#Reverb15 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Ungoals | What are so NOT doing this year? What’s on your “I just can’t care about that” list?

I used to get these things stuck in my head, and if I didn’t buy them, or have them, or achieve them I would literally die.

Maybe that’s an immaturity thing. Maybe that’s the kind of thing that gets better with age.

Case in point: When I was around age 13, I thought I would literally die if I didn’t get one of those see-thru phones that lit-up when it rang. Ultimately, I cajoled my parents into buying me one (I had gotten my own phone line as a birthday gift as a teenager – I understand now that this was more of a gift for Tom & Linnie than for me, since it meant that their main line would no longer ring at odd hours).

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The problem was that my phone did ring at odd hours. My friends all knew that I had my own line so they could call me at all hours of the night. And that stupid see-thru phone lit up when it rang – even if the ringer was off. So I was routinely woken up by flashing lights at 1 o’clock in the morning by one of my whiney teenage friends (no offense guys, but you’re all dodging a bullet because everyone texts and uses mobile phones now. You’ll never go through what our parents went through!)

It wasn’t long before I begged my parents for a new phone. Because they were unamused by my change of heart with regard to the light-up, see-thru number, they refused. I wound up swapping my snazzy new phone for the dirt brown, Ma Bell-standard issue that my parents had gotten for free before they’d left Philadelphia, which had been rotting in our garage.

What I am saying is that I learned this lesson more than two decades ago, and sometimes I still forget the moral of the story.

It’s not a realistic or human goal not to want Stuff. But what I’m trying not to care about is that burning flame of materialism; that crazy desire to have.

Years ago, my former spouse and I went to a marriage counsellor. The counsellor’s name was Andre. Andre was our second of three marriage counsellors, and we’d had to switch from the first one because she was that lovely kind of barmy where she refused to bill our insurance, and refused to talk about anything other than her dead son. Which, while interesting, wasn’t very helpful to our foundering marriage.

So somehow, after extensive internet searching, I’d come upon Andre, and we went to meet him at the appointed time. But when we arrived at his “office,” we discovered that it wasn’t really an office at all — more like his “apartment.” Indeed, there was no waiting room; no guest area. We had to wait out in the hallway of the West Village apartment building before the previous patient exited his flat. And when we went in, we discovered his home was stuffed to bursting with junk, and sofas, and I think even a piano. And cats. Several cats. Though I can’t recall now whether my ex was allergic or not.

The cats were the big, surly kind of cats that you find in big cities — where they’ve been kept indoors too long by fretful owners and so they develop insistent, mewling voices. And as we got down to the messy business of marriage therapy, the beasts roamed the apartment like they were wandering the Savannah, tracking catbox crumbs and furballs behind them.

What I am saying is that these were not the retiring, soothing kind of animals one might expect a therapist to keep. These cats were a menace.

So Andre started talking, waving his arms, at which point I realized his shirt was see-through. And he was telling us about some other clients he’d had who had come in to resolve past relationship trauma. THE PROBLEM IS, YOU HAVE TRAUMA, Andre told us. At some stage in his other clients’ relationship, they’d gotten pregnant and decided not to keep the baby. But they’d gotten married; had other children; couldn’t figure out why their relationship was so mired in conflict.

YOU KNOW WHY THEY HAD SO MUCH CONFLICT, he bellowed, IT’S BECAUSE THEY KILLED THEIR BABY.

My ex and I sat in cowed silence. As if on cue, one of the cats began to hork and gag. Another cat, nonplussed, climbed up on the sofa behind my ex’s head and settled in for the show. And the barfy cat bolted across the room to the kitchen, where he hopped on the counter and unleashed his demon within. Out came a long snake of hair and Meow Mix, unfurling from his throat like a serpent’s tongue.

Without missing a beat, Andre continued on his rant and leapt up to clean the cat vomit. As he turned to wipe up the mess, I could see the tiny beads of his man-nipples twinkling through his shirt at me.

