Monday, January 02, 2012

I've gotta hand it to myself...

...this was basically an awesome Christmas.  I love spending Christmas in our own house and having the kids wake up and run to their own tree and just doing our own thing.  For about two hours straight on Christmas Eve, our three-year-old walked around with a blanket over her head playing Mary (tucking a baby Jesus with a strong Cinderella resemblance into a pack-n-play with a pillow pet) while our nearly-two-year-old ran around as a renegade angel, waving a star wand and shouting "Behold!"  It was really, really sweet.  We had a big fat Christmas dinner party with a random assortment of friends (11 adults, 8 kids, 2 infants. It pretty much rocked.  I learned a lot from last year and (a) lowered my standards significantly and (b) only made the meat and rolls and invited everyone else to take care of the rest.  Totally recommend that.)  In sum, it was a perfect day full of family and friends and fun and not much stress, and for that I am grateful. 

I've heard it takes two years to feel at home somewhere: one year to get to know people and another to learn to love them.  I suspect that's true.  This is our third winter here in Iowa and so far, things are ideal (and not just because it hasn't snowed yet).  I haven't lived anywhere this long as an adult, and I feel like I am finally getting into my groove.

I know that means change is afoot.

Our kids are at very sweet (though sneaky) ages and are surprisingly independent; I like my calling; I like my job; I like my friends; I like my scene.  Which is remarkable because for the first little while of my existence with multiple children, I was operating at a pretty basic level, totally groove-less in a sea of babydom that's adorable in its chaos but nonetheless, chaotic.  And now our kids are getting bigger and I'm sloooowly learning to navigate this life.  Also, you know what?  I'm a kickass welcome wagon.  Honestly, my newfound friendliness is pretty hit-and-miss, but the misses are some of the best parts due to hilarity, and by hilarity I mean awkwardness level. Despite the hilarious misses, I remain largely unfazed.

Basically, it took me a few to get my footing in this new scene of mine in a new region of the country. Essentially, my takeaway from 2011 is that I learned to prioritize in smarter ways and anticipate my own needs better.  So this is my advice to old me and to the Internets and who(m)ever else about what I learned in the past year:
  1. Decide what doesn't matter and chuck it!  Be ruthless.  For example, when it comes to my kids' clothing, I want them to look reasonable and feel good, the end.  I don't see them as an extension of me and my identity's not wrapped up in it and I never want to have a conversation about brands or patterns or blahblahblah.  (Stay tuned for a forthcoming post about this principle.)  Because I don't care, I refuse to care or expend much time or energy on it, and that refusal is quite liberating.  This goes for bigger things, too, but clothes are an easy example.  Look at something.  Be honest with yourself about how much you care.  If your answer is, "I care very little," then just put it away.  You only answer to yourself, and your family if you have one, and God if you believe in one.  But you're in charge of you and what's important to you, and that is awesome.  
  2. Adjust your expectations.  This is less depressing than it sounds, but I often recommend lowering your standards significantly.  For example, when we had our first baby, I felt really uptight about her sleeping.  All anyone wanted to know was "How is she sleeping?" "Is your sleeping?"  "How was your night last night?" and every night I felt like a failure, because she wasn't sleeping great, and a barrage of well-meaning questions reduced me to tears.  And I realized that keeping score by how she slept was going to make me bummed out.  What's the solution?  STOP IT.  She's a baby!  I made peace with the fact that because we have small children, we are going to get crappy sleep.  Any sleep anybody gets for the next decade should feel like a bonus.  Voila!  I suddenly felt awesome because did we get SOME sleep? Yes!  Then, hurray!  So, do that with whatever's bumming you out. 
  3. Value your time.  I regret wasting absurd amounts of time on really dumb things that didn't matter to anyone, at all, ever.  For a simple example, briefing every case in law school?  That is dumb.  No one knows, or cares.  You need the information in that case, and you need to know the legal principle(s) contained therein, end of story.  You don't get a trophy for the briefing process or for taking three hours to do a one hour job.  So quit glorifying the process and start thinking about results.  Another example is making something homemade and complicated for a YW activity.  THAT IS STUPID.  From now on, if we need, say, cookies, I am buying them, unless there is a specific benefit to making them.  If I feel like making them, I will, because I do what I want.  But if I don't feel like making them, I will buy them and never feel bad about it.  What's more important, my afternoon or $5?  My afternoon!  Just because you have little kids doesn't mean you should spend your day on useless stuff that you don't find fulfilling.  Don't be a martyr!  If it's important to you and/or your kids, do it.  If it's not, forget it.  Delegate it or ditch it all together. 
  4. Figure out the introvert-extrovert thing and take care of yourself accordingly.  Does everyone else already know this?  Introverts expend energy when they interact with others, and need to recharge with solitude. Extroverts GAIN energy when they interact with others, and recharge from other people.  Just picture yourself after a fun party.  Are you drained?  Introvert.  Are you pumped up?  Extrovert.  This means if you're an extrovert, you need to be around people.  For me, this means making friends, and if no one is friendly, it means finding friends and making my own fun, and also getting a kickass job that allows me to gain energy from other people, and some financial independence, and avoid mushbrain, and feel like myself.  But the tricky part is figuring out how much work is just enough to keep you awesome, and how to keep it from becoming so much work that you go crazy.  Still working on that.

Anyway, it wasn't a perfect year, but it was a pretty great one, and those are a few takeaways I learned the hard way.   The end.  Got any takeaways from YOUR 2011?