Joy, week 4
Wow, anybody know where January went? What a blur! I know it’s not actually over yet, and to be honest I’m counting on the last two days for the chance to wrap up a couple of things on my January to-do list, but for most purposes it’s basically gone. I watch it go with mixed feelings. It’s been quite a month.
Our family has been under a lot of stress this month, stress I haven’t discussed here. I feel like we’ve weathered it really well, but I’m also aware that we weren’t required to weather it for as long as we might have, which helps a lot. It was a month of losses and new beginnings, and now I’m facing a February of adjustments. Adjustments that are inevitable, but which a part of me is not looking forward to me at all. I’ve learned over the years that rarely do I receive an answer to prayer that doesn’t increase my workload. I am SO grateful for our answered prayers this month but also confess to feeling daunted by the increased workload, by the continuous need to do more with less. As I’ve struggled with this feeling I’ve felt a growing determination to find ways to make what feels like a step backwards become, in reality, a step forwards. Easier said than done, but a worthy goal.
I was at the grocery store at 6:30 am on Friday for a random 8 oz. water bottle for a kindergarten project (?!?) and as I walked out of the store into the darkness it scared me that I felt so overwhelmed by a day that I had barely begun. I took a deep breath in the cold morning air and a thought popped into my mind. “Believe in yourself. Your Heavenly Father believes in you. He believes you can handle this day.” So I did. I changed my thinking and made it through the day – a particularly crazy day. Later that night when I was driving my eleven year-old son to a campout 15 minutes late I started worrying about what they would think of our tardy arrival, feeling like I was falling short again. But I caught myself, reviewed all the things I had been dealing with in the 6 hours prior to the campout that no one knew about, and said to myself “It doesn’t matter what what they may think. They don’t know what the day has been like or how difficult it was to add this to the list. If they knew you’d get rock star bonus points. Let it go.” And I did.
Another lesson came yesterday afternoon as I was driving my son home from another grueling conditioning practice for the high school lacrosse team. He was talking about how many of the guys were throwing up and how hard it was and how the coaches were telling them not to question but just to do it and get through it. It reminded me of some good advice I heard from D. Todd Christofferson: “don’t look ahead to the pain.” We talked about how it applied to his practice, but later when I caught myself worrying about everything I needed to do that night, and how things were falling apart around the house because I’d been gone so much, and how it wasn’t going to get any better in the next week because I’d be gone as much then too, worrying about some financial questions that are outside of my control, worrying about the length of my husband’s new commute to and from work, worrying, worrying, worrying, I suddenly realized that I was “looking ahead to the pain.” The realization brought me up short and I really worked to put on the brakes. The worries are still sneaking around, but I’m holding the door shut with my two lessons: Believe in yourself. Don’t look ahead to the pain.
Enough of that. Now for the review. Things stand pretty much where they did last week, with my strong areas still improving and with the things I haven’t really worked on yet still waiting. That’s ok on a crazy week, right? My weekly list continues to be my weakest point. The daily list and monthly list have been pretty well handled. In fact, as I look at my specific January list I realize I’ve never crossed so many things off a monthly to-do list before. I’ve been productive, albeit in ten minute segments, but it’s good for me to see that ten minutes adds up. I’m trying to enjoy the process. I also realize that I used more wisdom in making the list in the first place. Good for me. Another thing I’m liking is having my lists for the entire year already waiting in my notebook, so when I remember something I can just add it to the right month, like a birthday party I want to give, and so forth. I hope that at the end of the year I will have accomplished the things I care most about. As for the weekly list, I’m giving myself the rest of today to brainstorm a plan for catching these items before it’s Saturday night again.
Some specifics. I do my scripture study and reading immediately after getting everyone to school. It’s the best, most important part of my day. I am noticing that I could use a little more time for prayer without the little ones running around me. I’m going to work on that.
I finished reading The Happiness Project this week. I really enjoyed it and have a short list of things to remember and use as part of my plan to seek and find joy in 2012. I’m glad I read it in January even though it wasn’t my original plan. I’m also glad I’ve paused the 7 Habits while I work on some habits as a mother before I give myself more to do. I’m taking notes in that book, as well. I now have two more books to read in the next couple of days before they’re due at the library. We’ll see if I make it, especially with a dirty house. This makes two books finished in January, one from each of my lists, which puts me right on track for the year.
I feel ok about my efforts around the house. I’m trying to take a step back and re-evaluate how I want things to run, to look and how to feel about it. I need to redefine how the state of my house relates to my feelings about myself. I’m trying to simplify what we’re doing, and I realize that’s a process.
In small pieces I’ve worked on some projects this week. Really small pieces of time, really small progress, but it’s still better than not starting because I don’t have a lot of time. I’m getting better at using ten and fifteen minute blocks.
I did a better job of meal planning and efficient grocery shopping this week and had a smile on my face when I left the store with as much as I did for as little as I spent. That feels good.
I tried to find joy in small moments with my children. Joy in the snowman my son made, joy in tickling them, joy in watching the little girls choose new coloring books at the dollar store, joy in taking my oldest son to get his favorite french fries after an intense few hours of appointments together, joy in driving them places and having those few minutes with them in the car, joy in wrapping my daughter’s ankles for futsal, joy in seeing my daughter waiting on the sidewalk to be picked up after school, joy in watching them do what they’re told, patience when they don’t, and a smile in my heart when they’re being irrational. And oh, how my heart has filled with joy at the monstrous hugs from my youngest son (the other night he was giving me another big hug when he asked his older brother “Why don’t you give Mom big hugs too? SO cute) and the darling comments from my two little girls. My two year old cleared the table after dinner one night – all by herself – and I felt both joy and awe and urgency as I watched. But I let her do it and she BEAMED.
Let’s be honest, though. Pausing to enjoy a lot of moments has a price tag. I get less done. But I am happier. It’s a great investment.
I emailed an acquaintance this week and asked for recommendations with a gardening question. Her response was so warm and positive, making me glad I’d found the courage to ask for advice. Certain seed catalogs will soon be arriving at my house and I’m excited for them to come. I know I’m behind the schedule of “serious” gardeners but it’s great progress for me. So I’ve started on my gardening goals for the year. Yay!
So, as I wrap up January I’ve got some “goals housekeeping” to do. I need to build the weekly tasks into my life more solidly. I need to work more on the specific JOY goals I set. I also need to spend some time in the record keeping area. This was an area I’d reserved largely for Sunday but our Sundays haven’t been anything like what I planned. All these things need some attention so I can tweak things accordingly as we welcome February. I need to stay mentally tough and positive even when I’m busy and don’t have time to really nourish my heart, which means I need to develop some quick, on-the-fly strategies I can remember on the run. But in all, it’s been a great month and I have every reason to expect the next month to be even better.
I read a great quote this week that impressed me. It reads, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” -William Butler Yeats
I think that’s why I feel good. I’m growing. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be. In fact, I’m just beginning. But because I’ve been more specific in my goals for 2012 and am evaluating myself daily, weekly and monthly, I can see that I’m growing. And so I feel happy, and happiness feels good.
Have a great week!