Does anyone else feel yourself on the precipice of some amazing, breakthrough thoughts and get so excited about being so close to having revelations that your brain short circuits and you have difficulty forming any coherent thoughts at all? Ok, this is a blog and I can’t see any of my readers, so I’m just going to assume there are at least a couple heads bobbing up and down with me.
My last blog post was in early April and was intended to be a strong return from another previous hiatus. I even had another blog post drafted shortly afterwards (that never got posted).
When it comes to my blog, here’s what I know…
Writing helps me process my thoughts and provide an outlet for them.
I may have ideas or insight that can help like-minded people learn more about themselves or discover their own answers. Just as I spend a lot of time on the Internet looking for folks who’ve figured out things I’ve been struggling with, I hope to be able to provide that for others.
As with myself, I’ve had a hard time defining my blog and finding its direction.
“Mindful Perfectionist” is close-ish to my blog’s voice but not. quite. it.
It is very difficult to prioritize writing in a blog while also keeping alive two very young children who routinely bring daycare’s microbes du jour home for everyone to enjoy.
When it comes to myself, here’s what else I know…
Feeling like I have things “figured out” fuels my being
Order and simplicity calm my soul
I tend to live life feeling overwhelmed and anxious by being in a rush and surrounded by chaos.
I think more deeply, critically, and thoroughly than the average human.
I desperately seek to define myself to find my niche and my community.
It is very difficult to prioritize anything for myself while also keeping alive two very young children who routinely bring daycare’s microbes du jour home for everyone to enjoy.
I did a lot of reading while I wasn’t writing for my blog. Middle of the night baby feeds are great for doing some reading on my phone. Through my reading, I had quite a few “aha!” moments and generally learned a lot about myself that has rejuvenated my excitement and I look forward to sharing those findings in more depth in future posts.
This blog was pretty quiet for most of February and March. Honestly, I’ve still been struggling to find my rhythm and voice with it. I know my normal tendency is to wait to jump into this sort of thing until I have the perfectly refined plan and I also know that waiting for the perfect plan is the hill most of my passion projects die on.
So I hushed the protesting voice in my head and got started, telling myself it would be okay if I decide I no longer like my path and I want to change directions. I’ve already changed the blog name once and I still live to tell the tale. It’s okay, good even, for things to change and evolve over time.
Some projects are about the finish line, but this one is really more about the journey. I write because I believe I have things that are worth saying. I write for the people out there who share my values, perhaps want to walk along a parallel path, or feel less alone when I say something that resonates with them.
I want to be honest, raw, and real for those people and even more so, I want to be true to myself.
During my blogging silence, I retreated inward for a bit. I did some reading and a lot of reflection, and most importantly, I learned some things about myself that sparked some excitement. Writing my more recent blog posts, I felt inspired. My posts for most of my first year of blogging were rather methodical and carefully thought out and I think perhaps I stripped them of my humanity.
It is really easy for me to get stuck in my head. As I said in my recent post about changing my critical thoughts, my head is my safe space. It’s familiar and comfy, but on its own I don’t think it makes very good blog posts. My work is better when I also tune into how I feel. It’s super uncomfy, but for the first time, I’m truly liking where I’m currently going with this blog.
Other people would often describe me as a very quiet person. I’ve always enjoyed silent observation and getting lost in my thoughts. Sometimes I also sit in silence when I feel uncomfortable, don’t know what to say, or lack the confidence to say it. Inside my head has always been my safe space (even though sometimes my thoughts of myself are unkind).
At some point, around when I was in my late teens or early twenties, I realized that my silence and whatever my resting face was doing, came across to a lot of people as my being judgmental. The saying goes that if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It seemed people also believed the corollary that if you don’t say anything at all, you must have nothing nice to say. This really frustrated me because I didn’t believe I had many judgmental thoughts except of myself, but also, I perceived many other equally quiet people as having an easier time making friends than I did and I could not figure out why.
After becoming a parent, I started a whole new wave of personal self-reflection with particular focus on my childhood. Through that, I realized that I frequently do have judgmental thoughts, and while most of those were about myself, I was certainly not above judging others. Sometimes judging others is a deflection I use to temporarily stop judging myself. If I can find something to criticize in another person, then I must at least be better than that person in that one regard, right? But, I decided this isn’t a helpful way of thinking and it’s not a pattern I want to continue.
