Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

All the Reasons 2016 Did Not Suck

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.OK. 2016. We get it. You wanted to test our collective patience. Tolerance. Compassion. Slow. Clap. You did. For sure.

I’ve found that this year, people have clung to the idea that all 365 days have been so horrid that the negative energy we are putting out there is making it even worse. I actually removed social media from my phone for a hot minute because I couldn’t take the general gloom and doom everyone was putting out into the universe. While most people are posting memes about how 2016 sucked (and, in terms of our great nation and well, the world, sure, it did and hot damn, really, can we stop losing all the celebrities we grew up with amiright?), the year actually didn’t suck for me. At all.

Even if it did, I’ve learned a lot about dwelling on the negative and the importance of celebrating and focusing on all the good, so today it’s all about the reasons why 2016 did not suck. In fact, it was epic for me.

Shall we?

I got re-acquainted with American life.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I moved back to the US after almost four years of living abroad in December 2015. If we’re nitpicking, it was Dec. 15, 2015 in the evening. My mom and I flew from Madrid to Newark to Las Vegas with my cats tucked neatly into the United Economy Plus cabin. I smelled a bit of urine, thanks to Penelope, my sweet little girl feline, who promptly peed before we even taxied down the runway in Spain.

The day after arriving back to the States, I was thrust FULL FORCE into that good ol’ American life … and the American necessities I had forgotten about while living abroad.

You know what I’m talking about — the throwing of money into the air like I’m a damn rapper. Rent. Electricity. Cable. Phone plan. Gas. Car. Car insurance. Renters insurance. Car registration. Business license. Clothing. Groceries (hot damn is produce expensive in the States for shit flown in from other countries). Parking. Movers that duped me (although I pulled a total badass move and got refunded because I threatened to reign down a hell like they had never seen before if the assholes did not refund me the money the stole for a move they lied about).

So, yah. That shit was fun.

But, I also got re-acquainted with the things I loved about American life before I left. Namely the people and having some consistency and roots. I promptly went out and bought a couch and unpacked my belongings and displayed my wares from all the years of traveling and living abroad.

It felt damn good to unpack and not worry about a visa. Or not speaking the language. Or whether or not I was going to have someone to talk to for three years (because when you are home, there are people who are nearby and will talk to you!).

Quickly, I fell in love with being an American again. I loved getting into my car and driving and knowing where I was going. I loved talking on the phone with a friend and then actually seeing them in the flesh versus Skype. I loved going on dates with people who understood my culture.

A lot of people talk about how hard re-entry is on them. For me, other than the enormous price tag associated with re-establishing my life in the States, I didn’t have any problems getting re-acclimated to life here. In fact, I was so damn excited to start life in Las Vegas that my heart felt like it was going to burst with sheer, unadulterated glee.

I quit smoking.

It’s nasty. It’s gross. It smells bad. And damn, I smoked for most of my adult life. Sure, I took breaks, but living abroad was basically permission to be a cancer chimney. Cigs were cheap. Everyone smoked. And by everyone, I mean the people I noticed who would further my argument that the entire country smoked (clearly, no entire country smokes, but still …).

But, on Jan. 4, I quit. Had my final cigarette the night before and then broke the remaining two in the pack and tossed them into the garbaaaaage.

It sucked. Damn, it sucked.

I remember standing in my closet a day later, rationalizing smoking a cigarette. Just one. And realizing, in a fit of tears, that if I succumbed, I wouldn’t be a quitter; I would be a quitter who quit quitting and, in turn, would break my parents collective hearts and likely get emphysema and feel my lungs turn blacker than night.

So, I fought it.

Also, people in the States do a really good job of making smokers feel like lepers. You know what I’m talking about: you’re outside, smoking a cigarette and someone walks by, about a million feet from you and dramatically waves their hand in the air, fake coughing. Yeah.

I had my heart broken.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I think everyone needs to have their heart broken, truly broken, at least once so they can open their damn eyes and take a good look at themselves. This heart-break was the catalyst for me getting all my shit together. For opening my eyes and seeing me. For seeing others as they really were.

Having my heart broken also made me realize that I needed to love myself more than anyone else. And, had I done that in the first place, perhaps my heart would not have been broken.

