Hello, internet friends! I have missed you. I feel a little like the prodigal son who came home after squandering his wealth on extravagant activities, if by "extravagant" we mean working, parenting and generally trying to maintain my delicate grip on reality. In this scenario, I will assume you are welcoming me with open arms, and wait, is that a fatted calf? You really shouldn't have. Let's just hug it out and move on.
I thought I would break my blogging hiatus with a recap of 2014, then follow up with my plans for 2015, but right now I'm more inspired to look forward. So I'm running with it.
This flamingo from the zoo is down with my plan.
For the last few years, I've tried to focus milestones and goals around a key word or theme. Here's a quick recap:
Leap was perfect; it was the same year I ended my seven-year stint with a local toxicology lab to take a new job in healthcare education, and lots of big steps were required of me during the search and transition. But these last two years, my themes have felt less meaningful - mainly because I ended up leaping again with another employer closer to home. Not ideal circumstances for pursuing simple or steady. While writing this post, I couldn't even remember steady; I had to look it up in my blog archives.
It's very possible this one-word business isn't for me, but I'm trying it one more time. Similar to 2012, this year's word is perfectly in sync with where I am at this point and where I want to go.
My word for 2015 is brave.
I want to be brave enough to live all of my values and be consistent in my actions. To quiet the lizard brain and create. To curb my leanings toward the analytical and be less afraid of my emotions. To just say no to anxiety.
Here are the guideposts I'll use to get there.
Get prayed up.
One of the hardest things I went through in 2014 was saying good-bye to the senior pastor at my church, who retired in July to focus on his health. Pastor Ted was the first preacher I ever grew attached to, and I so identified with his sermons. I even used them as a soundtrack sometimes on the weekends I brought work home. So in the months before he left, I had a hard time keeping it together in worship. He would talk and I would sob quietly, praying (no pun intended) that nobody would notice my tears and I could break down in peace, thank you very much, where do you think we are, church?
Anyway. That was January through June. In July we welcomed Pastor Charlie, and he is wonderful. In a recent sermon, Pastor Charlie talked about the concept of being "prayed up" - the state of being so in touch with God and in the habit of talking to Him that you don't have anything left in the vault. This is the state I want to be in. This area in particular is where I want to think less and feel more.
This has never been a strong suit of mine. Unless I put myself in the best position possible to face the day - gotten enough sleep, prayed, allowed flexibility in my schedule - I get short tempered quickly and slack off on keeping myself in check. I don't want to lean on yelling as a parenting tool. I want to be less concerned with discipline when I don't get my way and focus more on understanding the situation. Even better - I want to think five steps ahead to reduce or even eliminate the stressors that throw us off our game in the first place.
Stop when it's time to stop.
Oh look, an area where I wanted to improve last year but didn't fully commit myself.
"I'll get to that when..."
"In five minutes I'll..."
"As soon as I do X, then I can..."
One of my worst faults is placing conditions on when I can jump into a new task or activity. Unfortunately, most of the time the next task is something like "get home for dinner," "finish my bible class reading" or "play board games with the kids."
My reasons for this make sense in the moment: It's easier to finish what I'm doing than walk away and hope I'll regain my momentum later. But the result is always the same: I spend five minutes basking in the glow of my accomplishment and the next two hours feeling like crap because I prioritized a thing over someone I love.
I became more conscious of this in 2014 but didn't work very hard to make real change. This year I'm facing it head on and holding myself accountable for respecting the needs of my family and my own emotional and spiritual growth. I know, so very Hallmark. Hopefully the prodigal son intro bought me a little leeway with you all.
But seriously, my feast-or-famine way of doing things is no way to build good habits. I need to start things when I'm not inspired and end tasks when I'm not ready. Stop when it's time to stop.
Don't force a finish.
A nice follow-up to the whole stopping bit. So often I push through thinking, I could totally get this done if I just keep at it for five more minutes. Except five minutes turns to fifteen and I'm still finessing that manager email and I just missed my window for getting home on time and WHY CAN'T I LEARN THIS LESSON ALREADY I AM DUMBER THAN A FISH SOMETIMES.
Suffer for fifteen minutes.
If I can keep tasks small, I have a better chance of finishing them. Kara's had her Daisy vest since May, but I'm so intimidated by all the damn patches that I still haven't sewed them on. And yes I know about the double-stick tape, what do you think has been collecting dust on my dresser since November?
I keep putting off the hour I think it'll take to get the patches on, when really I should set aside a little bit of time each night until it's done. Gretchen Rubin is a big fan of suffering for fifteen minutes, and I'm a big fan of Gretchen Rubin, so there's my starting point. And the time to start is now, because cookie season kicks off Friday, and if there's any time your daughter need a functioning Girl Scout vest, it's when peddling Thin Mints.
A few more guideposts to come. You won't have to wait until 2016, I pinky swear.