23 For 2023

Ah, time for the annual reckoning of the extent to which I stayed on track with my priorities and aspirations for #22For2022. I’ve been at this now every year since #19For2019 and I love how my list has evolved and become a helpful tool to reflect on and organize my priorities and, at least sort of, to keep me accountable and on track to achieve them. Unless I discover by how I actually spend my time and energy, that maybe it’s not as much of a priority as I thought, and maybe, with some self love and self compassion, I could let it go. Sorting into general categories has also been telling and helpful in organization. The short version is that I did a great job of working on my health and well being and mostly improved on being more structured about my daily activities. Modest progress was made in establishing order in my own home and that of my parent’s, yes, the probate still drags on, it’s a nightmare I’m not talking about much these days. Getting my personal and financial affairs in order received about zero of my time and attention, save some frustrating job searching and lots of student loan paperwork, and is going to need a lot more work.

The notion of adding an additional item to list each year will clearly reach a limit one day, particularly as I strive for so much less of so many things, and if I don’t just change the format altogether, you can bet the added items each year will be aimed somehow at subtracting.

So Here’s How I Did This Year

My one word theme for the year was Go!

This was captured significantly by a major decision I made somewhat impulsively in July—I enrolled in Culinary Arts classes and just finished my first semester and haven’t looked back. That was definitely not something I remotely saw coming last year and one of those golden moments that I didn’t overthink too much and have no regrets.

Get Your Body In Order

1. ✅Walk 22 minutes or 2200 steps daily.

2. ✅ Address multiple health issues that have arisen during the pandemic.

Really proud of how I rocked this first category—it really felt like everything fell apart in 2020 and I’m still sorting and reassembling all the little broken pieces, and if I don’t have my mental and physical well being, getting to any of the other stuff here is kind of a non-starter. While I missed a few days here and there, I stuck to my pledge to walk at least 22 minutes (2200 steps or 1.1 miles), very often it was more like 2 or 3 miles, and on occasion, we’d get in a good 4 or 5 miles going on a weekend jaunt around the neighborhood. I also resurrected my yoga habit thanks to a free course offered by Aly Slaughter . I got a sweet deal on a subscription to the Aaptiv app, which I’ve used semi-regularly to get in short core and yoga workouts. Where I can carry this into next year is to raise the duration, intensity, or frequency in some way, and/or to build some more structured cardio work in somewhere—it’s still not unusual to lose my breath doing some vigorous housework these days and I’d be wise to raise my cardio baseline. This year, I’ve had an audiology assessment, my first MRI and my first mammogram. I got the Rona and lived to tell about it. I posted my poop, yes, I shipped my shit, for my first colon cancer screening. I got a general blood panel. I’ve got a little tinnitus from all the rock shows I went to in my youth, nothing severely life altering. My brain, heart, boobs, and butt are all apparently in pretty good shape, and the blood panel says I’m in more or less normal range of all the things. I took a bit of a break from therapy, mostly just because I’ve had an amazing fucking year and I’m using all my tools, and also because Kaiser mental health services have been on strike most of the year, so that’s a thing. I broke up with my GP for reasons I won’t go into here, suffice it to say it’s a good thing. I even managed to get to the dentist twice for exams and cleanings. I’m still following up on routine exams, need to schedule a PAP, of all things in the new year, and follow up on a therapy referral for some trauma work. Overall, I’ve got such a better handle on my well being, am ready to continue and scale up the work where needed, and am confident in the habits I’ve built around this vital area of self care.

Get Your Day In Order

1. ✅Adopt more structured “working” hours.

The big challenge here is that without significant external accountability, I was spending a lot of time in bed, sleeping just a little bit more, taking perhaps a little too much time for transition activities like checking my email, Duolingoing, and probably getting way too sucked into Facebook scrolling, so I decided to adopt my SOs work schedule as a source of external accountability, and it helped a lot. I feel myself slipping back into bad habits here and there, though having a school schedule and ratcheting up my job search have given me additional external accountability that nudges me back to being a good capitalist and adult. Better respecting the items on my calendar is how I improve this moving forward.

Get Your House In Order

1. ✅Purge at least one, preferably more, of existing items for each new one that comes in, especially clothing and accessories, extend to other items where reasonable.

