It’s been a good little break from the blog, but now it’s time to face the new year, start blogging on the regular again and give ourselves some new goals. Rachel has long been a big fan of New Years Resolutions (NYRs), but I have never been hugely into them. I usually start the year with good intentions and plans to be more positive, eat better, exercise, spend less money, etc. but if I don’t keep it up, I don’t beat myself up about it. No big deal and all.
A couple years ago, I was talking to a friend about NYRs. She mentioned that rather than making a list of specific resolutions like “Cut back on chocolate”, she gives each year a theme, such as “The Year of Healthy Living”. She then works to make her year fit that theme. I thought that was a much better idea than a self-improvement to-do list that I would never actually achieve. I shared the idea with Rachel, and she embraced it as well. In fact, she embraced it far better than I did.
So for this year, here are our New Year’s Themes…
Rachel: The Year of Rising to the Occasion
Yeah, yeah, I know. It sounds vague. And trust me, I don’t like vague. I like my NYRs to be specific goals that I can pursue and complete. Like the year that I read 25 books. Or the year that I watched all the movies that had won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In order. Without skipping. Even The Deer Hunter.
But as Zuni said, I have embraced her “The Year of…” theme for the past two years because life – specifically life with small kids – is really unpredictable and if my goal is more general, I can live with myself no matter how well I actually achieve it. So, this year is The Year of Rising to the Occasion. I picked it because it sounds a lot better than “The Year of Trying Not to Die.” Baby number 4 is due in late Feb/early March and I am very scared that this new addition is going to be the straw that breaks the mama’s back and it will do me in.
After all, just being pregnant has been way harder this time around. I’m older and I’ve got 3 kids to chase around already. At the beginning of this pregnancy, I let the exhaustion and ‘overwhelmingness’ of it all overwhelm me and I was very unproductive – with keeping our home tidy, with Stella & Dot, with the kids, with everything. I’ve since rallied and done a good amount of organizing and cleaning and prepping for the baby. But I know it’s gonna be tough to keep that momentum going.
That is, unless I Rise to the Occasion. I’m not talking about anything fancy like rising to the occasion to run the PTA at school or something. I don’t need new responsibilities. Also, I am well-aware of the importance of cutting myself some slack when it comes to being the mother of a newborn – needing to sleep when the baby sleeps, etc. But my track record has often been one of selfishness. I take care of myself just fine but when it comes to others, I can really slack off. I want this year to be the year that I do what needs to be done to take care of my family.
If there are dishes that need to be done, I’m not going to bemoan the repetitiveness of life, I’m going to put them in the dishwasher. If there are financial goals that we want to achieve, I am not going to dream of winning the lottery (that I have never played!), I am going to make the time to work my business and help to provide for our growing family.
If there is laundry to be done When the laundry needs to be done, I will put a load in the washer, dry it and fold it. Heck, I might even put it away! If giving time to my kids means I don’t have time to do everything I want to do, I’ll Rise to the Occasion of being a Mom and give to them before taking ‘me’ time. If the Occasion is that dinner needs to be made, I’ll make it.
It’s a simple just-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-and-do-something-for-someone-else mentality that I have a hard time coming by.
In a future post I will write about one of my favorite books, Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. In it, she talks about how when her twins were born she intentionally dropped the word “overwhelmed” from her vocabulary. She knew if she let herself say it, then that’s how she’d always feel.
And that’s how I know I’ll feel in 2014. But I strongly believe that this is the path that God has chosen for me and being a mom to four little ones is my new identity. As much as I might like to sit back and be selfish with my time or have others come to my rescue because it’s all “just too much,” it really isn’t too much. God knows what he is doing and this super overwhelming stage is going to be great for a selfish person like me. I believe He has ordained my crazy little family specifically to teach me new things and to help me grow personally and spiritually.
In 2014, there will be work to be done and I am going to Rise to the Occasion and do it.
Susanna: The Year of Financial Responsibility
Before I moved to London, I had a good amount of savings. I probably wasn’t managing my money as well as I could have been, but at least I had a decent amount set aside. Then I moved to London to get a Masters in Art History and basically had to live off those savings for the year (UK laws and the demands of studying full time prevented me from having even a part-time job). This meant I was spending my hard-earned dollars in a pounds-based economy. Essentially my savings were reduced by half due to the exchange rate. Needless to say, I was left with pretty much nothing by the end of the year; and on top of that, I had a brand-spanking-new student loan to pay off.
Then I decided to stay in London, which meant taking a very looooow paying temporary job in a shop while waiting for my visa to come through. Since then, I feel as if I have been constantly scrambling to get through each month – even after I started my current job. I hardly save anything at all, and when I start to feel like I have a little financial security, some big cost comes along and I am back to a barely better than paycheck-to-paycheck existence.
Isn’t there some saying like “You spend what you earn” or something? I have found that to be SO true. When I was earning pennies working in that dress shop, I got by. Yes, I was just scraping through each month, but I wasn’t overspending and I made it through each month. Given that, you would think that now that I earn more than double what I earned in that shop, I would be able to save loads. Sadly, that has not been the case.
So this year, I am taking control. This is my Year of Financial Responsibility. The plan is to think more carefully about how I spend my money and how I save my money.
I’ve even set some specific goals:
1. Clear my credit card debt in the first couple months of the year. This won’t really be that hard, as it’s not a huge amount due to the fact that I am kind of terrified of using my credit card and getting into really significant debt. But there is still a little outstanding from some recent flights, so I want to get that all paid off as soon as possible.
2. Start saving more purposefully – setting aside a specific amount each month.
3. Look into whether I am paying off my student loan in the best way.
4. Increase the amount that is automatically deducted from my paycheck to go into my pension each month.
What’s nice about the theme, though, is that I might not achieve each of those goals above. If I don’t, that’s okay. Even if I just save a bit more each month, I will have successfully achieved The Year or Financial Responsibility. But I hope to do much more than that!
When you get right down to it, you could change my NYR to “The Year of Becoming a Real Grown-Up”, since I think these are things that real adults are already doing. As I’m nearly 30, it’s probably as good a time as any to start.
So there are our goals but what about you? Do you loathe NYRs or have you resolved to do something fantastic in 2014?