“Make improvements, not excuses.” –Roy T. Bennett, The Light In The Heart
“We don’t need to have just one favorite. We keep adding favorites. Our favorite book is always the book that speaks most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives. And our lives change. We have other favorites that give us what we most need at that particular time. But we never lose the old favorites. They’re always with us. We just sort of accumulate them.” –Lloyd Alexander
Happy New Year! I love this time of the year for its outward permission to begin again and to be optimistic. It’s expected that we set some goals, make some plans, and generally set out to become a better version of who we were last year. That sounds good, right?
While I am so excited for what 2023 has in store for me—I’m sincerely thinking it could be my best year yet—I am not quite ready to just leave 2022 in the rubbish pile. I adored 2022! I so often found myself thrilled at what I was engaged in, whether that was a physical challenge, a streaming series, or a delicious beverage. So before I go bouncing excitedly into the new year, I want to make a list of the best things I did or saw or got into in 2022. Not the usual Top 10 Movies or 10 Best Television Shows type of lists that are everywhere lately—I do love those, too, however—but rather something very personal and specific, and yet also random. I’m thinking of any little product I discovered or thing I added to my routine or even advice I heard. Just stuff I kind of test drove in my life.
Since I am constantly tinkering with my life in hopes of making it the most productive, efficient, fun, adventurous, and helpful it can possibly be, I love when I find a good hack or pro tip or simply something that tastes amazing. These are the kinds of things I am always trying to pry out of people I know: their secrets for making Life a little easier or happier. Some people seem to have a ton—my sister is good at this–and I love when they are willing to share. So, in the spirit of bests, here are some of my favorites from 2022:
- Best Follow-My-Gut Moment: When I randomly wrote the first chapter of what became my novel. I had no clue about the plot of the story at the time, but I just decided to write a page simply to see how it felt. The result: I was completely alive, every synapse in my brain exploding like a fireworks show. Clearly I was onto something. I didn’t know what, but I knew I needed to see where it would lead. By the end of the year, I had a draft that I actually liked and felt like a real book to me. We will see in 2023 if any publishers think so, but even if they don’t, this was absolutely one of the coolest and most rewarding things I have ever done. I now feel like I must give myself permission to seize upon my gut instincts more often and take more chances creatively. Who knows what other magic might be inside of me?
- Best Addition To My Health & Fitness Routine: Bedtime yoga. I don’t know if it’s actually yoga. Maybe it’s just stretching. In any case, it has been so, so helpful to both my sleep and my waking life. I have had back problems my entire adult life, including surgery and lots of rough weeks bent sideways in spasm. I am always searching for ways to make those rough weeks fewer and further between. This year I think I finally discovered one (knock on wood). On a mat in the dark when I am otherwise completely ready for bed, I roll my back out with my Chirp wheel and then invert myself so my feet are in the air. I do a bunch of stretches for my legs, hips, and torso. I include focused breathing and a few regular yoga poses to finish up. The whole routine—it has definitely become a routine—takes about 20 minutes. Then I climb into bed feeling wonderfully relaxed and clear-minded. I have had far fewer days of physical agony this year than any in recent decades, which means I can do more of the things that fill my bucket. This addition to my routine, to which I have been faithful even when busy or exhausted or on vacation, is definitely something I am going to keep. I am beyond grateful for it.
- Best Electronic/Device To Keep Me On Track Physically: A Fitbit. For years I resisted getting any kind of step counter or fitness tracker or smartwatch, not because I didn’t believe in their usefulness but because I tend to get a bit obsessed with statistics and metrics of all sorts. They are just too fascinating to me. I knew that would happen if I got one of these gadgets, but I just couldn’t resist any longer. I asked for one at the holidays last year and have been dialed in ever since (I started with a Charge 5 and just got a Sense 2 last week). I love all the numbers: active zone minutes, steps, miles, sleep stages, heart rates, skin temperature, oxygen saturation, and on and on. Beyond just being interesting, it got me to move more often and set more and different goals, sometimes many times per day. And by judging me and assigning a sleep score every morning when I woke up, it tapped into my competitiveness and really pushed me to get to bed on time and sleep more. Getting more active and sleeping better—it is a very satisfying combination for me. I’m sticking with it.
- Second Best Device To Keep Me On Track Physically: A scale. I know I know! It’s not supposed to be about your weight but about how you feel. I get it and I agree. And I was also a bit hesitant to bring a scale into the house of young adolescents, as I don’t want them obsessing about their own weights. I did it anyway, not long after I got the Fitbit. All my adult life I had stayed fit but my weight kept creeping up almost imperceptibly, maybe a pound per year lately. I had started to accept it as natural, but I just couldn’t convince myself. I decided to make subtle changes and wanted to see if they worked. I wanted the scale to give me one type of measurable data. It absolutely did. Yes, I admit that I am obsessed with it, checking my weight multiple times per day to understand my body’s patterns. But it has also worked—along with the other things I have already mentioned—in helping me lose weight for the first time in my entire life. I’m not saying a scale is for everybody, but for me it has been an excellent addition to my health plan.
- Best New Tool For Yardwork & Chores: Battery power. This Spring, when it was time to get the stinky gas mower serviced again for the season, I instead got into heavy research about what has intrigued me for a couple of years: battery-powered mowers. Since I absolutely loathe the smell of exhaust from gas engines and figured I could be doing something positive for the environment (and not be frustrated annually by the chugging of my engine and questioning which gas is right and how long it can be in the tank, etc.), I went for it (I got an E-GO brand). Other than the battery not lasting as long as I needed to finish the yard in one pass, it proved to be a total game-changer. It is so much more quiet, cuts well, and no more awful smell. And good-bye cord-yanking; I just push the button to start it. When Fall came and I needed more repairs to the even-less-trusty-but-more-stinky snowblower, I decided to cut my losses and get the battery-powered one from E-GO. I can use the same batteries as the mower interchangeably and now won’t worry about running out of either. I am never going back to gas. Go Science!
