I decided to make 2016 the best year of my life. So, was it?

A year ago today (Dec. 31 2015) I came up with an odd plan. I read the quote The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood* and I decided to challenge myself to make 2016 the best year of my life. It’s been a year now. How did it work?

Well, implementation was challenging. A few days into 2016 I realized that I had already forgotten my plan, which wasn’t exactly an encouraging start. So I considered how most mornings I write down anything I have to do that day, often adding things I’d like to get to, errands I’ll run if I have time, that kind of thing. This daily note to myself works to ground me, it keeps me from worrying that I’ll forget something important, and it often sets my mood for the day.

Aha. Mood for the day. Well, it looked like I could just make my little lists the key. Soon, instead of merely putting a date at the top, I was writing out things like January 16 2016, the best January 16th of my life. It was a little goofy (and cumbersome) but it got me in the right frame of mind. Why shouldn’t this be the greatest January 16th I’ve ever had? I mean, I don’t remember the others.

The good news was that after a few weeks of this I didn’t have to write out the whole thing. I got the point where I could merely write down February 2, 2016 and the voice in my head would oblige by chirping out the rest. The best February 2 of my life. And instead of yelling at the little voice to shut up, I’d go out the door and try to make it so.

blessed weird 3Some days, I forgot my mission by the time I got to my car, as a minor irritation like forgetting my coffee or finding my gas tank low took over and I never recovered. Other days I kept at it for a while, or for all of the day, and occasionally I got a second wind. When any of these happened I actively looked for evidence that this March 10th was special. It won’t surprise anyone that when I did look for evidence of how fine the day was, I found it.

Glitches occurred on days that had strong past memories. Take March 17. It’s going to be hard to ever top the year I was in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, so I had to aim for my second best March 17 ever. Or take March 28, the day my dad died two decades ago. I tried to have a less painful day than usual, one with a bit of unexpected comfort. Yes, I found it, too.

As spring turned into summer I realized that I was helped by the fact that some things about this year really were particularly good for me. I’ve recently moved to a part of the country I like much better, and I’ve been able to go from working full time to part time and to put my extra free time into taking better care of myself and doing more things I enjoy. That’s got to be good, right?

My husband likes to point out how we seldom notice what doesn’t happen and he’s right. Late summer and early autumn brought more time than usual with those I am close to, and my new focus forced me to notice how those I love have remained healthy and safe this year, and even in many cases found more happiness of their own. Wow. A good year for them is a better year for me. Chalk up more evidence on the “best year ever” side.

But not everything in 2016 could be classed as “best ever.” There were challenges I did not anticipate on December 31, 2015. I believe strongly in tolerance and in the important of treating each other with compassion and consideration. As the presidential race came into the home stretch, and concluded with the worst of all possible outcomes in my opinion, I was horrified that so many of my fellow humans placed such little importance on these traits. I’m still trying to get my arms around that, and around my own fears for the future based on the outcome of the election.

raising ecstacy 1So, was 2016 the best year of my life? Probably not, though it offered me a lot for which to be thankful.

Was it a better year than it would have been without this goofy challenge to myself? Absolutely.

Is 2017 going to be the best year of my life? Maybe. Probably not, but I hope it will be. Am I going to try to make it so? You bet I am.

Tomorrow’s little list will say “January 1, 2017, the best January 1 of my life.”  I’ll take it from there.

(Visit “My Best New Year’s Resolution Yet” to read my Dec. 31, 2015 promise to myself to make 2016 my best year ever.)

*The quote is from François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), more commonly known as Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer famous for his wit and his advocacy of freedom of expression. He also said Common sense is not so common and Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. He was man at least 300 years ahead of his time.

Happy yet? Yes, I believe that I am.

Today is Christmas, a day in which much of the western world wishes each other joy. We do this while congregating together for hours on end while eating too much, often drinking too much and sometimes setting unrealistic expectations about gifts, camaraderie and good cheer.

mind unleashed 1It was in the midst of such a Christmas day today, with my second Kentucky Mule in hand, my signature dish boiling over on the stove and a pile of dirty dishes that would daunt a restaurant staff in front of me, that I realized I was happy.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a blinding revelation. I’m generally content, and I understand that I’ve been blessed with too many blessings to count. It was just one of those moments when one realizes that these are the good times. My family is here and healthy. A new boyfriend, included today as a first time guest, is not only pleasant, but he’s a great cook. Our problems are tiny, our love is big, and all the little hassles of the day are just that. They don’t matter.

sungazing6It’s true that drama makes for a more memorable holiday.  We all remember the Christmas when Aunt Dorothy …. Whether we laugh or still wince about that memory is up to us. Today left us with little to remark upon in later years, because great food and kind remarks don’t make huge inroads into your recollections. They just describe a day that goes well.

The happy realization came when it occurred to me that someday, maybe in the far future, when I am searching my memories for the times that were really good, this will be one of them.

Three years ago I wrote a blog post called Happy Now? I started with this:

When I was in grade school, they told me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I wrote down happy.
They told me I didn’t understand the assignment,
I told them they didn’t understand life.
—  author unknown

(Voted #6 in the list of best happiness quotes ever over at The Board of Wisdom. Check them out here)

I still think it is a great quote, and I’m inclined to agree with the author. And you know what? I’m all grown up now and it looks like today, I got to be want I wanted.

 

Read my original post Happy Now? written after the 2012 holidays.

Going Crazy

Psychedelic 2Somewhere between meaningless uses of the word like “I’m crazy about you” and serious, perhaps even crippling, mental health issues is a world of sort-of-comic, sort-of-sad neurotic behavior that we lightly refer to as crazy. We use it to mean that you (or I) have crossed that fuzzy boundary that surrounds normal and you (or I) are now happily dancing around naked in pig shit singing songs from “The Sound of Music” while making funny faces. You know, crazy.

This wanton disregard for how one is expected to behave can be brought on by exhaustion, alcohol, drugs, elation or deep disappointment. Anything that knocks one out of one’s normal orbit will do. For me, it’s finishing a book. I mean totally calling it done, putting out there for anyone to buy, read, hate, love or ignore. There is something so raw about that act, so trusting and so daring, that it makes everything else seem silly.

word porn 2I’m having trouble eating and sleeping and concentrating. I don’t care what I’m wearing or how I look or what the damn bank statement says because I haven’t even opened it. All I care about right now is that somebody, anybody, reads my new book and says something. Nothing else matters. This book is everything.

Luckily, this is the fourth time I’ve done this, and so I am little more prepared. I know the craziness will pass. I’ll get back to bill paying and basic hygiene and maybe even schedule that dental check-up I put off the whole time I was writing it. Before too long, some people will praise my new book and a few will not and most people will never hear of it because that is that way of a self-published author. Knowing all this, will I write another?

I’m 30,000 words into book five and counting. Hey, I had to do something while book four was going through its final proofreads. By the way, I love this new fifth story even more. I can’t wait to publish it.

(Please drop by Facebook and give Psychedelic Adventure and Word Porn each a like for their clever posters shared here. If you are feeling especially kind or curious, you can check out c3, that fourth book, here.)