A Year In Review: My Highlights and Lowlights of 2016

Year-end blog posts kill me. It’s the pressure. I want to say something uniquely inspiring - which is sort of like a musician hoping to write something original – and even though I know this, even though I’m clear that pressure is kryptonite to creativity, I can’t help it.  Which is why I’m posting with barely minutes left in 2016.

I was going to write about my 2017 vision board until I began nodding off rereading the drafts. Then I thought I’d review my 2016 goals, which started to feel like my rotator cuff would rip from patting myself on the back.  Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that for me, 2016 was a mixed bag. Some good stuff. Some bad stuff. I’ll see if writing it out reveals any major takeaways.

HIGHLIGHT: Steph and I built an online course this year called Relationship Skills Boot Camp. To do this, Steph and I sat side-by-side weekly for hours, first talking through what we’d teach, then outlining learning objectives, then filming the classes, then launching the course, then running the course’s live office hours.

For 12 months, Steph and I have been immersed in a course on relationship skills. You know what that did to our relationship? You can’t teach these skills and not incorporate them into your daily life (and at a level we’d never imagined was possible).  I’m telling you: Best. Decision. Ever.

LOWLIGHT: Building, launching and facilitating Relationship Skills Boot Camp was hands down, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. My Ph.D., building a private practice, getting and filming a TV show – all of that was challenging – and it paled in comparison to this experience. I thought I worked hard in my 30’s. I didn’t know what hard work was until 2016. I can literally count the weekends I took off. On two hands. I overworked and I’m lucky to have my health. I’m no spring chicken – I’m in my late 40’s. It was reckless. And I’m doing things differently in 2017.

LOWLIGHT: Sometimes I’m not so smart. I can be painfully human. And because I teach personal development skills, I’m particularly disappointed in myself when I do the very things that I counsel others against. 

I argued a lot this year. I got caught up in being right. In standing my ground. In not being taken advantage of.  My need to protect myself - to not become a tool – it caused me to lose sight of why I made certain professional commitments. And I almost missed an important opportunity. Thankfully, I’ve got a good tribe (I love you Michelina), one member of which asked me, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”  And just like that, I was right back on track.

HIGHLIGHT: I can’t be quiet when being quiet means going against my principles. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried my entire life to build an internal editing process, to control the teenager who resides inside of me and hates authority and arbitrary rules. I cannot mute my inner rebel. It’s the part of me that refuses to sell out even when selling out will benefit me.  This is the same part of me that came close to sabotaging the opportunity above. And still, I’m proud of that part.

LOWLIGHT: I said, “yes” too often this year. In my quest to be emotionally flexible and to capitalize on exciting projects, I overcommitted. I’m lucky that my relationships are, for the most part, mature ones – they’ve been around for years – and I’ve nurtured them enough that my loved ones understood my limited time and non-existent energy. But it’s not the way I want to show up for the people I love. I’ll do better in 2017.

HIGHLIGHT: Six months ago a family member asked me to speak with one of her friends who had just suffered a loss. I said yes, which prompted a series of weekly Skype calls between a young stranger and me. 

I was clear from the beginning: This wasn’t therapy. I was doing a favor – not taking money. Just assisting by finding her a therapist. I said I’d speak with her for four weeks.

By week five, she had a list of therapists in hand, and I’d signed on to continue to mentor her. Forever.

I’m not sure how I made that commitment when A), I’m a commitment phobe – mostly because I prefer to under-promise/ over-deliver as opposed to making empty promises that seem to roll too easily off peoples’ tongues these days - and B), I didn’t have the time. I was already working from the moment I opened my eyes until I closed them at the end of the day. But there was something about this kid.

The kid is special. I don’t know how else to say it. You may have heard me talk about my dog Buddha being special. And my cat Panda. Which is not to say that Luna and Teddy (their furry siblings) aren’t special in their own rights – just differently so. Well, this kid is sort of like Panda and Buddha. She’s got something extra.

At a certain point, our calls became less about me giving and more about me receiving. I feel bad admitting that. I want to come across as a hero, but this kid adds more than she takes away. Saying yes to her was one of the best decisions I made this year.

