Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hopeless Wanderer

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on my word for 2014.  That word to guide me.  That word that I need.  Last year, the word was awake.  I wanted to be more mindful of my world.
This year, the word is hope.

Folks, I am weary.  And I’m not weary from the work that I do.  Ok, sometimes I am.

But what am I really weary of?
I am weary of cynicism.

I am weary of negativity.
I am weary of assumption.

And I am guilty of all of the above. 
I took the picture above on a run this fall.  We had some major flooding in the state.  Nearby us is a park that was built for the purpose of flood containment.  After the flood waters had cleared, I was able to survey some of the damage, and I found this.

I didn’t understand what I saw at first.
The brown of the trees, that was the area covered in flood water.  The tips changing in color for the season, that was untouched by the flood.

The trees were still hanging on.

At times, I feel like those trees.  Weighed down by my own negativity and cynicism.  At the top, there is a glimmer of who I can be.  There is a glimmer of hope.
This is the year of hope.

This is when I start to believe that I can do better.  This is when I start to believe that we can all do better. 
In the work that I do, I meet so many people who have run out of people who care.  Friends and family have given up.  And sometimes, those healthy boundaries need to be set.  I can appreciate a healthy boundary.  But sometimes, all people need is someone to simply be with them. 

They don’t need judgment. 
They don’t need sympathy.

They need a person.  A real person.  A real person to say, I am here.  You are not alone.
Sometimes, they need a warrior.  Maybe we can’t always be that.  But we can be there.  We can be present.  My hope for this year is that we stop dismissing people.  That regardless of how someone’s life looks different than ours, that we still hear their story.  That we believe in people.

At the very least, I know that we can be kind. 
I look to the sign on my mantel.  The only decoration now that the Advent season is over.  Life is good.

I know that it life is good for me.  I have been blessed with much.  I have made it through some dark times.  Times when I lost hope.  But what about others?
I need to believe that life is truly good.

So this year, I am going to do my best to look beyond the cynicism.  The negativity.
This year I am going to dare to hope.

Hope that I can be a better person.  Hope that I can overcome my own assumptions and negativity.  Or at least contain it.
Hope that we can all strive for kindness.  That we can put away our need to be right and instead choose kindness.

Last year, I was inspired by a Mumford and Sons song, and this year is the same.
So when your hope's on fire
But you know your desire
Don't hold a glass over the flame
Don't let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road
One of my friends recently posted the following quote on facebook.  It desperately needed to reach my spirit.
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place. - Kurt Vonnegut
I needed to hear these words. 
I need to let hope take over. 

So this year, I am going to be mindful of hope.  I am going to think back to those trees. 
I am going to let hope shine through.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Goodbye 2013

One of my favorite days from 2013

Another year has come to an end.  2013 was a pretty good year.  For the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about those goals that I set for myself last January and wondered how I measured up.
And then I started getting on myself for what I haven’t accomplished.

And then I realized that there was no end point with these goals.  They were about making those small steps to create a better life.
Let’s take a look, shall we?

I wanted to create some routines that make life easier.  I wanted to create some space in my head for peace.

Most nights, the kitchen is clean when I go to bed.  Most nights, the large obstacles on the floor have been picked up.
I’m still working on the balance of my to-dos and flexibility for fun.  I’m actually trying to get away from rigid routines on my Fridays off without the kids.  Sometimes, the weather is good, and I want to go on a long run.  Sometimes, I want to go to a fabric store without having to say, “Stay here!  Don’t touch that!”  And I’m finding that when I allow for that flexibility, I am more refreshed and ready to tackle the to-dos.

I’m looking for the small things that make life easier.  I realized that a big drain on our grocery budget (and my time) was that we were not eating our leftovers.  Now, if I make something that has multiple nights of leftovers, I freeze it right away instead of letting it waste away in the fridge.  And if the fridge is full of food, I don’t go to the grocery store simply because that’s what I do on Fridays.  Last week, we had an enormous amount of leftovers.  Billy asked if I was going to the store.  I asked him where the groceries would go because our fridge was packed with food.
In this coming year, I’m going to keep looking for those simple things that make life easier.

I think I did a stellar job at improving in this area.  Remember when I told you that adults need to be eating 4 ½ cups of produce every day?  I thought that was impossible to achieve.  I played around with it.  A couple months in, I realized that if I take a big salad every day for lunch, I am getting a great start on my produce requirement.  I also pack fruit in my lunchbag.  Often, I eat all of my 4 ½ cups of produce while I am at work.  The veggies with dinner is just an extra.  And I have to admit, my body is happier.  I can tell if I miss a couple of days of eating well if I am on vacation or over the weekend.

I still hate eating salad.
I ran a lot this past year.  I ran my first half marathon.  Right now, at the beginning of January, I am feeling a bit lazy with my running.  It’s definitely seasonal.  Early sunsets don’t allow a lot of time for running after work.  I’m not a running in the dark (or running on snow and ice) person.  I know there are those of you who do those things.  That’s not me.

I am genuinely surprised at how these changes seem so ingrained in me now, probably more than any other area that I wanted to improve.  I would like to continue that for the new year.

2013 was the year that I learned how to sew.  I took a couple formal classes, spent a couple days sewing with my Sewer Sister on vacation and have been watching a lot of sewing videos on youtube.  I really like watching sewing videos.  Billy makes fun of me.

I made a lot of Christmas presents this year-headbands and scarves are where I am at with my sewing level.  I made Katy a skirt for her birthday.  That was my first adventure with elastic.
Sewing is always an adventure.  I am constantly learning from my mistakes.  But sewing is supposed to be fun.  And it’s ok that it’s not perfect.

And I had no idea how therapeutic it would be as well!
I’m hoping to improve my sewing skills in this next year and continue trying new crafty ideas.

I think I saved the most challenging area for last.  This area of building relationships isn’t challenging because of other people.  It’s challenging because of me.  It’s challenging because of the work that I do and how that has changed me.

Honestly, sometimes I get home from work, and I do not want to be around other people.  I want to zone out on Pinterest.  I want to go on a run.
I want to be by myself.

For a long time, I thought this was me being selfish.  Recently, Billy’s mom reflected on the work that Billy and I do, and how it impacts us.  I’ve been letting that reflection roll around in my head.  We were talking about looking for a new house and what we would be looking for, specifically around home improvement projects and yard work.  Billy and I do not want a home that has a lot (or any) of those things because we will simply not get it done.  It would be another burden.  His mom validated that, reflecting on how hard our jobs are, and how of course we want to relax on the weekends instead of loading up on projects.
I think it was the grace I needed to give myself.  And not just about home improvement projects, but about life.

I have a job that, at times, feels like it drains part of my soul.  I’m not trying to be dramatic.  When you see some of the worst of humanity on a daily basis, it wears on you.
And I do need alone time.  I do need time to run, or craft, or play on the computer.  If I don’t recharge my mind, my spirit, I won’t be able to do this work anymore.  And if I don’t recharge, I left nothing left for those closest to me.

So as far as this area of relationships, I will do the best that I can.  Because sometimes, I simply have nothing else to give.
And in 2014, I am going to give myself the grace to say, doing the best that I can is enough.

This was probably the first year ever that I have been mindful about reflecting on how my goals turned out.  Usually they are forgotten by February.  It felt good to check in with myself throughout the year to see how I was doing.  Maybe I wasn’t always successful, but I still tried.

Looking back, maybe these weren’t goals at all.  Maybe priorities would be a better way of describing them.  Or areas of improvement.  Either way, I hope to carry them into this year as well.

With all those salads.