This sure has been a challenging year. Thanks to a variety of factors such as chronic pain, sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, stress, and grief, as well as the risks of the new COVID variants, I did very little traveling, writing and photography this year in comparison to my normal level in years past. I only traveled for work so I did not explore any new places or spend time hiking/kayaking in nature. I wrote exactly one blog post this whole year (besides this one), did exactly one day of landscape photography, and averaged about 4 – 5 hours of sleep per night this entire year. This year also marked Cole’s one year death anniversary and saw another solemn birthday and adoption anniversary pass to remind me how much I’ve lost. Everyone experiences grief differently so I can’t necessarily say my grief isn’t “normal” but the fact that it still has such a significant impact on my daily life is a bit concerning. I’m exhausted and tired of being so sad all the time but I just can’t seem to get to the place where I can smile at the memories more than I cry about the loss.
This does not mean that the year was all bad though. A big event that happened this year is that I moved in with my partner, Luke. This is the first time I’ve lived with a romantic partner since my divorce in 2009 so it was kind of a big deal for me. It has been both exciting and challenging in both expected and unexpected ways. Besides adjusting to living with someone after so many years living alone, combining two households in a 650 square foot space was challenging to say the least. I spent many hours going through cupboards, closets, and dressers to find things we could part with and organizing what was left to maximize space. I did a lot of cleaning along the way as well as a bit of redecorating such as hanging new window blinds with Luke’s help, updating and rearranging furniture and adding in some art and other decorative items to make the place feel a bit warmer. After all the items were identified that we wanted to part with, we held a successful 2-day rummage sale this fall, which was a ton of work, followed by repairing the garage walls and ceiling and then organizing all of the items we wanted to keep stored in there.
My businesses grew a bit more this year which is really exciting. I did nine in-home pet sitting jobs in Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma. Between adding a new client and the growth of a current client, my small business consulting work has picked up significantly. This year I also added a new end-of-life pet portrait service to my photography business by becoming a The Tilly Project affiliate photographer and have done five photoshoots so far. Having not thought to get some nice portraits of Cole and me before he passed away, this is something I feel passionate about offering others going through the heartbreaking process of losing their beloved pets. I was surprised to learn it didn’t feel as sad as I thought it would, at least not most of the time. Being invited in to capture the bond between a person and their pet and giving them something to hold onto after their best friend is gone is such an honor.
I had a small handful of adventures this year including a birthday weekend in Door County with a dear friend this spring, and a few walks at local spots like the Lion’s Club Game Park and the Red Cedar Trail this summer with Luke. I did enjoy my first paint night event while in Kansas with a friend which was really fun and I love that I have that painting on my wall as a daily reminder of our friendship. Luke and I finally managed to make it to the Farmers Market this summer and took a trip to Minneapolis to try out a new-to-us Korean restaurant and grocery which proved to be a lot of fun. Having not hosted any dinner parties in the past few years, it was also fun to have the opportunity to cook for Luke’s family a couple of times this year.
Luke has taken me on quite the culinary adventure this year. He has made so much delicious food for us to enjoy and it’s been really fun to see what he comes up with and to get to photograph it before we sit down to enjoy it. When he comes up with something that is particularly tasty, I add it to a document referred to as “Luke’s Menu” so when I someday successfully convince him to open a restaurant, he’ll be that much more prepared.
I have yet to make any friends here in Menomonie, in large part because I have not had the energy or drive to get out of the house to afford myself the opportunity to meet people. I was hopeful that I would be able to push myself to attend some pug Meetups in Minneapolis and volunteer to walk dogs at the local humane society but it just didn’t pan out. I did get to enjoy a visit from my parents as well as one of my Madison friends this fall but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I find myself a bit lonely. Grief, depression, and a pandemic sure do make moving to a new city that much harder. Thankfully, Luke, his family, and his house full of snuggly animals has made for good company.
As the year comes to a close and I take stock of where I am at, I’m hopeful that I will be able to find ways to improve my health in the New Year so I can have more energy to travel and create. I also hope to be able to do some significant healing in regard to my grief and mental health so I feel better overall. As I say farewell to 2022, I find myself grateful for a funny, generous, kind, supportive and loving partner, animals to snuggle and to keep me company late at night, friends to laugh and cry with, work that pays my bills, and access to healthcare. I found joy this year in small things like exchanging letters with a pen pal and sending out my first holiday cards in years and I hope to continue to be able to find small joys in the New Year. I am grateful for another year cancer-free and sober and feel so lucky to have found some small way to channel my grief into something good for others with my end-of-life photography.
Wishing you all the best in 2023 and beyond!