Wednesday, December 30, 2015

(Mark's) Year in Review - 2015

I think this may be the first time I've done this, and I'm really glad I did. It has been a very interesting experience, trying to be honest with myself about the year and tap into what I'm truly thinking and feeling. It's been hard at times, but so worth it. I'd like to say something like, "I plan on writing so much more this year," and while I do, it also ends up being pressure I place on myself, and then I feel like I have to live up to expectations, and then I freeze up and don't do it. So, with the best possible intentions, I hope this is the first of several more posts for me this year.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Sadly, I don't know that I can even think of that many new things. Also, some may be so mundane that they don't even occur to me. Here are a few that came to mind. Along with Max, I received my Second Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. We hosted foreign exchange students. That was a really great experience, and the whole family really loved it. We sent Kate to her first camp away from home. We took Max to a chess day camp. Oh, and I started going to a therapist regularly for the first time in my life. It shouldn't feel weird to share that, but it does (honestly, just about anyone would benefit from the insights one can gain from therapy). I guess that speaks volumes about how we view mental and emotional wellness in this country.

  (Full disclosure: I wanted to write my post before reading Stacy's so I wouldn't be influenced by her responses, and I didn't. But then I read her responses, and I'm tempted to add more, but I'm not going to. Even though I wish I'd thought of some of her answers.)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Not really. I made a semi-valiant effort to start 2015, but it fizzled. I'll make new ones for 2016, and I'm hopeful that I'll do a better job this time around. At least I'm ready to give it a better effort. I really like the way Stacy has picked a word or phrase for the new year, so I may try and adopt that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
We have some friends who had their first baby this past year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, unless you count my hope for humanity. I feel like I have been shaking my head for most of this year about a lot of issues, and it's hard to feel like good sense and compassion will ever stick around for the long haul.

5. What countries did you visit?
Exotic locales including Cape May, NJ; Calaveras County, CA; and Rehoboth Beach, DE. I know, they're not countries. Hopefully we'll have foreign destinations to add some time soon.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I'd like to have a better ability to finish what I've started. I feel like 2015 has ended on a higher note as far as this is concerned, but I do have an issue with sticking to goals, tasks, projects, etc. This is the year! (He says with the appropriate level of expectations of and compassion for himself.)

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don't have a particular date that will "remain etched," but getting together in CA with my parents, siblings, and all of their families this summer is a memory that will stick. Twenty-nine people under one roof for several days, and we had a blast. A big thank you to my parents for making that happen.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
For the first time in my life I feel like I'm starting to scratch the surface and understand myself. It's been something that I haven't really been able to do, and it's been a challenge (even if at times I didn't realize it). I have a long way to go, but it's a nice feeling to have right now.

9. What was your biggest failure?
"Failure" is such an emotionally charged word, and I think attaching it to anything that's happened in the past year would really be unfair to my own growth and understanding. I will say that if you reference #6 above that would sum up my thoughts.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Thankfully, nothing huge. I did sprain my ankle pretty severely while testing for my second degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I will say that I haven't felt my healthiest for a while (nothing serious, just a general feeling--yes, this doctor has his own doctor), which may not be an illness, but it still has a huge effect on my psyche.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Um, let me see. The game table we bought for Christmas is a big hit, so that was a good purchase. Also, we bought a digital frame that shows tons of quotes that we (and by "we" I mean "mostly Stacy") have collected. It's been a nice source of inspiration, and at times, outright laughter. Setting it up also represents a completed project, so that's extra good for the soul.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My family's, especially Stacy's. Really, they merit celebration on a daily basis. This past year has been so great, and also really difficult at times. Without my incredible family, it would have been a very, VERY different year. I love you all!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I'm just not one that feels comfortable outing anyone here, even though there have been a handful of people who could fit into this answer (reference Stacy's answer in her post). Again, it seems sort of negative, and I've had times where thinking critically of others has significantly obscured the introspective lens I should have been using more efficiently.

I will say this, though: if an advanced species were to arrive on Earth on this day, I would want to hide Donald Trump somewhere far from sight. That dude is a complete blight on humanity and is quite possibly the worst representation of the vast potential humankind has.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Two mortgages, which ended in August. That was a huge relief. Other expenditures that feel like hemorrhaging include malpractice insurance, health insurance, and student loan repayment. We spend a fair amount on homeschooling, but that's money well spent, even if it hurts sometimes to consider how many experiences school children have for free due, in part, to our high property taxes. I always say I have no problem paying into the schools--educated people in the community benefit us all. But when the school buses show up at a performance of Macbeth at a local university, and you know those kids are there for free, and we dropped a few bucks on the tickets for our family, I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Let's see, I'm a really demonstrative person so it should have been really evident . . . ;)