Therefore, heartbreak = learning to love ME. Because, let’s face it, at the end of the day, the most important person who will ever love you is YOU. Plus, you won’t break your own heart, although you may do a number on it until you learn how to love yourself all the way.

I got ghosted.

No one likes to get ghosted. Seriously though — I didn’t even know what “ghosting” was until I got back to the States. I saw angry comments about people who were “ghosted,” but like “Netflix and Chill,” I didn’t really know what it meant. Until I was in mid-conversation with a guy I had gone out with a few times and never heard from him again. Ever.

“Maybe he died,” my friend had tried to convince me.

“No,” I had sighed. “I think he did this thing where he just decided to stop talking to me.” (Hai, ghosting.)

“Or, maybe he died,” she offered again, smiling.

Ghosting is nasty, but as another friend eloquently explained to me one day, that ghosting isn’t about the person being ghosted. It’s about the shit the other person has going on. The insecurities. The issues. The (although I hope not) relationships they may be in.

It taught me not to take shit like that personally. And, let’s be real, it is super hard not to take that shit personally. But, I learned a lot from that incident. I’ve been ghosted since, but it hasn’t bothered me. OK, one time it did, but whatever. We’re allowed to have those rare instances of feeling bad about ourselves.

So, either it was the ghosting, or it was the wise words from my friend about the reason people ghost. Either way, it helped me become a stronger, more kick ass woman.

I became a certified business woman.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

Remember how I wrote about forking over all the money for all the things when I returned to America? Well, I forked over a ton for starting my own business, Vegans, Baby. I had to get a license (hence, becoming a legit business woman). Then, I had to hire a lawyer and trademark my logo. Then, I did some advertising. Then, I got work. So, yah. Business. Woman.

I learned how to practice gratitude.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

A long time ago, my mom gifted me with a gratitude journal. She saw it on Oprah and sent me a little purple-flowered covered journal. I wrote in it all of a week or so, and then never thought about it again. That was in 1997. Yeah. Long. Time.

I adopted the practice again in April when I was at my lowest. I needed to change my thinking. I needed to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on the positive.

Each day, I pen at least five things which I have taken place in the day that I was grateful for. It could be anything.

I am grateful for this gorgeous pre-summer weather.

I am grateful for my column running in Vegas Seven.

I am grateful for my friends who love and support me.

I am grateful for being rejected, because it isn’t a rejection, it is a redirection.

I am grateful for my client and our meeting.

Doing this dramatically changed my outlook on life.

I changed my story.

Like practicing gratitude, I knew I needed to change my story. For more than 30 years, my ass was negative. Super negative. I told myself I would never find love. I would be single forever. I manifested all this negative shit because my story was so negative.

It took my friends and my therapist to help me change my story. I let go of the things which no longer served me. I let go of my past. I let go of those negative stories I told myself. I changed my story.

I wrote in my manifest journal my new story.

I am loved.

I have everything I need.

I let go of my past.

The relationship I need is on its way.

Changing my story was powerful. It opened me up to successes I never thought possible, both personally and professionally.

I learned about boundaries. And how to unclog that throat chakra.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I’ve always walked a fine line with boundaries. When I first learned how to establish them, it came across as bitchy because I was trying to be strong and stand tall. Except I was crap at it.

It took a reiki session with my friend who helped explain to me how to honor my truths. How to speak kindly, but firmly. And, then I did. All. The. Time.

I  burst that throat chakra right the hell open and never looked back. I honored myself for the first time, and it felt incredible. Powerful. I stood my ground. I established how I expected to be treated. When people hurt me or treated me in a manner which I deemed unacceptable, I no longer worried about how they would perceive me or if would upset them by speaking my truths.

Instead, I was authentic. I was true to myself. I spoke how I felt and did not hold back. It was never mean or hurtful, but it was honest. Those boundaries don’t always go over so well. After all, when people are used to treating you a certain way and then you turn around and break that pattern, it can cause some problems. But, for those who had problems with me laying my boundaries, I realized something: I didn’t need those in my life who couldn’t respect those boundaries.

This carried into both professional (no, I am not willing to have my brain picked beyond a quick coffee, I’m sorry) to personal (I appreciate your attention, but it is a bit too much for me at this time, I need some space).

