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2022, A Year in Review
Good start, rough middle, happy ending.
Got sick just before New Year’s. COVID rapid test was negative, thankfully. Mild symptoms, so it must be a cold. Trying to coordinate a lot of moving pieces while keeping up with my social life and people’s demands. I’m so very tired, and I’m happy I have 10 days off. Lots of sleeping in, naps, meals, snacks. Finished Better Call Saul, White Lotus, CODA, Grinch, Home Alone, Jingle All The Way. Still got more sleeping to do, and I finally got out on my new ebike. 🚴 🙏
2022 has been the year of grief, eh? And thankfully it’s not just me. Grieving all the familial strife. Spending this summer trying to make up for the summer we lost in 2021. I’ve been grieving my poor relationship with myself, which necessitated a break from work to practise intensive self-care. Having to treat myself as two separate entities in a trench coat, the brain and the body, to trick people into thinking that I’m a functioning grown-up. In ways both large and small, it’s like a lot of my old coping strategies had finally reached their limits, and I had to do a full system reboot to take on life again as an autonomous adult. Spent a lot of time accepting brutal truths and having faith/extrapolating that I’d be okay on the other side. Finding out that even after you complete a major challenge that you thought you couldn’t win, you just have to keep going; if you watched “Stutz” on Netflix recently, they’d refer to it as putting another pearl on the string. Grappling with being diagnosed with ADHD and managing the overgrowth of its unmanagement. Add the cherry on top of having my ebike stolen. 😭
But fear not! I had three significant events this year, and I accepted that they were well beyond my control; even pessimistically suspected I would take the L on all three. However, they’re all wrapping up in my favour, and I’m kinda speechless (he said, with much more speech to follow). Humbled and grateful. I don’t much like to gamble the way some of my friends do in the casino, but it’s inevitable with one’s own destiny. Control is an illusion, and anything else is just anxiety. Alas, I got lucky, and I have at least three happy endings to the year.
Got our cats this year, my kitty Walter taught me a lesson recently. She’s a little ‘fraidy cat that loves cuddles, so within the span of a few seconds, she will come near for pets and brace herself to run away when you approach to provide the pets she asked for (?!!?!!??). And it turns out that both her genetic and adopted cat dads are like that too. So much of my survival has been marked by excessive fear. Foreboding joy. At the most generous, it’s a sad and unfortunate way of walking through the world. At its worst, the privileged will never be able to truly enjoy anything, like the guests at the White Lotus. Walter, she has everything provided for her, like delicious cat food, places to sleep, a cat tree that her dad designed and built, so she is objectively safe and cared for. And despite her natural timidity, she has plenty of brave moments where she explores the space because she’s curious about what Dad is tinkering with today.
In response to my excessive fear, I have to essentially force myself to feel positive emotion. Anhedonia, or the absence of pleasure, is a feature of depression. For example, these winter holidays have brought out the lovelier emotions of gratitude and connection amongst my chosen family. At one such gathering, the focus of conversation moved towards some of my more admirable traits, and it felt so overwhelming I jokingly turned to walk out of the room. Someone asked me why I was running away, and I replied that because of my special brand of family dysfunction, love was always mixed with deep pain, so I initially distrust positive emotion. And sadly, awareness of this shortcoming isn’t enough to make it go away. Some of you never grew up around manipulative abusers, and it shows. (And I’m happy that you never had to go through such an experience, and I hope it stays that way for the rest of your days.) It might seem like I'm so egocentric that I’m fishing for more compliments, but it's like a mental block that’s been programmed into my brain to protect myself from similar pain. Forcing myself to relax enough to receive praise is an odd exercise. Awkward af, but it’s working. I’m not in that environment anymore, so it’s okay to retire this defensive tactic and replace it with the highly advanced technique of “taking a compliment and saying thank you.”
