I am a goal oriented person (understatement of the year). When I go on a walk or a hike it is always to somewhere. I love to travel but I want an itinerary with way points and destinations. Given all that, it’s not surprising that I am quite fond of New Year’s resolutions. I’m pretty good about sticking with them too. I have found that the resolutions that work best for me are very specific and those that create a good habit (or eliminate a bad one) rather than something that will expire at the end of the year. For example, “Exercise every day” would be a good one; a habit I could keep going after the end of a year, while “Lose 10 pounds” would be a poor resolution as it would be unlikely to change me over the long term.
I realized in mid January this year, however, that my resolutions for the time being needed to be very modest: keeping myself and my family fed, clean, and semi-rested. With school and a lactation internship and occasional paying work it was all I could do not to gain 10 pounds and to keep my house in some semblance of order. That was, however, six months ago. My clinical internship is over and I am officially jobless (save for the “job” of being a mother, of course). The IBCLC exam is in five days. At this point I don’t think studying will matter one way or the other. I have no excuse not to make some new resolutions. I don’t know what this year will bring, hopefully a new job, a decent income, and some clarity about what I want to do with the result of my life. But even given that uncertainty I can exert some modicum of control over my life by deciding, resolving if you will, a few things. I turned 37 this week and so at the start of this new year of my life I resolve:
- No buying desserts. This is a repeat of a resolution from 2014. I did fairly well with it that year and had intended to continue it at the beginning 2015 but I fell off of the wagon into cartons of ice cream and a boxes of See’s candy. I don’t think sugar is the root of all evil, but I also don’t think it would be unfair to say that I do have somewhat of an addiction to it. I also, vainly, want to lose a few pounds and desserts pack a whole lot of calories in a small package. So the rules of this resolution are: if it’s sweet and I want to eat it, I have to make it. Exceptions include birthday requests from the kids (if they want me to buy something special I will) and if we go out to dinner I am allowed to order dessert (something I rarely do, however, because as someone who went to pastry school I am really picky about good desserts and most restaurant desserts are lame). Seriously, the majority of restaurants do not make their desserts in house but order them frozen, thaw them out, and then sell them to you for about 10 times (not an exaggeration) what they paid for them. Now, if someone were to buy me some dessert, say some cashew brittle or scotchmallows from See’s Candy, that would be totally acceptable (and delicious).
- Write creatively at least twice a week, on a schedule. I’ve tried writing focused resolutions before but I’ve never been able to get them to stick. I tried writing every day but I have to admit that just isn’t going to happen. Once a week doesn’t seem like enough so I settled on twice a week. I think that the key to success is going to be that I am setting two specific, two hour blocks of time and sticking with them. I am going to disconnect myself from the internet, perhaps even leave the house and go to the library or a coffee shop, and do nothing buy write.
- Reduce our discretionary spending. Plain and simple: we are living right at the edge of our means. For most of our marriage our income well exceeded our expenditures. But now, with me not working and two kids in private school we basically break even. I feel very uncomfortable living on the financial edge. I also realize regardless of my career change there will probably come a point thirty or so years from now that I do not wish to or am unable to work – at least full-time. We need to be saving something for our future and it’s pretty scary that we aren’t. Most of our expenses are fixed in stone and as cheap as they can possibly go (pretty sure I am not going to find a better 30 year fixed mortgage rate than 3.125%!), so that leaves consumable type items (food, clothing, gas, toiletries etc.) as our only place to save money. I grew up without much money. We never went hungry, but it felt like we always had less than those around us and I continually heard from my mother “We can’t afford it.” I vowed that I wouldn’t have to live that way as an adult but here I am. I least I know what to do.
- Give lactation consulting a real chance as a career. I do not like being unemployed. I hate not earning money and the loss of independence and financial worries that going along with it. This year has been a daily struggle for me to stick with lactation consulting not to go out and just get a job. The truth is, I’ve applied for a few jobs, and even gone on a couple of interviews – but not for lactation related work. Every time I come home from one of these interviews I need to consciously turn away from the aspects of those jobs that I do crave (travel, income, authority) and remember that they negatives of those jobs (spending my day chained to a computer, long hours and commutes, subject matter than I am not really passionate about, working on abstract problems rather than concrete ones) outweigh the positives. I need to stop doing this to myself and commit to giving lactation a real try and giving myself one to get a job. This is going to require a lot of deep breathing and I am sure there will be some near panic attacks but I want this to work and in order for that to happen I have to give it time.
