Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Vision Board - A Look Back at 2011

I'm noticing a disturbing theme on the Internet this week. People are ushering out 2011 with statements like:

"Screw you, 2011. Bring on 2012."
"2011 was the worst."
"My fiance and I broke up."
"It's been a miserable year."
"Please go away, 2011."
"2011 should die in a fire."

Then there's this awesome cartoon:

Thanks to Facebook Timeline, I can easily look back at my own reactions and the reactions of others to the passing of 2009 (which really was the worst) and 2010 (which was just a continuation of the worst).

I noticed that each year was declared THE WORST YEAR EVER, but I also noticed that my friends and I looked forward to the next year. We put a lot of stock in the power of a new number on the calendar.

So, was 2011 an improvement over 2010 and the Year That Shall Not Be Named (2009, the Voldemort of years)?

On the last day of 2010, I left my job of more than 7 years and took a flying leap.

"You jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down," Ray Bradbury said.

I've been busily building my wings all year. I am nearly finished with the book I wanted to write. I have about four chapters left to go. I've given myself a break from meeting my self-imposed, meaningless deadline of finishing it by today. I know what I want to say and how I want to say it. The words will still be there in January 2012, just waiting for me to write them down.

I was reading some of the year-end recaps of 2011 and the reader comments beneath the stories, and I could feel the pull toward negativity.

And it's true that very little happened in 2011 the way I wanted it to, dammit! I had a time frame and the universe did not follow it. What's that quote? "We plan, God laughs."

I often like to say that the God of my understanding has an awesome sense of humor. He's up there figuring out how to screw with us and He's giggling the whole time. Sometimes I picture Jesus saying, "Oh my God, you telling Michelle Bachmann to run for president was the MOST HILARIOUS THING EVER. Now, tell someone else! Ooh, tell that moron Rick Perry to run, too!"

This sort of thing cheers me up. Anne Lamott once said this brilliant thing: "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do." I know I have created God in my own image because I always picture God and Jesus having hilarious back-and-forths about the world, making jokes, and messing with us because we are just so much fun to mess with. I simply cannot get on board with a higher power that doesn't find human beings hilarious.

Despite the universe's refusal to adhere to my timeline, I do tend to believe that things work out as they should. I have learned that acceptance is the secret to a happy life. The first step toward making peace with the bad things is to accept them, simple as that. Stop trying to change the past.

The tough times make us appreciate the good times even more. 2011 hasn't been nearly as tough as 2009 and 2010, and I'm sincerely grateful for that.

Erin, Stephanie, and I channeled our inner Oprahs (yes, we are total dorks) and created vision boards in 2010 for the next year and here's what mine looked like:

I decided to look at what I wanted and think about what I got:

1. I wanted to leap up on the board and ride the waves. I wanted change. I got it. Big time. I left my job and I put myself in charge of what I'd be writing each day.

2. I wanted to start working out again, to feel energetic and alive. In January, I started going to Pure Barre. In October, I started going to Piloxing (pilates and boxing) at Studio G. I love the intensity of Pure Barre. I love the energy of Piloxing. I picture all the jerks I want to punch while I punch the air. Funny thing though, a few minutes into it I'm no longer thinking about jerks. I'm thinking about how much fun I'm having, about how strong I feel, about how I am SO close to having Michelle Obama arms. I'm thinking that if I can do this, I can do anything. I can fight the good fight.

3. I wanted my home to feel safe. It does. I love my home. Yes, something awful happened there in 2009. But, in the hundreds of days since then, thousands upon thousands of good things have happened. There has been laughter. There has been off-key singing and out-of-rhythm dancing. There have been inside jokes. There has been lasagna baking and cocktail making. There's been steak cooking on a new grill that I learned how to use. There's been a little girl afraid to sleep alone who is slowly making her way to her own bedroom. There have been hugs and kisses. There's been gumbo on the stove and Psych and Community and The Colbert Report on TV and a teenage boy who actually enjoys watching these shows with his mom.

4. I wanted my children to be healthy and happy. They are. "The kids are all right."

5. I wanted to move forward on my book. I dreamt of agents and book deals and checks in the mail. No, I don't have an agent yet. I don't have a book deal. YET. I don't have any money. But I have a nearly finished book of which I am truly proud. When the words come, when I figure out exactly how to structure what I need to say, when I finish a chapter and immediately email it to copy editor extraordinaire Stephanie Gibson, I am happy.

6. Of course, there's George Clooney on my vision board. No, the real man is nowhere near here. That's OK. Listen, George is always there for me. That's why I love him. He is a lovely place to put all my girly dreams of romance without the real fear of heartache. But mostly I love that my friends send me messages when they go to George Clooney movies or hear George Clooney news and it makes them think of me. I like being thought of. I like that we're all in on this silly, running joke. I like that my friends will Photoshop excellent pictures for me.

7. I wanted to fully experience life. I wanted to "enjoy the ride." For awhile I was just getting by. I was just breathing in and out and forcing myself out of bed each day. I was in a bit of a fog. But this year I fought my way back to living in the moment.

After years of saying no, I said yes to dates. I even did the asking once.

