Monday, December 28, 2015

It's now after Christmas, so let's look at what I've done.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?  Travelled to Bali. My brother and his wife visit a lot and have connections in Bali, so Lee and I packed up the kids and accompanied my brother’s family on a visit. We had a great time that included shopping, eating and drinking, but being us we also visited the museum and drove into the forests and saw waterfalls and climbed hundreds of steps and just had the best time.

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year? Our goal was to move house and get Connor back into the school system. Well, we moved house and we did get Connor back into the system, but the latter was a total failure and he’s back homeschooling with me. I blame the Education Department fully as it is their tolerance of bullying that made it impossible for Connor to receive the education he deserves.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not that I recall.

4. Did anyone close to you die? My cousin Andrew died of DVT days after returning from Nepal. It was a shock that that really shook our entire family. He was only 51 and was the first of the cousins to go.

5. What countries did you visit? Bali.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? A degree in English and Creative Writing. 3 units to go and I’m there.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? I can’t single out a particular date but 2015 will always be the year that life started to get better for our family.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? It has been a year of achievements for me. I went overseas, I got through 5 units with High Distinctions in 2 and Distinctions in the rest, I helped Connor finish Year 5, I lost 16 kg and was offered a job with Weight Watchers.

9. What was your biggest failure? Cementing my relationship with my brother. I want to be close to him, but I somehow fail in this year after year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Oh my Lordy, yes. It was bad enough having chest infection after chest infection, but to make it worse, 10 weeks ago I took a fall that completely tore 1, possibly 2, ligaments in my left ankle. I still can’t walk take more than 3000 steps in a day without experiencing pain. I’m waiting for an operation to reconnect the ligaments but we’re looking at 3 to 6 months before that will happen.
However, I would go through it all again if it meant Connor never suffered from Rumination Syndrome ever again.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Weight Watchers membership? Tickets to Bali? My Pandora bracelet that continues to acquire charms as celebrations of my achievements? All of these are because we sold our old house and bought the one we now live in, so I’d say the house.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Everyone around me has been amazing this year. Lee has taken his own weight loss journey seriously and has created an exercise programme for himself that has seen him lose weight and gain strength. Erin has started High School with a brand new group of friends and is now achieving extremely high marks. Connor made the decision to be homeschooled again and has made the most of the situation, Aiden is continuing his university and has created a stable home-life for himself and Rachel, Cassie is doing really well as a single mother and Blake has faced his problems in a positive way. I am proud of my family and all they’re currently achieving.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? I received a comment on a post I made about my depression that left me feeling attacked and confused. So, I withdrew my secondary family for a while. I still feel rather wounded by their attitude, but time has a habit of healing wounds, so who knows?

14. Where did most of your money go? The mortgage, which is to be expected. For once, however, we actually seem to be saving money and have managed to save up for two holidays within the past 12 months.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Bali. It was a great opportunity that helped Lee and I face a few issues and take action on them. I dealt with my depression, I stopped drinking, I lost weight, I focussed on my changing relationship with my children and I came back to my studies with vigour. I will always be grateful to my brother and his family for giving us the opportunity and the space to reconnect.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015? Maybe Budapest, because it’s my current jam. There’s a line in it there goes “for you, oh for you, I’d leave it all.” No matter what problems I’ve dealt with this year (chest infection, torn ankle, juggling uni with Connor’s schooling) I’d do them all again just to keep Connor safe. It feels like I’m constantly bargaining with God, ie “You look after Connor and I’ll accept whatever life throws at me next.” I know God doesn’t cause our problems (Time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all) but I do believe He helps me bear up under the strain and I will bear them as long as Connor is safe.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? This has been a wonderful year for me. Yes, I’ve destroyed my ankle and yes, I continue to take medication for my chest and yes, some of my relationships are strained, but I am happier this year than I have ever been. Last year was marked by a deep depression that did not shift until April this year. My trip to Bali and my conversion to being a Mormon helped me confront some of the problems of my past and helped me reassess what I wanted from my present and my future. My depression and the way I dealt with it upset some people, and they’re very scarce in my life right now, but I remain hopeful that a reconnection will occur. I do weight less than I did at the beginning of the year and I feel more in control of my life as a result. Finally, selling our house removed a financial millstone that was slowing drowning us. Moving to this house released us from that burden. No, we’re not rich, but we definitely have enough money to live on plus a little left over for emergencies and savings.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Blogging. I really let it go this year and I find I’ve missed recording significant elements of my life. I’ve had a great year, but it’s been recorded in the snippets I place on Facebook which may make it more of a conversation, but also makes it less of a record.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? I wish I’d stopped seeking approval from my secondary family. Either they love me or they don’t. Nothing I do or say is going to change that. I was significantly hurt by my parents when I was a child, so all my life I’ve sought approval from my siblings, my cousins, my aunties and my uncles, my nieces and my nephews. Now, I realise that I’m okay without it. Yesterday I attended a family event and I didn’t give in to the stress of not fitting in. I just enjoyed the moment as it stood. I do love my secondary family, but for the first time I actually allowed myself to just be in their company without feeling the need to prove that I belonged with them.
Actually, I’ve just reread this paragraph and I’ve come to the realisation that this is the year where I stopped seeking approval.