2. Purge jewelry. Not sure how I’d like to measure this, so I’m leaving it open to intuition or guidance from the interwebs or a good book.

3. Have a blanket made from old t-shirts.

4. Sell/purge vintage items.

5. Set up a craft/hustle work space in the garage.

6. Investigate and if available, acquire and install door attachments for hat cubby.

7. ✅ Tackle mending/alterations pile.

8. Create better use of space over shelf in coat closet.

9. Hang decor & pictures.

When you struggle with clutter, it can be a slow and painful process to conquer it, and really hard to remember that your home didn’t get cluttered overnight—you’re not likely to reach Marie Kondo status overnight, either. If there’s one important thing I’ve learned, it is that what matters more than anything are your habits, aligning them your values and is going to make your home a happy place for you. I’ve always been pretty good at not bringing too much new stuff into my life, so I never thought of myself as having much of a clutter issue. I’ve also always been really good at using the shit out of everything I own, taking care of it so it lasts, repairing and reusing when possible, and being mindful, painfully minful of how things are disposed of, so I didn’t really notice the slowly rising tide of stuff in my life over the years, or at least was in denial about it—sure, there are little piles here and there, and things aren’t Martha Stewart level tidy, though I’m more or less organized, and more importantly, I really know where everything is and pretty much always find what I need when I need it. Except that the rising tide of stuff began to bulge and burst, stacks of things threatening to topple over, overstuffed drawers, items more or less gathered and maybe not so organized, maybe I know where it is, but getting too it requires some kind of difficult effort. This is where the unhappiness really starts to creep in, and when I had to start clearing my parent’s house and property, it hit home hard and fast just how bad things can really get if I don’t work on my own shit now. I know what needs to be done, I want to work on it. And, after basic day to day adulting, I’m usually just out of spoons. This is especially why I find it so important to focus on the habits rather than the daunting load of things I want to get done. I’ve prioritized keeping my kitchen in order, for example, making cleaning, tidying, organizing, and restocking part of my morning routine around getting coffee going, feeding my cats, and feeding myself, and it’s paid off dividends in my sanity and elsewhere, because when simple accomplishments in my kitchen happen at the start of my day, it often motivates me to keep moving and get other things done, as well. Learning to measure in time rather than tasks makes everything more manageable, even if slower to change. The One Minute Rule, for example, encourages microtasking and getting lots of small things done that you might otherwise put off and quickly add up to neater, more organized spaces. Setting out to work on a given space or task for a set amount of time, whether 10 minutes or two hours or all day, is usually a more achievable goal, and therefore more motivating and satisfying. There’s a big difference between, “spend 15 minutes decluttering the cleaning supplies in the garage,” and “clean the garage,” and the things you can get done in small chunks instead of waiting until you have the spoons to tackle the whole thing is amazing. Between my new life as a student, continuing to cultivate my culinary endeavors, my ongoing responsibilities to my parent’s estates, ongoing work to continue improving my physical and mental well being, and my frustrating search for employment, I definitely have a lot going on, and on a day to day basis, it takes most of my spoons to keep up with maintenance and pushing back the constantly encroaching tide of clutter and stuff, let alone continuing to whittle away at the many lingering happiness stumbling blocks in my home. I’m so grateful to have the partner I do, because he sees the struggle I have in this area and just quietly supports me by doing some of the work for me, not without notice, not without involving me in decision making, just gentle nudging and heavy lifting and other facilitation that has made significant inroads on the work I’ve wanted to get done in the garage. He’s even gone into the closet on a number of occasions and packed a bag of clothes for donation, which is easy to do one bag at a time with two drop off bins between our house and where we do a lot of grocery shopping, and a cool little thrift store just a little further down. “Do you have anything you want to take?” he’ll ask casually, and not push the matter if I don’t. Part of this process, too, has a lot to do with me changing my habits around my relationship to some of the stuff and acknowledging the stories I tell myself about it and getting firmer about discarding and letting go, which I’m getting a little better at every day, because I’m tired of not quite having enough space for everything, I’m tired of needing to be a weight lifter or contortionist to get at something I might not use often and is kind of packed away. I’m tired of not having the time or space or energy for projects I’d rather be doing than trying to clear the time, space, or energy to do it. I’m tired of taking care of or not being able to take care of things I can’t or don’t use because I’m busy using or taking care of other stuff. I’m tired of holding onto broken things that might be usable or otherwise repurposed. And I’m especially tired of holding onto perfectly fine objects that carry stories of painful or traumatic events in my life. I’m definitely in a place where if I’ve got multiples of something and not quite room to keep all of them in an organized, efficient way, than maybe the surplus in the least desirable or worst for wear can go out into the universe somewhere, maybe even of value to someone else, and I can do my best to ease them out in an environmentally conscious way. There’s also a limit to how many bags of plastic bags, old rags, plastic utensils and reusable containers and jars I have space for, let alone actually use, and I’m sadly tossing more and more of it in the trash and learning to feel less bad about it. No amount of vigilance seems to keep all of these items out of the house and I’m learning to breathe through the anxiety they cause and just deal with it. Likewise still working through nearly a lifetime of clothes, shoes, and accessories, and making progress, however small. And this list? I look at this list and realize why none of it really got done. These are happiness stumbling blocks, yes, I want to work on them, yes. And every time I start to, I’m clearly being distracted by other things that seem more urgent, like piles of stuff that actually stand between me and some of these items, or the less tangible frustration of not having my own stream of income, that’s a pretty big happiness stumbling block right now. So yeah, this whole section is getting an overhaul.

