balance · goals

The Best Laid Plans

This summer, I enjoyed a blissful six weeks of time away from professional work. I mommied – I wrote – I took care of my body and my mind. I started my new job on August 22nd feeling healthy and refreshed.

And then, on September 4th, we got a call from the adoption agency. Two days later, we were camped out at an Air BNB in Alexandria, Virginia, with our new baby boy.

It’s all been a whirlwind since then, and it makes me laugh to think about the plans I made over the summer. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to spend my work days and my overall weeks. I used my time off and the opportunity for a fresh start to evaluate how I spend my time and to make plans for how I could utilize my time and energy better.

And now, my life looks completely different. And those plans have to change.

However, I don’t at all regret the time I spent planning over the summer. It was valuable leg work that will help me now, as I contemplate returning to work after my adoption leave and evaluate what I want my days and my weeks to look like now that life is a little more complicated. (And a lot, lot cuter!) I didn’t get everything on my to-do list accomplished over the summer, but I did cross a lot of tasks off and I formed good habits that I’m hoping to maintain as our family adjusts to this new phase of life.

Looking ahead to my work days, I’m hoping to get up every day at (eek!) 4:30 a.m. so that I can have time to write, do yoga, and prepare for the day before the munchkins are awake. One of the small but meaningful changes I want to make in my routine is having a few moments for a daily prayer and inventory at the beginning and the end of the day. I think this is really important for my 12-step recovery, and it’s a practice that I want to prioritize.

I’ll wake Edgar at 5:55, and he’ll use the potty, get dressed, and put on his socks and shoes before coming downstairs for breakfast. My goal is that we will leave for Edgar’s school by 6:40 so that I can then arrive at work by 7:15. I don’t even know if that’s the time I need to arrive! I only worked for one school day before my adoption leave started, so this is all going to be a work in progress. If I have to be at school earlier, everything will have to shift a little earlier. TBD.

Meanwhile, J.J. is on a pretty good schedule at the moment, eating just about every three hours. I am hoping to get him on a regular schedule of starting his day with his first feeding at 7 a.m. That way, he’ll be snoozing and content while Tamara, Edgar, and I are busily preparing for the day ahead.

My work day ends at around 2:30 p.m., at which point I’ll leave, trying my best not to sprint out the door, and I’ll be able to pick Edgar up by around 3 p.m. Then we can have family play time, outdoors whenever possible, until dinner time. Jonas will eat during that time, at around 4 p.m., so I’m hoping he’ll be flexible about snuggling with me outside in an Adirondack chair so that Edgar can run and play while he eats!

Tamara and I had a mini family meeting and decided to try to eat dinner every night at around 5:30 p.m. We eat dinner all together every evening, and my hope is that eating at 5:30 will give Edgar time for a bath, the potty, brushing teeth, and maybe a few minutes of reading and free play time after dinner.

Edgar will go up for bed at around 6:30 p.m.; we’re going to be pushing his bedtime a little earlier (he usually goes down at 7 p.m.) because he’s going to need to be up and out so early, and he hasn’t been napping for as long as he used to when he was younger. That will be an adjustment for me, since I like to have lots of Edgar time after work; I’m hoping that getting out of work so early in the afternoon will offset it so I feel like Edgar and I get enough quality play time.

After Edgar goes to bed, I want to use the (very short) evening time to tidy up, read or write, do my check-in and inventory (a la recovery), and plan for the day ahead. (Outfits for me and Edgar, lunch for me, etc.)  J.J. eats at 7 p.m. – and then every three hours through the night.  Which is ROUGH! But we’re hoping he’ll drop one of those feedings sometime very soon.

There’s so much more to consider looking at the week as a whole, but this post is getting a little rambly so I’m going into list mode:

-I want to run on the weekends.

-I want to eat really healthy, especially during the week days. (I have a tendency to cram unhealthy snacks into my body during busy days at work!)

-I want to attend at LEAST two recovery meetings weekly.

-I want to use my Sunday evenings to have a weekly date with my planner.  That way, I can keep my to-do list on track, and be intentional about how I am spending my time.

-I also want to touch base with Tamara on Sunday evenings after the boys are in bed for a family meeting to talk about tasks, fun plans, all the things you need to talk about to be a smoothly-running family operation.

-I want to make sure we have quality time with friends and family regularly.

-I want to make sure we have (age-appropriate) family adventures regularly. (We won’t do family rock climbing for a while, but we can do a 30-minute hike someplace beautiful, for sure.) This is something we slack on when things get busy, so I want to make sure it’s a priority to explore our environment and our city as  family.

-I want to WRITE. My writing has taken a hard hit these past few weeks – this past Tuesday was the first time I missed a regularly-scheduled blog post since March. I know it will be okay – but I am going to be reminding myself, over and over again, that writing is a top priority.  Family, service, and writing – the big three.

