I try to have all end-of-year wrap-up posts done by, well, the end of the year, but you guys—this first trimester nausea/fatigue combo mixed with me getting sick over and over again with the various viruses going around have just knocked me flat for weeks, I’ve felt. So, although I’m still feeling sick, both from pregnancy hormones and from some strain of the flu I somehow contracted over the weekend, I’m enough back into the land of the living that I can pump out a blog post while Raven watches Toy Story yet again.
(Intermixed with 17 things that 2017 taught me will be pics from our latest little weekend getaway to St. George, which was worth the 12 hours in the car for the fact that we could feel the sun on our skin and enjoy being outside for the first time in weeks and weeks.)
Now, in no particular order, are 17 lessons that last year taught me:
1. Anxiety is a beast. Truly.
While I’d dealt somewhat with anxiety on a short-term basis before (like at the end of almost every semester in college or when I was going out of my mind with stress when I was helping Matt apply to PT school), I’d never dealt with Anxiety with a capital A–the kind that keeps your mind whirring late into the night with millions of what-if scenarios, each worse than the last, or the kind that makes you dread what the new day ahead might bring you, because surely it will be awful and tragic and life-ruining.
The thing is, I’ve dealt with some really hard things before in my life, but somehow, there always seemed to be just enough other things that worked together to buoy me up that I never got caught in the anxiety or depression spiral for too long.
But this year, it felt like I didn’t get the chance to fully catch my breath from the last trial before the next one hit me in the stomach, knocking the wind full out of me. Truly, there was a span of time from about the end of January until probably April or so where I literally expected every phone call to bring me bad news, every text to be dropping a bomb. It was not good.
Gradually, as the year went on and we were able to go several months without the rug being pulled out from under us again, anxiety slowly started to release its grip on me. It helped that I became much more centered on prayer and scripture study as the year went on, which both helped a LOT. (For more, see the post: Learning to Embrace Plan B)
But even still, though the anxiety has gone down markedly since earlier this year just from the passage of time, I still have moments when there it will be again, making my heart pound late at night and lighting up all the parts of my brain associated with imagining all the very worst things that surely are going to happen. I’m hoping that eventually, my overall anxiety levels will return to what they were before this year, but if not, at least I’ve learned how to cope with it.
2. Sometimes pursuing my dreams means that I need to invest more money than I’d like to up front.
Being a pretty frugal person, I try to avoid spending unnecessary money at all costs. I will make do for years if I’ve found a system that’s free and that works, even if there’s a better system that would yield better results that costs money. This year, Matt and I have talked a LOT about our individual and collective goals, and what some of our dreams are and how we can make them happen.
Last year, in 2016, we set aside $1000 of our tax return and put it aside into a “Business” account, meant for providing some of the start-up costs of the various business schemes we had. This was the money we pulled from for our storage shed venture, but other than that, we basically left it untouched. This year, when my body was taking a really long time to “bounce back” to normal after my miscarriage and I distinctly got the impression that I shouldn’t look for a part-time job, though I thought it was what I wanted, I looked for other places to channel some of my energy and extra time.
That was how, after years of talking about it but not doing anything about it, I finally relaunched the blog under a different name and on a self-hosted site (with a LOT of help from a good friend of ours and from my dad, who designed the new logo). Although I still have quite a few glitches to iron out with the new blog, it’s been a lot of fun to see the growth my blog has had just by my being willing to finally put some money into it. As I hope to monetize more in the future, this is all really good news.
I also made some significant leaps with my photography business this year, both by investing in better gear (a new camera) and in things that will help my business to grow, like a new website just for my photography (which I’m still working on launching). All of this cost money, but, gratefully, all of this has helped me MAKE more money, too. Right now, my profits aren’t much, as I’m using most of the money made to replenish funds taken out of our business account, but it’s been exciting to see the growth in both my blog and my photography business once I was willing to start taking both a little more “seriously.”
3. Sometimes it’s not as much about MY weaknesses as a photographer but about a client’s self-consciousness.
Can I be vulnerable for a minute? The truth is, I’m quite sensitive about my photography. I feel like I pour so much of myself into each session and put so many hours into the editing process that if I don’t hear back some solid positive feedback, I can take it SUPER hard. There were a few photo shoots this year where I was so pleased with the results and was sure my client was going to be thrilled—but then heard next to nothing back, or very little positive.
I convinced myself that it was because I was terrible and that they were surely wishing they’d gone with someone else, but eventually, I finally got to the point where I had to accept the fact that I’d literally done my best and that that was going to have to be enough. Also, when I looked closer into some of the feedback that I HAD gotten, I realized that any negative comments usually had more to do with factors beyond my control (kids refusing to cooperate no matter what we tried, a negative body-image) and not with my work itself.
In the end, I just decided that I needed to accept that my style is what it is, and that those people who like it will keep coming back, and that if I disappointed some clients, they won’t come back again. That’s just how it goes. (Easier said than done, but I’m getting there.)
4. I’m happiest as a SAHM if I plan something out of the house on most mornings and leave nap time to work on my own projects.
