A collection of weird things I accomplished in 2017


Y'all Connect

I’ve been busy. Busy working on me me me. I enjoy building new habits and seeing what sticks. This is my annual rundown of weird projects and funny pastimes.

Let’s take a look at the year in me me me (while ignoring any previous projects I may have suggested for myself).

1a. Slay depression. I’ve been meaning to post an update on my depression, diagnosed earlier this year.

Depression made this year much tougher than I anticipated — sometimes, I made it even tougher than necessary. Coupled with anxiety, it became almost unbearable. Fortunately, I had a lot of factors in my favor.

The support of a large community made a huge difference in dealing with it honestly and head on. Friends, acquaintances and Internet strangers passed along kind words and thoughtful suggestions. My psychiatrist gave me some needed tough love, along with pills.

One friend, Ginny, made sure I did not walk alone. At least once a week, we got together to just decompress. I am very grateful for her time and her love.

Another major factor was the changing attitudes towards mental disorders in our society. More people are talking openly about their conditions — anxiety (which I also have), schizophrenia, addiction, eating disorders — which gives us a shared struggle and destigmatizes our situation. I love watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and beyond the comedy and music is the struggling titular protagonist, Rebecca Bunch, recently diagnosed with … (spoiler) … borderline personality disorder.

Video: “A Diagnosis” from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

And me putting in the work pushed me forward. I stuck to my medication. I practiced meditation (more on that in the next section). I scored myself daily on my mood. I accepted my condition but chose every day to keep treating it. I spoke up about it. I maintained a rigorous diet and exercise routine. That’s really all there is.

I have been my typically stubborn self when it comes to taking medicine (versus “riding it out”). That refusal to take to required dosage could have killed me. Seriously.

My psychiatrist had to, on several appointments, stress how badly I need to follow his instructions. In the end, even my thick head understood he was not exaggerating the dangers to myself.

My current self-evaluation is that I am mostly better, but I shall wait till I hear my psychiatrist’s opinion.

Depression is manageable, but for me, it has been a long battle that has recently become much easier.

For those of you struggling with a mental disorder, I hope you get the help you need. Please feel free to reach out to me, even anonymously, if you need someone to listen.

Results: SUCCESS

1b. Meditate. I have never tried meditation, though I’ve always been a little curious.

Lucky for me, help was literally around the corner.

I visited the Birmingham Shambhala Meditation Center only a few miles from home, one of two places I know of in town to practice meditation. The center offers free hourlong walk-in sessions throughout the week, including basic instruction at select times.

I learned basic meditation in about 30 minutes during my first visit in March. I’ve returned weekly to put in an hour of focus: 25 minutes of seated breathing, 10 minutes of walking and another 25 minutes of seated breathing.

At home (or wherever), I’d spend 5 minutes on meditation daily. A reminder on my phone kept me on track for the most part, and I recorded time spent on meditation using the free Health iOS app.

I find it to be an important part of my day, both for treating my anxiety and my depression as well as having a quiet moment away from my noisy day and my noisy head. While I go every week to the Shambhala Center, I have slacked off of late on the daily 5-minute sessions. I don’t know if it’s because I’m too busy or I’m feeling better and don’t need it as much.

I encourage you to try it, and if you need a buddy here in town, message me and we’ll go together.

Results: SUCCESS

2a. Watch one (good) movie a week. My flexible schedule allows me to pop in to a theater when I like. I like Tuesdays, because AMC and Phoenix Theatres offer $5 tickets to any showing on that day.

Plus, I like getting discs from the library (free) and Redbox (super cheap).

(I’m not counting the 100 or so documentaries I watch on PBS annually.)

I scanned Metacritic and theater listings (usually on Wednesdays, when the next week’s schedule goes online) for popular and critically acclaimed films. I also consulted various lists of 2016’s top picks and Oscar nominees/winners.

