2013 summed up in a questionnaire

Well, I must say 2013 was a rather sucky year. My editor quit her job mid-edit on my fourth book, and left to become a writer. You would think that would have been the last thing on her to do list, but no, that’s what she did. Now it sits and waits for someone who cares. I can’t care, because I don’t have the rights to it.

I do have two ideas out to two other publishers, and if they say no I’ll indie publish them. One of them, Eden Rein’s story, haunts me. She took form in LOST INNOCENT, which I suppose I’ll put together as one book so people can refresh their memories. The ending is a true shocker, and I LOVE where Eden is going.

But, I’ve been sick a lot this year. Thanks CVID. Everytime someone comes to my house I get sick. I was sick on Thanksgiving, and spent two days sleeping off a fever after that. Then came the bronchitis. I’m cautiously well right now.

Birdman took off to the desert with his uncle, and I haven’t heard from him, but he promised to be home in time to buy me a bottle of champagne. We’ll see.

This Christmas without my mom was harder than the first one. Plus I was sick. That moment when the doctor sits you down and gives you your diagnosis, you are stunned. You just don’t know what to think, but you know it’s serious. And then you go home and research it and you are even more floored.

I like my alone time but I am not an “alone” type person. I like my people, too. I miss my friends. I miss getting out and doing things, without worrying the person standing next to me has a bug that isn’t really bothering them (sniffles) but will knock me flat. I don’t like pity parties and I don’t like to call attention to myself. But when I went to take this questionnaire I realized that I WAS feeling very sad and very negative. So…. BUCK UP, cowgirl. I had to think of what I had done in 2013 that was important. How stupid was that? I graduated with my AA in graphic design summa cum laude. And somehow that slipped my mind because I’m feeling talentless and lonely and…. lonely. This disorder, which has no cure and costs about $5000 a month in weekly infusions (our copay is $1200) has singled me out from the world and made me lonely. I can’t make Birdman listen to every single thought I have, because he has other interests. Why should he be alone, too? It’s not HIS disorder. I’m grateful that he is willing to stick by my side, but I can’t take his life away from him.

I just hope he didn’t fall off a cliff of the Grand Canyon. LOL. They went to Toroweap which is pretty darn steep and quite gorgeous.

So back to the survey. I suggest you take it, too. And really, really think about what you did last year, because I bet there is a highlight.

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year? I graduated summa cum laude (4.0) with AA degree in graphic design. And I didn’t stop. I continued on and am now in the bachelor’s program, and I still have a 4.0, even in my stats class, which may I remind you is M.A.T.H. Blah. I have to take online classes, obviously, but I am learning. 
2. How can I become a better __artist___________?  Work, work, practice, practice, class, class, work, work, practice, practice….
3. Where am I feeling stuck? Between the rock of New York publishing and the hard place of indie publishing. 
4. Where do I need to allow myself grace? I have done things most people will never do, and I need to acknowledge this to myself. I have had a successful career in writing and editing. I have worked for The Trib, the NAC, the Sundance Film Festival and have had books published with St. Martin’s Press (3), Penguin (3), Thompson Gale (1), and have also indie published. 
5. Am I passionate about my career? I am passionate about succeeding, but there is so much you cannot control in writing. So I must be passionate about writing the best book I can, and hope for the best after it is done. 
6. What lessons have I learned? Compassion. Many people suffer illnesses and disabilities others cannot see. You never know what battle someone is fighting. Step back. Be compassionate. 
7. What did my finances look like? The pits of hell. 
8. How did I spend my free time? Well, I went to Hawaii, but I had a fight with a boat and the boat won. So I had to go to the hospital, and they wanted to throw me in a room and give me IV antibiotics because it turned into a staph infection. We compromised. I spent all but four days of my trip with my legs elevated on my hotel room bed. It forced me to realize I cannot be or act like the person I used to be. I must use caution and act old and decrepit. 
9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul? I tried. I read a lot. I studied Buddhism. I worked on positivity. I took my weekly infusions without too much whining and complaining. I tried not to hold too many pity parties. 
10. How have I been open-minded? I think I am almost always open-minded. I want to know more, see more, hear more. I want to know why people do the things they do, or believe the things they believe. I want to know what pushed people to act in unreasonable or out-of-character ways. 
11. When did I feel most creatively inspired? When I see art, stock photos, fonts, color wheels, or read beautiful prose. 
12. What projects have I completed? Associates in school, ghostwriting a book, finishing another book, a bajillion book covers. Oh, and I mastered formatting in InDesign, to make a beautiful end product. 
13. How have I procrastinated? Every day? I give myself time limits to put things off, then I have to move. 
14. In what ways can I re-structure my time? It’s pretty structured, so I have no idea. 
15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back? Showing people what I’ve done with my artwork. Fear tears me apart. 
16. Where has self-doubt taken over? See above, and also every book I write. And almost every writer will tell you the same thing. 
17. When have I felt the most alive? When I was riding on the bow of the boat in Hawaii, watching the water and the spinner dolphins, right before I went down and it went up. Even though I was injured I went snorkeling anyway, and the next day, too. I saw sea turtles again. I love to snorkel. 
18. How have I taught others to respect me? Some people, aka, my family, will never respect me, because I do not believe the religion they believe. My brother will never respect me, because he sees himself as above me, having the “priesthood” and all. I don’t think my father respects me, but I do think he has grown to like me. To know I am a good person, and that I don’t need a church to tell me not to hurt other people, or steal, or cheat. That you can have morals without someone dictating to you what those morals are. They still shush me. But you can’t make a difference with your mouth closed. So I must continue to earn that respect, even if they don’t deign to give it to me. 
19. How can I improve my relationships? Patience, understanding, compassion. 
20. Have I been unfair to anyone? Myself, a lot. This one girl who drives me crazy because she is so negative and depressed all the time. 
21. Who do I need to forgive? My father. I have never met someone who wants to be a good person so badly. Sometimes, that doesn’t come naturally. I just wish he had the capacity to see beyond religion. Because in his eyes it keeps me from being the person I should be. 
22. Where is it time to let go? I think I already did that. I started a blog in 2002, and slowly but surely began to receive hate mail from Mormons. I figured out after a while the only way to make it NOT hurt was to turn it into humor, so I did. And I was good at it. But even though they came at me first, I was hurting them. So I stopped doing that. And my blog got a little boring. You would wonder why I care that I hurt them if they were trying to hurt me, and trust me, they were. But it made me like them, and I don’t want to be like them. I don’t need to validate any religion, and they do. If someone disagrees with them, they lose the validation, so they lash out. I don’t write for validation. I write because I am a writer, and I have things to say. 
23. What old habits would I like to release? Tearing myself down. Self esteem issues. 
24. What new habits would I like to cultivate? Continue on my quest to help people who can do nothing for me. So that I am not expecting anything in return. 
25. How can I be kind to myself? Accept that this disorder, this autoimmune disorder that keeps me from living a life, is not a punishment or that it is not unfair I have it. It is inherited, and all of my sisters and brothers have forms of it. I am the only one who has full blown CVID. So, I think I need more incredible soft blankets, and lotions. I need someone to come to my house to do my hair, and put some of those amazing eyelashes on for me, and make me feel pretty again. I need a treadmill so I can exercise, and have something to hold on to and not fall over (Balance was wiped out). And most of all, I need to be grateful I am still loved and remembered by some. Someday, I want to know I made a difference. I hope I can. 

Do you have an annual self-reflection ritual? What are your favorite ways to release the old and welcome in the new?

Get the hell out of here 2013. You sucked as a year. We need a new one. Now, 2014, let’s have a little talk. 



About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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