Tonight, after blowing proverbial dust from TypePad's login page and wiggling my fingers to unclog almost four months of supressed wisdom, I scanned unfinished drafts, hoping against hope that I could channel that wisdom into a spectaular finish and avoid a paralyzing start.
That's how I found this longish note on my taxing First World Problems in 2013.
On one hand, for a year that I pledged to focus on simplicity, I sure did complicate things. One of my biggest undertakings was launching a freelance writing business! In this case, "launched" means adding a section on LinkedIn, playing with fonts in Word and signing proposals as Dunscombe Creative instead of Bree or Frema or other such options.
Since I was already working on projects, it seemed the logical thing to do. In June, I was contacted about a website writing series for employees at a local university, with three presentations to give between early August and mid September. In July, an old friend from my tox lab days asked me to write a corporate website for his new employer. They were great projects to take on, but I knew from the beginning it would be too much. My kids saw me hunched over a computer screen more often than I would've liked - pajama clad, bleary eyed, coffee dependent and snappy.There were many times where I hit and then crawled over my breaking point, not because I'm especially noble or virtuous, but because people were counting on me for a deliverable and come hell or high water, I was going to deliver. To put it mildly, I was not my best self.
Why I didn't publish this, I'll never know. So bright and cheery and totally leading to a point!
Anyway, since I really don't want to start a post from scratch, it seems fitting to give a progress report on 2014. Here's a short list of wins so far, in no particular order:
To date I've completed 19 books for #Read26Indy. Reclaiming my identity as a reader has done wonders for my soul. It feels great to lose myself in other people's ideas and use them as jumping points for my own; to prowl the Twitter hastag and my Goodreads feed for hidden gems; to engage in lively discussions about Wild (loved it) and The Fault in Our Stars (fought it, then loved it) and Eat Pray Love (tackled the audio book this year and re-loved it) and on and on and on.
The Bible warns against making a show of charitable giving, but just today the very bald and very wise Seth Godin discussed the importance of normalizing charitable behavior. I can cover both bases by saying that Luke and I elevated our giving this year to a new level, which has challenged our budget in new and exciting ways. Yes, exciting - to know that our money more closely aligns with our priorities than ever before.
The job stress I've experienced in 2014 is different from last year's in many ways, but it still reeks of FWP. On the plus side, I've done a lot of things to put myself in a better place - shortening my commute with the new job, backing off aggressive freelance projects and resetting boundaries so I can do my job well without overshadowing my roles as a wife, mother, Jesus lover, writer, friend, etc. I lost my balance this summer but regained my footing, and I'm eager to see how my new strategy plays out.
How can it be that a first grader and kindergartener live in my house? That my last baby is actually THREE YEARS OLD, uses the word "butt" at every opportunity and has no use for strollers, bibs or sippy cups? As Gretchen Rubin likes to say, "The days are long, but the years are short." This year I've been working on saying yes more to my kids - yes, we can play the Game of Life for the eighty-millionth time, yes, we can botch make Rapunzel biscuit braids from your library Disney cookbook, yes, I can sit with you for a few minutes while you fall asleep. It's not been as easy to stop raising my voice at the first sign of wrong doing, but still, there's progress.
This is a tough one to capture in a neat little paragraph, but the gist is this: I've spent a lot of time this year thinking on how to funnel my energy and interests into a singular mission. Chris Brogan talks about focus a lot in his weekly newsletter, and my beloved Liz Gilbert tackles it on her Facebook page. Here's a screen shot of one of my very favorite posts from her:
The this she's referring to is:
The way I see it, my biggest FWP has been not knowing my yes. In this great big life, we have a ton of options, and without focus, everything worthy seems viable. Should I take this freelance job? Go out on my own completely? Nurture that friendship? Move now or later? Write my book or let the damn thing go?
Having a core yes isn't the same as having priorities. I have priorities. Spending time with my children is a priority and a huge focus in my life, but my role as a mother is one part of who I am, and I'm more than any one role. What is it that ties my roles together? What measures am I using to know if I'm following my right path or veering off course?
An answer did come to me last month, an answer that I'm still working through. I've written about it privately already, so instead of finding new words, I'll just share the ones that worked for me at the time.
I kept waiting for an answer to appear and also waiting to find the right amount of time to dedicate myself to the task of answering it myself, studying as if I were preparing for a test. I was making it too hard, but I didn't realize it until last week after hearing Pastor Charlie's second sermon about taking the long way around to appreciate the riches of a life with God. That's when I realized that the answer was easy - what is my mission? Jesus. That's it. That's all it has to be. If I keep my path aligned with Jesus, everything else will be as it should.
I was looking for a sophisticated answer like creativity or service or something that felt more in line with my newsletter subscriptions. Maybe sophisticated is the wrong word. Maybe just complicated. Or worldy - a mission based on things/acts that are based in the world, even if they are noble and important. But once I answered the question with Jesus, it felt like a light bulb went off in my head. YES. This is the answer I've wanted - and had - all along. I just never put the two together. Studying the question intellectually in some ways, praying at times for an answer that I assumed would be "other" - an answer that I assumed would help bring me closer to God, instead of realizing that God is the answer. I was so short-sighted. But now I feel much lighter.
This is a hard topic to work through on a blog. Talking about God is an easy way to alienate people, and that's the last thing I want to do. I'm not abandoning any of the roles I mentioned before, or quitting my day job, or trying to convert anyone to my church, or making outwardly radical changes to my life. I can't even tell you if I'll have more to say in my next blog post. But I am asking myself a lot of questions, and it feels right to explore those questions here when I feel like I have something meaningful to say. Plus, if I may quote the bald and wise Seth Godin again, great work makes us uncomfortable. If figuring out your yes isn't great work, I don't know what is.
How are you doing this year? What's taking up space in your brain? And perhaps most importantly: What's been your favorite read so far? My Goodreads list wants to know.