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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balance · books + reading · meditation · mindfulness · parenting · reading · writing

Slow Jams Syllabus #mind

There is a group of books that I keep checking out of the library, over and over again, without ever reading the book.

There’s a similar pile of books on the top shelf of my bedroom bookshelf, and a third group stacked on my bedside table.

These are books about interesting subjects, many of which are highly recommended by friends and the reading community at large.

But I haven’t been able to read them cover to cover.

Nor have I been able to simply move on, which I often do. I long ago resolved to never finish a book that I wasn’t enjoying. I used to feel compulsive about finishing books, even when I lost interest after only a few chapters. Now, I don’ worry about that at all. There are too many good books out there! There is no time to waste reading books that don’t capture me completely.

Yet – I still keep checking these same books out of the library. And I refuse to donate the pile of books in my bedroom to Ukazoo, my favorite used bookstore. I pick them up occasionally – I read a few chapters – and then I ultimately move on to another book.

What gives? And what do I do?

After considering this issue, I noticed that many of these books fit into categories; they are books about writing, parenting, and mindfulness. These are possibly the three subjects I care most about in my life currently.

So why don’t I read these books?

I think part of the reason why is that I don’t have as much reading time as I used to now that I’m a parent. And, related – I absolutely love reading fiction. I will always choose a compelling novel over a non-fiction book, every single time.

But – I still WANT to read these books! They’re on my list because I believe that they’re going to help my grow in my knowledge and my skills in some way. They’re on my list because I want to be a better writer, a more intentional parent, and a more successful meditation practitioner.

So this is what I’ve decided: I’m going to create a Slow Jams Syllabus. (I call these books Slow Jams, because I enjoy them, but don’t plow through them the way I did with all 13 of Louise Penny’s mystery novels.) It’ll be a syllabus, like in college – a list of required reading that I am requiring for myself.

I’m going to give myself a tentative “deadline” for completing the syllabus, although there is NO CHANCE I will stick to this goal if I start a book and find that it’s not as good as I thought it was. This is really all about ME – what I want to do and to learn, how I want to grow. So there’s no need to stick with it if it’s not working for me.

However – having a deadline will help me to be realistic about the not gonna happen factor. If I haven’t read one of these books by the end of 2019 – then it’s probably just not for me, and should be replaced by a title from the wait list. (Oh, yes – there is a wait list. SEE BELOW.)

Syllabus listed below. Happy reading!

Kerriann’s Slow Jams Syllabus (semi-required reading, to be read by January 2020)

No Drama Discipline, Daniel J. Siegel

Parenting From The Inside Out, Daniel J. Siegel

The Soul Of Discipline, Kim John Payne

Story Craft, Jack Hart

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, New York Writers Workshop

Writing To Change The World, Mary Pipher

Meditation Now Or Never, Steve Hagen

Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott

The Wait List

Happiness Is An Inside Job, Sylvia Boorstein

Buddhism Is Not What You Think, Steve Hagen

MBSR Every Day, Elisha Goldstein

Start Here Now, Susan Piver

The Happiest Kids In The World, Rina Mae Acosta

The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer

Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett

The White Album, Joan Didion

Bark, Lorrie Moore

Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn

balance · mindfulness

Mindful Check-In #How’sMyBalance?

My last check-in was JULY 31, 2017.  That was a long time ago!  I have a feeling the last six months of my 2017 were pretty balanced, as my not-at-all-scientific method will probably show.  Let’s see!

Since my last check-in, I have written:

  • 13 posts about nourishing my #heart by spending time with family and friends;
  • 12 posts about nourishing my #soul by spending quiet time reflecting and recharging;
  • 16 posts about nourishing my #mind by reading, writing, and engaging in other activities that educate me or exercise my brain muscles;
  • 5 posts about nourishing my #body by exercising, eating healthy food, and taking steps to take care of my physical being;
  • and, last but not least, 5 posts about nourishing my #spirit by learning or doing new things.

Here are my thoughts on this:

  • I feel pretty balanced recently.  I’ve been doing my best to make time with family and friends a priority, and to make plans for fun things to do as a family and with our friends.
  • never write as much about #body as the other aspects of self.  I’ve never been the person who posts about physical accomplishments on social media or anything like that.  There’s nothing wrong with posts like that, at all – just not my thing.  However, I think that writing less about #body also has to do with my exercise routine sometimes being monotonous.  I’m actually in the middle of a drafted post about one of my new exercise routines, which is nostalgic and exciting – soon to be posted.
  • I expect that my #spirit posts will increase during the early months of 2018.  Tee and I have some fun plans – nothing wild and crazy, just little adventures to have, places to visit, things to do.

I feel excited and energized to be blogging again after my accidental two-month-long hiatus.  Already published seven new posts in 2018 – five more posts until 300!

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balance · family

Our Hygge Winter #heartsoulmindbody

Our life – mine and Tee’s and Teddy’s – is very hygge in the winter5da00b8c291135e47684be20bc3359ae--hygge-meaning-hygge-definitiontime.

We wake up, make coffee, and make sure the fire in our living room wood stove is roaring.  Teddy plays with toys near the Christmas tree and Tee cooks us pancakes for breakfast.  We read books – Tee is (finally) starting Book 10 in the Inspector Gamache series, and I’m in the middle of Shrill by Lindy West. We take turns reading Teddy his favorites – The Little Blue Truck, All The World, and Knuffle Bunny, currently. There’s a blanket on every chair and a cat ready to curl up on your lap for warmth and company.

Though I prefer spring, summer, and fall, I looked forward to wintertime a lot this year.  Tee gets extremely busy with the farm during the warmer weather, and it’s so nice to have her around more.  We’ve gotten a lot done around the house, especially during December in preparation for family visitors for the holidays.  Our weekends are more free and fun; every img_4063Friday, we figure out what fun (or, ugh, productive) things we can do with our free days.  During the summer our conversations are usually more along the lines of “how the hell are we going to do everything we need to do this weekend,” with limited time for simple fun or coziness or just BEING together, with no agenda or deadline.

The slower pace of wintertime is lining up well with my intentions for 2018.  Having more time and space allows me to be more intentional with my actions.  Our hygge lifestyle is conducive to curling up on the couch with my journal or my laptop to write.  I have successfully avoiding angst for the first five days of 2018, which is pretty much a miracle all by itself.  The one intention I haven’t honored yet is to meditate, unless you count swimming laps at the Y, which I DO so really I’ve nailed all of it.

It’s a slower, gentler time of year, with more time and space to just be me.  And I just love it.