THAT’S WHY YOU NEED TO LEARN TO COMMUNICATE, he shouted over the din of the cat’s retching.

Andre began to talk about Imago Therapy and how it was the foundation of couples’ therapy, but…he’d lost me. He spent the rest of the session chasing the cat around, scooping up puddles of barf.  And all I could hear ringing in my ears for hours afterward was the sound of a cat retching and the word: Imago.

That was our only session with him. Our marriage was over less than a year later.

There’s a lot they don’t prepare you for in marriage counselling, even if your experience is not a vomit-laden horrorshow. They don’t prepare you for the 22 year-olds at the sailing club who your husband will turn up with at home on a rainy night when the parties get cancelled. Or the times he’d show up at home without his wedding band. Or any of that…other stuff.

Those therapists — they don’t tell you to stop feeling like you deserved to be treated like that, long after the marriage failed and your former spouse whispered to everyone that the failure was your fault. Because you were thin and blonde and kind of a jock, and he was kind of a geek, and so whatever happened must’ve been your fault because the optics were a bit conventionally lopsided.

But the weirdest thing about that era had to be Andre. I hadn’t anticipated that I would ever hear about Andre again after I left his office that day. But years later, when I was on my own, I came to learn that one of the girls who slept with Cheating Bill had been a long-time client of Andre’s. It was mentioned to me in passing, like it was nothing; like the specter of the man in the see-through shirt in the funhouse full of cat barf who’d been the canary in the coal mine of my ending first marriage wouldn’t rattle me.

You should read “Getting the Love That You Want,” someone said to me, after the era of Cheating Bill, It’s by Harville Hendrix. It’s about Imago Therapy.

No thanks, I said, Just…no thanks.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Goals | What’s on tap for next year?  Share your big (or small) goals with us.  Why did you pick those goals?  Are these things you’ve always wanted to do?  How are you going to get them done?

Fifteen Goals for 2015

1) Write more letters. I write an a lot of letters as it is, but the quality of this exercise has tapered over the last year. I want to write letters that make people feel loved.

2) Spend more time with Roo. I could spend every waking hour with my beast and even then that would not be enough.

3) See more theatre.  I randomly began seeing more theatre in 2014 and found I enjoyed it, so I’d like to make it a habit.

4) Participate in more quality-of-life activity. By virtue of a lot of Things Beyond My Control, I wind up participating in a lot of Tick The Box activities — a lot of need to have, or nice to have done kind of stuff. I would like to focus on things that are at least marginally more meaningful than that in the days ahead.

5) Give more space for trauma.  My friend Jean posted this article from the Washington Post about how What Doesn’t Kill You Doesn’t Necessarily Make You StrongerWhile I’ve been through a lot of sometimes challenging experiences in my life, and many of the things I’ve experienced have given me the opportunity to cultivate resiliency, I have to admit that I have been beating myself up for a long time over why I have still struggled so mightily with some things and never Got Over Them. It never occurred to me that when you suffer a series of unexpected and serious traumas — it’s Okay not to bounce back quickly, or easily. I’m just going to give myself more space on this one.

6) Seek out more support.

7) Learn to properly use Excel. This sounds like an unbearably lame resolution, but as a lawyer whose career began just before the advent of technology in the profession — i.e., when I was in school, Westlaw and Lexis were not considered “valid” citators, and most states still published their cases in books — having more than a really baseline knowledge of most software was considered superfluous. I’m not that old, but in the time between when I went to school and now, the world changed A LOT and really fast.

8) Be more open to change. A lot will be changing over this year. I can either dig my heels in, or embrace it.

9) Listen more. I’m more of a do-er. I feel overwhelmed by choices, so I tend to limit myself to considering a handful of possibilities once I figure out what universe I’m dealing with, then I make decisions quickly and I don’t look back. I have no patience for indecisive people. In fact, I tend to make quick, decisive, personal judgments about indecisive people (!!!). Even though I’ve always made decisions this way, I’m not sure it’s the “right” way. Maybe I could benefit from taking in a little bit more information.

