Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!!

I love New Year's, it really is one of my favorite holidays.  It's not a day I spend a lot of time planning, or purchasing for.  It's not a day I expect company or friends to drop in.  No, the reason I love this holiday is because of what it represents: growth.

I guess you could say I'm a personal growth junkie.  I really adore the feeling of planning new goals, charting a course, making plans.  For a long time I spent way more time planning than actually doing the things I had planned.  And I started millions of great crusades to make myself a better person, but since I'm not a fabulous finisher, I didn't get very far.  Or so I thought. 

A few years ago I decided to "free myself" of the chains of planning and live life off-the-cuff.  I stopped making goals.  I stopped planning out my week.  I stopped making lists and living on paper.   I just lived.  Cold-turkey, I felt both free and scared as I started living without a plan.

It was fun and freeing at first.  Of course, we also moved to Oregon right when I made that change and so the newness of the whole situation threatened to engulf me at times, too.  Living without a plan was strange at first, yet in our new surroundings, there was plenty to do and try, and not a big need for a plan.

Now I'm not saying I never wrote things down or made plans, that's not true.  I still planned out dinner.  I still planned our trips to the beach to enjoy every moment of our adventure.  But I stopped making extensive lists and plans for my life and future, reminding me to read a certain number of pages in my scriptures or be sure to mail birthday cards two weeks in advance.

By the time we moved back to Utah last year I was pretty good at not writing lists and setting goals.  I told myself I had sloughed off my stuffy old self and I was only better for it.  I still managed to accomplish and begin a number of self-improvement tasks, but I didn't plow through them at the same pace I used to.  I didn't think that was really mattering, after all, I wasn't spending half of my Sunday writing goals.  I wasn't using notebook after notebook to write lists and plans.  Life was more free.

And then, about a month ago, things began to feel like they were crashing down on me.

It all started with the Christmas music.  I like Christmas music as much as the next person.  Some of it probably even more, I really do like music a lot.  But when I found myself surrounded by Christmas music in the hallway at my school, back in November, it seemed too out of place.  It's nowhere near Christmas time, I said to myself.   And I continued to "live" and didn't give a thought to planning for this upcoming holiday time.

In early November my lovely white van had taken a turn for the worst and I found myself, unexpectedly, replacing it one evening after school.  All or nothing, the van was dead, and I needed not only to get home, but to provide safe transportation in the future for my family.  After a hurried day of silent prayers, I was directed to a place where I was able to both sell my van and to purchase a newer, safer, more economical vehicle.  I was both grateful and concerned about the new expense a financed vehicle would bring.  But what I didn't really give thought to was how my lack of planning all year meant that I was now selling off any hope I had of providing anything for my kids for Christmas!

I know, I know, Christmas is NOT about things.  And yet, as clearly as I know that, I also found that suddenly not being able to provide anything, not even candy canes, was really hard.  And listening to that Christmas music, day after day, got harder and harder as I faced the fact that I was the one who had made that happen, I couldn't blame it on anyone else.

Now this story doesn't have to be a long one, but it could be.  And amazing friend, learning that I was in such dire straights, spearheaded a plan to help us get things for Christmas.  And so I did, and so the kids, anyway, had a memorable and delightful Christmas.  Elizabeth declared that this was her best Christmas yet!  But my thoughts have been very distracted this whole Christmas season as I ponder the reality that planning would have prevented this whole mess in the first place.

And so as I greet this new year, I realize that I have been wrong, at least in part.

Letting go of planning freed me in some ways to just enjoy my family and embrace life, but it also chained me to accepting "whatever came along".  And often, that wasn't what I would have chosen for myself and my family.

I've also noticed that I haven't made the strides in personal growth that I had been making in the ten years or so before I "let go".  I had assumed that because I am fabulous at starting things but not as good at finishing them that I would make about the same progress with no plan at all, and I was wrong.  I can see that I did make more overall progress when planning, even if I didn't finish the plan, than I did when there was no plan in place.  I find myself at the precipice of the end of a rather bland year.  Yes, I made some overall financial progress this year. Yes, I began the rather difficult process of putting down roots.  But I can't really point to other progress in my life.  I read the Book of Mormon only twice this year and positively skipped the Relief Society lessons and Ensign.  I was pretty consistent in reading the Conference talks, but I haven't really studied them at all.  I haven't learned much that is new, I haven't read very many great books, I haven't taken many steps towards my future.

