Bob Ross, the New Year and Happy Accidents

For the last several weeks, I’ve been streaming Bob Ross pretty much non-stop during writing time. At first, I did this because I believed his soothing voice was keeping my high strung dogs from flying off the handle every time a garbage truck drove by, but as time went on, I also found myself lulled by his dulcet tones.

Then it happened.

Bob said, “You’re going to need a friend when Nature rises up and takes over.”

That was in season 25 or so, I can’t remember the exact episode now. But I remember the shock. I’m pretty sure I had a happy accident.

Happy New Year!

This is how I’m opening my New Year’s Letter for 2019. If you’re still reading, I really admire your ability to digest bullshit. I really did hear him say that and as the seasons roll on, he says a lot of very weird shit. Then he goes on to justify it by saying that if you’re a painter, people expect you to be a little strange.

Number one, Bob, you’re way more than a little strange. You’re potentially deranged. And yet the world loved you and I think that’s ok. I’m just not buying that wholesome act you’re putting on any longer. There’s nothing more terrifying than the look on his face when he cleans a brush with paint thinner and “just beats the Devil outta it.”

Number two, Bob… seriously? Are you going to continue to perpetuate that tired stereotype? Blerg.

In the New Year, I will be continuing to watch Bob, listen to him tell stories about being in the military, living in Alaska, his dreams of living inside his paintings and Steve, his sorry excuse for a hippie son.

Even though he says very disturbing things.

Maybe because he does.

Welcome to 2019, Plebeians

This letter was written on December 27, so not quite the New Year, but certainly in the run up to it. The last several years have been indescribably difficult. I would say it was epic, but you wouldn’t get the impact I intend. I mean epic like Odysseus’ voyage home… or like one of those dreams where you run and run and run, but you can’t ever get to where you’re going.

A good friend of mine has, at various times, compared times in this life to a coma dream. She was actually IN a coma, so she knows better what that means than I do. But I assume that there’s a sort of eerie sense that things aren’t quite real, but they’re not fake either. It’s like how I feel about those multiverse theories. But I digress.

A lot of fucked up stuff has happened the last few years. It started… well, I can’t tell you when it started because it’s been like waking from a dream. I know you guys probably don’t realize it, but I have been in a really bad way and basically on automatic pilot for a while now. Pieces of me were always there, but not like now.

Let me start over.

Finding Yourself Again is Tricky

About a week after Terry Pratchett died in 2015, The Guardian ran this long essay that he had written about his fight with Alzheimer’s. The deeper I got into it, the more I cried. And not for the reasons you might think. In 2015, I was still losing myself, a piece would fall away here and there. Sometimes I’d find an odd bit, but I’d lose another. What caught me was that the weird Jelloy world I was living in was what Pratchett was described in vivid detail.

“I have posterior cortical atrophy or PCA. They say, rather ingenuously, that if you have Alzheimer’s it’s the best form of Alzheimer’s to have. This is a moot point, but what it does do, while gradually robbing you of your memory, visual acuity and other things you didn’t know you had until you miss them, is leave you more or less fluent and coherent as you have always been…. [while] the disease slips you away a little bit at a time and lets you watch it happen.”

This was my lightbulb moment. Or, rather, it was sort of a dimmish-nightlight-in-the-hall sort of moment. I wasn’t together enough to realize how important this description would be for me or how it would shape my future.

I knew something was very wrong, but most days I couldn’t tell you what it was. I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch. But somehow I could still write and so I did. That’s all I did. That’s all I could do.

Then the muscle spasms started getting so bad that I couldn’t deny them. My abs would buckle so hard that it looked like I was in some kind of mad sit-up contest for one, my hands would shake, my arms refused to swing as I limped slowly along. I brought these things to my neurologist in Missouri and she did a few tests, but ended up writing it off as “spells.” I was having spells, but I didn’t get better (but to be fair, no one turned me into a newt).

All My Exes Live in Texas?

We moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 2017, and I lucked onto a neurologist who was a genius diagnostician. He said almost nothing to me the first several times I was in his office. He ordered an MRI, he checked my arm swing and how well my muscles responded, all that normal stuff. Then, one day, he asked me to try a drug I’d never heard of: ropinirole, a dopamine agonist.