I think this is my most difficult, but most important, set of resolutions yet.
When I think about my hopes for my children it’s certainly not for fame or fortune. My dreams for them are almost deceptively simple: 1) To find a passion (or passions) that they love in life and compatibility between that passion and the necessities of life (i.e., making a living, taking care of themselves) and 2) To be a good, kind person who, in their own way, increases the amount of good in this world. With little kids who all too often seem ungrateful I sometimes question how well I am succeeding at goal number two.
When my kids are sad or scared one of the surest ways to cheer them up is to tell them a story of when I was sad or scared or mad as a child. They howl with laughter by the end the story where I tell them about the time my four-year-old self refused to eat all of her peas and dumped them on the ground under the dining room table in a (wildly unsuccessful) attempt to hide them from her mother. They hang on to every word when I tell them the story of stepping on a nail when I was twelve and having to go in for a tetanus shot. One of their favorite stories is from when I was three years old. I was running errands with my mother and at an otherwise boring stop at the bank they were handing out helium filled balloons. I remember my delight at receiving a big orange balloon; my favorite color at the time. We lived in California at the time and it was a hot day. My mom drove a big grey station wagon without air conditioning. We climbed into car; my legs growing instantly slick with sweat against the vinyl seats. My mother, smartly, tied the balloon around my wrist as she buckled me in and then cranked down the window. We took off and bored I began to fiddle with the balloon string. In one horrifying instant the string slipped over my tiny wrist and the balloon took flight out the car window. I screamed, I wailed, I pleaded for my mom to stop. “Stop! You have to go back! My balloooooooooooooon!” In the time it took the words to tumble out of my mouth the balloon was, of course, long gone. I remember crying so hard that my eyes swelled to the point I could hardly see. I am pretty sure that the loss of that balloon was the primary tragedy of the first five years of my life (yes, I had a good life).
My birthday was this week and when I walked in the house on the afternoon of my birthday there were ten perfect orange helium filled balloons waiting for me. Older was vibrating with excitement. After hearing the lost balloon story multiple times, It had been his idea to buy me a bouquet of balloons for my birthday. Apparently he had wanted to buy 100 of them but Husband talked him down to ten. I was very touched by Older’s thoughtfulness. I think he’s turning out to be a pretty damned good kid.
Insomnia has been my nighttime companion as long as I can remember. I have memories of alternately lying and standing in my crib in the near darkness, not upset, but unable to fall asleep. Not much has changed in the more than 30 years since then.
My friend insomnia appears more often in the summer. I love the feeling of sleeping in a chilly room, ensconced in heavy blankets. Even with a window air conditioner providing a lush background of cool air and white noise I find it difficult to fully relax with during this season. The children also stay up later in the summer. It’s a pleasure to eat a late dinner out on the patio and to huge stacks of bedtime stories without the pressure of an early wake up and school drip off. But I pay for that pleasure later when my children don’t fall asleep until 10 pm and my introverted self still needs a couple of hours of alone time to unwind. At that point it’s midnight and my brain has reached a state of overtired wired exhaustion that is not easy to come down from. And tonight, after all that bragging about exercise I find that my nearly 37 year old body is sore. I can feel my rheumatoid arthritis in my fingers and in my knees keeping me awake reminding me that no matter how much I work out I am never going to work my body back into feeling like a twenty year old.
It’s 1:50 am local time and tonight is shaping up to be yet another sleepless night. It is quite pleasant in my house right now. I’m in our den/office/sun room. The only light in the house is that of the computer screen which I have set at its minimal brightness so as to minimize the disruption of the light onto my circadian rhythm. There is a blissful quiet. Not only are the children all sleeping peacefully but the house sleeps as well; there is no whoosh of a washing machine or hum of a dishwasher; nearly always purring along in the background. A faint smell of the days activities lingers. There is the sweet smell of new wood; Husband is building Older a built in desk in this room. There is a another hint of sweetness in the air. I canned ten jars of strawberry jam today. Over those smells I can also get a whiff of tomatoes and garlic; roasted in the oven for the first batch of tomato sauce this season. I can look out and see the solar string lights hanging from our patio, now dimly glowing as the last of the sun’s energy escapes them. The cool air filters in through the open window restoring me; today’s heat is a distant memory; tomorrow’s forecast heat seems far away. I hear, through the open window, that I am not the only one awake. Some creature stirs in my garden. I harvested all the ripe tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini today; hopefully whatever it is will leave the unripe fruits to grow another day.
