2014: Our Year In Review

Looking back, I think 2014 was a pivotal year for my husband and me. It didn’t start out all that special but by mid year, big changes were afoot. Which is an interesting point, by the way. We like to break up our world according to the calendar year but life doesn’t really care about our artificial time boundaries. It just rolls along. No need to wait for a New Year to make some positive resolutions for your life.

One seemingly minor change has to do with my appearance. In August, I decided on a whim to cut my long straight hair into a spiky little pixy cut. This was remarkable for two reasons. First, I don’t do anything on a whim. Spontaneous is not a word that anyone would put anywhere on a list of words to describe me. Second, my hair has been the same for most of my 40 years on the planet. I’m not big on change.

But the haircut did more than just update my hairstyle. It caused a total makeover in appearance, personality, and confidence. I love how I look now. I wear earrings – because, hey! You can see them! Even big dangly ones. I dress in nicer clothes. I love how my new glasses complement my look. I smile instead of frown when I look in the mirror. I love myself.

Related to appearance and self love is our new focus on health and exercise. My husband wants us to hike “rim to rim” at Grand Canyon National Park in 2016. That’s a brutally ambitious 22 mile, 1 day hike, some rest, and then a return hike a couple days later.

We both have the knowledge and experience to do this safely but we also both know we aren’t in good enough shape. Yet. The exercising began in earnest in July or August. It ramped up even more in the Fall.

It’s grown to a team activity. We rise early every morning and workout: one on the treadmill, the other on the bike. We do sit-ups and push-ups together. We’ve recently added squats.

In early November, an attempt to do 4 sit-ups resulted in muscles so sore, I had to rest a week before trying again. Now, I do over 50 and only struggle near the end… and without lingering soreness after! My husband has manifested the greatest improvements. While I’m still waiting to see the results on the scales, he has shed over 25 pounds and looks great.

Exercising has become a priority. We make it happen. Together.

The final groundbreaking development in 2014 was the overhaul of our finances. We’ve now been living on a budget for 6 months and we are both addicted to how well this works. We’ve paid off both vehicles, created a budget spreadsheet that allows us to tailor our budget exactly as we want it, allocated savings categories for upcoming vacations and big ticket items, mastered usage of a joint app on our phones to track expenses against the budget, and learned how to work together.

That’s been the greatest success. We work together better. We are more patient with each other. We listen. Now, don’t get me wrong. We still duke it out from time to time (figuratively). We still lose our cool. But for the most part, we both want to make it work and so we work.

Who knew that 40 was the age at which we’d finally grow up? I couldn’t be happier with my husband, my life, and myself. And I’m excited about where 2015 is going to take us.

Advertisements

New Frontiers

So what does the insecure and reserved goody-two-shoes do when she hits her mid-life crisis? If she’s anything like me, she throws caution to the wind and signs up to do something totally radical and unheard of. Cutting edge, daring, spontaneous, illogical. Playing in a badminton tournament so her company will keep their participation points. Talk about walking on the wild side.

Thanks to our strong turn-out in the 5K portion of this inter-company competition, our company was leading the way in participation points. That 5K race, by the way, was another notable example of my new daring approach to life. I began running a few months ago and finished my first race at 32:49. I kept an even maintainable pace and then, following my nine year old son’s sage advice, sprinted to the finish line as if I were in competition for something more than kudos from my kids.

This may not sound like much to those readers more adventurous than I, but for me, running in that race was terrifying. I barely slept the night before. I had no expectation of winning. That’s not what scared me. What scared me was the thought of trying and failing. Perfectionism is the antithesis of adventure.

However, the sky didn’t fall. I didn’t fail. My kids were proud of me. I succeeded. I felt good about myself.

So… when the email arrived from the 5K coach that the badminton team needed another female participant in order to retain all the participation points, I called my husband and asked if he thought I was crazy. Amazingly, the calendar was open the night of the tournament.

I reminded him that I hadn’t actually played badminton since ninth grade PE. He said he didn’t think recreational badminton would be all that tough and I should go for it if I wanted to. So I did. Completely out of character.

We had a practice a few days before the big event. Four of the six team members showed up. We attempted to play outside with a strong wind. It was quickly apparent that we were unlikely to earn anything more than those precious participation points. But at least I learned how to do the more sophisticated backhand serve – thanks to the teammate who had watched some YouTube videos of Olympic competitors.

When we arrived at the venue and began to walk from our car, I saw a man carrying a bag with racquets and shuttlecocks. Wow. I thought. He must be serious. Our coach had purchased a kit. Between him and the YouTube lady, we had enough racquets to go around.

I signed in and led my family into the gym. Our jaws dropped. Those birdies were flying hard from racquet to racquet. Rapid fire between the players warming up. People darting back and forth. It was intense. Even the competitors’ children were impressive, batting back and forth between the courts during warm-up.

“Dude,” my husband said. “You are totally going to get creamed.”

And he was right. A teammate would later comment that this was nothing like he was used to playing at barbeques. That teammate, and another one, actually took a birdie in the face because they were hit too fast to get out of the way.

My husband chuckled through a good portion of my first game. I was playing mixed with an overweight, middle-aged man who was fortunately pretty good. He somehow dove for a birdie and got it over the net in our first game. Neither one of us were rocking but we had a good time playing with each other. We were even leading during much of both matches in our loser’s bracket game. We might have won if we had been playing to 15 instead of 21.

The handful of coworkers that knew what I was doing had teased me about playing badminton. You could tell by their tone that they considered it a joke, a non-sport. Never mind that my muscles were still sore from the practice session. Never mind that I was sweaty and exhausted by the time the night was over. Never mind that they were likely sitting on the couch watching TV while I put my lack of talent on display. They still found it laughable.

That night taught me many things. First, what is a joke to some people is serious business to others. My team comprised most, if not all, of the white people in the room. The other competitors were overwhelmingly of Asian or Eastern Indian descent. And they were good. Really good. This sport was a big deal to them and, watching them play, it was unquestionably a sport. My coworkers had no room to laugh.

Second, I didn’t have to be the best, or even necessarily good, at something to have fun. We knew why we were there. We improved. We pulled off some good volleys and saves. We learned. We laughed. We had fun. It was a night well spent.

Third, it was rewarding to move out of my comfort zone. There was no risk. No downside. Why should I care what my non-adventurous coworkers thought? They were laughing but that was all they were doing. I was experiencing. I was living. I was learning. I was growing.

So maybe running races and competing in a sport you’ve never really played before doesn’t count as a mid-life crisis. Maybe it’d be more accurate to call it growing up. Finally.