I had already been reading up on what might be said one day by that quiet man with the big computer of a brain. That’s why I cried as I left the office. If the ropinirole helped, it was another nail in the coffin. And, like Pratchett describes his own moment of clarity, I was suddenly experiencing pretty much every emotion at once.

“When Milton’s Satan stood in the pit of hell and raged at heaven, he was merely a trifle miffed compared to how I felt on that day. I felt totally alone, with the world receding away from me in every direction, and you could have used my anger to weld steel.”

It took about two days before I was confident enough to call Dr. Dhaliwal to tell him that yes, the drugs were working. And in ways I never expected. Things I didn’t know I had lost had returned like a not very funny cream pie to the face. Colors were brighter, scents were scentier, emotions were deeper, oh and that lmp I’d had since I was a teen (always blamed on a soccer injury) had disappeared entirely.

After all the things that had happened in Missouri, including a suicide attempt and two (!!) cancer scares, this was the worst thing I could have ever imagined happening. My neurologist would ultimately diagnose me with early onset Parkinson’s with Essential Tremor. And I would take more ropinirole. And I would get worse.

The funny thing about starting the drugs you desperately need is that the more you need them, the less you notice how sick you are. So, as I regained function bit by bit, I also got worse. More ropinirole. More symptoms.

Today we’re at a reasonably middling dose of ropinirole, plus a few other drugs that help keep the many symptoms of Parkinson’s in check by helping me sleep, giving me a little energy boost or working on other parts that we never knew were connected.

Really, it’s very good. But understand that Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s share a lot of features and may actually be related disease.processes. So as you read that essay, know that it could just as easily be me writing it.

The takeaway should be that 2018 was the year I got my mind back. There’s nothing more important.

Oh, and Then There Was That Time I Died

2018 was such a weird year.

It was the year that I died.

Did I tell you? If not, please don’t feel bad. I was still trying to find my feet in a world of neurological issues when it happened. I was overwhelmed.

The plan this past summer was to have a relatively routine surgery that I won’t go into the details of here, but I assure you that it was seriously no big deal. My body had other plans, though. Once they had me prepped and the really deep anesthesia started, my blood pressure bottomed out.

And there it stayed.

I’m not sure what it took to bring me back from the brink, but when I woke up in the recovery ward, I was surrounded by the anxious eyes of the entire anesthesiology team. They were pale and shaking and fearful, as if they’d seen the dead rise again.

Having had many, many surgeries over the years (autoimmune disease, yay!), I knew that it wasn’t normal to wake up to a fan club. But they didn’t want to tell me what had happened. I was moved to a private room at the hospital (woo woo!), where the hospitalist and my surgeon explained it all.

They really thought I was going to die. At first, this was all a big joke to me. I mean, not really, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it, so instead I made dumb jokes. It was all I could do.

Mostly, I was kind of embarrassed. I mean, I thought people were supposed to have life-altering epiphanies or see visions or something when they die. I got nada. It was just another Thursday in my world, albeit one where I scared a lot of people, a hobby I don’t generally engage in.

So that happened. And even now, I don’t know what it means. Or if it means anything. We all live, we all die and some of us do stuff in between.

And Then We Opened In The Cloud

To be fair, ITC had been around a while already, it was meant to be a rebranding of Waterworth Writes, a company I know you’re all familiar with.

See, a friend told us the winter prior that she was very sick. She’d always been supportive, even trying to help raise the past iterations of a ship like this one that we could never quite get to sail. So, with her terrifying news, I was determined to launch In The Cloud before she posted her last Breitbart article to social media.

I had launched it, but nothing happened. I was just… still me and a big empty, useless boat. I assumed I’d figure it out as I went. I didn’t do well with that until after I came back to life. After that, I kind of got a headwind.

This is mostly a roundabout way of saying that I want her to know that she was a big reason to move the timetables up. And even though she’s sick enough that she doesn’t check in sometimes for weeks, she’s the reason I keep pushing forward with it.

She’s the reason I keep pushing, even when I don’t have anything left. So there’s that. After losing Don, Kat, Our Judith, Rich, Billy, Earl and so many others, I couldn’t let her slip away without really understanding that she changed my world profoundly. That’s about the best that she’ll ever get out of me.

2019 Had Better Hold on Tight

I’ve made some great connections in the world of copy, copywriting, marketing and general shenaniganry over the last few years. I completely believe that we will create something profound in 2019. And if not profound, then we might at least settle for profane.