Changing my thoughts is way easier said than done. I’ve had over 30 years of practice thinking this way; I’m very good at it. So good, in fact, that apparently a lot of these judgmental thoughts had been flying under the radar for nearly 20 of those years. But, I’ve also come to believe that nearly everything is a skill that can be honed with practice, so too can I learn and practice thoughts that are better aligned with my values.
Many child development experts will tell you that modeling the behavior you want to see is one of the most effective ways to instill that behavior in your child. I assume the same holds true for adults. If I surround myself with people who think aloud the way I want to think, then over time, those thoughts may become familiar enough that they start coming more naturally to me. Additionally, I began tuning in my purposely to my thoughts every now and again to try to ‘catch’ the thoughts I didn’t want to have and come up with a new thought to replace it with.
Today, on my way home from dropping off my pre-schooler, I saw a white car on the other side of the intersection with long eyelashes on top of each head light. Seeing this, I thought to myself, I wonder what kind of person that is who would put eyelashes on their car like that? Perhaps they have a big sense of humor and they put eyelashes on their car to show their funny side. Or maybe they are a cosmetologist and the eyelashes are a light-hearted nod to their passion or profession? In any case, it seems like a person who likes to have fun.
When I got home, a few minutes later, I realized that an older version of me would have thought, Who puts eyelashes on their car? That’s stupid. It looks ridiculous. But, instead of immediately jumping to negative judgment, I reacted more with curiosity. I’m really proud of myself for these new thoughts and I think it’s worth this little blog pat on the back. It takes time and perseverance and by no means am I ‘done’ working on this. I’m not ready to think it’s ok that maybe that person really thought the eyelashes on the car looked good, but my new line of thinking shows quite a bit of progress and it just goes to show that one can change their thought patterns.
Sometimes I feel stuck. The truth is, I often just really want there to be one right and true way to do something. I’d even be willing to accept — given that not all humans think or function the exact same way — one right and true way for me to do something. Alas, the more I search for the perfect answers, the more I realize that these rarely exist. Most of the time, I can only find multiple decent answers, each compromising perfection in their own way. No matter how often that truth is demonstrated to me, sometimes I still can’t let go of the ideal, and so I spend more time looking and feeling increasingly frustrated.
I want the “real world” to work the way things did in grade school. I kicked butt in grade school. Do the homework, memorize the information or methodologies for a test, be rewarded with a widely recognized metric of success. The goal and the pathway to get there were clear.
However, now that I’m in the “real world” (and have been for.. yikes! over a decade), I realize I need to unlearn how I view success and failure. I need to practice setting better goals and creating my own plans to meet them. I’ve already been doing this through this blog, but it still feels off, as though I’m still trying to find that perfect formula and am coming up horribly, horribly short.
In my head, I know that even imperfect solutions still move me ahead more than sitting with no solution at all. Logically, I know that even if I find a solution that checks all my boxes, a flash change in my circumstances could make this solution ill-fitting.
I need to stop asking myself if an approach solves all my problems without introducing new ones and instead ask myself, is this new way an improvement from the old? Then try it out knowing I can always tweak it or try something new later. In just giving that imperfect new way a try, I may be better poised to find another, more effective way, or I may even decide the pitfalls of this one aren’t so terrible after all.
Part of my blocker is that I’m afraid. I’m afraid to make a mistake, afraid to waste my time or energy (ironic since I arguably ‘waste’ so much of it researching to find the perfect way), afraid to look foolish.
How did my first weekend go without my phone? Well, did I keep my phone out of reach in a drawer the whole time between when my children were awake until when they went to bed? No. Did I learn a lot about my phone usage beyond social media? Yes.
A previous me might have been disappointed in myself and considered the times when I reached for my phone a failure. Instead, I see this as an opportunity to get curious and either change more habits or refine my phone restriction.
What did I want when I reached for my phone?
To keep tabs on my sleeping baby on the web cam
To record my toddler’s and baby’s sleep in my phone app
To have my phone on hand in case I was contacted about a problem regarding the food I ordered to have delivered
To capture moments of my toddler and/or baby being especially cute/funny
To check the time
In order to truly let go of my phone, I realize I need to take a look at the above and determine whether the need can be met without my phone or whether I need to redefine my no-phone-on-weekends rule to allow for certain exceptions. So, one by one, I made that call..
