My One Word for 2022

Ever since 2014 or 2015 I think, I’ve been sharing a word of the year on my blog. I’ve never been paying close attention to them over the rest of the year and, as a result, they never meant much to me. This year, I intend to change that. I’ve signed up to a project organized by Lisa of Lisa Notes called One Word 2022. Lisa has a Facebook group dedicated to discussing our One Word and a monthly linky that goes live each 22nd of the month. I originally intended to wait until then to write this post, but I feel inspired to write it now and Lisa said to write whenever you feel like writing.

The year 2021 was a really creative year, so initially I thought to choose a word such as “Create” for 2022. This year though hasn’t started off on a crafty note. Besides, isn’t the point of a word of the year to challenge yourself?

I came across a post on another blog a few days back (sorry, I can’t remember which blog) reminding the reader about the qualities of a follower of Christ, such as kindness, patience, etc. One of them was joyfulness and there I had my word. My One Word for 2022 is going to be: JOY.

Dictionary.com defines “Joy” as: “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”

“Something exceptionally good”, however, is subjective. For this year, I intend to look for joy in the everyday. I am reminded in this respect of a note on the wall in my mental health agency building that says: “Be grateful for the little things; at some point you’ll realize they’re the big things.”

This year, I will aim to focus on cultivating a grateful, positive attitude towards whatever I experience in life. I don’t need more of anything. Life itself is a reason to rejoice.

What’s your word for 2022?

I’m joining #LifeThisWeek.

My Shed

One of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompts this week is to write about your very first apartment. I am going to cheat a little and write about the first apartment I rented rather than the very first apartment I lived in. The first apartment I rented was my student housing apartment, which I called “my shed”. This sounds affectionate in English. In Dutch, not so. “My cage”, though not as correct a translation, more correctly captures the feeling I had about this apartment.

When I got on the housing list in Nijmegen for the academic year starting 2007, the student counselor made sure I got a letter getting me to a priority place on the list because of my disabilities. This meant I was allowed to provide a preference for which student housing complex I wanted to live in. I had to list my top three. Based on the little information the housing association provided and what my support staff at the independence training home I lived in before moving to Nijmegen knew, my number one choice became the complex “my shed” was part of. My reasons were that its apartments reserved for disabled students were on the ground floor and the neighborhood was supposedly quiet.

Indeed, my apartment was on the ground floor, right beside the main entrance to the building. I didn’t have to enter the complex to get to my apartment.

It was a one-bedroom apartment. When you entered through the door, you were in the long, narrow living room and kitchen. Then you went through to something like a landing, with the bathroom on your right hand. Then, you’d enter another long, narrow room, which was the bedroom. The apartment altogether was 35m².

My apartment had just a few, very dim lights in the living room and one equally dim light in the bedroom. I guess my parents thought that I didn’t need much light since I was blind anyway. I had my desk, the one I currently still use to sit on whilst typing this post, in the living room. Other than that, I just had two kitchen chairs and a folding table to eat at. I did have one recliner that I’d gotten at a thrift store and a few rather tacky pillows. I had never thought of decorating my place at all. In fact, this past holiday season is the first time I’ve ever decorated my room and that’s quite a milestone.

Like I said, my apartment was very narrow and long. Its windows were on the short end of the apartment. Due to this and the lack of lighting, the apartment looked rather dark and gloomy. If I wasn’t depressed already, I’d become depressed from the lack of light in my shed.

The place quickly got rather filthy from my poor cleaning habits. I did try, but due to the combination of my disabilities, I just couldn’t keep the place properly cleaned. Looking back, I am so grateful my now husband didn’t go on a run as fast and as far as he could when I invited him into the shed on our second get-together.

I only actually lived in the shed for three months before landing in the psychiatric hospital. It is by far the worst place, in terms of interior, I’ve ever lived in.

Mama’s Losin’ It

#IWSG: My Biggest Writing-Related Regret

IWSG

Hi everyone. It’s the first Wednesday of the month and this means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to meet. I have been doing pretty well in the writing department over the past month.

My Morning Pages, which I started last Saturday, are going strong so far, although I’m resisting getting up for writing them sometimes. I am not as strict with myself as Julia Cameron expects. I mean, I can’t handwrite at all, so I am typing up my pages. I am also not being strict about the three pages (750 words) per day. So far, yesterday, I almost got there. The other days, I barely got to 500 words if even that.

