Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: The Year in Review

I rarely make New Year's resolutions. They must work for other people or they wouldn't continue to be so popular. But for me, writing resolutions reminds me of students who come into my office during the last week or two of class and ask what they need to do to pass the class. To at least get a C and pass the class. And then after I've given a discouraging list of what they've missed and why they can't possibly make it up, they promise they'll somehow make it all up anyway and impress me and get an A. It doesn't happen. I don't see many resolutions being kept either. In fact, I like resolutions even less than I like bucket lists.

What I find more useful is looking back over the past year and tallying up the things I've already done. I feel far more successful than if I make a list of the things I need to fix about myself. I've got a constant litany of that shit running on a perpetual hamster wheel in my head already. I admit, this post will be an example of extreme, self-centered navel-gazing. In other words, it's a blog post.

Before I get into it though, I want to say I'd love to read your lists too. What did you do or experience in the past year that made a difference in your life? Feel free to post in the comments or to post a link to your blog if you wrote about it there. What story did your year tell? Here's mine.

1. Of course the most exciting and enduring event of the year was the birth of my first granddaughter, Coraline. My face was a mere 10 inches from Elvira's vagina when that baby finally kicked her way out. Next to the birth of my own kids, it was the most amazing, life-affirming thing I've ever seen or done. I'm so grateful Elvira wanted me in the delivery room with her. Hell, I even felt privileged to change the first diaper. I can't wait to teach Coraline how to play the piano, dance the Macarena, and throw back tequila shots.

2. In January I had to have my faithful hound, Pippi, euthanized. I never managed to write about her last few days here, and I won't now. I'll just say, although she was alert and aware of her family around her, she had stopped eating and drinking; she was ready to go. She'd had bladder cancer for a long time, but I think she hung in there to get me through my divorce, the kids moving out, selling our family home, moving, and one last round of holidays before she had to cross over. I still catch myself wanting to call her when I drop food on the floor. I still miss her.

3. Although I was cast in my first play the last part of 2010, my involvement in the theatre community continued to grow through 2011. I performed in two plays: Octette Bridge Club, where I had my first big ensemble role, and Scrooge, my first musical. I also stage-managed for the first time for "Master Harold" ... and the boys. Even more important, I found myself fully embraced by a community of talented, hard-drinking working, crazy-ass people who both fascinate and terrify me with their brilliance. I feel nothing but gratitude that I've been allowed to play with them at all. (Yes, of course I meant the pun.)

4. I bought a bike! I don't know if I mentioned it here, but I bought a new bike! I rode some hundreds of miles on the bike trails and city streets, learned I'd rather ride in 98-degree heat than in 68-degree moderation, and again met some new friends along the way. I even--although I said I never would--wore bike shorts. I look like an Eastern European sausage in them, but my lady parts appreciate the padding, and I feel like one of the cool kids. The only negative experience I had was that whole concussion business, but I'm not going to do that again.

5. I got serious about writing on this blog. The proof is right here. I wrote every day in November for NaBloPoMo, even if I had a living room full of people and I had to leave my own party to write. I'd type frantically trying to meet my midnight deadline, hit publish, and hear somebody with a smart phone say, "She's done. She posted." It was a challenge, but you helped me get through it. Thanks for your support.

6. I danced on a pole and in a moveable cage in a club. When I say I danced on the pole, I hope you don't imagine me .... like, humping it or anything. I don't hump. I have more class than that. I was performing some kind of lame gymnastic feat that simply left me with sore muscles in every part of my body and large bruises every place the pole touched. And I only allowed myself to be encouraged into the cage the night I wore jeans. Nobody needs to see Mom's panties from the dance floor. My only regret is that I didn't have on white go go boots. More on this issue in a later post.

7. Drake and I made some repairs that saved me some major bucks. Last winter we replaced all four brake pads and rotors on my van. They were shot to hell, so it took us hours to pound the rotors off with a sledge hammer and put everything back together. But we did it. And the other night we fixed my 16-year-old washing machine. I was ready to go out and buy a new washer/dryer set, but some  handy Facebook friends talked me into looking inside the machine first to see if it could be fixed. Sure enough, Drake figured it out and fixed it with nothing but a drill and a screwdriver. The kid probably saved me $5000 or more this year. I asked him if he was ready to drop a new tranny in the van, but he's not so sure he wants to take that on.

8. I killed my first turkeys. They were delicious. I'm still enjoying turkey soup.

9. I flew an airplane.

10. I took a sex education class for adults at my church. Why? Mostly to support the program. And because I would have been talking about sex anyway. Might was well do it in a class. Talk, I mean.

11. I also participated in a mentor program for the junior high class at church. It's possible I got more out of it than my mentee did. We even performed together with another of the girls before she moved to Indianapolis last summer. It was the first time she sang in public and she was amazing.

