The beginning of a new year (or the end of an old one) is always a great time to reflect on one’s current situation, reassess life, and re-prioritize for the next year. For me, the holidays is the worst time to try to accomplish any of this. My husband and I live overseas. (I’ve been out of the country now, for six months with only two trips back to the States in that time.) My husband and I are now back in Vilnius, Lithuania after having spent a very fun, but busy time with family. I’m not going to lie, as much as I enjoyed the time at home in the States, I was ready to return so that I could get some rest. Because our lives during the holidays are spent reconnecting with family and our children, the holidays and the end of the year is the worst time for me to reflect, reassess, and re-prioritize.
After traveling, ten hours into the future, the body has to take some time to adjust. Going back in time seems to be an easier adjustment than going forward. My husband, after almost a decade of this travel, can manage the trip either direction with little or no jet lag. I, on the other hand, take a good two weeks to become adjusted. Yesterday, ended that two weeks for me, so here I am, doing the work that most people did before they toasted the New Year. Oh well. As one of my friends put it, “It’s still January. You’re all good.”
This is where I look back on the year, or maybe the last two, or three and consider how things have gone. I think about what went well, what didn’t, and what lessons I’m taking away from the experiences. Sometimes I enjoy this process. At other times, I find it painful. This year, I’m feeling a bit of both. This is how my last year looks:
January to mid-June: Finish the school year as a 6th grade teacher, while being very active in my state teachers’ union, and trying to pack up in preparation for a move to Denver. I also have four children, and though they all don’t live at home because they are off at college or whatever, they still require time, money and energy. I also spent much of the time wishing that my husband and I had made plans for my leave of absence to begin at Winter Break, instead of at the end of the year, because he ended up working in Rome and Bratislava during that time. That was disappointing to say the least.
June 8-15: Total my car in a not-at-fault accident because some young gal decided to pull out at the last minute in front of a semi and then me. She barely cleared the semi, but connecting with me was unavoidable. I did my best to miss her. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt. From my perspective, she was taking some very foolish risks, with her two toddlers in the car. Even so, my daughter and I spent five hours in the emergency room. That was time we could ill afford to lose, especially when we had to clean and finish packing. Thanks to some great friends, we were able to get on the road by noon, after tying up some insurance issues resulting from the accident. We pulled up to our home in Aurora (my new home, my husband’s home of 22 years), tired, sore, and cranky. The next day we unloaded the truck and I spent the next four days unpacking, organizing, and cleaning. On June 16, we boarded our plane to Vilnius.
June 16-August 9: Lithuania
August 9 – September 2: Southern Oregon, Portland, Oregon and back to Aurora for five more days of unpacking and cleaning.
September 3-December 20: Lithuania
December 20-January 2: Aurora
January 3: Return to Vilnius. Experience jet lag for two weeks.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of year. Just 18 months ago, I’d never been out of the country. In just the last six months, I passed through Frankfurt Airport six times. Two years ago, today, my husband and I had just barely begun our relationship. We’ve now been married 18 months and have lived together for the last six and a half months. (And we still like each other.) I’ve gone from career person working 60-70 hours a week to eternal vacation…or so it seems most of the time. I get up when I want. I go where I want when I want. I do absolutely nothing if I so feel. The most stressful part of my day is figuring out what to fix for dinner. I once had a house filled with several adult children and one soon-to-be-adult child and now I am an empty-nester. There has been incredible joy and significant pain. Nothing was more heart-wrenching than getting in the moving van and waving good-bye to my two middle children that sunny day in early June. 2015 ended up being one of the best years of my adult life (2014, when I married my husband and first traveled overseas was pretty incredible also). But as I look back, I must also look forward. I’m in my early 50’s. I’m filled with questions like “Where do I want to be in 10 years?” “What kind of physical shape do I want to be in? How can I get there? What do I need to do now, to make sure my sixties are as good or better than my fifties? It’s a given that I’m going to make my fifties, better than my forties, which were spent entirely consumed by surviving and rebuilding a life after divorce, but how can I make sure my health and well-being improve in the years to come?
Re-Assessing & Re-Prioritizing
Last year, I didn’t really set any priorities, other than finishing out the school year, and transitioning to a life where I could reside with my husband. Once we made that transition, my priority was having fun, adjusting to life in a foreign country, and dealing with the distance between me and my adult children. Since I am not working and I have no obligations other than those I impose on myself, I discovered that without some sort of expectation of myself, it is really easy to let the days drift by endlessly, taking each minute as it comes, and doing whatever I feel like at the moment. For example, last night I went to bed at about 11 and woke up this morning at 9:30. It is now nearly 3:00 pm, and I’m having my first cup of coffee, and haven’t yet done my workout for the day, though I have read two chapters of the current book I’m reading. Not to worry, I have the alarm set for 4:00 pm, so a workout will happen. While this schedule is as close to heaven on earth as it gets for me, I realize, the time we have here is shrinking. I don’t know where my husband will work next. I don’t know that I will have the luxury of not working much longer. I’m becoming concerned that my future is the result of choices I make today. I began thinking about what I wanted to accomplish this year while I’m not working. I figured there were plenty of things on the list, so I’d better get cracking. In order to prevent myself from becoming overwhelmed, I decided to write down some goals.
- Focus on health/fitness.
- Write every day.
- Read every day and finish 50 books this year. Bonus for me if I read 100 books.
These aren’t my only goals, but they earn top spots on my list of priorities. Of course, staying connected to my friends and family far away are priorities, but that happens effortlessly, so I don’t feel like I have to focus on it. These three priorities, challenge me. I’ve tried and failed numerous times over the last few years in all three categories. What hope do I possibly have that this year will be any different?
Even though I’ve only actively worked on these items for eight days, I think this year will be different for me. The first reason is time. I’m not fighting a work schedule or juggling children’s schedules. My time is mine. I schedule it how I like. It is really pathetic if I can’t even get into my workout clothes and push play on the exercise video. The second reason I think I can do this more successfully than before is that I have a social group around me that is working on the same goals. We all want to improve our fitness. For several of us, this involves dropping some weight. For me, it involves dropping the same huge amount of weight I’ve needed to get rid of for years. It will be really embarrassing if everyone achieves their goals and I say, “Hey folks, I gave a it good try for a week. I’m done.” No. I do not want to arrive at May or June or next August and be the only one in our group who didn’t make gains or losses. We also go to many of the same social events together, and it’s much easier to make good food choices when others around you are doing the same. Furthermore, if the choices I make today, determine my health in the years to come, I have absolutely no time to waste improving my current health and preserving my future well-being. I want to be like all those people you see in their 90s and beyond, doing what they love with vigor. To do so, I must fight off rigor mortis daily. That means I can’t afford the luxury of giving up. I already wish I’d been more serious about this area of my life in my 40s, I don’t want to face the same regrets in my 60s.
I’ve joined two book groups and am involved on Goodreads (you can friend me there). I expect to see great results in this category. I’ve already exceeded my reading goal for January. Writing every day is a huge challenge. Why is it that the things we love the most, are the very things most difficult to prioritize? In the past I interpreted daily writing to mean “blogging” every day. I’ve revised that interpretation to mean, “writing in any form, be it journaling, creative writing exercises, working on a short story or a book, and/or blogging.” Hopefully, this perspective improves my mindset and enables me to honor my writing time. I’ve also scheduled two hours of writing time before my morning workout, that is, when I actually get moving before noon. When I don’t, on days like today, I’ll just readjust my schedule for the day and get back on track as soon as possible.
How about you? Do you set New Year’s Resolutions or goals? What steps do you take to make sure you stay on track with any goals you set? What are your priorities for the next year?