Well, this blog post evolved into more of a thinking-out-loud Kerriann journal entry than a coherent message about planning and life. But it was really helpful for me. And tomorrow is my first day back at work.

Let’s do this.

balance

All The Things (August 2018)

This summer was wonderful. It’s still going, of course – I am not one of those people who forgets that summer keeps going through most of September – but I’ve started work again, so my Summer Sabbatical has officially ended.

I’m grateful that I’ve had this time, and I’ve been handling the return to work (and Edgar’s return to almost-full-time pre-school) pretty well. My days at the new job are flying by, and I’m so happy to have peaceful + playful afternoons with Edgar – I usually pick him up at around three o’clock, leaving ample time for adventures before the dinner-bath-bed routine starts.

This post is a little rushed – as I type this, it’s already the 2nd of September, and my All The Things posts are usually published on the last day of the month. Anyway – here is an abbreviated list of all the things that have been going on this month:

What I’ve Been Listening To: Lots of audiobooks! I finally finished listening to No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury, and it really helped me to clarify some of my approaches to parenting. It’s all about keeping yourself unruffled in the face of unreasonable and emotionally unregulated toddler behavior. (I’m working on it.)

What I’ve Been Reading: Lots of suspenseful novels, which I often recount in detail to Tamara after I’ve finished. (The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian and Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, for example.)

What I’m Currently Reading: Buddhism Is Not What You Think, by Steve Hagen; Bestseller, by Celia Brayfield; Get The Life You Want, by Dr. Freddy Jackson Brown; and When You Are Engulfed In Flames, by David Sedaris.

What I’m Pondering: How to make routines and stick to them regularly. I’ve allowed myself a couple of weeks of “AHHHHH NEW JOB STRESS CRAZY DON’T HAVE TIME FOR WRITING OR EXERCISE” – and I feel okay about allowing that time. But now, I want to get into a balanced routine that includes exercise, meditation, writing, recovery, and family.

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balance · self-care

Three Cheers For Fresh Starts

I love fresh starts. This is a good thing – but it’s also something I have to be mindful about as I make decisions about my life.

I like fresh starts because I like being able to start with a blank slate. I like to use a fresh start as an opportunity to form new habits. I like fresh starts because I enjoy growth and novelty.  I like meeting new people, and I like the optimism and energy I feel when I’m getting ready to start something new.

HOWEVER.

Sometimes, I love fresh starts so much that I would rather start something brand-new than make adjustments to my current situation.  Sometimes, I love fresh starts so much that I want to throw away something that really only needs some repairs so that I can buy something new.  Sometimes, I want a fresh start because I want everything to be perfect, because I believe that perfection is attainable and I think that if I have a new opportunity to start fresh, then I will be able to make everything perfect.

See? There’s some benefit, but there’s also a lot I need to be aware of. Because I don’t want to pull the trigger and engage in a fresh start when it’s not the right thing to do.

I had to wrestle with this a lot over the course of the past year while I was looking for a new job. I was pretty desperate to find a job that was a better fit, and I also really wanted a chance for a blank slate somewhere new. I had to seek out opportunities but remain patient until the right opportunity presented itself. That was really difficult.

Now that I have my fresh start, I’m excited to have the blank slate I was hoping for – a chance to form new habits and to set some work-related intentions.

These are the intentions I’d like to set for my new job:

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  1. Work hard. When I feel engaged and committed, I am an extremely hard worker. I am hoping that my new position will line up well with my strengths so that I can work hard and well.
  2. Be Kerriann. It can be really hard to remember this at work. There are so many expectations placed on me – placed on all of us, I imagine! I am often expected to know the answers, to be an ‘expert.’ But my field is mental health – a field that is full of nuance and ambiguity. Every single situation is different. I’d like to start out at this new job being honest and real – I’d like to be me rather than trying to be the perfect and all-knowing mental health professional.
  3. Be honest. It’s not that I lie at work – but I do get caught up in people-pleasing and chit-chat in ways that don’t feel authentic and honest. I want to be honest about who I am, what I know, what I do, and how I live.
  4. Don’t carry what is not yours to carry. This is something I do. If someone else is upset, I get upset. If someone is stressed, I get stressed. I don’t do this with clients, but I definitely do it with co-workers and with the parents of clients. And I’d like to use this fresh start as a time to change this habit. The only things I need to carry on my shoulders are my own worries and Edgar’s worries;everything else is for others to carry themselves.

Cheers to new jobs and fresh starts!

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balance · goals

What I Wanted

A few months ago, I drafted a blog post called “What I Want: A Living Document.” I never had any intention of publishing this post. I started it because I was desperately trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my work and my life.

