Rated: 13+ · Letter/Memo · Personal · #2289310
Let's be real about what 2023 needs to entail (A Dear Me entry/sequel)
Boy. Howdy. Who knew 2022 would end up shaking out like it did? You already expected it to be tough, but some of the details really threw you for a loop. I mean, the Russian invasion of Ukraine hit a little too close to home thanks to media coverage conjuring up memories of Minneapolis being compared to a war zone back in 2021. Thanks for that one, Vice. Then Inside Edition had to take it up a notch by stating Mariupol was a city, “the size of Minneapolis”. Most reasonably sane Minnesotans found that comparison to be quite unnecessary. Acts like that took your already fragile emotional state and shoved it into a wood chipper. It’s a miracle you got anything done in regards to "Resolution of Restoration" [13+] in light of this.
Given all this emotional tumult, it’s time to consider what needs to be done in 2023.The resolution itself is easy to summarize: continue working on addressing your trauma. The path to keeping that resolution looks different, though. Last year, it was brand new territory, and the only real concern was picking out starting points. This year, you have some data reflecting the work you put into this. That data will need to be weighed before determining how to proceed. Your failures and your accomplishments deserve thorough review. Both will impact your future your future decisions.
For some reason, your brain has fixated on the lack of quality discussion of failure. When you have seen it discussed, you’ve detected a sense of urgency to put a positive spin on it. To you, it’s not all that much different than toxic positivity. Well, it’s time to be the change you want to see again. Let’s discuss these failures and acknowledge how much it sucks to miss the mark. Most of your failures happened to be in the relationship department. This isn’t much of a surprise, but it was an area where you had a concrete plan of action. Yeah, whoops. Those exercises you laid out in your previous letter will have to roll over to this year. By exercises, I mean determining your top five priorities in any type of relationship. Likewise, you haven’t done any work to think about the different (types of) relationships you have. This lack of due diligence came back to bite you due to your father-in-law’s decision to bring up the Minnesota State Fair shooting during your nephew’s birthday party. While it’s unlikely that actually articulating your stance on different relationships would have prevented your initial outburst, it might have given you a little more energy to set your anger aside for a couple hours and set up a more thorough discussion later.
Aside from relationship-related failures, you had other missteps. While you did make an effort to identify the spaces in your life, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason in how you did this. That haphazard work means you might not be able to keep track of spaces that may not be good for you. It’s also kept you from really contemplating why a space has a particular effect on you. This ties into another failure of yours: community involvement. Again, you did get involved more, but it was not well planned. As a result, your schedule went all cattywampus on you in the latter half of the year. Such chaos made your life a lot more difficult in 2022.
Now let’s face the part that gives you heartburn: accomplishments. Much as you seem to enjoy lingering on what you didn’t do, we need to go over what you did get done. After all, what you achieved paved a very intense way forward, and that means plenty of work for you in 2023. As previously discussed, you did get more involved in the community, and you went in swinging! Instead of taking the more typical route of volunteering with a local charity like a normal person would do, you decided to apply for a city advisory committee. Of course, you weren’t expecting to be accepted on your first try. Now you’re not only on a city committee but co-chair one of the subcommittees, and you seem to be holding your own as a rookie.
Likewise, there are other things you checked off the list. You have been looking at the spaces in your life with a more critical eye. You’ve even decided to give Ask a Manager the boot. The comment sections there have started to grate, and the survivorship bias is untenable in your eyes. Deciding to stop reading that blog did help mitigate your stress, so hooray for that. I think the biggest accomplishment, though, has been your work in asking broader questions. You went to work in exploring the questions “What’s still bothering me?” and “What expressions/phrasings get under my skin?”. The latter has been an inadvertent boon for your journaling, and some of those entries have actually sparked discussion. Madness, right? In a similar vein, this written discussion combined with your ongoing work in sharing nuanced, complex content has started to get through to people. There may be hope yet.
Now that we’ve review how last year went, it’s time to figure out how to approach your trauma work this year. Your failures and accomplishments point to a conflict between your efforts in the real world and the rampant activity in your head. Perhaps the framework for this year needs to focus on balancing these forces. In other words, what work do you need to do in your community/relationships, and what work do you need to do to address the world in your head?
