“Let’s talk about what we’re learning about. I’ll go first.”
Sometimes this five year old is too old for her own good. It’s dinner time. Dinner time with two little people. I don’t think I need to paint too vivid a picture for you but let’s just say we are two adults with but merely small goals of traversing through dinner without a third spilling of milk and with at least a bite of something green in their bellies. Deep conversations was not part of that agenda. We have learned to set the bar waaaaay low for dinner time. But still, one must be ready for what a five year old might bring to the table, nearly quite literally in this case.
In between blowing on someone’s food, I respond “Ok. Sure. Tell me. What are you learning about?”
“We’re learning about why people tell stories.”
I pause and grin in surprise, which is a difficult feat by this time of the day. I like it when I can still be surprised and this sounds like something I want to pay attention to. “Oh really.” I say. “Tell me what you know about this.”
“Well I think it’s to tell us about something that happened before we were here.”
“Sure that’s one way. You know why I like to write stories?” I love a chance to talk about being a writer. It not only reminds me of my abilities that are too often hidden, it also gives me a chance to show her I’m more than just Mom. “I like to tell stories to help other people learn something, and to help me learn something.”
“Huh. Can I be excused?” Sigh. Conversations with a five year old can sometimes feel so one sided. I’ll save my deep thoughts for her for another day.
She carried on into bedtime and I was left with a little nugget to think on as I washed up the dishes. It was early January and in just one word, she had subtly reminded me I had yet to ruminate on the past year, at least in the form of writing. Besides the usual obstacles, I am a victim to the early months of pregnancy sleep exhaustion and difficulty focusing in a major way. Writing is obviously, one of the first to go, whether or not that is right or wrong is a thought for another day. I felt that nagging, or maybe it’s better worded as longing, to get back to putting my thoughts onto “paper.”
Yet here I stand, at that starting line with great anticipation of a new year, but without the most important part of training behind me which is ruminating on the goals of the last year. I don’t think anyone should be surprised it is the child that brings this guilt to the surface.
The word from her question that was lingering on my mind was the same word I chose a year ago to guide me this past year: Story. It was a word I was so very excited about last year. And truthfully its one I thought of often. How could I not. All the best metaphors of a story, the closing of chapters and the start of new ones, were everything this year was made for. Leaving old homes and starting fresh in new ones. Little people going off to big schools. Deciding to add just one more to this family. Story was a woven thread in all of that.
But I knew part of my hesitation with sitting down to do the actual end of year contemplation would mean facing that list of goals that went along with the year. And while I love to write goals and think about how to keep growing in my life, I am really lousy at following through. Yet another post for another day (there are endless ideas.) When I looked back at this year, all I saw was the forward motion required to keep a family of four, and then some, safe and happy amidst the inevitable rockiness of change. I didn’t remember growth and checking off goals. Unless survival was one of the goals and then I guess I can’t argue that at least we did that.
I was wrong, though. Sometimes being wrong feels really good.
When I sat down to look at my goals, and there were many, eleven to be exact, I noticed in fact I had done so much more than I had remembered.
So often the stresses and survival strategies that come along with that management stake their claim on our calendars and our minds, leaving little room for the slowly daily moments of growth. A story, after all, is often highlighted by that mounting climax scene, but is without a story if not for the building plot with you from the beginning. In our case, all I saw was the “Big Move” and everything that went along with it before and after. In fact, I still feel like we are living that part of the story. We probably will for awhile. How did I possibly have time for striving for goals.
What I was sensing actually, what was getting in my way of seeing growth and development, was that writing still remains a struggle. This creative passion of mine is not for the faint of heart, and I am learning is likely not for the enneagram nines like myself, yet again another post for another day (this is becoming a whole post on teasers.) So although I don’t like to begin with negatives, while we are talking goals, let’s begin right there with the ares that I struggled with the most.
First of all, before I dive into goal evaluation, please feel free to jump back to my original post from a year ago. It is also a great refresher to this concept of Choosing a Word if you are interested in that way of setting life intentions.
Now, back to what I didn’t do well this year.
I broke my goals up this past year into categories related to the word Story. The first category were the goals focused on my writing:
Share the Story.
- Create a Newsletter.
- Start Two Regular Blog Series.
- Get Published.
Big fat Nopes on all of these here. But I’m going to leave it at that. Because obviously, this wasn’t the best year for me to dive deep into my own personal passions, that doesn’t mean that writing was a complete loss for me. I still struggle to find the daily routine of it. But I never let it go. I am always coming back to it. This is by far one of the greatest lessons I can teach myself. It’s ok to strive big. And it’s ok to keep putting these goals on the list. Even if it takes me years to check the box.
