Sunday, January 18, 2015

year of whatever the heckfire i want



So this past five or so months, I have been working steadily away at writing grants for Maddy's school. I've used all of my "free" time when Grant was in school to focus on this pursuit--and all of it without a salary. This has been a time of learning and growth, failures and successes. The intent with me writing was to secure the grants and be paid based on whether I was able to secure those grants. It was mutually beneficial to the school and myself because 1. it gave me a chance as an inexperienced grant writer to try it out and work towards helping Maddy's school 2. It didn't make them spend money they need for construction/renovation projects during these beginning years unless they have guaranteed funds coming in, which even with experienced grant writers, is not certain.

I am really glad I took the opportunity. I've learned so much in these past few months. But, in the process, I also realized that there were some things that didn't appeal to me about the experience. In December, I began to realize that what had started as a low-expectation, low-stress endeavor had become the opposite of both. Christmas came at a great time, and then came our vacation and sick time. All during break, I've been trying to untangle my feelings about my work for them. As we were driving back into town, I began to have the realization that I had traded my stressful, all-consuming church responsibilities for another consuming assignment with the school--but with far less rewarding results. I felt disappointed with myself.

I've taken some time to try and figure out if I do it to myself and make these assignments into stressful, all-consuming tasks, or if I under-estimate myself and the job to do at the outset? I wanted to know if there is something in my character that creates this pattern?

I'm not self-detached enough to know the answer. I've done a lot of self-analyzing with my sick-clouded brain and decided I wasn't going to get anywhere. Even with a perfectly clear mind, I doubt I'll be able to know. But on that drive back, I did make another decision to once again pull back from the grant writing enterprise (not quit precisely, but scale WAY back). I pulled back from another responsibility that someone had asked me to consider and I had said yes before Christmas (but felt horribly about every time I prayed about it). But I had said yes because I like to please and felt like it was bad of me to say no (church thing again in case you were wondering--even though I had just asked for some time and already had been given another different calling. Apparently six weeks is considered enough time....).

The nice thing about vacation is it gives you some room to breathe from your real life. I sat in our car while John drove and wrote two emails politely but firmly saying thanks, but I can't. It felt great. The problem with me is that my whole life, every year, I pile things on my plate that detract from my happiness. I want to help. I want to please. I want to make other people happy. But it is almost always at the expense of my personal peace.

I've been raised to value the pursuit of being a selfless person. My Mom is always the voice in my head telling me to befriend the person sitting alone, the outcast, the forgotten. Most of the time, I'm grateful for that voice. It keeps me from becoming too selfish and complacent. But...it has also not given me the space and permission in my own head to sit by myself, take care of my own needs.

I don't think it ever really mattered until I had kids. All of the sudden, the downtime that I could count on to rejuvenate and give me that quiet introspection that is necessary for my personality as a oft-time melancholic was filled with constantly being needed. It was a shock to my system the first few years being a mom. Now that I am more used to it and my kids are old enough to have regular schedules it has helped me a lot in that regard. But being a mother fills in all of that space. There's not a huge bunch of extra time and energy I have to dedicate outside of my four walls. And with the experiences of this past year, I am more and more aware of that, and while it used to make me feel like a failure, this year I feel differently. It has been a process over the past few months (as my last few blog posts attest, since I am probably sounding like a broken record), but I suppose for me it is going to be a fight that I will constantly need to make. I will have to fight against people who think that being a stay at home mom means that I have lots of extra time, that I can use my home time as flexible time. Or that my time with Grant in preschool is time that I should be open and available for other people all the time. And I will mostly have to fight myself--against filling that time with assignments others want me to take on, against wanting to fill the sometimes boring moments with activities that will end up being a long-term burden on my limited capacity for coping.

Since we've been back, I've taken back that preschool time for my own writing. I've started making progress on my book again. I can't explain why it brings me so much fulfillment, but it does. There are days that I get frustrated and the right words seem to take forever to come to mind. I'm still new at this, and I wrestle with it. But it's so nice to walk away after those hours of internal struggle and see a work that is 100% mine. It's satisfying to wrestle with something and finally figure out a solution. I'm not very good. But it doesn't matter.

