Hello friends, 2023 is coming to a close. And it's been a hell of a roller coaster.
I've described this year as simultaneously the worst year of my life, yet one of the most influential and helpful in finding myself. It's a weird combo, but I can explain.
TW: death and grief. Please skip to section 2 if you're uncomfortable with those topics.
The year started with the announcement that my mother was in the hospital. She and I had sort of a turbulent relationship through my adolescence. But for the six months she was hospitalized, there was so much reflecting from both of us. We righted our wrongs with each other, opened up to each other, and created the strongest bond we've ever felt with each other. She became my best friend. My schedule for half of this year became gym, work, visit mom. And despite the fact that she was stuck in there, she always asked how my endeavors were going. She was helping to hold me accountable from in there. When I started my running streak, she wanted me to share with her weekly how everything was going. When I'd add a mile each month, she's always tell me how proud she was of me. It just felt really special sharing my progress with her, and her being so excited for me, despite the situation she was in. Part of me felt selfish telling her that stuff, but she insisted on knowing the latest and greatest.
I was super optimistic about what the future could hold, with our new bond. I mean, we had done so much introspecting that it really did feel like a fresh and new beginning for us. But in June, she ended up passing away. That week of hospice still feels like such a blur. My sisters and I would visit her, then we'd force ourselves to eat something (if we could even muster up the appetite), and then we'd all hunker into our apartment. Separation anxiety was at its height. I think I slept a lot? It felt like such a fast and slow process at the same time. Everything felt like it was falling apart, outside of my control. And we had to plan for her service, with what little energy we had amongst the anticipatory grief. It was all too much to handle. The world isn't fucking fair sometimes, I'll tell you that. I will add, her being in hospice was the most comfortable she ever looked. Snuggled up in a quilt, no more wires. Butterflies and ducks circling outside the window. She finally had an amazing view from her room.
So yeah, I'm bitter. 2023 really flipped my family's world upside down. But when I look at it, I can be appreciative that I had those evenings with her in the hospital, watching E! News and chatting about whatever we wanted. She apologized for things I never expected her to apologize for. I would forgive her. It was simple, but really helped mend a lot of our past conflicts that otherwise might've sat with me in an ill way. With everything we caught up on together, I can remember her in a more clear, positive light. And I can honor her in my own ways, like through long walks in the woods or with music. Even though it ripped my heart out to lose her, mourning my mother is going to help me become stronger. And that's something I need to remind myself. She would want us to be strong for her.
Beyond mentioning that, I did want to wrap up this year by reflecting on how well I might've reached the resolutions I shared at the start of the year. In my first post of the year, titled My Goals for 2023, I shared five main goals I had. These goals were broad, and I liked them that way. I'm human, and I'll work each year to better myself. So for New Year's resolutions, I wanted targets to work towards, even if they didn't have a specific and tangible finish line.
Side note: If you know me, you know I love goals. I set fitness goals at the start of each month that do have a more tangible finish. Like a specific mileage goal to run, or to walk more the following month than the month prior, which I can track and ensure I complete. These are the more tangible things, and as a Capricorn, I thrive on goal-setting and goal-completing.
But when it comes to a longer-term goal, it's just important to set short-term goals between them. Little stepping stones to get to where you need to be. So I want to analyze the work I've been able to put into myself this year, and see what smaller chunks I can break it into to improve further, going into next year. Because if I can thrive on monthly fitness goals, I can add some lifestyle goals in the monthly shuffle.
Previous Resolution 1: Reduce My Sugar Intake
In my January post, I mentioned this being a major goal of mine. Reducing my sugar intake would both help me progress with fitness goals and would help me feel more energized through each day. I also mentioned lifestyle changes I was trying to make included meal-prepping, indulging in ice cream alternatives (because if I want it stick, it needs to be sustainable), and keeping track of each day that I go without taking candy out of the candy bowl at work. Little things, manageable things. Let's talk about how that's held up.
I haven't taken a damn thing out of that candy bowl all year. It was harder in the beginning, but as the year progressed I just kept forgetting it existed. My craving for chocolates and candy has gone way down. My issue with the bowl previously was that once I pulled one candy, I'd be craving a second, then a third. Then I'd crash from the sugar and still have to work for another hour or two. It just wasn't a pattern I wanted to continue, so I made that effort to change it. I'm looking to continue that no-candy-from-the-candy-bowl streak, because environmental triggers like a candy bowl are honestly a major challenge to ignore, and I'm so happy I'm reaching that year mark of not touching it.
