Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Nu Start

We got back from our too long trip yesterday evening. Its so good to be back home, to have tasks to accomplish and plans to make and keep. But I'm also glad we're easing into it...back at work/daycare today, then off tomorrow, then 2 days back until the weekend. 

And it doesn't end this weekend. Monday night my parents are flying in, they'll be here all next week (and the kids will be at home) and my sister and her family come in Friday-Saturday for B's "friend" party on Saturday morning. A party I still need to plan and prepare! So it won't be until January 13th that we're back to a routine for all 4 of us. 

So I'm giving myself until then to think through and write out all my plans for 2014. I have been working (mentally) on my list of things I want to do next year and will post it once I've reviewed it with G. I've also been pondering a "word of the year". I initially thought about "Change" because I'd like things to change...but I don't really want to make or respond to any truly big life changes. Then I thought about "present" (i.e. "being in the...") or "open" (minded/hearted) but those seemed too touchy-feely. I very much relate to Anandi's "engage" but I don't know that I'm ready for that one quite yet...

I was at a loss. And then our house painter showed up. He already finished the first floor---we have gone from some crazy bright colors (sadly, ones we chose and painted ourselves, so no one else to blame for that hideousness) to some subdued and calming ones. Just doing that made us feel lighter. It also spurred us to do some rearranging and decluttering which intensified that feeling. 

This year I'm going with a phrase instead of a word: Lighten up. 

In all senses of the word---to actually lighten our load by unloading things and obligations, but also to let go of some of obsessive need for routine. To have more fun---at work and at home, with parenting and marriage. To do new things, to catch up with old friends without worrying about finding the right time to call, to entertain friends in our home without worrying about everything in the house being perfect*, to take the boys on adventures without worrying so much** about naps and bedtimes. To worry less in general. And say "yes" where I'd usually default to "no". 

This fall seemed so quick. The evenings got darker and darker and before I knew it we reached the solstice. And we're gaining daylight every day. The whole world is starting to lighten up, I can do it too.

*to be fair, my definition of "perfect" is a non-leaking roof, no household pest infestations, and no big drywall holes in the ceiling or walls...but this has prevented us from having a party for the past 2 years. 

**notice I said "so much"...I still stand by my assertion that sleep is requisite for optimal development and slightly-less-crazy behavior in young children.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sunshine and Snow

Thanks to Esperanza for the Sunshine Award. I'm not going to tag anyone and can't figure out the icon business, but I'll answer the questions since they are short & sweet!

1. Favorite word that isn’t really a word? Can I say its a secret? I have a term I call my boys that is absolutely nonsense but is used to mean "sweetie". 
2. Batman or Superman? The movies? Batman. Marriage material? Superman.
3. Best body part? Legs. I am very happy about my legs.
4. Greatest personal achievement? Residency
5. Diet or regular (or water)? Water

6. Yoga or running (or couch)? Running. Tried yoga, not for me. I actually feel more relaxed running.
7. Favorite store? Amazon
8. Bedtime routine? For myself I assume? Brush teeth, change clothes, get into bed and read for anywhere between 10-60 minutes
9. Favorite social media site? Facebook, the only social media site I'm on.
10. Biggest vice? Wasting time on the internet. Huge huge huge problem I really don't know how to address.

We had plans for this weekend to take the kids to some winter/holiday event and then go to G's boss's house for a holiday party. Both things are canceled due to chance of snow. We are instead having brunch with friends that live in the neighborhood and taking advantage of the sitter coming to go to dinner in the neighborhood. 

I'm a bit overwhelmed right now, trying to wrap up work and get stuff ready for our long trip to visit MIL. Hopefully some nice social time and a dinner out will help. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What makes me unhappy?

Totally stole this post idea from Sarah, who is using it to help define her happiness project goals. I agree that its a good exercise...figure out what really sucks the joy out of your life and try to minimize those things. My list probably has a lot of overlap with hers, given the universal nature of some of these items (is there anyone that LIKES wasting money?)

