2021/2022

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the final Thursday of 2021, and the penultimate day of the year. 2021 has been…a wild ride, to say the least.

The last couple of years I’ve used my last blog of the year to look back on the goals I set back in January and see where I ended up. I honestly haven’t done a lot of looking back yet, or looking forward at new goals, but I don’t feel like pushing this out to next week, so here we go.

Goals I had at the beginning of the year, and progress on those goals:

  • Keep writing.
    • I honestly didn’t think I’d made that much progress with this one, but as it turns out, I wrote 32 songs this year (about 2/3 of them in February for FAWM). Some of them are keepers (a couple I actually quite like). I had hoped to get a couple of things recorded this year, but that didn’t happen.
  • “Yes, and…” opportunities at work.
    • I’d call this one a mixed success. I was promoted to team lead in February, helped nudge a couple of my direct reports along in their career growth, and am in the final stages of hiring someone new for my team. I didn’t take as much initiative in leadership projects as I had intended.
  • Keep investing in the communities and relationships that allow me to thrive.
    • I feel good about this one, although there’s always room to grow. I have a good routine for checking in with a lot of folks virtually and have a couple of virtual communities that are really important to me. Going forward, I want to invest more time into local friendships, too, so I have people I can do things in person with whenever that feels safe again.
  • Try to internalize the notion that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good or valuable.
    • Still working on this, but I think I’m doing a better job of recognizing when perfectionism sneaks in. I’m letting go of the idea that “perfect” even exists, although it’s hard to not hold myself to that standard.
  • Keep doing the work to be an adult that my past selves can be proud of.
    • I feel like I’ve done a lot with this one. I found a new therapist here in the Twin Cities about a month ago, and she’s commented that she can tell that I’ve done a lot of work in therapy in the past to get to where I am now. I can see the evidence of that, too.

Other things that happened:

  • Survived another pandemic year.
  • Moved back to Minnesota.
  • Missed Song School, which was super sad but was the right decision for us at the time.
  • Adopted Nova!
  • Applied for and was accepted into seminary.

I know I’m missing a bunch of things, but those feel like the big ones.

Goals for 2022:

  • Keep finding ways to create.
  • Pass all of my classes.
  • Keep investing in the communities and relationships that allow me to thrive.

I will leave you with photos of Nova’s Christmas naps and the goofy Nova Christmas socks I bought for me and my husband. Happy New Year, everyone!

2020/2021

Hello, dear readers! Here we are, the last day of 2020, a year that has been… *gestures vaguely*…something.

Last Monday, on the Winter Solstice, I did a little looking back on the past year, on the goals that I set at the beginning of 2020, at how much progress I made (or didn’t) on those goals, despite (or because of ) everything 2020 threw at me. I made a similar post last year, so let’s follow that same format and take a minute to glance backward and look ahead, shall well?

Goals I had at the beginning of the year, and progress on those goals:

  • Write. Songs, yes, but also other things, poems and short stories and maybe even games.
    • I wrote 42 songs, including one spoken word piece and something for every card in the Major Arcana of a tarot deck. I did not write poems or short stories. I started noodling around with writing a game, got overwhelmed, and set it aside.
  • Read more, especially poetry and other things that inspire me.
    • I didn’t read more – I read 13 books, contrasted with last year’s 23. But I did read more Mary Oliver poetry, which was an excellent choice.
  • Make music often, as close to every day as possible.
    • I did not make music as close to every day as possible. But I still made music, and in a year that tried to totally derail everything, I’m calling that at least a partial win.
  • Do the work, in therapy and on my own, to be an adult that my inner child can be proud of.
    • This is lifelong work, but I have done a lot of work in this arena!
  • Take care of my body and my brain and my spirit.
    • This hasn’t been a resounding success, but…you know what? Fuck it. Given everything that 2020 was, yes, this was a success. I got myself medical care when I needed it, I have a better awareness of what I need to do to take better care of my body, I’ve continued therapy, I’ve found ways to learn and grow despite *gestures wildly at the year*.
  • Follow through on the plan to have my credit card paid off in June.
    • I did this! I had it paid off in May, actually. This was a very big deal.
  • Create more routine and space for ritual in my life.
    • I often feel like I have failed at this, but in reality I have established some important routines and rituals this year. They just don’t look like I thought they would a year ago.
  • Get a new, better-paying job.
    • I didn’t post this one on the blog last year, because I knew some of my coworkers read the blog and I didn’t want to cause unnecessary alarm. But I did this! I started my new job in March, four days before we went into lockdown, and it came with an approximately 60% salary increase. I am so much happier where I am now (which is not to say I don’t miss my old coworkers, but this job is a much better fit for me).