Get Your Mom’s House In Order

1. Close probate.

2. ✅Create a clear path of travel through the front office.

To say that this subject is triggering, and frankly, quite painful, is the understatement of the year. Progress, yes, at the speed of bureaucracy, and still far to go. Specificity is really difficult here at this point, but this priority isn’t going away just yet.

Creative Expression

1. Coffee roasting school.

2. Mojo List.

3. ✅Resurrect some language skills.

4. Learn at least 12 origami well enough to execute without following directions.

So important to being a happy human, I’ve definitely got some revising to do here. Duolingo has become a solid part of my morning routine, I’m looking forward to a one year streak of daily practice in February, and I’ve started dropping in on non-english rooms on Clubhouse now and again to keep flexing and practicing my language skills. I’m excited to add a big one here that I didn’t think to add last year and regret not doing so—I’m working on a book, a food memoir of sorts, at least one, and that’s definitely being added here.

Get Your Finances In Order

1. Generate income.

2. Pay off your student loan debt.

3. Inventory/check in with your portfolio.

4. Write living will.

I made the decision around this time last year to actively re-enter the work force, and a slow, bumpy, disappointing year later, I’m only marginally closer to that goal. Discrimination is real, and real hard to prove. I’ve got some agency support moving at the speed of bureaucracy, and to be fair, I’m looking within some pretty narrow parameters, and learning fast that it was going to be a difficult slog, I couldn’t say no to free structured training in my new field of desired employment, so I went back to school, and that does affect my availability. Definitely feeling the pinch of not having my own independent stream of income and frustrated by rising debts. My modest remaining student loan balance might be on the road to forgiveness, though again, moving at the speed of bureaucracy, so further limiting my employment search to government and non-profit organizations so I can keep working on PSLF. And that other stuff? It’s totally important, too, and just keeps falling behind the day to day money matters.

So What Does All This Even Mean?

It means I accomplished some things, yay me, some really important things, like prioritizing my physical and mental well being above pretty much everything, which often feels really difficult, because I feel like I’m edging out other important things that I could be getting done instead of getting on the floor for 10 minutes of core strengthening, rolling out my yoga mat for 30 minutes of moderate yoga, sitting in meditation for just 20 minutes, then journaling for another 20, making sure I put on shoes and go outside for at least 22 minutes of movement, fresh air, and any urban nature I can get my face in, making sure I put food in my face three times a day and trying to make it nourishing, monitoring my caffeine and alcohol intake, and making sure I’m getting good sleep, all of this shit sometimes feels like a full time job in and of itself, because it kind of is, and I must constantly remind myself that these activities create space for all the other stuff, they don’t take it away. So on days when I kind of don’t want to go out for a walk, I know those are the days I need it the most. The days I don’t want to roll out the yoga mat, those are the days I just show up and try to do a little more than I think I can. Because this is the work that matters the most at the end of the day; without this work, and it is relentless all day, the other work suffers.

