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.

goals · writing

No Matter What

Never, not once in my entire life, have I been described as neat.

When I’m writing, I try to be aware of using words like always and never. Extreme words like that are rarely true. But the above statement is: I have never in my life been described as neat. My messiness is pervasive; it is associated with every aspect of my life.  My car is messy – my office is messy – my house is messy.

Now, as an adult, I feel more motivated to keep my spaces tidy than I did as a child. But being more motivated does not change my messiness; I’m still messy. I’m just more inclined to tidy up after the mess has been made, because I do find that (a la Gretchen Rubin) outer order promotes inner calm. In other words, I feel better – more creative, more productive, more mindful – when my space is orderly and pleasantly arranged.

That is not the case in my house right now. We are happily adjusting to life as a family of four, and that means there’s less time for dishes and sweeping and following my toddler around cleaning up toys as he does his absolute favorite thing with every container of toys. (“Dump!”) However, I’m not writing this post right now because I’m trying to develop strategies for keeping the house more neat.

I’m writing this post because I’m trying to focus on my writing even when my house is a disaster.  

For me, an easy way to procrastinate is to do something productive that is NOT THE THING I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. Maybe I’m supposed to be paying bills, but I decide to do dishes instead. Maybe I’m supposed to be doing the laundry, but I decide to clean up Edgar’s toys (with his toddler version of help) first. It’s not that what I’m doing is bad – it’s just not what I intended to do with my time, and one of my life goals is to be more intentional with how I live my life and how I spend my time.

The goal is to write – because it’s the thing in my life that I most want to cultivate, other than being a parent, a wife, and an all-around good human being in the world. I don’t have any goals about getting better at doing the dishes or tidying. My personal and professional goals are about writing – doing it more, and getting better at it, even when the house is a disaster.

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goals · writing

Finished

One of my Summer Sabbatical goals was to finish the freelance writing course I was taking with Chaunie Brusie, and I did!

The course was great. Unfortunately, I realized that the kind of writing I want to do isn’t the same as the freelance writing Brusie does, so some of the lessons weren’t as relevant as I’d hoped – but I learned a lot, and I found resources I can tap into throughout my writing life.

It’s gotten me thinking about other ways I can educate myself about the writing world, and about the craft of fiction writing. I wrote a post on the #AmWriting podcast’s Facebook group asking for recommendations for online fiction writing courses, and I got several suggestions. (That group is AWESOME; if you’re a writer, you should get in there!  So supportive and knowledgeable.)

Life’s been a little crazy for the past week or so, and my fiction writing has taken a backseat to journalling and blogging. That’s okay; my writing life is seasonal, and this is a season that is slower, less fruitful. But – I’m still here, showing up to my computer, typing as much as I can as often as I can.

And – I finished my course!  Goal ACCOMPLISHED.

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goals · writing

Immersed In The World Of Writing

One of my goals is to become immersed in the world of writing. At least, as immersed as I can be in my current circumstances.

There’s a bulletin board that hangs on the wall beside my bed. Not much is pinned there – a few inspiring quotes, and then these three pieces of paper that I created during a group therapy session I led a few months ago. Three pieces of paper – three words, one written on each one. The words? Family, service, and writing.

When I zero in on what my priorities are, it’s these three things: my family, service to others, and writing. I am hopeful that, with my new job and my new schedule, it will be possible for every moment of my life to be in pursuit of these three priorities.

Now, my instinct, as always, is to write out a detailed plan for how I can stay immersed – how I can be connected to my writing pursuits at all times. 1. Listen to writing podcasts. 2. Read books about writing. 3. Use non-writing time – like time walking the dog – to think about specific pieces of writing. However – one thing that recovery has shown me is that things work out way better for me when I let go rather than when I tighten up and try to meticulously plan out every minute of my life.

So, my aim has been to let go a little. I now have more time to write than I’ve had in years, and that’s great. I don’t need to beat myself up for WHAT I decide to write at any given moment in time. Some days, I’ll show up to my computer, and I’ll start typing out blog posts; some days, I’ll want to visit my novel or a short story. If there’s ever a need for concentration in one area, it will arise naturally; for now, I have the freedom to write the thing that feels best in the present.

