- This year's yays
- Getting married
- Visiting family on the east coast
- Rediscovering reading fiction
- Improving agoraphobia and insomnia
- The years yikes
- Losing Mimi
- Other family stuff
- Work capacity
- Lack of connection
- Favorite new habits
- Listening to audiobooks
- Afternoon walks with Alex
- Family meetings
- Getting fresh bagels
- Falling asleep without TV
- Favorite moments
- Going to The Ripped Bodice
- Returning to NYC
- Seeing Mimi
- Going to Wicked
- Spending a whole day out running errands myself
- Favorite purchases
- Apple Watch
- Favorite education
- Favorite media
- TV shows
- Fiction Books
- Nonfiction Books
- The plan for 2023
Well, it might be a bit late to post an annual review, but it's also very aligned with some themes of the year around living at a slower pace.
Instead of rushing to "wrap up" the year and make new plans by December 31, I like to look at December and January as more of a "reflect and reset" season.
Also, I once saw a joke on social media about how if January was the year's trial period, they would like to return the year for a refund. And something about it just struck me, and I decided to live by that little joke from now on.
Last year was a rough one both in business and my personal life, and my mental health has really struggled with so many abled people treating the pandemic as over, leaving me and other disabled people more isolated than say, in 2020 when everyone was happy to Zoom and mask up.
So here's my reflection based, on the Work Brighter Practical Review Process.
This year's yays
After 13 years of dating, 7 of living together, and 3 of being engaged, Alex and I wanted to finally get married in 2022. And we squeezed in a trip to the courthouse juuuust before it ended, on December 28!
It was just us, and we don't plan on having any kind of reception or party.
Pre-2020, when we talked about it we struggled with decisions around wedding size and scope and stuff.
But especially with my health, the pandemic has given us a lot of practice defending our boundaries and priorities, and it became a lot easier to say "no" to a party and "yes" to being our introverted selves.
I'm really, really proud of the way we handled it all.
It doesn't feel different or anything on a day to day basis, of course, since we were full partners in life already. But it was a fun day, my rings are pretty and shiny, and it's cool to get some gifts lol.
Visiting family on the east coast
I only saw my family once in 2020 before leaving New York City for LA, and hadn't been back to the East Coast trip. Alex had, and I'd seen some of his friends & family out here, but I hadn't seen any of my own family in years. I just didn't feel physically or mentally safe traveling in 2021.
This year, though, I finally made it back twice.
I got to see my grandma one last time (see below), spend time with other family, see my best friends, and get a hit of that addictive NYC energy I've missed in the suburbs.
The second time, I even got back to a Broadway show!
Rediscovering reading fiction
I've always loved reading, but in my twenties, I sort of ruined it for myself for a while.
In 2013, I read over 400 books. And because of my workaholism and addiction to Hustle Culture at the time, I felt guilty spending so much time and money on an unmonetized hobby.
So from 2014 to 2017, I ran a romance book blog. And as soon as I joined the book blogging community, I went ALL in.
I worked with publishers and PR companies to participate in blog tours. I was on all the platforms for getting advanced review copies. I drove all over the region to attend book signings and fan events, once even going to Chicago to speak at an industry conference about how authors & bloggers can use social media.
In fact, the first digital product I sold was a content planner specifically for book reviewers, since it's a unique workflow that was hard to adapt other content calendars to.
But by 2017, reading fiction felt like a job, and I needed a sabbatical.
Over the next few years, I would read just a handful of books per year.
But this year, I found home in fiction again.
Turns out, I'm an audiobook girlie now!
And the libraries have SO much more contemporary romance than they used to, thanks to stuff like BookTok.
So I'm back to reading 100+ fiction books a year (yes, I'm on Goodreads), and rediscovered a part of myself that went missing for a while. I forgot how much I love losing myself in a literary world, and how it touches a part of me TV shows and movies just can't.
And yes, the urge to start another book blog or bookstagram or BookTok account is STRONG, but I'm trying to resist it. 🙃
Improving agoraphobia and insomnia
Finally, my agoraphobia and insomnia are somewhat under control.
Both existed before the pandemic, then obviously got horribly worse. I'm finally at a point where I've recovered the progress the pandemic made me lose.
In terms of the agoraphobia, I now drive regularly again, can leave the house without my partner, and more. I'd say it's almost back to the point it was in 2015-ish, before my illness and burnout exacerbated it a lot.
