10 Questions to End the Year Intentionally

10 Questions to End the Year Intentionally

Good morning, friends! I read three posts this week that I want to share with you. The first was written by author Matt Haig back in 2015, but I only found it recently and it is still so timely. A note that it talks about depression and suicide, but there’s one quote in particular that resonated with me: “Christmas is one of those times when the idea of something doesn’t match the reality.” It is absolutely worth reading all the way through to the end.

The second post is from my friend Bianca who wrote quite honestly about why it’s time we removed the pressure around Christmas. If you’re seeing a bit of a trend here, it’s true that I’m still not in my usual Christmas spirit. I can echo what Bianca wrote: I love the lights! And the food! And I plan to take some days off! So I feel generally ok about the holiday season. It just doesn’t feel very “special,” and I’m starting to realize that is also ok.

In an attempt to remove some of the pressure around it here on this blog, there is just one thing I want to say before I log off for a few days: thank you. Thank you for being so caring and supportive this year—and not just to me but also to each other. We’ve talked about some heavy stuff here this year, and I am so grateful that this space is one that continues to remain open and safe. Thank you for being part of it.

The last post I want to share was written by Daisy for No Sidebar. In it, she shared 10 questions we could answer to end the year intentionally. This isn’t about goal-setting or trying to come up with resolutions or anything else future-thinking. It’s just a simple exercise that can help you reflect on the past year. For everything that’s happened, that felt right for me, so I answered the questions and am sharing them here.

I’m signing off for a week! In that time, I plan to complete a 1,000-piece puzzle, start and finish a new book, and spend two nights in a house on the ocean with some of my family. There’s no cell service and definitely no internet. If I could wish anything for you right now, it would be to unplug for a day—and just be. xo

1. What makes this year unforgettable?

Admittedly, I feel like I am always going to remember 2017 as the year we lost the girls. But I’m also going to remember it as the year I moved to Squamish and finally let myself settle in. Slowing down and letting myself really “be” somewhere came with its own challenges—namely that I could no longer manage my anxiety by hopping around from place-to-place, and instead had to make the decision to deal with it and do some therapy. But it also came with so many bonuses. On top of the beautiful landscapes, I found a community of creative, honest, and vulnerable women I feel so fortunate to now call my friends.

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?

Oddly, I really enjoyed not travelling much. It felt good to get to know my new home, create some routine and learn a few trails like the back of my hand. I also made time to read more books this year, which felt good too. :)

3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

A few people come to mind right away, but I’m going to say that I’m grateful I had the money and resources available to start therapy. For the first two months, I was going weekly which was costing $520-$650 monthly. That was obviously not a regular line item in my budget, and isn’t something I would currently be able to afford to do for an extended period of time. But having my emergency fund made me feel comfortable enough to make that decision back in April and I am so grateful for it. I never would’ve imagined that having savings would’ve been so important for my mental health, and there is no doubt that therapy has changed my life.

4. What’s your biggest win this year?

The Year of Less by Cait FlandersAside from the personal growth, it would be remiss of me to not mention the fact that I wrote my first book this year! A real book! One that will be in stores in just a few weeks! (And that you still have three weeks to get the bonuses if you pre-order a copy!) There were so many lessons to take away from writing this book, but one of the most important was that it is possible to complete a big creative project. On the day I submitted the first (crappy) draft, I had this overwhelming sense of I CAN DO ANY CREATIVE PROJECT I WANT TO wash over me. I can’t imagine any writing project feeling bigger or being more all-consuming than a book. Now, I’ve written one. So, I can do anything . . . right? ;)

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

What an amazing question. I’ll start by saying that, without question, my new favourite author is Matt Haig. The most meaningful book I read this year was Reasons to Stay Alive, which came recommended by many of you when I first shared how bad my anxiety had gotten. So thank YOU for telling me about that book, my friends. More recently, I got my hands on a copy of How to Stop Time, which doesn’t even come out in North America until February 6, 2018! It was one of the most enjoyable works of fiction I’ve read in a long time—and Benedict Cumberbatch is going to play the main character in the movie adaptation! How exciting for the author. :)

Aside from books, I have listened to every episode of a handful of podcasts: Hurry SlowlySecrets of Wealthy WomenThe Slow Home Podcast (I did an interview with Brooke earlier this month that was so lovely!), Super Soul Conversations and Terrible, Thanks for Asking. That last one cracked me wide open, but I needed it.

As far as what I’ve watched that’s had an impact . . . nothing comes to mind. I enjoyed a few shows: 13 Reasons Why, Atypical, The Crown and The Great British Bake Off. But I can’t say that anything had an impact. This is something I’ve thought about a lot lately. Let’s talk about it in the new year. For now, books and podcasts win!

