Friday, January 24, 2014

Goals for a New Year

Ugh.  My blogging has slowed way down.  The last couple of years took away a lot of steam.  At times, my self-imposed blogging deadlines helped me cope, I imagine, but at other times, they really added stress in an already tough situation.  I've already started quilting like crazy again, though, and I'm ready to rediscover the fun in writing!

Part of the solution is to stop feeling guilty about everything.  We women are the world's worst about beating ourselves up with guilt.  A little guilt can be a great motivator...  A lot of guilt can be a paralytic force of devastating proportions.

In 2013, there were some major guilt issues:
...not spending enough time with the children or not being engaged enough when I did -- perhaps the common lament of every parent everywhere since the beginning of time.
...not having the physical or emotional stamina to do everything for my mother I wished I could have.  (That guilt reached back to 2012 when Daddy passed, too.)
...not getting enough estate work done, or tax work, or house work, or church work, or well, you get the point.
I felt guilty about things I didn't even do wrong, thanks to a few rather harsh critics.

But as if those weren't enough, I even gave myself grief about small, inconsequential blog things:
...not blogging twice a week, then once a week, then once a month.
...writing anything that didn't relate to my blog's sewing and quilting focus.
...writing a blog posting without imagery to accompany it.
...not having time to compose lengthy, illustrated tutorials.
...sewing something for sheer enjoyment without stopping to wait for the right afternoon light to take pictures of the project in-progress.  (Shock!  Horror!)

Eventually, I didn't want to do anything at all, because nothing I could ever do would keep me from being overwhelmed, and therefore, I couldn't shut out the guilt.

And so, as we move well into 2014, I'm going to make a few resolutions:

1.  I'm letting myself off the hook.  It's not okay to wallow or be indefinitely paralyzed by stress and guilt, but it is occasionally okay to have a movie day, a sad day, a lazy day, an eat-all-the-chocolate-and-potato-chips-you-want day, a curl-up-under-an-OliviaFurryBlanket day, a sleep-through-the-rain day or all of the above at once.  There's no more room for guilt when it comes to the arts that have previously brought me comfort-bliss. 
My love of sewing and quilting inspired me to blog about it.  If it's more hard than fun, I won't keep it up, so it's time to reframe my expectations.

- Blog when it makes sense.  I don't have to blog according to some imaginary schedule.  Better late than never, but never is okay, too.
- While there is a "time to tear and a time to sew" (Eccl. 3:7), not every blog posting has to have a tie to sewing.  It's more important to find inspiration.
- I don't have to have an image with every posting.
- My sewing room doesn't have to look perfect in photos, and I shouldn't beat myself up when said photos aren't magazine-quality. 
- A typo is not the end of the world.
- It's okay to occasionally post about my projects without including tutorials.  Heck, it's okay to do projects without posting about them at all.  No more stressing about the endless backlog of postings I never got around to.
- Perky, happy, energetic.  Sometimes I personify these things.  Sometimes I don't.  My outlook isn't always rosy, and my postings don't always have to be either.  I'm a real person, yo. 

2.  It's time to find the joy.  A few weeks ago, my eldest told me he felt home...with everyone there.  Then last week, we were at the movies, and as I walked with my littlest guy to go to the restroom, he said, "Momma, I'm lonely."  I thought, so am I, buddy.  Did I mention that they're only six and four?  It wasn't a massive leap to conclude SuperHusband was feeling isolated at times, too.  If all four of us can feel lonely on a family outing together, then things need to change.

Our previous arrangement of eldercare-meets-terminal-illness-meets-toddlercare-meets-military-service has shaped our family into one that values efficiency and compliance.  We haven't left much room for silliness over the last couple of years.  My children went from 2 and 4 years old to 4 and 6 years old in this window of time.  How unfair that at a time when "silly" should be their modus operandi, and their parents should be showering them with affection, smiles and goofiness, instead they've been stranded in a sea of impatience and emotional austerity.  When your parents are dying in your care, your children are small and your husband is active duty, you do what you have to just make it through the next ten minutes.

