Last year, instead of a resolution for the new year, I decided to follow a blog idea and instead chose a word. I chose Wonder, and made a pledge to spend the year trying to find the wonder in every day. It actually worked. On paper, 2013 was not our finest year. But, you know what? When I look back I have mostly positive memories and I believe that’s because of the effort I made to find the good in spite of all the obvious bad.
This year when it came time to choose a word, I was at a loss. First, I thought it needed to be focus. I haven’t felt very focused since September. I started school and work within a week of one another and my life began a pretty quick spiral out of control. I know myself. If I don’t keep a tight reign on my schedule, I start to resemble one of those circus plate-spinning guys. You know, running frantically from pole to pole, quickly spinning different plates to make sure they never stop and come crashing to the ground. The problem with that way of life is that pretty soon you’re worn out from all the running, but none of that running is taking you anywhere. It’s just a lot of back and forth maintaining status quo. In my life, all of that running amounts to my waist getting bigger, my wallet getting smaller and me getting tired and sad because I just don’t feel like I’m doing any of it right.
I thought I need to focus in 2014. Perhaps if I could just focus on my schedule I could pull stuff together before it got too out of hand. I played around with that word in my head for a few days. While intellectually the word made sense, it also made my heart heavy. It felt punitive and mean. Wasn’t I already punishing myself enough? I mean, just the fact that I felt like a plate-spinner had to be the right amount of tough-love for one girl, right? Then I thought, just breathe. That’s what I need more of in 2014, breathing. I know, from the years studying and coaching folks in holistic health, the power of our breath. I also know, from 39 years of living in this body, that my default setting when life gets rough is to hold my breath. Literally. Luckily, I usually catch myself before I pass out, but I do hold on to my breath, without even realizing it, during times of stress.
The last few months I haven’t taken too many deep breaths. How sick is that? I worked myself up into such a tizzy that I have not even allowed myself time to breathe. Sheesh. But, a few more days of thinking and I just couldn’t commit to that as my word. I acknowledge that breathing is something I need to focus on (see what I did there?) but I wasn’t ready to make either of those two things my identity for an entire year.
Somewhere in the middle of all this I got terribly homesick. I use that word to describe more of a time than a place. I love my current home, so it’s not that I want to move. What I’m missing is our life in our old home in Maryland. That life included lots of snuggling and craft time and whole mornings spent in pajamas. It was me and three little people just doing what made us feel good every day. Yes, we were broke. Yes, I was often frustrated with the lack of intellectual stimulation. But like any good mom-cliche, now that I’m out of those slow, sweet times, when all that mattered was getting three small people healthily and happily through the day, I miss them terribly. They were often boring, sometimes frustrating, but always slow and often easy, because your choices are limited when your main job is taking care of everyone else. You can’t know you’re unhappy with you if you’re totally focused on them.
I can’t go back. I can’t recreate that life because their needs are different and what they need most now is for me to take care of me. I can’t recreate my old life because the time has come to build a new one. What I can do is stop running all the time. I can slow down. I can take time to breathe. And I can focus, for the first time in a long time, on taking care of me.
This post was inspired by Happier at Home a book by Gretchen Rubin where she writes about her experiment to create happier surroundings in her home. Join From Left to Write on January 6 we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.