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Re-evaluating

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I got to check something off my bucket list today. I didn’t actually set out to do it. Truthfully, I’ve been working fiendishly toward completing several of the items I listed, largely because I am neurotic and manic and can’t stop working lists once I’ve started. But today’s item just kind of happened. Ironically, I’d been mentally outlining a bucket-list check-in for some weeks, and for the time being, I’m shelving those ideas for a better one.

Today I offered a heartfelt apology. I legitimately screwed up. And not in a small way. I have a dear friend who is genuinely superwoman- she works, raises precious children, and gives of her time to every possible endeavor. She and I have a shared responsibility, for which we both willingly volunteered, but for which I have largely been shirking. In trying to think of the reason for this, I really couldn’t land on anything. There were no excuses to be offered, and no real explanations to share. I just wasn’t carrying my weight. In attempting to make things right by this friend, all I could do was humbly admit that I haven’t been much of a partner and offer to do better in the future.

The beauty of a heartfelt apology is in the fact that there is no explanation. No room for martyrdom. No redeeming angle that says, “well, I screwed up, but it was for a good reason.” Nope. Just plain old, “I am awful, but I will try to be better, and I am really hoping you get that and are willing to be gracious with me.” And the more beautiful thing? When you apologize to gracious people, they accept it. In this case, my sweet friend actually did understand where I was coming from (or at least was gracious enough to let me off the hook), and released me from that responsibility altogether. What a blessing it is to be forgiven. And right at Holy Week, when we hopefully are reminded that there are severe and painful consequences for our wrongness, but also beautiful rewards in our redemption, there is no better opportunity for starting over and making things right.

You may remember a few posts I shared around goals for our family, particularly one on New Year’s Initiatives. As a former business-person, I like to take some time every quarter and assess how I’ve performed on goals I’ve set for myself, to see the wins and opportunities, as we used to say when I was working. Total transparency here- I’ve been feeling way overwhelmed and not really able to speak to what’s overwhelming me. I’m pretty sure that’s just Affluent White Mom Syndrome speaking, but regardless, in reflecting on my shortcomings and lackluster enthusiasm for things I should be committed to, I decided to evaluate the original goals I set and see where I need to regroup.

Here are the highlights from that original post (basically, compartmentalized goals I set for the year):

  • Kids: I want to find more grace for the children this year. I want to trust their ability to play independently and create things and do things without being Hovermom. I want to be patient with them as they learn, and less controlling as they make mistakes.
  • Myself: I want to make time to cultivate my own interests.
  • Marriage: I want to be a solid support for my husband. 
  • Family: I want to stand more firmly in our lifestyle choices around food, influences on our children, and materialism.

I also identified a word to help direct our focus for the year, and that word was established. Ultimately, I hoped to calm some of the madness of the last several years by settling into comfortable routines, and saying “no” to things that fall outside our vision for our family.

If my earlier apology-mention didn’t clarify for you, let me be frank: I am considerably off the mark from where I’d hoped to be. Don’t get me wrong- I feel like I’ve moved in the right direction for a lot of things, but I still feel significant gaps that, if I stay on the current course, will not be closing any time soon.

Where am I missing the boat? I actually think the last initiative, the family one, is causing me to flake out on the others. I heard an amazing talk in a homeschool convention we just attended, and it was specifically geared around “Breaking Free” from distractions and finding more space for growth. Here’s something that stuck with me:

Instead of filling your calendar with traditionally-expected activities like soccer and dance, or playgroups and committees, consider making room for fewer activities, and only schedule those that help you and your children grow closer to God. Sometimes the absence of activities provides more opportunity to achieve that closeness, and in our busyness, we miss it.

I’ve been delving into minimalism (not too successfully) for some time now. I think in some regards I’ve done a great job- I haven’t bought clothing for myself in 4 months (aiming for more than a year), I’ve reduced my wardrobe (and my kids’ wardrobes) by more than half, and we are moving towards reducing the amount of unnecessary furniture and knick-knacks, with no worries of bringing in anything new. Sounds fairly minimalistic, right?

But here’s the thing- real minimalism isn’t actually about the stuff. It’s about making room for what matters. 

I have been goofing up a lot lately, mostly with schedules. I was so fortunate when I was working to have some phenomenal ladies managing my Outlook calendar for me, and keeping me on track with appointments and meetings. Now, on my own, the calendar is a huge stumbling block for me. I schedule appointments while I’m driving, make plans on Facebook, say yes in emails, and before I know it, I’ve double and triple-booked time in my calendar without having a clue. The Miss Manners in me is mortified by these awful snafus, and I can’t stop making them.

The obvious answer here is to use my Google calendar. I know that. I am AWESOME at Google calendar. And if I put my mind to it, I’d probably just commit to improving my overall execution and get it done that way. But that doesn’t fix the root issue for me. I need think differently about my most precious resource: time. In that convention session, I heard something I’d heard before, but never in the same way. I know we are choosing to be busy, but I never heard someone give me permission, or even better, give me an idea, to do something different. 

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m tired. I’m tired of rushing from one kid’s activity to the next, across traffic, packing lunches and snacks and dinners in giant bags, only to leave them on the counter in the rush, and all the apologies for being late. Recently, I listened to my 7-year old describe her 1-year-old brother as “the brother who cries all the time.” Of course, the only time little brother really cries is in the car or when he’s tired, but because we are always in the car, or preventing him from napping by being out and about, it seems like he’s crying all the time. And as I, on the drive from school to ballet and then choir, started to make phone calls to sign us up for swimming and horseback riding lessons, I realized I was creating the problem. Wake-up call.

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Friends, it’s time for my peeps to regroup. I am taking back the reins. (Please do not check how many times I’ve written that phrase on this blog. I’m sure it’s nuts.) In looking at my other goals, I can’t lend myself fully to any of them if I don’t take better charge of our schedule. I can’t give my kids grace to play and learn independently if I fill their every waking hour with activities. I can’t cultivate my own interests when 100% of my energy is spent prepping for activities and driving kids back and forth. And I certainly can’t be a great support for my husband if all his meals are left for him in the fridge with a post-it note on top, or leave him with the kids by himself so I can go to this event or that event. Something has to give, and it might as well be now. I didn’t set out today to give up a key responsibility in my life (even if it hadn’t been treated that way thus far), but that nudge to reach out and talk from my heart to a fellow mom led me down that path. In the last several years I’ve really tried sensing God’s nudges for me, and tried my best to answer those (with limited success), even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s so hard to do, especially when it’s sooooo not what our instincts tell us to do. But here we are. And here is this opportunity to make changes that will improve the quality of life for our family.

I don’t know how I’ll do it. But I’m for sure going to share it here- because I know I’m not the only person losing my mind from self-inflicted insanity. Stay tuned, friends. Some stuff is about to get real in this house. More to come.

xoxo~ LWH

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