2017 went out with more of a whimper than a bang. I spent a solid chunk of December dealing with disease, mired in fear, and feeling pissed at myself for crying at Christmas. Facing another new year with multiple sclerosis while taking stock of 2017, it’s tempting to tick off a list of things lost, things I’ll never do again. Which is depressing AF. You don’t want to read that self-pitying barf, and I must force myself to agree, it’s way more appealing to look at the blank slate of possibilities for 2018, than to obsess over the ways in which 2017 went off the rails.
But, making resolutions can feel like we’re announcing our shortcomings. Like we’re publicly identifying the (usually trivial) ways in which we feel we suck. And maybe that’s why so many people hate them. Nobody wants to feel like they’re failing at life. Gross. Building a brag-sheet of last year’s wins can help us recognize just what we got right, and give us the confidence to sign-up for what’s to come. Taking stock of 2017 helps me realize that change is possible. Heck, anything is possible. And isn’t that what the new year is all about?
There is no suck. Only degrees of awesome.
How I Slayed in 2017
Travel is hard when you have a dumb disease. With its stupid cobblestones and complete lack of curb cuts, Rome kicked my ass last year, as the least accessible place I’ve ever been. I left Italy feeling smug and secretly satisfied at the fall of the Roman Empire. They deserved it. Despite this, I was truly glad I came and saw and conquered. Instead of feeling defeated, I felt inspired to travel more, and to places even further outside my comfort zone. Because as I’ve said before, if not now, never.
And I don’t believe in never.
For most of my life, singing was a major part of my identity. For a long time, I believed every lesson, every hour spent practicing, every moment of performance, was saving my life. And it was. Until it wasn’t. It’s too long and boring to get into here, but MS fucked it up for me, and as my body weakened I began to feel diminished by the very thing that once made me feel invigorated. After trying for too long to keep it in my life in any capacity, I was finally able to accept that singing was no longer bringing me joy. I walked away, and somehow, felt relieved.
Memorized All the Words to Despacito
Okay, I didn’t totally stop singing. I mean, I’ll never stop Beliebing.
Gave up gluten, sugar, and dairy
Relax, guys. It’s not like I gave up bacon. This lifestyle sounds so crazy hard but I swear to you it hasn’t been. I think it’s partly because I’m good at making healthy food taste like not garbage, and partly because my tummy and neurogenic bowel feel legit better without cheese. Mostly though, it’s because it’s a way to feel I have some control. When I go to sleep at night thinking there’s nothing that can be done for my progressive MS, I quietly tell myself that maybe this diet will help. That tastes better to me than any croissant ever could. And that’s saying a lot.
Became a glamorous, rich lady
When I was a teenager, I interned at an opera company where my fancy but terrifying employer would get her hair ‘set’ every week. My blue-blooded, bougie-boss was so sniffy and serious, and guys, did I mention terrifying? Like Anna Wintour, but taller and Italian. I definitely wanted to be her when I grew up. Then, last summer, MS finally gave me the justification to be a little more like, uhm, let’s call her Mary.
Because, showering is hard.
As MS worsens, the thought of holding my arms up long enough to dry my hair makes me long for the days of wearing wigs and obscene amounts of cheap perfume. So in July, I splurged on a package of blow-dry’s and now I can never go back. Can I afford this? Maybe not, but I’d sooner give up groceries than go back to washing my own damn hair like a nobody.
Clearly I nailed 2017. I’m high-five’ing myself for what were obviously some kick-ass self-care habits I’ll be bringing with me into the new year. But self-improvement never stops. It’s what makes you better than other people. So here are my goals for the upcoming year:
What I Want In 2k18
Yup. The old New Year’s cliché. But hear me out: there’s so much compelling research about the effects of exercise on MS that I’m convinced it’s time to step up my game. I’ve always exercised and I work with a great physiotherapist (#megan). But there’s no reason I can’t be at the gym every freaking day. Even if it’s just 5 minutes. Because 5 minutes turns into 6, and 6 becomes 7, and 7 becomes slower disease progression than if I’d just sat on the couch eating raisins and watching The Crown. I know what you’re thinking: ‘This sounds like Sophie’s Choice’. But here’s the thing. The gym is in my building. Which means, I have time for weight training and binge-watching. (Wait. Were you thinking ‘raisins are disgusting’? Then screw you. Raisins are a delicious snack.)
Minimize Time Sucks
It’s hard not to get sucked down an internet hole when you write a blog; when you’re on your laptop at all hours so you tell yourself you’re “working”. But let’s face it, I’m mostly sucked into online shopping and celebrity gossip. OMG PRINCE HARRY AND MEGHAN MARKLE ARE GETTING MARRIED, GUYS. Like, who am I to ignore living history? Furthermore, what kind of feminist would I be if I didn’t know why we’re all pissed at you-know-who, and you-know-who else, and you-know-who else, and so on forever. Strike this. This is no time to cut back on the internet. I’ll just have to cut something else, like laundry or brushing my teeth.
Obviously world peace and blah, blah, but what I’m really talking about is inner peace, and this might be my biggest commitment to change this year. MS isn’t going anywhere, and I need to get my shit together, figure out how to maintain my sanity when symptoms are at their worst and my brain feels like it’s gonna explode. I think this means learning to meditate and finding some counselling that is more reputable than fortune cookies and the occasional episode of Dr. Phil. I’m going to detox my mind and I’m going to do it with help.
Happy New Year Trippers. Cheers to possibilities, blank slates and optimism. And if you feel like sharing your own ’17 brag-sheet and 2k18 goals, I’d love to hear them.