I attempted several drafts…in December…then in January, trying to succinctly sum up last year and offer hope for 2017.
But truthfully, I’ve been a little down.
2016 was a good year for Grief Happens. I posted regularly, saw an increase in views and gained more followers, but for some reason, rather than feeling excited and optimistic, I began feeling anxious and pressured to produce — all self-inflicted, but still…
Personally, 2016 was difficult. I underestimated how challenging moving to a new city would be, and I certainly did not expect the adjustment period to be so lengthy. We only relocated an hour away. It’s not like we moved to the other side of the world, which is likely the very reason it HAS been hard. There was the expectation that it would all be easy breezy.
We’ve been in our new location for a solid year and a half now. Things are getting better, and really they were never particularly bad, but moving with school-aged children presents challenges. That’s just reality.
I think I was working hard to put on a happy face here at the blog when I wasn’t feeling all that jubilant.
Thanksgiving was fine; then we elected to not travel during Christmas, which, on one hand was good, but the week leading up to Christmas felt unusually heavy, and by Christmas Eve I recognized a deeper more disturbing depression looming. More than anything, I was overstimulated, exhausted, and bombarded with that expectation of holiday merriment that has never come naturally.
A lot happened in 2016 that I didn’t share here. I’m at this odd place of figuring out how much to share and what things are best left unsaid, or perhaps better channeled through other mediums.
Art is my salvation, and as I get older I find myself turning to music, fiction writing, even visual arts such as painting or photography. Those are the spaces where I feel most at home, more nourished and connected.
Art is the one place that always feels hopeful.
In my past I’ve looked to others to connect and process more. Maybe I’m simply becoming more comfortable with my introversion. Obviously, connection with others is important, but I’m also recognizing when it’s necessary and when it might not be exactly what I need.
Parenting is intense, and it often leaves me lacking energy for interacting with anyone other than my children. That sounds dismal, when what I actually want to convey is much more specific but I’m grasping for adequate language. It IS intense, but not necessarily in a negative way. Being a parent has broadened me in ways I could barely comprehend prior to Piers’ birth way back in 2007.
I attribute much of this intensity to my nature as an empath. I feel everything deeply. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are downsides to absorbing others’ emotions and feeling connected to everything. I often find that I need breaks from the too-muchness of it all.
I’ve shared some of our journey with Wallace’s dyslexia. What I haven’t been as candid about are my own emotions with all of it — mostly because they oscillate hourly.
I feel so strongly that ALL children deserve a chance and deserve to have hope when it comes to education, and this experience with Wallace has made me hyper-aware of the damage well-meaning educators do in the cut-throat competitive world of smartest, strongest, most-talented on top.
It’s a similar thing with Piers. He doesn’t struggle in school in the same ways Wallace does but falls more under that blanket of “not living up to his potential” which chaps my nerves most of all because it is achingly familiar.
What bothers me most is seeing my kids get caught up in the competition that is a far cry from values we live in our home. I absolutely get that there is a time and place for healthy competition, yet I see it affecting young kids in not great ways. I mean, pardon me if I sound a bit Kumbaya, but shouldn’t second and third grade be more about getting along and supporting one another and our community and world than cut-throat, I’m-number-one? Oops, my idealism is shining.
Gil says a lot of this is simply the age of our kids more than it is our community. I have mixed feelings about that, though I definitely think it’s a reflection of the time in which we live.
I shared in a previous post that I’ve been teaching tennis again, and through that I’ve re-connected with the tennis community as a whole. While this has mostly been a positive thing, there’s the flip side. I teach kids’ clinics through a local non-profit, and maybe I need to alter my focus because I enjoy 95% of the children and their parents, but the cut-throat, uber-achieving variety do a number on my mood. We’re talking beginning tennis here. As a teacher, my goal is to introduce a game that these children can enjoy throughout their lives. The focus is more on fun, teamwork, camaraderie, and mastering a basic forehand and backhand.
Learning a skill.
Tennis isn’t a game one excels at the first time she or he picks up a racket…and that’s okay. I’ll leave it here before I get on my entire kids’ sports soapbox. Just be warned that it’s coming.
Where was I? I guess I’m once again working on keeping a manageable amount on my plate. I believe it’s important to always find time to seek out the good and beauty in this crazy world, so let me end the gripe-fest and share some good.
I’ve been reading more out loud to the kids. This is especially important for Wallace, so we’re reading nightly and just finished the first Harry Potter book.
Reading has always been such a source of joy for me, and I’ve had to alter some of my thoughts on how it “should” be done. I certainly don’t intend to speak for everyone with dyslexia, but for Wallace, words without any sort of visual don’t work. The visual connection, or rather a having a visual for each word, is paramount.
Wallace has always loved books, especially the illustrations, so I sprung for these beautifully illustrated versions of Harry Potter.
Jim Kay is the renowned artist, and I’m hoping to eventually get the entire set. Thus far, only the first two are out.
One of my favorite websites is Book Oblivion. I highly recommend this site to anyone who loves reading, but I especially love her tips on encouraging children to read.
I read a lot to my kids when they were little, but since starting school, the rush to finish homework and maintain adequate sleep pushed the reading ritual lower on the priority list. We’ve been back at it for just over a month now, and it’s been an overwhelmingly positive evening ritual.
January was a month of re-prioritizing.
I decided to go back to using a physical planner this year and after a little research decided on the Passion Planner.
I love it — the founder, the story, the company, all of it. I like that you can choose a dated or non-dated planner. I went with the non-dated…because I’m me, and I knew that would work best.
I’m trying to focus on one new thing every month. My main focus for January was sleep and getting up early — okay, that’s technically two things, but they go hand-in-hand.
One of the most thought-provoking books I read in 2016 was Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I didn’t love her book The Happiness Project and was hesitant to try her latest book, but I’m glad I did.
Gretchen and I have vastly different personalities/temperaments, but after watching her interview with Chase Jarvis back in May during his Creative Live 30 Days of Genius series, she appeared more understanding, empathic and likable than I perceived her to be while reading THP. You can check out the interview here.
Better Than Before provided lots of insight into how different personalities create and maintain habits, something I have found to be critical when following various self-help advice. There is no one-size-fits-all.
And this couldn’t be more relevant than when selecting a planner/calendar. Planning ahead simply doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’m okay with this after oh, 41 years on this earth.
The Passion Planner has helped me with establishing a monthly focus, which ultimately led to much more.
I slept more, got up earlier, completed 31 days of yoga (I did yoga 24 days and I’m cool with that because in striving for 31, I did WAY more than I would have had I not set a goal), worked diligently and consistently researching an article I’m in the process of writing.
January was a good month personally, and I’m looking forward to doing a tad more planning ahead in the new year. Baby steps.
Additionally, there’s a lot going on in the world, and I’m thankful I set some personal goals because they helped me stay grounded.
I feel stronger than ever that 2017 is going to be a year where each of us can benefit by turning inward, pausing before we speak, choosing our words carefully, and connecting with love.
We joke that Wallace is our peace-and-love child. He has always had a wise-beyond-his-years depth. In December he won an award for embodying the character trait “Peace” at his school. I’m not one to boast of my children’s achievements, maybe because I grew up frequently feeling the sting of NOT receiving awards when most of my friends did, but this award is a high honor in my book, and I want to shout it from the rooftops.
I went to an “Action” meeting with some friends recently, and while some good action items were checked off a list, I walked away recognizing that I’m not in a space to jump to action. Driving home I began asking myself what actions felt right for me. I believe that actively working on my mindset and striving to connect with those who hold strong convictions in opposition to my own is worth some action. I’ve done some activist/action things in the last month that are stretching me, but for the past week I’ve felt tired and defeated, so I’ve been focusing on some wise words that I *think* came from Glennon Doyle Melton over at Momastery:
“When the world feels too loud, we must be quiet. When the world feels too violent, we must be peaceful. When the world seems evil, we must be good. The harder life is the softer I must become.”
Love is my focus for February.
I want to embody love in my thoughts and actions, difficult though it may be.
Thank you all for reading and connecting and sharing yourself. I’m looking forward to catching up with you again. I needed a break, but I’m happy to be back.
Wishing you all the best in 2017.
How has your year been so far?