WOW. Putting aside time to write has felt near impossible these past few months. Between the baby being a baby and the two-year-old being a two-year-old and the seven-year-old actually being very helpful and the dogs and the kitten and my husband also having interests, along with a job to support our not-so-tiny family…when is there time for me to sit at the computer and get my thoughts out? If I don’t have time to clean the bathrooms, do the dishes, get caught up on laundry, vacuum, or any of the other “housewifey” things that I feel like should be simple tasks to complete– how can I justify spending 45 minutes in front of the computer? I’d be the first to tell another busy mom (or dad, for that matter) that self-care is not selfish…but when taking my own advice, I obviously struggle.
IT’S A NEW YEAR, FRIENDS!! Can you believe it!? 2018?
Like most of everyone, I’d assume, I did some careful reflection over my 2017. I had a friend suggest to write things that I wanted to thank God for…and, in the midst of a heavy year, I found so many things that were more than worthy of praise. –In this activity, I had to quickly realize that acknowledging that I’m grateful for events while mourning the death of a loved one does not negate the pain I still feel. To me, after a few deep breaths, it felt like an unnatural but necessary part of grieving that I likely wouldn’t have taken the time to do had this friend not literally handed me pencil and paper as she posed this question. Following the question about thanksgiving, she asked: “What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?” …These two questions churned hard in my heart. For what do I need to give thanks and what do I need to bury to start fresh? Christians likely think of Jesus’s suffering on the cross, being buried, and raised again to life so that we, too, can have everlasting life. Atheists, agnostics, and individuals of other religions or beliefs might have an easier time thinking of a tree. (This was the analogy that I immediately thought of, honestly.) I’m not even sure if this analogy is true or backed by science, but I heard one time years ago that a tree lets go of its leaves not because they’re unneeded during the fall and winter months, but because their branches would be too heavy to support the weight of the leaves in addition to the ice or snow that often falls during the colder months. In order for the tree to bear the weight of the snow, it must let go of the leaves grown in the previous season. It’s because of this defense that the tree keeps its branches and is allowed to produce new leaves and new life each year.
“What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?”
For me, the answer wasn’t one that I wanted to hear…but it was an immediate lump in my throat and I knew that I had to put pen to paper: ego, pride, self-reliance, and comparison. Between Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and self-help sections and DIY projects, it is so easy to find myself buried in a pile of “oh-my-God-how-am-I-ever-supposed-to-get-all-of-this-done-in-15-minutes-and-the-veggies-are-burning-and-why-is-there-snot-all-over-your-face-son?” And, instead of asking for help, I’ll look on Pinterest to find ways to make my one person become so efficient that I’m able to complete the tasks of several while still caring for my children and modeling for them the values that I want so badly so soften their hearts in a world that suggests toughening up. Why do I look on Pinterest? Why do I ask for recommendations on Facebook about organization and quick meals? Why do I think I should do it all and why do I think I have to EARN a break by completing everything? In teaching, I know that students perform better if they’re given frequent breaks. Why would I think it would be any different as an adult? I also tell my children regularly, “Do not yell at me. Do not whine. If you need help, all you need to do is use your words and ask. I’d be happy to help.” I was on the phone with my mom a little over a week ago, and she said, “Dani, why don’t you ask me to help you? I’d be glad to come watch the kids for a while. You just need to tell me when you need me.” My mother in law, aunts, grandma, friends, neighbors, etc. have all said the same thing. Why is it so hard to ask for help? Ego. Pride. Self-reliance. “I got it.” “I can do it.” Or the worst of all: COMPARISON. “But I saw on Facebook– SHE has kids…THEY goes on vacations…HER house is clean…HER meals are perfect…THEIR bodies are flawless…SHE is a better mom/wife/Christian/daughter/friend/person than me…THEY ARE BETTER.” I know I’m not the only one who does this. Right? Right.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
For the past several years, I’ve chosen a word to focus on through the upcoming year. Each year I’ve experienced transformation. The first year, my word was “INTENTION.” Year two: “IDENTITY.” Last year: “PEACE.” This year: “JOY.”
In the previous years, I’ve mediated and prayed about my word because I wanted to pick the perfect word for the most drastic spiritual transformation. This year, I didn’t do anything to receive my word. –I have not been able to get away from my word for MONTHS. It literally keeps showing up everywhere. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Christmas was just here…and ‘JOY to the World’ and JOY-this and JOY-that…” But it’s been more than just the typical Christmastime sightings. And it started prior to Christmastime festivities. So my focal word for 2018 is JOY. As a noun, it’s great…of course: “a feeling of happiness”–but as a verb…that’s truly where I’m going to place my focus: “rejoice.” Can you imagine how much less stressed and resentful I would feel if I would stop comparing my dirty dishes to yours or hers or his or theirs…and instead took a minute to rejoice? It sounds hokey. But I’m going to try it, because it can’t hurt. I’m going to rejoice in the dishes that show my family has eaten today…Rejoice in the laundry that shows my family has plenty of weather appropriate clothing…Rejoice in the aching shoulders and arms that show my children feel comforted in my care….Rejoice in the many friends and family who offer to help and say YES because self-care is not selfish. Rejoice in the knowledge that I’m not so important that another person can’t watch my kids or load the dishwasher or fold the laundry…Rejoice in the recognition of some control issues and the ability to ask for help instead of drowning because I refuse to let go of the idea that I can complete everything on my own. Rejoice in letting the dead leaves fall to the ground (ego, pride, self-reliance, comparison) in order for fresh leaves and new life to emerge (JOY).
Do you have a word for 2018? If you haven’t yet chosen one, I encourage you to choose a word that resonates with your soul. Choose a word that encourages growth and demands action, but is gentle enough to tuck away at night and allow you to sleep
peacefully. If you have already chosen a word, I’d love for you to comment with your word. No explanations. Just the word. I believe in support…I believe in the power of prayer…and I believe that the simplicity of a single word can be extraordinarily impactful.
Until I get the chance to write again, from my heart to yours, Happy New Year!