In The Cloud should roughly double in orders this year, if current signs are any indication. We’re on fire and even though I am one of the more inept business owners around, at least I keep getting back on that horse and riding. We’re in high demand, so that’s always nice.

I just have to remember what we’re worth. My Jewish Second Mom will keep beating this into me until I buy it, I think. We’re worth a lot, she says. There aren’t a lot of people who can do what my team at In The Cloud does, nor with so much flare.

We make this Internet look good, that’s what I’m saying.

Goal-Setting for 2019

The days and nights and nights and days of effort it has taken to set 2019 up for success have not only shown me what I’m made of, but what those around me are capable of. And they’re pretty damn awesome. That being said, I need to get some of my life sort of rebalanced. So here come the 2019 goals!

  • Double ITC’s output and revenue. We already discussed this. But I thought it was worth mentioning again. Maybe I can actually get my taxes paid on time for once!
  • Spend more time exploring. I have barely left the (home) office in a year. I have my groceries delivered, I have a postage machine, Amazon brings me everything else. I need to get out of the house and look around at the world. I need to find out what makes it worth living in Fort Worth, Texas (besides Dr. Dhaliwal).
  • Write more for our company. I have seriously neglected my duties as head blogger at the companies under my direction. That’s already in the process of being fixed, but I need to make it last. Keep it up. We used to blog here all the time, me and you. Time to do better.
  • Cut the fat. I spend a lot of time fucking around. There’s no way to say it other than like that. I’m a real good fucker arounder. I have to concentrate my fuckery so I have time to do anything besides fuckery and work. Like, you know, take a walk or eat an orange.
  • Improve focus and productivity. Sometimes it’s everything I can do to focus on the day ahead. Or the one that just got away from me. This year that’s getting attention. Sleeping well and better is the first phase.
  • Stay active. I am currently doing about an hour of cardio daily to help keep myself moving. It has helped dramatically, but it’s hard to start after I’ve stopped. So I’m not stopping. I need to keep on movin’ on.
  • Own my shit. You may not believe this, but there are certain people in this world that I am genuinely concerned about what they think of me. It makes it hard for me to have an honest face to face without falling to pieces. I need to own my shit. I’m owning this today.

I guess that’s about it. I have some big goals for next year, but I have no doubt that the people around me will help turn our company into something really magical. Something real special. We’re not a lot now, we’re just learning to crawl, but we’re going to get there. This is everything. We’ve got this nailed so hard.

Thank you for reading all the way down.

Thank you for believing in my vision, if you’re Team ITC. Thank you for being patient.

Thank you for being an inspiration, if you’re a particular reader. Whatever you’ve done in your life and whatever mistakes along the way, know that simply knowing you changed my life profoundly. In my eyes, all those sins are forgiven. Well, except Breitbart.

Thank you for being a friend, if you’re a bee enthusiast. Those long, dark nights of the soul can get pretty bleak. Having so many bees in my corner has been… what’s the word, even? Nonetheless, I would not be here without you.

Thank you for letting me go, if you’re part of the clan back home. I would never have gotten better there. They didn’t know how to help me, I had to leave to realize my potential.

Thank you for everything. All of you. There are so many people who need hand-written notes that I’m very likely to not actually write any due to the overwhelm. But I’m shouting out to you right now, in this blog that gets easily six views a month.

Happy New Year from Waterworth Writes and In The Cloud

Happy New Year, you jerks. May your champagne be bubbly and paper horns noisy and annoying. I’ll be here, clicking the keyboard, trying to figure out why Whataburger is such a big deal and generally feeling my way around in the dark until I find another door.

Oh, and if you need any salty copy written for your company, we’re here to serve. Check out our leaky ship, In The Cloud Copy for more details.

New Year’s Letter 2018

I’ve been writing these New Year’s Letters for long enough now that it’s not only a tradition, but a compulsion to do them.  So much so that I think about them long before it’s time to put fingers to keys and punch them into life.  Every year, I think that they’ll be trite and meaningless, and every year, they serve as a refocusing point for me, and maybe for some of you, and so I think that makes them pretty much ok and not entirely self-serving bits of debris in a sea that’s already fairly stuffed full of flatulence-loving self-promotional acts woven together from delusions of grandeur and mental masturbaton.

Was it the Year We Needed?