I'm going to expand my list to also include things that make me anxious or irritable, since I tend to feel those more than I feel "unhappy". Basically a "what makes me feel bad?" list.
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Clutter
  • Conflict
  • Feeling that I'm not meeting another's expectation (marriage, work, mothering, extended family)
  • Feeling frumpy
  • Losing things 
  • Having things hanging over my head
  • Loneliness 
  • Feeling left out
  • Missing out on (fun) things because of childcare issues
  • Being rushed
  • Being late
  • When others complicate plans
  • Impromptu changes in plans 
  • B's howling/hitting/screaming meltdowns
  • Sickness in immediate family
  • Inability of focus
  • Wasting time (specifically on the internet)
  • Wasting money 
  • Disorganization (myself or others)
  • Too much noise
  • Not exercising
  • Unhealthy eating (for more than one or two meals)
  • Yelling (myself or others)
  • Lack of any plans on weekends
  • Not leaving the house all day
Hmmm. Looking over this, it seems that many of these issues arise as the result of poor planning. Calendars and to-do lists to the rescue!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Oh, you don't wanna waste your life, now darling

Change, change, change....*

I'm no good at change. I get stuck in a rut and start to really like my rut, and get all cozy and comfortable with my rut, and suddenly its like "my beloved rut, don't leave me!!" You get the point.

Its time though.  I need some sort of shake up, because even my most-beloved rut is starting to get old and lame. I'm not even considering anything major. I'm not quitting my job, or moving, or even taking the kids out of their daycare. Even the tiniest tweaks in routine seem ginormous when you're deep in the rut, though.

I'm sure its news to no one that both G & I are quite often flustered and stressed and exhausted, and we are trying to fix it by changing our attitudes about it...as if we would stop feeling stressed and exhausted if we "re-framed" things as FUN and MEANINGFUL. And sure, having a good attitude is certainly PART of it. But the other part is actually making changes to reduce the activities that drain our energy and increase those that restore it.

I'm still working this out, but a few areas for change I've identified include:
  • the morning routine (or lack thereof)
  • the evening routine (i.e. Ana's second job)
  • weekend chores
  • alone time for both of us
  • quality marriage time
I'm also putting together a list of things I want to try to do in the upcoming year. Its getting pretty long and extremely exciting. And strangely enough, completely do-able, with enough advanced planning.

I need to talk to G about all of this of course, and that could well be the sticking point (it has been in the past). As much as I hate change, G hates planning. We've had these conversations almost annually, about wanting to change things, making it easier on all of us, and yet nothing ever happens. I'm actually writing this here for some kind of accountability. If I need to report on progress, it makes me much more likely to follow through (for a high achiever, I'm not that internally motivated, it turns out).
*does anyone get the reference?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

For the Better

As I focused on the negative changes in my psyche in my last post (so many thoughtful and wise comments by the way!), I would like to dwell a bit on the positives. And yes, I noticed that some of these are contradictory to what I discussed yesterday, I am complex.

I really have noticed myself maturing in the past few years. This may seem a little late to some of you, given that I'm in my mid-to-late 30s (where are those cut-offs anyways, I guess I just reached the last quarter of my 30s last week, so late-30s it is). But I definitely extended my young-adult status by schooling and training forever (until I was 33. Or 35 if you count the Masters), marrying late (29), and having children late (33 and 35). Here's a few things I've noticed that I consider improvements:

Empathy. I used to be quick to judge on the basis of one decision or action. I'm much more likely to look for all sides of the story now, to realize that most everyone is struggling with something whether it is apparent on the surface or not. When I think about all that goes into a decision or behavior, the past, present, and future that is held within each of our minds and hearts, it is easier to understand how one may choose differently than me...and still be a good, reasonable, intelligent person. I also don't let my own mood be ruined by others' rudeness the way I used to; telling myself that there may be a good reason behind it helps me let it go and move on. Being able to put myself into someone else's shoes makes my job both easier and harder (oh the tears I can barely hold back with some sad patient circumstances).

Confidence in my choices. After years of trying desperately to fit in, I've decided to forge my own way. It's not that I never care what others think. But I care a lot lot less. I don't have a smidgeon of guilt or insecurity about the vast majority of my parenting choices or many other lifestyle choices that I've made. I will freely admit I don't like things the majority of the world seems to love or that I love things that are so uncool they are not even cool in an ironic way.

Owning it.  This may be a big "duh" for most of you, but the notion that I control my own happiness was a game changer. For years my happiness was dependent on some combination of life circumstances, which was a very passive (and shallow) mindset. I expected to suddenly "be happy" when all these things came together (they didn't, I wasn't). To realize that I could make myself happier by changing my mindset and even certain behaviors was extremely empowering. Parallel to this, I also realized that I was not in charge of anyone else's happiness nor could I change them by sheer force of will.