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

Honestly, I worried about how moving away from Victoria would affect the dogs—and two months later, we lost them both. So, I wish I could say that my worries weren’t warranted, and set an example for how/why it’s important to calm our anxious thoughts. But truthfully, March, April and May were really tough months for me.

7. What was your biggest regret and why?

I don’t regret moving, obviously, but I still feel guilty about leaving the girls. I know that’s something I had no control over. It’s just how I feel; like my leaving somehow prompted the beginning of the end for them. This is something I’m obviously still working through (and might help you understand why I’m still emotional about it).

8. What’s one thing that you changed about yourself?

One of the things that became apparent very early on in therapy was that I had zero boundaries in my life. I basically did anything and everything that would make other people’s lives easier, and put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. This was true in all of my relationships and it wasn’t healthy. In fact, it was one of the reasons my anxiety got so out of control. Thankfully, I’ve been learning how to set healthier boundaries in all areas of my life. It’s not always easy and I sometimes still let guilt takeover (this article on The Pool is another good read on that topic). But I have set some boundaries, and chosen to put myself first in some ways, and it does feel better.

9. What surprised you the most this year?

Most of this post has felt heavy, so I’m going to share a few fun/random things!

  • I was surprised to find myself driving across the US, from Minneapolis to BC, for the second time in a year! (And I never thought I would drive through South Dakota again, let alone twice in one year!)
  • I was surprised to randomly meet up with Sarah and spend two days together in Idaho and Wyoming. That’s some travelling big magic, right there. :)
  • I was surprised to meet my two closest friends in Squamish on Instagram—and learn that one lives right behind me, and that I can see the other’s house through the trees between our two homes!
  • I was really surprised to find Cheryl Strayed followed me on both Twitter and Instagram! I still don’t know how or why . . . but yea, consider me still surprised! (Let’s not jinx it.)
  • And I was happily surprised to find myself picking up and reading more fiction this year. It felt really good to fall in love with characters and get lost in a story.

10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

If I had known what was going to happen in 2017, at the start of the year, I wouldn’t have believed it—and I wouldn’t have wanted to believe it. I don’t have a suggestion, per se, but more of a reminder: You will never regret telling people/pets how you feel, showing them affection and making sure they feel your love. When they are gone, the only thing you’ll wish is that you’d had more time together. So I would say . . . don’t rush off. Spend your time with those who matter most. Because there’s never enough of it.


  • Cait, that article by Matt Haig is amazing.

    “Christmas is one of those times when the idea of something doesn’t match the reality. As a result, we can easily fall in to the gap between how we think we should feel and how we actually feel.” – Matt Haig

    Spot on! This year was the ten year anniversary of a terrible, clinical depression and anxiety filled year that I experienced at the age of 30. I had lost my paternal grandfather who had raised me, ended a ten year relationship and realized that I was going to be on a much different path than my peers. I was broken, disabled by anxiety, depression, and fear. I questioned why I was alive and what on earth could I possibly be happy about. With the help of therapy, medication and the ever important, time, I beat it. My life is forever changed but now, at 41, I have a handle on it all. I have to say, your openness and your writing has helped so much. I have a list of goals for 2018 and you my friend, have helped spark many of them. So, thank you, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and lots of hugs and peace.
    Cari Stevens
    NH, USA

  • Thank you for this Cait! This is an amazing post, and certainly a great one to end the year on. I might do a post with these questions myself, or maybe just a journal entry, but it will definitely be good to reflect. You’ve mentioned therapy here and there surrounding anxiety (which I have too) and more specifically you mentioned setting boundaries (which I REALLY need to do). I know it is a very personal subject but have you ever considered writing a blog post just on your experience with therapy? Would love to hear your thoughts on it and what your experience was like. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and all the best in 2018 :) xo

  • Thank you for the post, Cait. Your willingness to be honest and face deep challenges has been both helpful and inspiring. I’m excited to try some slow-living experiments of my own in 2018 instead of making New Years resolutions. Also, three cheers for South Dakota, my home state :)

  • I love this kind of self reflection. These 10 questions are great to really delve into what made the year a happy year.

    I do these sort of end-year analysis summaries as well, and they gave really been helping me with trying to be the best version of myself! :)

  • BOUNDARIES. That’s a huge one that I’m just starting to get into myself. I need to have a couple of tough conversations in the next few weeks, but I’m going to force myself through them and then be happy that for the first time in my life I’m finally setting boundaries.