Then again, I’ve been blogging quite consistently over the past month. I wrote 23 blog posts in December, which means I reached my goal of publishing 300 posts in 2021 (in fact, I published 303). In January so far, I’ve been posting everyday and I am still quite motivated to continue doing so. There are a few blogging-related challenges that provide prompts, such as #Bloganuary, #JusJoJan, etc. I don’t intend on participating in any of these challenges every single day, but to use them as springboards towards creativity.

Now on to this month’s optional question. This month, we are asked to share our biggest regret in our writing career. I don’t quite consider myself as having a writing career per se and, as such, my biggest regrets involve things I didn’t do rather than things I did. Like, in late 2020, I fully intended on writing a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul about the impact of care homes closing to visitors due to the pandemic on me and my husband. I never did. I could, of course, still write the story and share it on my blog, but that would be different to submitting it to Chicken Soup.

Behind the fact that I never wrote, much less submitted the story is a fear of rejection. I tend to think my work is not good enough. Then again, if I don’t try, I will never succeed.

In my Morning Pages, I keep writing that maybe I am not supposed to do The Artist’s Way at all, because I am already public with my writing and my crafting. I am not a shadow artist in this respect. Furthermore, as Julia Cameron says, it is audacity, not talent, which gets some people to become published creatives and others to stay in the shadows. I tend to interpret this to mean that, if I am audacious enough to publish my work online without having done the program first, it must mean I’m not talented. That’s probably not what she means.

2021: The Year in Review

Each year at the end of the year, I look back at the past year and do a review. Today, I’m doing one for 2021.

At the beginning of the year, we were all cautiously optimistic about the vaccine being the ticket out of the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t. I got my first shot in early February and my second shot a month later. In early December, I had my (first) booster shot. I’m pretty sure more are still to come.

At the end of 2020, I first had my one-on-one support approved. It took some time to figure out how the staff should best fill in the allocated hours. Initially, the manager wanted my husband to be clear on when he was going to have me home with him, so that my one-on-one hours could be canceled then. This wasn’t doable for my husband or me, so finally it was agreed that my hours would be filled in regardless.

For most of 2021, we had day activities at the home due to the pandemic. Thankfully, by September, the day center opened and the clients were mostly back to their pre-pandemic groups. I, however, was not. Thanks to my one-on-one, I was provided day activities in the home and this continues to be the case so far. There has been talk of me starting in a small group, but this isn’t doable for me right now or within the foreseeable future.

For the first half of the year, I struggled a lot with the battle inside my head between wanting to live more independently and wanting even more support. This led to a climax in mid-June, when the manager told me that more support is really not possible. I was in a crisis for about two weeks. Then I started my new medication, topiramate, which calmed some of the inner conflict. It, of course, helped that I was reassured that, regardless of my attempts to push staff away, I was going to keep my allocated one-on-one support hours at least until the end of December. And of course now they have been approved until December 2023.

Over the summer, when my topiramate started to kick in, I was able to be more creative than I’d been in a long while. I started polymer clay once again and have been able to enjoy this hobby ever since. Like I mentioned when I wrote down my hopes for 2021, I didn’t intend on doing it all independently and that’s still not one of my hopes.

Looking back at my hopes, I did pretty well on them for this year. See, I think it helps that I don’t call them resolutions or goals, ha.

Overall, this year was a pretty good one for me personally. Even in terms of COVID, it’s been as good as possible, in that I haven’t contracted the virus and neither has anyone else in my home. One of my staff tested positive recently and originally we were supposed to all get tested today. After conferring with the care agency’s pandemic team, this got canceled though. I may still get a lateral flow test later today just to be sure. Let’s hope I won’t end the year with COVID.

How has your 2021 been?

Superstitions

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is superstitions, amulets and charms. I had quite many growing up, but not most of the usual ones. Let me share.

My sister was born on Friday the 13th, so no-one in our family dare believe this to be an unlucky day. However, I had quite a few lucky and unlucky days particularly as a teen. Friday the 24th was unlucky, for example. The reason was the fact that on Friday, September 24, 1999, I had realized that I wasn’t going to fit in at mainstream high school and was most likely going to struggle through it all of the six years it lasted. I was determined to make school a success though, and indeed I graduated. I earned my diploma on another Friday the 24th, namely June 24, 2005. Maybe it wasn’t such an unlucky day after all.