Another year has come and gone, and it’s been a Hell of a year.  It was not the year I expected to have, not by a very long shot, but maybe it was the year I needed to have.  As most of you know, I moved house from southwest MIssouri to the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas metroplex in February 2017.  I very nearly lost my mind during that process.  I have never before felt so much stress or so little control over anything, and I’ve been told I had cancer twice (I did not).

Even once that move was complete, the stress level was immense because of the incredible amount of culture shock I was experiencing.  Along with that, I had to maintain my business, maintain some level of workload, try to rebuild a household, maintain my health and not fall to pieces.  As it turns out, these were very significant challenges.  I spent a lot of time stumbling around in the dark, but as they say, “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.”  And I did.  I had to because there wasn’t anything else.

When we lost Will this summer, then both my grandparents, a friend from school and my great aunt, I was pretty sure I was going to lose my mind completely.  I shut down emotionally for a while.  I’m sorry about that.  You deserved better.  I deserved better.  But it was much too much for me to handle all at once.  Those of you who pulled me out of that deep, dark pit are saints for everything you did and continue to do.  It was a very bad, bad place with no color.  I won’t lie, I’m still recovering from that.  Mostly, I’m ok, but sometimes I’ll hear a song or something and just start crying for no reason.

I was also given hot and cold news about my health this year.  The neuro added a diagnosis of mixed Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor, the rheumatologist added Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis.  The hepatologist, however, said that my liver was in really good shape, the tumors have all but disappeared and the inflammation is gone.  This is a good thing.  A very good thing.  But it means that all the exercise and healthy eating has to be a permanent thing or that liver transplant becomes a discussion we have to have again.  So good and bad.

A New Normal

It took months to return to normal, but I’ve found it again.  I’ve found maybe better than normal.  I’m hoping.  Every night I go to bed and hope that this is a permanent thing.  I’m allowing myself to believe there’s going to be a tomorrow and a yesterday and that I’ll remember a week ago.  So far the memory is still a bit hit and miss, but it, too, is improving.  Texas has been very good for me and it’s nothing like what I expected it would be.

I’ve started some new projects that are very, very promising.  I’m excited to see where they go in the new year.  It’s boring work stuff, but for me it’s pretty exciting.  I have a lot of creative control and my input is valued highly.  Sometimes that’s worth a lot more than money, really.  It’s difficult to describe how much that matters, but trust me, it does.

Friends Near and Far

One of my very real fears about moving to Texas was being so far from my home base, the people I’ve known my whole life and my family.  The culture in the Ozarks is very family and clan-focused and it’s really the central focus of the whole thing.  I won’t lie, I wasn’t sure how it would go.  I knew my health would make it extremely difficult to get back often or regularly.  Eight hours in a car, minimum, is a lot for me.

But, you know, my dad was right when he said that things aren’t like they used to be.  All you have to do these days is hop on the Internet and your friends are right there.  All the friends I have in the box.  They were there through the toughest times and the easy ones, too.  If you’re reading this, you know who you are.  You have no idea how much you’re appreciated.  How much you’re needed.  How much easier you made it to make this massive transition.  

Who’s chopping onions in here?!?

On to This Year’s Goals!

Now!  As for the coming year, there should be goals.  There should always be goals, even if you don’t achieve them.  Otherwise, what are we?  We’re just floating along like jellyfish, hoping something will hit, I guess.  So, I suppose we’ll start with these:

  • Consume at least one book a week.  So, maybe reading is still a little tough, but audiobooks are working out ok.  Thanks John and Jason for pushing me in that direction.  
  • Travel a bit.  I’ve been to Austin once, and San Antonio twice.  I can make both trips very easily, so I should go more often and for funsies.  Also other places….
  • Establish and enforce better work/life balance.  I am the worst for dicking around on the Internet when I should be working and then panicking and doing a bunch of work at the last minute.  This has to stop.  Time management and work/life balance should be this year’s main work goals.
  • Invest more time in my personal brand.  If I can do the thing above, I should have time to do this thing.  My blog is sad and lonely and a site I’ve literally been working on for a year needs to launch.  It’s pathetic.
  • Get better at meal planning.  Ah, this is also a time management thing.  If I had better meal planning skills, I’d not take a freaking year to figure out what I was having for lunch.
  • Lose another 50 pounds.  This is partially because of all the med changes and partially because I like cookies too much.  I need to get back on the one cookie per meal diet, exercise more and track everything.
  • Run three 5Ks.  I’m signed up for the Cowtown 5K on February 24th, but I’d like to do at least two more.  It’s a little bit of a challenge because I need to ideally take Annie.  All this has to be cleared ahead of time and can be a pain.
  • Explore the metroplex.  I’ve lived here for 10 months and have yet to really explore the city.  I need to do this.  Annie needs to see the world.

