A New Year: Time for Reflection

And just like that we’re starting a new year.

As we begin our journey into 2023, it’s the perfect time for reflection on the past year with the intention of making positive changes.

time for reflection

The new year is a good time to gain perspective, note personal growth, and celebrate accomplishments. To examine life lessons to be applied in the new year. To approach 2023 with purpose and intention.

My blogging buddies and I will share what we’ve learned this past year along with ways we plan to make 2023 count. We’re bravely answering a list of personal questions. I’ll be adding links at the end of this article as their blogs are published.

In the meantime, I’d encourage all of you to answer these insightful questions for yourselves.

Okay, here I go!

How would you describe 2022 in one word?

Magical.

Just kidding. This is where I get real, which makes me squirm a bit.

Maybe toward the end of the year, when we finally realized our dream of moving to the beach, things began to look better. But getting there sure wasn’t easy.

Unfortunately, honestly the word is “stressful.”

With the housing market exploding, our small family business was crazy busy. My husband’s phone rang day and night with clients clamoring to get their jobs done while the market was still hot. Even though I was trying to help with the business, it all became too much. Hubby, who is normally happy and easy-going, was stressed out and depressed. He wanted out. To my surprise, he wanted to retire by the end of the year.

That required a lot of changes, as I noted in a previous blog.

After selling our large family home, we moved into temporary digs while figuring out where we wanted to live in retirement. It wasn’t the desert. We also needed to close down a 40-year-old family business which was complicated.

During this time, my 83-year-old father-in-law’s home burnt down, so he lived with us for the most of the year while fighting the insurance company.

We were heading into the unknown. Retirement, downsizing, living on half our previous income, and moving to a new place. That’s a lot of change. Coming on the heels of caregiving and losing my Mom to Lewy Body dementia, the pandemic, and other stressful events, I felt fragile.

Toward the end of the year, we bought and remodeled a small, 40-year-old duplex at the beach and moved for the second time in a year. In the middle of finishing the remodel and unpacking, we both got COVID. That was fun.

What was your biggest challenge last year? How did you overcome it? What life lessons did you learn from the experience that you’ll take with you in the new year?

My biggest challenge was staying calm and in control of my emotions. Only those closest to me know that I struggled last year. Even now, I’m not comfortable sharing my feelings. For the most part, my social media posts looked like I was having the time of my life. But, like a lot of people, I only shared the good days.

If you’re one of those people who suffered with anxiety last year, maybe you can relate to my bad days. I was stress eating and gaining weight. Sleep? Well, forget it. I suffered from “stress welts,” large and painful welts that appeared all over my body that three doctors and a biopsy couldn’t name or explain. When I woke up, I wasn’t looking forward to the day. These were new feelings to me.

Of course, I’m not alone. The pandemic alone put people on edge. According to a CNBC article, mental health damage from COVID could last a generation. Psychologists and psychiatrists have never been so busy.

Is 62 too old to start over and find yourself again? Turns out the answer is no.

Although moving was stressful, it gave me a much needed fresh start. I began journaling again – raw and honest writing. I needed the introspection this provided me. It was time to focus on my spirituality and my well-being. Hubby and I enjoyed finding new hiking trails and bike paths to explore. I hung a couple of my writing awards on the wall to remind me that I’m a writer – it is part of me I needed to embrace again. Members of our new congregation welcomed us, we became involved in our volunteer work, and we settled into our new routine.

Bit by bit, I began to feel better. Miraculously, my stress welts eventually went away.

Describe the happiest day of 2022? What can you do to have more days like that in 2023?

Amidst the turmoil, there were happy days. A trip to Washington state, staying in a cabin with a view of a spectacular river and mountains, and visiting tulip farms. Camping in Monterey with my youngest son, his wife, and my youngest granddaughter. Proudly running the Spartan Race with my kids. Picking apples in Oak Glen with my oldest son and his three children. Camping in Lake Hemet with hubby, hiking in the mountains, and visiting our favorite restaurant with live music in Idyllwild.