Like I’ve said before, I believed particular dates to be lucky or unlucky too. November 2 was unlucky. Again, this was the date I landed in crisis, twice, both times on Fridays, in 2001 and 2007.

Like Friday the 13th, I didn’t hold any of the other usual superstitions either. I never struggled to walk under a ladder, to walk on cracks in the pavement and wasn’t worried when a black cat crossed my path. I did get an old horseshoe at a horse stable once and kept it. My father told me it was supposed to bring good luck, but I never hung it anywhere.

As a child, I did keep fortune-telling charms. I used to have a particular blue, glass stone with a flat and a curved side and used to ask it yes-or-no questions, then throw it. If it landed flat on its back, the answer was yes and if it landed curved side down, the answer was no. Of course, now I know it is far more likely to land flat on its back.

I also would make a wish if I was able to peel off a tangerine’s peel in one go. I know the traditional thing is about oranges, but I never ate those. Then when I’d pulled off the tangerine’s peel, the number of slices I would be able to keep together predicted how likely my wish was to come true.

Now that I’m an adult, I no longer hold many superstitions. I did have a long-standing belief for most of my adult life that I was in for bad luck eventually. This specifically involved the idea that, once I’d feel secure at a living place, I’d develop some serious illness and die. Over the past year, I’ve slowly been able to let go of this belief. My faith helps me in this respect too.

Are you superstitious?

My Plans for This Christmas

Hi everyone on this rainy Thursday evening, two days before Christmas. One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to share your plans for this holiday season. For the first time ever, I’m not just dreading the fuss. I mean, last year, I’d just become a Christian and was kind of looking forward to the spiritual aspect of Christmas, but not really either, as I knew I still had a long walk to go in my faith. I’m about the same this year. That being said, with respect to the celebrations with family, I was still dreading those last year. This year, I’m more neutral about them, even slightly positive. Let me share my plans.

Tomorrow, we’re supposed to have day activities like normal. We had our Christmas lunch today and I got half of my Christmas hamper. The other half, my staff will bring tomorrow, as it hadn’t arrived when she left to bring the first half to me yet. The half that arrived today contained mostly treats. The other half, she said, are two silicone molds for my polymer clay. I’m really looking forward to receiving those.

Tomorrow evening, I initially thought we were going to get food delivered. Thankfully, though we entered full lockdown last week, restaurants are open for takeaway or delivery. I was not yet sure which restaurant or snack corner we would be ordering from. Then this evening I found out my staff had planned to prepare a cassrole. Not something I enjoy. I contemplated ordering delivery just for myself. Then after some texting between several staff, it was decided to change the dinner plans for Friday, Saturday and Sunday around and we’re going to have fries and chicken legs.

On Saturday at around 2PM, a ParaTransit taxi is going to arrive to take me to my in-laws. There, I, my husband and my oldest sister-in-law will have dinner. My husband teased me about the food we’d have, because I’m quite a picky eater. Really though, we’re going to have chicken roulade, which I love.

My husband is likely going to read from the Bible at dinnertime. Neither his parents nor his sister are religious, but they tolerate him reading the Bible. I loved him reading Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus’ coming, as well as the Christmas story, last year.

I may stay at my in-laws for a while after dinner and then leave for my and my husband’s house in Lobith, where we will stay for the night.

Sunday morning, which is called Second Christmas here in the Netherlands, we may watch Hour of Power together. Thinking of which, I remember now there’ll be a show on Saturday too, but I don’t know whether it’ll be in the morning or evening.

I will go back to the care facility sometime Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening, we’re going to have Chinese takeaway. This was originally planned for Saturday, but it was my favorite out of the three Christmas meals for the weekend, so I’m so happy the meal plan got shifted.

We’ll likely have more than enough treats to last us through to February, honestly. At least, I got three packages of my favorite Christmas cookies from one of my staff yesterday and another one in my Christmas hamper. That plus chocolate, winegums and Pringles. Yum, but if I’m not careful, I’m going to weigh 200 pounds by the time I’m done with them. Then again, as they say, you don’t become fat between Christmas and New Year’s but between New Year’s and Christmas. In other words, it’s snacking all year round that really leads to lasting weight gain. This being the case, I am happy this holiday season, though it is indeed part about the food, is also about faith and family.

