What have you done in the last year that makes you proud? / What did you learn recently that changed the way you live?

It is important for me to reflect back on the last twelve months of my life. It has been almost a whole year since I sat in this same chair, wrapped in this same blanket, and created this blog. I was so full of intention.

Tonight I am actually writing this from my desktop computer, something that I rarely do, because my laptop is broken again (pretty sure Apple sold me a dud MacBook, but I’m like David over here trying to slay the giant). It’s actually very uncomfortable in our home office – my husband selected the decor, and it’s more for looking at than sitting on. However, it was this same computer that I created this blog ten months ago today, and so it takes me back to a certain time.

Last night I spent some time with a very dear friend of mine. She was a my college roommate, the very first person I met in the United States, and has been close to my heart since I stepped off of that plane over seven years ago. Last week she got engaged to a man that has been such a rock to her, and yesterday she asked me to be a part of their wedding party. Of course, I said yes.

Over the course of our evening together we talked at length about our friendship: the high points, the low points, and the things about each other that we weren’t aware we didn’t know. A few years ago my dear friend went through the biggest challenge of her life, and spent a year battling her way out of it. At the end of this year she met the love of her life, and the rest, as they say, is history. We talked about her tough times, and I shared with her my recent struggles, of which she was not yet aware.

The reason I am sharing this tonight is because I learned a lot about myself last night, and a lot about my friend, and a lot about the way that “most people” live their lives. We shelter the world from our emotions, often choosing to take a personal hit over risking exposing how flawed the world is, and how poorly it has treated us. My friend told me about her own dark path, and the steps she had to take to free herself from it: most of it I knew, but some of it I didn’t. At the end of our conversation I was sad that she had been in that position, angry at the world that had put her there, but mostly proud that she had come through.

When I look back on the last year of my life I am coming to a realization: I am going to be proud of the way I handled myself. I have made the active decision to disassociate myself from some people that have been harmful, and it has been a point of contention, and I really have had to question whether I have made the “right” decision. However, through my conversation with my friend last night I realized that there are people in this world that will take you at your lowest point and twist your soul, and once they have a grip on it they are impossible to shake off. I think that I shook myself free from those people in the last four weeks.

Before I sat down to write this blog post this evening I went into the bathroom to get a glass of water and stared myself straight in the eye. I found myself trying to picture my face a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago, but all I could see is the face looking back at me. Probably, I have not changed that much on the outside, but I feel that also the only person that matters in my life right now is who I am at this moment in time. And I might look tired (I really do look tired), and I might be starting to get some frown lines around my eyes (I’ve been frowning a lot recently), and I might be fifteen pounds heavier than I’d like to be, but I feel like a victor tonight.

Yesterday taught me that I have lived my life right recently. Prior to today I have doubted myself, and wondered if I would live to regret the choices I have made, but tonight I know that absolutely not. I have lived my life right recently, and I am proud of myself, and I really believe that only good things will follow.

Why must you love someone enough to let them go?

Oh sweet, dear blog, how totally adorable of you to think that I MUST do anythibg. You see, Internet, I have learner over the last ten months that there is nothing that I must do other than provide for, and care for, my beloved family.

For this reason I deem your question false. Nothing dictates that I absolutely must let my loved ones goes. I suppose I have always taken the expression to be aggressive : one forcing ones loves ones out due to some intrinsic belief that they will eventually be better off.

Tonight I lay awake half insomniac, half anxiety ridden fiend, listening to my lovely husbands breathing. Over the last few weeks I would have been a mess without him and his support ; a complete mess. As a result of this I take offence that I would assumedly “let him go “. I hate to be contrary but there is nothing I wouldn’t do to keel this man beside me right now…

When was the last time you listened to the sound of your own breathing?

Recently I have been troubled with insomnia. This is one of the cruelest forms of ailment for me, as I am a self -confessed lover of sleep. When I was a teenager I could easily sleep sixteen hours a day, often coming home from school and taken a nap of several hours. My parents told me I would grow out of it, but I never did. Over the years I have mentioned my sleep-proneness to many doctors and have been given many explanations : anemia, written loss, growing pains, social adjustment issues, autoimmune issues… the diagnosis keep coming and yet the symptoms stay the same.