Efficiency (and experience). At work and at home, I find the straightest point from A to B and get. it. done. Done is better than perfect. I can knock out a grant proposal,  a patient encounter and a casserole faster than I could've imagined. I don't fret the details, I prioritize the big things and gloss over the rest.

Satisficing It used to be well known in certain circles that Ana could not make a decision to save her life. No more. Any reasonable solution will do. We spent 15 minutes hashing out paint colors for our entire house this weekend because I just went with G's suggestions---they were fine. When we originally painted? Weeks of angst and perusing magazines and multiple trips to the store to look at swatches. My kids' wardrobes are purchased in 15 minutes online each season. (my clothes take way longer, because I enjoy shopping). Where to go to brunch? One of the two places we've been to 5 times last year. I'd rather BE at brunch eating my home fries than waste 45 minutes looking up every available brunch spot in town and hem and haw over the menu, the kid-appropriateness of it, the cost.

Gratitude This somewhat relates to the first two points, but I do realize how very lucky I am in all aspects of life. I no longer envy other people for anything they have or achieve, because I have and have achieved so much.

Focus on the present. Now that I'm no longer looking to "when this happens", I am much better able to revel in the present. Sure, I look forward to the future, but I also realize that these years right here? This is good stuff. I couldn't exactly say that as an adolescent or a 20-something trying to find her way. Because what I was waiting for? Was this.

So, while I may wish I could regain some of the carefree, spontaneous, laughter-filled attitude of my youth, I'm also pretty excited about the good stuff up ahead.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The girl I used to be...

Writing that last post, about getting more anal and less go-with-the-flow, made me think about how else I've changed (and not for the better) over time. In the spirit of a 3rd grade writing assignment that somehow has stuck in my mind, I give you

I used to be _____ but now I am _____

I used to be creative, now I am (what's the opposite of creative, see I can't even creatively think of a word) boring.
As a child, even a young adult, I loved to make things: poems, short stories, songs, drawings, art projects, paper mache turtles and mosaic coasters, Christmas ornaments, cross-stitched place mats. If I didn't make it from scratch, I could still fancy it up. Now I just...can't. I tried to get into the sewing things last year and while it was fun to dream up projects, buy fabric on-line, and even whip up a few easy pieces, the steep learning curve I would have to scale to really excel (or even progress beyond the paperbag-waisted skirt and velcro closure lunchbag) completely turned me off. I've become so relentlessly efficient about everything. The thought of expending time and energy when I could simply buy it with one click, the thought of decorating and embellishing when it works fine as is just doesn't jive with my get-it-done mindset.

I used to be open, now I am closed-off. There was little going on in my head that I didn't share with my close friends or significant others. My primary coping mechanism was to discuss things with someone. It helped immensely. Now I keep it all in and I am certain that at least part of my increasing anxiety is due to this tendency. But the more you wall yourself off, the harder it is to open back up. I'm not really sure how to go about it.

I used to be funny, now I am serious. I was so good at laughing about the absurdities in the world, and particularly in myself. A huge part of my relationship with G was based on our mutual sense of humor. Not infrequently, he has been incredulous at how I took something seriously that was quite clearly a joke. I laugh at and with my kids, but I've noticed that I can sometimes go days without a real deep belly laugh this days. 

I used to take pride in my work, now I am a half-asser.  (Not WORK-work, but things I do. I don't half-ass my career-related stuff, obviously!) I was never a perfectionist (have you noticed how people like to blather on about their problems with perfectionism? Humble-brag much?) but I did often go the extra mile so that any projects or school-work that saw the light of day looked presentable or better. I had impeccable handwriting. I used to wrap presents nicely and add a bow. Now my presents look like my dog slapped see-through tissue paper and too much Scotch tape on them. I do things quickly, rather than methodically, with more thought to crossing it off the list than creating a polished product.

I had a few more in my head when I planned this post, but I can't remember them now. I realize that I lot of these changes are simply due to changes in age and circumstance. Its developmentally appropriate to be attached to your friends as a teen and I imagine you grow out of it as an adult. And when time is scarce, throwing that gift for a 3-year-old in a re-used bag instead of hunting up the wrapping paper and curling some ribbon certainly makes sense. But I miss some of those aspects of the old me---the spontaneous, creative, open and funny old me. I wonder where she went?