Peace

I found out I was pregnant with our second child in early July, just a week after I wrote Lean In: Year End. We had tried for just over half a year for Jackson, and while in hindsight it is clear that is not long at all, I will never forget the aching pain my heart felt all those months. In striking comparison, this time Glenn and I were looking at that second beautiful pink line just three weeks after we began trying. Three weeks when I had been preparing myself mentally for at least a year’s worth of disappointment. Needless to say, we were both absolutely and thoroughly delighted (if not thoroughly shocked. Did I mention we were shocked? We were shocked.)

Despite my joy the sudden pregnancy really threw me through a loop for months and only recently have I finally felt like I’ve caught my standing. Part of it, I think, is that I now feel my little boy kicking inside me. He has a name, Jacob, and he is mine. However, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that I’m still transitioning mentally with who I am as an individual. In the beginning months this was much harder- I felt sick and bloated and I didn’t have tangible proof of his existence. Instead, planning to take off work during a busy time, knowing I wouldn’t be able to attend two semesters of classes since my due date was right in between them and could go either way, and eating only what I could stomach (often unhealthy) and less exercise (and the resulting weight gain) made me feel like I was sliding back on everything I had worked towards this past year and all the achievements I’ve made. At the end of the day I was struggling to just make dinner and do dishes before putting Jackson (and myself) to bed. I had just found a balance where I could take time to do things for myself, like read a book or do a yoga class, but now I didn’t have the will nor energy. I felt like I had just barely grasped a sense of personal freedom and then lost it as soon as my fingers closed around it.

This is in no way whatsoever blaming my child. However, I felt almost instantly transported back to how I felt in the early days with Jackson, at least mentally. My body, heavy with hormones and other people’s expectations, once again was strongly affecting what I could or could not do.

And at the very beginning of this whirlwind is where I began my search for this year’s theme. The theme that helps me gain focus every year and gives me drive to do more and better. I’m going to be honest, I just barely feel like I’m on stable ground right now. It’s like I’ve been spinning in circles, have just stopped, and am expected to run straight forward. I now can feel the whomps and kicks inside of me, have an obvious baby bump so that I and those around me know the weight gain has been put to good use, and am more prepared for this next year- but to be honest, I still feel like I’m looking forward to at least a year of just making it. I don’t know if it’s because of my experience with Jackson or that I don’t know what to expect from a life with two, but it’s definitely daunting.

I know all the wonderful things I will experience- the life changing, heart gripping love for my child, the soft little fuzzy head, watching my son become a brother and his relationship flourish- and this is what keeps me grounded when I get nervous or scared about anything else.

All this to say that this year, I’m going to dedicate myself to just three intensely personal goals. I also strive (and do not always hit my goal) of being a dedicated mother, wife, and worker- but these are for me as an individual.

  1. Eat Healthy: I’m going to be honest here that I texted my husband at 9pm last night to bring me a burger and fries. Not my smartest moment (albeit wonderfully satisfying), but since I entered the second trimester I have been making healthier choices on a daily basis. There are still numerous pastries and junk food being eaten, but I at least know that I’m nourishing my body for the most part. Looking forward I hope to keep up this habit, and if possible become even better at it (aka- no late night burgers).
  2. Do What Must Be Done: This one is pretty broad and applies to pretty much anything. Dishes, looming projects at work, life insurance, etc. Over the past year there are various things that I’ve been really good at keeping on top of, and then there’s the living trust that has sat unfinished for three months now. I need to stay true and just finish these things so they don’t get that power of hanging over my head.
  3. Accept My Body As It Is Right Now: This is, by far, the most difficult for me at this moment. I know, this sounds horrible. I’m creating life- it’s beautiful! Except I don’t feel that way when I’m looking in the mirror. The feeling of the little boy kicking inside my stomach is mind blowingly wonderful, but the reflection of my enlarging and yet still flabby belly is hard to look at sometimes. I know, that’s pretty much heresy in today’s world. Having worked so hard and so long at losing weight last year, it was so difficult to watch the numbers creep up on my scale every week. At least now it’s obvious that I’m pregnant and people don’t just think that I’m eating too many cookies (which I am too, admittedly.) It is also likely that I’m feeling partially this way because I stopped doing much of the exercise I was before the pregnancy, so I will make it a point to start reintroducing these slowly. But if I can’t fully, I still need to accept my body at the moment, and that’s certainly a goal I will have to work toward.

Five months later and I still haven’t been able to find a word that sums up what I want to strive for myself this year. Dedication? Determination? Acceptance? Nothing applies to everything I want to accomplish, and moreover the things I want to accomplish are pretty vague compared to the last year.

Perhaps Peace. Work hard to accomplish what I want, but finding peace when I’m unable to. Peace with where my life is right now and the fact that it’s about to get a little crazy. Peace that my body is changing but for the very best reason. Peace that sleep will soon be very limited and personal time even more so- but knowing that this is the briefest period of time and one that I will want to return to for the rest of my life. Peace with where I am.

Living The Good Life

Last August, I began a search to really redefine the way I lived my life. When Jack was first born, I was taking every day as it came and just doing what I needed to do to get by. Over time, though, as he grew and became more independent, my own actions didn’t follow suit. I was still doing the absolute minimum of getting by, and I was miserable with how I was approaching several aspects of my life. But the end of summer came with the resolve to fix my approach.

I made a pact with myself to be more mindful, to direct my actions to something useful, something I wanted to accomplish. To lean in and achieve what I wanted out of life. This process has been slow, but as I have learned in the past eight months- time passes anyway, I might as well use it to my advantage.

I am significantly happier now than I was back in August, my body looks and feels healthier, I feel like I have direction in my career (and I’ve FINALLY made peace with where I am now). Overall I’m just more content.

However, I have noticed that I started slacking on my mindfulness the past few weeks, and this has had a profound effect on my level of joy day to day. Instead of feeling rejuvenated, every day I felt like I was under a bit of a cloud. While it’s good to be a peace with where you are, I’ve found that I’m truly happier in a daily sense when I feel like I am working towards a goal.

With that, I’ve reevaluated my daily schedule so I can take steps towards mindfully leaning in every day. It’s not the full-scale renovation I did half a year ago, but a little booster to what I’m already doing. A reminder of what is important, and with it- the intention of creating more joy in my day to day life.

The next month will focus on the following-

Participating at home: I constantly catch myself looking down at my phone throughout my day, especially when I’m at home. I already work 40 hours a week, and so often I feel like I’m missing a significant portion of Jack’s childhood (and my relationship with Glenn!). Back in August, I was determined to put my phone down for several hours a night and instead be fully present for playing, preparing and eating meals as a family, and talking with my husband (and son) about their days. Since I have strayed from this practice, I’ve noticed that at the end of the night I’m disappointed that I didn’t make more of my free time.

This month, I will make a point of participating in the life that is going on around me. Whether it be a making dinner, a dance party, or even a tantrum- I want to be present.

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Seriously, you wouldn’t want to miss out on stuff like this.

Choosing healthier foods more often: This seems obvious, but I’ve noticed that the more I’ve lost weight the more I’m compelled to give in “just this once” since “I’m doing so well”. This, of course, is not self-sustaining and I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made.

I really want to take this month to retrain my brain to not give in just because it’s there. I will be more mindful of everything I eat. I don’t want my actions to be influenced by outside factors, I want to be the one making the decisions that shape my body. Treats are fine (and strongly encouraged!), but I want to make the conscious decision to enjoy them rather than realize after I’ve already begun to eat them.

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Walnuts and honey are healthy, right? And goat cheese is milk. It counts.

Getting outside: This action made a massive impact on my general happiness. Since our schedule is pretty packed during the week with work and a long commute, I don’t often get outside. When I started doing long walks on a trail outside every weekend, I noticed a distinct change in my attitude. I felt significantly more refreshed, happier, and willing to be more active.

This month I will take a few hours to go outside and get the movement my body craves. I will breathe in the crisp morning air, I will look at the beauty of the nature that surrounds me, and I will be so damn thankful that my body allows me to do this. I am so lucky to have this opportunity, and I should take full advantage of it.

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This doesn’t do the view justice

Begin classes: I really accomplished a lot in finally determining what direction I wanted my career to take. While I’m an editor right now, the work that I do is in a very limited field. This has always been a source of deep-seated concern since I wasn’t sure how to direct my focus when it came time to move forward. I didn’t know what I would want to do, and I had no clue how to do it. In the past six months, I’ve finally found a niche I believe I would work well in. I’m still incredibly lucky to have a stable job, with no signs of needing to change it anytime soon, but I want to prepare myself if something ever happens. I spoke to people in the field and found a program that could help ease me into the market. It’s been a month and a half since I decided to start this new era of school, and I kind of put it off. But the new semester is beginning soon, and this is just the push I need to begin. I’m looking forward to learning something new and having a career that my children can look up to.

This doesn’t quite fall into the mindful category, except that I want to be aware that this is still very much a resolution I want to accomplish, even though it will take a significant amount of time. So I will begin by taking the introductory course this month and sign up for the class that will begin in April.

I already feel significantly lighter after writing this all down and I’m looking forward to putting my plans into action. I’ll check back in a few weeks to make sure that I’m doing everything I want to live my best life.