Becoming a parent really changed the way I think about work. I’ve always known that it’s really important to me to like my job, and to feel inspired and motivated by my work. But my patience level for my work life decreased significantly once I became a mother. My guess is that this happened because I utilize a lot of patience and energy in parenting and now have way less patience for the trials and tribulations of work life.

One of the reasons why I started making a list of What I Want is because what I want has been constantly changing throughout the past year.  I’ve really been lacking clarity about my goals, and I find that so unsettling. I like to feel sure about what I want – when I feel indecisive or unsure, I feel lost.

I wrote this little list over a year a go: Things I want to be – A writer. A therapist for children. A farmer. A mommy. A wife. Peaceful. Loving. Kind. Healthy. Strong. Graceful. Faith-full. Mindful. Sometimes I just like to look at these words. There are times when I am all of these things, and there are times when some of them feel so far off from what I am in the moment.

Now that I am getting a fresh start, with a new job as a school social worker at a local public school, I am wondering if I got everything that was on my list. (SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t. But I’m still really excited about everything that I’m getting that was on my list!)

1. I want to learn more about meditation and mindfulness. YES. I can definitely do this at my new job! I’m going to be working with middle school students, who would TOTALLY benefit from this kind of intervention.

2. I want to live closer to where I work. YES! My new job is about 20 minutes from home, which is half my current commute.  WINNER.

3. I would like a school job, with summers free.  OMG YES. So happy and grateful that this one worked out.

4. I want a job that enables me to love and serve the world in the best way I can. I think so? I hope so. But I’ll have to start to know for sure.

5. I want my WHOLE life to be an honest representation of who I am.  I want everything in my life to connect, to be aligned – my job, my writing, the farm, and my family. I don’t know about this one. My fingers are crossed!

6. I want to do crisis intervention work AND/OR grief and loss work with children and young adults. I am pretty sure this will be part of my job, though I guess I’ll have to start to see for sure.

7. I want to feel good about going to work every day, especially on Monday mornings. I REALLY HOPE THAT THIS ONE IS TRUE FOR MY NEW JOB. Usually, the thing that gets me out of bed is feeling useful and connected to the children I am helping, so there is a high likelihood that this one will work out.

8. I want a job that is less mainstream – a little more counterculture. NOPE. Working at a public school is pretty mainstream.

9. I enjoy being a leader, and supervising young social workers. NO. But that’s okay! There will be time for that later.

10. I want to feel free to be my authentic self, at home and at work. Maybe? I think some of this is up to me. I’ll write more on that in the fall!

12. I want to learn more about personality work (Myers Briggs et al). Maybe! I think I can probably incorporate this into my work if I want to, which I definitely do, since I am a major personality type dork.

13. I like helping other people think about what they want to do for work and for life. I think when I wrote this, I was thinking of working with young social workers. But if I apply this to working with young adults, then I am absolutely getting that, too.

Wow – I feel like I got so, so close to exactly what I wanted! And, the bottom line is – what I do for my day job isn’t even the point.

All these months, while I have really thought about what I wanted, what I wanted came down to this: I want time to be with Edgar and Tamara, and I want time to write. If I  could snap my fingers right now and make a professional dream come true, it would have nothing to do with a job as a social worker. My professional dream would be about writing fiction and being paid to do it.

And this new job, with summers free and a manageable daily schedule, will give me exactly that. I am so, so grateful.

balance · self-care

Humor

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of messages from the universe about humor.

I love to laugh, and I am someone who laughs relatively easily during certain periods of my life. In fact, how much I am laughing is probably a good indicator of my level of stress. When I’m overwhelmed, NOTHING IS FUNNY; when I’m feeling good, almost everything can be a source of laughter.

There’s a little meditation book that sits on my bedside table, and one of the readings for this month was about humor.  This was one of my favorite parts: “…when we raise our sights, look at the world with lightness in our hearts, expecting to enjoy the day, the people, the activity, we’ll succeed.”

Sigh. That is beautiful. I agree that when I have expectations that things will be awesome, they usually end up being pretty great. And even when they don’t – it’s better for me to be optimistic than to worry. Worrying about the future does nothing except make me miserable in the present.

I am taking these little messages from the universe about humor seriously. Lately I find myself physically, mentally, and emotionally stressed about the state of the world. I’ve been seeking out laughter, fun, and comedy because I need it badly. Primarily, I’ve been finding laughter in stand-up comedy; Ali Wong’s new Netflix special and Michelle Wolf’s new weekly show on Netflix are making me really happy. (As is borrowing my sister’s Netflix account.)

