“Lessons Learned from Writing Every Single Day for a Year” Club

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-40-44-pmMany things can happen in a year. Things move whether we want them to or not; whether we’re ready for them or not. Babies are born, children grow, adults age, and all ages die. The most human clubs of all are birth and death; the two clubs we’re guaranteed to join which bookend life. In between them lies our common struggle, though the specifics differ greatly.

I’ve learned it’s just as hard to keep up with reading a blog a day (unless you’re my husband editor or loyal little sister) as it is to write one. I’ve also witnessed people react strangely when caught in not reading. Guiltily they say they haven’t had the time or they haven’t had a chance to go online. They like to binge read, they assure me. At the beginning of the year (OK, maybe it was towards the middle of the year) I was angry my parents weren’t reading. So I started writing about them because: passive-aggressive writer.

Throughout the course of the year, I’ve grown to care less. I find this result most ironic because my project was about human inclusion; my daily mantra: “writing about the human condition using examples from my life.” My goal was to illustrate how we can all relate on one level or another. We can find something in common with anyone if we take the time to figure it out. A year of telling stories of my life in essays; tales where others may say, “Hell yes, me too; totally happened to me!”  My goal in writing every single day was to reinforce and validate for myself, once and for all: I am a writer. I needed to do this every single day, especially the days I wanted to do anything but write.

Over the course of writing over 250,000 words, I learned words beget more words, like sex begets more sex, and crying begets more crying. I’m not going to run out of words any sooner than I’ll run out of tears and I will never be ambiguous about whether I earn the title of writer again. I’ve concluded it’s not for anyone else to declare or accept. This project was about me and for me. It was about developing a habit. It was about strengthening a muscle. It was about figuring out what kind of writer I want to be (not internet). It was about me comprehending how to channel my mental health challenges into my words. It was about me freeing up the brain space cluttered with my life stories.

I discovered marketing my work was as much of a full-time job as writing. Talk about using the multifaceted tentacles of my brain. Not only did I flex my writing muscle, I stretched my social media muscle, inadvertently boosting my “Klout score” (it’s a real thing). What I discovered, in not only writing daily, but in publishing every day on my blog (and other online sites), was the quality of the writing, which I dutifully tried to improve upon, often felt secondary – or even irrelevant. Internet writing is not novel writing; it is not even “feature magazine writing” akin to the classes I took as a journalism major at NYU 20 years ago. Successful articles go viral because of likes and shares and cool gifs. The audience wants short, easily digested tidbits of gossip rather than an 800-word essay. Followers are worth their weight in gold, but are they reading?

It took me a professional degree in my field, two decades, five corporate jobs, and the world’s most supportive husband to help me convince myself to be brave enough to have faith in myself. When I worked in the advertising and marketing world, I loved interviews and presentations but I came (even more) alive off the page. I thought the hardest part of getting a job was securing an interview; once I was in the door, the job was in the bag. I was that confident in my potential for working for anyone else, yet I’ve spent a lifetime with the challenge of selling myself to me.

Throughout the 366 days, I swung wildly in both directions: either thinking this was genius or discrediting it had any value at all. I kept a journal as a secondary project to the Life Clubs essays and upon re-reading it, I found the one constant was a perpetual haze of doubt which coated every word I wrote. I was conflicted because I judged the work, not on merit, but on a financial scale. No one was paying me a salary to do the most productive writing I’ve ever done and yet it felt like the hardest job I ever had. I stepped into the lifelong artist struggle: creating the work without the monetary carrot dangling at its conclusion.

Halfway through the year I began to drown in my multiple novels worth of words. I had to search my own blog to make sure each piece was unique before committing to the page. I wrote “I Miss My Sister Club” way early on IN MY HEAD and didn’t realize until October 24th I never ACTUALLY wrote it. Beyond the sheer volume of words, my stories became interlinked, one explaining or justifying another. As the year progressed, I noticed I was able to link to more and more stories as I revealed more about my life. The stories which occurred organically served as the conflict disrupting the narrative, and the anecdotes of my past merged with the drama of the year to paint me, the writer, the artist, the mother, the confused woman trying to make her dreams come true.

 Going through this year showed me a new kind of strength and resilience.

