I was reflecting about 2016 this morning as I made breakfast and danced in the kitchen. (There might be video evidence of said dancing.) Where was I last year at this time?
Last year, January 2016, I was on my way back from Big Sky Resort with Mom and Dad after the weekend’s Montana Pharmacy Conference was over. Dad, after (still going) a lifetime of Community Pharmacy (including not playing football so he could run his parents’ pharmacy and not going to veterinary school so he could run their pharmacy), was awarded Montana’s highest honor, the Cup of Hygeia. It was very cool to be there to see his surprise (Mom successfully corralled him into driving down, JUST for the conference – wink, wink).
But, it was the beginning of a tough year for me.
I had had to put Samantha to sleep in December, just before Christmas. I stayed busy with the holidays but then, mid-January, Mom and Dad were headed back to Kalispell and I wasn’t busy anymore. And it was just Summit, Jackjack and me. And all three of us sat on the couch for a week. I drank wine and watched movies. Summit slept a lot. Haley resurrected me for a CrossFit competition where all of that wine I had drank, made it feel like gravity had doubled instantaneously.
School started mid-January and it was the hardest semester yet. I ground myself into the dirt physically and mentally but I didn’t know it. I was just grinding away, doing my best, thinking I was doing pretty well. And maybe I was?
February, March, April, May: I continued to do my best which often did not feel very best at all. Structures, Environmental Controls, Studio, working at Intrinsik, working out at Altitude, wine, movies, books, Summit. It is sort of a blur. I know that could talk about Samantha without crying at some point in there, which somehow felt like progress was being made.
I tried to date. Someone hooked me up on a blind date of sorts so I tried to successfully date him. That didn’t work. I tried Match. Miserable fail. I tried to be ready for love. That did not work, not even a little. It made for some very entertaining e-mail rants to my friend, Amy about ‘rock men.’ I gave up trying to find love, and online wastes of time and energy.
Ultimately, grade-wise, the semester ended well and I wondered why I was so hard on myself. Like I have wondered a million times before…..
Mid-May: Summer school started and I thought was ready for the challenge. But it turns out, I had had enough of trying to find a place to buy here in Bozeman (at New Jersey prices) and decided that I wanted to build something. I was tired of just learning and not doing. I made a decision that seems obvious now – that there were more options for me than renting or buying. I decided to build my own Tiny House. All of the frustrations in trying to find a house to buy transferred instead to making easy progress in planning to build a Tiny House. But it was a diversion from summer school….
June, July, August: I did my best in summer school and spent the rest of the time out at Todd’s redoing the wood on the trailer I had bought (he sandblasted it and Jimmy painted it) and doing Tiny House research. Looking back now, How the heck did I do all of that?
I met some great people through this year including Todd (Sandblaster extra-ordinaire), Lindsay Schack and Patrick of Artisan Tiny Houses and I certainly freaked my mom out with the Tiny House idea. But I knew she would come around (and she has). Now, I am excited to build this house up in Kalispell starting in May – I think it will be a life changing summer.
Susan Travis, who I met the year before in Alaska, came to visit me and kick started my reorganization of life with laughter and dancing! Now, my books are in topic order on their shelves! And boxes of things that I hadn’t sorted in almost 10 years were conquered!
July: I started talking to John in Alaska from Habitat from Humanity about SIPs panels for my Tiny House and ended up talking about much more. We called them our marathon phone calls. Almost 6 hours is our longest with 5 hours, 4, 3 and average of 2 hours being normal, to date.
September: School started again. I didn’t have much of break, if any. And I started out the semester just pissed off at life as I knew it and I wasn’t sure why. I did not know it at the time, but I can recognize it now, I was utterly burnt-out.
I know what physical fatigue feels like – after two Ironmen and other physical endeavors, like the all-night ruck during boot camp. I know how to recognize it, what causes it, and how to fix it. I had ZERO idea what mental fatigue felt like. I did not think that could ever happen to me and I did nothing to prevent it really. I knew nothing about mental self-care. I just beat myself up for being lazy, stupid or not being able to focus. I know now, it feels like brain freeze, brain cement, fog or mud; everything that requires any kind of mental energy almost hurts. For me, that just translated to a complete lack of tolerance and patience for any level of mental challenge. That did not mesh well with my first semester of graduate school. I had to drop a Tiny House community class because I just could not do the course load – and that pissed me off. I still worked at Intrinsik – and that pissed me off, too.