Other things that happened:

  • Took a mountain dulcimer class, a couple of mandolin classes, three songwriting classes, and a handful of songwriting workshops.
  • Tried Tai Chi (for a couple of months, in the Before Times).
  • Cowrote a song with someone I met on the internet. Also cowrote with my partner.
  • Bought a gorgeous new octave mandolin that I’m absolutely in love with.
  • Got married!
  • Hosted write-alongs for Song School friends the week that Song School would have happened.
  • Performed with my partner at a virtual open mic.
  • Decided to take an indefinite break from Facebook.
  • Bought a Nintendo Switch Lite and played many hours of Stardew Valley.
  • Played a lot of D&D along with a handful of other delightful games.
  • Established a number of (virtual) social routines.

Goals for 2021:

  • Keep writing.
  • “Yes, and…” opportunities at work.
  • Keep investing in the communities and relationships that allow me to thrive.
  • Try to internalize the notion that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good or valuable.
  • Keep doing the work to be an adult that my past selves can be proud of.

May 2021 be a gentler year than 2020 was. May we keep finding reasons to hope. And may the lessons 2020 brought us not need to be repeated.

Goals

I think I mentioned last week that after I wrote my goals last year, I didn’t look at them again until I was doing my review of the year. That’s how goals go for me pretty often. I have a hard time sticking to them and keeping track of them.

I got a shiny new planner this week (inspired by a friend’s planner purchase), and I’m using it to try to better track my progress on my goals. This is not the first time I’ve tried using a planner to do this (I have a bit of a planner obsession, really), but this one seems to fit how my brain works better than others have. (It’s the Clever Fox Premium Weekly, for the interested.)

I think part of my struggle with goals is that if I mess up once, my brain tells me I’ve failed, period, and I should just give up. I don’t often think of myself as a perfectionist these days, but I definitely have those all-or-nothing tendencies.

So this week I’ve been trying, and then working on being gentle with myself if I fall short. I’m trying to establish a new, earlier morning routine, which is hard, and I haven’t succeeded every day. But I’ve done better than I honestly thought I would, so that’s something.

The new year is hard. No matter how much I tell myself it’s an arbitrary marker of time, it’s hard to ignore the “time for a fresh start” energy everywhere. There’s a lot of pressure to improve.

One of my Facebook friends posted one of their resolutions as something like “eat the elephant (one bite at a time),” and that’s an attitude I’m trying to adopt. I’m shooting for some big shifts in 2020, and the only way to get them done is one bite at a time.

2019/2020

Happy New Year, folks! We made it to 2020.

I have a tendency to set intentions and create resolutions at the beginning of the year and then never look at them again. That kind of happened in 2019. However, I looked back at my first post from 2019, when I laid out goals for the year, and even though I hadn’t looked back on them at all as the year progressed…it turns out I actually accomplished most of them? So that’s cool.

Let’s take a look back and a look forward, shall we?

Goals I had at the beginning of 2019, and progress on those goals:

  • Find a new therapist
    • I found a new therapist in January, and it was, on the whole, the most productive year of my life, in terms of therapy. I’ve been working through all sorts of things and feel like I’ve greatly increased my capacity for handling shit that comes up.
  • Complete a second FAWM
    • I wrote 18 songs for FAWM this year (the goal is 14), including two co-writes with my partner! We’d never written together before, so that was cool.
  • Write 30 songs
    • I wrote 50 songs, which is completely bonkers. The last one was written via quietly-recorded voice memos on the late-night drive to Minnesota for Christmas.
  • Read more
    • Technically I managed this – I read more books than I did last year. Didn’t quite hit my Goodreads goal of 25, but managed 23.
  • Go back to Song School
    • We did this, and it was such an incredible, affirming experience. I even managed to write a song while I was there, and got to perform it at the open stage with eight beautiful people.
  • Play out at least four times
    • Unless we count Song School, I played out three times. However…
  • Find at least one opportunity to play out somewhere other than the Acoustic Explosion
    • I did this! I played a show called Homolatte for the first time, and it was brilliant.
  • Play more D&D
    • While I always wish I could play more, I did this. Also got into some other games. I love the folks I game with so much.
  • Keep tracking finances and get money under control
    • I still feel less in control than I’d like, but I’m way better off than I was last year, and I’m on track to have my credit card paid off in June!

