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It is one of my favorite days of the year. It really is. The weather is shit. Yes. But the sun is shining and there is change in the air.
Today I am de-Christmas’ing, reflecting, and planning. I’ve always been a bit heavy on the analytical side, so it isn’t like I need another excuse to evaluate things and make motions for betterment. But there is something sort of sacred about doing it on the first day of the year, despite the popularity of such a habit. (You know how I am with bandwagons.)
I woke up this morning and remembered (fondly) the John Oliver bit at the end of 2016, which culminated in dramatically blowing up the year in slow motion, some appropriate background music serenading the finality of it all. I watched it several times that year, each with tears of glee in my eyes. It was so funny. And at the time, I remember it hitting home so wonderfully hard.
I cannot tell you how happy I am today to say that I’d have to sit here and try to remember what was so bad about 2016. John and I did chalk it up as a bad year, one to shake the dust from. I remember kissing him at midnight with the final resignation that it probably can’t get worse for a while. But I cannot consciously bring to mind any specifics of what made it so bad.
And so we skipped into 2017, with few expectations, without any major habit changes on the horizon, and with a very simple and humble hope that perhaps it would simply be a good year.
And it was.
Something I Did Well in 2017
Have I ever mentioned the fact that I’m not just a maker, but a keeper of resolutions? There’s like 8% of us in the world and if you can’t claim to be among us, now you can say you know one. I don’t know if it is my key to success, but I will say that I’ve tried this thing where I only make one resolution, and for the last several years, I’ve started it in December.
Last year, I made a commitment to spend one morning a week volunteering at Clemmons Elementary. I did so for the first three weeks in December and continued through the last week of school. And I’m just going to say it: go me. Because if you knew me when I first moved to Clemmons (read: first became a stay-at-home mom) you know there was virtually nothing that was going to interrupt my few precious hours away from my children each week. But Carter was struggling through another year in a row, with behavior problems and alarming test scores and more teacher emails than I am typically comfortable with. I remember looking at John and saying, “As much as it pains me to think about it, I feel fairly confident it would help if I started volunteering in her classroom.”
Former teacher here, just running so super hard to win this parenting race.
It turns out the experts were totally right on this one. And everything changed for the better. And I started not just liking Clemmons Elementary, but sort of loving it.
I did not make as firm of a time commitment for this school year, but I’m definitely still poking in and around both preschool and elementary school a few times a month and no longer resenting the me-time I’m giving up.
Unexpected Surprises of 2017
My husband ran for mayor and won. I’m not sure if it would surprise people or not to hear that politics was not something John has had in his back pocket, ever. This wasn’t a stepping stone to bigger better things. This wasn’t an aspiration that was finally being realized.
To put it as simply as possible, and I paraphrase him here, it was truly a moment of filling a need. When you are a born problem-solver you don’t typically say no to spearheading the solving of problems.
So here we are. I still get a little weirded out when people introduce me and include the byline “Her husband is the mayor,” because truthfully, it sounds a lot more glamorous than it actually is. I mean, within two weeks of the election, all the stress and anxiety and tension and feeling like people were out to get us ended. It ended exactly as abruptly and exactly as completely as the former mayor assured us it would.
Also, we still go places in Clemmons and maintain our usual amount of anonymity, which is to say, we typically recognize a few people everywhere we go because we know them from church, school, or the gym.
Oddly enough, election season was the worst part of my year, and yet, now, I think it was one of the best things to happen to our marriage and friendship in a long time. When life is easy, it is easy to forget what you love about each other. It is often because I am so spoiled that I dare tread through the luxury of petty complaints.
It turns out there is nothing quite like being on the same side of a fight.
Is this why so many people play sports?
Things I Continue To Be Grateful For
When it comes to this parenting thing, I have no frame of reference for the difficulty level as compared to other times in history, or in other parts of the world. But like so many other unknowns, treading into each new problem necessarily requires us to compare ourselves to others, for no other reason but to gage if we are landing somewhere in the vicinity of normal.
I know comparison is unhealthy. And I know it isn’t likely to change much of the decisions I’m making on a daily basis. But it’s there, always, and I’d be lying if I said I am oblivious to it, or that I don’t frequently deal with the insecurity that comes from wondering if I’m doing this one job as well as I could be.
This is the one thing John and I analyze and evaluate the most about ourselves. We have four kids who have been spawned with our genetic codes. Like, we’re trying to maintain a semblance of balance in a space containing, at at any given time, five of ourselves. The thing that is so stupid and difficult though, is that we’re not getting the refined versions of what we are now. We’re getting the raw, unfiltered, and disconnected frontal lobe versions of ourselves. And all of us who are so lucky to have our own parents still living can attest to the fact that grandparents are very little help in the resource department. Even though these people eventually succeeded in turning out relatively respectful and functional adults, ask them if they can remember a single thing they did to make that happen.
God love them. They remember nothing. (A future I look forward to myself.)
What I am grateful for is that despite my hourly existence which is so often filled with futility and frustration, when I turn my kids loose on someone else, more often than not, they surprise me for the good. So mark my words. I am thankful for children who are generally respectful in public.
And on that note, I am even more grateful for a very specific handful of women who have inserted themselves into our family with one offer, a long time ago for each, to keep our kids. It has never been something I take for granted and it never ceases to fill me with an equal measure of surprise and gratitude that the gift is ongoing.
Truly. Childcare was the one thing I worried about the most when I was pregnant with Eliott. Not only finding people I trusted, but then affording them. Multiply that by four, and you can see where I assumed it would be at least twenty years before John and I ever experienced alone time again.
But alas. We thrive. And I don’t know what level of the Heaven Hotel these ladies will be on one day in eternity, but if it was up to me it would be the penthouse, with a personal chef.
Looking Forward to 2018
I frequently spend the last few days of December scouring Pinterest for to-do lists, new calendars, bullet journals, organized spaces, and other well-groomed pictures of intentional living. I find it terribly soothing, browsing through other people’s success stories, without any notion that I’m going to undertake any of these things in my own life.
There was definitely a time in my not to distant past that I made lengthy and detailed goals for habit changes, spiritual growth, physical accomplishments, and relational pursuits. But I’m just not there any more.
It turns out, when my head and heart are clear, I’m pretty comfortable with myself. I’ve noted in several other blog posts my journey to hormonal stability, which I truly believe starts with what I’m eating. This is probably going to be my singular focus for the upcoming year. That, and a new commitment to a different kind of prayer, which obviously affects everything. Both of these are going to be more about steadfastness in an entirely boring way, but I am confident that results will be both immediate and noticeable, so I’m not terribly fearful of failure.
If today has found you similarly reflective, I’d love to hear all about it. Either in my kitchen with a hot or cold beverage, below in the comments, on Facebook, or even in an unexpected text message or phone call.
Happy New Year.