As for my own family, both my sister and her family and my parents sent me a Christmas card. However, I haven’t been at my parents’ house in years and they didn’t invite me. If they do want to see me, I think the spring is a more appropriate time.

What are your plans for the upcoming holidays?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Friends and Buddies

This week’s topic for Throwback Thursday is friendship. I was never really good at making friends. I still don’t have any real friends other than my husband. I mean, of course I could consider some of my fellow clients “friends”, but our relationship isn’t as deep as that of normal adult friendships.

In early childhood, I did have one friend. Her name was Kim and we used to make mud castles together. Or anything out of sand and water really. Kim’s last name translates to “peat” and my father used to jokingly call her “Kim Mud” rather than “Kim Peat”.

When I went to the special school for the visually impaired at the age of five, I started in a first grade class despite being of Kindergarten age. All girls in my class were at least a year older than me and they enjoyed “babysitting” me. In exchange, for the next three years, I’d help them with their schoolwork.

By the age of nine, I transferred to a different school for the blind. Though I did have a friend there, I was also an outcast and got heavily bullied.

My best time socially was my one year at the special ed secondary school for the blind. I had one good friend there, but also got along pretty well with everyone else in my class and most kids in my school in general.

All that changed when I entered mainstream high school at the age of thirteen. Within a month, everyone had formed cliques except for me. A few months later, my favorite clique took me under their wing and pretended to be my friends, only to drop me again when they’d had enough of me. I was friendless for the remainder of the six-year program. I didn’t really care. Or maybe I did, but I was determined to show my parents and teachers that I could earn a mainstream high level high school diploma. And I did. Not that I use it for anything now, but oh well.

Another topic mentioned in the Throwback Thursday post title at least is buddies. This reminds me of the autistic student buddy program I was part of during my two months of attending university. This program assigned a psychology student volunteer buddy to an autistic student to help the autistic with planning their coursework or other activities related to their studies. It worked in theory, but the catch was that these buddies were volunteers helping only with certain things for one or two hours a week at most. At the time, you couldn’t get paid support workers for assistance related to college or university studies, as the reasoning was that if you could be a student in college or uni, you should be able to do the planning and related tasks yourself. Needless to say my buddy got overwhelmed within a week. I feel intensely sorry for her.

The reason I mention this, besides it being in the post title, is the fact that I realize I struggle to maintain a distinction between social and professional relationships and, with the buddy, things got even muddier. I mean, friendships are supposed to be reciprocal, while professional relationships are not. For this reason, I am allowed to unload my shit to a professional without needing to listen to theirs. Professionals, however, get paid, while friends don’t. With the buddy, the situation got complicated, in that my fellow students called on my buddy to calm me when I was in a meltdown. That clearly wasn’t her role.

This thing about lack of reciprocity, however, also probably killed off that mainstream high school friendship I pretended to have. I don’t blame myself entirely though: my so-called “friends” also felt obligated to hang out with me out of pity, and that’s never a good reason to be someone’s friend.

Describing My Favorite Place

For her first writing prompt, Ebar asks us to describe our favorite place using all five senses. I was thinking of sharing something about my favorite place in the entire world just yesterday. As someone who doesn’t feel she belongs anywhere, the concept of a favorite place is hard to comprehend. However, right now, my favorite place in the entire world is where I am at this very moment: my room in the care home. Below, let me describe it using my five senses.

I can see the light being on. Though I cannot usually see the colored LEDs on my essential oil diffuser due to being blind, I know they are there and appreciate them. I can see through the windows. Well, not right now as it’s dark outside and the curtains are drawn, but during the day, I can.

I can listen to the sound of soothing music on my music pillow, or to my text-to-speech software on my computer or iPhone through my headphones. I can also sometimes hear the door behind which the laundry and trash cans are stored slam shut right below my room. I don’t like that sound, but the staff are looking into the technical people doing something about the door being made less loud. I can hear the sounds of other clients and staff elsewhere in the home. I may not always like those sounds either, but they are the sounds of my room. I was almost going to say they are the sounds of home, but calling my room “home” just feels like it’s a step too far as of yet.