It also means I didn’t get some other things done, and that’s okay, because I’m also actively working on self-love and self-compassion, and every day, or every year in this case, is another opportunity to try again or start over or even just quit, because sometimes learning what’s not working is just as valuable as getting something done.

So here’s my updated list for 2023:

Word for 2023: Love

I’ll never forget a moment about a dozen years ago, not long after I’d moved to the Bay Area, a girlfriend from high school and her SO came for a visit and I showed them around the Asian Art Museum, where I used to volunteer monthly. There was an interactive exhibit at the time, for which each guest was given a handful of small stones to cast into large acrylic tubes to vote their choices at a handful of installations. We approached one, asking each patron to cast a stone for love, money, or fame. I paused. A divorce recently behind me and a lot of heartbreak before that, and unbeknownst to me, a decade of single status lay ahead. Relatively new to full time working life and feeling ambitious at the dawn of my career, determined to do better for myself than those who came before me. I wanted to be an actress when I was younger, though celebrity really didn’t have that much appeal. I acknowledged that I was giving up on love and was optimistic about the potential fruits of my new professional endeavors. I plunked a stone in the Money cylander. My friend looked at me dourly and said, “I‘m so disappointed in you” and we moved on. I’ll never forget the twinge of guilt disappointing her made me feel. I really needed to go through a lot before I’d really believe in love again. 15 or so years later I’d find myself deep in the cold mountains of Central Asia actively embracing my status as a single, middle aged woman who was probably going to stay that way, and my career choices were also imploding, so not to say it was an existential crisis or anything, but it kind of was. And then the love of my life walked into my crappy little Bishkek kitchen and my life and my understanding of love has never been the same.

The thing I’ve really learned over the years, though, is that you have to actively choose the things you want, not wait for them to come to you. You can train your brain to fix on and attract the things you want, and I’m not getting all hippy dippy or trying to sell you on The Secret or anything, it’s really just brain science, your brain is super plastic and believes everything you tell it. So if you’ve got your negativeshitfinder out all the time, you’re going to find a lot of negative shit. And as my perception of love and all it’s possibilities has shifted over the years, it seems to just keep appearing more and more on my radar, and those who know agree, love is really kind of the answer to everything. That, and planting trees, this, I believe. I might just keep this as my one-word theme for every year moving forward, and let’s just at least make it official in 2023: find the love, respond with love, give and receive love, and just love without condition. Let’s see what happens.

And The Practical Stuff: 23 For 2023

Get Your Finances In Order

1. Generate income.

2. Pay down credit cards.

3. Pay off your student loan debt.

4. Inventory/check in with your portfolio.

5. Write living will.

Get Your House In Order

1. Declutter, edit, or otherwise organize any space for 10 minutes every day.

2. Gather all the blind tech you’ve been thinking about selling and start posting it.

3. Inventory, edit, and organize photos.

4. Purge jewelry.

5. Have a blanket made from old t-shirts.

6. Sell/purge vintage items.

7. Set up a craft/hustle work space in the garage.

8. Investigate and if available, acquire and install door attachments for hat cubby.

9. Create better use of space over shelf in coat closet.

Get Your Mom’s House In Order

1. Close probates.

Creative Expression

1. Write your damn book.

2. Post 1-2 blog posts monthly.

3. Mojo List.

4. Learn at least 12 origami well enough to execute without following directions.

Get Your Body In Order

1. Walk or other outdoor movement at least 23 minutes per day.

2. Carry the 30 lb. backpack weight on all short, quick neighborhood walks.

3. Bike, hike, and/or camp 6 times.

4. Core or yoga at least 23 minutes per week.

2020 was just a shithole that provided great fertilizer for new growth. 2021 was a lost year of recovery and regeneration. 2022 was the year to bloom and flourish. 2023 is stepping into limitless growth and mind blowing possibilities. And all of the love. Let’s go out and make this world ours! Happy Fucking New Year, you are beautiful and I love you!

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