Write the Story
4. PR in Half Marathon
5. Make Monthly Small Goals
These goals centered on the process of actually being more specific about accomplishing tasks, about adding chapters into the story that I want written instead of just waiting around for it to write itself. That first one, I knocked it off in the first month. That was exciting. And I would like to say set the momentum, but I’m not that kind of person. I don’t necessarily thrive in momentum. I’m a proud slow turtle after all. So while I tried to get into the habit of small monthly goals, I never could get into that habit. I am learning that while this is a struggle for me, it actually might be a very good way to get me out of the sloth like state I tend to fall back on. So I will keep trying with this one. Small incremental goals are the best way to the bigger goals. And as a dreamer, I love big goals.
Read the Story
6. Read 200 books.
7. Record Book lists.
Yes yes yes!!! Here is where I throw the confetti in the air. Because while I may not have written very many words, I read A LOT of words this year. No, I did not read 200 adult books. I actually checked off 34 personal books and the rest were children’s books. But I acknowledged in my original goal that my reading life is not just about me, it is quite often about my children. I want to make reading as much a joy for them as it is for me. And I can also proudly say I did relatively well at recording these books. You can see them all on my Goodreads account if you are curious. I hope to give you some of my top favorites in the weeks to come, both for kids and for myself. And while I wish I had been more consistent about sharing those books with you, I did more this year than I ever have in the past. That is a wonderful start.
Live and Love the Story
8. Begin Scrapbook.
9. Be healthy inside and out.
10. Live well in your home.
11. Let each chapter play out.
Here is the part of my goal list where I allowed for some specific goals but more just a mindset than anything else. The mindset was to live and love the present moment, the current story line if you will, and I while I may not always have loved the plot twists, I would say if anything kept me afloat this year it was to just let the chapters play out. That last goal can most definitely be checked off.
Living well in my home had very different meanings this year. First off, in the first half of the year as we (im)patiently waited for a confirmed job offer for nearly 4 months, I needed something to do to keep my mind off of what might or might not happened. So with the suggestion of a friend, I participated in a purge during lent which involved me going through each and every long neglected drawer and hiding place in my home to reorganize and quite often donate/throw away what was no longer needed. Not only did this make it easier when it came time to pack, it gave me something to do to feel productive in my home. Now, after settling into our home of 6 months, it is time to do that again. But if we are to live well in our home, we must learn to love it and do something about it. I think this was a process begun this year, with more needed growth to come.
I think my original idea for the “Be Healthy” goal was to actually take better care of my self in the form of finding doctors, so in that case, I was not as successful. But if I did anything to better my health, it was to find a rhythm of daily movement not just for my body but for my mind and heart. I know if I am feeling off, the likely culprit is not enough fresh air and deep breathing. That is an easy fix. Well, it was. It’s less easy when the temperatures are where they are here in Minnesota and your doctor has you paranoid about slipping on the ice. But I am finding ways to get it in, little by little, to be a healthier me inside and out.
Finally, I want to take a look at one last goal. I did carve out a few moments to work on scrapbooking, a past love of mine that I have always treasured but never figured out how to incorporate it among all the other demands of my days. And while I enjoyed this, it occurred to me that this may not be the season for creative scrapbooking. So with less than a week in the new year, I took a gift card and ordered photo books from a source I had long heard friends raving about, Chatbooks. Even as I worked on it, I discovered why this was important. “What are you working on, mommy?” Caroline was looking over my shoulder as a pulled together the pictures from the very beginning of my Instagram days. “I’m making a photo album.” “What’s a photo album.”
Well that right there, my friends, is exactly what Sharing and Writing and Reading and Living and Loving the Story is all about. If we are going to love the story, we need to share the story with our children. If we are going to write the story, we have to read the stories too. If we are going to share and write and live the stories, we must also learn to love the story, all of the characters and all of the plot twists and even the boring chapters that we slog through. For our children, of course, but most importantly for ourselves.
This is why I love this exploration into a guiding word each year. It appears on the surface that maybe it won’t have much of an influence at all. But when we offer ourselves the opportunity for reflection, when we take the time to find the highlights and the moments of pride, that word stands out. I am so proud of my story this year. Just as a story should, it taught me so much this year, and I’m hoping in my reflection it taught you a little bit too.
Stay tuned for the next chapter, my word of the year for 2018!