Meal prepping is funny. I was going strong through all of Spring and Summer. I think I started having a harder time pulling myself together and actually cooking, come fall. I need to look up alternative recipes for chicken, because I've cursed myself into hating everything that I make. My signature breakfast sandwich is still a go, though! That's stayed consistent. And if I'm rushing, I make peanut butter toast, then have grapes and yogurt. A backup breakfast you say? Yes sir! So when it comes to meal-prepping, my edit to this goal for 2024 would be to challenge myself to a new recipe each month. At least one new one. Even if I need to just make it for dinner first to see if I like it, then bring in leftovers as lunch, I'd love to go that route. Ideally, cooking more dinners for myself in 2024 would be fabulous, but for now, I need to be brave and try at least try a new recipe each month. I'll try to document it on my fitness page to stay accountable.
And lastly, the ice cream. I think I did a pretty good job at this honestly! My sister, who I live with, is a sweet tooth. So I've had some slipups where she's made brownies and we've gone insane on some sundaes. And that's okay! But keeping ice cream alternatives on-the-ready is super helpful for shaking myself out of those sweet tooth moments. Those amazing Greek yogurt berry cups from Wyman's have my heart and soul. There's lots of options out there, so I plan to get back on this now that the Christmas cookie era is over (thankfully...too many damn cookies).
Previous Resolution 2: Improve with Finances
This one is going to be a tough one. My goals at the start of the year were to: pay off my credit card, sort out any overdue medical bills, and grow my savings account. I also mentioned wanting to save for a new car eventually, and to have enough in savings to feel comfortable and secure. Time for the ugly truth.
I've got to do a deep dive on how to do the whole finances thing. I'll put money into my savings account, and even know when all the bills are due, but still I manage to budget improperly. It doesn't help that I'm an impulse spender. I think it's important to invest in your hobbies, but also I feel like that's kind of kicking me in the butt. I want to do all these cool races and runs but it can definitely get expensive. I've also overspend on eating out. Have I reduced how much I eat out? I'd like to think so! But do I still love a scrumptious subway sandwich or a glorious iced latte after I run or hike? Literally every time. It's all I crave. My willpower is at the floor.
So how am I going to curb this? Well, I'll need to face my fear. I'll need to get into my banking app and write out an actual schedule so I can visualize payments. Even if it means I use a notebook or agenda to carry with me. I also need to sort out a specific amount to put into savings and into student loans. What fear was I referring to when I started this paragraph? Looking at my banking app. Yes, I'm afraid of money. I'm afraid of how much I might have, how much I don't have, budgeting incorrectly, etc. It's scary for me. So this is one that I'd like to have a firmer grip on, and if I tangibly write down my expenses each month, I think I'll have an easier time understanding where I'm going right and going wrong with it.
Previous Resolution 3: Stay Consistent with Fitness
Yes, yes, and yes. My reasonings for wanting to stay consistent with fitness were to feel more of a connection with myself, to improve my energy and mindset, and to get closer to qualifying for a breast reduction. And similar to what I said in that January post, I've been crushing this one.
What I didn't know when I wrote that initial post was that about a week after publishing it, I'd begin a running streak that would last through the whole year. And it was also one that would greatly help with that first goal: restoring that connection with my mind and body. Running has helped me through this year. I've been unmedicated this whole year, even through my grieving, so having both this blog as an outlet and having running as a means of active meditation has been essential (that, and I've been seeing a therapist; running isn't a cure-all!). Road and trail running have been the factor in fitness that I used to have an on-again, off-again sort of relationship with. But I've done it so much now, and I've learned so much that I can really feel a read of my body that I've never felt before. I can get into that flow state, I can hit a runner's high, I can tell when my energy is off, I can tell when I'm able to push the pace, I can even tell when a chest cold is coming on (i.e. as I'm typing this post). The active meditation I can do helps my mind, and the understanding of my breathing and health helps my body. Everything feels so much more connected than ever before. So going into 2024, more of this. I've got lots of big goals for running, so that mind and body connection will be crucial.
Improvement in energy and mindset, yes. The energy is slightly impacted by some vitamin deficiencies my new PCP discovered, but beyond that, working out first thing in the morning helps configure my mindset for the rest of the day. I feel energized and super productive whenever I finish a workout. Practicing this discipline and staying consistent allow me to appreciate the days where my energy is thriving, and recognize when it's lacking. Also, in regards to mindset, I've referred to myself in fitness-related posts as being my best friend when I'm out there. Whether it be when I'm strength training, or if I'm on a long run, I occasionally have to speak to myself out loud with some positive affirmations. Like, "I'm almost at the halfway point, then I can turn around", or "this hill is tough, at least my energy feels great today!", or "one more set, just one more set!" Little things like that are so helpful in maintaining that positive mindset and in continuing to enjoy returning to the gym or to the trails every week. Again, my take on this in 2024 is: more of this please. I'll keep the affirmations flowing.