So insomnia is an entirely new thing for me. Well, not entirely new, I had a period in university when I also struggled to sleep, but I wrote it off to homesickness. One thing I have learner from insomnia is that I am a dysfunctional tired person. I literally fail to function. I am cranky, hungry, irrational, and emotional if I have any less than seven hours sleep. Currently I am lucky to get three or four “real” hours of sleep a night.

You see, now I am a “real” adult I have that terrible oppressive and dreaded thing called a routine: get up at 6.45, drive to work at 7.15, home by 6pm, dinner by 7.30, bedtime at 10.45. Our household follows these rules whether my brain plays along or not. So at 11pm each night for the past many, many nights I have been in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to my husbands and hounds reap the slumber-based benefits of a body on a routine.

So as to not upset the balance of sleep for my family it is important to keep sound and movement to a minimum, so I have passed the time as best as I know how – listening to my breathing and trying not to stimulate my brain with anything as radical as a thought.

Most of the time I fail. After realising what an erratic breather I am (something many people have told me in my life but I always considered exaggerated), I have spent my insomnia doing the following things: planning my novel for nanowrimo (its coming along nicely), panicking about nanowrimo (its a pretty big project, y’all), reading (thanks kindle fire), learning how to proficiently use a touch screen keypad for large chunks of text (this blog post is proof of that.. thanks again to my kindle fire), and making a mental list of all the things I plan to do the following day / week / year.

So, as far as my own breathing goes, my conclusion is this : I know this question is supposed to encourage people to slow down and take more time to be introspective, but forced introspection is a terrible thing, especially when doing so jealously listening to the contented snores of three blissfully dreaming bed-dwellers.

Have you ever regretted something you did not say or do?

So today the husband and I went out to dinner at our favourite local restaurant, The Canoe Club in Lake Lotowana, MO. If you’re ever randomly in this area of KC, just east of the Metro, y’all should stop by, it’s amazing. Anyway.. I digress.

So we were enjoying our second drink (mine a merlot, his a mojito), and the husband told me that he thought that I exercised an amazing amount of restraint today. You see, this morning I had the very rare opportunity to be completely honest about a situation that I desperately wanted to be honest about. But I didn’t take it.

You see, when I sat down to have “the conversation” I realized that no matter how effectively I demonstrated my feelings to my audience, my feelings would never mean as much to those people as they do to me. However persuasive I was, however emotional, I would never be able to control the outcome of that conversation, and I would probably always wonder if I could have said it better.

So I decided to rise above the situation, be gracious and kind, and not deliver myself into a situation that would always hurt ME the most.

Will I ever regret this decision, I wonder? Will I ever wish that I had laid it out on the table, given my complete and honest opinion? Would I feel more validated? I don’t know the answer to these questions, however, I do feel calmer and more like “me” this evening than I have in a while. Ultimately, I am not the type of person to use words to hurt a person, even indirectly, and by not being as honest as my husband thought I would be, I was able to leave the room as gracious as possible. I really learned the meaning of “if you throw enough mud at a wall some of it will stick” – in a world where everyone is throwing mud, I want to be the person that thinks that it’s important to rise above it.

What lifts your spirits when life gets you down?

When I first joined Pinterest many months – even years – ago, when it was an obscure website that only twenty-something women that baked had heard of, I came across the following picture. It was the first thing I pinned.

This “pin” summed up in an instant the way that I have felt about the world for most of my life, the most used of these methods being “the sea”. When I was sitting on the veranda looking out at the north sea, it’s currents and creeks tracing paths all the way to Scandinavia, I felt as though nothing could touch me. Since emigrating, I have always been able to lift my spirits or calm my mind by simply wishing myself back there – closing my eyes and imagining the cry of the seagulls, the sound of the waves.

Most specifically, I remember one morning when I was a teenager. My sister and I woke up to an especially high tide, the water being at least a third of the way up the embankment – merely a few feet from our front door. It was a bright, sunny day in early summer, and I remember that we took advantage of the cool, clear morning tide and went swimming. Through the water we could make out the concrete blocks of the bank, some still with beer bottles and candles in them (used for lighting as people stargazed).