I see on a lot of blogs at the beginning of the year that people pick a word to define them or work on for the year. I always felt this was a lot of hype meant to look impressive to others. I'm a jerk, I already know, don't worry. :) I still sort of feel that way, but this year I am feeling an actual desire to work on some things. One word won't cut it. (we all knew that would be the case, I'm too long-winded for that to work).

1. take care of myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, & physically (which includes going to doctor visits that I dread because kids+doctor visits make me want to die.) this means listening to my body better with food and activity.

2. allow feelings of guilt over not doing/being enough dissipate. WHO CARES as long as I am doing my work as a wife/mother? that's my stewardship, if it takes all of my emotional energy and strength, I don't need to feel bad about that. susy Q can wear herself out and think I'm a jerk all she wants. I'm the one who has to live with me and my family and my decisions.

3. be outside more, breathe in some good air. watch the birds with my new binoculars. play soccer with Grant in our front yard. I got a good start on this last year with our garden and yard changes. Looking forward to warmer weather to get this going again.

4. eat more fruit and vegetables even though my kids will be annoying about it. bless their hearts.

5. throw even more stuff away. i like my house super clean. stuff impedes that.

6. Trust the answers I receive from prayer, even the counter intuitive ones.

7. stick to my kids having a chore chart. it has been working well. now just to keep it going.

8. to trust people more. This has taken a major beating lately. I hate having neighbors so close. I'm always a little paranoid about people because of a really hurtful thing that happened while we were living in our rental house. I've never talked about it because it still is the most horrible thing that has happened to me. It ruined my faith in people quite a lot. So...I'm trying to recover that. I used to be really open and assumed that people were assuming the best. That was a hard but maybe necessary lesson. But still...I need to heal on that front.

9. Lighten up and have fun. sing. wear stretchy pants. paint the playroom a fun color. pet the cats instead of always chasing them off the laundry they inevitably sit on.

10. dedicate my precious outside home hours to people I really want to invest in. best friends Katie and Mags, family, a few other wonderful ladies. host small get-togethers with low stress. I've already started this one and it has been amazing.

I sincerely doubt this post has been remotely interesting to anyone out there that might run across it. Sorry about that. :) But, it has been cathartic to write. I really think 2015 will be a positive year.

Now tell me, can you relate to any of this stuff? It always does my heart good to read that people have felt the same way in some small way. xoxo

6 comments:

Lori said...

Jen,
I swear you could just write my journal for me. I have felt very much the same way at times and many of your goals are some of the same things I am always recommitting myself to. Like trying to not feel guilty all the time, and learning my limits and how to say no when saying yes would just put more strain on my whole family. And good heavens, if I could stick to a chore chart for three weeks we'd be golden around here. And where you wrote"I don't think it ever really mattered until I had kids. All of the sudden, the downtime that I could count on to rejuvenate and give me that quiet introspection that is necessary for my personality as a oft-time melancholic ..." that was such great wording for how I feel a lot. It's kind of funny, but I have stopped checking blogs. The last couple of months were hard and I didn't even want to be tempted to compare my life to someone's happy blog life. But today I was updating mine and I saw your link down in my reader. Glad I clicked on it! Hope your sickness goes away soon! I love all the Disney pics! - Lori

Carrie said...

I know we talked about the things you wrote, but I love how you put your thoughts down on paper. I wish I had a piece of your talent. You truly have a way with words. I loved how Lori responded to you also. I think you have put into words what a lot of women feel and don't quite know how to say it. Hugs!

Emily Foley said...

You're awesome. I love how you think and especially how you communicate what you're thinking. And I think I know a bit how you feel, though I'm not nearly as giving as you are. I put the bare minimum into my assignments out sheer laziness. :)

Peg said...

I think that the older we get the less pressure we put on ourselves to be/do more. There only so many hours in a day and my family is more important than anything else in the world.

luvnmy10 said...

I wish we were neighbors, I'd love to come borrow a cup of sugar and end up sitting at your kitchen table with chamomile tea laughing about life, and enriching each other. I'm so very glad you took time to come see boring old us in your awesome vacation;).

RaeLynn said...

Always so eloquent.I have the pleasing disease too and I have to constantly work at not giving in to that little voice in my head that tells me I need to say yes to everything. Maybe I should tell my manager that I don't have to work very hard because I need some space to regroup :) I wish. Love you, Jenn!