Keeping tabs on my sleeping baby on the web cam This one I was actually able to catch in the moment. Instead of pulling the monitor up on my phone, I did so on my tablet. On the surface, it might not seem like a better switch, but I have a lot fewer apps on my tablet and its size allows me to look at the screen more easily without picking it up (which would increase the temptation of going down a rabbit hole of other apps)
Recording my toddler’s and baby’s sleep in my phone app First of all, I’m not even sure whether recording my children’s sleep is actually helpful or if it just stresses me out that they aren’t getting as much as experts say they should be. But I’m not yet willing to let it go. In the meantime, I could keep a small notepad with me and jot the sleep times down on paper to be added to the app during my allowed phone usage times.
Having my phone on hand in case of contact from a food delivery service I don’t really have an answer to this that allows me to keep my phone tucked away without consequence. I’ve been contacted by food delivery by phone call or text before and if I miss these, typically the order is held until it is canceled. So, I’m making a phone use exception here. When I order food through a delivery service, I can take my phone off Do Not Disturb (which I usually keep on) and keep it close to my person.
Capturing special moments of my children I think this one may require some deeper thought. On the one hand, one of my main goals of putting the phone down is to allow myself to be fully present in the moment, on the other hand, I do really enjoy looking back at photos and videos I’ve taken. My gut says that most moments are probably best lived rather than seen behind a camera lens and I should embrace that by allowing most photo opportunities to pass.
Checking the time This one is pretty simple.. I can get a watch. I think I even have one somewhere, or I have an old FitBit that also tells the time.
All-in-all, I’m pretty proud of myself and despite the fact that I wasn’t perfect, I’m calling my weekend efforts a win. It feels like a great example of my living to my self-given title: mindful perfectionist. Seeking perfectionism where it matters and embracing imperfection for everything else.
You know you’re getting older when you are constantly saying to yourself and others that you don’t know where the time has gone. January is OVER? And the first week of February is almost gone too!? Well, no time like the present to figure out what my goals are for the next eight weeks.
My yearly focus is lightening the load or finding things I can remove from my life (distractions, toxins, burdens) to make things easier and better for me. This quarter (January-March), my secondary focus is rest so I’m looking at what I can take away from my life to help me feel more rested. March also happens to be when I’ll be transitioning off maternity leave back to a full-time working mama, so that’ll be interesting (honestly, I expect that to make resting easier. Stay-at-Home-Mom life is no picnic).
To find my goals, I looked at each of my goal categories (self-care, connection, resources, purpose) and asked myself, “What makes this load heavy? How can I make it lighter?” Here’s what I came up with:
SELF-CARE (mental and physical wellness)
What makes the load heavy? (or also, What drains my energy? What makes me feel stressed?)
Social media and self comparison — feeling like I should be doing more and/or better
Feeling physically tired almost all the time
Worrying about the future
CONNECTION (family, friendship, human connection)
What makes the load heavy? (or also What strains my side of the relationship?*)
Feeling pressured to keep my husband sexually and emotionally satisfied
Resenting my husband asks me to help him or be with him with his task priorities
Resenting everyone in my family because I don’t have enough ‘me’ time
*I’m particularly proud of the fact that I asked myself what strains my side of the relationship rather than trying to think of how I can improve the relationship by changing how the other person is thinking or feeling, which is definitely something I would have done in the past. One thing I’ve learned over the last year is that, though I may be able to influence the thoughts and feelings of others to a degree, I can’t control. But if I focus on improving the relationship from my side, it’s likely to strengthen to relationship as a whole.. or else, perhaps it’s not one that was meant to last.
RESOURCES (time, financial security, possessions)
What makes the load heavy? (or also What resources feel severely lacking or overwhelming?)
Having too much visual clutter and constantly feeling like I ‘should’ get it under control
Lacking quality alone time
I tried to come up with a third item so that I could have nice, balanced lists of three for all the categories, but ideas just weren’t coming to me and I realized whatever I came up with would likely never be prioritized anyway so I’m leaving it be.
PURPOSE (Creation and community contribution)
What makes the load heavy? (or also What is blocking me from pursuing my passions?)
