Every year I love the holiday season: the lights, the music, the time with family, and slowing down. I savored all of that this year but I might be enjoying the post-Christmas, pre-New Year's week even more. Chris and I have been in major decluttering and organizing mode this week, which always seems to find us after Christmas with the influx of new stuff. This year our efforts have matched up nicely with the stretches of independent play from the boys, courtesy of new Christmas toys. (Although there's been plenty of fighting, too!)
We spent yesterday morning taking down all the Christmas decorations. Usually I find this task a bit overwhelming but I led the effort this year and found that I enjoyed putting things away just so. At first the house looks a bit stark without lights and greenery strung about but then I find the clean, open space invigorating.
I'm feeling so excited for a fresh new year, as I always do, but there's so much value in taking time to reflect on the past year. It's been a big one for me and for our family. At the beginning of 2018 I chose the word CONNECT as my word for the year. I must admit I wasn't feeling terribly connected to it at the time and I don't feel that it guided me this year. Part of that reason is that I new I would be quitting my job but I didn't plan to share that publicly until it happened. A more fitting word for the year might have been PIVOT or REINVENT because that's what this year felt like it was about.
Still, I did well on the goals I set for myself even if I wasn't feeling the "connect" vibe. Here's a recap of my 2018 goals and the progress that I made:
+ gaining more parenting tools and perspective. I do feel like I worked on embracing the energy and rambunctious nature of my boys this year. I wanted to read a few parenting books but never made it all the way through one. It turns out that at the end of the day, especially when I'm exhausted from parenting, I don't' really feel like reading about how I could be a better parent. Imagine that! However, what little I did read of Love and Logic was helpful and validating (do the best you can; they won't always be happy and that's okay). Plus, once I quit working I wasn't stretched so thin and I had more to give to the boys.
+ having regular phone dates with my family and friends. I feel like I did well with this one! I keep up with four different girl friends on the phone plus I try to talk to my mom on the phone once per week.
+ having low-key Thursday night dates with Chris. Yes! Our cookie date nights were a success. Sometimes we had long conversations, sometimes we played a board game. Other times we sat on the couch for 15 minutes, ate our cookies, and then went to sleep (have I mentioned we both usually wake up by 5 a.m. or earlier?). What I liked about this weekly ritual is that it was a placeholder to spend some time together, without the boys, and it was very low effort.
I want to CONNECT to the best version of myself by...
+ focusing on the good, the hope, and the helpers. I basically stopped consuming online news this year and that went a long way to helping me feel less overwhelmed and more optimistic about the world. Then I added in reading the news in print once a week with our Sunday Paper and Pancakes ritual, which is one of my favorite new things from this year. I've found that reading the news in print is less overwhelming even if I read a difficult story because I spend time on a deep read instead of reading 10 disturbing headlines quickly in a row as I would online. Also helping my mental state of mind this year: finding a wonderful counselor who I see regularly, about every six weeks.
+ not starting or ending the day with my phone. Going to give myself an 80% on this. I have done really well eliminating the habits of looking at my phone first thing in the morning and scrolling before bed or in bed. Now after about 5 p.m. I really try to not use my phone except for playing music or returning important texts. How To Break Up With Your Phone was really motivating to me in establishing these habits. I do still listen to audiobooks or a podcast fairly regularly to fall asleep; I find it so comforting and enjoyable. However, I do think sometimes it keeps me awake longer and I'd prefer not to depend on it. So that's something I'm still working on.
I want to CONNECT to work I am passionate about by...
+ participating in at least one writing development activity this year. I didn't do an external writing training or development this year. However, I did read The Art of the Book Proposal, as recommended by the #amwriting podcast, and found it instructive and encouraging. After reading that book I felt like I had the tools to start my book proposal, which I did in August.
And finally, I want to CONNECT to where we live by...
+ crossing things off my list of "small annoying things that bother me around the house." Yes! I knocked out a ton this summer and that accomplishment is one of my most satisfying from this year.
+ investing in our neighborhood community. I will admit I didn't have much initiative on this but it ended up happening anyway. First, I started attending Monday evening fitness classes with my neighbor which resulted in us chatting and connecting more during the week. Then, with Dash and Cedric starting at a new school, I've met so many other parents (mostly moms) during drop-off and especially during our post-school park hang outs.
+ having our front and backyard updated. In progress! We ended up having the budget for the front yard only this year but we might be able to do the backyard this next year. Currently the front yard is half-way done and should be complete by the end of January.
+ rounding out the furniture and decor in our front room. Not quite "done" but made lots of progress. We changed the orientation of the loveseat, got a new floor lamp, got curtains, bought an ottoman for the loveseat, bought a new dining table, and moved one of the two sets of shelves to create more room. I think I can call that a success. Remaining on my to-do/wish list include: a front entry table (plans for this in 2019), artwork or framed photos over the love seat, a chair, and a rug.
In addition the the goals that I shared publicly I also had the very big goal of quitting my full time job this year. And I did it! Heading into the new year we had already decided on the timeline and I was counting down the months until I told my boss and had my last day. A challenging part of this year was staying motivated and focused at work until I shared my new with my boss and until my last day. I came up with the mantra: "Make every day count and every day is a day closer." Quitting my job was a huge decision for me and not one I came to quickly or easily. It also had really big financial impact on our family and although we were planning for it that felt a little scary. But I have not regretted it for one minute.
There was also an adjustment period for me after the boys started school in August. It took me a while to get a good rhythm for the week that includes writing, podcasting, home administration, and taking time to not be productive (and I think I'm still working on this). With all the holiday tasks behind us and what I've learned from the first semester of the boys being in school I think the second semester will be a more balanced and productive one for me. My life now feels more aligned with my values and passions than ever before. I an incredibly grateful.
I'm wrapping up this post with just about six hours left in 2018, at least here in Mountain Standard Time. We're staying in tonight and enjoying the chilly rain outside from our cozy, warm house. Beans and rice with cornbread for dinner. Maybe some work on a puzzle we have going or a round of Too Many Monkeys before we put the boys to bed. After bedtime Chris and I might play Patchwork or Qwinto (both Christmas gifts that we are loving). We'll be asleep well before midnight and everyone in our house will be awake before the sun rises for the first time in 2019. It'll be like any day in our house and yet it will feel like 365 new days have been unrolled like a carpet ahead of us. I wonder where it will take us and I'm excited to find out.
Wishing you very happy New Year's Eve!