I got really excited to share the new Star Wars movie with Max (and Stacy, and Kate). I was excited to show the kids the home where I grew up. I was really excited to go to the beach on our yearly vacation. What else? Not sure. I get pretty excited for the holiday season. Oh, I was really excited for the next Game of Thrones book, but then it didn't come out. But I'm used to that. Oh, oh. I got excited to see the Doctor Who Christmas special with Kate (so glad we're sharing that now) and I'm VERY excited for the Sherlock special on New Year's Day, and "Galavant." What a nerdy gift, but Sherlock and Galavant don't happen until 2016, so I'm not sure if they should be included.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Honestly, I'm really bad at this stuff. I listen to a lot of music, and I feel like I can very easily go down a veritable rabbit hole of musical discovery. So, I'm avoiding this question since I have no answer.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier, but at times sadder. That comes with self-discovery and emotional work, but that's a good thing.
b) thinner or fatter? I feel fatter. The scale doesn't necessarily agree, but it's an area that will be attacked in 2016.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, but that's a funny term. I would definitely use the term "rich" to describe my life in general, but never my finances. But I'm fortunate--I make a good living and have a really good balance in life when it comes to time with our family. I am not unaware of how lucky I really am.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I'd finished more projects, but not in an over-stressed, "I must achieve" kind of way. Even if it were just one or two things, I wish I'd taken the time to feel that sense of accomplishment (and by extension, let Stacy feel that sense of accomplishment, as well). Also, I wish I'd exercised and meditated more. These are two things that help me so much, but the first two things to go when I feel busy, which is more than always.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Jumping to conclusions. I've done more than my fair share of projecting my own fears and assumptions on to many situations, and more often than not, it's hurt me. I'm learning to step back, breathe, be fair in each situation, and assess them for what's REALLY happening. When I remember to do that, it's been helpful.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Like we always do--together with family, eating, playing games, laughing, relaxing, and feeling infinitely lucky. It's honestly one of my favorite times of the year.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Yes, every day more and more with my soulmate.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Ugh, favorite. I really don't like answering "favorite" questions. I don't like having to pick. Absolute favorite? I'm not sure. I'll just throw out a few and I'm not even sure this order means anything. "The Goldbergs," "Jane the Virgin," "Master of None." Ask me in 20 minutes and I may change my mind completely. (I read Stacy's answer. Can I change mine?)

23.Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Hate is a really strong word, and I don't really know that I "hate" anyone. I'm going to say "no" and move on.

24. What was the best book you read?
"Best" questions are right up there with "Favorite" questions. As soon as I try and pick one answer, like ten more come to mind. I read a fair number of books this year, and there were some real winners.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman--it's a great urban fantasy, unlike anything I'd read before.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman--it's a middle grade book that I read with Max's book club as well as our adult book club. It's a really fun romp, and a new take on The Jungle Book.

The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett--this is his "Christmas" story set in the Discworld. It touches on belief and human nature and since it involves the character of DEATH, there is so much existential contemplation it's ridiculous. One of my favorites in the series so far.

Colorless Tsukuru Tasaki and His Year of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami--this was on my shelf all year and I finally picked it up. Having spent time in Tokyo and many hours on the subway, the cover caught my eye. It is reminiscent of every novel I ever read in my Japanese literature classes in college. It's my first Murakami book, and I know he's very polarizing, but it makes me want to read another by him.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate--I read this with Max's book club and it was really good. It's based on a true story about a gorilla who was an attraction at a mall. The really cool thing is that the gorilla tells the story.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
First of all, I posted about my year of musical discovery in August. I mention it in that post, but I really had my eyes (and ears) opened by listening to "Rubber Soul" (The Beatles) followed by "Pet Sounds" (The Beach Boys) and then followed by "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (The Beatles). It was a really cool musical journey, and I never fully appreciated how the two groups were so intertwined.

I'll mention Dirty Loops here (even though I mention them in the post) because I was blown away by their sound. Jazz Funk Fusion Electronic Techno Eurobeat? Who would have thought I'd be saying, "Yes, please."

I heard James Bay for the first time this past summer. He's up for a Grammy for New Artist and he deserves the attention. He has a great sound, and definitely has the power to draw you in. The fact that Ed Sheeran is a huge fan does not surprise me in the least.

I had a rediscovery of sorts with Harry Connick, Jr.'s new album. It's the first album he's essentially turned over to outside songwriters and producers, and I think it's one of his recent bests. Stacy and I are already thinking about when and where we'll be seeing him in concert, and it's been a while since we've been saying that.

26. What did you want and get?
I wanted a more relaxed holiday season, and it turned out that way, more or less.

27. What did you want and not get?
I don't know exactly how to express it, but essentially, I had a lot of hopes and expectations at the beginning of 2015 that didn't come to fruition. In the setbacks (as painful as they were at times), there was a TON of self-discovery, so it's a net gain. Sometimes it would be nice if personal growth were less painful, though.

