I don’t tend to take the new year and reflect deeply. For whatever reason, this year is calling for me to do just that. Maybe it’s because this year has been monumental in so many ways – personally, professionally. Maybe it’s because the last few months have rocked me and my belief system in ways I never anticipated. For whatever reason, I have felt an urgency to collect my thoughts on 2016 and prepare myself to enter 2017.
Here is what I have learned this year, and what I hope to take forward into the new year.
Friendships are critical. Friends far away are irreplaceable, friends in the same zip code are indispensable. I do not know what I have been doing the last three years. I have let fear win out over possibility. I entered 2016 with the sole goal of putting myself out there in order to make local friends. It was one of the best goals I have ever made. Finding a person or a group is worth every awkward “mom date” and uncomfortable conversation. When you find that person(s), the outcome is life changing. The women that I have befriended, and those that have befriended me are my family. They are my soul sisters I did not know I had, and did not know I needed. I am humbled by their friendship and buoyed by their support and love – both for my children and for me. They are my tribe. Find them, love them hard.
I am important. I left ME out of the equation for the first half of 2016. I have little kids. I had quit my full time job. I did not think ME had a place at the table. It does. It has to. I am a mom and a wife, but I am also ME. Perhaps I should reorder that. I am ME. Then I am mom and wife. I still struggle with prioritizing ME, but as all the ‘experts’ say, when you take care of yourself, everything else fits a bit better, runs a bit smoother, appears a bit happier. What those blogs do not tell you is how to get rid of the guilt (which should not exist, but does), or how to find the time, or even how to find the ‘what.’ The ‘what’ is not always getting manicures, or grabbing a coffee, or finding a quiet place to read a book. For me, the ‘what’ is working out, finding time to pursue and make a career for myself, experimenting with creative side businesses, going out with friends, skipping out on bed time. Those are my MEs, and as soon as I realized that and began allowing myself the time to devote to those things, my life felt fuller, my heart lighter. So this is what I do. I trade 30 minutes of sitting at the table to eat lunch for 30 minutes of working out. Every Day. I relinquish bed time to my husband when he is home. I kiss my kids good night, and I walk down the stairs. I put book club on the calendar to guarantee that I get that night for myself – and if my husband has a conflict, I now get a babysitter. I spend my money on yoga, a weekly babysitter, and paint supplies, rather than clothes or coffee. I’ve found the things that make my heart sing, and that make ME a priority.
My kids need me, but they also need time without me. It is okay to take them to a friends house and let them play with minimal supervision for three hours. Its okay for me to sit in the kitchen drinking coffee with a sister, disengaged from my children, checking on them only occasionally to make sure my toddler isn’t playing in the toilet, or my three year old isn’t gluing toys together. Its also okay for the TV to be on, or for me to do work while they are playing. Independent, imaginative play is necessary. I will always be here, but I do not need to be engaged at every second. We are all better for it. Trying new things is hard, but deeply rewarding. I spent the year stepping outside of my comfort zone and I’m here to say I survived. Not only did I survive but I reflected, and I grew.
Working out has changed my life. Its a priority – because it makes me feel good. Because I’m happy with how I look, how my clothes fit, how healthy I feel. Perhaps most importantly, because it makes me feel strong – physically and mentally. Other things that are just as important get bumped in the name of 30 minutes of exercise. Find your thing – running, jumping, dancing, biking, group classes. Find it and do it. On that same note, the elliptical we bought and placed in a spare bedroom is life changing and well worth the investment. So too is the yoga studio I’ve invested in attending. Find it and go. Spending a year not pregnant, sleeping through the night AND able to drink is a glorious thing.
Marriage is hard (duh!) It is possible to hit dark patches and emerge a bit bruised but overall in good health. I’m speaking from experience.
Sex is well, just sex. Its cool if it comes and goes in waves. It isn’t something you lose. Dry spells are all good. They too, like everything else, are just a part of life.
Saying ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘You’re Right’ are hard for to say. And that’s okay. But if we can’t do this with our partners, how can we expect our kids to do this when they need to.
Traveling alone with your partner, sans kids, is the most glorious, refreshing thing you can do. Take a day, two days, three days – whatever you can finagle – and go. Explore. Eat. Talk. Hold hands. Find each other. You won’t regret it.
Professional I can do more than I ever imagined possible in less time than I ever thought I needed to dedicate to a task. Subject: taking the bar exam. Subject: starting a consulting business. Subject: beginning a small art based side business. Subject: doing all of those at once. I stretched for all of these, but when you want something enough, you’ll be hard pressed to let yourself fail. Moms are strong ass women.
Its okay to not know the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” even when you feel ‘all grown up.’ We all have hidden talents, creativity that has yet to be uncovered. Go with it, you never know what will come of it.
You can be a mom and still want to be a strong, powerful career women. They don’t have to happen all at once, and its okay to stagger them, but you can be both.
Life throws you curveballs. Reality is rough. Politics are a disaster. Human Rights and Equality are essential but not where they should be given that, well we are in 2016. Everyone does not think the way you think. Talk without action is just talk. Act. Do it now. All we can offer is Peace, Love, Compassion, Intelligence, Humanity, Humility, Decency.
Personal: May I continue to remember that I matter. That I am loved. May I remember that my friendships forge the backbone of happiness and joy, that my love for myself propels me forward, and that my children continue to know the warmth of my love and grow up in a society based on decency and compassion.
Marriage: May I continue to be humbled by my relationship and to grow in my relationship. May I continue to derive joy from my husband and solace in his presence.
Professional: May I know success – in whatever form that takes. May I make myself known as a passionate, driven, and intelligent woman who has much to offer each person and business I touch. May I follow as many paths as I choose, without being bound by the life dictated by society.
Life: May I continue to fight for what I believe in. May I continue to surround myself with those who share my beliefs, while simultaneously opening myself up to a world whose values differ. May we work to build a world based on peace, love, and equality.
To 2017: A year for each and every one of YOU. Be who you want, with whomever you want, when you want, for whatever reason you want. Know that you’ve got a community of women backing you, ready to cheer you on as the amazing, strong women you are.