2015: A Year of Fruition

Fruition

Last New Year’s Eve, I wrote this post, The Year After “Next Year.” In it, I took a retrospective look at 2014, a period where vague ideas I struggled with for so long finally coalesced. These two sentences really get to the heart of that transformation: “I am still traveling, but learning to enjoy the scenery and finally beginning to trust the internal compass. A solid year of slower, adrenaline-free decision making will do that.”

2015 began full of vigor and confidence. Vigor I’ve always known, but the cool underlying certainty with which I greeted the year was something new altogether. As I returned to the office post-holidays, I confided in a friend and colleague. The work I’d done in 2014 was moving in positive directions. 2015 was going to be big – even if I didn’t know what exactly that meant.

As I take stock of this year, one clear truth emerges. The highest expectations I had of myself and the last twelve months have been exceeded. Pick a life element: health, career, home, family, friendships, recreation or romantic love. Huge strides everywhere. The soundtrack in my head alternates between mental to-do lists, show tunes and reminiscences of things Bob said that made me laugh – the way my life was meant to be lived. A huge drop in the permitted white noise which rendered inertia has left me free to move in multiple new directions.

Hesitation and self-doubt hover, but are mostly relegated to the periphery where they belong. Because I’ve stared worst case scenarios in the eye, spit in them and started over. I can do that as many times as needed. But I don’t have to call up those survival skills as often now. Harnessing a commitment to change and a solid professional support team, centered decisions have resulted. Selfishness isn’t always a bad thing. The worst results of efforts made for and by myself exceed the helpless mediocrity I let others dictate in the past.

None of this insight means I’ve stopped requiring others, or become an island. Contrary to a co-dependent legacy, where I insisted that martyrdom was its own limp reward, I’ve added three important sentences to my vocabulary:

“I’m sorry I can’t/won’t do that.”
“I need help.”
“I want.”

I was raised to look at these utterances as weakness, when they actually represent strength. The power comes from using them judiciously. I remember sitting in session with a marriage counselor during the summer of 2011. He compared my then-husband to a “vending machine into which money is placed but no product released.” Smugly I turned that familiar look of martyrdom on the two men. I’d been vindicated. Yes. I’d invested so much in the relationship and just look at the results. Poor moi.

But then the therapist asked a follow-up question that seems so obvious from a healthier vantage point. If the vending machine continually cheated me, why did I keep depositing coins?

I don’t waste my metaphorical currency anymore. I let go of a friendship this year with someone I find tremendously talented and full of promise. Yet to misquote Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love, I can’t afford to love the highest potential of a person more than who they actually are today.

I apply this value to myself as well. There’s less disconnect than ever between the ideal Becky I “should” be and the one who walks the dogs in board daylight wearing footie pajamas and a Storm Trooper winter cap. She’s no peerless Madonna (Virgin Mary or Material Girl – take your pick), But I kind of like her style. Owning that has attracted better quality opportunities that are exactly what I need.

So that’s my 2015. Justified faith, not in karma, the universe or some force beyond my control, but in my instincts and movements. They weren’t always right and were frequently ridiculous. But even the missteps offered something important.

The Infatuation Effect (July 17, 2010)

obama tired

Rasmussen Reports’ Daily Presidential Tracking Poll puts President Obama’s approval rating for today at an anemic 28%. This figure is released at the end of a good week, by comparison. A huge piece of popular legislation was made reality (financial reform), and the oil spill in the Gulf has been at least temporarily capped.

But here’s a figure even more surprising: a Gallup poll released on Friday found that satisfaction with the direction of the country among members of the President’s own Democratic party has dropped by a fourth since last month. The Commander-in-Chief who has been the shepherd of more “change” than any President since FDR seems to find himself curious stymied by the bi-partisan impression that he can’t get anything done.

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the topic of infatuation (as opposed to disinterested love) in her latest memoir, Committed, and says the following of the emotional phenomenon: “The problem with infatuation, of course, is that it’s a mirage, a trick of the eye…When you become infatuated with somebody, you’re not really looking at that person; you’re just captivated by your own reflection, intoxicated by a dream of completion that you have projected on a virtual stranger.”

Gilbert was of course, talking about the romantic politics between two individuals, but don’t these ideas offer an equally interesting explanation for the precipitous drop in popularity of “the One?” Surely Obama has always had his enemies, and there are many who have simply disliked the methods and proposals of the President without any strong emotional reaction. What I am speaking of here is the Gallup supported impression that Obama 2008’s most rabid fanatics are also turning from him in droves.

The truth is that infatuation is often closely followed by disillusionment, inspired by the despair in finding that the person you have built up as capable of making everything right, is after all, just another imperfect man. It was folly for any of us to expect a conversion from troubled, faltering nation to idealistic utopian Republic in under two years, and yet it becomes increasingly clear that is precisely what a large element of Obama Nation wanted.

I certainly have mixed feelings about the direction of the country, but I think it would be interesting if someone conducted a poll on what we think of ourselves. What do we think of our own handling of America’s downturn: our persistent reluctance as a voting public to get serious about clean energy, generating new State and Federal Revenues, reducing personal debt, investing in infrastructure? We want everything to get better in some vague, imperceptible way, but we are a people stubbornly resistant to innovation and investment in the 21st century. Isn’t a leader only as successful as the support he has under him? We want Obama to stop oil spills in the Gulf, but not by placing a moratorium on deep water drilling. We want better health care, but this should somehow happen by magic, within the system we have in place. We want an end to long, costly wars, but we want to be darned sure we are safe from another terrorist attack at the same time. Fear of the unknown apparently outweighs weariness with the known and ineffective.

Given the bi-polar, indecisive mindset of the American public, what do we expect Buff Bam, our once admired political Adonis to do? The gray hair, the lined and serious face of Obama in 2010 stands in contrast to the vigorous, cheerful candidate we voted for in late 2008. If infatuation is a captivation with our own reflection, what do we see now? Fatigue, frustration and confusion. Yeah – that’s us.