Saturday, December 31, 2016

What I Learned in 2016

 Last year instead of doing my monthly "What I Learned" post for December, I did a bigger, more thorough "What I Learned in 2015" post. I really liked doing it that way so I decided to do it again! Some of the stuff on here is things I realized this month, but a lot of it has been brewing for awhile and even the things I realized this month seem to really apply to the whole year. I jotted down thoughts and had decided to organize them into categories (because I liked that last year, too). I was going to create new categories and group them into those but when I looked back at my three main ones from 2015, they worked this year, too! Here are some of the things I learned in 2016...


1. There are small things I can do to make my life more efficient and when I figure one out it feels like I've won a gigantic prize. Some of it is better time management. Some of it, I think, is that I've gotten faster at certain things over the years (churning out a post for example) and have figured out ways to make it faster (sometimes writing things in pieces is easier- uploading pictures at one point and writing the bulk of the post at a different time and that kind of thing, sometimes it works better to spend a big chunk of time and just knock it out). Some of it is the kids' ages. Some of it is little life hacks. Life is easier when the dish soap and hand soap just share a dispenser or when I hang the recyling bag by the sink while I'm doing dishes so I can just pop things in when I rinse them out.

2. Simplifying and purging in regards to baby clothes hasn't been as hard as I predicted.
 [Took all this stuff to consign- yay!]

 I've had a hard time at points as Sallie's outgrown things but overall, I haven't been AS heartbroken as I expected to be. I remember when we had our last night in the sweetest "storybook" jams. Fortunately, even Annie's bedtime collection was extensive and well curated so it'll be exciting to move on to new pieces. It was something I took very seriously as a new mother. And a couple of months ago when I was sorting through things and getting stuff together to consign and donate and separating out some stuff into a bin that was going to my parents' storage unit to wait in a climate controlled environment for (still down the road) Baby Reynaud and (very very hypothetical and also adopted) Babykins #4. I thought about what it meant that just like that, for the first time in over seven years, my house would have no itty bitty baby clothes in it. 
Like I said, I wasn't as torn up as I had envisioned myself. And I finally came up with a good purge plan. I was having a hard time picking out what to save for Cookie down the road. I decided to just keep what I love and what I'd personally want to hang on to in the case we end up fostering/adopting- a very simple, paired down wardrobe with just my favorite pjs, play clothes, and dressy things. It feels good living in the present and feeling happy hopeful about the future.

3. I don't like bribing my kids but awhile back it occurred to me that I reward myself a lot for doing things that I just simply should do. That's just sort of how a lot of people live life and I don't think it's a horrible thing.

4. Mindless activities are really good for you and I need to find a couple of positive ones. Peyton and I were talking recently about how we (we: millennials in North America and we: him and I) spend so much time mindlessly scrolling through our phones and he said something about how he likes to cook because it's something he can do with his hands while he's listening to a podcast or something and it doesn't take a ton of mental energy. I have a few friends who love to knit for exactly the same reason and my grandmother, Peyton's grandmother, and my momma all love gardening because of this. I mean, people used to whittle wood into things. I'd like to cultivate a few useful skills (or at the very least, relaxing habits) that don't necessitate a lot of actual thought but also don't involve a screen.


5. I love a little comparison study and I also love curating some quotes. 
These have been two of my favorite things to share on IG this year. The first is comparing pictures of the kids (mostly the girls, for obvious reasons) in the same outfit or doing the same thing. The second is just making little speech bubbles out of funny or sweet things the kids or Peyton (or our friends) say that I want to remember.

Struggles and Joys

6. There's a lot I don't remember from Sallie's birth. Oh hey, remember that time I had a baby and she came out blue?!? Yeah, me either. And apparently, Peyton didn't think to tell me anything about it until like seven weeks later. To be fair, it didn't sound extremely emergent. But still. Wonder what else I don't remember from that crazy night that he's keeping to himself.

7. Related to that, Sallie's birth was beautiful and the important thing about my story is that it's mine

I'm still processing and coming to terms with it and I'm working on a post that I'm hoping to actually hit publish on in the next couple of weeks, but there's a lot I need to get out. Back during those first few weeks after she was born, I had been looking at some beautiful birth photography and birth stories in a group I'm part of on Facebook and then someone on Instagram shared a beautiful story. It's been a while since I've played the comparison game with houses and cars and clothes but oddly- and I feel so absurd admitting this- I got swept up in it. It was the fifth time in a few weeks that I had seen an amazing birth story or pictures. I reread my own post. about Sarah Lamar's birth. The broken car and bright lights and novice nurse and bedpan episodes seemed nearly totally devoid of any tenderness and had nothing in common with these soft, serene accounts. The photographs that had become one of my greatest treasures weeks earlier seemed garish and too raw. And I got sad it was my last chance at it. I put Sallie in one of my favorite sleepers of AP's that night and I thought about how it's my last chance at everything. And I kind of lost it. I talked to a friend who gets this part of me- both the creative part and the compulsivity I often struggle with (wanting to do a thing over and over until it's perfect, which is not sustainable with, you know, giving birth). She told me she knew how important it is to me to capture a beautiful story and that she knew Sallie's birth was beautiful to me even if I lost sight of that for a bit. She reminded me that the important thing about my story is that it's mine. She was so right and it was one of the deepest, most important things I learned this year. I can't wait to explore it more in the coming weeks. 

8. Sometimes a stranger's vulnerability or a stranger's encouragement can be a real gift. That birth group I'm in on FB? The one I mentioned where I kind of got upset reading stories and seeing pictures? A few weeks later another momma expressed how hard this exact thing is sometimes. And y'all. So many women came out of the woodwork to encourage her and validate her feelings. Her vulnerability was a gift to me and I felt so much healing (to be very clear, I wouldn't call Sallie's birth traumatic at all, but it was a deep grief to me that it wasn't at all how I pictured it and especially so with it being my last). Such a gentle grace.

9. I need to prioritize self-care and giving myself some space to be something other than a mother. Recently, Peyton made this great soup and a friend of mine got a book published. I was literally sobbing and saying "Why is everyone else so successful and not me?" And then I was like "Well, I'm pretty damn successful at being Sallie's mom. It sure is nice that NOBODY else can take care of her and make her happy like I can EVEN HER DAMN GRANDPARENTS". It was the night we were going to that pharmacy party and honestly I wasn't mad at all about taking her- I knew it would be fun and give me an out to leave a bit early- but it sort of annoyed me that I didn't feel like I even had the option. Then I was like "I mean besides Tequila in the church nursery. She does a damn fine job and that's a REAL BLESSING to me. Because I'm ABSOLUTELYFREAKINGOBSESSED with this baby but in case you didn't notice occasionally I need her to not be attached to me". [That was actually edited because the real language was way worse. Eeek.]
It terrifies me when I get so tired- physically and emotionally- that I'm unmotivated to write or interact with other people. It's just lonely but I have no energy to really change it. I'm determined to do better about not lett myself get to that point. 

10. "I can live sad." A friend said this to me recently and not to be dramatic, but it was like a life-altering realization. I've been thinking so much (especially after listening to the Sorta Awesome podcast on dealing with grief during the holidays) about how hard I culture works to avoid lament. We are absolutely terrified to sit in the sadness with others and to sit in our own sadness. I certainly don't want to convey that sadness is the whole of my life, but it's a part- a natural and healthy part- and I want to make space for it better.

Interestingly, I only had one thing under "Personality" and I had four under both "Struggles and Joys" and "Lifestyle". That seems really fitting- I've certainly learned a lot about myself and others but a really big part of this year has been that our day to day life has changed with the addition of another child and more so than many years, I feel like it's been one of intense struggle and joy. I'm thankful for all 2016 has brought us, not the least of which was some great things I learned about myself and those I love!

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