The world didn’t stop for my 365-project. In fact, it seemed the world intensified. Life heard I was documenting 2016 and the earth reverberated with material. You gave me two weeks in Hawaii, but also took my aunt and my husband’s aunt four months apart and flooded our apartment, sending us into a 4-month unexpected, life-halting renovation. In one year, I went to the Emergency Room with every member of my immediate family. I used every day to cope with life, with words (publicly). When I struggled with liberating the long-dormant tales of my adolescent angst, I found myself writing about what was pressing today rather than delve into an uncomfortable past. It’s easier to write about the now, harder to live in it. (Feel free to quote me, I’m an official opinionator.)

I’ve written about poignant things and silly things and sad things. I’ve learned to write anywhere, everywhere, whenever I have the free minutes – often when I “didn’t feel like it.” Making this kind of commitment didn’t come with the luxury of “feeling like it.” I wrote on any surface with any implement – on my laptop, in the Notes app on my phone, on my skin, on gum wrappers and paper chopstick wrappers, inside my daughter’s composition notebook, and on scraps of paper in a rainbow of colors. I even mastered the art of talk-to-text. I’ve transcribed everything that’s happened to me this year. What did all this create?

250,702 published words. More than I could have imagined I would write. Yet, I still minimized my work, telling myself it was no big deal. Anyone could write every day for a year. I was hard on myself after each piece I wrote. I wasn’t even doing anything physically strenuous. I didn’t think any one of the essays was good enough. Every night of 2016, often late into the evening, I would pass my husband the piece of the day to edit and preempt it with, “This sucks, sorry.” This torturous nightly passing-off of my imperfect piece was an exercise to help me loosen my perfection paralysis. I would hear Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels in my head: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready, it goes on because it’s 11:30pm.”

I tried to remind myself how the project has to be looked upon as a whole. It is not any one essay; it is a slow-motion, deconstructed narrative of my life in 365 essays. There are many donut shop stories left untold and I barely grazed the Melrose Place-wannabe years in the advertising agencies and certainly there are more divorce story dramas and comical antics to divulge when your husband is a professional clown. Though the official project has come to end, clearly I have more work to do, more discovery to unfold and life to embrace. This project taught me tremendous amounts, but looking back at life through my stories has highlighted some important truths which will guide me to even greater success. Life is not about how to avoid the struggles but how you deal with them; taking ownership over them and joining the club.

At the beginning of the year, I surrounded myself with inspirational quotes from famous writers and wrote them over and over again in my notebooks, on watercolor paper, on post-its I hung on my wall. Yet, as I look back on 2016, my favorite quote comes from Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot: “Embrace the suck and move the fuck forward. What other choice do we have?”

“Mourning Celebrity Deaths” Club

“There have just been so many deaths this year,” I said to my therapist earlier this week as she tried to break me down and understand the root of my paralyzing fear of death.

“There are so many deaths every year,” she said, dismissing my statement. “It’s no different.”

Reflecting on the year, I’ve considered whether life seemed more intense because it was a leap year or because I was carefully documenting each dayThe list of celebrity deaths seem more prevalent than ever, but are we just chronicling and socially mourning more than ever?

It’s strange to mourn the death of someone you’ve never met, someone who you don’t depend on for your everyday life yet we collectively feel a dagger in the heart every time we get the CNN Breaking News alerts on our phones. Another death. Who now?

Yes, the potential for more “entertainment” from the celebrity is halted, but many of the deaths are of people who haven’t produced for many years. (At least David Bowie had the courtesy to leave us with one last album and Carrie Fisher was able to finish her Star Wars VIII scenes.) Yet our human tendency projects others’ dramas onto ourselves and somehow their deaths hold a mirror up to our own mortality.

Here is a comprehensive list of all 2016 Celebrity Deaths, but highlights include: 

David Bowie, 69

Alan Rickman, 69

Glenn Frey, 67

Garry Shandling, 66

Prince, 57

Muhammad Ali, 74

Elie Wiesel, 87

Garry Marshall, 81

Gene Wilder, 83

Leonard Cohen, 82

Florence Henderson, 82

Alan Thicke, 69

Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99

Carrie Fisher, 60

Debbie Reynolds, 84

The media’s coverage of famous deaths can have us believing this year is worse than ever, but the real statistics tell us it’s all status quo on the rate of dead celebrities.