Now maybe you say, who cares?  Well, I will tell you, I do!  I have spent the last week thinking back, reading through journals and goals I set in the past, and I can truly see the power I had been creating by planning.  I look back at the goals I had written, at who I wanted to be, and I can see how I was the one who shaped my future.  Leaving it to chance is the surest way to make sure you don't go anywhere ;)

So here I am, January 1st, 2013, ready to try again to re-embrace my goal planning strategies and see how much more I can accomplish this year. 

One of my favorite ways to "create myself" is by writing my goals as a vision of the future.  I like to write what my life will be like one year, five years, or more in the future.  This helps me to envision what little steps will lead to this progress in my life.

Here is my most recent vision:  A Picture of Me at 40

Happy New Year!  What a great year I just finished and an even better year is beginning!

Let me back up a few months to my 40th birthday:  I had a big party (of course I orchestrated it!  I couldn't let something that important go awry!!) and surrounded myself with family and friends from all over!  It was wonderful - I have an album filled with pictures to remind me of all those who love me - well over 100 people attended!

Naturally, I timed the release of my book (my first - with many more to come) with my party.  I'm so proud to have finally completed it.

Christmas was so great!  I finally figured out how to create my perfect holiday - turns out each person has really  different needs that can impact their enjoyment of a holiday when not met.  So I've been focusing these last few years on learning my needs (and those of my family) so that there would be less hurt and disappointment.

Right before Christmas I really celebrated when I finally GRADUATED from College!!!!  Wow, that only took me 22 years!  I'm so proud of myself and excited for what this means.

I am moving forward in life!  I've applied to several different master's degree programs.  Beginning in January I am going to do the ESL endorsement with WGU (I should finish in one semester - so by June).  I found some work that will allow me to stay home while I'm at it, that will be nice!  I should be ready to start my master's degree in the fall, just about the same time my second book is due to be published.

This fall should be an amazing time of new growth and change for our family - Josiah graduates this year and will be leaving on his mission this fall!  Wow!  My first-born!

Daniel is doing well-he has a good job and still maintains his grades.  He is still good friends with Logan and Jaden, although the band only gets together sporadically.  I really believe there is  hope he will go on a mission next year!  His Young Men's leaders really made a positive difference in his life!

Hannah will be 16 this year.  She will be so relieved to finally be able to really date!  She is a beautiful young lady and I'm so impressed with her.  We do baptisms for the dead once a month-I know the gospel is a real priority in her life.

David turned 12 and got the Priesthood last year.  He is finally hitting a good stretch in his life.  Homeschooling was great for him-he exudes a confidence that will take him far.  He is so smart-sometimes it blows me away!

It's hard to believe Elizabeth is only 10, she seems so much older.  I'm so impressed with all she has accomplished so far in her life!  Last year she started a book club which meets at our house twice a month.  You'd think she was 20, the way she deftly leads.  I can't wait to see what she accomplishes this year (she's almost done with her second book-it's a race to see who finishes first!!)              

Do I expect my life to be just like this?  No.  But it does give me a really great road map for who I want to be and what I need to do to become it.

Like with school.  I've decided that I want to go ahead and finally move forward with my higher education and get some degrees that will give me more options in the future.  So this week I will be beginning the LAST leg of my bachelor's degree trip.  I am excited to get going and having a picture of what might be next makes it even more enticing!

Planning what my children's lives could be like doesn't mean it will necessarily turn out that way, but it puts the power in my hands to help them, instead of feeling helpless.  I can very definitely say I see in David and Elizabeth the person I set out to help them be when they were little.  The personality traits are theirs, but some of the habits and refinement are due to my persistent guiding.  (I have been enjoying this during the whole break-my careful "play quietly by yourself when you wake up, be thoughtful of others" teaching payed off big time - in the form of lots of delightful sleeping in!!)

So here's to you and yours, and me and mine, and a wonderful new year of growth!!

love always,


yours truly said...

I like the approach of envisioning the ideal and then figuring out ways to step toward it. Here's to a great year of reaching for goals and enjoying the now!

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