Once I started being authentic and establishing my boundaries, I felt more empowered, stronger, than I ever have before. And, something else happened, too (see below).

I made friends with positive people … and cut the negativity.

When you are positive, you attract positive. Same thing goes for negative. But, I realized that the more I was with those who were negative, the more it would weigh me down. I tried to encourage those who were negative to embrace a more positive attitude. If they couldn’t do that, I kindly exited stage left.

Once there was positive in my life, everything started to flow. Kindness. Love. Work. Happiness.

I got involved more than I ever have before.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

“Find your niche,” my mom would always advise.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I’d always muster. But, I didn’t want to hear it because I wasn’t ready to hear it. Well 2016 I was more than ever before.

I’ve found my niche before (see travel blogging, responsible tourism), but this year marked an even greater niche and even greater involvement.

With Vegans, Baby, I got deeply involved in the Las Vegas vegan community. I set up monthly meetups. I set up special events. I started serving as an expert on vegan life and general lifestyle topics on television and in publications.

I. Got. Involved. And, with that involvement, I met incredible people who are now in my life. I was a part of amazing events. I no longer felt that impostor syndrome I have felt in years past because I was doing stuff. A lot of stuff.

I figured out how to relax, breathe and meditate.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

Like practicing gratitude, I realized I needed to learn how to become more mindful. I had tried in the past and read books on being present, but never really was good at it (although that is strictly interpretation). This year, with some serious positive influences in my life, I learned the art of being in the moment. Of meditating. I set up a meditation area in my apartment. I started reading more about being mindful and really paid attention. I took note about energy and realized it wasn’t something super abstract: it was in my face and the more positive my thoughts were, the more positive my life was.

Now, I meditate daily. I practice my breathing daily.

I even took a two-week trip to Mexico and relaxed. I’ve never relaxed in previous travels. But, in Puerto Vallarta, I wrote. I took time for me and walked and explored. I put zero pressure on myself to have a certain type of vacation. All I wanted was to be. It set the precedent for any future travel.

I took the time to learn how to love myself and others, truly.

The most important thing I have learned in 2016 is how to practice loving kindness. To myself. Towards others. For the first time … ever … I love myself. Truly. Madly. Deeply. I accept who I am and, while sometimes the negative chatter can fester, I put it in its place quickly. I see people and their beauty and love without apology.

So, yeah.

We can all sit and dwell on all of the reasons 2016 sucked. OR we can all make a list of things which happened this year for which we are grateful. I choose the positive because the negative shit going on? We can’t control that. But, we can control how we react. React with kindness. React with love. React with peace.

Featured Perspectives

The Wildfire and Rebirth

An essay about getting over heartbreak and learning self love.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Daniel Stark


I’ve missed you. Seriously. Missed.

“So, if you’ve missed TCZP so much, Miss, why have you not penned a damn thing in almost a whopping year?”

I call Life.

See, after garnering more consecutive days of sobriety since I was 18, I realized some stuff. Not because I kicked the sauce. After I headed to Thailand to speak at a conference (where, yes, I drank a copious amount of seriously shitty Thai beer and wine), I realized all the things.

Actually, it wasn’t so much realized, but more like admitted shit to myself.

And, what did I admit?

Oh, you know, the basic stuff: I was absolutely fucking miserable in Spain.

Yup. Mis.er.able.

Gut-wrenchingly, devastatingly, miserable.

Long story: Why I said adios to being an expat.

So …

I returned to my desert roots of Las Vegas. It’s been my home more than any other city in my adult life. And, for some reason, despite how many times I utter under my breath “I loathe you,” it’s always wrapped its dry heat and strip malls firmly around my heart.

I arrived, fresh-eyed and ready to tackle Sin City. Except I had baggage. About 160 pounds (give or take) of it. Stuff I never talked about anywhere.

Baggage that kept me from really living. From really experiencing, because that weight constantly had my mind, had my eye, and, yes, had my heart.

I could never be firmly present, firmly anywhere, because my mind (and that annoying beating thing in my chest that always took over the mind) was never present. It was living in some world I imagined, where every little piece of the puzzle was perfectly placed and those romantic movies come true.

