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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

If You're Just Not Feelin' It

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This is for everyone who just...isn't feelin' it. "It" being that euphemism known as "the holiday spirit."

For whatever reason(s), you're not happy. Maybe the holidays even add to your pain—because...you're not happy...but it seems like everyone else is. At least that's the language around it all, right? Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy Whatever-You-Celebrate. Happy New Year. Wow, that's a lot of Happy talk right there. See what I mean?!?

And the music and the TV shows and commercials.... Oh, I'm not even gonna go there. You all know.

Well, what if none of that describes you or looks like your life, and—let's be honest—you hate this time of year? Well, from me to you, I want you to know these things:
  1. It's OK. It's OK to feel how you feel. I'm not saying it's fun or that it doesn't suck. It's not. And—it does. But...it's alright. You're allowed to feel however you feel. Really. And if anyone tries to be the Feelings Police in your life, just ask them if they'd like to walk a mile in your shoes first. I mean, I'm betting that you didn't wake up one day and decide to be sad. Something brought than on. Whatever that is...I honor that in you. It's one part of your story. It might be a terrible part, but it's a part. And it deserves to be felt fully. You deserve to feel it all fully. And to not have anyone try to take that away from you.
  2. You are not the only one feeling like this. Not a by a long shot. To employ what D.L. Mayfield called, in her Brutally Honest Christmas Card post, radical vulnerability (which I love), I've felt this way many years. And I happen to know a bunch of people who have, too. It's also why many churches now offer Blue Christmas services. Now, that might not be your thing (it's not mine), but I find it nice to know that there are churches that are (finally!) acknowledging that not everyone's in the "happy happy joy joy" club.
  3. I'm not going to give you any advice. That's right, no "shoulds" here. I could tell you what works for me (or at least helps somewhat), but that may or may not be what works for you. And—I trust you enough to be confident that you'll figure it out on your own. 
I will say this: Just know that there are people who care. I'm one of them.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My 2014



My favorite of the photos I took in 2014.

Overall, 2014 was definitely a better year for me than 2013. I mean, '14 was definitely not without its tough times, but, unlike '13, it didn't include a breakup, a health scare for me, or the passing of an extended family member. Also, it brought some significant blessings.

The wind chill map of Minnesota for Sunday, January 5, 2014.
I began the year as I have most recently, in Minnesota. I'd planned to return to Columbus the first Sunday of the New Year and to work the next day. The polar vortex, however, had other plans; and my Sunday evening flight was canceled. I wasn't able to come back until Tuesday, which meant I ended up taking 5 vacation days right off the bat. That limited how much time I could take off the rest of the year, but the upside of this whole situation was: The flight that got canceled—I was only booked on it because I volunteered to get off an earlier one and got a $600 airfare voucher for my trouble. That paid for one and a half plane tickets for two other trips I took during the year.

With, L to R top to bottom, Dixie, Angel, Jane, and Rachel.
Some of the biggest blessings of 2014 were the friendships—some newly formed and others strengthened—most especially with Dixie, Angel, Eric, Jane, Melissa, and Jennifer. Also, I got to not only hear-speak-again but also hang out a bit with Rachel Held Evans. Which was fun and awesome.

Many of the new friendships and some of those strengthened were the result of the two Camp Widow weekends I attended—East was in Tampa in March. I roomed with Angel and Rhonda. I knew who they both were since they'd both been to previous Camps, but I hadn't really connected with them yet. Well, being placed with them was such a stroke of good fortune. The three of us had SO much fun. And after Camp, Angel and I bonded even more.

One moment I remember from that Camp was during the message release. For this release, we wrote notes to our loves, folded them into boats, and went down to the marina, where let them go in the water. When I set mine in the water, it didn't really go anywhere, so I gave it a little push. It went straight out from me a few inches...and immediately floated straight back to me. I took it as a sign. 

The month of April brought my first bonus as an employee of my company (I became a full-time employee a year prior, after having been a contractor for 5 1/2 years). And it was enough that I was able to get myself a new laptop, which was especially nice after having only a netbook for several years and a very-slow desktop for a few years before that.

With Angie, one of my first yoga teachers.
In May I did something pretty major for me: I started doing yoga. For most of my life, I'd believed yoga was part and parcel of the Hindu religion and therefore to be avoided. But I finally realized that it doesn't have to be religious at all. I started with a class offered at work, which proved to be too advanced for me, so I switched to classes at a studio in town called Yoga on High. I fell in love with yoga and with the studio. While I can't yet say that I've noticed any major differences, I can't stop doing it, and I've had some amazing moments in classes. So—I keep coming back to the mat.

In June I started regularly attending the local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. While it's not a substitute for therapy, it provides me with a community of people who "get it" and who care. My experience with Soaring Spirits showed me how valuable that can be, and it has proven true with DBSA as well.

The last weekend of that month, I went home for my niece Allison's grad party. I wasn't able to be there for very long, but it was good to be there for that milestone and celebrate with her and the rest of the family.

July brought the terrible news that my friend and former coworker Steve Kersten had passed away. To be clear, we hadn't been in touch since I left the company where we worked together, but I'd come to love him dearly while we did work together and still would have called him a friend thereafter. The world is definitely diminished for the absence of him as we knew him. I will remember him with fondness always.

In August I commemorated 10 years after the last time I saw Ron alive, and in September I celebrated his life on the 10-year anniversary of his passing.





Later in September I went to Camp Widow Canada, which was held in Toronto. I got to ride there with my local widowed friends Paula and Debbie (3rd and 4th from the left, respectively, in the photo above) and room with my dear friends Angel and Judy and a new friend Jane. My favorite moment from this Camp was the water-lantern release that Judy, Angel, Jane, and a few others of us did on Friday night.

October brought the celebration of my sister Debbie's (milestone) birthday. We all went back to Minnesota for the weekend; I was only able to go Saturday and Sunday, but—we had a fantastic time. It had been over 20 years since I'd been in Minnesota in October, and the fall color was peaking; it was very beautiful. My favorite moments were the apple picking that my siblings and nieces and I did and when Deb opened her gift from us—a new laptop, which was a complete surprise. :)

December was one of the most unforgettable months I've had in a long time. The first thing that made it so was that I got a new car. Having to was unexpected, and saying goodbye to the old one was tough, but it's nice to have a car now where everything is new and just works. And it was especially nice to gain a new friend out of the deal. (For pics and more on this, see the post linked above.)

The other thing that made December so memorable was the great time I had over Christmas. The holiday is often rough for me emotionally, and as usual, I avoided it as much as I could until I went home for break. Sometimes that emotional struggle continues for me through break, but this time was remarkably better in that regard. Of special note were the fun times with my siblings, just talking and laughing.

No Spyman!!! (Wish Jean could've been there for this one!)
Also during the Christmas break, I got to see again, for the first time in several years, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Dana. Our friendship epitomizes the phrase "picked up where we left off." I'm so grateful for her loyalty and love. 




So—thank you, 2014, for a relatively good year. Here's hoping 2015 is, yes, even better.


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My favorite books I read during the year:
My most popular posts of the year:
  1. A New Car and a New Friend
  2. 10 Things in 10 Years
  3. Evolving in Monkey Town, Part 1: On Slants and Evolution
  4. In Loving Memory: Stephen "Steve" Kersten: May 24, 1965–July 5, 2014
  5. Letter to Heaven
  6. "You'll Have to Tell This Without Crying"
  7. 2013: A Year in Review