Bring It On, 2018
Forever known in my house as the year in which I did not have my stuff together, I’ll admit 2017 was not my favorite. It was a year of struggle, both professionally and personally, a year in which I dog-paddled across the wide end of a wave pool. On New Year’s Eve, I held my champagne flute high to welcome the new year and warned the old one to get out or I’d find a bouncer.
What was so bad about 2017? Well, it wasn’t one big catastrophe, but a series of small dings that added up over time—normal stuff that most adults have faced at one time or another.
As a parent, I’m still learning as I go and, well, I think I went too much. Our oldest joined a serious soccer league, which practices at least three times a week with games every Saturday, and occasional out-of-town tournaments. That’s a lot, especially considering we have two smaller children.
School, sports, music and activities had me burning up the road this year, and my car is approaching 100,000 miles! I like to be at home, to cook, to hang with the dog and read, and there hasn’t been a lot of time for that.
In 2017, my worldview took several hits. It has been difficult both resolving in my own mind and explaining to my children some of the inexplicable things happening in our treasured democracy. I’m not alone. Mental health professionals across the country have reported an increase in both the number of patients and their stress levels. In a world of 24-hour news and social media cycles, it can be tough to breathe. Experts suggest empowering yourself by taking action, by connecting with real people, and by getting physical. Walking 30 minutes a day can reduce stress levels, not to mention its other health benefits.
Also of note last year, I turned 40. While there was some trepidation as The Big One approached, I did not, in fact, throw a hip in October. Do I love saying I’m in my 40s? No.
I don’t think those words have passed my lips. I will say, though, that despite my skin’s ever-decreasing elasticity, I am increasingly confident with what’s on the inside. A better understanding of myself and my place in the world around me has lent both self-confidence and appreciation.
The primary reason 2017 wasn’t my favorite is because I felt restricted professionally and creatively. A lot of parents experience this. It’s a real struggle to balance work and home life. I love writing. Knock on wood, I’ve never been plagued with writers’ block. My problem is time. With three kids, things too often come up during my “office hours.” Working from home is great, and over time I’ve trained myself to commit to the tasks at hand. No laundry, no yard work, no errands during creative time. Invariably, though, someone gets sick or there’s no school, or the dishwasher goes out again. I’ve spent a lot of time this year spinning my wheels professionally with not a lot to show for it, and that’s discouraging. I learned my lesson, though. This year I’ve set realistic goals, and when I reach one I’m going to stop and celebrate. I plan to reflect on what goes right more than what went wrong.
Much of the problem, I’ve come to realize, was me. I concentrated altogether too much time last year on the things I was unable to accomplish—and far too little on the things I did. Why? Why do we do that? If we spent half as much time reflecting on the successes and small joys in life as we did struggles, we’d have far better outlooks.
And, OK, so 2017 wasn’t all bad. Something I wrote won its category, and who doesn’t like validation and recognition from their peers? My husband and I are a great team, and we’re very happy. The two little kids are (mostly) dressing themselves. And, while a pre-teen daughter is a thing to behold, I actually like mine. I’m enjoying our increasingly meaningful conversations.
Another success in 2017: friendships. I spent more time with friends I cherish, and even made a great new one. Nurturing friendships was a goal of mine for the year, and one into which I’m glad I put time and effort.
An idea I’m pilfering from one of those friends is a gratitude journal. As I flip through my calendar to plan days and weeks, I’ve been jotting down things I’m grateful for, things that are going right. Already 2018 is looking up, and it’s because I’m taking the time to stop and appreciate the small joys and the little successes. Hoping your year is filled with them, too.