Yeah, I know, it's February. Not exactly the typical time for a "year in review" post, but what can I say? I'm a rebel. With a blog.
I've been feeling really scattered the last few years. (This is perhaps due to having back-to-back-to-back babies, but who's counting?) To keep myself grounded, I started picking a word of the year. For 2016, the word was WISDOM. The fact that I picked that word says more about what I felt I needed than about what I actually learned in 2016. However I did learn some important lessons, come to think of it. . . .
1. Girls ain't so bad. I was seriously scared of having a daughter. Girls, ugh... all that drama. And lipstick. And dresses. And pink. I was a major tomboy as a kid, and even now as a grown woman, I can literally count on one hand the number of times per year I wear dresses. There was a reason I jokingly referred to my first two pregnancies (with boys) as "dodging the pink bullet." I was scared to death of how to raise and interact with a girl, even in baby form. But as is often (nay, always) the case, God knew what I needed better than I did myself. And so, I was given my third child, a daughter named Ruby. She put all my fears to rest, almost immediately. She sleeps great, she eats great, she smiles constantly, she gives me the biggest open-mouthed grin whenever she sees me after any length of time apart (even an hour) and leans into my neck, pulling on my hair and trying to consume me, it seems. I cannot imagine our family without her, and I cherish every moment I get to hold her, tickle her, and see her return my smile with her own sweet little giggle. So, yes. Lesson learned. Having a daughter is a pretty cool thing. (Caveat: Check back for an update once she hits the preteen years.)
2. I can do hard things. I've heard of folks repeating this to themselves as a sort of pep-talk mantra. "I can do hard things, I can do hard things, I can do hard things." And there were definitely times this year when I resorted to that strategy. But mostly I just cried, or prayed, or sighed with exasperation, or snuck off to a closet for a few stolen moments of sanity-restoring solitude. This year I had three kids under age three, for three months. It was as crazy and exhausting as you probably imagine. There were definitely days when I thought, sincerely, that I would not make it until my darling husband got home from work. But now, having come out the other side, I can say that I survived. I did not lose my mind (completely). Hard things got done. By the grace of God, the crucible did not destroy me. And you know what? It's one thing to believe/hope/pray you can do hard things. It's another to actually prove that to yourself. And that knowledge is a very powerful thing.
3. I need people, even (especially?) when I don't think I do. So, as a proud introvert, I was not prepared for this epiphany. People = a necessary evil. Sure, I have a handful of good friends, and I like my family most of the time. But anyone beyond that? Not so much. Enter the year of adjusting to three kids, and I learned just how desperate I could become for adult interaction. You try spending 12 hours changing diapers, cleaning up messes, preparing meals, feeding small humans (and if you're lucky, yourself too), and see if you don't miss even something as simple as a "Hey, how's it going?" from a store cashier. This year I came to realize the value of friendships. My old friends and my new friends all supported me in amazing ways, from bringing food to our home when Ruby was a newborn, to texting me with encouraging words, to praying with me when I felt like I was going insane, to sharing their own struggles in a humble way that made me realize I was not alone in this journey. There were times when I couldn't make it to our get-togethers. And guess what? I missed them. Truly missed them. Much more than I thought I ever would. For someone who craves time alone like a fire craves oxygen, that was a pretty big deal.
4. Nature heals the soul. This year was a tough one, a marathon of hard days and interrupted nights, all running together. But whenever I had those awful days/weeks when I wondered, Will I ever feel like myself again? there would come a moment when we would get outside, and something in the wind would restore me to myself. That might not make sense, but it worked. Every time. We went to the beach, to the park, to the back yard. I felt the sunshine, inhaled the breeze, saw the clouds, heard the squirrels and the birds . . . and something clicked back into place. It was almost like a dislocated shoulder, and I had almost gotten used to the pain, when suddenly—pop! I felt my soul snap back where it belonged. So if I learned my lesson, this year I'll do the wise thing and force myself to get outdoors more often with the kids. It truly resets my spirit and gets me back to feeling like me.
That was 2016, in a nutshell. Pain endured, wisdom gained.
So what do I hope to gain in 2017? Well, my new word of the year is JOY.
I have wasted far too much of my emotional energy on things that do not bring joy, either to me or to others. So the goals for 2017 are to fix that. How? Here's my game plan:
1. Do more things that fill me with joy. Like reading, writing, hiking, baking, doing art projects, snuggling with my kids, and going on dates with my husband. By definition, this time will have to come from somewhere. So I will spend less time doing stuff that does NOT fill me with joy: reading product reviews for future purchases, mindlessly surfing the internet, watching Netflix late at night (when I should be sleeping!), and sitting around feeling tired/sorry for myself.
2. Choose to rejoice. Even on the hard days. Because guess what? If God made this day, we're supposed to rejoice in it! And as Elwood P. Dowd once said, "Every day is a beautiful day." Indeed. Happiness is a feeling, but joy is a choice. (I'm probably stealing that idea from someone who said it more eloquently, but you get the point.)
3. Refuse to let anyone steal my joy. That includes mean people, angry people, sad people, and the devil himself. This even includes me and my melancholy-prone self. I've gotten into a bad habit over the years of letting other people's reactions dictate how I feel. If they're disappointed in me, I'm disappointed in myself. If they're mad at me, I'm mad at myself. If their feelings are hurt, I must be guilty (and guilt-stricken). No more! This is the year I want to make a devoted effort to control my own attitude, not give anyone else the power to control it.
That's it! That's enough. :) What are your goals for the year 2017?