Spoiler alert for any of those who are in love with your best friend: life is not “Just Friends” or “When Harry Met Sally” or even “One Day.” You are not Mindy and he is not Danny (not this season, obviously). Or any of those other movies where the camera encircles a couple, realizing their love, locked in that passionate first kiss.

It’s far sloppier than that. And not really true.

Here’s the thing about an unrequited love: it destroys. Like a wildfire raging out of control through the parched land, it crackles and burns and then wind comes and makes it grow even larger until it burns everything in it’s path (oh hai, heart).

But, often times, those wildfires are necessary because they nourish the soil, making way for new growth. For new life.

Minus the burn being (at times) catastrophic, in the end, there is some good that comes out of it. (Folks, it’s an analogy, I certainly don’t wish wildfires to destroy anything.)

So, my Wildfire came in March. And again a month later because sometimes you think the fire is out, but then some embers reignite the shit and it’s even worse.

But, finally, I put it out.

It was heartbreaking. It was tragic. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. And then, it was over.

Like any period of mourning, you grieve. You miss. You yearn. You look at the phone number of the ghost and toy with deleting or keeping it alive. Your eyes search over old photos, letting memories pop up and linger until that hole in your heart becomes almost unbearable.

Then, you stand up, dust your shoulders off, hold your head up high and tackle the shit out of life because you’ve got no choice.

That end ended up freeing me. And being the best thing to happen in my life.


Because (with some therapy, natch), I realized it wasn’t about me. That I’m not this deeply flawed person who is not loveable. It’s human nature to want to feel good. To feel validated, and damned if that validation didn’t turn out to be a legit thing.

I mean, of course you love someone and keep them around when they make you feel so good. They make you feel happy. They make you feel special. Loved.

Until they don’t.

That validation I felt/no longer felt, turned to anger. And then, acceptance and gratitude for the past.

Validation became a theme for me as I moved forward.

Not consciously … at that point … but still.

For the first time in years, I truly wanted to date. I wanted to meet a good guy. So, I downloaded Bumble. OK Cupid. Even as I still cried over my loss, I dated with vigor.

Begrudgingly at times, but I did it because I knew I needed to. I knew I needed to know – nay, to prove – that I was, indeed loveable. Pretty. Funny. And whatever other stupid fucking words I needed to feel via a first kiss.

I can’t even recount all of the dates I went on (although my friends and I definitely came up for nicknames for some of the ones who made more than one or two appearances. It’s coming.). The shallow promises of second dates. The drunken first kisses (although I always firmly told my therapist the right guy for me would be a sober first kiss … or one glass of wine versus four). The text messages. Then, the teetering out of communication or straight ghosting mid-conversation for reasons unbeknownst (not by me, I’ll tell someone it’s not working).

There were even a few in the mix I genuinely liked. Cared about. But, always knew there was zero chance of it ever being more than dating.

Then, after a particularly draining, boundary-ignoring man entered my life and refused to leave it, I decided something: I had it.

“I don’t understand why I continue to do this,” I explained to my therapist, curled up on her couch. “I don’t even like this guy, I told him as much and now that he hasn’t responded, I sit here wondering if maybe I made a mistake. Although, I know I don’t want to be with him. If I wanted to be with him, I wouldn’t have ever told him to back off or complain that every word he says drives me batshit and literally feel my jaw clench when his name pops up on my screen and feel the urge to throw my phone like a hot potato across the room. And yet …”

My voice trails off as she and I both go back to that Wildfire.

And, that word: validation.

We had tossed around the word before. It ended in her referring a book to me, Radical Acceptance, which I ordered immediately, read the first chapter and then tucked it under my bed.

But, there we were again.

Fucking. Validation.

I dated. And dated. And dated. Looking for someone … anyone … to make me feel good about myself.

So, on that couch that day, my therapist and I decide it’s time.

“You have to learn how to validate yourself. To really love yourself. You’ve told yourself this horrible story for so long [Ed. Note: that’s what happens when you have a love/hate relationship with yourself aka depression] now you need to rewrite it, Diana.”

Of course, the tears flow because, fuck, I’ve never been happier in my life than I have been since I moved back to Vegas, since I moved on from that unrequited heart suck, since I’ve worked so hard on me. I even started a Gratitude Journal and every night before bed, would turn on my salt lamp, light a candle, and document at least five things which I was grateful for each day.