I know a lot of people guffaw at New Year’s Resolutions, or even year end goals, or whatever you wanna call it.  It’s all the same thing.  Really, the timing is arbitrary, but I think it’s pretty important to have a set time of the year to stop what you’re doing, evaluate where you are versus where you want to be, and kind of double down your efforts.  

I don’t think it hurts to assess your progress.  You can disagree all you want, that’s your right, but I can also call you a pig-faced waffle stomper, so I think that makes us a bit even.

So, whatcha got?  What hot burning desires do you have for 2018?  What’s driving your engine this year?

New Year’s Letter: 2017’s Gonna Be Better

A year ago, it was impossible to know that this letter would be the harbinger of the oncoming storm.  But that’s why we do these things — they’re a reset, a way of better understanding where we’ve been and where we’re headed.  In 2016 I had to learn about priorities and how to reshuffle things.  We lost more brilliant writers, we found more friends who were in real trouble and needed a hand up, not a hand out, and we generally fumbled around in the dark pretty hardcore.

I let this blog stagnate and basically sputter out, which was a massive disservice to all of you.  For that I apologize.  For the first time in a long time, things were going pretty smoothly for me — then my husband took a job 450 miles away.  I went through a lot of different emotions, knowing I’d likely never see my native Ozarks again — not in the same way, anyway.   But with this job also comes a new beginning.

Once I finish packing our Ozarks home and we fetch the truck to transport it to our home in Texas, all those little projects I never had the time to work on are going to get attention.  The good ones will be picked up, the bad ones will be chucked, my plate will be cleared.  The very first of those must be this blog, otherwise why am I here today?

2016 was a difficult year, it was a year that brought with it a lot of disaster and destruction and it’s a year that is still leaving a lot of us with more questions than answers.  My advice to that is to keep your questions, but don’t obsess over them.  If you don’t like the direction of a thing, then take a stand.  Don’t mull over it, just do it.  Mulling is for cider.

My life will change in so many ways this coming year, but I hold on to the hope that my new home in The Land of Eternal Summer will bring with it great opportunities I never could have realized here in the Queen City of the Ozarks.  Starting over with new doctors is a terrifying prospect, but it’s a necessary evil.  It is what it is.  It’ll be ok.

Usually I have a lot more to say in these letters, but right now I’m still sort of pondering the future.  I have a lot of irons gently smoking in the fire and a LOT of boxes to pack, so I’m going to call it a day and get my client work finished so I can focus on the massive task ahead.  My one solid goal is to eliminate noise that doesn’t help me either A) personally or B) professionally.

2017 is a year of new beginnings, I can feel it.  But it’s also a year of closing a lot of doors, maybe forever, and it’s a year that’s not going to be gentle.  Change is always chaotic, no matter who you are or how you go about it.  Change is the beast lurking under the bed, it’s the fucking monster in the closet.  The question, then, is how do we juggle change while embracing the future that we’re barreling towards?

I’m not sure, to be honest.  I’m not sure how to do that.  Right now it’s all one big puzzle for me, so if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.   2017 will be different from 2016… that’s pretty much all we can know for sure.  The world is about to change dramatically.  Journos, stand tall and hold to your ethics, marketers, remember that the truth always sells better than a lie.  The rest of you, find the truth in all things and I think we’ll be ok.  Everyone, shine a big light on the things that matter, bring them to the front, and we’ll come out of 2017 better than we did from 2016.

All my big puffy hearts and shit.

~Kristi

Dear Self: 2016 New Year’s Letter

Another year has come and gone and 2016 is rolling in like an out of control freight train.  It’s that special time when the whole world looks backward and forward and people are so full of hope that it’s almost contagious.  Almost.

But this isn’t about them, is it?  No, it’s about us.  Me and you, self.  So fuck those hopeful dudes and let’s take a hard look at where we are right now.

