Well folks, 2016 is officially over.
Between the election (don’t worry, I’m not even going there) and everything else that happened (side eye to you Brad & Angelina), let’s all be real here: It was a bumpy ride, yes?
But take heart, dear readers, because it wasn’t a total wash.
We did learn a few things along the way.
CHECK YOUR JUNK MAIL!
I cannot tell you how many times this year I sat wringing my hands, checking my inbox, or even foolishly ignoring it, ultimately having no clue that emails were just sitting in my junk mail collecting dust. And I don’t just mean Old Navy ads and those pesky emails from the dealership where you bought your Chevy Traverse 4 years ago.
I mean like, important emails.
“Oh, that editor actually wants to have lunch with you and she needs to know if Wednesday works? Cool, cool, cool. You should probably just sweat bullets, assume she’s never going to respond, and that you’ve clearly made the whole thing up, only to discover at the last minute that she had emailed you DAYS ago.”
“Oh, you’re going on a podcast and you’re wondering what the questions will be, but you’re not sure if it’s kosher to ask? You should probably just wing it, only to discover 17 minutes after you nervous-talked all that nonsense about your recurring Amy Poehler dream to your gracious interviewer, that he had, in fact, emailed you offering to show you the questions ahead of time.”
“Oh, you just yanked your two grumpy children out of bed and hauled them to school because you didn’t see the email from the school district about the snow day?” In the famous words of Adam Sandler in the Wedding Singer, “This information would’ve been useful to me yesterday!”
People of the Internet! Learn from my mistakes!
CHECK YOUR JUNK MAIL.
BALANCE IS A MYTHICAL BEAST
I’m not referring to one’s ability to simply not fall over or walk at an angle like Liza Minelli did when she played Lucille 2 on all those episodes of Arrested Development. You’ll recall she was Buster’s much elder love interest who shared not only his own mother’s name AND age, but whom also suffered from an extreme and hilarious case of Vertigo.
No, I’m talking about that other mythical beast that refuses to be wrestled to the ground and subdued. That 8 headed monster that is one part health & fitness, one part spiritual & personal growth, one part pursuing your dreams, one part staying on top of the laundry pile, one part keeping the marriage passionate, one part community service, and, well…you get the idea.
I’m not saying your life should feel like a monster, and if it does, that’s probably the first sign that something’s gotta give. But I’ve already committed to this metaphor so let’s just roll with it, okay?
Maybe your 8 headed beast looks a little different than mine, but here is the thing, dear reader: Trying to tame all 8 heads of that beast (or 10, or 12, or however many things you’re attempting to master at once) is like playing the world’s most impossible game of Whack-A-Mole.
You can’t do it.
So don’t set yourself up for failure.
Pick the things that matter the most to you and let go of the things that don’t. You can’t do all the things at once and do them all well.
The good news is that no one can. The other good news is that you don’t actually have to. Which brings me to the next and biggest thing I learned this year:
IGNORE YOUR INNER CRITIC
2016 was my year of “yes” and for the last 12 months I’ve found myself participating in a much more adventurous story than the one I’d been living all my months before that. It was more risky, more fun, more exciting, and far better than the story I was attempting to write for myself.
Sure, my own story would’ve been easy, but I mean, how dull is that?
God doesn’t write boring stories.
They are full of risk and romance, rise and fall, glory and grit. We need only to choose to participate in them.
So I did.
I said yes to so many things this year that straight up terrified me, but that enriched my life in the doing.
From public speaking (hello nervous diarrhea and waking up in a cold sweat! Nice to see you again! *deadpans to a camera that isn’t there*), to traveling across the country for my first writing workshop, to actively pursuing our house-flipping dreams, to finding ourselves randomly auditioning for an “HGTV” type reality show, to being rejected by said show, to continually spilling my guts stream-of-consciousness-style on the worldwide web where people can actually read it, I’ve been saying “yes” to all kinds of things I used to shy away from.
So I should feel proud of myself, right?
True, my yeses this year have taught me a lot about the benefit of embracing risk, but they’ve also taught me that my inner monologue has a tendency towards the critical. I’m actually very hard on myself, and I didn’t even realize it until just recently.
Every time I chose to say “yes” to something new I felt like I was upping the ante for myself but my inner critic was always right there, loudly calling my bluff, and tapping her fingers on the table just waiting for me to fold.
She’s a lot like the mean girls in Mean Girls.
She didn’t tell me I’m only allowed to wear pink on Wednesdays but she did say a lot of other really messed up stuff like,
“You’re totally making a fool of yourself.”
“You shouldn’t have spoken so openly about your dreams because you probably won’t accomplish them. How embarrassing is that going to be for us? YOU BLEW IT!”
“Boo! Yawn! We all know you’re never going to write a book anyway, so can we just call it and go eat some Taco Bell instead? Maybe watch some Netflix?
“Come on. What’s taking so long? Hurry up and be great. Do better. Tick Tock, everyone’s watching.” (I mean, really. Who says Tick Tock anyway? So obnoxious. That alone should’ve tipped me off.)
My inner critic is seriously such a bully.
It took me a while, but I’ve realized that I don’t actually have to listen to her.
That I can’t.
That I mustn’t.
That it’s okay to just CALM DOWN ALREADY and to give myself some real and actual grace.
Like, what a concept!
I know. I’m a little slow on the uptake, guys. What can I say.
2016 may have been a rollercoaster but if anything, it taught me to buckle up and enjoy the ride.
I’d love to hear from you, dear friends! What did you learn in 2016? Was it a good year? A hard year? Tell me your stories.