Onward, 2016, to the Year of Refusal!

Grand Staycation V is entering its final days. I return to the office on Jan. 4.

I’ll admit to looking forward to 2016 with a sense of expectation. Caffeinated Press has taken off by leaps and bounds. I’m soon to join the board of directors of the National Association for Healthcare Quality and am excited to help tackle the organization’s aggressive strategic plan. I’m in a good place right now.

Over 2015, some significant things happened —

  • We wrapped up work in January on the Health Data Analytics competency framework within NAHQ. Even managed to be profiled as a national expert on the subject.
  • Caffeinated Press launched several products — including Brewed Awakenings, A Broken Race and A Crowd of Sorrows as well as The 3288 Review literary journal — and leased commercial office space in July. Hard to believe we’re already listed in P&W and Duotrope and are kicking the 100-submission mark for the third quarterly issue of the journal.
  • Managed to attend a musical, an opera and a symphony performance over the course of the year, as well as to add a couple of new entries to my diving log.
  • Went to the National Quality Summit in Philadelphia in April and presented at the RL Solutions conference in New Orleans in May.
  • I bought a 2013 Chevy Cruze over the summer.
  • I managed to get my department at Priority Health fully staffed and firing on all cylinders.
  • The 2015 annual educational conference of the Michigan Association for Healthcare Quality — which I chaired — enjoyed more than 60 attendees over the two-day event at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
  • The VLO podcast crossed the 250-episode mark in November. And Tony has been editing for several months now, to great effect!
  • For the third consecutive year, I “won” National Novel Writing Month. A day early, to boot.
  • In September, for all practical purposes, Demand Media froze most of its editorial operations. I’m still on “the list” and I do occasionally get small-project pitches, but the days of DMS being a consistent source of supplementary revenue have evaporated — a situation with both upside and downside potential for me in the long run.
  • I ended the year at the same weight at which I started it. Which, while not great, is at least consistent with the fact that I ended 2014 at the same weight as I began it.
  • Baby Emma was born in September to my second-eldest cousin and her fiancé.

So it was a good year. I’m happy with the outcome. I didn’t get all my goals accomplished, but other goals I knocked out of the park, and some of my biggest wins I could not have envisioned on 1/1/15.

I’ve had one real major life lesson, though, that will guide how I approach 2016.

Let’s begin with some context. The first half of last year was busy; a consistent low-grade buzz of stuff to do kept me hopping. Over the summer, the pace intensified. We had a ton of CafPress work, plus extra time at the day job, plus conference planning for MAHQ, plus, plus, plus. It got to the point where I fell more than 1,500 emails behind and was running two to four weeks, on average, just to respond to non-urgent messages. And then people yell: Authors who want their books published, MAHQ colleagues with questions about conference planning, folks at the office who want their projects prioritized, people who cannot grasp that just because they have free time doesn’t mean that I do as well, etc.

I spent a lot of time apologizing and a lot of time stressing; that anxiety took a bigger toll physically and emotionally than I care to detail. Then, in November, as a counterpoint to some of the “processing” I wrote about in October, I had an epiphany: I am not beholden to other people’s proprietary expectations about what I should do, when I should do it or how it ought to be done. I am a capable, competent adult who knows how to set priorities and get things accomplished. With the exception of work-related subjects relative to my day-job boss, I don’t need to explain or defend my choices or my problem-solving approaches to anyone. Of course, this epiphany isn’t exactly rocket science; most of you beautiful readers will nod your heads and say, “Well, duh.” The thing is, for me in November, that knowledge moved from being an abstract concept to an internalized reality — it migrated from the head to the heart.

My thinking now is that I do the best that I can with the time and talents allotted to me, and if people don’t like it, such disappointment is solely their own to bear. I have better things to occupy my mental focus!

I refuse to be bullied into getting things done in half-assed fashion just because someone acts like the squeaky wheel and needs it now-now-now. I refuse to be bullied into responding to falsely urgent fire drills at the expense of stuff that’s genuinely important. I refuse to be bullied into responding to something before I’m ready on account of snarky comments about how difficult it can be to reach me at the commenter’s own convenience. I refuse to be bullied by people who throw temper tantrums just to get attention or to coerce some due date that meets their needs but doesn’t make sense in light of my entire workload. I refuse to be bullied into apologizing to people because I’m not Burger King and they didn’t get it their way.

I refuse to be bullied.

I fucking refuse.

And in such refusal, as if by magic, I feel better about the world. When your mental focus pivots to doing the right thing and doing it well, instead of making people happy, you’ll end up achieving more and incurring the respect of others. (Well, maybe not the jackwagons, but no one cares about their opinion anyway.)

I sometimes wonder why so many people believe they’re entitled to set expectations about how others should live their lives. Much of the angst that I’ve experienced over the years flowed from the self-inflicted injury of trying to meet other people’s expectations, without seriously evaluating whether those expectations were even legitimate.

But not anymore.

Like I said: I’m looking forward to 2016 — and to a lower-stress year.