitting on my couch playing video games. I think that happens to a lot of people in the new year. They have all these goals that they want to start right on the first and then when there’s a change to plans everything falls through and they never recover.
For me I decided the best way to fix that was to make a week long chart. On the top of the chart, I put the days of the week. On the side I put all of the things I wanted to accomplish. THESE ARE NOT RESOLUTIONS!!!! These items I would “like” to accomplish during the week that will help me become like that alternative self I dreamed up, but it’s not going to crush my world if I miss something. On that side list I put things like “make a healthy menu, exercise, write in my journal, read part of a book, take a bath, etc. I wrote down all kinds of stuff. Then I used a little check mark to show what I did for that day. Oh, I wanted to plan a healthy menu on Monday but didn’t? That’s okay, I still have six more days to try. This allows room for failure, and as much as we don’t like failing, it happens, and it’s something you can accommodate. One sure fire way of failing is to think you have to have a complete personality change on January 1st as you wake up hung over, covered in glitter and wanting nothing more than to chow down on something fatty to help your sour tummy.
5.) Pinterest: Your Dream Board
Pinterest has been one of the biggest tools in helping me visualize my goals. You can visit my profile here. I have pinned everything from meals I want to cook, clothes I like, even what I want rooms in my future house to look like. One feature that I really love is their secret boards. These are ones that only you or people you allow can view. These are great because maybe you might not be comfortable posting how you want to lose weight, or underwear you like, or even that you’re trying to reinvent yourself. This way you can quietly pin things and topics that make you smile that only you have to know about.
6.) Remember that You are a Transitional Being.
This was a another big thing for me. Being depressed can make you believe that you are the worst person on the planet, and that nothing you do will be good, and nothing good will ever happen to you. Self-criticism is through the roof! I woke up in a bad mood one day and I just looked at myself and was like “Ugh, look at you…you are nowhere near where you want to be”, but then I had a thought that seemed to come from someone else, and that thought was “not yet”. It actually startled me, but it’s stuck ever since that day. Whenever I think critically of myself I seem to remember that whisper now. I’m not as healthy as I’d like to be….yet. I’m not the artistic business woman I want to be….yet. I am not where I want to be….yet.
The word “yet” reminds me that right now doesn’t mean forever. It gives me hope. It tells me that yeah, okay, fine, you’re not where you want to be, but that doesn’t mean you won’t ever reach your goals. It also puts the power back in my hands because “yet” makes me think about what I need to get there.
7.) Get Some Help
I’m so happy that more celebrities are talking about how they go to therapy. It takes away the stigma that it’s a place for crazy people. People have issues. No one is excluded. Even that super-happy-positive-appearing person you know has things that upset them that they try to not think about. I think it’s those issues though that lock us into certain ways of living that may not be what we want. I don’t think the person who is overweight is just lazy and wants to eat. I don’t think that the homeless person is a drunk or on drugs and doesn’t want to improve their situation. I think that people honestly want to do what they can for themselves, but “something” is holding them back.
For me, I lived in a really sheltered home. This meant that I wasn’t very confident. After my mother passed away I decided to go to grief counseling which was provided through her hospice. It helped tremendously. After I moved up here to Massachusetts, I continued to go to therapy because it helped me rebuild.
Therapists aren’t there to judge you, and there are all kinds too and some will even have sessions over the phone or through text! Some suggest medication, some do not, and there’s all kinds of therapy styles to chose from. Gone are the days of laying on a lounge chair and talking about your dreams and relationship with your mother…unless that’s what you want to do! They are there to figure out where you are having trouble becoming that person you want to be. Sniffing down what is holding you back may not always be fun, but it’s like digging out a splinter. Once the nasty part is over you can heal and become even stronger. If you feel you would benefit from therapy, then I suggest researching the different types and finding a therapist that fits that style.
8.) Cut out People that Don’t Support You.
I had a very difficult time understanding that I was allowed to have dreams that my family thought were stupid. As a kid I loved writing and doing art. My parents were both artists and I can still remember my father telling me “Don’t you want a real job, where you can actually pay your bills?” I shunned that side of me for a really long time or did art with the idea of “well, this isn’t really worth doing seriously”. The same happened with writing. I loved writing, but the idea of actually being a writer seemed irresponsible.
Moving up to Massachusetts scared me at first. I didn’t know anyone up here except my husband. The distance however was a blessing. With the support of a therapist and my man, I was able to pursue art and writing and put in extra time to finding and doing what makes me happy.
My block list on a lot of my social media’s is a mile long, but the freedom it affords to just be who you are without the peanut gallery chiming in is priceless.
9.) Don’t Miss the Small Accomplishments.
Sometimes our goals get in the way. I am in the process of writing a book. I’ve spent years on it editing and plot planning and just making it something I can be really proud of it. There have been several times where I just wanted to delete it because “It’s not perfect”. I would completely miss the part of “Oh my god I wrote a book! Yeah it’s not perfect and still needs editing, but how many people have actually sat down and written a book?”. Celebrate your little victories. If you were only able to cook one healthy meal this week, GOOD!!!! There are tons of people who didn’t do that. You may not look like a model, but you lost a pound? GOOD!!!! Some people have gained weight! Any movement, no matter how small towards your goal is better than staying where you are and worlds better than going backwards.
10.) There is ALWAYS Someone Worse Off and It can Always get Better
A few years ago: My mother was dying of a terminally ill disease. I couldn’t get work because I was helping to care for her which meant my newlywed husband and I were extremely poor. We could barely make rent, our fridge was often empty, and we would have been homeless without the generosity of a very good friend of ours who let us rent a room in his house and another who sold us his car for $1,000.
For as bad as it was though, I remember hearing the phrase “There’s someone always worse off”. Now at the time, I thought that person was me, but looking back there are some key things that I took for granted. I had a place to live. There was clean water coming out of the faucets for us to drink if we wanted. We had electricity. There are people in third world countries don’t have those simple things. They may have to walk to get water. They may not have electricity, or even public transit to rely on. There are those who have everything they own in a few bags perhaps and have to rely on others to help them get a meal.
The other half of this statement is also true and I put them side by side because for me in my life it was really that sudden. My mother eventually passed on and I became estranged, but that opened up the freedom for my husband and I to consider leaving where we had grown up and searching for better things. In the span of one month, he ended up getting a fantastic job with a start up company in Boston which paid him double than what he was getting, and I was able to for the first time in my life find who I was and explore what makes me happy.
No matter how sad your situation might be right now, remember it can change very suddenly and for the better. Take hope, do your best, and get ready for good things, because they can be just around the corner.
If you have any other ideas on what to do to have a successful new year, or if you just would like to talk about what your goals are for 2017, please leave a comment below! Thanks for reading!