Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Review of Happiness

This year didn't turn out anything like I expected it to. We moved back west, but we didn't end up where I thought we would. I had some surprising writing successes, but didn't write the novel I was planning to write.

My new city at night.
By and large, the unexpected things have been positive. I got into an exercise routine which fits my life and I'm able to maintain long-term. I got a kitty (okay, that one I expected). I found a doctor, was diagnosed with depression, and am taking medication.

Last year I posted my desires for having a healthy 2015. Not steadfast resolutions, but goals to aim for:

Living in the moment is the one goal I didn't do well on. I continue to put pressure on myself to be more, and I sunk a lot deeper into depression this year. I hit a point in August or September where every week was worse than the one before it, October worse, November worse... I found a doctor and we're seeking solutions, but some days I still feel like I've hit a new all-time low.

I had to back off of writing. That ended up being good for me. I have a new work routine starting next week that will require less of me each week, giving me time to live and do other things, hopefully enjoying the moment more.

The second goal, being authentic, was very purposeful for me: I knew I wanted to talk about my bisexuality here on the blog--coming out to the world in one big bang. It's like ripping off a bandaid, right? My authenticity has had surprising rewards, and it's also caused surprising and unsurprising hurts. But I still believe my honesty was the right thing, and I'm much happier being able to express myself without the fear of outing myself.

Most of all, authenticity deepened my relationships, and that's 100% worth it.

When it comes to loving my body, I feel like I've had a stellar year. I maintained my weight, even through the stress, depression, and days of barely getting myself to eat. I love how I look, and I'm less afraid to vocalize opposition to beauty norms. Or buzz off all my hair!

But I also got on an exercise routine that's actually working for me. Soccer, running, and biking carried me through different parts of my life, but I've had trouble keeping up in adulthood. A long walk every afternoon was good, but not enough.

I discovered that my problem was--surprise--overachieving. I want to work out every day and do all the things! But that's not realistic with a job and a life. So I work out three times a week. Important commitments used to eat into my work-out time and make me feel guilty, but devoting just three time slots is doable. Turns out the key to forming an exercise habit is to work around your life, not interrupt it all the time.

I may still need to relax with the perfectionism and excessive work ethic, but I did learn to relax with the people-pleasing. I considered that my stretch goal for 2015, but I've come a lot farther than I expected. Sometimes the desire to appease people still wells up, but I think I've become less a pleaser and more a peacekeeper, which I'm happy with.

The real reason I got better about that was coming out. Living in the south and running in so many Christian circles made it rough. People were upset and couldn't articulate why; people were concerned about how others would view them if they accepted me as a friend and human being; people shut down in conversations, afraid to talk with me about anything deeper than the weather.

I could not please all those people and be authentic about the kind of person I am. Nor could I please them without being untruthful about my views. I couldn't please them while supporting the overwhelming number of closeted Christians who came to me hurting and desperately in need of honest friendship. I had to choose between pleasing people by being deceitful, or rocking the boat.

I learned that when you don't please everyone, the world doesn't end. Pleasing people and loving them are different. My people-pleasing came from guilt, believing that everything bad was my fault, and from fear of conflict. Loving people comes from caring about them and being focused on their needs, rather than my own. It feels a lot healthier.

So I achieved my goals plus a few extra: I read the Bible over the course of the year, something I try to do every other year but which gave me special comfort this year. I also survived Christmas sans family, both sets of our parents being several thousand miles away. I thought it would be depressing and lonely, but I found I can be just as festive by myself as long as I have twinkle lights and Pandora's Christmas station. It was a good lesson in loving myself, my life, and my little family unit of two-plus-cat.

Did your year go as planned, or did the unexpected take you by storm too? Did you achieve a goal you really wanted, or did you discover new ones to shoot for? Share in the comments.

Happy holidays and blessed new year.

Word count: 912.