Husband fell asleep a couple of hours ago. I’ve listen to him snore and poked at him to stop. I’ve read about climate change. Then, deeming that too depressingly stimulating I looked at handbags online (I have a fondness for Kate Spade bags although I’ve never purchased one new; I am too cheap and too anti-consumer to do so, nor do I really need more than one bag, but I do enjoy looking at them). I contemplated what I am going to do with the rest of my life (definitely not the best recipe for relaxation and I willed myself to stop). I tried meditating. I updated my to-do list. I thought about Christmas gifts. I petted my cat, who despite supposedly being nocturnal seems to have no problem with sleep and is sprawled across my pillow twitching as she catches dream-mice.
As you might have noticed I am trying to write every day (either here or in other forms). Because my commitment to daily exercise has resulted in my developing an ingrained habit to do so I thought I would try the same thing with writing. Much like working out I decided that I would try not to put too many constraints on it or expect particularly fine writing at first but that the most important thing was, in the immortal words of a certain shoe company, to “Just do it!” Tonight I finally decided that if I can’t sleep I should write a bit. Perhaps by doing so my brain will finally be able to shut down and let me sleep.
A little over a year ago I decided to make exercise a real priority in my life. The reasons were both vain and virtuous. Baby had really cut back on her nursing and without that extra 500 calorie a day milk making burn the number on the scale was starting to creep up. And I just felt better, so much better, physically and mentally with regular exercise. I am usually the kind of girl who is good with moderation; I can eat just two cookies or a handful or chips. I found that exercise was different for me. When I aimed to work out three times a week I clocked in twice. When I aimed higher for five times a week I might manage three. Moderate exercise was leading to inadequate exercise. So somewhere around the beginning of last summer I quietly decided that my goal would be to exercise every single day – no excuses. I even put it on my to-do list every day so it was there staring me in the face every time I checked my phone. I wanted exercise to become a habit; something that I wouldn’t want to skip – like brushing my teeth. Most weeks I don’t manage every day but that’s OK because I really do exercise A LOT now. It’s taken me a year but I’ve finally gotten to the point where if feels strange to have a day where I don’t get a workout in. Exercise isn’t a joy every day but more often that not it is. Even when it’s not a transcendental experience it’s always pleasant – it no longer feels like a chore. I also find awesome things happening when I run. When I run I feel like a good mother. I am excited to come home to my kids. I find my thoughts drifting to all the good things going on in my life. It’s when I run that I feel most able to conquer going to medical school.
Kids brag all the time but being vocal about our accomplishments seems to be beaten out of us, especially women, by the time we reach adulthood. I am proud of this accomplishment dammit. I’ve run and danced and 30 day shredded through crematorium arthritis, a partially torn calf muscle, varicose vein surgery, plantar faciitis, and an evil blood blister that, while the smallest of my injuries, has been the most painful of all. I ran on the days I had exams. I danced when there was a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. When I went to visit my parents or the in-laws my running shoes came along. I love that when my doctor asks about my exercise and I can honestly respond, I run 3 to 4 miles 3 to 4 times a week plus a couple of cardio dance classes each week.
Yesterday I did something the old me never could have imagined she would want to do. I went on a running “date” with Husband (running and date: two words I never would thought could coexist in the same sentence). We hiked straight up a local mountain and then ran back down for a total of nearly 6 miles. Then we went out and feasted on pizza (I’m certainly not losing weight through dieting). It was exhilarating and I definitely see more trail running in my future. I know it was a fantastic workout because my quads scream with intense soreness every time I use them to stand up and sit down. I haven’t had that feeling since I was on the volleyball team in college! Today, with all that soreness I could have easily taken a day off. Instead I put moleskin on my foot, laced up my running shoes and went out for a jog.