Let’s tackle the hard one first: your head. Obviously this can’t all be fixed in counseling alone. You recognize that trying to fix things just through talk therapy isn’t enough. What do you do? I think the first thing to do is take a mental health inventory. This a diverse crop of tasks from assessing your schedule to addressing your issues with the concept of self-care. With your schedule, you’ll need to look beyond the days with scheduled activities and think about how various activities make you feel. Lately you’ve taken on an activity that requires a lot of work, be it reading engineering presentations or writing minutes for meetings. This is in addition to two or three meetings a month. Yeah, it’s a lot! At the same time, it’s a worthwhile activity that entails a lot of skill development and growth. Since you have had about six months to get used to the routine, you know what kind of time commitment you have here. It’s now time to use that knowledge to refine your schedule and see where things need to be tweaked to ensure you don’t physically or mentally collapse.
Speaking of collapsing, this ties into another aspect of addressing issues in your head: self-care. Yeah, you’ve been struggling mightily with the idea of self-care since before the pandemic. You’ve been fighting it ever since you saw the first signs of it being commoditized (e.g. yoga). Hell, you’ve been griping about the stereotypes of self-care in therapy since 2020. When it comes to pushing back on the most problematic aspects of self-care, you will not go gentle into that good night! Long term, though, this will end up haunting you, because this fight has been crowding out other insights. What do you do? Ultimately, you have to define self-care for yourself. I realize that’s big ask, but there is good news. You actually started this last year! You told your counselor how travel is a form of self-care, as it gives you a change of space. You may not realize it, but this is a useful starting point. It may be worth redefining self-care from a short-term perspective, such as what you can do to address your trauma and its accompanying neurological changes. From there, you can even look at how your activities and hobbies factor into trauma management.
And how about what you do? You have a lot on your plate in your life. Quite a bit of it is unplanned, like the city committee work. Your committee work isn’t the only community involvement you’ve taken on, though. In November, you decided to up the ante by observing a community meeting dedicated to getting in-depth feedback about how to rebuild/reconfigure George Floyd Square. This involved going to a part of Minneapolis you’ve never been to in the 15 plus years you’ve lived here. It was a bit of a risk, really, but you did it. It was enlightening but also a bit of an overload. Part of you knows such activities will be more common in your future, though. Why? Well, it all boils down to a particularly thorny question stuck in your mind.
What is that question? It is this: “What effect, if any, does neighborhood or city region focus have on addressing issues that affect all of Minneapolis?” Of course, you ask the hard questions, and you better believe that getting the answer(s) will be similarly tricky. You started on the path to answer this last year by going out into the city and talking to people. Bad news: you have to keep going. You did learn that you’re more likely to keep going if you’re by yourself when out in public. This seems contrary for a married person, but when’s the last time you did anything normally? This year, steel yourself up for more solo adventures. It’ll help you find these answers, and it’ll also help you find more spaces to explore.
Of course, there is still work you have to complete that isn’t community engagement. Last year, you started making changes to your condo to try to rewrite your memories of the place. After all, you spent a lot of fearful time in it back in 2020. Sometimes the current setup still reminds you of that terror. Keep going on this work! Now that your living room has better lighting, you can get back to working on repainting the bedroom. While painting, you and your husband can talk, which might help you with ironing out the finer details of your relationship philosophy. This may also be a good time to talk out things like your capacity for risk and making sure your framework for this year is still a good fit a few months down the road.
There is one thing I will advise you not to do: make a lot of drastic career changes. Since you’re planning for the continuation of a ton of emotional work, you may want to press pause on doing anything significant with your career (unless something drastic happens). Your work and your industry are complex enough as it is. Trying to move to a new team or take a completely different set of responsibilities would wreak utter havoc on your moods. Letting your job be a steadying influence in your life will help balance out the more intense work you have on your plate this year.
Truthfully, there’s no way to guarantee that 2023 will go to plan. This framework will need to be flexible like it was last year. You never know what will land in your lap. Last year was a traumatic triumph. 2023 will test your stamina in moving forward with trauma management. If you get through doing it all again this year, you just might make it through in the long haul.
Word count: 1,907