I love a year-end recap, and this year I decided to use Tsh Oxenreider’s year end questions to reflect on 2017.
1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
The highlight of my year was having my writing picked up by some major media outlets and having two blog posts go viral. It re-ignited my passion for writing, especially for an audience and feedback. This also was something that was just for me, apart from being a mom, which I really needed.
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
After last year’s election, I began the painful process of deconstructing my faith, which has left me full of doubts, questions, and anger, but also optimism and hope (mostly after realizing that there are a LOT of people going through the same struggle).
Related: leaving our church (due to distance from our home) and trying to figure out what church is going to look like for our family going forward was equally challenging and painful. We are still right in the thick of this challenge, and I honestly feel lost and bewildered by it.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
I devoted all of December to reading, and have fallen in love with books again. This month, I read 13 books. I doubt I’ll be able to keep up that pace the rest of the year, but I’m excited to replace a lot of my social media time with books in 2018.
Also, back in August, my friend Kyla and I went to a Hamilton sing-along and I actually did karaoke (several songs!) for the first time ever. It was definitely the most fun I had in 2017. I get to see Hamilton twice this spring and I know it will be one (if not the) highlight of the coming year.
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
I’m not particularly enjoying the stage of parenting I’m in right now. I always assumed I would really like the toddler/preschool years with my kids but the days start so, so early and the hours drag on and on. It’s been challenging to meet them at their (emotional, cognitive) level without giving in to anxiety and frustration.
5. Pick three words to describe 2017.
Pivotal, Transformative, Distressing
7. What were the best books you read this year?
Fiction: This is How it Always Is, The Hate U Give, Small Great Things, Little Fires Everywhere, The Last Mrs. Parrish
Non Fiction: Just Mercy (this one absolutely wrecked me), Of Mess and Moxie
8. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My friends who are both brutally honest with me, and yet also compassionate. I know I’ve pulled away from a lot of people this year (especially this fall); it’s definitely been a season of introversion and some isolation.
The hardest relationship transition this year was my brother’s family moving from Texas to Tennessee. I miss them tremendously, and am still grieving the loss of my children growing up with their cousins in the same city.
9. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I transitioned from being a full-time SAHM to a part-time working mom. I work outside the home while the kids are in school, and at home in the evenings on editing for HMB. I love my jobs and wish I could lean in to work more- currently trying to figure out how to make that happen with the logistics of our family.
10. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I don’t worry about money as much as I used to. It’s always a concern, but I haven’t freaked out and lost sleep about it lately. I’ve learned the world doesn’t end when I have to carry a balance on my credit card or take out a loan to pay for something we really need.
And maybe that speaks to a larger place of emotional growth: letting go of a lot of guilt. This definitely stems from my faith deconstruction- freeing me from a lot of the worries and shame of my childhood and young adulthood about messing up and not being good enough.
11. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
I don’t know how much I “grew” per say; as I said before there has been a lot of tearing down, and of throwing away, and I’m just beginning to pick up the pieces and figure out how they more authentically fit back together.
12. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
The biggest thing I did physically for my body this year was a Whole30 in June. I’m glad I did it, and the biggest thing it taught me is that I am capable of discipline in areas like eating. Now, to be honest, I have not retained any of those habits, and December I have been anything but disciplined…so time to break out the breakfast shakes and vegetables in January.
13. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I’ve learned that personal growth, successes, and challenges often have consequences with real relationships. I’ve learned to grieve lost and failing relationships while at the same time moving forward. I’ve learned I have a lot of empathy and righteous anger for injustice towards groups of people, but can be impatient and dismissive of the feelings of people who I am close to, yet disagree with (working on this is one of my goals for 2018)
14. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
My children have changed so much this year and it’s been a wonder to watch them grow and learn. My favorite parts have been seeing Grayson thrive at school and have such wonderful relationships with his teachers, nurses, and therapists, Nolan learn to talk (he never stops and is absolutely hilarious) and Charlotte learn to write (for some reason it just absolutely amazes me- I can’t wait for her to learn to read!).
The most enjoyable part of my outside jobs are doing creative work that has zero to do with parenting (other than my editing job which is editing blog posts about parenting- ha ha) with interesting, funny people.
15. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
My work at home was immeasureably more challenging than my outside the home work. These last few months, battling anxiety, anger, and frankly, boredom, has been really hard. And daily, I feel like I’m failing miserably, especially in keeping a semi-put-together house. I just finished Jen Hatmaker’s Of Mess and Moxie yesterday, and it had a great chapter on parenting and “success” that gave me a much-needed dose of perspective.
16. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Definitely social media (isn’t that everyone’s?). I’ve learned so much from such intelligent, articulate people though (especially on Twitter), but could definitely stand to cut way back on my mindless Facebook scrolling.
17. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
I’m really proud of the time and energy I spent writing about and speaking out against the Republicans’ attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Although much of this time was spent in frustration, fear, and anger, I believe I did my part for my own son and family as well as other families who stood to lose so very much had those attempts succeeded.
18. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
I’ve learned so many things this year, but probably the thing that has taken up the most space in my brain is the systemic oppression of certain groups in our country, and how I have participated and benefit from some of that oppression. It’s been sobering.
19. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2017 for you.
From Jen Hatmaker (because she words it better than I could):
“That early version of yourself, that season you were in, even the phase you are currently experiencing- it is all good or purposeful or at least useful and created a fuller, nuanced you and contributed to your life’s meaning, but you are not stuck in a category just because you were once branded that way. Just because something was doesn’t mean it will always be.”
Happy New Year!