The way we grieve as a culture – within our local communities – or on the Internet is different now. Because of the abundance of over-sharing in our culture, we inadvertently partake in a public pity party with the invisible connections on the other end of our phones and keyboards. I’m not sure if it makes our personal grief lighter, but somehow we’ve taken on celebrity grief as real, even though their lack of physical presence will not actually affect our daily lives.

We’re not even sad for the dead person, we’re sad for ourselves; what was taken FROM us. As if we were entitled to them anyway, as if they were a possession. When our bodies depart this earth, who we’ve been stays behind. The us we’ve sprinkled into our partners, children, friends; through our creations and our jobs and contributions to our communities. The mark we leave behind will last longer than the time we have here.

We are a piece of meat flying on a rock in the middle of the galaxy. It’s a miracle we don’t explode and burst into dust. We can’t worry about the little things and certainly, celebrity deaths should be the easiest for us to tolerate. Notorious figures live on indefinitely in their art and in the ripple effect they have on the population as their fans absorb pieces of them by osmosis. We can’t leave actual pieces of our bodies behind and possessions will deteriorate eventually, but we can leave behind stories. We can leave behind memories. We can leave behind lessons. Celebrities are just the lucky ones who die with an eager audience waiting for their eternal endowment.

“Be Here Now” Club

There were just three days left in my 365 writing project and my daughter is home on winter break. My husband, off to work, suggests I put on a movie for her so I can write. He knows I feel the impending heat as I am inches away from typing an imaginary “the end” on a non-traditional manuscript in a category of its own: organically, unplanned, spontaneously-transcribed, incomplete pseudo-memoir in essays. 

Today, though, I stared into my daughter’s big brown eyes and committed to spending a day without breaking eye contact. All year I’ve prioritized my writing and I vowed today would be all about her. I lingered in each drawn-out moment of her day and stayed with her for as long as it took for her to eat breakfast because she had a five-minute story in between each bite. I played the Princess Cupcake game with her, having mini imaginary adventures as we assembled the rubber cupcakes. We played six rounds of Connect 4, where she claimed victory five of those times. We colored together, side-by-side, in one of those thin-lined, adult coloring books filled with details, where the pages seem impossible to complete. We ate string cheese, literally one string at a time, and drank ice water, eating crushed ice one at a time. We watched My Fat Greek Wedding 2, me explaining some of the vague reference but then using the infamous, “it’s Greek to me” when she asked about the sex references. I painted purple glitter polish onto her nails and icy blue with silver swirls and dots onto her toes. We Skyped with my sister in Maine where my daughter modeled her new Hamilton t-shirt and showed off her custom-ordered Hamilton-quote necklace.

I didn’t bother with my phone all day and saved my writing until later. I lived completely in every minute, savoring my daughter, who exhibited perfect behavior, appreciative and cooperative all day. 

At day’s end, I reflected on how I successfully lived in the now all day. Something I’ve perpetually struggled with my entire life felt so zen, yet I didn’t recognize the sensation. On various vacations throughout my life I’ve dipped my toe into the realm of relaxation, but it’s a foreign, uncomfortable feeling. However, had I spent the day on my default multitasking setting, stressing about what needed to get done, or focusing on writing while ignoring my daughter, I would have not only short-changed my experience, I would have inadvertently diluted the light I exude. Another by-product of being fully present was time stood still. I was not as obsessed with the ticking because my attention wasn’t directed at the time; it was on being.

Being in the now is a philosophy, a religion, a practice, a habit, a way of life; kind of like being vegan. My husband, the Eagle Scout, loves to recount the Native American philosophy of eating, which should be done in silence to dutifully honor and respect their food. Truly being present means tastes are saturated. Being in the now means I should focus less on the perpetual loud ticking of life pressuring me to hurry up, write more, accomplish more, travel more places, get more massages and manicures and focus more on directing all five senses towards BEING RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW with every single thing I do.