This is going to sound strange, but one of my happiest days was after we moved to the beach. I was writing at my desk looking out the window (this is one of the reasons I’m not finished editing my latest book – there’s a lot of critter drama in my backyard to distract me). We have a mean, bully squirrel. He chases off all the birds and other squirrels to hog all the bird seed. On this day, a cute bunny was enjoying an apple that had fallen off our tree. I watched as the bully squirrel came down the slope, stood on his hind legs, and raised his little arms, looking all scary. The rabbit immediately dropped the apple and ran for his life. The squirrel took the apple and started munching on it, looking all proud of himself. Hooligan! What should I do about this little varmint?

And it dawned on me. These are the types of things I should be worried about. Everyday, normal, simple matters that people with calm lives think about. It gave me a sense of normalcy.

That’s why I’m loving my life right now. I want to stay on this path, so I can have more happy days in 2023.

What do you regret doing – or not doing – last year that you plan to stop/start doing in the new year?

Jennifer Lopez was quoted in an interview for Shape as saying: “You turn yourself into a pretzel for people and think that’s a noble thing…and it’s not… At a certain point you go, wait this doesn’t feel good. Why am I never happy?” That resonated with me. I regret not recognizing my limitations before I started falling apart and practicing some much needed self-care.

I need to learn to set boundaries, say no, and not put myself last all the time. I’m getting better at those things as I age, but realize there is still plenty of room for improvement. 2023 is the year to make strides in this area.

What are you most grateful for last year? What are you most excited about for this new year?

I’m grateful that by the end of the year, there were days I woke up feeling happy and content. I thank God for getting me through a stressful year. I’m grateful for my faith, my health, my family, my friends, and my new home.

I’m grateful that my husband and I are taking steps in the right direction toward living the life we want to live. I want to continue on that path this new year.

What am I excited about for 2023? I’m looking forward to spending more time with family, seeing old friends, getting to know new friends, finishing the book I’ve been editing for way too long, long walks on the beach, hugs from my grandchildren, sailing, and, if we’re lucky, a bit of traveling.

I’m hopeful that my word next year to describe 2023 will truly be “magical.” I wish the same for all of you.

In the meantime, check out my fellow bloggers’ thoughts as they reflect on last year and look forward to the new one:

Books by Rose

Rebecca Lyndsey

Sandra Bennett

Carmela Dutra

juliegorges

Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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11 Responses

  1. Oh my gosh… that’s a lot to go through in one year. Stress welts???? Yikes! I’m glad that things are settling down for you and that you are looking at 2023 with fresh eyes. I hope that bully squirrel learns some manners…

  2. So sorry to hear 2022 was so hard for you and yours, Julie.
    You know how we feel about squirrels over here. They were destroying our cars but we think we have it under control, for now. I am glad he showed up to reveal a message to you, though. Isn’t it the funniest things that come to us at times when we need it the most?
    I hope you have a wonderful 2023 with your lovely family. I know you will, Julie.

  3. Hi Julie, you have had such a tough year, so much going on in your life. I hope 2023 brings a new, healthier and enjoyable chapter to your life.

  4. Carmela says:

    You had a year that one would easily sum up as stressful, but you had such a balanced pers[ecitive. Even when things didn’t go as you wanted (who wants stress welts? ) You focused on the things that brought you joy. A less we can all apply moving into the new year.

    • juliegorges says:

      Loved your positive view on your blog reflecting on life lessons learned in 2022 and looking forward to the new year as well. So far this year – no more stress welts. Yea!

  5. Rebecca Lyndsey says:

    You most definitely had a stressful year. At least this year, everything is more settled and calm for you. I hope you have an amazing year.
    Our squirrels here are bossy as well. 😁 I don’t have one that rules the roost though but we had one that liked to come and tease the dog when she was on her leash. He got cocky though while playing in the road. I swear the dog laughed when it happened. 😂

  6. Cat Michaels says:

    What a huge year of ups and downs, Julie! Your new home sounds like a true happy place and well-worth the stress it took to get there. Glad life has settled. All the best for ’23!

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