Not having enough time without a baby in my arms for me to work regularly on my blog or other hobbies
Fearing failure or imperfection makes me hesitant to try
Having already given myself permission to stop at two ideas for Resources, it seemed appropriate for this one too, which was the hardest of all the categories for me to come up with something.
Limiting and prioritizing
One of the things I struggled with last year, was being too ambitious with my goals for myself. Just because I technically can accomplish several goals, doesn’t mean I should commit to doing so and “lightening the load” can mean lightening my goal commitment too. When looking at my lists, I realized three out of my four categories reference a lack of time so that’s definitely something I want to tackle, oh, and lookie, the fourth category also mentions the negative affects of social media, which is a huge time suck for me. So…
Goal 1: Reduce time spent on social media
I want to keep myself to two goals, and looking over my list, the stress from all the clutter in my house really feels like the heaviest weight on me. I’m constantly shaming myself for it all, feeling overwhelmed by it all, and I’ve been convinced for awhile that the more items you possess, the more time it requires to take care of them. So, to reduce my mental stress and hopefully get even more time back in my day…
Goal 2: Reduce physical clutter
Goal 1: Reduce time spent on social media
When I pick up my phone, I usually end up on Facebook or Instagram pretty quickly and though I’ve uninstalled the apps multiple times to try to limit how much time I spend on them, it seems it is far too easy for me to reinstall them. Worst of all, while I’m numbing out on my phone, often my toddler and/or infant are present which means I’m neither connecting with them nor am I spending my time in a way that makes me feel rested or in any way better. Maybe this will prove to be too much too soon for me, but I’m going to try to approach this by ripping the bandaid off… on weekends and any other days when my whole family is home, I’m putting my phone in a drawer (and perhaps even turning it off) where it will stay until at least the two kids are in bed.
New Goal 1: Put the phone away on weekends
Goal 2: Reduce physical clutter
Something I’ve wanted to tackle for awhile is Courtney Carver’s Project 333. In short, it’s limiting your closet to 33 items for the duration of 3 months (roughly a season) and donating or putting away all the rest. The result (ideally) is less mental fatigue when selecting an outift and less time spent on each laundry load (because if you have fewer clothes, you have less to wash and put away each time even if you have to do laundry more often). I’ve also been interested getting rid of the big hulking dresser in my husband’s and my bedroom by moving everything to either a drawer under my bed or the closet.
New Goal 2: Limit items in closet to 33
Goal 3 (Pending completion of goal 2): Donate dresser
I originally started this post mid-December… and then life threw a few wrenches my way and here we are, mid-January.
Anyway, the turn of the calendar year and the passing of this blog’s 1-year anniversary has put me in total reflection and planning mode (though let’s be honest, this is my default mode).
2021 in Review
My focus phrase for 2021 was to “let go”, and while I’m proud of the progress I made, it’s definitely a life journey. I’m still learning that letting something go does not necessarily mean I fail; sometimes it means that whatever I’m letting go of is not right for me in this moment.
In 2021, I created a goal list based on 5 categories:
Self care (my mental and physical wellness)
Connection (my relationship with family, friends, and other humans)
Growth (my personal learning and development)
Resources (managing my time, money, and possessions)
Purpose (my contribution to society)
This is the biggest one and the main source of content for my blog. I divided the year into quarters and set each quarter to have a focus of different essentials for sustaining human life:
nutrition (which I “let go” in order to focus on birthing my baby and surviving the day-to-day with a newborn)
My focus here was to expand our family and to prepare for that expansion. I’m really proud of myself here, that instead of giving myself the goal of “get pregnant”, which is wildly out of my control, my original goals were to “track my menstrual cycles” and “have sex during times of peak fertility”. When I did have the good fortune to get pregnant, I changed my goals towards actions I could take to prepare my body and mind for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I admit, I became a bit obsessed with this focus, wanting to do all the things so much as rumored to help with a successful VBAC that I struggled a bit to prioritize them and do anything very consistently (though my baby did end up born via VBAC, safe and healthy).
I had planned to learn and practice using water colors this year by going through projects from a few water coloring subscription boxes I had sitting for many months. I met my first quarter goal of completing one project, and then never did any more.