I saw Bret Michaels in concert three times because my friend Laurey loves him and I love singing really loudly to Poison songs.
I went to my high school reunion and enjoyed every minute of it. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years. I can say, without a doubt, that all of us have only gotten more amazing as the years have passed. Also, we all are a helluva lot of fun to be around.

I went bowling three times. I never got any better at it.

I went dancing. More than three times. I never got any better at that, either. I looked for excuses to wear this awesome dress.

My friends threw me a fantastic birthday party at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. We played old-school, field-day games.

We acted like hippies. We were high on life. "Your friends love you!"
I met friends for long lunches on Fridays.
We shared the heartbreaking loss of a dear and luminous friend to cancer. I'm not quite sure I've accepted this. I keep thinking that I simply haven't seen her in awhile and I'm only waiting for my next lunch date with her. Sometimes I can feel her love for me when I absolutely need it, when I have been thinking, only moments before, that I sure could use a hug from Sara Jones, that I sure would love to hear her laugh, that I would love to hear her tell me positive and reassuring things. I know all of her friends feel the same. Some people love you so much and so well that you keep feeling it when they're gone. That's an amazing gift. I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful that I was blessed to know such a wonderful person. I would never give up the pain of losing her if it meant I would have never known her.
I went with a group of friends to see Ben Folds in concert. Afterward, we drank Prosecco. We toasted to all the fabulous things.

8. I wore blue nail polish in the spring. By late summer, I switched to a deep blackberry color by OPI called "We'll Always Have Paris." I took Kate for occasional manicures. We sat side-by-side and she told me about her boyfriends, about her life and what happens in those hours between the morning trek to the bus stop and the afternoon trek home.

9. I wanted answers. I think maybe what I've figured out is to stop asking the wrong questions (questions like Why us? What did we do wrong? How could I have changed things?).

I have tried to open my heart and hear what matters. I think the real answers are to love one another, to listen, to keep moving forward.

I think another answer is to let go and let God. In my own words it would sound like this: "Ignore the bull shit that doesn't matter." Honestly, when I looked back on the year, I had a hard time remembering the little things that made me cry, the list of things that might have made me say, "Die in a fire, 2011." I had to work to remember that I had to pay for a new roof and I had to get new brakes on the car and that both things drastically reduced my savings account, that I worried over a man and how he hurt my feelings, that I have no job and no idea what the future holds.

The thing is I like the color of my new roof better than the old roof. I like that I can stop when necessary; that's always a good thing. I like that I actually allowed myself to feel something for someone after years of staying behind my walls. I like that I got to spend a month in the summer remembering what it's like to have the freedom to stay out late, sleep late, and hang out on the back patio talking and drinking until the early morning hours. "Feel weekend happy all week long."

Something else I heard when I listened was this: "Do something." So Kate, Jacob, and I participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We were supported by our amazing friends and family, those who walked with us and those who gave donations. We walked on a beautiful fall day and my son reminded me that what his dad left us with, more than anything, is laughter. You can read my blog post about it here.

10. I didn't make it to the ocean this year, but at least I know it's there. Sometimes that's enough.

Erin, Stephanie, and I have decided to make new vision boards for the year. It's a great excuse to get together and drink wine and discuss what needs discussing. We'll laugh a lot. How can you not laugh when you're searching through magazines for photos of Ryan Gosling or George Clooney or some hot guy from True Blood, when you're clipping out the words "Sex, please!" and giggling about what is and what might be?

And that's just it, isn't it? Maybe 2011 didn't meet all our expectations, maybe it didn't rain down wealth and success and true love, but it rained down a flood of happy memories.

And there's always tomorrow. There's 2012.

There's a whole world of possibilities.

Merry New Year, my friends. I hope tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and all the days of 2012 bring you the wonderful things you desire.


  1. Very well said (again, of course). The one thing that I treasure the most about 2011 are the times spent laughing, even during times of uncertainty. Especially during times of uncertainty. There have been a lot of good things this year, including a lot coming true on that vision board. Now, time for revisions of the vision and a great 2012.

  2. I thought 2011 was a great year, too! Then again, my husband and I moved 2,500 miles from the West Coast back to the South--and circumnavigated the world by ship--so it was bound to be an adventure.

    Some things:

    I recently wore blue OPI nail polish (with a coat of clear glitter) on my fingers and toes for the first time while dressing up as Lady Gaga for 500 college kids. I quite liked the blue and think I might add it to my repertoire of nail colors.

    I love your pink dress! So pretty.

    I'm digging me some Ben Folds lately after becoming addicted to The Sing-Off. He's so dorky in a really cute, endearing way.

    Best of luck on landing a book deal in 2012! I have a feeling your dreams will come true.

  3. It is ALL coming, Amy... I don't know the timing, but I know it's coming. Except for George. I've heard he's a total commitment-phobe. Even that, though... if given the chance, I feel you two would have a break through!
    Happy 2011 AND 2012! Amanda Bailey Leach

  4. Thanks to all of you for reading and for your comments. I love the positive vibes! Happy New Year to you all!

  5. Here's to 2012! I'm about to drink a little flat Champagne, because I couldn't stay up to finish the bottle. I was thinking of Sarah last night when framing a poster of Biggie Smalls. She always tiptoes in on me. Cheers to you and your book.


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