2015 was not what we expected, not by a long shot — but that seems to be the theme these days.  The last few years have been filled with unexpected news, unplanned tragedies and uncontrollable emergencies..  But along with that, we’ve also been witness to unbridled acts of kindness, unrepentantly loyal friendships and unbelievable compassion.

We saw that, more than ever, our networks and our relationships weren’t just a net made of moments, but instead a raft that kept us from sinking into the black deep.  We found kindness and understanding and hands to help us up when we started to sink.  We found that even in the worst situations, there could be a point of light somewhere in the distance to focus on.

I had ignorantly believed that getting through 2015 meant an end to my term as a medical guinea pig, that after the last surgery it would all be maintenance and living better and being better to myself.  I thought we’d gotten through the worst of it.  From where I’m sitting today, it’s clear that we’re sailing right into a storm, the likes of which we’ve never known.  It’s going to be something, alright, but if this year and the years before it have shown us anything, it’s that we have all the tools and resources and people we need to make it through.

This is the year you’ll have to admit that you’re going to have to step back from work some to give yourself room to breathe.  This is the year where there’s not going to be a choice between health and work, and you’re going to have to accept that.  But, as you shed hard deadlines, you’ll be opening yourself up to other possibilities, other opportunities, and you’ll be able to help more people with every stroke of the key.

There’s only going to be one go at this life, and that means that you need to lay some groundwork for something bigger than yourself, bigger than a paycheck, bigger than your monthly budget — starting right now.  It’s time to build a thing that will live on, because God knows that there’s no promise that there’s going to be a tomorrow.  If you don’t do your part to touch and inspire and help, who will?

This year, you have to remember to be a helper.  If there’s nothing else people remember you for, they should remember that you were put on this planet to help.  Life is short, as we’ve seen in the last few years.  We’ve lost some beautiful minds to the void — all we have left of them are the moments we shared.  Judith’s forever our Ray of Sunshine, Kat’s love for “that man” will always be fresh — if it’s to be your turn, you need to be more than just curse words and bad jokes.

You’re getting ready to go on a journey of monumental proportions.  Unlike the many before it, this one has no guarantee of calm seas, no promise of an easy or safe return.  But you’ve got to go.  You have to face the wind and beat your breast as you scream, “C’mon, 2016, bring it on!  I’m ready for you, you motherfucker!”

This is a year that will change your life forever.  You have to make it count.

Dead Week is a Time for Writers to Reflect on the New Year

Being a full time professional writer means a lot of things, but mostly that you’re always busy writing, writing, writing… and not having nearly enough time to plan or reflect on how you’re doing or how far you’ve come.  That’s why I look forward to Dead Week each and every year — it gives me breathing room enough to write my New Year letter to myself, adjust my business plans, re-balance my calendar and screw around some.  It’s truly the best time of the year.

What is Dead Week?

Ah.  That’s the question, I guess, isn’t it?  Dead Week is usually what colleges call that week before finals, but it means something else for writers.  For journalists, it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when nothing really happens that’s newsworthy.  That also happens to apply to copywriters and digital marketers, because, frankly, all our clients are out on break, too.  So we get this one especially precious week each year to just… breathe.

Breathing is lovely.  It’s the best, actually.  After a day or two of non-stop binge drinking or playing video games or committing serial murders, your brain gets back in the right place to work for another long stretch.  But, before you do that, I think it’s really important that you assess your situation.  Where are you?  Where have you been?  Where are you going?

That last question is the most important one.  Sure, you can survive as a writer without a plan, but you’ll never thrive.  You’ll never be organized enough, you’ll never really reach your potential if you don’t have some sort of structure and a direction to set your rudder.  You don’t have to be like me or any other writer, but you need to figure out who you do want to be and put together a plan for giving it a go.  That’s where the New Year’s letter can help.

Components of a Good New Year’s Letter

I started writing New Year’s letters after a major medical issue that left me bed ridden for months.  It helped me find some focus and really gauge where I was in my career.  I also found the whole exercise quite cathartic and frankly, I needed that.  I still need that.  The first one was in 2012, published on Facebook for my tiny following.  Now I publish them every year and stick a copy here for you to read if you’re so inclined.

