Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why avoid energizing joy?!

Last year my friend Sue told me about something a friend of hers had posted on Facebook at the beginning of the year. I copied it into a "sticky note" on my computer desktop (sticky notes are really cool--they look like Post-it Notes all over my computer screen, which means that I see them first thing when I turn on the computer) and have read it over and over again all year. A few weeks ago I finally asked if I could use the quotation in a blogpost, and she said sure, and that she didn't originate it anyway, so I don't need to attribute it to her. If someone knows the origin of the quotation, feel free to tell me. Anyway, here it is:

Before rushing head-long into 2012, ask yourself these questions:
what energised me most in 2011?;
what brought me most joy?;
 what did I avoid doing despite knowing I needed to do it?"
When I read this the first time, I thought of it as three separate questions, none of them too difficult to answer. However, in conversation with Sue, we discussed the possibility of answers that would answer all three in one go. That sounded impossible to me at first. Why on earth would I AVOID doing something that not only did I know I needed to do, but which energized (sorry, although the quotation is British I remain American ;-P ) me and brought me joy?!? Interestingly, when thinking about this in the last couple of weeks, I could only remember having mentioned writing and playing the piano, both of are pretty weak. For one thing, I couldn't (still can't) claim that either one "needed" to be done, but considering that I'm energized and joyful after doing so, and therefore in a considerably better mood than before, they are definitely beneficial activities both for myself and my family.

However, I then looked back to find out what else I'd said...and discovered that at first, I couldn't think of anything that had brought me joy at all (2011 was NOT a good year, for many reasons), much less anything that answered all three questions. Finally I came up with was "walking," never a mention of writing or playing the piano! Walking/exercising is certainly a more obviously logical answer, I think, and even though it took me until the middle of May to really get started with that, I couldn't be more pleased with how it's been going. About ten kilometers today to start the new year, definitely energizing me and bringing me joy, but no longer being avoided! At the beginning of last year I did walk a few times with Sue on a Saturday, but I wasn't ever motivated to go by myself. Now I'm walking or jogging every day, Sue going with me three days a week.

I did come up with one more thing in that conversation: spending one-on-one quality time with my children. Almost every time it happens, with any one of the six, it's wonderful. Taking just one of them grocery shopping, or just one of them being home with me, or just one coming along in the car during a short errand, or one coming with me on my morning walk--it's just plain cool. But it doesn't happen automatically all that often, and I don't make anywhere near enough effort to MAKE it happen. I have plenty of reasons (like, to start with, five other children...), but really, if something is important enough, time can be found. My husband has been taking each one of the older five children out once every two weeks for one-on-one time, and they all look forward to that special Papa-time very much, plus he does often take one or two along during other errands and shopping. (Note: my husband does the VAST majority of the grocery shopping, so that isn't actually much of an opportunity for me to take one child...) So this is something that could be worked on, for sure.

So then after that I came up with "writing" and "playing the piano", and did do something about both of those during most of the year. Piano playing petered out in the summer because it just isn't fun to play the piano when sweat is dripping down my whole body and even my finger-tips are slippery, and I've only picked it up again a bit in the last month or so. I'd say I've almost gotten back to the level I had when I was around 11 or 12, and I'm kind of okay with that.

As for writing...that wasn't something I had said to anyone at all except my journal, so I was very surprised when Sue invited me to the writers' group that she was a part of (and now leads, incidentally). It seemed an impossible thought to be able to go, not on a convenient day for me with the children and my husband's work schedule, but I was certainly intrigued. And then yet another acquaintance, not someone I knew well at all, asked me totally out of the blue if I'd be interested in the writers' group. Sue and I have exchanged e-mails for years and I borrow books all the time and she reads this blog, so it maybe wasn't totally unreasonable for to have figured out some of my "secrets", but this other lady didn't know any of that and I still actually have no idea at all why she invited me. And then Sue's husband, Richard, offered to occupy (code for "babysit") Lukas, the one child I can't leave at home without an adult, so I could go the writers' group...and I started going to that in February and haven't missed a single gathering. I'm really not sure how much my enjoyment of it has to do with writing and how much just with the fact that it's an outing with only adults, something that still makes me giddy with excitement!

Summary of this ramble: before rushing head-long into 2013, I have carefully considered what in 2012 brought me the most joy AND energized me AND I avoided doing, at least before 2012. My conclusions are that I'm doing well with walking, not too badly with writing and playing the piano (both activities being entirely and selfishly for ME, so don't expect any books or concerts--I'm not very good, just love doing them), and definitely need to make more of an effort to spend one-on-one time with each of the children.

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