December 31, 2022 by 8junebugs
1. What did you do in 2022 that you’d never done before?
Renewed and pursued a very, very long-deferred dream: I’ve nearly finished my first book.
Two more are sketched out, with another in a holding pattern in my skull for a while. I’ve been fortunate to get an agent referral. It’s not a contract, but it’s definitely a start.
Related: Got laid off.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
The word for this year was “Revise,” which I think I can call my most successful “resolution” word of all time.
It’s funny that I thought I’d be driving the revision, though. Editors, am I right?
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Brandice Celeste Turner was taken from us by a car accident in February. B and I were fast and easy friends at American University, where we both showed up early in 2000 to take jobs at the Language Resource Center. She’d never stipulate this, but it was impossible not to like B, and if you stuck around long enough, you’d love her forever. She was precious as a sister to me, dear to my mother, and the closest I’ve ever seen to an angel here on earth. A snarky, badass angel who called you on your shit and cussed you out in three languages, but an angel, nonetheless.
Bill Manchester remained with us until March of this year out of sheer will, I feel, and the care of his incredible wife, Gloria. His body, having endured an awful lot of years of illness, just wasn’t up to carrying his indomitable spirit any longer. My friend Matt called Bill “Dad” and it took a while for me to learn that Bill was his stepfather. A retired firefighter with the heart of a hero, Bill didn’t restrict love with labels. I saw the twinkle in his eye when he looked at my friend; when Matt and Alicia had Amelia, the twinkle overtook him altogether. We weren’t close, but I’ve always been so grateful to have known him at all.
Brenda Benner’s laugh reminded me of my mom, but her love for solo travel and adventure felt like a revelation to me. We met at Autodesk in 2011, where we bonded over our shared skills and experience with bad content management systems. Later, we each fell into water sports, then talked through how to pivot when COVID took us off the estuary. Brenda was the first person who told me I was already a content strategist and should just fucking say so; when I got her to pick up contract work for me, she made me look like a genius by…being an actual genius. Breast cancer silenced Brenda’s laugh and her extraordinary perspective only a few days before Christmas.
Too many of my people are also losing their people, or facing the nearer possibility of it, and my heart is worn soft with the shock and sadness we’re all carrying.
5. What places did you visit?
We took the kids to Tacoma and liked it a lot.
6. What would you like to have in 2023 that you lacked in 2022?
A book contract. Pretty please with first editions on top?
Also widespread valid and useful SARS-CoV2 data and guidance from systems of power. And an apology.
7. What dates from 2022 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Not a date, exactly, but Thanksgiving is when I realized I’d written most of a whole book, however rough, and I lost my shit about it for a few hours.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I wrote most of a whole-ass book. I realize this has come up several times already, but after decades of being very sure I couldn’t do this, it sometimes hits me sideways.
9. What was your biggest failure?
In a year of losing my job and a whole bunch of other humbling milestones, I’m gonna have to go with “let my guard down on COVID.” Relentless forgiveness is my religion, but that one? That one makes my very short list of regrets.
Please learn from my mistake and, no matter what you hear, please take every precaution against getting infected or reinfected.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
COVID hit me hardest when it finally got us in July, it seems. I don’t have an LC diagnosis; I’ve found relief for the symptoms that remain, but it’s influenced decisions we’ve made since.
To be very, very blunt, this year of the pandemic has put a lot of our values and choices into stark relief.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I blew the rest of my Tech Perk wellness subsidy on a 10-pack of massage appointments with a very skilled bodyworker.
When that ran out, I realized how much it had helped and re-purchased.
After this week’s appointment, it’s back to lacrosse balls against the wall.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Graham has worked with me through a very hard year and continues to support my wild dreams of a different way of living, working, and parenting. I realized this year that, although he’s always known I’m a writer, he’s never seen this side of me so unconstrained…and consumed. Lost in my head for nebulous spans of time (on top of contracting work). I had it locked down pretty well so I could keep my voice out of my work for 20+ years. Now it’s free and I’m simile-ing all over him. It’s getting very messy and he’s all in.
Grayson has continued to grow and challenge himself beyond what we could even glimpse a year ago. In the midst of continued, escalated trauma when at school, he’s continued to work with us to find the next right thing together. I’m so proud of him that it’s hard to get words out without breaking down.
Alex has also grown and changed dramatically this year. On the one hand, we’ve all realized that, at nearly 6, the child has known nothing but trauma, loss, and disruption. On the other, he’s one of the most emotionally intelligent humans I think I’ve ever known. He’s pushing all the boundaries, but he’s hella funny about it most of the time. “Speaking of ‘nose,'” he’ll say, “we’re nose-trangers to love. You know the rules, and so do I.”
I didn’t have “Rickrolled in spoken word by a child…on repeat” on this year’s Bingo card, but who would?
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Everyone who’s given up on avoiding a virus that’s mutating faster than we can develop the tools to fight it.