Also, someone to pay off my student loans. It never hurts to fantasize--you just never know.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I saw several really good ones. Again, you will not get a "favorite" from me! All of these were really great: "The Imitation Game," "Love and Mercy," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and "The End of the Tour" (my thoughts on this one could fill volumes, so maybe I should do something with that . . .). I saw a lot of others, but those were the first that came to mind.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 41 this year and celebrated by hanging out with my fantastic family, eating great food, and relaxing.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not to beat a dead horse, but if I could have checked off a few more things from my project list, I think I would look back with even more fondness for 2015.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
2015 was a repeat of 2014, showcasing the finest in consistency and the mundane. "The intersection of presentability and comfort" was the catch phrase for the past 12 months. Ralph Lauren will not be contacting me anytime soon for advice.

32. What kept you sane?
I'm not sure that I've been sane at any point during the year, but my wife, children, and dog have all helped me keep whatever modicum of sanity I've been hanging on to.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I'd probably say Bernie Sanders. There's something about that guy that draws you in, like he's on the verge of something great.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Interestingly, I recently had a conversation about this very topic (for quite different reasons) with someone. For some reason I've been very moved by discussions of gun violence and racial inequality in particular, with the general idea of "privilege" coming in right behind.

35. Who did you miss?
My "old" self. I've been feeling "off" for several years now, but I'm starting to see glimpses of him, mixed with improvements. Therapy has been a good thing.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I feel like we met several new people this year that have been like good seasonings that don't overpower a dish, but add just the right amount of flavor. We got involved with a group of "geeky" folks who have been really good for empowering that "be yourself" side of me. We have some shared interests and a lot of unshared interests, but mostly we all just like having fun together. They are good, honest, sincere people. Stacy and I also met a really cool couple who have a real thirst for living an authentic life, and that's been really fun to explore. We get together and have no lack of things to talk about. It's been good for the soul. And I have GOT to include my therapist here. What a great guy. He's been enormously helpful and tremendously kind. 2015 would have ended quite differently without his guidance.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
I learned that it is really important to be completely honest with yourself. There are lies we tell ourselves, both conscious and subconscious, that block you from being your true self. And I've also learned that there are experiences in life that can affect you very deeply, and if you ignore the lessons they are trying to teach you, there is a price to pay.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
It's been one of those years where I look back and feel like I'm so incomprehensibly lucky to have Stacy in my life. So, in the words of the incomperable Harry Connick, Jr.:

People stay together forever
And a lot of them mean it, too
But no one does, "I do" like we do
Fireworks fade into fireflies
Once the honeymoon's through
They don't do "I do" like we do

Nobody got a you like me
Nobody got this history
Of the good times, and the hard times
And the wild times we've been through
Nobody got a me like you
And I ain't much but this much is true
No one does "I do" like we do

I tried to keep you guessin'
And you still got me confused
No one does "I do" like we do
Everybody turns out the light, when
The day is through
No one does "I do" like we do

Nobody got a you like me
Nobody got this history
Of the good times, and the hard times
And the wild times we've been through
Nobody got a me like you
And I ain't much but this much is true
No one does "I do" like we do

I ain't knockin' what the others got
Cuz they a good thing, too
But they don't do "I do" like we do
Ramblin' down this same ol' road
We'll find our "something new"
And no one does "I do" like we do

Nobody got a you like me
Nobody got this history
Of the good times, and the hard times
And the wild times we've been through
Nobody got a me like you
And I ain't much but this much is true
No one does "I do" like we do


Boquinha said...

Loved this. And love you. You amaze me and I honestly am astounded at how much you love me. I don't feel deserving, but I recognize that that speaks to my own issues, too. :P I'm so glad we're on this journey together. I also love the song you chose. I almost chose that one, too (go figure). You make me smile (almost picked his "Smile" song, too). You are such a great person and I love seeing you dig deep and tap into all the good I know you have in you. I'm a lucky, lucky girl. <3

The Magic Violinist said...

I loved both of these posts! I'm feeling generally inspired and hopeful about 2016. This past year was great (the reunion, foreign exchange students, meeting new people, our various camps, etc.), but I'm especially excited about this upcoming year. A lot of fantastic things are happening, but I'm also loving just hanging out at home as a family and playing games. :)

Jimmy said...

Therapy--good for you! And people shouldn't have to feel like there's some devastating thing that happened to them that makes them feel justified in seeking therapy. It's just good for anyone.

Hope for humanity. It's there, somewhere, right? I'm wondering if it doesn't lie with Carrie Fisher. (Truthfully, I'm expecting a lot from Kate Foley.)

#13 is what I like so much about you and Stacy. Thank you for being good people!

Dr. Mark said...

Stacy - I'm so NOT shocked we have so many similar thoughts. And I'm fully confident that one day you'll understand why I love you so much.

Kate - I'm really enjoying the time together as a family, too. That's one of the great things about the life we've carved out for ourselves.

Jimmy - Thank you for your kind words and for reading the blog. I'm not entirely hopeless about humanity. It's just tough to find it sometimes. And we're all trying to be good--hopefully it comes through more often than not.