Sunday, January 1, 2017

Finally, already, 2017


The years go by faster and faster as you get older, don't you think? I feel like 2015 was a second ago; yet, it's also hard to believe I started the year pregnant, since I feel so far from that now. 

I began 2016 at 24 weeks pregnant with a 3.5 year old who was just coming out of the toddler crazies and blossoming into a somewhat reasonable (albeit unnecessarily mouthy) preschooler. The busy season at work was upon me, my husband was gone from 5:50am - 6:30pm every day, and I was exhausted.  Beyond exhausted.

And then everything changed in May.  We welcomed Asha into the world, and just a week later, my husband got an offer for a phenomenal new job (though still requiring 2 hours of driving every day). He took almost a month off of work. We vacationed briefly in San Diego with a 6-week-old baby. I spend a few months cycling between peace, elation, and depression thanks to wonderful postpartum hormones. We found a new daycare for the kids, I started back to work, and we settled into a new routine. The holidays came and went. Now 2017 is looming.

My themes for 2016 were confidence and grace, and I reflected on those words often. Confidence came easy - when you have so many plates spinning, so many decisions to make every day, who has room for self-doubt? Grace was harder, but there was not a day that didn't demand it. For me, grace was the ability to laugh when pregnancy rendered me unable to run, when my husband missed the birth of our daughter by 5 minutes, when the baby allowed me 2 hours of sleep the day before an important meeting.  It was the ability to let go of my own needs - for space, for solitude, for creativity - in order to meet the needs of my family first. I did not excel at grace this year, but I focused on the concept more than ever, and I do feel that I was able to smile more through the struggle and find joy in moments that would have otherwise been stressful.

I always love goals, and set a few for 2016:
  • To go into childbirth well prepared, physically and mentally. I was as prepared as I could be, considering that I had a very uncomfortable pregnancy. By the end, I struggled - up 60lbs, unable to sleep, prodromal labor starting 5 weeks before Asha was born, it all ate away at my sanity a bit.  But everything turned out fine, and I was as prepared as I needed to be.
  • Become certified in CPR.  Done!
  • Establish a fitness routine postpartum.  Not done, and I'm okay with it. Sporadic baby schedules, a husband who commutes, a demanding job, and spending more than 2 hours every day either nursing or pumping, all have made it difficult to be consistent.  Of course I could get up earlier, stay up later, try harder to carve out time on my lunch break... but I haven't wanted to.  I am unwilling to sacrifice any more of the little sleep I get, and honestly I just haven't had the passion for physical activity that I used to.  It will come back, I know it will.  In the meantime I really focused on my nutrition in the last half of 2016, and can say that I am eating better than I ever have in my life.

  • Take Amaliya on monthly (ideally semimonthly) dates.  She and I are very good about spending time together. She's my grocery-shopping companion, restaurant connoisseur, and a lover of clothing stores and coffee shops. I love that she's at an age where I can easily take her out-and-about with me, enjoying her energy and constant chatter the whole way.
  • Tell my husband that I love him every day.  Yeah.... no. I'm sure I started the year with the best of intentions, but ya'll, babies are hard on marriage.  I think as a woman, you go through so many very unique experiences - pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding - that the gap in understanding between spouses will necessarily widen. The physical strain of nourishing a baby, the long and lonely nights in the rocking chair, the fact that  your spouse gets into bed and then doesn't have to get OUT of bed for 8 hours, while you're up 1-4x every single night for months and months.... the immense and complicated sense of joy that you feel for doing these hard things, at war with the stress and frustration and desperate need for self-care.... all of it is so very hard to articulate, and must be very hard to appreciate from the outside looking in. Our marriage is the foundation of our family and I'm happy to still be in it, but no lie - it's been a challenging year.

6.  Learn one new thing.  Thanks to a complete overhaul of everything at work this last year, I did pick up some new software skills! I also learned quite a lot about myself, and that counts, I think.

2016 changed everything for us, and I'm still struggling to process it all. Knowing that our family is likely complete fills me with excitement and satisfaction along with a deep sadness that I'm not sure how to overcome. A better financial situation means finally being able to make concrete plans for our future, but the looming increase in responsibility and commitment is daunting.  2016 was a watershed year for me personally, I think. I've experienced earthquakes (epiphanies; revelations) that have rocked my foundation, and the dust still hasn't settled. What that means - where I'm going, what I want - remains to be seen. But I have never felt so strongly in possession of myself, so confident about my place in the world. So mortal, yet so purposeful. This year has changed me, possibly more than any other.

My themes for 2017 will be FORWARD and COMMUNITY. 

If there's one thing the past year has emphasized to me, it's the need to not put all your emotional eggs in one basket. The older I get, the more I lean on my friends and the exceptional community that surrounds me for support, encouragement, love, laughter, and security. I have made more of an effort this last year to carve out time for friendship, and am happier than I've ever been because of it. I want 2017 to be a year of community. That means making time to visit friends near and far, reaching out to connect with new friends, and giving back to the community we live in as well.  I grew up insulated and rather pessimistic about the world, and it's taken me until now to shake off that baggage and open myself up to all the wonders and energy and joy that others - strangers and friends alike - can bring to my life. I want to model an open, generous, connected way of being for my daughters, so that they will grow up knowing that we are never alone, that they only get what they give, and that our strength lies in togetherness.

"Forward" comes from really feeling, for the first time, how quickly life moves on whether or not I'm ready for it. My kids will grow, my body will change, my family will get older... all of that is out of my control. What is under my control is how I respond. Do I let myself be dragged, kicking and screaming, by the inevitable passing of time? Or do I embrace it, and move confidently forward on the path of my choosing? I'm choosing forward motion this year.  Embracing each new phase as it comes and pushing forward to the next, proactively, striving to be the best version of myself that I can be. Forward means asking for what I want. Forward means seeking new experiences. Forward means saying yes when no would be easier. Forward means letting go of the past and keeping my eyes trained on the future.

Goals for 2017:

  •  A monthly outing with friends. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks; your place or mine; kids or no kids. I am going to spend as much time as possible with the ones outside my family who keep my cup full, which of course will enable me to give more of my best self to my husband and kids.
  • Throw two kick-ass birthday parties.  We have two milestones coming up this year - Asha will be 1, and Amaliya will be 5. I usually keep parties cheap and easy, but this year I'd really like to live it up and celebrate with both kids and our friends. 
  • Volunteer.  At least once, but I'd like to find an ongoing opportunity. Ideally with my family. Suggestions are welcome!

  • Smile through the transitions. Asha will be entering toddlerhood (NOT my favorite stage, to say the least) and Amaliya will be heading to Kindergarten in August.  I have no idea what will happen to us personally and professionally before the end of the year. Even outside of our family, the world is in transition - administrations are changing, values are shifting and colliding, emotions are running high. Change is inevitable, but never easy.  This year I endeavor to find ways to make the most of every change we go through and to maintain my balance and sanity, so that I can help my kids weather the transitions as smoothly as possible.

  • Find physical and creative outlets. My inner life has been very narrow since Asha was born.  I don't have the time to sit and write for long stretches, I don't have the space to set up and paint, and I've been either too physically limited to run or too stressed out and tired to commit to a schedule.  I feel slightly less sane because of it. At the very least I need to get back into a fitness routine in 2017, and hopefully I will be able to fit in some more creative pursuits as well.

I have some work-related goals as well, but this is not the place to go into those.

Every year builds on the last. I am growing, my family is thriving, and despite the challenges I am beyond grateful for all that came our way in 2016.  We have much to look forward to.