If you’re looking for some direction for your own New Year’s Letter, here are some components I’ve found to be really helpful:

Failings.  It’s vital that you own your failings for the last year.  Did you seriously fuck up a relationship or make a huge professional mistake last year that continues to plague you?  Own it.  Put it on paper, bring it to light, show the world how big of a mistake you realize it was.  It’s a great way to come out of that pile of garbage you created all fresh and new and clean.

Successes.  When you win, everybody wins — assuming you’re not a dick about it.  You deserve to cheer your own successes and to acknowledge them, because, frankly, they’re what you’re going to build on in the new year.  So, whether you finally gave up the crack pipe or just figured out how to work your dishwasher so that even the dirty pots get clean, claim it and be proud for just a moment.

Projects.  We’ll all end the year with a project or six that aren’t finished.  It’s ok, it’s normal.  Really.  But you need a plan to get them done, so include them in your New Year’s Letter.  For example, if you’re trying to hop genres or get into a new niche, it’s important that you follow through with that project, even if it’s to a lesser end than you hoped.  Trying and doing and finishing, these are the things that matter.

New Goals.  I’m sure you’ve got shiny new plans for 2016… if  you don’t, maybe you should find a few.  After all, new goals help us all stay motivated and moving toward that direction in which we’re headed.  Now, when I say goals, I mean concrete, distinct, actionable goals.  Not “I’d like to be a better person.”  BAH!  Maybe you want to be more patient with your coworkers or make more time for your children — whatever it is that you really want, don’t forget to spell it out in detail.  You’ll thank me for this next year.

Writing a New Year’s letter doesn’t have to be an exercise in pain, but it should be a really deep look into the void.  When you use it like a tool instead of like a diary, you can set some wheels in motion, throw the breaks on the ones that aren’t working for you and generally figure your life out in little moments.  After all, the New Year is as good a time for reflection as any — and what else do you have on your plate this week?

My New Year’s Letter for 2015

I decided that instead of just sharing this letter with my social media crew, I’d put it out here, in my blog, for the whole world to see.  I realize you don’t know me, so some of the things I have to say to myself may not make any sense or resonate with you, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll be inspired/amused/angered/betrayed enough to spur you into doing something.  Or not.  Your call, really.

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I’ve been working on this letter for days, now, several different iterations later, I think maybe I finally have it right.  It’s fitting, I suppose, since that’s sort of how 2014 went, and all those years before… since I started writing these, at least.  Those of you who have been with me since the beginning of these letters knows that it’s been a pretty crazy ride since my life changed dramatically in 2011.

I want to first thank you.  All of you.  Those of you who are still here, those who have moved on, and those who are no longer with us — each and every one of you made today possible.  Every single one of you made sure I held it together, made sure I kept going, even when I didn’t think I could.  Everything I do is a little monument to your dedication and friendship and I fully expect to spend the rest of my life finding ways to repay your kindness.

So, onto the letter proper!

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New Year’s Day is like any other day, really, so the fact that I chose this arbitrary day and not, say, March 17th or August 24th, to do a yearly round-up isn’t really all that special.  But it is important that I keep doing these.  The chronicle is good for me and I think other people sometimes get some use from it, too.  This past year has been an interesting one, as years ago, and a lot of things have changed.  The biggest of those changes, I think, was in April, when we lost our Judith.

Oh, Judith…. I still break out in tears when I think about you.  Your death has been such a loss in the community of writers that we formed — your death has been such a loss to me, to Sue, to all of us.  We still feel it every day… our real life friends and companions think we’re crazy when we take the sight of a wild rabbit as a hopeful sign you’re still with us, even a little bit.

I’m not ashamed of how much I loved you.  You were like a sister to me.  It’s hard for me to get too close to people — but it was never hard with you.  I have no doubt I will spend the rest of my life missing you profoundly.  My only regret was not spending more time with you… always too busy with work, too wrapped up in a world that spins out of my control 24 hours a day.  Judith, I’m so sorry for that.

I know that most people think that the biggest challenge this year was all the medical stuff — two nasal surgeries, an unholy number of tests and procedures, but it wasn’t.  It was Judith.  Not just her loss, but the crushing feeling that life is too too unpredictable and death is a sudden and definite stop for all of us.

I think that means something different to everybody, but for me, that means I have to learn to set boundaries — with friends, with clients, within my marriage — that allow me to do more of what I need to do for my own well-being.  I need to spend more time with those people who are awesome and bring me up and I need to spend more time doing things that make me feel good about myself.

