If I were to assign a word to the past year, it would be “acceptance”. Acceptance of the things I cannot control, the people I cannot change. Acceptance of the things I can. Acceptance of the fact that I am in control of my own happiness and expectations, of fulfilling my own needs.
This fall, I spent many, many nights at home. I read books, watched stories unfold in movies and television, and taught myself how to knit my very first sweater. I took a multi-month break from all social media. I lit candles and drank tea, cooked delicious dinners, and played with Sylvie for hours.
In a world of over-stimulation, catastrophic consumption, and constant miserable comparison, slowing down gave me the chance to build awareness of my emotions, my thoughts, and my body. I am grateful to have eliminated so much stress from my life by creating space for myself.
Here are my lessons from this year:
Grief is not linear. Some people will never understand the way losing a pet can upend our entire world, but it certainly changed mine. After unexpectedly and suddenly losing Bozeman in January, I am proud of the way I gave myself permission early in the year to slow down and take care of myself above everything else—it is not something I am used to practicing, but have greatly improved upon over the course of the year.
Love is not finite, but every form is different. I marvel over the way my heart has opened up for Sylvie, and yet it is a unique love that feels completely different from my connection with Bozeman. Every day I am grateful for her calming presence and goofball attitude that makes the house feel a little less lonely than it did in the spring and summer.
Don’t be afraid to say “yes”. In spring of 2021, my mom and I were browsing AirBnb’s all over the world, dreaming of a tropical vacation after a year of COVID. We stumbled upon a dream house that was going for a cheaper nightly rate than many resort rooms. The destination: St. Lucia. We booked a week for April 2022 on the spot, nearly a year in advance. A place I once didn’t realize was a country turned into one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been to. The scenery was incredible, the people were kind, and the birds were extraordinary, especially getting a glimpse of the endemic species that can only be found on the small island of St. Lucia.
Don’t be afraid to say “no”. On the flip side, I’ve learned how to better set boundaries in my life. I don’t work more than my salaried 40 hours per week (and if I do—I take off early one day the following week). I’m grateful to have a job and supervisor that don’t expect me to do more. I take time for myself to recharge and I prioritize spending time with the people that bring me joy and energy instead of draining it.
Figure out what is possible, and make it happen. In August, I spent nearly the entire month back in Alaska for the first time since working there in 2019. My workplace graciously allowed me to work remotely for two weeks before my ten-day vacation with John. The extra time I was able to spend in Denali (thanks to support from many of our friends there) allowed me to fully reflect on my time in Alaska, how it shaped who I am, and what I love about my new chapter in Madison. I dreamed of spending more time in Denali than my vacation time would allow, and with a little courage and a generous employer, I made it happen.
Find happiness every day. 2022 was my year for hobbies and recreation! I enjoyed another amazing spring of birding (I saw 243 different species of birds this year, including 95 “lifers”: 53 in the United States and 42 in St. Lucia). John and I took out our kayaks weekly throughout the summer. I rediscovered a love for puzzling and board games. I knit two hats, a pair of colorwork mittens, and my very first sweater—all since August. I finished 15 books in a year for the first time since I was a kid. So many things bring me joy on a daily basis which feels key to steady happiness.
Family and friends matter most. Because so much of our time in Madison was eclipsed by the pandemic, community building has been slow here. But when Bozeman died, my long-distance community showed up for me in ways I never expected. Care packages, letters, ongoing phone calls and check-in texts. Thank you to everyone who showed us support early in the year.
I feel proud of the way I prioritized family and friends this year. I spent a week in Duluth in February over the Olympics and made it back for the 4th of July and Halloween. In June I met up with fellow Gusties for a kayaking cabin weekend in the Driftless Area. John and I took a trip to Northwestern Minnesota to visit all of my grandparents—Grandma Fog in the twin cities, Grandpa Fog, and Grandpa Taylor and Greta in Fargo—and my aunt, uncle and cousin at their lake house, with a much-needed visit with Bozeman’s sister, Rosa. We spent 10 wonderful days with family in California and had many visitors to Madison, too. Thank you to everyone who made this year so special.
On top of these experiences, I attended my five-year reunion at Gustavus and flew to upstate New York for my brother’s Master’s graduation, witnessed our friends’ wedding in Massachutesetts and went whale watching on Cape Cod. I attended a Broadway musical Come From Away in Madison. We had covid-19 for the first time and adopted a dog. How do we fit so much into 365 days? What an adventure it’s been.
The goal for an annual “nudge” word is to reflect your values and intentions, your vision for what well-being means to you and the areas of your life that need attention.
So what word will I use as I move forward into this new year?
In the past six months, I have found a sense of calm that guides me through most of my days. In 2023, I want to continue nurturing this feeling, and I also want to continue adventuring and challenging myself just that little bit more. I’m happiest when I am not stressed, but am challenged, and that’s where balance comes in.
Balance between work, family and friends, John & Sylvie, and the activities that bring me joy. Balance is the ability to say “no” when it feels like to much, but also the ability to nudge myself outside of my comfort zone for growth when I’ve been deep in comfort and safety for too long.
I’ve learned how to take care of myself, and I also know how to push myself. Now I’ve just gotta bring them together.
Cheers to 2023,