Now that the year is half over, I find the need to check in with myself. I had big expectations of myself this year. The last few years I have felt were great and what not, but they weren’t all that balanced… for better or for worse.
2008 had been all about my personal life, both fantastical (I obtained my Masters degree before I turned 24, a goal since I was in middle school) and terrible (I left Joe, or really fled was more like it, and moved back to a place I hated just to get away). The last few months of 2008 had been all about healing after Joe, because after everything, I still felt I loved him. When I left it wasn’t that I wanted to, but something I had to do. Being an adult means doing the right thing and what you need for yourself, regardless of what you want. (Yes, sometimes it sucks, but I believe if you do this it will work itself out for the better, in the end.) But from the very first month of 2009, I had come to be in a good place with myself, my decision and my uncertain future.
The first six months of 2009, I would not say I was in balance, but I was trying to find it. I worked my butt off, making money, but only enough to pay all of my bills and have a little left over, savings was almost impossible. I worked on my writing and poetry, screenwriting and funny nonfiction projects were blooming and I was dating, but not getting serious or attached. When it came to my family, I was mostly at a cease fire (at least until May). By all accounts, no part of my life was terrific, but every part was moving in the right direction. Then I got sick, and of course the rest of 2009 and all of 2010 was about my health. Screw writing. Screw working. Screw any kind of personal life or things to keep me sane and emotionally healthy. Trying not to die (again) was really hard work.
In 2011, it was mostly my personal life that was flourishing. My health was still iffy, but I no longer had to devote my energy to it. In fact, since I was a ‘miracle’ case the doctors didn’t even have a list of things for me to do, except show up for labs on a very regular basis. They didn’t want me exercising or doing anything physically strenuous, but I could walk, go out, dance, and I had no dietary restrictions. So, really no actual energy for my physical wellbeing was really spent that year (and thank goodness, I really needed to recharge after 2009 and 2010). With me physically limited, however, working still wasn’t an option. I fell in love with Roy and our relationship developed nicely. By the end of the year, we took a trip of a lifetime to Italy, met each other’s families, moved in together, and then bought our first house (our closing date was the one-year anniversary of being off chemo) and got engaged. A lot happened that year and while it wasn’t free of the negative (also to do with my personal life), the positive overwhelmingly won out.
In 2012, I was slightly more balanced, but not really. Health still was not a priority and I had nothing I could think of to focus on in that area (but to be fair I can’t say that I really tried). I was planning a wedding for goodness sakes! At the same time, I incorporated my writing and editing business and business was booming. I had a few ‘big deal’ corporate clients, received editorial credit for four novels (all of them awesome) and in truth took on much more than I could handle. It was hard to juggle with planning a destination wedding on my own, dealing with insane (some criminally) relatives, all of them mine, (well my husband has a crazy aunt but she was hardly a blip on my radar) and then getting married and trying to sneak in a 4-day mini-moon (all either of us could afford to take off from work). I remember the actual week of our wedding, juggling six clients while fitting in rehearsals, dinners and other wedding events. I did not sleep at all the night before the wedding. So, while once again, it was a great year for my personal life, and just as great a year for my career, there was no balance. It was trying to do too much on both ends and one of them always took the backseat to the other. It was chaotic, and I made it work, but know I can’t afford that chaos again.
Last year was my first experimental attempts to have a healthy balance between my health, my personal life, and work. I had twenty-four small goals that I monitored, but even those small goals were not proportionate. My personal life had eight goals, my work ten goals, and my health six goals. Right there, should tell you something. But beyond trying out a system where I could hold myself accountable, last year was full of not-so-great things far beyond my control in all three areas of my life (this was actually the only sort of balance I saw last year). I went in for another emergency shunt surgery, but one of the complications of my shunt malfunction was that my dialysis fistula – the thing that almost cost me my arm in a surgery gone horribly wrong – failed. It collapsed because my blood pressure and heart rate kept plummeting, remaining low before slowly climbing again – so the fistula collapsed. Then I was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disorder, an unpleasant side effect from my year of chemo and something that can be precursor to things far worse. Basically, in terms of my health it was a really crappy year.
But the crap didn’t end there. Other major blows had to do with my writing and career. The first was my manuscript that I have since finished. In February of last year I went to Roy’s cousin’s wedding in Florida. It was beautiful and we had a wonderful time, but I took my manuscript with me on a USB drive. I had backed up the drive to the laptop I took with me and it was also on the laptop I left at home. I had written a third of it, 114,087 words and months of magic, trauma, and the emotional rollercoaster involved in writing the most difficult tale of my life down. I felt I had to, compelled after a few years to finally share it. And then the unthinkable happened, the USB was misplaced and lost while packing for our return trip home. I freaked out, as I should have, but also felt that it wasn’t the end of the world, since it was on two other hard drives. When I got home, I turned on the computer I had brought with us… and it crashed. The hard drive failed. We sent it out to a company that specializes in such things but it was no use, nothing could be recovered. And what about that other hard drive I had it backed up to? Well, I had backed up the wrong folder because I was busy trying to whip out an appeal letter to an insurance company (and we’ll go there in a minute). The manuscript was lost. I grieved like I lost a part of me, and I had. I couldn’t imagine going through everything again, trying to capture the same magic, putting in all those months just to be in a place I had already been.