In essence, I stacked the deck for maximum enjoyment: movies I’d see anyway, plus movies that drew raves from critics, festivals and fans. Most were from this year, though a few were from 2016 (or earlier). And eight were from newish production company A24 — I dig their movies.

I spent $142.25 on 48 movies, or less than $3 per movie.

Note: A = Amazon, I = iTunes, and all are affiliate links.

  • “The Big Sick” [A I]
  • “Fences” [A I]
  • “The Handmaiden (Agassi)” [A I]
  • “Hidden Figures” [A I]
  • “It” [A I]
  • “Moonlight” [A I]
  • “Sing Street” [A I]
  • “American Honey” [A I]
  • “Baby Driver” [A I]
  • “The Beguiled” [A I]
  • “Blade Runner (The Final Cut)” [A I]
  • “Blade Runner 2049” [A I]
  • “Detroit” [A I]
  • “Dunkirk” [A I]
  • “The Edge of Seventeen” [A I]
  • “Elle” [A I]
  • “Get Out” [A I]
  • “I Am Not Your Negro” [A I]
  • “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” [A I]
  • “Lady Bird” [A I]
  • “Logan” [A I]
  • “The Lost City of Z” [A I]
  • “Midnight Special” [A I]
  • “Spider-Man: Homecoming” [A I]
  • “Split” [A I]
  • “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” [A I]
  • “Thor: Ragnarok” [A I]
  • “The Witch” [A I]
  • “Wonder Woman” [A I]
  • “Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)” [A]
  • “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” [A I]
  • “Hell or High Water” [A I]
  • “La La Land” [A I]
  • “The Lego Batman Movie” [A I]
  • “Life, Animated” [A I]
  • “Lion” [A I]
  • “The Lobster” [A I]
  • “Moana” [A I]
  • “Novitiate” [A I]
  • “Swiss Army Man” [A I]
  • “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,
    Missouri” [A I]
  • “Train to Busan” [A I]
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings” [A I]
  • “Sausage Party” [A I]
  • “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” [A I]
  • “A Ghost Story” [A I]
No rating
  • “No Home Movie”* [A I]
  • “The Vietnam War”** [A]

*I liked “No Home Movie,” but felt unsure it could be graded. It’s one of those art films that kinda transcends more straightforward films. You should watch it and tell me what you think.

**Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” is 17 hours long and should count as eight movies. I’ve watched the first seven parts, but have three to go. Its grade is incomplete.

Video: Clip from “Moonlight”

The best movie I saw in 2017 was triple-Oscar winner “Moonlight,” originally released in 2016. It still haunts me, and I’m definitely going to watch it again.

A love story and a coming-of-age drama, “Moonlight” features the grand talents of Alex A. Hubert, Ashton Sanders, Naomi Harris (wow!), Trevante Rhodes and Mahershala Ali. It evokes pain, beauty, longing, sorrow and promise.

I laughed at “The Big Sick” for weeks after. “Fences” brought me closer to understanding the world of Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson. Korean caper “The Handmaiden (Agassi)” was provocative and over the top in all the good ways.

I expected “Hidden Figures” to be a by-the-numbers (groan) historical flick, but instead found it to be delightful and inspiring. “It” had me clinging to my date because I was legit frightened (never read the Stephen King book or saw the miniseries) — looking forward to Part 2. “Sing Street,” found when two TV critics raved about it on Twitter, was a joy to watch; I should’ve expected it, since director John Carney also handled one of my all-time faves, “Once” (which I saw earlier this year in its traveling Broadway musical form!!).

The absolute worst movie I saw this year was “A Ghost Story.” It wasn’t even close. I will come to your house and act it out to save you $10 and 90 minutes. How it ended up with so many accolades from reviewers is beyond me. As a bonus featurette, I’ll throw in my 20-minute rant on whitewashing in “Kubo and the Two Strings.”

Results: SUCCESS

2b. Watch all the operas on my TiVo. I record a lot of broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera on PBS, because I’m classy like that.