    Love these questions and your answers, and I’ll be setting aside some time to think about my answers. Enjoy your week off, the time with your family, and the 1,000 piece puzzle! Puzzles are my favorite :)

  • Thanks for those three posts Cait, great stuff and lots to contemplate. I’m super jealous that you live in Squamish as I’m a climber. It’s one huge playground!

    Best of luck with your book in 2018 and Merry Christmas!

  • It’s definitely been a year of ups and downs for you, but I like how you’re ending on a high note with your book. I honestly have never been a fan of Christmas. I loved it as a kid but since I was about 13 or so it’s never been an oooy goooy experience for me. Even when I was dating someone whose family did Christmas like a Normal Rockwell painting. They looked at me like the odd duck that I wasn’t fuzzy about it. I’ve come to accept that. I’m not hard. It’s just that the season doesn’t feel that special to me. As far as you, I’m glad you found a place you live that you love and are feeling settled!

  • It’s been a bit of a tough year for me, particularly this month (my Dad died a few days before Christmas). But I’ve also had good things happen and made positive changes. Starting New Year’s Day, I’m doing a 2018 no-shopping plan, to really work on mindfulness surrounding buying things.

  • So much goodness in this post. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I had fun with the 10 questions; just got through writing my own answers in my journal.

  • Hi Cait! I’m writing to you from Brazil, so please be sorry if my english is not that clear (I’m more used to talking than writing!). Just leaving this comment to say that your work here in this blog really inspired me to live 2018 more intentionally, I loved your year of slow experiments, and now I’m planning to do the same in my life. I’ll try to share everything on my blog, just as you did. Have a great year and keep doing this amazing job!

  • This is a GREAT list of questions to ask yourself as we move into 2018 and reflect on 2017.

    Personally my biggest highlight was finally making the leap and starting my personal finance blog this past Christmas. It was something I have been wanting to do for over a year, but I never actually sat down and committed to it. Needless to say that the past 2 weeks in my blog has been the most rewarding work I have ever done. It’s always been my true passion and I am happy I enter 2018 with my blog!

    Also shout-out to my 10 email subscribers! You guys make this journey even more enjoyable!

    Thanks for the share and I wish you a happy and successful 2018!

  • Hi Cait, we used to be personal finance blog/Twitter friends (I was deenadollars, and before that lifeasapurse, if either of those ring a bell). I have not followed your blog in some time because I was ignoring my finances for a couple of years. However, what a joy it has been to rediscover your writing and see the new direction you’ve taken your blog and your life. I am excited to catch up on all your content and to buy your book (eek! congratulations!).

    Anyway, I wanted to comment on this post specifically because I, too, have had mental health struggles in my life and I am always here if you need to talk about them. It sounds like you have a great support system of friends and family, but I wanted to lend my voice too.

    Oh, and thank you for introducing me to Matt Haig! What a great resource.

  • This was a hard year for friends losing beloved dogs and I’ll always have a twinge when I think of your losses. But I hope you’ll be ready to welcome new loves into your life this year, and that you find the next perfect companions when you are ready. Hugs for the new year.

  • Thank you for reminding me of some very important things, sadly life is not a rehearsal it is what it is and what we make of it, no regrets they are often laden with guilt which produces nothing but more pain and sorrow, i love your honesty and naturalness and simplicity it truly refreshing and down to earth , LOVE IT
    with love Jacqueline

  • Hey Cait, great to read about what you have to say and how you’ve dealt with life and it’s challenges. I need to take more than one leaf out of your book so to speak, in many of the same areas and started to do so around a year ago when my life really took a dark turn. life is so precious Cait which I have found out on different levels since early 2013 when my own health took a turn downwards, right out of the blue. Following this, a few more very sad events occurred in the year, the worst which I’m not sure when or if, I’ll ever recover from, the sudden and very unexpected loss of my beloved and most beautiful brother, hero, best friend and father figure. I too have begun to set boundaries for myself but find it difficult and wish I could be stronger. One day perhaps? My precious sister having had 10 hours of brain surgery to combat epileptic seizures after 26 years, while on the road to recovery, was then diagnosed in 2015 with cancer in her bones and blood. How cruel life can be? However Cait, I say onwards and upwards in this short life and let’s all to prioritize what’s truly important, as you have. I’m glad I happened upon your writings by chance this evening. It must have been my destiny to give me strength. All the best with your book and more so with your life Cait. Buona fortuna mia cara, Desiree Real Good, England UK xx

  • What suggestion would I give my past self?

    Relax more, care less. Let go of people and things who do not serve you. Take care of yourself, and don’t worry about holding on to things that do not serve you.

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