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?


Brooke said...

I LOVE this! Particularly #2.

I'd have to say my takeaway this year was "it's OK to take a vacation without checking everything off on your to-do list first" and "it's far better to be happy than admired."

Your party sounds ridiculously fun. And I really hope that there were some actual renegade angels among the bunch that announced the Savior's birth. I like the thought of a spunky angel running around and yelling "Behold!" in Littlest Angel style. One of my favorite Christmas books of all time.

Mhana said...

Mine are similar to yours
1) Be the change you want to see in the ward. I've started bounding up to people with enthusiasm and inviting them to my home for meals. We had a party in our yard at least once a week this summer and cooked a lot of meat. There were moments when I felt sick of it or frustrated, but so many people have said they've never felt so welcome in a ward of made friends so quickly, and I feel like I was part of that. At heart I am something of an introvert and Imuch prefer being alone with a good book or having quality time in small groups, but since I do cherish friends it is important to do the work of making them. If nothing else, I feel good for having helped others feel good.

2) Saying no is okay and is not selfish. It is okay to ask to be released from a calling. It is okay, nay awesome, to have a once-a-month calling (teaching RS. LOVE. IT.)

Just SO said...

Great advice. I've never worried about clothing much and I have no problem buying cookies and keeping it simple. And my expectations are rarely very high. I can roll with pretty much whatever.

I do however seem to have a split personality. Where sometimes I love being around people and others I want to be left alone. This can be disconcerting and highly frustrating at times.

Liz said...

I love #4. I lol'd and then lol'd some more. Since I am new in my YW calling, I feel that I have to impress a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds by making yummy cupcakes from scratch all the time. Yes, I do love to bake and it's therapeutic for me. But come on, it's so time consuming and they would seriously love anything I brought because they are that awesome. I'm going to get the same amount of love from them no matter what I bring so why spend every Wednesday afternoon running around like crazy trying to make something? Besides, if I buy something from the store, they will love it even more when I DO make something homemade and it will be a special little treat for them that they won't get very often. I needed to hear this. Tomorrow, each girl is bringing their favorite treat to share and I was thinking about what I needed to make. Nope, I will just run to the store and buy it!!

Erin said...

love this. i had too many thoughts so i just decided to blog it myself and you can check them out there.

although i think it is funny that we are opposites. (a) i like dressing my kids; (b) i like making baked goods for the young women; (c) my "lessons learned" are all about DOING things whereas many of yours are about NOT DOING things; and (d) i'm an introvert, which possibly explains (a) through (c).

Liz said...

Didn't get to finish my comment. :)

Basically, my takeaway from 2011 is to just run the other way. It's hard for me to avoid comparing myself to others, so the way I combat this is to just avoid situations, conversations, etc. that are going to lead to me either feeling stressed or feeling proud. Because I don't want to feel either of those things.

Amy said...

My takeaway is that working full-time at a big firm is not as fun as staying home with a cute and super awesome kiddo. And that just because I didn't grow and then push a kid out of a uterus I never had in the first place doesn't make me any less a mom to my daughter than any other mother.

On a side note, remember how there used to be that awesome blog that I loved? I miss it. I really do.

Deanna said...

Loved this post! I discovered the introvert/extrovert thing a couple of months ago and it has changed the way I see my needs and the way I see my children.

Deciding to do what you love and being choosy about how you spend your time can be a tricky business. It is super liberating when you can clearly define what is important. I discovered this year that I must exercise daily for sanity and coping skills. I would love to be healthier and thinner, and very gradually am becoming so, but that isn't my main motivation to wring my legs and lungs out in spin class. I am kinder to my family and have more energy when I exercise every day. I've learned to say no to things, even good things, when they cut into that important thing. I know it isn't vanity or self-importance, so I don't worry if it bothers anyone that I am inflexible about it.

Sister to your ruthless chucking, I have learned to embrace my interests, to make time for them and know they are important. For me, this year, that included guitar lessons, knitting, and smocking. (I am not an old lady. Knitting is cool! :)

Lost in Translation said...

Takeaways of 2011? Natural childbirth for the win! Even when family makes me crazy, they're family so deal with them. Having friends usually means being the one to plan stuff. Bedrooms have doors so the rest of my house can look clean.

Laurel said...

Love it. And if it's not too much to ask, could you add "blog more" as #5. Just kidding, you're probably way too busy, but I love to read what you write. And I'm dying to know where you're working.

Also, I saw this and it made me think of you

I have no idea if you've posted something similar or if you even garden, but I liked it. I bought myself the "Make your own damn dinner" magnet for Christmas.

~j. said...

I like your takeaways. Mine from 2011 include the ol' "if you don't have anything nice to say" (which, incidentally, was not taught to me as a kid), and a general sense of reminding myself to stop worrying so much and just enjoy such things as my daughter growing into her own person with her own opinions and tastes. Having her join the YW that I've taught (off & on) for so many years has me Getting More Serious about leading, guiding, and walking beside-ing (instead of bossing, yelling, dragging along-ing).

Also, I learned that people who think adulthood is simply an extension of high school will act that way, and to STEER CLEAR.

KT said...