But that chapter in our lives is over -- no more excuses.  I don't want their childhoods to be defined by where they couldn't play or how quiet they had to be, or how often we yelled at them to hurry up.  (I've even been known to yell, "Macht schnell!!"  You find the humor where you can, right?)  We've been entirely too serious for entirely too long around here.  It's time for my husband and me to step back, remember how young they are and learn to have fun again.  I'm READY!!  :)

We're already trying very hard, and it's starting to work.  Both boys seem happier, SuperHusband and I are laughing more, even the air seems to weigh less in our house.  Old habits die hard, though, so it will take prayer and mindfulness to sustain our momentum.  If you feel like sparing a prayer for us, we could definitely use your help. 

3.  I'm not sure how to find this balance, but I have to stop caring quite so much what others think, say or do to me.  Maybe your demons are in your professional life, family or church, but right now, for me, they're in executing my parents' estates.  Estate work is no picnic, man.  Let me step back and make a comment about elder and end-of-life care:  In case you're ever on the outside of this arrangement looking in, please internalize that no family takes on the tremendous (and yes, rewarding,) task of eldercare out of greed.  Until you've walked that road, you have no concept of the massive sacrifice involved for a young family, emotionally, financially, in terms of time and energy.  I wouldn't change my decision for anything, but seriously, you have no idea what it can do to a household.  Praise God for my amazing husband, because I can't imagine what it does to marriages where the bond and mutual admiration isn't as strong.  In short, one does not care for sick parents out of selfishness -- it's a calling, a compulsion, and it's extracted from the deepest, most visceral kind of love.  Yet, I can't count how many times I've heard bitter siblings accuse someone of taking care of their parents so they "could get everything," or some equally sinister conspiracy theory.

Believe me when I say, caregivers and family executors already feel isolated -- they don't need the added stress of bitter armchair quarterbacks.  Being on the receiving end of such vicious rumors has been hurtful and left me incredulous.  I've seen the pattern repeated in family after family, and I marvel that people can have too little courage or integrity to confront a person directly with their concerns, yet have no problem quietly dismantling relationships and attempting to ruin reputations.  But most of the power such people have over my happiness, I have given them.   I have cared too much about their influence and about others' perceptions of me.  I know what I have done and what I haven't.  I am flawed -- it's true -- but my integrity is firmly intact.  I weigh my every action to make sure it's fair, even to those who've shown me zero courtesy or respect.  That is the very best I can do:  The rest is up to others.  The worthy will ask me their questions before they pass judgment.  I can no longer allow the unworthy to hold sway over my peace of mind.

4.  I want to glorify God with my words, actions and by disciplining my thoughts.

- This includes praying more.  Prayer used to be a sincere and frequent daily exercise.  I used to spend time every afternoon in serious extended contemplation and talks with God.  At some point those became derailed.
- It means putting a godly mentality into my endeavors.  Success is great, and it should be a priority, but it shouldn't be the first priority.  If I put God first and have faith that he will provide the increase, the rest will take care of itself.
- It means not retreating into self-centeredness as I cope with being overwhelmed.  
- It means modeling a godly walk for my children.
- It means reading my Bible more and engaging with the content through research and study.

One of my mother's hospice nurses told me something wonderful Momma said during a long night shortly after my mother's brain tumors had broken through and her mind had begun to wander into places we can't understand.  I had been prepared with the knowledge that many patients will go to a very dark place once they lose rational thought.  While hospice nurses pride themselves on taking care of people who can be verbally abusive and belligerent...they have a soft spot for the sweet ones.  My mother was a sweet one.  Danny, a kind, gentle man, said that in my mother's drifting, she quietly mumbled about cooking for church potlucks and playing cards with her Bridge Club Ladies.  That's who I want to be in this world.  I'd like to be someone who -- when I'm no longer cognizant of anything -- I'm rambling about the most godly, virtuous type of life.  I want my children to see in me, what I saw in her:  A woman of Proverbs 31.

Thank you, again, for joining our family in this journey.  In 2014, as we recenter and bring joy back into our lives, I hope we can pay some of it forward to you as well.  No matter what else is going on, I am enormously blessed to have many loving, supportive, creative people in the various parts of my life, and that includes YOU!