This memory, however small, has been one that has carried me through many hard times.

Unfortunately, I think that there are moments in life that are impossible to cure, and that simply have to be endured and escaped from as quickly as possible. Having recently gone through one of the most trying times of my life, one of these impossible times, I have found it harder to conjure this memory when I need it. Instead, I have resorted to numbing my mind with television. Of course, this doesn’t really do a lot to to lift my spirits permanently, but it is a good distraction for me as a pass the time until I am able to rebuilt my spirit, and return back to the sea.

What is the most desirable trait another person can possess?

So, I’m probably writing this from a slanted perspective last night, having spent the last two weeks at home with only my dogs for company, and yet still had to endure two hours of drama created by a person that I have made every effort to distance myself from. My efforts have included leaving my job AND cutting people I value out of my social life purely as a way to safeguard myself from my personal information reaching this individual. Yes, it might seem drastic, and it probably is. However, having spent years working in one of the most dramatic offices I have heard of, I learned just how damaging and enduring this type of environment is.

I’m not a thin-skinned person. I moved from England to the United States when I was 23, leaving all my friends and family behind. I endured wide-spread prejudice against foreign people in the down economy, and applied for literally thousands of jobs before I was able to find one in my field. This job gave me a lot of skills and great experiences, but at the cost of watching people I cared about routinely fired for no longer matching the company vision. However, I loved my company and I loved my job, and never thought that I would leave it willingly. I saw a lot of excellent qualities in the people I worked with: determination, intelligence, strength, insightfulness, and drive. All in abundance. These were incredibly smart, professional, people.

The one quality that lacked was genuine kindness. For years I missed the absence of this, happily blinded and distracted by success and shiny new phones and computers. However, at the time that I faced a time that kindness was needed – when I faced personal victimization from a fellow colleague – it was nowhere to be found.

Many Americans have struggled to understand why this is a good reason to leave a high paying job, my husband included. I will say this, that I don’t want to become the type of person that doesn’t care if kindness doesn’t exist, and is desensitized to workplace bullying. To me, the most important thing for me as a person is to keep my integrity. It is more important to me than money, success, even my marriage. When I have children I will tell them that the biggest achievement they can strive for is to be a good person, a kind person, someone that wants to help others in need.

To me, that’s the most desirable quality another person can have – for me, and for my children, and for any of my friends or family. Kindness transcends all languages, all cultures, and all borders. I hope that I never lose my pursuit of kindness, or that I never learn to devalue it in favour of money, popularity, or success.

What’s the one thing you’d like others to remember about you at the end of your life?

I think that this question is actually very diverse. I wonder if it means in the immediate sense, or in the long-term sense. Unfortunately, I think that one of the terrible curses of departing this life is that over time your personality is forgotten by the huge majority of people. Really, by the time most people face their finality they are immortalized almost exclusively by who they married and any children they bore. I think it would be fantastic if there were more tombstones with snapshots like “she had the best laugh anyone had ever heard”, or, “he once ran a five minute mile”. Those are the things that make a person unique.

As for me, I would like to be remembered for being a good sibling and daughter, rather than wife or mother. But really, I’d like to be immortalized more by what I contribute to the world. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I sincerely hope that when I die there are printed volumes with my name on that live on far longer than I do. Of course it’s an idealistic wish, but then so is wishing to be remembered as a loving wife or a caring mother.

As for the people around me, I hope they remember me for how I really am, rather than immortalize me in some airbrushed version of myself. I hope they put that my rule for life was “ABCD: Anything But Chardonnay, Darling” (taught to me by my Aunty when I was fifteen), or that my favourite vegetable was parsnips. Something fun. I think that truly more people would stop and examine tombstones if they contained actual unique information about the bereaved. Let’s face it, a stone that read “He really thought that “Avatar” was overrated” would stick in a memory and give a truer representation of a person than some over-used phrase.

Ok, maybe I’m on my own on this one, I don’t know. I’m fortunate enough to have never been in the position of burying anyone that I was in a decision making position regarding their immortal representation. However, my husband says he wants the song “Prop me up beside the jukebox” at his funeral, and I intend to honor that wish, even if by the time he precedes me into the earth he is ninety years old and a loyal grandfather.