But with how much the pandemic has changed leaving the house, it's hard to draw a direct parallel.
And as for the insomnia, my sleep hygiene is better than it's ever been in my whole life. The past few years, sleep has been one of my top health priorities.
I tried almost everything I could do to improve it, and was still only sleeping about 6-7 hours a day (I say day instead of night to include naps).
But with chronic illness, that still wasn't enough.
I had been primarily working on this with my primary care doctor, but happened to bring it up with one of my others, who mentioned getting more magnesium may help. It turns out a simple over-the-counter supplement did the trick, and I'm now more rested than I've ever been in my life!
This might literally be the first time in my life I've actually been well-rested for more than a few days at a time, now getting 8-10 hours of sleep per day. Checking my sleep stats is a regular source of shock and pride these days.
The years yikes
In 2022, my family lost my grandma, Mimi. She was always the family member I was closest to, to the point the rest of the family called me "Mini Mimi.”
I had only gotten to see her twice in her last few years here. It fucking sucks. That's all there is to say.
Other family stuff
Between Mimi's declining health in her final months and health issues with other members of my family, I had a lot of other people's health shit to worry about on top of my own fairly large pile of health shit.
In addition to keeping up to date on these things, worrying about them, and processing the past trauma it resurfaced, it took up a lot of time, energy, and brain space.
Also Alex and I both had some conflicts with our families around visiting, boundaries, COVID comfort levels, etc. We both had to get a lot of practice standing up for ourselves and pushing back when our boundaries were crossed.
It sucked, but I think we grew closer by teaming up, and it highlighted how much our non-confrontational selves have grown in the past few years.
Between my health stuff, family stress, COVID stress, and well, everything else in the world, taking up my energy, there wasn't a lot left for work.
For most of the year, I wasn't taking on consulting or freelance projects, I didn't create any new products, and barely promoted the ones I had.
I had to let a lot of things go stale, which I now need to refresh and rebuild.
Lack of connection
Now that most people aren't worrying about COVID at all anymore or wearing masks when it's not required, I almost feel more isolated than I did in the first two years of the pandemic.
Then, less things were happening IRL, more was happening virtually, and stuff like that.
Now, virtual events are fading, friends are sick of FaceTime and Zoom, and mask requirements are disappearing.
Favorite new habits
I resisted trying meditation for years. Then for several more years, I only used it in emergency anxiety situations.
But in 2022, I opened myself up to the idea again, and it turns out I really liked it.
Once I stopped looking at it as something self-help gurus told me I should do, and started getting curious about what it could do for me, things got interesting.
I like improving my focus and increasing my sense of calm in the short-term. And I like the science on what it can do to the brain and body in the long-term.
I still don't meditate every day, but it happens a few times a week and I truly want to do it more, versus just feeling like I should.
Listening to audiobooks
I'd tried listening to audiobooks a few times before, but the audio processing difficulties from my ADHD made it go in one ear and out the other. But between meditating and this, 2022 seemed to be the year that my body and brain changed its mind about some things!
The primary way I consume fiction books now is listening to audiobooks while I do something mindless with my hands.
And ever since 2020, I'd been having trouble reading ebooks, but it turns out that listening to the audiobook as I follow along with the ebook helps with that. So that's now how I read nonfiction, when I can.
Afternoon walks with Alex
When it's not allergy season (like it currently is), Alex and I have gotten into a good habit of going for a mid-afternoon walk most work days. For him, it's a good break after he's been working for most of the day already. For me, it gets out some energy before I really dive in for the day.
But for both of us, it's a chance to spend time with each other during the workday and get outside a bit.
Another thing we started doing together is having a "family meeting" on Sunday nights for parts of weekly planning that we need to do together.
- We usually work in the same room most of the day, so we go over when we're each expecting to be on calls.
- We share a car, so we go over when each of us plans to use it to avoid last-minute conflicts.
- And we decide which chores and life admin items we'll tackle that week.
We usually have a VERY long "backlog" of deep cleaning and life admin chores, so this is helping us get and stay caught up on them.
I owe our finally getting all the marriage admin together to these weekly meetings!
Also, the apartment is cleaner and more organized than ever and I love it.
Getting fresh bagels
Finally, another amazing weekly habit is getting fresh bagels from a nearby Jewish deli.
I eat a bagel every day.
And even when I lived in Manhattan, aka bagel heaven, most of those bagels were grocery store-brand mass produced ones. Fresh bagels were a once-in-a-while special treat.