14. Where did most of your money go?
We spent a ton of money on the house this year. New kitchen, new French drain, new floors throughout, new tankless hot water heater with a new dedicated gas line, new front stairs, new paint and wallpaper…
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I forgot what it feels like to write this way, to let myself live in my own head for a while and tell a story in my own voice. Parenting and rowing changed this blog a lot and tech burnout wore my creativity down to the quick, but now it’s all just bleeding out.
16. What song will always remind you of 2022?
Carried Me With You, by Brandi Carlile, and Closer to Fine, by the Indigo Girls.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Exponentially happier.
b) thinner or fatter? Oh, about the same, I think. I haven’t been able to train since July, but I also have intermittent nausea that started in July. So it’s all shaken out in the numbers, more or less.
c) richer or poorer? WAY poorer. Still okay and taking the hint to simplify things, but definitely, indisputably poorer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I’ve been off the water half the year. I’m focused on what I need to do but I can’t ignore that part of me for much longer.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
20. How did you spend Christmas in 2022?
We kept it close and quiet.
21. Did you fall in love in 2022?
Yeah. Removing major stress and treating my ADHD gave me the space to fall head over heels for my kids all over again.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
23. What did you do for your birthday in 2022?
I had COVID and nearly had a breakdown.
24. What was the best book you read?
Burnout, by the Nagoski sisters…but I could already quote it from their other work.
25. What did you want and get?
A repaired relationship with my safe and healthy oldest child.
26. What did you want and not get?
I fully intended to stay employed and stay on the water.
27. What was your favorite film of this year?
Don’t Look Up (Was that this year?)
28. Did you make some new friends this year?
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It would’ve been lovely for things to happen on a more comfortable timeline. Alas.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2022?
Bras are boob prisons.
31. What kept you sane?
Concerta. Cymbalta. Cannabis. Not necessarily in that order.
And let’s not kid ourselves—my sanity is still under review. I’ve straight-up asked the professionals responsible for my mental health if I’m bonkers or acting irrational but I’m coming out empty-handed (aside from the very useful meds). I cannot believe an adultier adult isn’t stepping in to say, “How dare you try to live differently before we decide if you can retire? How dare you chase a dream dormant for so long?”
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
None of ’em, aside my deep and abiding love for Hillary Clinton’s general snark game.
When President Biden said, “We’ll send you more free tests, just ask!” he should’ve said, “We’re sending two boxes of N95s for every adult and child with a physical address. They’ll be there tomorrow.” When he said a week later, “If you’re traveling for the holidays, you should leave now,” he was already two days late and should have said, “It’s too late. Don’t go.”
We are so busy trying to reclaim a “normal” that never was, really, that we don’t have the time or rest for our brains to assess the unbearable burden SARS-CoV2 infections are building. I am incandescently angry at everyone throwing bad advice after worse. Even our best options, outcomes, and estimates are dismal and it sure feels like we missed the last exit before the Rubicon.
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
It’s more the erosion of my faith in government that’s left me agitated. I grew up conditioned to expect that systems of power have a duty to the people within that system. Even “my side” is derelict in that duty and my heart resents this grief.
ALSO, THIS ONE HELD UP:
Mostly the ones that shouldn’t be political issues at all: Whether we should all do our part to stop the spread of a devastating virus, whether we should be honest with children (and ourselves) about the history and current effects of racism in this country… Those sorts of things.
I can tell you this, though: Every time I hear someone scoff at the “low” fatality rate of COVID-19, I think of everyone I know who’s lost someone to it, or lost something of themselves to their experience with it. I will never understand being so cavalier about the suffering of so many.
34. Whom did you miss?
It’s the how many more than the whom. Without work or crew or indoor parties (everyone is still always sick), life can get really small.
I found me again, though. And that ain’t nothin’. I missed me quite a lot.
35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021.
I finally figured out how to tell which balls in the air are made of glass, and how to pick up the ones I let bounce for too long.
Rowing competitively will bounce. My health will not.
Structured education, in a format that feels familiar to me, can bounce. My family’s physical and mental health cannot.
LinkedIn’s buzzwords for my career will bounce (into a pit of lava, if there’s any justice). Writing bounced once and I don’t want to drop it again.
What’s this year’s word?
You don’t gain speed by muscling the oar. Not real speed. Real speed, the magical kind, comes from learning how to anticipate and accept the point where your strength has to give way to the momentum you’ve built. Force =/= speed. The boat will not sing until you let go.
There is no shame in rest. My boss knew I was burnt out long before I did, I think. She’d offered every kind of leave imaginable, but I’d already taken an overdue sabbatical; if I hadn’t reset in those six weeks, what the hell would a few more do? I was so fried that the simplest tasks that I used to could do with my eyes closed just felt like too much. For now, within the new routines we’re trying out, when I need to rest, I do.
There is no moral reason to grind myself to dust in pursuit of money. For honor, for glory, for art, for the good of humankind, sure, but for money? If we can use what privilege and work have built—what’s left of it anyway—to set our lives up for more reflection and ease, more joyful hustles, that’ll be well enough.