As for the breast reduction, we're on that criteria weight. I don't like to throw out numbers, because everyone's bodies are so different from one another, but I do need to be at a specific weight, and prove that I can maintain that weight, before I can get a breast reduction. I'm crossing my fingers that I lose the fat in my breasts authentically, so I don't have to pay for a gender-affirming reduction (because ultimately, that's what it is for me). But at the time that I'm writing this post, I'm right on that number, and 40lbs down from where I started. Scales are weird, so I ideally want to dip lower that that criteria weight before having it logged by a doctor (that's when the timer starts for maintaining it for a 6 month window before the procedure). It's all complicated. But my 2024 goal is to stay consistent, improve on those other elements when it comes to the nutrition side of things, as mentioned above, and hopefully it'll all fall into place. But if a procedure needs to happen, and I don't magically lose the fat in my chest authentically, then I can really sense it's coming in 2024-25. It's so close.
Goals in this arena included things like selling at more events, incorporating more design into my general blog posts, and incorporating design into other elements that I can add onto my store tab. Let's see how it's all gone.
Selling at events, yes! I've collaborated with my dear friend Shianne at Fern & Freya and we've set up some beautiful booths together. I have a game plan for how I'll be at more events in 2024. I don't want to give away my secrets just yet, but I've got some really cool connections at the moment, and I'd love to expand where I show and sell my work.
I've made a huge point to incorporate design into my posts this year! I like making those collage kind of elements, where I can use multiple photos and lots of cool layering to make this feel like a bullet journal. Teenage me would be obsessed with the idea of making my blog look like a scrap book, or in this case, a mood board. I'm doing it for her. I plan to continue this in the coming year.
And lastly, improving my shop with more design elements. I accidentally let this go to the wayside. I wanted to create digital templates for people who wanted to track progress in the gym, or on runs. But I need to figure out the logistics first. Everyone trains so differently, so I'll need to get that sorted out. I will say, I might be going back to school in 2024, so if I get more familiar with more web-based design and marketing, that may help me with this one.
Previous Resolution 5: Become a Better Sibling/Friend
What I wanted at the start of the year was: to be a better listener to my friends, more supportive of my siblings, and a clearer-minded person for myself. Let's talk about how it's going.
I think I've improved with listening to friends. I have ADHD, and my way of talking with friends is to relate and bounce back and forth with them. My best friend Tori and I have talked about this, how we both get excited and have a tendency to interrupt sometimes. We're listening, but we're excited! I've tried to make a more active effort to read the room sometimes, and to shut my damn mouth (depending on who I'm with) and listen. But this is something I still need to improve on in 2024. I'm the kind of person who wants to help friends using advice, but some people aren't looking for advice. They sometimes just want to vent. And I get that! So 2024 will be me continuing to be mindful, and to even ask how to best help if they want help.
The bond with my siblings has of course gotten stronger through the mess of a year we've had. Beyond that, I've appreciated them supporting my running and even coming to my 5k. I've supported my brother by attending his art events. Hell, he just taught me how to play chess last night! With my sisters, I just check in. With the sister I live with, sometimes I offer her dinner or go pester her in her room. And sometimes I'll go and visit my other sister for a bit, even if it's just passing through. I try to text my other brother and other family members just to ask how they're doing. I think it's important to let people know when you're thinking of them. Those are all little ways of supporting, even if it's not anything fancy, like an event or holiday.
Something I also mentioned in my previous post was how I can get reactive and emotional. Well, folks, I've been seeing a therapist this year. Not only has it helped me understand how to set boundaries properly, but it's helped me through grief and through stopping and realizing that I can't always control what happens around me. I can control myself, though. Sounds simple enough, but my fellow anxious folks might relate to this one. Sometimes it feels like your world is closing in when you're anxious or upset. You're feeling things so strongly. But learning to stop and to ask myself what can I do to improve this situation? has been a saving grace. If it's something that'll just make me upset, I walk away. If it's something I can talk through, I need to articulate that in a kind and calm manner. Our anxious feelings are valid, but the way we react impacts others.
I have lost friendships this year, but I've also gained friendships. My circle is small, but mighty as hell. And those who are patient with you and who are supportive of your lifestyle changes are angels. Don't take them for granted.
2024 will be full of supporting my friends, maintaining clear boundaries, and practicing calm.
So those are my revamped resolutions in a nutshell! In short, 2023 was simultaneously the worst, yet the most introspective year of my life. Having my biggest fear happen by losing a parent was a nightmare. And I'm still navigating through it. But learning more about myself through the grieving process and through mindfulness and therapy make me feel like I can handle anything. I'll be even stronger in 2024.