But this year I guess we decided the slight increase in cost was worth it, and I got comfortable asking Alex to go pick them up for us. (The price difference isn't even as much as I'd thought.)
Biting into a warm, fresh bagel every morning is truly a blissful way to start the day, and I don't know why it took me so long to do this.
Falling asleep without TV
Going back to my sleep problems, previously I had not been able to fall asleep without TV on (specifically, a comfortable & familiar sitcom) since high school. Otherwise my brain would just go into overdrive and I'd stay awake forever.
But journaling before bed has helped that a lot, and it's easier to fall asleep in silence now.
I still fall asleep to TV on the weekends, but during the week when I don't want to wake up Alex (who goes to bed before me), I skip it.
I still prefer the TV method, but knowing I don't NEED it to fall asleep makes me proud of all the progress I've made around sleep hygiene.
Going to The Ripped Bodice
After following them since I backed their Kickstarter in 2016, I finally got to visit The Ripped Bodice, one of the country's only all-romance bookstores, in person!
One of the things pushing me to start driving again was wanting to join their book clubs and go to their events.
I've only been once so far, but I loved it so much.
Returning to NYC
We moved because it wasn't sustainable or healthy for us to be there long-term anymore, but God, I still love NYC so much.
When we've been back to visit, I just get a rush of energy and excitement as soon as I step out onto the street.
All year, I worried this wouldn't be able to happen, and if my trip was a few months later, I would have. I'm just glad I got to see her one last time.
Going to Wicked
When Wicked was still a new show, my mom and I had plans to go see it, but I got sick and couldn't travel to NYC and my sister got to go instead.
And in the 15+ years since, I never managed to get another ticket. Until now!
And I'm glad I didn't see it as a kid, because a lot of the political themes would have gone over my head.
Spending a whole day out running errands myself
After not driving or even leaving the house myself for so long, the days that I drove around running errands on my own were a really big deal. They helped me regain a sense of independence that I hadn't had in a long time.
One time, I went to a doctor's appointment, the bagel shop, AND Barnes & Noble all in one go! Did I crash later? Yes! But still!
One reason I started a book blog the first time was so that I could save money on books by reading ARCs. 🙃 This time around, I need other ways to save.
Most of my reading has been from library books, but I wanted other options too for when everything I want to read has a wait list.
Right now, I'm loving Scribd for unlimited ebooks & audiobooks for the monthly price of one ebook. I’m considering Kindle Unlimited as well, but right now I like that Amazon isn’t making much off my reading habit.
I’d been intrigued by Minecraft since I first watched my sister play it in, like, 2013, but never played it myself. During a flare-up this year, I needed something calm and mindless but wasn’t in the mood for The Sims (weird, I know), so I decided to download this.
And turns out I love Minecraft just as much as The Sims. I’ve made room in my heart for two video games. I love it so much and play almost every day now.
This year I finally upgraded from a Fitbit to an Apple Watch and I had no idea what I’d been missing. I can use my phone even less now and love having my more helpful and intentional apps, like my habit tracker and to-do list, right on my wrist.
- Art With Flo’s YouTube channel and Patreon
- Drawing as Self-Discovery from Mari Andrews on Skillshare
- Membership Academy (for working on relaunching Work Brighter’s membership this year)
- MacSparky’s Shortcuts & Shortcuts for Mac Fields Guides
- Hybrid Calisthenics’ accessible strength exercises
- Abbott Elementary
- The New Adventures of Old Christine (a rewatch that totally holds up)
- Russian Doll
- The Flight Attendant
- Grand Crew
- Only Murders in the Building
- Dead to Me
- Knives Out: Glass Onion
- Do Revenge
- Wedding Season
- The Hating Game
- Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
- Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
- The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
- The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
- I'll Be You by Janelle Brown
- Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter
- I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom
- I'm Glad My Mom's Dead by Jeanette McCurdy
- Unmasking Autism by Devon Price
- How to Change by Katy Milkman
- Self-Help Inc by Micki McGee
The plan for 2023
My theme word for 2023 is “stability.” For me, this primarily means three things:
- Mental/mood stability
- Financial stability
- Ankle/joint instability (it’s now been 10 years since my last ankle reconstruction and I can definitely feel the instability & range of motion issues coming back)
And generally, my goal is to get my mental health & business/career back to where they were before the pandemic.
It will be a year of a lot of rebuilding and refreshing, but that’s the kind of work I like, so I’m looking forward to it.