Looking back on 2019

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began…
~Mary Oliver, “The Journey”

Of all of my favorites among Mary Oliver’s poems, this might be the top one. 
This poem speaks to me, and makes me think just how much has shifted in the past year. What was 2019 for me? I know that it’s nearly halfway into January, and most people posted these before the New Year, but it’s taken me longer to realize what had changed, and how, and … why. 

2019 was a year of growth for me. A year of re-discovering who I am, what I believe, what my values are. A year of getting back to me. 

I’ve alluded to the fact that the past 8 years have been some of the most difficult of my life. And they have. But last year was when everything finally came together for me. When I realized that I had moved so far from who I am that I no longer recognized myself. 

2019 was the year I became me again. It was the year that I remembered that who I am is not defined by my roles, responsibilities, or how other people view me. I am my beliefs, my choices, my values. How I choose to spend my time, and where, and with whom. Being true to myself in all ways, every day. 

I started reading again, often more than one book at once. I grew relationships with some of the most important people and mentors in my life. I found my tribe at work. I reached out to people with whom I had lost touch. Some of them are back in my life.. others never responded. But I reached out, when in the past I would have retreated into myself. 
2019 was the year that I focused on what brings me joy, and peace, and contentment. 2019 was also the year that I remembered just how much I care about social justice, women’s rights, reproductive rights, children’s health, and so many other things that had gotten lost in the weeds of the past 8 years. 
2019 was the year of deepening my relationship with my parents, and with my father, especially. It was a year of health challenges for me and others I love. It was a year in which we triumphed over those challenges, and met the new ones head on. It was a year in which I remembered the importance of the family you have… whatever joys and challenges they may bring.
2019 was the year that I remembered just how happy it makes me to make others happy. The joy of doing a favor for someone but not expecting anything in return. The peace of immersing myself in something that takes all of my attention, whether it’s painting (a  new one!) or baking or reading (old favorites). 
And 2019 was the year that I came to some of the hardest decisions of my life, and made some very difficult choices. I did things I have never done before and hope that I never have to do again. I heard words from people I love that I never want to hear again. 
2019 was the year that I realized that being spiritual does not mean being religious. It was the year I embraced stoicism and moved more fully into becoming who I want to be. It was the year I realized I am only in control of me, and that my efforts to control and change others are (spoiler alert) likely not going to work. And that when others won’t change, perhaps it’s time for a new path, a new choice, another decision. 
So what will 2020 bring? My word of the year is strong, and my intention is to truly be ME in every aspect of my life. That will require strength, in so many ways. I see more growth ahead, more change… and more joy. 

Things I (almost) never do

The things on this list are those that simply don’t make me happy. It’s taken me too long to really learn this lesson – that this is my life, and I should do what I love. What I don’t? It’s time to let it go.

So… a few things that I almost never do:

  • Watch TV. I can’t say that I never do this, because I am a SportsCenter devotee, and will watch that at the gym because I don’t have to pay attention to every small detail to keep up. But, I don’t have a TV in my apartment, and I don’t stream anything to my iPad or laptop. It’s just not worth it to me. This is why I am completely at sea when people talk about what they’re watching, or recent favorites, or what to binge. Books? Sure. TV shows? Um, no. My mother even watched Downton Abbey … but I did not. 
  • Watch movies in the theater. The last movie I saw in a theater was the last Lord of the Rings movie. I remember where I was living – and that I was not yet with my spouse. So that’s a long time ago. I have watched movies via streaming or, years ago, on DVD. But I just don’t go to the theater. He doesn’t like it, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I preferred watching the few movies I do see at home, with my own popcorn, the ability to pause when I need to, and no sticky floors. 🙂 
  • Drink coffee. This is a new one. I’ve recently transitioned to tea, because coffee (after 10 years!) started tasting funny. I don’t get it, but the tea is working, so I can’t argue. I guess. I did like coffee, though. Sigh.
  • Go to evening events. This is a pathetic one, but I love my evening wind-down routine. It calms me and gets me situated for the next day. I will, obviously, go to events that I want to go to, or that I need to attend for my job or relationships that are important to me. But going out to on a random Tuesday night? Not likely to happen. 
  • Get to inbox zero. The only time I have achieved this is when I am leaving jobs. Ha. 
There are things I don’t have, or do, that I wish I did. Hm. Maybe another topic for another post. But I think the big thing for me recently has been the realization that I am living my life… and that being happy in my life is important, and it’s also my responsibility. I need to choose to do those things that make me happy, and be comfortable giving up those things that do not. Like I said, it’s taken me waaay too long to realize that. But now that I have? Life is so much better. 

Things I (almost) always do… Things I (almost) never do

“We are what we repeatedly do…” ~maybe Aristotle, maybe not

Depending on who you ask, of course. It could also be Shaquille O’Neal (you know, the retired NBA player?) if the internets are to be believed. Ha.

Anyway, on to what I intended to write about today – rather than Shaq – what I do almost every day, and what I rarely if ever do.

I have written frequently that I am a creature of habit. Routine makes my life so much easier, and it runs so much more smoothly. I do some things nearly every day – the exceptions are usually when I am traveling or sick (as I was this fall).

So what do I do every day?

  • Exercise. I cannot get my brain going in the morning without moving my body. This was the biggest challenge with my prolonged illness this fall. I did not have the energy to even do simple exercises. This was so, so hard. I started back as soon as I could. Even some small movement – a short walk, a bit of stretching – helps. 
  • Drink tea. I drink tea in the morning, then switch to seltzer for most of the rest of the day. Herbal to start, then a few cups of caffeinated. I return to the herbal in the evening. 
  • Make my bed. Always. 
  • Read. I read for fun, always, in the last hour of my day. I read the paper. I read extensively for my work. I read. All. The. Time. But the game changer in my life has been reading for fun again. It makes my whole day end on a good note, no matter how much of a mess it was. 
  • Shower twice. This is a long-standing habit from my days of shift work and bedside nursing. I shower in the morning, post-gym, and then again at night. Now, it’s more about raising my core body temperature (part of my chronic condition) and loosening my muscles so I can sleep. My parents do this too. 
  • Email my parents. Almost every day – unless I am with them! We check in. It’s our way of staying close despite the distance. 
And now I have to get to work, so will come back to the things I rarely, if ever, do tomorrow. 


I am already liking 2020 better than 2019. 2019, quite frankly, sucked. In many ways.

But in 2020, I feel like things are clicking along, that I am making progress personally and professionally. And we are only 7 days in.

I have long known my purpose in life – and my passion for it has only grown. Perhaps now, when I am in the right place, geographically, mentally, personally, and (finally) physically, is when I can finally start to realize the outcomes of all that purpose, passion, and work.

I tried in the past – but without addressing all aspects of my life, I wasn’t succeeding. I looked for excuses in my jobs, in my location, in my relationships… everywhere, it seems, but in me.

Yet in the last few months, I feel as though I’ve finally started to figure out (or, perhaps, to remember) who I am. What and who I love. What I want out of life. How best to take care of myself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be changes – perhaps big ones – in the years to come. But now that I finally feel like I am on the right path, I am hoping that those changes are blips in the trajectory of my life… not roadblocks to being who I am meant to be.