After we moved to our new house, I felt isolated and very alone for a good month or two, and I was sure the answer to my loneliness was going back to work. However, after looking into employment options, I got a distinct impression I needed to continue to stay at home, so I started looking for ways to embrace it more.
That was when I hit upon the “formula” that has been a true sanity-saver for me:
Get out of the house in the morning (whether for a play date or running an errand, it all counts), then use nap time to work on my own goals (blogging, photography, reading, etc.).
While this schedule has taken a bit of a hit while I’ve been pregnant (because EVERYTHING has taken a hit this pregnancy), it has completely made me fall back in love with the stay-at-home life again.
5. A key way to stay on top of morning sickness is to eat a protein and a healthy carb every few hours.
When I was pregnant with Raven, I was soooooo sick to my stomach all the time, a fact that was made infinitely worse because I still tried to just eat three square meals a day (and usually even put those off, just because I didn’t want to eat anything and had no appetite, which just exacerbated the problem).
Late in my first pregnancy, I hit upon the protein/carb combo, which definitely helped, but with this this pregnancy, I’ve forced myself most days to eat a protein and a carb every 3 hours or so (whether I want to or not), which has helped IMMENSELY with staying in top of morning sickness.
6. Another thing that helps with morning sickness? DRUGS.
When I was pregnant with Raven, I staunchly refused to take any medication during the pregnancy, just as I staunchly refused any epidural or pain relief during the birth process. While I still plan to have an unmedicated delivery with this baby, I HAVE changed my thoughts on taking medications while pregnant.
Before, when my doctor offered something to help with my nausea, I would always refuse. This time, the second I mentioned nausea and my nurse offered a possible relief, I jumped on it—and it has made things quite a bit better. While I still try not to over-rely on the medication and take it all the time (promethazine, in case you’re wondering), I have allowed myself to take it when I start feeling really sick, and it’s been nice to have.
7. While not always more flattering, life is easier without bangs.
I finally grew out my bangs this year for the first time in AGES (literally like seven years). Although I think that longer, side-swept bangs are more flattering on me, I can’t deny that having NO bangs has been kind of amazing (not to mention time-saving!).
I’m sure I’ll go back to having bangs eventually, but I’m enjoying this freedom while I can.
8. It is definitely possible to read 50 books in a year as an adult.
Back in 2011, when I started blogging regularly, I set a goal to read 50 books in a year…and then never managed to meet that goal until now, six years later (when I managed to finish 65 and would have read more, had pregnancy and sickness not knocked me flat the last couple months of the year).
The key for me is to 1) read several books at once, 2) check out books from the library so that I have a finite deadline of when I need to finish them, and 3) have a set reading time every single day (usually before bed).
Although I know this feat will be much more difficult with a new baby next year, I’m hoping to still be reading overall much more than I used to now that I’ve hit upon these 3 secrets to success.
9. The best part about owning our own home? THE GARAGE.
This year was a big one for us as a family as it marked us becoming home owners for the very first time. While some parts of home ownership have come with a bit of a learning curve (oh yeah, we have to take out the trash cans ourselves every week now), we have largely LOVED LOVED LOVED it.
And when winter (and the subsequent snow) set in, we were reminded that having a garage makes our lives soooooo much better (this coming from someone who has lived in Cache Valley for over ten years, where I had to shovel my car out of the snow every time I wanted to go anywhere).
It is largely thanks to our garage that has made it so much easier to continue to leave the house nearly every morning (see #4) even in winter because there is no prep work required on the car.
Miraculous things, garages.
10. Painting is arduous, time-consuming work, and I NEVER want to do it as a day job. (But, when all is said and done, it is totally worth it!)
Along with our new home came lots of hours of painting, seeing as I didn’t want half of my upstairs to be bright red and half of my downstairs to be poop brown. Lucky for me, I have awesome family members and friends who devoted many hours to helping us redo our new place in more neutral colors, as well as an awesome former bishop of ours who put in our can lighting downstairs for nothing more than the cost of a pizza.
People are good to us.
And painting is kind of the worst.
11. Sometimes you need to swing for the fences to get what you want.
Last house-related lesson, I promise! When we were putting in an offer for our house, we knew we’d be bidding against at least one other family (and it ended up that we were bidding against 3 other families!). The house was already near the very top of our price range, so I was hesitant (being the frugal person I am) to offer too much if we didn’t need to.
However, the realtor made a good point: he said that if we just liked this house but didn’t love it, we could just put in an offer that was good and that met all the obvious conditions, but that we had to realize we might not get the house. He then said that if this was the house we really wanted and loved, we were probably going to have to swing for the fences a bit so that we would know, when all was said and done, that we’d put everything on the table and couldn’t have done any more.
I know that rationally, there were surely other houses that we could have waited on that might have saved us some money that we would have liked, too, but I’ll tell you this—even though it made little financial sense, both Matt and I felt strongly that THIS was our house.