On a lighter note, one of the themes of this season has been to “do it before I forget.” There’s a pinball machine of competing interests that I consider before doing anything important because of perfectionism, and one of the non-idealities of this workaround of “doing it before I forget” is that it indulges my time blindness. There are proper channels for managing my forgetfulness, detailed back in one of my ADHD posts, but it's tedious constantly having to adhere to it. There is a class of tasks that can and should be done in the moment, no matter how annoying or wasteful it might seem at the time. Having not grown up using one, I am still training myself to place dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher rather than the sink. However, the dishwasher isn’t always promptly cleared after the previous cycle, so things build up in the sink. It’s not a big deal, but at least I can scrape the dish’s contents into the rubbish and give it a rinse. In my experience, I’ve never really come back to do it later, so it’s best to “do it before I forget.”
Even when items do get properly scheduled and prioritized, one of the things I hate is when a to-do list item lives in my head for too long time, which is probably a lot shorter than most people's tolerance. I categorize it into the “Important and Not Urgent” quadrant, and it sits there for weeks or months, with periodic reminders that I should eventually get around it when I have time. The right decision is almost always to keep snoozing it yet again, but then it creates a new problem where I want to artificially bump up its priority just to clear it from my mind. Familiarity breeds contempt. Writing for the blog has fallen into that category for *checks notes* six weeks?! Damn. Maybe in the end, prioritizing and snoozing tasks is the right thing for a person with an executive functioning disorder and limited capacity to self-regulate who gets busy, but it annoys me. Surely I must get the timing right on most of the important things. I pay my bills on time.
Nevertheless, it feels like I’m getting better at moving at my own pace. It’s taken years, but I’m finally at a place where I actually stop to listen to my body before making a decision. (It feels like I’ve made this pronouncement several times before, but if you just let me have this moment, I think I might actually stop declaring it.) One central improvement seems to include having conversations with myself. Asking what’s so important that I can’t take a few seconds to myself has been simple and surprisingly effective. I’m a classic people-pleaser, and the healthier, opposite side of the coin is autonomy. Maybe I’ve stopped catastrophizing because my environment has also quieted down. Alas, I’m trying to choose myself first.
I started a habit of a minute of daily meditation this year, and I finally ended the reminders after about 180 days. I’ve heard it said that it takes people around 60 days to build a habit, whereas those with ADHD take a lot longer. I’ve been going without the notifications for a few weeks now, and it’s quite nice. Every day isn’t perfect, but I’ve finally developed the muscle memory to start a meditation when I’m feeling stressed. I learned that the key to fully benefiting from the meditation is to control the flow of air through my mouth. That sounds rather obvious, but it stands in contrast to the ideas of pushing out my belly, relaxing my shoulders, lifting my head, etc. Such movements still occur, but it helps to know which one to start with and focus on. After 20 breaths is when I start to notice the physical relaxation. For most of those 180 days, I had been only practising the deep breathing for 1 minute with about 6 or 7 breaths, so it’s one of those things where I just have to keep going until it works. It seems tedious to stop whatever I’m doing and hyperventilate for a couple minutes, but what’s so important that I can’t stop to take 20 breaths?
In addition to going at my own pace and meditating, a friend reminded me that all of this writing should be for an audience of me. At the start of my blogging, I outlined that its purpose was to be a public diary, to help me flesh out ideas and allow others to join along for the ride, but I lost my way for a bit. Remembering that has been sobering. Then the question quickly turns to why it takes such a high word count for me to be kind to myself. Ugh.
I actually feel a little hopeful for 2023. I tend to have about one crisis per year, so I'm above average for this solar cycle. Not going to say that this is going to be my year, but I think it's going to suck less than 2022.
2022 has been the Year of Grief. Three life events, and three happy endings. Managing unmanaged ADHD. Eliminating excessive fear and forcing myself to feel positive emotion. Moving at my own pace autonomously. Meditating for 20 breaths. Writing for myself. Feeling a little hopeful for the next year, but don’t jinx it.
Maybe I‘ll try to be brave, just like Walter.