With the ultimate goal of reducing the time I spend picking out and washing/putting away clothes, I wanted to “finally” complete Project 333 (TLDR; a recurring 3-month challenge to select up to 33 items for your closet and donate/put away everything else). I partially did this — I created clothing lists, went through a lot of my clothes, put away a lot of clothes, and put some clothes in a “to donate” pile. However, I never fully committed to sticking to only the list and some things not on the list still remained in my closet. I still really want to give this challenge a dedicated try.
I made my blog my purpose for the year. I had hoped to published 45 blog posts during the year. In the end, I published 32 blog posts in the year 2021. It’s 13 posts shy of my goal, but I’m chalking this up to too ambitious of a first-year goal and I’m still proud of those 32 posts.
What worked? What didn’t?
Having goals that aligned with my toddler’s current interests (like sweeping the floors). While they interested him, he gave me a regular reminder and motivation (and help!… sorta) to get it done.
Aiming only for things within my control
Setting bare minimum goals, I have a hard time talking myself out of showing up
Clearly defining the goals
Choosing goals that can be made into a daily habit
What didn’t work?
Relying on my toddler as a long-term trigger for completing daily chores. When he lost interest in cleaning the floors, I lost my regular reminder.
Taking on too much and not prioritizing my goals
Increasing my goal too quickly
What’s Next? Planning for 2022
Last year, my focus was “let go”. This year, I’m focusing on “lightening the load”. I’m taking a look at my life and what I can reduce or remove to make things easier on me.
The first thing I’m reducing? Instead of 5 goal categories, I’m focusing on 4, effectively combining “Growth” and “Purpose” to “Purpose: Creation and contribution”.
I may change this in the future, but for now, I still like giving each quarter a sub-focus related to the four major things that sustain life, but I’m reorganizing them to better align with the time of year:
Rest | January-March: Reset, recover from holiday pressures and stimuli, embrace the pull of hibernation
Breathe |April-June: Move the body, get fresh air, create space in areas of overcrowding
Hydrate | July-September: Replenish fluids lost in the heat (ok, I’m still thinking of how to expand this one beyond the obvious
Nourish | October-December: Try new recipes, learn food/spice pairings that optimize the nutritional gain, streamline meal planning
Happy New Year, readers! Here’s hoping that this new year finds you healthy, loved, and supported and that 2022 will not be 2020…too.
I did not intend to take a long hiatus from my blog, but in mid-November, I had a baby, and in early December, my son’s daycare classroom closed for two weeks due to covid exposure (we tested negative); we celebrated (modestly) the birthdays of three grandparents, the holidays hit, and shortly after that all four of us got covid (we’re all now recovered and doing fine, thank you for asking). I kicked off 2022 feeling exhausted from still being in early postpartum, caring 24/7 for a newborn and a toddler, recovering from a respiratory illness, and not being able to receive childcare help from family. Looking back, though, I am grateful that I didn’t have to do it entirely alone — I have a wonderful husband who helped me (when he wasn’t sleeping off his illness) and family that dropped off some extra food. That, and the constant self-reminder that this wasn’t forever.. that the guilt I felt from leaving the tv on most of the day to occupy my toddler, the lack of fruits and veggies on the plates, the general lack of bathing for all of us — it was temporary. We were taking it one day at a time, accepting things as they were, and not asking more from ourselves.
Of course, my first light at the end of the tunnel…the first daycare promise of reprieve in 2022, was taken from me by our first snow of the season. The next day was a delayed opening that threatened to be another full day closing, and the next day I had a full day of daycare but was taken out by a migraine. And the next day… is today! Is the fourth time the charm?
Seriously, though, after airing my grievances, I want to pull myself back to a mindset of gratitude. I’m lucky I even have daycare as an option because so many people don’t. I’m fortunate to have a supportive partner in my husband because so many people don’t. I’m lucky that I have extended family close by, wanting to help and able to cook. I’m grateful that my family got through covid with just a few days each of feeling ill and tired. Honestly, I feel lucky that what we had was covid instead of something else (stick with me here) because 1. it gave plausible cause for my 6-week-old’s fever, sparing her some rather invasive testing and possibly unnecessary antibiotic treatments, and 2. our family of 4 now all has some natural immunity, that will hopefully carry us through the rest of this current omicron covid case surge. Given a choice (as though such a thing could ever be a choice), I wouldn’t have asked to expose our family to covid, but since we did get it, I must admit I’m grateful to have gotten through it and to have a grace period where it no longer feels as threatening. We’ll continue to practice the same precautions we always have (which did work well for us for almost two years of the pandemic), but my stress load feels a bit lighter.