And now, as I’ve gotten to the know the neighbors and to enjoy the close proximity to the park, church, and school, and to just love on the house and yard itself, I am SO GLAD that we put in our very best offer because I think it’s what got us the house. And we truly do love it here.
12. Waiting is made a lot easier when you’re not just, well, waiting.
When it became clear that my hormone levels were not going to quickly return back to normal after I miscarried, I finally made the decision to just stop worrying about it and “waiting” on it. Sure, I still had to check in at the doctor’s office every few weeks to get the levels checked, but I was no longer letting my well-being rest on whether the levels were going down fast enough (because they never were).
So I just decided to take advantage of the fact that I had more time than planned to enjoy having just one relatively easy kid and not being pregnant—I threw myself into my exercise classes with greater intensity, I started working more on growing my blog, I relished all the extra time to read…you get the idea. And while I don’t think it helped my body to bounce back any quicker, it definitely helped me to FEEL a whole lot better!
13. Even I can be tidy (as long as I’m not in the first trimester of pregnancy).
While moving to a bigger place certainly helped make it a whole lot easier to be tidier, what was really key was just establishing some basic routines every day and week. The biggest thing for me? Doing the dishes every day. Once the dishes are out of the way, it becomes a lot easier to look around and see other things that are out of place, and most days, we could get the house company-ready in about 10-15 minutes just by keeping up on the dishes and putting clutter away as we notice it.
Of course, now that I’m pregnant and feeling a bit wretched, all bets are off as to the company-readiness of our house, but I’m hoping I’ll start feeling better soon and can once again think about doing housework.
14. Long after-dinner walks are the best for family bonding.
Back in the late summer, I started a little series on the blog all about forming healthier habits over time and then keeping myself accountable for those habits on the blog. (I plan to restart a version of this once I’m no longer feeling so crummy, but we’ll see when that happens.) One of the habits I was working really hard on was to actually make a solid attempt every day at hitting 10,000 steps, which meant that we started taking a family walk nearly every evening after dinner. Once it started snowing and the temps dropped too close to the 0-degree mark, we stopped doing this, but during the months when we were doing it, it was AMAZING–it gave us built-in outside time, as well as time to catch up as a couple and time out as a family.
We are definitely picking this right back up again as soon as the weather will permit.
15. Adult friendships are funny, funny things.
When our good friends the Shipleys moved away, Matt and I took it upon ourselves to now be the “family who invited people over.” So we started inviting over various couples in the neighborhood for games and treats and occasionally dinner, and it was so interesting how that simple Sunday habit found us some of our closest friends, including the cozy little group with which we now work hard to spend at least one night a month planning something special.
Proximity definitely plays a key role in keeping up with many of our friendships now that we’re adults, but sometimes, all it takes to find your next closest friend is just inviting someone over for brownies and a game of Carcassone. Truly, I owe many of our closest friendships to that very formula, and I’m so grateful for it.
(It also must be noted that since proximity does seem to play such a key role that it’s also VITAL to make seeing those friends who are not so close a priority, otherwise it’s all too easy to go nearly a whole year before you realize that you haven’t seen each other in all that time!)
16. I am stronger than I think, but I’m also more vulnerable than I think.
Going through hard times before has taught me that I’m often much, much stronger than I think I am, but this year, our trials also reminded me of my own vulnerability–they made me re-learn that in the end, nothing is truly ever in MY hands, and that I just need to learn to trust in my Heavenly Father more.
My faith definitely went through a period of hard refinement this year, especially as I watched all too many go through crises of faith that ended (at least for now) with them turning away from their faith, or at least openly doubting and questioning it. For me, all the hard things I felt this year pushed me to seek more answers in scriptures and less in social media (hallelujah), and more peace found in prayer and less found in naturally peaceful circumstances. In other words, my faith this year was hard-won in a lot of ways, but it is much stronger as a result.
Now I know that whenever I’m feeling doubtful, I can turn to those two sources–prayer and scriptures–and be re-filled with the bright fire of faith and hope. As someone who has admittedly slacked a bit in those areas (especially scripture study) the past couple years, the lesson was one that really needed to be learned again.
17. Although I love trying to predict my own future, true happiness and contentment for me is found by consciously living in the present.
I have always been a very future-oriented person—I love making lists, making plans, and dreaming of what the future surely most hold for me. As I’ve been forced to change my own life plan over and over and over again, however, I am finally learning that while it’s still important to look ahead to the future and plan for it, I need to consciously take time each day to enjoy just exactly where I’m at, to literally count my blessings right at that very moment, and to just let myself be in that space of time, no matter what that means.
Admittedly, this has also been the key to getting myself through especially hard moments this year because I’ve noticed that even during the most trying of times, there is still ALWAYS something to enjoy and be grateful for.
I know it sounds really cliche, but it’s a daily practice that has taken me YEARS to even start getting good at–living in the present moment, rather than letting the present be swallowed up in dwelling on the past or planning for the future. I’m sure it’s something I’ll be working on constantly, but at least now I recognize how important it is.
What are some of the important lessons that 2017 taught you?
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