I’ll chalk today’s epiphany up as an another example of an intangible profitable consequence of writing every single day. In fact for the rest of my life (or perhaps just the foreseeable future), I imagine there will be many occurrences where I will find myself saying, “I learned this from writing every day…”

“Happy Tears” Club

I’m a whirlwind of emotion the last few days as my project is rounding up. My ongoing analogy to running a marathon feels more poignant than ever as I pass mile 25.98 and I imagine runners in the last mile operating on another dimension; not unlike the super strength you exhibit when your kid is stuck under a car and you lift it. 

I’m not a runner, but I’m over-tired; not from the physical writing or from coming up with ideas; that part was easy. (I still have 100 of the original ideas I came up with which I never ended up writing about.) I’m exhausted from the feeling of having to do something every single day; it’s a daily deadline with no break. 

Each day, until I wrote my piece, the stories brewed in my mind (and my stomach), a constant hovering to-do overhead. Even if I accomplished my writing earlier in the day, my mind continued spinning, prepping for tomorrow. I spent countless hours over-scrutinizing my progress, contemplating future endeavors, and managing real income projects. I’m also emotionally drained of engaging in a repetitive devil’s advocate debate in my mind; the “This is the greatest idea ever” versus “What a waste of a fucking year.” I’ve learned how perfection paralysis and analysis paralysis leads to inactivity and rather than providing insight, they serve as little beyond anti-productive procrastination tactics.

Throughout this complicated year, filled with copy-inspiring events, I have prioritized my writing above socialization. Dinners cancelled, parties skipped, playdates avoided – there just wasn’t enough time in the day to spend with my own family and survive my everyday life. I didn’t acknowledge the heft of the load I was carrying for 365 days and I’m fucking ready to set it down.

There’s a reason the cliche “everything in moderation” is a recommendation which can be applied to everything. Even a droplet of water every day will make a hole in a rock (or something like that).

In the last few days, whenever anyone has said, “your project is almost finished,” my eyes have welled up and I can’t understand why. They don’t feel like tears of joy or accomplishment; they feel like tears of confusion – or at least they do for now. Upon reflection, I hope to see they are tears of pride. I’ve never set out to do something so colossal and accomplished it. Part of me feels modest, hearing imaginary judgments, instinctively wanting to downplay the whole achievement. Yet, another part of me wants to scream it from a rooftop: I WROTE AN ESSAY EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR A YEAR. [Over 250,000 words!]

Part of my victory feels anti-climactic. There is no pomp and circumstances nor an official finish line to cross. No one will give me my time, wrap me in a mylar blanket, or hang a medal around my neck. My resolution is less tangible and I imagine, with time and distance, will only grow in value until I’ll easily recognize these tears were the happiest of all.

“Learning to Say ‘So What?'” Club

At today’s therapy session with my brain doctor, she tried to “break me down.” I felt like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting in the scene where Robin Williams, as his therapist, repeats “it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault” until he broke down and cried. I didn’t break down and cry because it’s not near the end of the movie for me yet, I’m still in the beginning stages where I stay in control, even in therapy.

Also, my brain doc, wasn’t convincing me it wasn’t my fault (that’s impossible, it’s clearly ALL MY FAULT, because, despite my other insecurities, I think I can somehow control the universe). Instead, she wanted to understand my deepest fears; the same ones which rear their ugly head to cause my pesky panic attacks.

In our first session, she taught me to “say yes” to emotions rather than suppress them or fight them. Don’t try to end the panic attack, ride the wave. Don’t try to get rid of the nauseated sensation, just move on with your day, because no one has ever, and I will not be the first, to die of a panic attack.

In our second session, she wanted me to confront my fear of death and realize “not wanting to” was different from “being afraid” and when I accepted the inevitable, my body would react appropriately and not secrete quite so much ‘fight or flight’ hormone.

Today’s lesson was “so what?” No matter what I said – no matter how extreme – her answer to me was SO WHAT? Being the worst consequence to any scenario for me is death when I finally answered “death,” she said, SO WHAT? This obsessing, worrying, over-dramatizing, over-analyzing and overall desire for perfection causes me secondary suffering, which affects my everyday life and doesn’t need to be there. If my apartment is not immaculate when guests come over? SO WHAT? If my latkes aren’t the best they’ve ever had? SO WHAT? If my present isn’t the one they rave about for years? SO WHAT? If I don’t finish everything? SO WHAT?

