I'm writing along with Sarah & Kim for #reverb15. I'm still catching up because life, but I plan to keep responding as I can. Creature of habit or lover of change? This year were you a creature of habit? Or did you seek change? Or a combination of both?

As a kid who moved every few years, change was part of my life. I didn't mind not staying in one place or not having the same friends since grade school. My reality wasn't better or worse than that, just different. I spent a lot of time at other people's houses, lived summers with relatives, and later, a job where I spent the summer in the Alabama forest working as a camp counselor. Homesickness was foreign to me; being a nomad was its own kind of comfort, not feeling tied to anyone or anything, the knowledge you could always leave. Even in college, I thought the restlessness that would come over me was something everyone felt.

My very nature resists structure while the anxious side of me craves a bit of routine, of doing things by muscle memory, a kind of thoughts switched off, body on type progression. It's why I like working out, to be honest. When I'm pushing myself  to do more physically, my mind can't interrupt me with annoying thoughts and incessant worry.  On one hand, I crave new experiences and on the other I try to have a contingency plan for everything. Sometimes I feel like these facets of me war with one another, and it's exhausting.

I chose "explore" as my word for the year with the intention that I would consciously seek out new experiences. (And tell those anxiety gremlins to shut up). I wanted to invite a sense of adventure, of putting myself out of the familiar, of learning to enjoy the unplanned scenario. I wanted to approach the world with a sense of wonder, to be an explorer every day and take notice of the world around me.

Every month I tried to do something new or say yes to something that would typically scare me or cause me to worry or feel anxious.

Here are a few things I tried:

Zumba, Shockwave and Strength Training classes Tons of new recipes: These Mediterranean Turkey Loaves were a fave Setting an alarm for bedtime (and trying to set a nightly routine) 30/30 challenge (where I did some kind of physical activity for 1 mile a day in May) It was a fantastic experience and really helped to keep me motivated toward fitness. New writing projects Changed up some of my syllabus policies and first day of class routines Asking for advice more frequently New podcasts: Fell in love with Lore and Switched on Pop

I also know that my tendency as a rebel is to resist things I don't want to do, so finding ways to challenge myself while creating new habits in order to stick with it was probably the greatest change of the year. Creating internal motivation is really tough for me and I often have to trick myself in order to do things. I set timers for grading, timers for sitting on the couch, timers for reading, etc. And usually, before the timer went off I was doing whatever needed to be done. Not always, but sometimes.

While much of this year focused on changing habits for me, I do think I tried to stick with some strategies that I knew worked. I know how important comfort is to my psyche and pushing myself out of that zone was problematic at times while other times it was like "yeah, let's do this!" Having "explore" as my word for the year served as a significant motivation for me, and I'm really grateful for the way it helped me frame the year.


#reverb15: surprises & photographs

Today, I'm combining Kat's prompt about surprises with a favorite photo prompt from Sarah and Kim because they blend together so nicely for me. I'm likely to do this throughout #reverb, choose prompts from multiple places or use one from the past that speaks to me. What surprised you this year? 

My body: I got on the scale in January this year with immense trepidation. In 2012-2013 I'd lost a significant amount of weight. I spent a good deal of 2014 having it slowly pile back on. This year, I wanted to get back not to the size I was in 2013 but to the healthy body I had, the one that could walk up stairs more easily, spend time walking, running, hiking, biking. I wanted to do a better job of honoring, appreciating and just doing better in terms of my health because I knew I could. I started slowly and used my word for the year, explore, to try classes, experiences, foods, I might not have otherwise tried. And while I know I shouldn't be surprised that all that effort made a difference, there are days I still am surprised at my own reflection, or the way clothes feel on my body, but moreso I'm surprised when I push my body and it carries me to the end of a Zumba class or rowing session, or treadmill/elliptical workouts. I'm surprised at the elation and sense of accomplishment I feel each time I'm able to move a little faster or increase resistance, or meet whatever small goal I have going on at the time. I don't want to ever be done with this work. I know that I can't be because I owe it to the people who love me and to myself to do the best I can to keep my body healthy and happy and strong.

Reconnecting: It's always surprising to be made aware of an impact you have on someone's life. This was a year when friends and exes reconnected with me in pretty brave ways, expressing how something I said or did made a difference. It's also interesting to see what people remember of you vs. your own recollections. I can tell you I feature much less favorably in my memories than in those of the ones who've been in touch with me this year.

My friends are awesome. Okay, this didn't really surprise me. But it's nice to see friends and colleagues get recognized for the work they do, to see them in a mode I don't often see: "pulled together professional person." Let's face it, if you're like me, you rarely feel like you have it worked out, and many of your friends are in that boat with you, so to see their brilliance in the world, to be reminded of how great and smart and talented your friends are gives you a little bit of hope that you might achieve some of that brightness one day. And it feels damn good to cheer on important people in my life.

The world doesn't end if you decide not to finish something. This didn't really surprise me either, but I have to say that I experienced a deep sense of relief when I stopped working on a project that felt a little like spinning my wheels to pursue something that felt a little indulgent. The only consequence was that I became passionate about some ideas I'd previously dismissed once I decided to see what would happen if I pursued them as a research project.

Ugh, I can be a snob. I guess this isn't totally surprising but it is something noticeable in certain situations. It's okay to like different things from your friends/loved ones. It's perfectly fine not to "get" something other people are into. I'm trying, however to be less snobby when I don't like something that everyone else does and less judgmental of myself when I like something everyone else does. Maybe it's also okay to be a little snobby. I'm trying, here.

A little kindness goes a long way. Again, not a surprise but something that I seemed to be reminded of this year whether it was someone showing me kindness or me doing something nice for others, being generous in time and spirit was a common theme of the year.

Share your favorite photo from this year. Why is it your favorite? What makes it so special?

This year, a little over a month ago, M and I drove across country to the Grand Canyon. It was a huge adventure for us. While we've driven on long road trips before, never one that far. One of my favorite parts of the journey was asking M "couples road-trip questions". I could have guessed some of the answers, but it was still fun to hear her responses. I think when you've been together a long time (11 years now) there's a comfort between you and an assumption that you know all there is to know. I also think that's sad because we should continue to evolve and grow as people and as a couple and that means regularly checking in, asking questions you think you know the answers. You might be surprised at what you discover about one another.

In the early stages of planning this trip out West (I had to go because of a conference) I wasn't particularly excited about the Grand Canyon. I thought, "I'll go. It will be cool. M is excited. I'll go for her." But the closer the trip got, the more interested in the canyon I became. Nothing I could have read or imagined prepared me for what I felt being there. The sense of awe I experienced; it's something sacred. I kept feeling like I shouldn't be there, that I was somehow out of time and space. It's just spectacular. My continuously awed reaction surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn't have. Each time we rounded a corner, I felt my breath hitch and was overwhelmed at the beauty and power of being in such a place.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip:

M and I at the Grand Canyon
M and I at the Grand Canyon

We never have photos of us that don't look like selfies. A nice guy took this one for us and did a good job of framing the area around us. It's really windy and our hair is out of place; we both have sunglasses on.But somehow it still perfectly captures the moment we first saw the Grand Canyon, and all those ridges and colors and rocks spread before us. The entire trip was a constant reminder to pay attention to the view around you. In the Grand Canyon, I couldn't help it. There was no other thing to do but to contemplate what was in front of you and appreciate it.

I couldn't imagine this trip at any other time in my life with anyone else. No surprise there.