I had one big goal for this month. One. My goal was to get supper on the table by 6:30 each night.
At the end of the month I can say I succeeded at this goal. I mentioned this in my last post, how using my freezer and the skills I learned in Whole Foods Freezer Cooking have been a game changer in this regard.
I don't think I could have done it, reached this goal, without taking that class.
That feels nice doesn't it? To start off a blog post with a success story. Yay me.
If my small triumph in this area of home management makes you feel less-than, not "enough" in the kitchen department, I assure you this is my one big "success" of the month. You've totally beaten me in other areas, I'm sure of it.
(I know. I know. This is not a competition, though everything conspires against us to make us believe it is.
This is an attempt at humor. I do not want you to feel bad about your supper making skills. But most of you are probably more mature than me, so when you read that someone has succeeded at something they set out to achieve you respond with kudos not insecurity. Yay you.)
Most days it feels like I can only be "good" and on the ball in just a few areas of life but certainly not all of them.
This month I was on the ball with cooking supper and getting it to the table on time. Which made for great evenings of cozy-ness and chill. I really loved that.
On the other end of the day, I meditated maybe three times this month, soaked in God's presence about the same, and completely stopped drawing. Totally dropped the ball. It wasn't intentional. I just really wanted to write. And I stole that morning time from myself to squeeze it in.
Evenings may be cozy as all get out, watching Gilmore Girls and reading in bed; knitting and listening to podcasts but I am also crawling out of my skin somedays about the state of my writing career. "Writing career?", you ask. Exactly.
I want to write. And this desire, and the words that keep coming, hijacked my carefully constructed early morning routine.
And here's the worst of it. All that stuff I've been feverishly writing in the morning, in lieu of the soul-care practices I worked hard to cultivate last fall, none of it is worth publishing (yet). I refuse to publish something that does not ring true and I'm having a hard time finding the resonance in that writing. It can't simply be that I want it to be true, it must be true.
As Anne Lamott would say it's the shitty first draft. The real kicker is that it's not the first draft.
I take issue with most January blog posts I read that focus on productivity, goal setting, and self-improvement projects in general.
I'm not trying to make myself into a better version of Renee. I'm trying to live in the head space and the heart beat of my true identity.
I'm wired for efficiency and productivity and so my areas of growth are to move away from being driven by those motivators, to venture into the messy and ambiguous terrain of learning how to accept situations I can't change, develop emotional resiliency, that kind of stuff.
But I don't find a lot of January blog posts about those topics. Honestly, I'm not looking. I don't want someone telling me what to do. I'm stubborn and prideful like that.
What works for me is stories. Well-written and humorous stories of people's failures and heartaches. And how they are learning to love themselves in that mess and how they love others. And then, then, if I read something that intrigues me and doesn't scare me too much or make me feel terribly insecure, I will go looking for the help I seek, and usually desperately need, from something I gleaned in those stories.
This isn't going to be one of those posts, a well-written and humorous story, but there is failure and heartache.
I recently fell back into the writings of Anne Lamott. For years she's been one of my favorite Christian-spirituality writers but I haven't adored all her books and I think I must have taken a break after a disappointing read a couple years ago. It happens.
Last week I found myself all out of reading material. I looked through my Goodreads to-read shelf while simultaneously scanning the available digital downloads at the library. Small Victories showed up on both.
The essays are new and "selected", which means old and previously published. I think I may have read some of them before in her previous books. I don't remember, which makes them new again to me. I devoured this collection of essays about grief and resiliency and love.
And then I googled "podcasts with Anne Lamott". I just needed more. And I found two author readings and Q&A sessions from former book tours.
I listened and I alternately laughed and then bawled my eyes out, one seamlessly transitioning into the other.
In one of those lectures she received the following question from an audience member. How do you foster resiliency?
Here's where I tell you that what I've been trying to write through this month is the truth of my own weakness in emotional resiliency and tolerance. And the pain and anxiety that has caused me and others.
Here's her answer to the question. Don't quote me, I scribbled these down while listening and some of these are my own paraphrases:
- do all the things that make me alive and awake
- stop hitting the snooze button (on life)
- get outside
- find emotionally healthy people (she said sober people since her past is alcoholism)
- read the best books I can
- read great spiritual masters
- read more poetry
- have impeccable friends
- live the grace of not trying to fix other people
- keep hiking
- never stop trusting that I am loved ~ I am chosen ~ I am safe ~ and more will be revealed
Here's what I appreciate about this. Anne is over sixty years old. She's lived some hard knocks. She not a "look how I've turned my blog into a business" thirty-year old writer who dispenses self-help, without wisdom, for a living. I feel she's someone who's advice I can trust.
And I feel my cup filling once again; with love, a wee bit of wisdom, a wee bit of equanimity, itsy bitsy understandings that help assuage some of the frustration of failing and falling. Because listening to Anne, reading Anne, I know I'm not the only woman who feels needy and neurotic.
I just want to know that someone else's forward momentum, healing, spiritual growth, self-awareness journey, meditation practice, (fill in the blank with your own thing) is as herky-jerky as mine.
I got what I needed, and just like Anne says, help is always on the way.
In the most recent podcast I listened to, an old recording from the Free Library of Philadelphia, Anne said this,
The more you make yourself get less done every day the more glorious and sweet and expansive your life is going to be. I really recommend that every single day you figure out one thing you realized you’re not going to be able to do and in the morning you take it off the list. You say "it’s not going to happen. It’s going to be a good day. I’m going to get less done and I’m going to get it done less efficiently." And that is the secret of writing.
Ok. I'll take it.
I wanted to link to a couple of blog posts I really enjoyed reading this month. And some wisdom shared with me on Facebook. I thought I might weave them into the post but it didn't work out that way. So here they are:
And for those of you not jiving with the usual January groove, the one in which you must re-boot your life, yesterday, I thoroughly appreciate this idea shared with me on Facebook from Erin Curran:
I want to officially claim January as the "wrap-up/recover/renew order" month. I may use Candlemas/Imbolc (instead of New Year) as the day to commit to making an important change and then use the roughly 40 days until Spring Equinox to nurture and establish the change.
If January hasn't been the raging success you hoped it would be why not start with Candlemas/Imbolc, which this year is February 2nd, as your "fresh start". My preference is that January is for organizing my thoughts, ideas and plans for the New Year. It's not so much about making the radical changes, or even small changes. I totally jive with a wrap-up/recover/renew order protocol for the first part of winter. And when that feels kind of in place I like to start the intentions for the year. Just a thought.