The reality is none of the potential hypothetical ramifications I work through in my head are worth the emotional weight I give them. SO WHAT if I’m having a panic attack?  I have to stop trying so hard to make them stop coming. This is just what I get – like eczema and apparently, it’s not so much about eliminating the attacks altogether, it’s about learning not to give them the power to slow me down – or take me down, for that matter.

As I move into 2017, I realize on top of learning to meditate, do yoga, and master the art of doing nothing, I now have added “learn to truly NOT GIVE A SHIT” onto that list. Or at least I have to practice not giving a shit enough for the neurological pathways in my brain to cement themselves into highways which become habits. Until my instincts say “so what” instead of “what if?

“Join the [Life] Club” Club

I’ve written about “Life Clubs” every day for the last 360 days. While some Life Clubs are joined voluntarily (Marriage Club, Motherhood Club, Tattoo Club), others are more like a military draft and you get inducted into the club whether you like it or not (Alcoholic Mother Club, Aunt Died Club, Apartment Got Flooded Club). The guiding principle for all Life Clubs is you join by overcoming experiences which you can only truly understand after going through them first hand. You imagine what it’s like to have a baby until it’s nothing like that at all. Also, unless you’ve dealt with insurance companies and contractors, you can’t exactly relate. But if you have, you are high-fiving another person who really understands. And while we’re at it, a tattoo is worse than ant bites. Membership to most clubs is irrevocable and permanent.

Life clubs are how we can connect to one another and they transcend sociological, economic, and religious classifications. They are invisible fraternities and there are no pins to wear on our jackets to let others know “hey, we’ve been there…join the club.”

It has always been easy for me to have conversations with strangers; I can find something to discuss with just about anyone. Maybe it’s my college journalism training, or it stems from my innate curiosity of fellow humans but I’ve been fascinated with stories (or gossip) since I was a toddler. I love seeing inside strangers apartments, hearing about their innermost disappointment and heartbreak. We all relate to sad stories and rally around the underdog. I believe our intuitive empathetic tendencies are strong. We read blogs and memoirs of strangers, get wrapped up in their lives all because we can somehow relate. Reading about other tragedies keeps us grateful; at any time, anyone of us is grieving or suffering in some way. We cry at movies not because we mourn the loss of a fictional character, but because we’ve imagined ourselves in that scenario. Seeing a great love story plagued by cancer onscreen makes you hold your loved one that much tighter in bed. We seek validation from others to remind us that we are not alone, that we are OK, and that someone else went through it and came out the other side…Stronger.

At the beginning of my commitment to writing every day, I imagined I’d write about a different club every day, telling the story of my life up until now. What I quickly learned was life dictates stories faster than I can transcribe them. Anything I went through, no matter how frustrating or disappointing, felt different because I knew it was just another club to join – to write about, sure, but more importantly to add it to my roster of things I know about from the inside. 

I was always afraid to take on the title “artist” yet for 360 days this year I became a performance artist putting on a written show for an invisible audience. I created the art and was its subject. I wanted to control it all but instead, it organically took on a life of its own and I had no choice but to smile and join the clubs.

“Learning Relationships From When Harry Met Sally” Club

Last week I watched one of my favorite movies with my son: When Harry Met Sally.

My freshman year of college in 1992, as a journalism major, my first feature article assignment needed to be based on research but I don’t remember any other constricting guidelines. I know that this was pre-Internet so a Twitter poll was not an option, neither was posting something to Facebook for the entire Freshman class to pontificate about or reply with emojis. No, I did this the old fashioned ways, by writing up a questionnaire and printing out flyers, distributing them and then analyzing the results. Brick and mortar reporting, old school.

The topic for my paper was inspired by my favorite movie at the time When Harry Met Sally. It was “Can men and women be friends?” Eighteen-year-olds eagerly filled out the survey. The overwhelming response from my freshman peers was “of course.”

What’s interesting in retrospect, of course, was my collection of data, all segregated to 18 and 19-year-olds, barely “men” and “women” at all. We only understood innocent juvenile friendships. We weren’t even legal yet, we were barely having sex. Grown up friendships are much more complicated with ripples of layers like intestines. We were privileged kids at a private university in a major city lucky enough to write articles on superfluous studies. People our age in other countries were plowing rice fields or building cars or taking care of farms. In retrospect, I laugh at the luxurious life of my freshman year where romantic comedy cinema served as inspiration for academic enhancement.