12. I only played one big gig last year, but it was with Elvira's boyfriend and we played at a seminary. Metal meets folk.

13. I started reading tarot cards again. If you're interested, shoot me an email for prices and to make an appointment. Over the phone or in person. Either works. I have a couple of surprising stories from this last round of readings, but I still don't believe in that shit.

14. I don't teach in the summer, so the last few years I've taken on an independent study project. Usually it's something that has forced itself into my life either through my own personal experience or because so many people are telling me similar stories and I can't ignore the connections. In 2010, it was alcoholism and addiction. In 2011, it was topic that turned out to be linked: sociopaths. I'm not talking Dexter or Hannibal Lector; serial killers don't interest me. I'm talking about the sociopaths who are fucking up ordinary people's lives by trapping them in fucked up relationships and killing their souls. I heard so many stories over a period of months about the same kinds of behaviors and characteristics-- extreme self-centeredness, lying, grandiosity, lack of empathy, purposeful cruelty, unapologetic using of (alleged) loved ones--I couldn't help but dig into what the fuck was going on. How do these people get away with this shit? And at my advanced age, I finally put on the mantle of cynicism I should have donned when I put out my hand for my social work degree. I used to think people were basically the same on the inside, just molded in different ways by genetics and experience. I was so wrong. Anybody watch Grimm?  The monsters are out there, and you probably even know a few of them. Sometimes there really is an "us" and a "them," and they understand us better than we understand them. I was going to write more about this subject, but it's a dark topic. Sociopaths get their only pleasure from manipulating other people and causing pain. I steer clear of them. And yet I'm still dealing with the fact that sometimes I think I'd rather be one of them than the empathic, vulnerable sucker woman I am.

15. I almost didn't write about this last one, but I can't tell the truth about this past year without including it. Although--see me flap in the breeze--I may delete it in the morning ... but as long as the situation remains unresolved......What the fuck. My only loyalty is to the truth and it's my story. Over the course of several months, I got involved with someone I eventually came to care deeply about. I had reasonable and significant concerns about certain issues, but I listened to his stories. I believed his intentions, where he wanted to go next in his life ... I believed his tears when he asked me not to give up on him ... and I chose to hang in there. In spite of the red flags, I loved spending time with him, finding small adventures, looking forward to new ones. I wish like hell I could write here about those things instead. I'm not sure what happened as things progressed--well, that's not true. I know exactly what happened and I don't think it really had that much to do with me--but somehow I found I'd suddenly been flung back into some crazy, lame version of junior high school and there the situation sits like a smelly, stagnant lagoon. The only thing that really concerns me--because this is somebody else's cesspool, not mine--is how severely I misjudged, not the situation, which I saw clearly, but his character and how he was capable of behaving. I wouldn't have predicted this outcome. So I have had to admit, I know now I can't necessarily trust my intuition and empathy like I thought I could. I fucked up.

I've come to the conclusion that my propensity to believe the best about people I care about isn't serving me well--and this isn't the first time. I'm not sure I can change, but for my own good, I believe I should. I need to learn how to give up on some people--and I should start with this one. I haven't yet, because I said I wouldn't (I hear that Who too, Horton!), but I have no choice. Yet even in this painful, ridiculous situation I feel more sympathy than anger. I know how hard it is to search for your true self after you've tried to please other people for so long, to try to metamorphose into a person you can like, or even love, when you have no experience loving yourself. Lots of us struggle to find our own acceptance. Sometimes it's easier and safer to become that which you claim to hate, and from my perspective, that's what happened. He became that which he claimed to hate. I suppose that can cause some pretty fucked up behavior.We've all seen Mean Girls and a dozen variations, right? I've sat on the edge of that myself, and I've seen others struggle too. It's not easy to answer the question: what am I willing to do to keep what feels secure in my life, even when I know it's choking my soul? Been there. It doesn't always have a happy ending like the movies. But I tried to resolve this situation, and I was rebuked. Damn it gets lonely up here on the high road.

I hate to end this post on such a downer. Looking back through that list, I had an amazing fucking year. I am truly blessed--especially by the people in my life, the people who love me whether I deserve it or not. I'm so excited about the new friends I made and will take forward into 1012, and the plays, music, writing, parties, bike rides, even unimagined adventures I anticipate. (I did notice that oxymoronish bit there.)

Mostly though, I'm excited to find out what that wild card Miss Serendipity has planned for me. And let's not forget that the new year could hold lots of ....

16. Cookies!

 May your new year bring you a glut of whatever you love. And peace.


  1. Great list. I hate that experience of wondering where the hell my intuition was as I waded into a lake of crazy.Cliche as it is, I had a life-changing experience last year with the book Codependent No More, and I only admit that publicly in case it can be helpful to you. It really was the right message at the right time, and doesn't need to revolve around addiction.