I’m obsessive when I get into things, so even the days I didn’t write, I’d make it up the following, sometimes literally going back four days and writing 20 things I was grateful for.

However, it wasn’t enough.

“You need to rewrite your story,” she said reaffirming. “You need to love yourself, truly love yourself. You need to tell yourself every day …”

Then, it hit me: “I’m done dating,” I state, proudly, sitting up on the couch. “I want to do kind things for me. I want to love me. I have to learn how to do that. I have to retell my story because the shit I have been putting out into the universe for the past 36 years has led me to where I am, and it isn’t where I really want to be.”

“What do you want?”

“Me. I want to love me. And then, I really want to be open to love. I want to meet a man who loves me as much as I love him. To have a relationship that is good and kind and loving and nothing like the shitty relationships I have had.”

I walked out of that office that evening knowing it was time to make a change. I delete Bumble. OK Cupid. Any phone number in my phone of a guy whose last name is “Bumble” or “OKC” or any derivative/identifier of who they may be since I was still nurturing communications with a handful.

Of course, not even 24 hours later, I met someone who ended up derailing me for a moment. But, even that derail didn’t cause catastrophic results. It opened me up even more.

Over dinner a few nights after that, I sat with my good friend, Jen, telling her my ideas about not dating, but also my feelings about what had happened with this man.

“It’s not like anything can happen,” I explain. “He’s not even a match for me. And yet, I feel so sad about it.”

“Diana,” she said, her blue eyes focusing in on me, “You have to replace that shit.”

I blink, moving the Thai food around on my plate.

“Change your story. When you start to feel sad, or bad, or lonely, tell yourself this: I have everything I need.

“But, I don’t …”

“Yes, you do,” she argued. “You absolutely do. You just don’t believe it.”

So, I open Radical Acceptance that night and start to read it. Then, the next day, I try the affirmation.

I tell myself “I have everything I need” so many fucking times. And, a funny thing starts to happen. When I repeat it in my head, I can feel a tingle in my heart. Every. Single. Time. And it feels fantastic.

I start telling myself anytime my mind wanders to doubt about who I am.

The company I now keep in Vegas is very energy- and manifest-focused, so I started a manifest journal and my friend sent me a video she did explaining how to do it. I decided I want to really start meditating.

Then, a few days later, Jen came over with gifts for me. She pulled out a tiny bag filled with a few relics to put on my mediation altar, and a rose quartz bracelet.

“You have to practice self-love,” she says, handing it to me. Then, she had me lay on the floor and do a reiki session.

Of course, my chakras were out-of-whack, namely my heart and throat ones.

She instructed me to imagine pink glowing from my heart and tell myself I love me, and love others, and am open to love from myself and others. And, for the throat, she instructed me to write letters to people of things I haven’t said and then burn them.

That week, I started to meditate. To manifest journal. To retell my story in words and thoughts.

Then, magic started to happen.

My thought process began to slowly change. I started to vibrate happiness. I actually felt my heart opening. I felt peaceful. I felt powerful. And, somewhere in there, the idea that the universe is going to give me exactly what I needed really, truly, hits home. In those brief moments of doubt, that thought comforted me, gently. Empowered me. Made my heart flutter.

The universe is giving me what I need.

So, what do I need right now? Me. That’s it. Me.

I need to believe in myself – truly believe in myself. To love myself. Truly love myself and be aware of it.

Let me tell you something – it’s a lot easier said than done.

As I grow, I’m going to grow here, because I want to show that anyone can change their story. Anyone can come out of their shells. Can find love and happiness within themselves.

The past few weeks have opened my eyes as life has literally changed because of the things I have manifested. As I have felt free. Weightless. Blissful.

This isn’t TCZP of old. It’s new. I haven’t laid it all out in terms of how I’m going to break it down, but I am going to say this: TCZP is truly going to be about getting out of my comfort zone. About opening up to loving me and others. To being kind. To being compassionate. And to learn more about how I can attract what I need and want in my life.

I’ll be sharing it all here, along with bringing in experts to shed some light on how to change old thought patterns.

I envision TCZP to be part holistic health, meditation, energy, wellness and also the other goodies life brings, like relationships.

Welcome back to TCZP.


Diary Get Your Shit Together