I need to work better and torture myself less over the imperfect words that come out of my keyboard.  They will never be perfect.  They can’t be perfect.  I have to accept that — that’s one of my greatest downfalls.  The pressure of perfection, it gets to me and leaves me mentally frozen.  And that’s no place to be.  This year, I’m letting go of that.  I’m going to learn to accept that close enough is OK.  There are not enough words in this language to express what I mean most of the time — so instead of torturing myself, I’m going to accept the flaws inherent to human expression.

There were a number of challenges in 2014 that I hope to never face again, besides the loss of Our Judith.  This is where we talk about the medical stuff.  I saw my primary care doctor on the 30th, and I thanked him profusely.  In a little under a year, he’s gotten me set up with the medical professionals I need to put all this stuff behind me — or at least into a holding pattern that’s somewhat predictable.  He also gave me hope that I could take all those medical problems I’ve been fighting with and trust them to another person.  He took my worry away.

My doctor attended to all my parts — from top to bottom — and in 2015, I will be a new person.  Two more surgeries, a few more tweaks to my drug cocktail and we’re there.  This time last year, it took almost 100 pills a day to keep me able to work and function — today I take ten.  Just ten little pills, and none of them hardcore addictive.  I also have two inhalers and a lidocaine patch, but this is still massive improvement.  You have no idea.  It’s just… incredible.

I’ve spent too many days this month gawking at the change.  It wasn’t that long ago that I realized we had reached this point — a place I honestly never believed we’d reach.  When I get in the shower and I’m not short of breath, when I sleep through the night, when I remember something that happened without the help of a Post-It Note, I just can’t fathom.  It’s still a precarious balance, to be sure, but at least it is a balance.  And that’s what 2015 is going to be about.

Balance is the most important thing any of us can hope to achieve, I think.  Balancing life and work, balancing the body and the soul, balancing healthy eating with the occasional tater tot…. that’s what life is really about.  This year we’re all going to achieve great things — and we’re going to find some balance, I think, guys.  Here’s to 2015!  Let’s get on it!

I Write a Letter to Myself Every New Year’s Eve Day

fireworks-wallpapers-fireworks-bang-pics-xI know a lot of you guys drink to excess and snort all manner of unusual things up your noses to ring in the new year, but I’m not nearly so exciting and sexy.  Instead, every year on December 31, I write myself a letter.  I started it as a way of handling a lot of changes that were coming at me way too fast, but soon became something my small readership actually looked forward to every year — and I do, too.

The reason I’m telling you about it is that maybe you need a time to stop and give yourself a solid talking-to, maybe you don’t look back enough and have no idea what’s ahead of you.  Maybe you don’t encourage yourself enough, maybe you don’t see through your own bullshit, maybe you can’t balance who you want to be with who you are.

Whatever your reason, I encourage you to do the same.  Write yourself a very heartfelt letter, one that addresses the good and the bad, the past and the future.  Write them every year, and look back over the old ones to see just how far you’ve come.  I can tell you, since I started mine, I’ve come a very long way, and I have the proof in my letters.

I’m a million miles away from where I planned to be by this point in my life the year that I started writing those letters.  I’m a fucking galaxy away mentally.  But it’s ok, and that’s sort of the point, I guess.  Life is anything but straightforward and your career, your blog, your online business — they’re the same way.

Some people get insanely lucky and hit the nail on the head right away, but most of us, we’re mostly lost and wander in the dark.  Once in a while we find a doorknob and we turn it, because why not — at least it’s something.  As we fall down into the pit that’s just inside the threshold, shouting “OH FUCK!” all the way down, we ponder how that might have gone better.  Maybe we shouldn’t have fucking opened a random door, or maybe we should have looked at the floor better before we stepped in.

Whatever it is, whatever that random pit leads to, it’s another step.  But there’s one thing about stumbling around in the dark that people don’t tell you — you can and will learn as you go.  You’ll figure out that when it feels a little cooler and wetter, you’re probably going to slip and fall on your ass from the moisture on the floor and that when things seem like they’re going too well, you’ll start questioning yourself and everything else just to find some fucking drama to feed the nasty beast inside of you.

So, write to yourself about your journey, leave yourself reminders.  It may well be that the thing you came across just once last year and was really awesome will come up again and you’ll need someone’s help to navigate your way to it.  Be your own Yoda.