Then, they get stuck there for years, because I almost never have the time or the mind focus to read 3 hours of subtitles.

Over the summer, I had cleared out all other programs from the DVR. So I set out to watch each opera, bit by bit, 20 in all (though I may have forgotten one or two).

  • “Bel Canto”
  • “Bluebeard’s Castle”
  • “Cavalleria Rusticana”
  • “Don Giovanni”
  • “Elektra”
  • “Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)”
  • “Il Trovatore”
  • “Iolanta”
  • “La Donna del Lago (The Lady of the Lake)”
  • “Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)”
  • “Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers)”
  • “Lulu”
  • “Madama Butterfly”
  • “Manon Lescaut”
  • “The Merry Widow”
  • “Otello”
  • “Pagliacci”
  • “Roberto Devereux”
  • “Tannhauser”
  • “Turandot”

It turns out, I’m a huge opera fan. The vocals, the pageantry, the epic storytelling.

Some were easier to follow than others. “Otello” I know well from having read and watched the play. Others required a little Wikipedia research on my part, as well as studying reviews.

This is also the reason I’m not up to date on Netflix series or even “The Wire” (though I finally got to season 1). And I still have four operas to go.

Results: SUCCESS

3. Date using apps. I returned from a self-imposed exile to resume dating. In the past, I’ve used Match.com and eHarmony — this time, I used apps, such as Tinder, Bumble, etc. The last time I seriously dated was 2013.

I liked how easy they were to set up and use. I hated the number of spam profiles and messages I had to sift through.

I went on a few first dates and had two short relationships (a few weeks and a couple of months). One of those relationships came from meeting IRL instead of in the app, which shows I need to continue to push myself out of my house.

I was very happy to have someone to share part of my life. I rediscovered the side of me who thinks of others, who sends silly selfies and spends weekends just hanging out.

More to come …

Results: SUCCESS

4. Write letters. I used to be a frequent letter writer. I loved buying new stationery and scribbling out (my penmanship is atrocious) thoughts and happenings to old friends.

But as the years passed, I stopped sending out those letters and homemade Christmas cards.

In the last few years, I kept thinking about writing a letter a week, each one to whoever wanted one. But I knew I couldn’t commit the time, and I’d be done before February was over.

I had to start small.

My college friend Amelia has sent me her family’s Christmas card for years, complete with photocopied family newsletter. She has also sent me whimsical birthday cards without fail.

I sent her a letter. I typed as fast as I could and wrote about a couple of pages to print on stationery. Easier to read than my handwriting, and allows me to refer back to it when needed, and also include images.

She wrote back, and we’ve been trading letters ever since. I owe her a letter, having received her last one before Thanksgiving (really two, because I also have her 2017 Christmas card and letter).

Results: MIXED

5. Updates for ongoing projects:

• 52 Weeks of Projects, started in 2015: A couple of hours on Saturday are for my long list of projects. Out of a possible 52, I completed 18, up from 15 last year.

Gardening: started in 2015: a second attempt at a raised bed vegetable garden. I planted basil, kale, spinach, peas, carrots, marigolds, cucumbers, beans, squash and green peppers. I had a little bit of kale for most of the year, one fat carrot (with the others not yet harvested), heaps of marigolds … and that’s about it.

I’m going to keep going with spinach and kale for 2018. I need to redo the cage cover to keep out whatever’s been burrowing in the soil, and make a new divider grid.

Drinking water: started in 2016: I’m still drinking 8 damn cups every damn day.

Y’all Connect: started in 2013, but skipped in 2016: I held my 1-day digital marketing conference in August, and it was great to see everyone again!

One last note: I have a Groupon for two 1-day passes to a local indoor climbing facility that expire in a couple of weeks. I have zero experience with climbing. If you want to be my guest and (literally) show me the ropes, I’d love for you to climb fake rocks with me.

Previous years:


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