I only have a certain amount of time to write. But I want to devote as much of my non-writing time as possible to runway work – time to prep for the moments when I can finally sit down and put words on the blank page. I can feel it happening already – I’ll start pondering a potential blog post while I’m out on the trail running, or I’ll make a note when I’m reading of an interesting plot point an author has used.

Ever since my sabbatical started, I have a feeling of lightness in my heart that I haven’t had in years. I’m excited to see where the lightness takes me. For now – my butt’s in the chair, and I’ll be here, typing away.

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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 · 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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anxiety · goals · self-care

Funcertainty

Lately, I’ve been contemplating my relationship with uncertainty.

I am not a fan.

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In fact, I wrestle with uncertainty. I sometimes will make a crappy decision – one that I don’t feel good about – just so that things can be decided. Certain. Over and done with.

It’s not a good way to be, especially in a life that is filled with uncertainties, good and bad, nerve-wracking and wonderful.

Usually when I am wrestling with uncertainty, it’s because I am imagining the worst possible outcome occurring. This is funny, because if you ask me if I’m an optimist or a pessimist, I’ll say, without hesitation, that I’m an optimist. I believe that most things work out for the best. AND, more importantly, I believe that I am a happier and better version of myself when I believe that most things work out for the best.

That’s the theory. In actuality, I am a worrier, and I often worry excessively about outcomes. Much as I try to just do the next right thing and not get too attached to what comes out of it, I can almost always feel myself angsting about what will be.

I don’t think I was like this as a kid; my mom would know better than me, I bet. But I don’t remember being an anxious child, although it’s possible I was underneath and that it just manifested in different ways.

For me, I think the first time I was really anxious about uncertainty was when I was 21 years old. My dad had died six months ago, and I’d just moved overseas to Barcelona with a few college friends. I was taking a course, becoming certified to teach English as a second language, and the course was nearing the end.

Which meant I needed to find a job. In order to pay my rent.

PANIC.

It was so much easier dealing with uncertainty as a child, and as a college student. Very little was at stake, and, thanks to my parents, I had a secure and comforting safety net. (Though I don’t think I was consciously aware of it at the time.) But sitting in my tiny Barcelona apartment, facing the panic of the unknown – I felt an uneasiness that I’d never felt before.

I often wonder if this was related to recently losing my father. Would I have become quite so overwhelmed if I wasn’t right there in the middle of my grief? I’ll never really know. I mean, of course they were related – my grief and my panic, my panic and my grief. And of course, also, they had nothing to do with each other. It’s always both/and. Everything is its own thing, and also everything is connected.

This is basically a big lead-up into the title of this post, FUNCERTAINTY, which is a concept that I possibly made up and might mean nothing to anyone but me. But bear with me.

The reason why I angst about uncertainty is that I ask myself and the universe this question: What if everything falls apart and is terrible?

So – if I want to feel less uncomfortable with uncertainty – can I re-train myself to ask a different question?

Such as: WHAT IF EVERYTHING IS MORE AWESOME THAN I EVER THOUGHT WAS POSSIBLE?

 

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http://www.amelix.co.uk/awesome-week/

 

Seriously. What if everything turns out awesome?

This possibility usually does not even occur to me. When I was younger, I daydreamed about amazing things happening to me and for me and around me. But that’s been harder for me to do recently. I’m not old, but I’m also not 18 anymore. Daydreaming is way different these days.

WHAT IF EVERYTHING TURNS OUT AWESOME? What if I achieve all my personal goals, all my career goals, all my travel goals, all my financial goals, all my family goals, and also do a whole bunch of awesome stuff that hasn’t even crossed my mind?

I have no idea what’s coming next in life – when Our Second Baby will come home, when I’ll identify a clear career goal, when we’ll find a farm to buy. But I like the idea of trying to switch things around on myself – imagining awesome things happening instead of worrying about things that may suck.

FUNCERTAINTY. Same exact situation as UNCERTAINTY – but with a more hopeful state of mind and an openness to the possibility of good things happening.

I like it.