10) Get back out there. I had two major surgeries last year. I’ve begun running again, but I just need to get my butt back out there and run a damned race. I know I’ll feel a WHOLE lot better when I do — even if it’s a slow, slow time. I just need to plug my ears, and ignore all the medals, and PRs, and negative splits on Facebook and Instagram and Be Where I Am and embrace it.

11) Experience my first PR in years. I’ve been taken apart and put back together. The rehab has been time consuming. Is it so much to ask to be able to get back out there and be just marginally faster?! I’m not asking for a miracle here. I’m just asking to shave a second or two off (once I start racing again)!

12) Save more money. Ugh. Paul and I decided to do some of the most expensive stuff in the universe all at once. So much for paying off my law school loans this year.

13) Scotch-guard the rugs. This is actually more of a to-do list item, but I’m running out of steam.

14) Buy winter boots. I have lived in the NY-DC area for nearly 13 years, and have never bothered to buy snow boots. I’ve survived multiple major blizzards by simply being out of town for them. I don’t know if it’s laziness, or denial, or … what that has prevented me from buying a proper pair of Sorels.

15) Make more space for me. I am a small woman, and sometimes I feel like I make myself physically smaller than I am to accommodate others. I give in; I curl up; I fade. Sure, I have a loud voice, and I’m not a…wallflower. But I give into things that I never, ever intended to give into simply because I’m sick of fighting; I’m scared to be the tall poppy; I’m afraid to be the woman whose head gets chopped off.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

In and Out List | Each year the Washington Post (and various other media) pens an “in and out” list comprised of pop culture people/items that are in and out.  What’s on your in and out list?

Out

– Plastics (the products; the people)
– Forced domesticity
– Nail art (Please stop trying to make nail art happen.)
– Drinking due to peer pressure
– Mindless acquisition of stuff and things
– Clutter
– Juice fasts, detoxes, and other restrictive regimes
– Selfies (I judge me. I judge you.)

In

– Reading longform everything (I like the stuff curated at Longform.org)
– Mixing patterns and prints (who says tartans and florals don’t match?)
– Outsourcing dinner (or any meal for that matter – I like Provenance Meals; Sakara Life; and the pre-prepared products available from Fresh Direct)
– Lower-impact exercise than running 6 marathons a year (I like Refine Method; SLT; TRX classes; and pretty much any indoor cycling that is not SoulCycle)
– Vests (or as they are known in the rest of the world, gilets, body warmers, etc.) (NB: these will never be out of style)
– Vocal gratitude.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Energy | What gave you energy this year?  What took away your energy?

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Six weeks on crutches.

Four months in rehab.

Stitches; scars; setbacks.

I tried to be a trooper, because the injury was so much more painful than the surgery was. But this whole experience rattled me a whole heck of a lot. I was a Highly Motivated Patient. I was Energised For Recovery, but I was quickly…spent. If you’ve ever been through recovery from a bad sports injury, you know exactly what I mean.

I go out and run now, and I work out, but I still worry if I will ever be A Runner again.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Home | Tell us about what home meant to you this year.  Are you a homebody?  Did you do a renovation?  Move?  Redecorate? 

Did I mention that I moved house this year?

Did I mention that I don’t recommend getting cancer, having your hip reconstructed, taking on a couple huge professional projects that require sitting for various (difficult) exams in order to obtain required licenses — in addition to travelling internationally 11/12 months of the year, getting engaged, buying an apartment, undertaking renovations on said apartment, and moving into said apartment all within the same 12 month period?

Okay then.

I feel really…disoriented.

I feel lucky. And grateful. But I feel so out of sorts that it’s not even funny. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, it’s like I sat on my hands for five years, and then said, Okay, THIS is the moment — ready, go!