- Best Addition To Oral Health Routine (Hey, I said personal!): A water flosser (a.k.a. WaterPik). I have been intrigued by these things since I was a little kid but had never tried one. At my last checkup, the hygienist said that because of grooves and pockets in my teeth, they can collect unwanted food during the day. She suggested a water flosser. As luck would have it, one soon went on sale at Costco. The verdict: so worth it! I don’t wait for the end of the night. I do it a few times a day if I am around. It feels so good and really does clear the food out. I am committed for life!
- Best Media Addition: I never understood how people had time for podcasts (or television series or movies, for that matter), so I just never considered them before. However, on a trusted friend’s recommendation, I tried an episode of Jay Shetty’s “On Purpose” as a substitute for listening to music while working out. I got hooked, first on that particular podcast and then on the medium in general. Who knew there was so much to learn and laugh at? Answer: probably everyone but me. But now I do, and I love it.
- Best Podcast: I smile just typing the word. This interview show hosted by the brilliant comic actors Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes along with one famous guest has brought me so many hours of enjoyment this year. I listen to it while lifting weights, so along with the regular grunting and panting from me dying in my attempts to stay fit, you will hear me giggling along to the show as they mock each other to oblivion. The guests are excellent, but the hosts are the best. I hope this show never ends!
- Best Indulgent Drink: Big Train Spiced Chai Latte. I’ve had a lifelong sweet tooth and have always enjoyed a huge ice cream habit. Part of my attempt to lose weight has been to ease up just a tiny bit on the sweets, and that includes ice cream. However, I think I may have simply traded one very sweet treat for another this year. I like the idea of tea, but my usual favorites are about half tea water and half honey. This year, though, I allowed myself a splurge and bought some chai latte powder. Big mistake! I loved it too much, especially with some added Caramel Macchiato creamer from Aldi added to make it even more sweet and creamy. I can’t even pretend it is good for me, as I like to do with other teas (honey is a health food, right?). It is a dessert, plain and simple. I do my best to not drink it every day, as I don’t want to admit it is a habit. I will just say it is fantastic and hard to resist. I’m a big fan and yes, hooked.
- Best Streaming Stuff: Okay fine, I surrender! Since I love television and film, I can’t pass up the chance to share things I have enjoyed this year. Full disclosure: other than the occasional weekend evening of watching an entire episode or movie with my family, I only ever watch things while on a piece of cardio equipment. That means I watch movies in two or three sittings over the course of a week, and episodes get broken up randomly depending on my workouts. It’s not an ideal way to watch and probably alters what I like and dislike, but it’s the best I can do for now. Anyway, I feel like I have watched a lot of HBO Max and Apple TV+ this year. My favorites from there and elsewhere have been Black Bird, Severance, Euphoria, Heartstopper, Ozark, Slow Horses, and Bullet Train.
- Best Musical Artist: Though this was not a new find for me, I was deep into Matt Nathanson this year. His new album “Boston Accent” got by far the most plays on my Apple Music app. My daughter and I just bonded over his Holiday Livestream on Friday night. I believe I have been transformed from a fan to a superfan.
- Best Advice From A Meme: “Be you. The world will adjust.” Enough said.
I suppose I should take it as a good sign that I have not gotten too old and set in my ways that I can have this many fabulous new additions to my life in just one year. I do love my routines and am undoubtedly highly opinionated, but I am constantly tinkering and trying new ways to see if I can make both my mind and my entire existence better. And since I love learning, new experiments, ideas, and art forms are the natural way to scratch that ever-present itch. This year I just happened to get lucky on many of the things I tried, leaving me feeling pretty darn satisfied with my Best Of Everything list and fairly certain many of these will become long-term positive changes in my life. I love that. So bring on 2023 and all of the new things I can try out! My mind is open for business.
How about you? What is on your Best Of Everything 2022 list? Open up your journal and move your mind back through your year of new attempts at changing your world one little thing at a time. Get specific and keep it very personal. Which physical items (e.g. gadgets, tools, furniture, toys) made your little corner of the world a happier place? Is there something that makes you more comfortable? More efficient? More organized? Happier? Which things that you tried or changed have made you healthier? Which part of your daily routine or schedule have you changed the most? What improvements have come from that? Is there a special food or drink item that you have added to your diet? How about a new favorite recipe? Have you added any new people to your circle that have become favorites? Which media that you consumed this year (TV, movies, music, books, podcasts, etc.) do you find yourself recommending to others? Is there one medium that you have been particularly into this year? Which artist(s) did you spend the most time with or appreciate the most? What is the best advice you got this year? What is the most important thing you did? Did you spread your wings enough? Did you get uncomfortable for the sake of growth? Twenty years from now when you look back on 2022, what will be the most poignant and lasting item on your Best Of list? Do you leave the year satisfied that you tried out enough new ideas, foods, art, and adventure for one year? Will you be more or less willing to test your limits and stretch your comfort zone next year? Do you expect next year to be even better than this one for you? Leave me a reply and let me know, What is on you Best Of Everything 2022 list?
Onward and upward,
P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, please share it with your community. Examining our lives makes them so much more sweet and vibrant.
P.P.S. If this way of self-reflection appeals to you, consider buying my book Journal Of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers.