At the turn of the year, I was adamant that one sleep signified nothing new. I wanted to remain realistic (not my strong suit) that 2021 might not be the turnaround year from the haze of 2020. And I think I was correct because 2021 proved to be much more challenging for me. In no way exhaustive, here are some things I learned and am continuing to learn…
1. I love lists and goals and writing challenges; it’s okay if I don’t complete them. I love a checklist. Ever since last year, I also love the idea of committing to something for one month because it is much more attainable for me. However, particularly after giving birth to our second son, even a month can be… a lot. Every month was something (post a picture every day of something you’re grateful for; write a poem each day; words of gratitude; Advent reflection; 15 books). I used to give up on ever committing to a challenge again if I couldn’t complete the previous one, but I’ve learned… apparently, the world goes on even when I don’t see a challenge or goal all the way through.
2. Parenting throughout a pandemic is hard. From making adult friendships carefully selected with children your own children’s age to recognizing your intentional discipline choices being different than your family’s, I’ve now birthed two kiddos, yet feel like a first-timer at gatherings and in public. It’s weird.
3. When it comes to Parenthood, hobbies and interests might mean prioritizing quality over quantity. I sign up for an inordinate amount of THINGS. Words are my favorite, and other people’s words are often a balm for my soul. Many writers I admire published newsletters this year, so… I signed up for just about every single one. You know who doesn’t care? My toddler. Nor my infant who is recently realizing he has a voice that demands to be heard.
4. Social media is gross and good. This one deserves a post series all on its own. I often put my boys in their cribs this year thinking, “Shoot, I did it again. I scrolled too much instead of focusing on them.” And it’s true – I definitely had opportunities to be present with my family instead of on my phone. BUT I cannot eloquently describe how transformative much of my interactions and conversations via social media were this year. I was pointed to powerful resources, engaged in thought-provoking conversation, connected with beautiful thinkers.
5. I can’t be everything for everyone at every moment. I’ve written about my struggles with my limitations quite a bit in the pages of my journal, and perhaps here with you all, too. Mostly, this is something I am still learning. Apparently, I cannot be excellent, top of my game, in each of my roles. During a hallway conversation with one of our campus specialists, I lamented, “I often have to surrender striving for exceptional this school year.” When she responded, “You are exceptional,” I tried cutting her off quickly. She beat me to it: “As a mother, Decker. You are an exceptional mother.”
6. Sometimes it’s not okay. And that’s okay. I learned a couple of years ago toxic positivity is a real thing. But this year’s too-close-to-home tragedies gave me an opportunity to truly sit with that. Sometimes there isn’t a silver lining for a long, long time. Sometimes you just gotta sit in it. Embrace it. Come alongside it.
7. My beliefs and my likes and my desires will change; it. is. okay. My favorite color, sweet, genre, animal. The nuances of my faith. What I believe about community. It turns out evolve (Google definition: to change or develop slowly, often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state) is also a real thing! I think I always believed it, but not for myself. How could I possibly question the lion not being my favorite animal? I have held this certainty for as long as I can remember! It also turns out change is quite often exciting.
8. My OLW (connection) served as an unexpectedly beautiful framework for my year. At the beginning, I was a little confused as to how I was going to keep this word at the forefront every day, all the time. As stated above, I love lists, so I was tempted to create some checkboxes that I could check off every day that I “connected” – HA. This year actually started off with a loss of connection with a couple friends I’d had for quite a long time. I remember thinking my OLW ironic. However, I made such deep connections with myself, with my family, and with other writers-turned-friends that I could never have planned for.
9. Writing communities are fierce. This SOL community has provided me so many opportunities to reflect on a weekly basis in ways that I might have avoided or let slip by because of one thing or another. Thank you for your words and for reading mine this year.
I also engaged with a writing group whose belief that “motherhood and art can coexist,” and I have loved seeing the creative space embraced by the momma angle.
While one goodnight may not change anything drastically, I do look forward to welcoming 2022 with open eyes, open mind, open heart.
**Bonus (or update depending on how you see it): If you read last week, Kyle got covid so I packed up the boys and moved to my mom’s house. My sister who traveled from Hawaii for mom’s doctoral graduation was in town, so yay because we were able not to miss days spending time with her. Welp, now the boys and I also have it. And mom. And my sister. We’re on the mend; stay safe, everyone!
4 thoughts on “SOL: This Year’s 9 Takeaways”
Thanks for sharing this list! “Toxic positivity” is very real and potent! It’s so cliche, but are you familiar with the Enneagram? As a 4, I endorse all embracing of pain and allowing it to shape and contour us.
I loved your reflections! I am amazed at your insights. Your writing reminds me a lot of Emily P. Freedman’s. Have you read The Next Right Thing? If not, I think you would enjoy it.
Couple of great things about lists: it feels do good to cross off completed ltems ; things not completed can become the start of a new list. I think point #7 is right on. We are evolving and changing every day so it only makes sense that our thoughts snd favorites will change with us. Wishing you and your family a Happy and Healthy 2022.
You are an inspiration- you really are, honestly reflecting on the struggles of “balancing it all.” Being mom is #1! So sorry to hear you all have covid now- hope your recovery is speedy and thorough.