Looking back now on the semester (that still hasn’t quite finished yet for me as I took an incomplete in Studio), I can see that my issues started in January and just kept piling on through August. I tried to make changes, I tried to adjust but once the ball is rolling, sometimes doing nothing doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. And most times, you just can’t do nothing. Or at least, that is what you tell yourself, what I told myself. I tried to fake being happy with being in school. That didn’t work. I suck at faking anything. So I just became sullen and tried to plough through it, while also resting. It was just weird.
December, January: And now, here we are. So, here is my year 2016 in review:
- I know what burn out feels like. It feels a lot like depression but it isn’t. I hope I have a better plan for burn out going forward. I am still having a hard time NOT wanting to do it all. Life is so short! I can say no to most things. To other things, I suck at saying no.
- Biggest surprise of the year! I have fallen in love with John! He came to see me in December. It was and still is amazing! Now, we continue to talk marathon talks and have added chess and recently ‘Guess what I am drawing’ to our repertoire of things we do together but from a far. Thank goodness for texting and other ways to make a long-distance relationship not feel so long distance. Like a watched pot, love won’t happen if you are expecting it to boil. (Thank you to all of you that orchestrated this…Susan, Rachael, Maire and the Universe.)
- I have a new dog, Maggie, who is a lot like Samantha’s soul-sister. I still miss my first furry daughter, and am sure I always will. I sold my coffee maker to a wonderful couple that had a baby and who’s neighbor is building a Tiny House in his backyard. I came home with new friends, $40 and a new dog. Maggie is a 2-year old Aussie/Blue Heeler pocket-rocket. Super smart and sneaky! She tries to herd everything, including me, Summit but Jackjack most of all.
- I learned to watch the auction and pawn shops for good deals on almost anything.
- I have learned there are at least 5 love languages and the one my dad speaks is Acts of Service. I have tried to understand that he loves us very much because he works very hard. The one I speak is Words of Encouragement. We just don’t speak the same language, is all. Like Chinese and French. (Thank you, Elise.)
- I have learned how to skate for hockey. I think. We will see when I start the Greenhorn league next week.
- I spend more time outside. See #3. She is yipping at me now to go out. Maggie is not subtle.
- I confess that I am not great at maintaining a blog. I may never be better at it. Lots of other people are good at it – so I don’t have to be. See #1. See? I don’t have to do it all.
- I have read amazing books, like H for Hawk. Fun books like the Throne of Glass. I have watched a lot of good movies, listened to a lot of good music. I have started to play my guitar again, after a year of being in its case.
- Jackjack did not knock over the Christmas tree, not even once. I was sort of disappointed. I can only say that I didn’t put ornaments on, NOT out of laziness, no no….I was worried he WOULD knock them over. Truth is, I just thought the lights were enough.
- I drink less wine. I meditate more. I am not lazy for doing nothing. (Mantra.)
- I have switched gyms and am having fun working out again. I might even coach again!
- I have met some amazing people. Writers, athletes, architects, business owners, Tiny House people, old truck people, construction people, animal people.
- I have a subwoofer in my kitchen (yes, doesn’t everyone?) and I am not afraid to use it. Sorry (not sorry), upstairs neighbors, but this is payback for being elephants on my head every night.
- I don’t think I am mentally burned out anymore but I am cautious about digging myself so deep again that it happens again. I am trying to remember how to play, how to have fun. How is it that I forgot how to do that in the first place?
- I am not good not knowing what I will be doing or where I will be living this time next year. I suck at not planning – because I can’t plan. Lindsay told me that it isn’t my job to plan, it is my job to do the work and the plan will unfold as it will. She is right and I am trying to just do the work. Trusting in the Universe is part of the work.
I didn’t expect to write a year in review. Sometimes things just happen. Here is to another set of days, meaninglessly defined as a year, in the future. Because all that really matters is what is happening now, right now. Now.
Shanti, my friends. J