Gratitude is such an interesting concept. It is so easy to state, “I will practice gratitude daily,” but dedicating the time and energy to make it a daily practice filled with purpose and meaning is a whole other story. I know 2016 has passed and a mere five or six months filled our daily gratitude journal. Some nights, we were so exhausted that we would verbalize our thoughts rather than write them down, other nights we just passed out. In an effort to revisit a core concept to living a wholehearted life, I want to revisit some of the many reasons I am grateful for 2016.
Let’s start with the most obvious source of gratitude that I think of daily, the fact that I married my best friend. In a time when hate and bigotry has swept the nation, we were able to celebrate our union with love and support from all our family and friends, all of whom had to make a lengthy journey out to Telluride. We were blessed with incredible vendors, all of which made our day special and Telluride did not disappoint. The weather was perfect, with snow capped mountains and golden aspens. It was all we could have hoped for and more. I will never forget the moment I first saw Whitney in her stunning dress, and knowing that we had come so far in life together faced with adversity, in our relationship overcoming obstacles of vulnerability, and in ourselves with so, so much personal growth. We are so very blessed.
2016 also brought us many travels. We visited four new countries or territories, and made it back to Texas, Montana, Colorado, and California. January took us to Belize, where we finally got our scuba certification. It was a huge milestone for me in the fear department, given my intense panic in open waters for fear of sharks. Diving opened up a whole new world below the surface, beautiful unlike anything I have seen before, with manta rays, colorful fish, and the serenity of the slow motion of the tides on the ocean floor. We explored various coral reefs, snorkeled in the Blue Hole, and toured the ancient Mayan site of Lamanai.
In May we hit up Portugal. We crammed so much into one week, but having our own car to navigate around the small country allowed us to see so much. It was our first experience driving in a foreign country, and thanks to Whitney’s ability to drive a stick shift car, it opened a whole new realm of adventure. We started in Lisbon, where we saw the main tourist attractions and strolled through the narrow streets of the Alfama neighborhood. We then explored Sintra and its prominent palaces like the colorful Pena Palace. We visited the historical religious sites of Fatima, basked in the sun near the ocean side cliffs of Lagos, soaked in the history of the old University in Coimbra, and meandered along the cobble-stoned streets of Evora. And we of course toured cellars in Porto, learning about and drinking all types of port wine.
In early summer, we headed back to California for a short but filled weekend. We spent Saturday biking around Napa on a wine tour, complete with sunburns and a picnic. And on Sunday, we spent the day with my brother and his family. We played loads of baseball in the backyard and played Frozen with stuffed animals. It was so meaningful to spend time with the kiddos who are growing up too fast.
At the end of June, we celebrated finishing intern year of residency in Iceland. I remember how surreal it was stepping off the plane in Reykjavik, still trying to comprehend how we had already completed our first year. We drove the Ring Road along the perimeter of the island and stopped at leisure whenever we saw a cascading waterfall or glacier. There were so many moments of quiet, hours of driving with gorgeous views out every window, but enough monotony that we had time to process what the last year meant to us.
In August, we flew up to Montana to visit Whitney’s family for the weekend. We kayaked and canoed along the Missouri River, and shared meals with the Haseman crew. We also spent the end of summer hiking and backcountry camping when possible in the beautiful Wasatch Range. We drove down to Capitol Reef National Park to camp for a weekend, the last of Utah’s National Parks that we hadn’t explored yet. And like last year, we snowboarded at Solitude Resort whenever we had a free weekend.
For our honeymoon, we sailed around the British Virgin Islands in a small boat with just the skipper and ourselves. We weathered the start of a hurricane with 60-knot winds, toughed out seasickness with loads of zofran, and swam in beautiful turquoise waters. Since it was off-season, we had multiple white sand beaches entirely to ourselves. We snorkeled nearly daily and enjoyed plenty of champagne and island drinks.
We lucked out and had outpatient clinic rotations over Thanksgiving, so we had four days off to visit my family in Texas. We helped cook and bake for the giant Thanksgiving Day meal, and spent plenty of time just relaxing. The Haseman crew visited us in December, where we attended the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas show and a Jazz game, and celebrated Christmas early.
Thanks to our “days with Bre,” what we have coined our near weekly hang out sessions with our bestie Bre, we have attended many different concerts and shows. We danced our hearts out at the Ellie Goulding concert, fell in love with Brandi Carlile at her outdoor show at Deer Valley, became huge Ingrid Michaelson fans, and finally checked off a bucket list item: a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert. We saw the Nutcracker ballet downtown, as well.
This year embodied a huge learning curve in so many arenas. It was our first year to garden, where we harvested more vegetables than we knew what to do with. We also joined the Urban Fruit Share program for the first time, and put our new canning skills to practice. All of this factored into all that we have learned along our journey to a waste free lifestyle. We also started snowshoeing, which has become our new favorite past time. We snowshoed in the Uintas, where we stayed in a snowy yurt overnight in early December. We snowshoed in the local canyons a few times as well. In 2016, I also learned how to watercolor. It has been such a stress relief and a wonderful creative outlet for me. I can’t wait to continue to improve my skills and at some point begin selling my work.
2016 has been one for the books. As each year passes, I realize more and more what is integral to my being, what fills me up with joy, what lends its hand toward wholehearted living. New Years Resolutions tend to be filled with goals of exercising more, losing weight, and eating healthier, but I can honestly say I have never once looked back on any given year and thought, I wish I had spent more time in the gym or I wish I had eaten more salads. At the end of the year, I instead find myself thankful for the moments of grace, nights of indulging myself with brownie sundaes and baking my heart out. I look back and am grateful for my health so that I can participate in the outdoor activities I love like hiking and snowboarding, but I don’t find myself wishing I had bulked up, or trimmed down my waistline. I hate those kinds of resolutions. I would much rather focus on self-betterment inside, in my heart, and in my soul. As 2017 approaches, I have mulled over what I envision for my resolutions for the coming year.
- Daily gratitude: I want to embrace the nightly gratitude sessions with my wife. It sheds light on even the darkest of days of residency and reminds me of how truly blessed I am. Gratitude is a fundamental part of joy.
- Focus on family: I’m not sure if it was the wedding this year or the chance to spend more time with family, but dang this year stirred up all of the feels. Time is so precious and finite, and is never a guarantee. I want to make visiting family more of a priority. I’m so excited for what we have planned for the beginning of 2017: Missouri and Big Sky with the Haseman crew, California to see my brother and his family, my mom flying out to SLC in April, and my brother and future sister-in-law hopefully coming to visit in May. It’s time to show people how much they mean to us, by investing time and energy.
- Beat back that defensiveness: Whitney and I have come so far in our relationship thanks to open communication and honesty, embracing vulnerability, and digging deep (Thanks Brené). But I still find myself bracing up on the defensive all too quickly. It is unnecessary and only makes matters worse. I need to nip this problem in the butt!
- Dedicate more time to art: My goal by the end of 2017 is to open my first Etsy shop filled with calligraphy, watercolors, paintings, and whatever other crafty things I can get my hands on. I have never sold any of my pieces and am extremely nervous, but I want to expand my circle, plow through my fears of inadequacy, and lean in to my creativity.
- Learn a new skill: I love this resolution every year. Daring to make mistakes and branch out of your comfort zone is key to new opportunities and personal growth. I want to relearn how to play piano. I briefly took piano lessons as a child and have always loved piano more than any instrument. A good goal would be to learn how to read music again and play competently enough in order to play a plethora of Christmas carols come next December.