So even though I would have liked to have already started planning my goals for 2022, this first quarter, January, and this week, it just wasn’t in the cards. Now that I feel like I’m back on my feet, I can take time to bring myself back up to speed.
Four weeks postpartum, I’m trying to find my footing with a newborn and a two-year-old. Thankfully, I have the help and support of my husband, who very fortunately has a 4-month family leave (yeah… it’s better than my leave too. Perks of working for a company headquartered in Europe) and daycare allows me an extra breath five days a week where I can focus on my recovery and my newborn while my toddler is well taken care of. I love my toddler to the ends of the Earth, but my extra hungry and sleep-deprived new-again momma self simply does not have the patience for being at the constant beck and call of two needy human beings.
My husband stays up late with the baby so that I can sleep while I get up early to ready and take my two-year-old to daycare. Those mornings are rough (my two-year-old is a master at stalling and when I wise up to one stalling technique, he always seems to have something else up his sleeve), but once my son is in daycare, I come home to a quiet, still sleepy house and can enjoy the next few hours as my much-needed me-time (even if there’s a sleeping or nursing baby attached to me). It’s bliss.
And then enter COVID. With timing that points an accusatory finger at Thanksgiving, we received a notice from daycare that there were two confirmed cases of COVID in the toddler classroom and a 14-day quarantine period starts immediately. I’m still in early recovery from birthing a baby, my body has already been giving me signs that I’d been doing too much, my husband’s less able to provide support due to a cold (not COVID), and now we’re looking at juggling two very young little ones 24/7 for two weeks straight. (Seriously, stay at home parents do NOT get enough credit for all that they do; it’s exhausting.)
As I make an effort to stretch my patience and kindness with my toddler (who is also dealing with a recent transition to big siblinghood, a major schedule shift with daycare closed, and just general two-year-old woes), I’m also trying to be more patient and kind to myself. I’m not a bad mom if my toddler’s plate is loaded with simple carbs, if he’s watching more than 2 hours of tv most days, or if I tend to get snippy towards the end of the day. We’re in survival mode. For two weeks, our life can be a little extra messy.
We’re here, folks… the home stretch of November and the last of my series of weekly gratitude posts. In general, I have so much to be thankful for this year and every year, and I decided to focus my last list of 20 on my immediate family. As a pretty extreme introvert who doesn’t let many people see my full self, my immediate family is absolutely everything. I mean, sometimes it drives me crazy that my alone time is so hard to come by, but there’s no one else I find myself missing when I finally get those moments of solitude. And here’s my 20 things I love about them…
Moments when my husband takes over care for our children, cat, or dog, so I can get a break
My husband’s drive to learn about and take initiative on our financial planning (so I don’t have to)
Watching my kids bond with their grandparents and witnessing the love and connection between them
The rare treat of warm cuddles from my cat
When my dog has found something potentially dangerous (like a snake in the house) and alerted us to it
When my dog sticks his face in the window curtains and wags his tail slowly as he watches me return home
“I love you SO much!” said by my toddler
When my toddler leans on me for a snuggle
When my toddler is being silly (and we aren’t trying to go somewhere)
How my husband sometimes gets me to laugh at myself
My husband pushing me to step outside my comfort zone to accomplish something I don’t think can easily be done (and it turns out he was right…)
When my toddler offers completely unprompted to share part of a snack he’s eating that I know he really enjoys
My toddler’s insistence that everyone get a “bed buddy” (comfort stuffed animal for sleeping)
When my toddler has spontaneously sweet moment with his baby sister, like giving her a hug or saying “I love her SO much!”
When my husband, unasked, goes to change our baby’s dirty diaper
That look of joy and awe on my toddler’s face when he’s watching a train garden run
Sleepy snuggles with my newborn
Watching my husband become a ‘new’ father again with his sweetness and protectiveness
When my husband offers to massage out a muscle ache for me
The way my husband and I so well balance each other and work together as partners
Back to my more more typical style posts next month. Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers and a joyful end of November to anyone else who’s stumbled across this corner of the Internet.