I can feel the fabric of the chair I’m sitting on. I can feel the characteristic floor my feet touch. When I’m in my bed, I can feel the comfort of my weighted blanket and my stuffed animals.

I can smell the scent of whichever essential oil blend I choose to put into my diffuser when I want to. Lastly, I can taste the meal delivery service meals in my mouth. I can select from their menu and, though the meals aren’t great and there’s a particular lack of variety, some are quite delicious. I’m going to pretend we have lasagne for the sake of this post.

What’s your favorite place like?

House Inspection

One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to tell us about a time someone showed up at your front door. Since I no longer live in regular housing since moving into the care facility, no-one ever shows up at my front door unexpectedly and, if they do, the staff will open it for me. When I still lived with my husband though, several times, people would show up at my front door unexpectedly. Not salespeople, thankfully. However, my experiences with the housing corporation were so bad that my husband actually asked me not to open the door. I always reflexively did anyway.

One time, the housing corporation, or I’m assuming some technical company sent by them, showed up when I did expect them. They were supposed to be repairing our gutter, but asked a ton of questions about where the problem was located and what kind of gutter we had. I had no idea and the people said they couldn’t just climb onto the roof and have a look. I called my husband to inquire, but he didn’t answer the phone, so they left without having done anything. This encounter led me to get into a mental crisis.

The first time the housing corporation showed up unannounced was in early August of 2017, just two weeks after the gutter repair guys had showed up. They came to ask us to weed the path behind our backyard. I had no idea there even grew plants there, but, under pressure, agreed to ask my husband to do it within a couple of weeks. Apparently, the back neighbors had been complaining, since I don’t expect the housing corporation to come out from the town to check on our tiny village house for no reason.

The other time was in September of 2019. My husband had scheduled the final inspection of our home for the 26th, when I’d be at the care facility and he’d be home alone. However, they showed up a week early when I was home alone. I was sleeping when I heard the doorbell and felt I had no time to dress into my day clothes, so quickly ran downstairs to open the door.

I told them they were a week early, but they insisted they take a look around “now that we’re here anyway”. After their inspection, they asked me to sign a document. I initially refused, but they insisted I am a renter too (I was). Then they asked: “Can you read?” I explained that I can, but not print, since I am blind. “There’s nothing to worry about in this document,” they told me. In my overwhelm, I signed and sent them on their way. My husband did complain about the way they’d treated me this time and it was my final reminder of why I want to never live in regular housing again.

Mama’s Losin’ It

#IWSG: Writing Stressors and Delights

IWSG

Hi everyone. Can you believe it’s December already? I in a way can’t, but in another sense am so grateful November is finally over! It’s the first Wednesday of the month and this means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to meet. The past month was pretty good as far as writing goes. I published 21 posts again, which I considered “okay” in August but now am rather content with. I also actually did some creative writing, which I am really happy about. I am striving for 300 blog posts in 2021 and am pretty sure I can make this happen. After all, I’ll need to publish 20 posts for that this month and December is a longer month than November and a less stressful one at that (for me at least). Wish me luck!

Now on to this month’s optional question. This month, we are asked to write about what stresses us the most in our writing and what delights us. My main stressor is the pressure I put onto myself, for instance of having to write a certain number of posts (okay, okay, I know, I just did that!).

Another big and related stressor is the comparison trap. I mean, I compare myself to more successful writers and bloggers and see how much they get done and I get stressed out about it. For example, I’ve always wanted to write a book but cannot get myself to write this many words at all even during NaNoWriMo. It probably doesn’t help that NaNoWriMo is in November, but then again I couldn’t do it during any month. I probably won’t ever write a book.

Of course, there are a lot of less successful writers and bloggers out there too. Bloggers who barely post once a week, for example. And how do you define success, anyway? I mean, I’ve never wanted to earn money with my blog and I still delight in every comment I receive.

This brings me to the delights of writing. My main reason for writing is to express myself, but I definitely find huge joy when I feel I’ve touched someone else’s heart. I don’t write for my stats, regardless of my inner critic’s attempts to make me do so. Rather, if I find that I’ve genuinely been an inspiration to one person, that’s far more important than a dozen generic comments.