Other things that happened:

  • Saw my grandmother for the first time in nine years
  • Attempted 50/90 (and managed 17 songs)
  • We moved!
  • Reintroduced myself to my extended family (which went way better than I expected it to
  • Was a pallbearer at my grandfather’s funeral
  • Deepened existing friendships; made new friends

Goals I have for 2020:

  • Write. Songs, yes, but also other things, poems and short stories and maybe even games.
  • Read more, especially poetry and other things that inspire me.
  • Make music often, as close to every day as possible.
  • Do the work, in therapy and on my own, to be an adult that my inner child can be proud of.
  • Take care of my body and my brain and my spirit.
  • Follow through on the plan to have my credit card paid off in June.
  • Create more routine and space for ritual in my life.

May your 2020 be better than your 2019, and may this time of transition treat you gently and leave you with what you need from it.

2019

Hello, dear readers, and happy new year! I hope you enjoyed whatever holiday festivities you took part in (or chose to abstain from).

I’m starting 2019 feeling a little scatterbrained, but I want to take some time to acknowledge what 2018 held for me, and look a bit at what I’m hoping for in 2019.

So here’s a (far from complete) list of what happened in my 2018:

  • I completed my first FAWM.
  • I started going to a Unitarian Universalist church. I joined the choir at the church. I quit the choir and stopped going to church.
  • I turned 30.
  • I played a lot of D&D with some really awesome folks.
  • I wrote 48 songs (blowing away what I thought at the time was an impossible goal of 40).
  • I played five Acoustic Explosions.
  • I went to Song School for the second time.
  • I hit five years on testosterone.
  • I made new friends and strengthened some existing friendships.
  • I reconnected with my grandmother via letter writing.
  • I finally started to really track my finances.

I’ve been thinking a lot about possible themes for 2019, and I think I’m going to steal mine from Ellis (a musician I greatly admire who I met at Song School), who posted on Patreon that her word for 2019 is EmbodyI’ve been feeling very disconnected from my body, and I think this is my year to really get grounded and learn to sit in my body through all its aches and pains and quirks. There’s also something in the word embody that feels like reaching for more genuineness, more honesty…and I think that is going to start with me being more genuine and honest about my needs, rather than constantly worrying that I’m being an inconvenience.

Other things I hope to do this year:

  • Find a new therapist.
  • Complete a second FAWM.
  • Write 30 more songs.
  • Read more (I fell short of my Goodreads goal of 30 books in 2018; I’m hoping for better focus this year).
  • Go back to Song School.
  • Play out at least four times.
  • Find at least one opportunity to play out somewhere that isn’t an Acoustic Explosion.
  • Play more D&D.
  • Keep tracking finances and get to a point where I feel solidly in control of my money.

So here’s to a new year and new opportunities. May the lessons we learned in 2018 not be wasted so we don’t need to learn them again this year!

Plans

After I posted last week about my word of the year being “Action”…I promptly caught the cold from hell and lost several days to that nonsense. I was out of the office for three of the last five work days, and spent a lot of time annoyed by the fact that I couldn’t breathe through half my nose and kept waking myself up coughing. But I finally (FINALLY) and starting to feel more human again, so now I feel like it’s time to move forward with starting 2018 (a little over a week late, but hey, who’s counting?).

I’m continuing PT for my knee, which is helping a lot. It also makes me whine a lot, because the exercises are HARD (but feel like they shouldn’t be). I’m working on being more gracious about it and grateful for the progress I’m making.

Songwriting class started this week, and I’m trying to hit the ground running, so I have a shot at hitting my goal of 40 songs written this year (twice the number I’ve written each of the past two years).

I’m working on anxiety coping mechanisms in therapy. One of the things I’m trying this week is writing down my anxieties, in the hopes that getting them out of my head onto paper will make it easier to talk myself down. So far it seems like it’s helpful, but it’s only been a couple of days, so jury’s still out. I left my session this week with several ideas to try, though, so if this doesn’t work out, I have other options.

One of the things I want to do a better job of this year is actually planning out my weeks. There’s a big part of me that hates the idea of being boxed into a rigid schedule, but I also recognize that I’m more productive if I have a plan. If the only way I will make time to write songs or read books or whatever else I want to do is if I block out time in my schedule every week, then that’s what I need to do.