25 years later I’ve watched this movie countless times. I quote along with it. My husband and I reenact various scenes as we walk along Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I know the outfits Meg Ryan wears in every scene and have always found a kindred spirit in her restaurant ordering. I realize this movie had a substantial impact on setting my relationship precedent; it planted the seeds for how I approached every future male-female relationship. Even if I had a male platonic friend, at the back of my mind I had the Harry Burns’ philosophy: even if you’re not having sex, the man will most likely think about or want to have sex with the woman.

“What if the man doesn’t find the woman attractive?” Sally asks.

“Oh, you pretty much want to sleep with them too,” Harry answers.

I’m sure millennials find this concept outrageous; many of them stylishly tout best friends of the opposite sex. And while I agree these relationships might be exemplary examples of friendships, I’d also wager to bet nature’s biological intervention inadvertently controls our sex hormones -and at one point or another, there will be a sexual thought or consideration or experiment. Sometimes sexual attraction can evolve from the familiarity and comfort of friendship as much as in unpredictable and novelty of a new partner. Friendship leads to love and as those lines blur, so do emotions, which occasionally take on a life of their own.

Ideally, I’ve always wanted to find a best friend who also “gets it off the couch” for me. (Based on Patty Stanger’s philosophy from Millionaire Matchmaker.) I’ve read articles which advised NOT to marry your best friend and others which plead the opposite. While it could be a lot of pressure on your partner to fulfill both jobs as your BFF and fuck buddy, it’s a hell of a lot more convenient.

Last week as I rewatched, this time with my 14-year-old son next to me, the evolution of time seemed more apparent. This movie became my relationship default yet now I wondered if it would feel like an obscure Casablanca reference to my teenager.

Before the Internet and Bluetooth and Instagram, a couple drove across the country together, had a conversation and learned about one another. This couple took risks, formed a sincere friendship, lived a life separate from one another, and came together, growing in love, rather than falling in love when life’s timing was right.

Maybe When Harry Met Sally was from an era before text and FaceTime, but its message is as relevant as ever. Whether it was intended or not, I received a kind of relationship tutorial, planting seeds for future interactions with the opposite sex and inspiring patience for knowing when you’ve found the one “…like you know about a good melon.”

“Not Fearing Death, Just Not Wanting It” Club

“Cowards die many times before their deaths.

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.”

I joke about how this tiny speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is the only thing I ever memorized which I still remember. We were required to put this tidbit to memory in Mrs. Feldman’s 7th grade English class, yet in the last 30 years, I’ve recited these 46 words hundreds of times without truly understanding them.

I have been that coward for three decades, wincing in the face of fear, shortchanging myself out of living as fully as I could have.

It wasn’t until this morning, when my brain, subconsciously still processing Tuesday’s therapy session, sent me this bit of Shakespeare as if on a stone tablet from up above. I spent a majority of my hour discussing death with my brain PhD therapist. She wanted me to dive into my fear of death, something that’s plagued me since fourth grade, when I used to be scared of closing my eyes at night, afraid I wouldn’t wake up the next day. The therapist started out by pointing out how death is inevitable and as someone who is even more anxious about wasting time than of imminent death, I had to realize I was wasting time terrorized by the inevitable. This ironic irrationality stopped me in my tracks. If I was terrified of snakes, I could technically avoid them, but there was nowhere I can go where I can avoid death.

I’ve learned the best ammunition we have against the Grim Reaper is to live as hard as we can every fucking day because no matter how cliche, none of us can predict our last day.

After I divulged to the therapist that the pain and suffering associated with death is not what I’m actually nervous about, she asked me what it was and I realized it wasn’t that I was scared; I just didn’t want to. This critical, yet minor differentiation and clarification, alters which hormones my brain secretes in reaction. My brain reacts differently to “I don’t want to leave the party” than it does to “I’m afraid of leaving the party.” There is nothing scary about leaving a party, I just don’t want to miss out. This is called “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out,” and we have scheduled to discuss this in next week’s session.