This new apartment doesn’t really feel like a home yet. I don’t know the doormen, and I don’t know where anything is, and no one knows where I live anymore. The not knowing the doormen thing keeps haunting me, because they keep telling visitors that I don’t live in the building, and that they can’t get ahold of me because in their view, I don’t exist. I can’t put anything away because half of my furniture is still on order. Everything is a work in progress. I don’t even have any window treatments, or proper lightbulbs, and I’ve lived here for over a month.

Roo likes the place, but he’s been squirrelly. He hasn’t been sleeping in his crate; he won’t sleep in his bed; he’s rattled and unsettled by every unfamiliar sound.

In sum, we like it here. But it will take us some time to settle into the new house. In the meantime, I should probably buy some of those temporary blinds.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Never | I never thought I’d…What did you think you’d NEVER do, but you did this year.  Why?  What changed your mind?

True story: I hate Christmas.

When I got divorced, I gave myself the gift of quitting Christmas. It just felt like a lot of obligation, and seasonal décor, and food I didn’t like, so I opted out. And it was a relief.

American Commercial Christmas does not fit into my belief system. I feel overwhelmed by it. I like sending Christmas cards, and I like a couple of Christmas movies, but otherwise, I find the whole holiday season to be a sea of wasted resources and forced obligation.

My mother tells me that she doesn’t understand why I hate the holidays because I used to anticipate them so much as a kid. But I think she’s projecting that on to me. She and my father both love Christmas; they take great joy in buying gifts, and decorating the house, and they enjoy the build-up.

I hate anticipation. I won’t watch suspenseful movies. I even fast-forward through films I’ve already seen at the “exciting” parts. I find suspense so agitating that I avoid situations where I don’t know what comes next. I find those sorts of situations and movies to be something to be tolerated rather than something I enjoy.

And I think that my mother confuses the abject anxiety I had as a kid about the holiday anticipation with the (admitted) joy I had about receiving gifts. So what I have always seen as a really anxiety-provoking experience as a kid (albeit one that included the thrill of presents),  my mother viewed as something I really looked forward to at one stage.

I can see where she’d maybe be confused. But the truth is…I’ve just always hated the holidays. Once I quit Christmas, I felt like the pressure was finally off; like I didn’t have to put myself into any of those situations where I didn’t know what was happening next. I didn’t have to eat any foods I didn’t want to eat; I didn’t have to have all those tchotchkes in my house representing Santa and Elves and what have you — things I didn’t like and didn’t believe in and that looked and felt…creepy.

I was free. I went skiing in Europe. I went to the Caribbean. I went to South America. I went to Australia. I went to Thailand. I ate a ton of Asian food, and I slept in, and I ran, and did yoga, and helped the needy, and saw friends, and engaged in absolutely none of that Commercial Christmas Bullshit, and I felt wholly human and completely engaged with the holiday spirit.

Just…not in that terrible, red-and-green-paper-wrapped, commercial, anxiety-provoking way that I’d been told my whole life was CHRISTMAS.

And then I met Paul, who is a Christmas Enthusiast.

Paul loves Christmas. He loves Santa. He believes children should believe in Santa (whereas I feel one should not lie to them and lose credibility as a parent). Paul believes a home should be decorated for Christmas, whereas I, personally, cannot fathom ever putting up and decorating a Christmas tree ever again. My feelings about Christmas trees are roughly the same as my feelings about sailboats — I enjoy and admire them when they belong to someone else.

Paul and I are of the same mind about most things, except this.

And this is why, after I swore up and down that I’d never, ever celebrate Christmas again, I am sitting in the airport lounge, waiting for a much-delayed flight, so I can fly to family Christmas in Dublin.

I love Paul, and I love his family, and even though this whole season makes me want to tear my hair out, one reaches a point where it’s not about one’s own fears and anxieties and frustrations anymore.

In other words, you just shut up, and get on the plane.