TAKEAWAYS:  And so, in my final analysis of 2016, I realize I can make a case that anything I did was either a highlight or a lowlight, depending on how I choose to look at the situation. In each of these examples, I brushed up against good and bad. Nothing, it seems, was or is black or white. Nothing’s binary. It’s all shades of gray, which isn’t so easy for this Virgo to wrap her head around.

Ultimately, the question, “What kind of year was 2016?” can be answered only by me. It boils down to the narrative I want to align with since there isn’t any real truth. Predictably, I’m going to say it was a good year.

What kind of year was 2016 for you? Email me: Darcy@AskDrDarcy.com


How Trump Supporters Can Help Unite America

For weeks, I’ve listened as client after client plopped on my couch, riddled with anxiety over the long list of human rights that Trump’s presidency will put in jeopardy. Many of their fears are predictable: Losing health care benefits, undocumented friends or family members being deported, a resurgence of stop-and-frisk, Muslim brothers and sisters being placed on a list for God knows what, the planet’s health, racism and bigotry rising, and losing federal rights as married spouses, for starters. But there’s also been some surprising common denominators to their angst…

It seems that well-meaning colleagues, friends and family members are handling my clients’ fears in much the same way that people everywhere and under most circumstances respond to an emotional individual: By minimizing their concerns. By telling them that the very things they fear won’t happen. It turns out it’s just jacking people up more.

Today’s post is for the people least likely to read a lesbian’s advice blog - the victors of this election. If you truly want to calm your loved ones, if you have a desire to heal this country’s wounds and quiet the imaginations of your progressive neighbors who envision unthinkable horrors occurring during the next 4 years, listen up:

DON’T tell us that our reproductive rights (or any other rights) won’t be taken away. It makes us want to jump on our soapbox and double down on our position. It escalates us because it puts us in a defensive position. It’s bad enough we’re frightened – we don’t want to be told that we’re also wrong.  

DO tell us that, in the unlikely event that our greatest fears materialize, you’ll advocate for us. Reassure your family members and friends that you’ll fight the good fight with us. (Many of) you say you voted for the economy, and that you don’t really believe that human rights are in jeopardy. Promise your loved ones that you’ll donate to fight for their rights. Offer to volunteer for organizations that support their human rights. Tell them that you’re willing to attend a protest with them. Show that you’re prepared to take action on our behalf. Our biggest problem isn't the large number of people in this country with bad intentions. It's the large number of people with good intentions who don't take action.  

DON’T tell us why Obama has sucked. Or why Hillary would have been worse. Don’t reference political talking points. Stay away from facts and stats, which will only put us in adversarial positions. Don’t try to change our minds.

DO validate our feelings. Tell us that you hear how frightened, concerned, enraged, or [insert emotion here] we are. Remind us that we’re not alone. That you’re here for us. And that you’ll help to protect us.

DON’T surround yourself exclusively with like-minded people or immerse yourself in media that only echoes your political beliefs. It creates the illusion that your perspective is the only perspective.  It creates an us verses them mentality. It polarizes us. And it doesn’t give you the information you need to initiate productive dialogues with us.  

DO watch the BBC and listen to NPR. There are media outlets that express opposing views – the whole story – whose mission is to keep the electorate informed. Or, bypass the news altogether, and follow organizations on Twitter (the names of which I've listed below for you) to receive updates in real time. Exposing yourself to the issues that many of us contend with on a daily basis is the only way you’ll be able to relate, sincerely and compassionately, to your progressive counterparts.

DON’T tell us that we’re being poor losers. When you do that, you sound like ungracious winners.

DO remember that ours is the only party that’s won the popular vote twice while managing to lose the election. We fucking lose when we win. We’ve got big problems.

ONE MORE THING: You can ask your progressive neighbors to tell you what you can do to support them during this time. As a therapist, I love to problem solve, and I’m often surprised that what appears to be a clear solution to me isn’t actually what my client wants. I only know this because I ask. And you can too.  

REALLY, ONE MORE THING: If you want to be an UpStander and not a bystander over the next four years, here is an incomplete list of orgs to follow: