Every year, I start with a "word of the year", then take each facet of my life and decide what actions need to be taken to improve. Then, I break down my overall goals into month-size chunks. Once I have my month chunked out, I can assign dates on the calendar as goal posts to keep me on track. Life can become overwhelming real quick when you juggle homeschooling, a large family, working from home and extra-curricular activities. It helps to have a game plan, just in case "life happens" and I get derailed along the way. (Like, um, last year)
My word of the year is alignment. As in, "Align your actions with your intentions".
Click through to see my goals - and updates - for 2014, my year of ALIGNMENT:
When I was pregnant with my third child, I found a great midwife about five minutes from my home. She was experienced and well-liked in the community, had a second home on Block Island (known for its raucous beach parties and Booze Beggars) and children of her own. Down to earth with a bit of spunk, she was my kind of gal.
I went in for a routine exam near the end of the pregnancy and found myself sitting "in the position" for much longer than normal. The office was busy, people were literally jogging down the halls. It was summer and a lot of babies were on the way. The previous winter had been pretty rough, leaving lots of time for indoor activities ...
Once the assisting nurse returned with the requested obstetric torture device, the exam resumed its normal pace. Scratchy paper gown askew, spotlight just behind my midwife's head, blinking overhead fluorescent bulbs for ambiance. We talked about the weather, our husbands and kids while swabs and slides were passed from one nurse to another.
You can imagine my surprise when out of all of this excitement I hear, "What smells so ... GOOD?".
It was my midwife, face to face with my baby delivery system.
"Seriously, what smells like cotton candy?". She sounded almost upset, which caused the assisting nurse to fumble a bit.
I managed to squeak, "Um ... my new lotion?" before we all busted up laughing. My poor midwife realized too late that she had been speaking directly to my birth canal and had to roll backwards on her wee black stool to compose herself.
A few weeks later when we met at the hospital for the birth of my son, I held up my lotion with a wink and said, "I got what you need. Let's do this!"
We had a little snowfall last night here in North Carolina. The roads iced over and neighborhood kids scrambled to get in some good sledding down the hill to the cul-de-sac before the sunshine melted it all away. We don't see much snow in these parts, so there was a big showing of sweatpants and athletic hoodies instead of proper sledding gear. One of our friends uses pizza pans for her kids sledding enjoyment. I admit, I'm a little jealous that I didn't think of that ...
A funny thing happened this morning. As dozens of kids were slip sliding down the ice and snow, squealing their little heads off, there was a man in a minivan skidding uphill. Every time he revved the engine, his front wheels spun and screeched. No concern for the dozens of kids sledding past; he was on a mission.
This went on for a few minutes, until a few teenage boys from the neighborhood grabbed kitty litter to "salt" the road with. We laughed and shook our heads as they passed by, pushing all their weight into the still struggling minivan. With one more stubborn VREEEEEET! he was off and moving up the road.
Now, imagine that from the terrorized viewpoint of onlooking parents. Not really an occasion for laughter, right?
Yet, the kids were all immersed in this slap-stick scene: a grown man unable to maneuver his own minivan to the point where it involves "the stuff the cat poops on". They clapped and cheered as he drove off, without one nod to the imminent danger they were in just a few minutes before. When other cars would attempt the hill, they'd respond the same. Every time it was awe followed by cheering, then back to sled races with their friends.
I wonder when it happens that we all start worrying so much that we shrug off that part of ourselves which craves joy.
As we move into the second month of 2014, I hope you're claiming joy despite your circumstances.
Recently, a dear friend was asking our group if mindfulness meditation was appropriate for her teen. Most of the responses were positive or "What the heck is mindfulness?", but there was one response that became louder than the others.
"This raises red flags all over the place for me. The lotus flower on the website is symbolic of Buddhism. That's where it originated, after all. The music on the site sounds like a yoga CD from Target, and we don't want our kids to be bowing to false Hindu gods like people who do yoga. Run! Get yourself a good Christian counselor and don't look back!"
It really chaps my thighs when Christians act so fearful and foolish. In this case, I feel it was just a matter of not knowing scripture well enough to be okay with a lotus flower and flute-y tunes on a website.
What does the bible say about the mind?
Here's my Wednesday confession: I spend way too much time reading about psychology.
Last year, I knew next to nothing about borderline personality disorder. With all our researching, reading, conference-ing and talking about it in our community ... I still feel like we're miles behind where we should be.
What I know for sure:
Our brains are hard-wired for negative thoughts and internalizing negative experiences as future negative thoughts (e.g., "Remember that one time, at band camp, when I peed my pants in front of everyone?"). If we can master the art of reprogramming our brain to internalize positive experiences, we can transform ourselves into happier human beings.
Happiness generates a healthy life. A happier human being has a stronger immune system than an unhappy human being. A happier human being is less sedentary. A happier human being is a breeding ground for dopamine, the "I feel great!" hormone. Happier human beings have no internal drive for bringing pain or stress to other human beings - or themselves.
With all the stress, confusion, medical expenses, & general suckage that can come with parenting a teen with borderline personality disorder - it would be really easy for the Mr. & I to throw in the towel, sink deep into negative thoughts and stagnate there. The exceptional thing is finding moments of happiness and downloading them into our brains. I don't know about you, but I deeply desire an exceptional life. Isn't it amazing that the human body is designed in every way to heal itself? Isn't it amazing that we can empower ourselves simply by changing the way we THINK?
Marinate on that for a minute.
The other day, a song I hadn't heard before came on the radio. The kiddos were in the backseat, jammin' along & having a great time. The baby was content to wiggle her feet, snug-as-a-bug in her carseat. I decided to take the long way home, through winding streets lined with Carolina pines. I'm sure I looked a hot mess, as is my norm. For those 3 or 4 minutes though, I put my pride on hold.
That's my joy moment.
There's a lot of chatter in the inspirational and entrepreneur blog circuits about having a word for the year. The word becomes your jumping off point for where your intentions lie. As a Christian, I want to tell you that my word for the year is Jesus.
... but that's not a boots-on-the-ground approach to how I would love 2014 to unfold.
I tried out a lot of words before coming to the word that fits my heart for this year.
I know, I know - it's supposed to be wordless Wednesday. What if we did something just a little bit different and attached a word to each Wednesday of this month? What if that could be a way of aligning our actions with our intentions? Imagine it: every Wednesday this month, I choose joy. Maybe I royally screw up every other day of the week with choosing joy, but for one day of the week, I'm conciously choosing and verbally reminding myself.
Joy, joy, joy.
I choose joy.
I reject sadness. I reject feelings of unworthiness. I reject fear.
I reject anger. I reject holding grudges. I reject gossip.
I reject any ol' thing that is attempting to suck the joy molecules out of my personal space today.
In that spirit, I'm sharing some of my favorite images from around the interwebs that speak joy to me. You're welcome. :)
When our daughter was in the hospital, we were allowed brief visitation periods. Visitors were corralled in the hospital's gymnasium: brown and beige, old and funky. For the first few minutes all I could hear were the sounds of vintage student chairs scraping the wooden floor. We all stood in an awkward line, as if we were signing in late for school. Parents craned their necks into the small window that separated Gym Occupiers from Patients, trying to catch a glimpse of their child approaching.
During that first visit, my husband and I were both in a rage. We had no idea how our child was being treated. All communication from the hospital was muddled. Calls were dropped, messages were cut off, nurses on one floor weren't communicating with nurses on another floor. It had been days since we'd seen our baby girl, and the only things we were sure of were: she's locked in, she has no personal effects and she needs help.
It would have been really easy to lose our minds. Looking around us, parents were gripping onto each other in sobs. Their grief was palpable. A grandmother sat swaying with her grandchild in one corner, both quietly crying onto the shoulder of the other. In our new-to-this state, we imagined that those parents & that grandmother had stories much like ours. Hi, we're confused. We have no idea what's going on and we're terrified. The staff was combative or dismissive, depending on the topic of conversation. This only amplified the worry and frustration filling the gym.
We chose joy instead. I don't say this lightly. In that dank room full of hurting families, we decided to hold tight to one another. We decided to smile instead of cry. We decided to express gratitude instead of shame our child. We decided to pray and hold fast to faith. Love became a verb that night, with all signs pointing to "GIVE UP, you've been beaten". We made a different choice. We chose joy.
When you direct your focus towards thoughts of love, acceptance and joy - you have no spare energy for opposite thinking.
The marvelous thing about deciding to change your mindset during a chaotic moment is that it's constantly available to you. It's not only available, it's accessible. There is no earning joy. Joy doesn't belong to any particular person, object or place. Choosing joy does not have to make sense. All that is required of you is to be still, take a breath, and CHOOSE.
I'll be the first to tell you: I make a lot of mistakes.
Some days, it seems like I can't get out the door without mucking up the entire day. The house is a mess, we're running an hour off schedule, I've missed a playdate the kids were looking forward to, and I can't find my glasses (which are usually - hahaha - on my face). Somewhere between losing my ever lovin' mind and calling it quits at 11am, my 10 yr. old son will touch my arm and say:
It's okay, mom. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has bad days. In fact, I'm having one right now.
Bless his heart.
Unfortunately, there have been mistakes I've made that aren't laughed away by a dimpled-face kid with a healthy grip on sarcasm. I've participated in some really stupid shenanigans. I've been a bad friend. I've been a selfish wife. I've been judgmental and cold where I should have shown humility and kindness. I've held on too long to relationships that were toxic, or simply no longer served a positive purpose in my life. The ripple effect of these decisions can be heartbreaking when you're single ... and absolutely gut you from the inside when you're a mother. You realize that fumbling through life is no longer "okay". You're here for something big, something you can't quite name yet. It calls to you on sleepless nights and lets your mind race with ideas.
And what of these mistakes? Have they rippled so big and so loud that you can't reverse or re-route their effects? I'm here to assure you that isn't the case. There is always, always a way to glean the lessons from those bumps in the road (or Grand Canyon-sized blunders, in my case) and utilize them towards your ultimate purpose. I like to take these baby steps towards loving myself, re-routing the ripple effect of my mistakes and ultimately experiencing joy from the process:
The #1 thing I have heard while navigating a crisis was “Let me know if I can help!”.
My knee-jerk reaction has always been, “Hm. That’s an odd thing to say”.
Of course you CAN help!
The question is: will you?
1. Bring meals to the family and/or organize a meal sign-up for your group/church/community so they won’t have to worry about one more thing this week.
2. Offer to pray with them, or write texts/emails/letters of encouragement.
3. Parents often feel isolated during a family crisis. Will you continually check on the family in person to see that EVERYONE is functioning?
4. Offer to run errands for them. During a crisis, parents who are normally on top of their game are known to go into ineffective mode. Running simple errands like returning library books, dropping off/picking up dry cleaning, running carpool – is a HUGE help.
5. Offer to babysit their other children (if any) so they can present a united front at the hospital, courthouse, etc.
6. Sit with them at the hospital (or other potentially uncomfortable location), so they don’t continue to feel isolated and adrift.
7. Check in more than once a week, to make sure Mom/Dad/Both are going okay emotionally. (and if not, provide as much emotional support as you can)
8. Offer to start a caringbridge.com support page, to wrap them in as much team support as possible.
9. Gently, very gently, coax mom out of the house. If she’s got other children, she’s likely using her daily work as a means of keeping her sanity above water. Assure her that it is okay if she steps out for a latte, then make sure to get her laughing while she’s out!
These are the things that have been a help and a healing experience for us during the midst of our trials. Knowing deep down into your core that there are people out there who care about you and genuinely want to help do immeasurably more than a flippant “Aw, that sucks” or “Gee, wish I could give you advice” (both of which have happened to us by well-meaning folks).
“You never know how far reaching something you say or do today will be in the future” ~ B.J. Palmer