The clock continues to tick as loudly as ever for me. As the days flip on the calendar, I age, and no matter how much I write, or how successful I am, it feels insufficient. While I’m trying to savor it all, it’s slipping away faster than I can hold onto it. I may be on my way to easing my fear of death, but I can’t imagine ever coming to terms with leaving the party of life. I just don’t want to.

“2016: FOAD, but Thanks for Everything” Club

Eight is my favorite number, yet 2008 wasn’t so great. I had thyroid surgery in January, broke my knee in February, got audited in April, and lost my job in June. During 2016, another multiple of eight, every member of my immediate family landed in the emergency room, my mother was in the hospital twice, our apartment got flooded, a scary clown craze damaged our business, and my husband and I both lost an aunt to ovarian cancer.

This morning over breakfast, I tried a final attempt to lure my artist hubby into a last-minute holiday card. I had a funny idea which I thought might hook him:

“How about a toilet bowl showing 2016 flushing down the drain?”

His eyes looked up and he played along for a second. “Yeah and we can show Prince and David Bowie and Gene Wilder…” His voice trailed off, he looked away.

“No?” I knew he wasn’t biting.

“No,” he said and carried on with the loud chewing of the over toasted sesame bagel.

The other day a friend texted me: “2016: FOAD” (Urban Dictionary.com confirmed the acronym is telling 2016 to F-off and die.) “Amen,” I wrote back.

What a year for everyone. Our country endured a public political showdown which left half of us miserable about the outcome. Some are rallying to come together, some rally to call congress people, and I’m hoping to get through each day alive. 2016 had countless heartbreaking deaths, robbing us of geniuses famous and familiar. There wasn’t a person I met who didn’t have a health crisis, a career transition, or a relationship catastrophe yet somehow we’ve made it out, with a week to go, to read and write about it. Survivors. Collectors of life stories. Joining clubs; laughing and commiserating with fellow humans.

I am filled with gratitude for the year I was given and the stories it allowed me to record for posterity. Here are some of the happy highlights:

“I Don’t Do Holiday Cards” Club

I don’t do holiday cards. I did once. No, twice. I feel the tug, though, as beautiful cards fill my mailbox. I desperately want to be part of the “Holiday Card” club, but find once again, my perfection paralysis prohibits me from playing at all. I’m chock full of ideas, but they usually involve hand making one of a kind cards, which doesn’t work well when the holiday card list includes everyone from the doorman to Aunt Sadie.

The first time I did cards was the year after my son was born. I purchased ice blue high-quality paper which I hand cut with crinkle-cut craft scissors to fit inside the quaint coordinating color (but not size) envelopes. On to each card I adhered a painstakingly, cut-out snowflake (from white vellum paper) with a thin white satin ribbon tied in a perfect bow on the (ruler-measured) top center of the page. Inside I attached my thoughtfully crafted holiday greeting, printed on the translucent white paper with the fancy shears. I hand addressed each envelope and each completed card felt like a piece of artwork. I saved one for myself and recently came across it. My brain had remembered all of the work its creation involved, but the final product felt lackluster. Maybe this is why I never ventured into the holiday card club again. I could never meet my own standards.

The second time I attempted holiday cards was with my husband, the year we moved into our current apartment. This will be the 12th holiday season my husband and I spend as a couple, and we’ve only done the one card. My husband (Christmas Card Scrooge) agreed to do cards because I lured him in with the challenge of using his creative design skills to mastermind a dual function card: part “Happy Holidays,” part “We’ve Moved.” With some graphic design ingenuity, my husband laid out the cards to say Happy Holidays on one side and We Moved when flipped. His inner poet also stepped up to write a clever Dr. Seuss-like poem, creating a relic of holiday card genius. Perhaps this creation has left him feeling insurmountable. I, on the other hand, feel he’s limitless; we can create holiday card gems yearly. Here I sit next to an artistic ball of ideas and talent and he doesn’t want play in the holiday card game.

The truth is writing every day this year has monopolized any free moment, and even bubbled over into non-free moments. Holiday cards are the extra credit I didn’t have time for this year. I’m aware I don’t have to be so extreme about it. I could have settled on a happy medium by sending out purchased cards. Only I’ve never done well with mediocrity, which sounds and feels and awful lot like medium, so I’m an all or nothing kind of girl.

Next year, I have big plans, though. Huge.