  2. What a list! You've inspired me to write one. I should do that. Sometime. We'll see.

    Seriously, though, this is a pretty amazing list, and so many good memories and important (if painful) knowledge to carry into the new year. Happy new year! <3

  3. Welcome, Pancake Goddess. Yes, I've read the co-dependence literature--believe it or not! I knew I was getting close to--love this metaphor--the lake of crazy. It's a big lake. And I still took the risk. I'm afraid of what I'll miss if I protect myself. And I would have missed some excellent moments.

  4. Write the list, AutoD. You might be surprised to find a few gems in there. I had to just stick to the big stuff. If I'd included the small joys, I'd have run out of bandwidth on Blogger.

    Happy new year. Really. <3

  5. I just want to say how much I do enjoy your posts. You are a great writer and I learn a lot from you, not only from your writing, but in the many other ways you've helped me over the past years.

    Since I "Liked" your page, does that mean I don't have to subscribe? My Google Home Page is getting full, so if "Liking" you here (I like you elsewhere too!!) is adequate, that's good.

    Peace, love and Happy New Year!!

  6. Thanks, Rollo. I love you too. <3

    Liking my FB page just means you'll get a notification and hyperlink when I publish a post. But the entire post won't show up on a feed like it would on Google reader. You'll have to click into my blog to read. The same as if I were posting it from my personal FB account to my wall.

  7. I saw you had blogged this, but wanted to wait until I had a quiet moment to read and ponder....I knew I would need "ponder time," because I often do with your posts. And I thank you for that.

    I like year-in-review posts/articles, so I'll post when I do that. I'm still retro-writing Christmas! lol

    I just want to say something about you not being able to trust your intuition like you thought you could. You can. Your intuition is EXCELLENT. You heard that voice in you saying, "uhhhh, not a good plan" but you overruled it. That's perfectly okay. But it's not your intuition that led you wrong. And I'm not sure it was "wrong" per se. You were attached to an outcome and you were bound and determined to make it happen. And that doesn't always work out. But it wasn't your intuition. That, my dear, is perfectly intact. Trust it.

    I'm sorry if this is too much for a comment box. Or if it's just plain irritating. But intuition is one of those things that means a lot to me. And so do you.

    Looking forward to more blogging in 2012! Thanks for always being encouraging!

  8. No comment is too long, says the queen of too-long blog posts. And I'm never annoyed by comments.

    You're right, of course, I continued past flashing red lights, blaring sirens, burning buildings, and other people running away screaming "Get out!" I not only knew, I said somewhere toward the beginning that it would turn out something like this. I wasn't the one who didn't believe that would happen, and I was willing to let him try.

    Really, I'm still that trusting toddler who will take someone's hand and walk down the sidewalk toward the park, no matter how many times the trip ends in bitter disappointment just across the street from the playground. I always think this time we'll go play and have fun. And the same thing still happens when I'm honest about how I feel when I find out I was fooled. I'd like to think I'll figure the lesson out one of these days, but at this point it's more likely the best idea is to not take the risk again.

    Now that's a comment that's too long!

    I'm so glad you're writing more, Sue. I love reading your blog. Happy 2012.

  9. I think that would depend on which risk you're talking about.
    The risk of trusting someone, I'd take that one again.
    The risk that comes when you ignore your gut, that's a risk I'd skip.
    Don't be hard on yourself. Don't deprive yourself either. Just talk to yourself like you would your own child. How 'bout like this,
    "Oh..what's that you're up to sweetie? I know he's cute. But you are completely aware of how this particular show plays out. Because you're smart like that. I know; I'd like the plot to change too. But we're not the writer for his drama. He is. And this is how he's writing it. So let's go to that park now. Let's find some fun that doesn't hurt. Maybe the ice cream truck will stop"
    There's my little visual for ya, Carol. {{Hugs}}

  10. Sue, you have no idea how I despise the sound of ice cream trucks. Maybe some cookies though. ;-)

  11. Ta da!

  12. See what an amazing year you had?!? You have to see you rocked that shit. It's right in front of your face--forest or not.

  13. I applaude you for putting yourself out there and living life to the fullest. I see a wonderful 2012 ahead for you.

    After a long illness I got to do many things I had been missing for so long in 2011. I got to hike,bike,travel,target shoot and eat whatever I wanted for the first time in three years and it was glorious!

    It tickles me every time you mention cookies because I used to have a cookie business, D'licious cookies.

  14. A cookie business. Oh you naughty boy! You know what they'd call me if I had a cookie business. ;-)

    I'm so glad 2011 was a fantastic year for you. Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you lose it. (I said that first. I claim it.) I hope you do more of those things in 2012. Peace, Vapor.