20. How did you spend Christmas? The good thing about converting from being a Jehovah’s Witness to a Mormon is the reclaiming of Christmas. Plus, I’m so new to the experience, we get to invent our own traditions. Because I’ve never really celebrated before, the kids have always spent Christmas Eve with their grandparents and woken up with them. This year I put my foot down and demanded they spend it with us. Last Tuesday we held a Secret Santa where we all drew out the name of a person. One by one we walked into Elizabeth’s Bookshop (Perth’s biggest second-hand bookshop) and bought for our person. On Christmas morning we put together a cheese platter, and opened our book-gifts. Then we spent the afternoon reading. It was the best day of the year.
On Christmas morning we woke up and opened the rest of our presents. We spent breakfast together, then at 9am the kids went off with their grandparents. At the time of writing they still haven’t returned.

21. Who did you meet for the first time? In March of this year I walked into Baldivis Ward and met a whole church filled with Mormons. They have welcomed me with open arms and I’m grateful for their place in my life.
However, I’m grateful to those people who have remained my friends during this time. Sure, I do things a little differently now, but they still love me no matter how I spend my Sundays and their ongoing friendship means the world to me.

22. Did you fall in love in 2015? Every year I look for a witty way of professing my love for Lee. So, let’s just say Lee, shall we? I love Lee completely and utterly.

23. What was your favourite TV program? Much debate has gone on in the Batthouse this week as we’ve contemplated the length and breadth of this question. Dr Who gave us its best season to date and deserves an acknowledgement. The Flash was an unexpected treasure that brought the family together in discussion as we tried to work out the truth about Dr Wells. There’s a series of documentaries on ESPN called “30 for 30” that introduced me to the complex world of American sports stars and the lives they inhabit, ad which has led me into a love of college football. Lee and I became engrossed with both Blacklist and True Detective, both of which entertained us with their intelligent plots, characters and twists. Any of these could be said to be my favourite, so I find it impossible to pick just one.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? Not a hater.

25. What was the best book you read? This is so difficult. I read a lot this year, but everything that stands out in my mind is either a play, a poem or a text book.
However, a week ago I sat up until 2am reading a novel called Getting over Mr Right by Chrissie Manby. It wasn’t deep or meaningful. Honestly, in a year filled with Shakespeare and John Donne and Lisa Hopkins, this was escapist chick-lit in its most distilled form. And I loved it.
Let me also add my nominee for ‘worst book’ – Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. I didn’t not like it, Sam I Am. I did not like it at all.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Remember the good old days when a song would come on the radio that somehow managed to capture the feeling of the time/space you were in? I do. I think I was about 18 then. Now I’m 46 and I don’t really set my life against a backdrop of music. I didn’t really discover any new sounds or new acts. Instead, I allowed myself to be pulled along in Lee’s and Erin’s wake and music sort of happened around me.

27. What was your favourite film of this year? Again, the list is long for this. I enjoyed so many movies, including Julius Caesar (with Marlon Brando), Jurassic World, Antman, Terminator Umpty-Billion, Predestination, Gone Girl, John Carter, Big Hero 6, Inside Out, The Force Awakens and Suffragette. However, if I had to choose one favourite it would be What We Do In the Shadows, an insane arthouse vampire movie filmed in New Zealand. And Everest. And Stardust. Yes, those 3 were my favourite movies.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 46 and I was in the middle of a raging chest infection that had me feeling rather weak and sick, so I don’t think we did a lot. I know Lee, the littlies and I went to The Silver Tree for dinner and Lee surprised me with a cake, but I don’t think we stayed very long.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I am really satisfied with this year. I love my family, I love my life, I love my God and I love the way everything has come together. I have a lot to be grateful for, so I’m not going to ask for more.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015? Smaller clothes for my smaller frame. I went from a size 14/16 to a size 10 and I was even able to put on some of Erin’s clothes.

31. What kept you sane? My spiritual beliefs brought a peace to my life that had been missing for a number of years. After a dreadful year of depression, the stability of belonging to a religious community helped me find direction.
Bali also helped me regain some sense of forward momentum, if only because it helped me make the decision to quit drinking. According to my family, I really am happier without alcohol.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? The refugee situation. I feel ashamed by our government’s policies towards people in need.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015. My most valuable life lesson is that I really am awesome. I have achieved so much this year, and often whilst sick or in pain.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. “I know you can’t become, if you only say what you should have done, so I missed a million miles of fun.” Steal My Sunshine - Len.
The best years of my life are the ones where I have acted on the things I’ve talked about doing. Last year was a talking year, this year was a doing year, and I’m a million times happier.