Two months later, a book client made the tragic mistake of rejecting all of my track changes instead of accepting them. He published his book and it appeared as if he hadn’t even had a college freshman look it over. He was livid and of course blamed me. I understood he was hurt, mortified and utterly defeated so I let him have at it. I gently pointed out that the mistakes in his book were mistakes I had corrected, but the damage was done. In a show of good faith and care (because it was a wonderful story I had worked with him on for two years, developing) I let him keep my name attached to his project and since I was listed as editor, people who reviewed his book could blame me instead of him. I also promoted his book for months, despite the typographical errors that were rampant throughout the book. Even though it did not affect my reputation as an editor (I had already garnered a strong reputation, which is one of the reasons I felt I could afford to shoulder the blame) it certainly left our relationship strained at best, and made me question my abilities while I went through the published work and my final edited version of his manuscript to figure out what had went wrong. My confidence for whatever reason still wavers time to time because of this incident.
Then when it came to my personal life, my husband’s insurance stopped paying my claims without telling us for three months, saying that they were secondary to Medicare because I had end-stage renal disease. The only two problems were I wasn’t end-stage renal disease and did not have Medicare. For something you would think would be so simple (since my doctor did not claim I was end-stage renal and immediately provided a letter and my records to back that up) they refused to listen. It took more than a year to clear up the matter, and several appeals processes, until I decided to get real. Medicare got involved (which is funny since they weren’t my insurance) and their highest department that managed benefits, contacted United Healthcare’s (see, I will name names) department to say I was not end-stage renal and stop the crazy. United Healthcare sat on this information and did nothing, but because I am a bitch (or well-informed hard ass) I asked Medicare to keep me updated and they had the name, date and time that they spoke with this individual, which meant United knew they had to cover me and was still taking money for premiums but doing absolutely nothing on any of my claims. I told them I needed to see every one of my claims paid, a paper trail and they had reimburse us thousands of dollars we had to pay what they wouldn’t, but should have. You threaten social media, give the factual information that proved they knew better, and mention insurance fraud, etc. and they tend to react much more quickly (at least when you they’re caught). Still it was a sanity and money draining nightmare for all of 2013.
This year, I feel much more with it. I have my goals divided into three categories: health, personal and career. Each category has ten goals I track daily and grade myself both weekly and monthly to make sure one area isn’t severely lacking and so I can make sure I stay much more balanced. My health includes things like diet, steps, exercise, water intake, losing my temper, and how many hours I sleep each night. My personal category includes how many pages I read (my goal is at least 50 per day, and only books, magazines or things online don’t count), how much time I spend with our animals, doing a good deed every day, learning something every day, making my husband feel special every day, keeping in touch with faraway friends and doing something fun (and new) once a week. My career includes daily writing (my goal is at least 1500 words per day), the money (profit) I actually make, steps to take in my pursuit of a book deal, social media for work, networking, ongoing training and keeping current.
While there have been no real awesome milestones or traumatic instances so far this year – I am doing pretty okay at staying balanced. I am sure my whole grading thing (I use Excel, I love me some Excel) seems a bit… much, but it really helps me stay accountable to myself, because the overachiever in me cringes at the thought of not being the (or at least my) best. And with ten goals per category grading is simple and I am at or over 100% most of the time for each category. While weekly grades slip occasionally (three weeks, I was under 100% for health, five weeks for personal, two weeks for career) my monthly grades are much more solid. In fact, I have never dipped below 100% when it comes to monthly evaluations in the health or personal categories. I have dipped on two separate months for work, but was still over 96% each time for the month (so nothing major). I change my monthly goals accordingly to keep myself challenged or to accommodate obstacles I can foresee. For example, when I have a blood treatment I know I’ll be out for a few days so that week’s steps will be lower, but the weeks before and after will pick up the slack so it averages out in the end. I think it is really working out I am proud of myself so far, but it only motivates me to keep it up and reach higher. I don’t like easy and I don’t do easy. I am constantly in competition with myself and always looking to better myself. This year’s ultimate goal, the whole point of all the little goals and the system I have created is about balance. Looking back at the last six years and looking at this year so far, it is definitely something I have achieved and something I will continue to work on and master, hopefully for the rest of my life. 🙂