Things feel so much lighter today than they have recently. And I feel a big motivation to seek out laughter, especially at times when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve heard it said that there’s always something to be grateful for. I think there’s probably always something we can laugh at, too, even in the bleakest of moments.

 

balance · writing

Wow

For months, I’ve been dreaming about taking a break from work – having some time to rest, to recuperate, to reset, to recharge.

Even though I am two days into my Summer Sabbatical, I still can’t believe it’s really happened. I am on vacation. I’m resting. I’m recuperating.

The last four years of my life have been exhausting. Wonderful, at times – but exhausting. There were two years of the adoption wait, and then two years of caring for Edgar and learning how to be a parent. And, for the last two and a half years, my work life has been a source of stress – and I am not very good at compartmentalizing. When work is draining, life is draining; when work is stressful, I can feel myself experiencing a low level of stress all weekend long.

And then – today. Today was incredible. I dropped Edgar off at school – I went for a four-mile run – I ran several errands – and then I came home, and I have spent the entire afternoon focused on writing. I’ve written blog posts. I’ve organized some of my fiction writing in Google docs. I’ve sorted through drafts of short stories, figuring out what I want to work on first and next.

I haven’t had this kind of uninterrupted time in what feels like forever. I feel like I have time to get organized, to actually contemplate what I want to write about, and why, and when. I keep waiting for the stress of job hunting and work to creep back into my body, but then I remember that I am really, truly on vacation from my work life, and I say a little prayer of gratitude.

People keep asking me what I’m going to do with my time off. Sometimes I give them the small-talk-chit-chat version – “oh, this and that, nothing big” – and sometimes I share the honest truth: “I have wanted to be a writer for my entire life, and I’m hoping to use this break to set myself up so that this lifelong dream can come true.” (It’s not predictable which of these versions will come out. Really just depends on my mood, my state of mind, and my bravery at that particular moment.)

It’s definitely going to take practice. I can feel myself being pulled in different directions. Right now, I keep thinking that I should get up and do the dishes. And then my better self gently reminds me: You did not quit your job so you could be more prompt about doing the dishes. 

I am so grateful for this day, and for this summer. I am so happy to be taking care of myself and taking baby steps toward my creative goals.

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balance · goals

Summer Sabbatical

Today is the first day of my Summer Sabbatical, and it feels awesome.

I’m starting a new job in late August, and my last day at my old job was yesterday. It feels like a giant weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. After daydreaming about a new job, one that is a better fit for my family, my lifestyle, and my goals, for months and months, I have found a new job.

AND – I am taking over a month off from working. A little break. A vacation. A mini-sabbatical from the grind of work life. I’m thinking of it as my Summer Sabbatical. It will be a time to rest, to reflect, to recharge my batteries. A chance to reset my system and to get myself ready for a wonderful fresh start.

Wow. I feel amazing. I can feel my body start to tense up at times, as if I’m clenching, waiting for anxious thoughts about work tasks and job hunting to come – and then I remember that those anxious thoughts no longer apply to my situation, and I relax and come back to the present.

WOW.

Now that I am getting exactly what I’ve wanted – new job, great schedule, six weeks off – I have a tiny little anxious thought. It’s nothing like the constant work-slash-job-hunting anxiety that’s plagued me for the past few months, but it’s there – this tiny little fear.

Because, if I now have everything I need to take some big steps toward my goals – WHAT IF I DON’T SUCCEED?

I am mostly excited, that’s for sure. But I also feel a strong sense of purpose. I want to use my mini-sabbatical time to achieve my goals. I don’t want to allow laziness, fear, or anxiety to keep me from doing what I want to do.

These are my big, lofty goals for my sabbatical:

  1. Finish my freelance writing course.
  2. Take care of EVERY SINGLE ITEM on my TTD list so that I can have a fresh start.
  3. Create a system for getting tasks accomplished and managing my TTD list (including general household maintenance) all year long.
  4. (This one is connected to #3.) Start setting aside some Sunday planning time – a little date with your planner to look at the week ahead and make sure that tasks/writing/running/meditation/etc are going to get done.
  5. Kick my caffeine/sugar habit.
  6. Exercise a LOT and form a GOOD exercise routine, one that I can maintain once the new job starts.
  7. WRITE. I am hesitant to set specific goals here. I might try to meet a certain word count whenever I sit down to write. I’d like to stick to my “write a draft of your novel by the end of the year goal,” but I’m  not feeling confident about which novel to write. I’d like to set up a regular writing routine, one that I can maintain once the new job starts. But really – this goal is just to WRITE and to ENJOY WRITING.

That’s it, for now. Seven goals. Seven goals that are more about creating routines for how I want to live than crossing things off of a bucket list.

This time is a gift. It’s partly a gift from the universe, and it’s partly a gift that I’m giving myself. I am so, so grateful.

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