I’m trying to keep my goals reasonable, to not bite off more than I can chew in the first two weeks of the year, because I don’t want to burn out. Finding the balance there is a challenge.

Action

Happy New Year, readers! The adventure(?) that was 2017 has ended, and 2018 has begun. Last year was a rough one on a global level, but while my generalized anxiety reached new heights, I can’t say it was a terrible year for me personally. Sure, I didn’t knit as much as I usually do and I spent a lot of the year feeling an overwhelmingly hopeless sense of doom…but I also strengthened some really meaningful friendships, went to Song School, wrote 20 new songs…and I survived. A lot of pieces of my life that felt chaotic and unsettled for a long time have calmed down significantly, to the point where I feel like I’m coming out of survival/energy conservation mode and into a place where I can DO things.

Which brings me to the point of this first post of 2018. I don’t do a lot with concrete resolutions, but I’ve liked the idea that I’ve seen of choosing a word with which to frame the new year. My word for 2018: Action. I am still sussing out exactly what that means for my year, but I know it means a few things for sure:

  1. Taking better care of my mental health, particularly in terms of anxiety. I am back in therapy with a new therapist, and my goal is to work on finding better coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the anxiety that has become a constant under the current political administration in the U.S. I’ve identified some triggers and some key areas where I shut down, and while I know this will be hard work, I am at a point where I feel like I can do it.
  2. Taking better care of myself physically. I’ve started physical therapy for my right knee, which has been acting up since Thanksgiving, and as long as I keep up with the exercises, it really does help. Today I’m going to the doctor to follow up on some high blood pressure results from the last time I was there. I have a few other longstanding issues that I want to work on, too (chronic pain, follow-up on some issues I had before we moved to Chicago that should probably be checked out).
  3. Being more politically active. I want to call congresspeople, and be involved in local politics somehow, and stay outraged and stay active. Because this nightmare of an administration isn’t going away on its own. I can’t do everything, I can’t fix it all, but what little bit is in my control, I feel like I need to follow through on.

The brilliant S. Bear Bergman wrote a really wonderful bit about this in his Ask Bear column this week, and you should read it here if you, like me, are feeling overwhelmed here at the start of 2018. Here’s to tackling this new year “bird by bird” (to quote Anne Lamott), or “one penguin at a time” (to quote Bear’s article). We can only do what we can do. For myself, that means better self-care and more external action. Inertia is hard to overcome, but it’s time.

Reflections and Resolutions, 2016 Edition

Well, folks, here we are at the end of 2015, and what can I say except…it’s been a year.

The past 12 months have held some of the hardest and best decisions I’ve ever made for the sake of my mental health. It’s been a year of purging in many areas of my life – from clothes and books and other belongings to toxic relationships – and while it hasn’t been easy, overall I’d say it’s been worth it. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about who I am and what I believe, about what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m exiting this year feeling better about myself, my space, and my relationships than I did entering it. Which, as it turns out, fulfills the loose goals I set for myself last year.

Some things, sadly, have not changed since I wrote that post last year. Police have continued to murder black people and suffer few – if any – consequences for it. Violence against trans women, particularly trans women of color, has continued to occur at alarming rates. It’s a frightening world we live in, and as a white dude, I have far fewer reasons to be frightened than most people. I am still learning how to use this new voice and new privilege for good, and I know I fall far short the majority of the time.

As I’m writing this post the day before New Year’s Eve, I’m formulating a little intention-setting ritual for ringing in the new year. At this point, it’s going to look something like this:

Supplies

  • Tea lights (real candles, not the electronic ones)
  • Tea light holders
  • A toothpick or pocket knife
  • Somewhat concrete goals for the year
  • Matches or a lighter

Ritual

  1. On each tea light, use the toothpick or pocket knife to carve a word or symbol representing a goal for the new year.
  2. Place the tea lights in their holders.
  3. While lighting each candle, take a few moments to focus on what the manifestation of that goal will look like.
  4. Once all the candles are lit, spend a few minutes watching the flames in meditation/reflection.
  5. Let the candles provide the ambiance for the evening as they burn all the way down.

That’s it. Super simple, but still something a little special to mark the beginning of a new (re)commitment to a goal. (I’m still working out exactly what goals I’m going to set for the year…perhaps one of them should be, “learn to be more decisive!”)

I’m not sorry to see 2015 go, but I feel like we’re parting on mostly amicable terms. I’m looking forward to 2016 and all the promise that it holds!