Like most folks out there, with the approach of the New Year our thoughts have turned to goal-setting. I’ll be honest and say that 2012 was a doozy of a year for my family… but at the end of the day, we have to own the choices that brought us to this point in our lives. There is also a lot that we wouldn’t have changed- like the newest addition to our family, for one. I wouldn’t have changed my venture into film photography because it has changed the entire landscape of my art and business goals. I’m so excited for our move out of Gilbert. I’m thankful to have learned who “my people” are and who they aren’t. Through all the ups and downs we faced, I have to give homage to the lessons I learned in the midst of it all. Here are the ones that stand out the most as I reflect on 2012.
2012 Lesson 1: Purge relationships that aren’t working.
When I learned that I was pregnant with our youngest, I had a (now former) friend say to me, “What were you thinking getting pregnant right now? Can’t you guys not pay your bills?” The first time she said it to me, I mostly brushed it off, mostly because yeah, we weren’t in the best situation for a second baby; although perhaps it was more the shock of her harsh judgment that made me pretend like it never happened… the SECOND time she said it to me, that was it. There is a huge difference between being brutally honest and just being condescending and cruel. The relationship had become more hurtful to me than helpful. So I simply walked away. I have to admit, it was much easier than I expected; maybe this was because I started to see the pattern of criticism that developed over the years and that is not something I want or need in my life. And honestly, perhaps she felt the same way towards me because she never asked why she hadn’t heard from me and if we were OK.
Situations like this don’t mean that the other person is inherently bad; it simply means that some people remain in your life indefinitely, some people change and grow apart, and most everyone else comes and goes in seasons. We are all flawed, and we will hurt each other, but I want to surround myself with people who reflect grace, honesty, transparency, encouragement, and love. The more life I live, the more I desire to shine these qualities into the lives of those I encounter, and be thankful for the people in my life who do the same for me.
2012 Lesson 2: Define an inner circle and cherish those relationships- on purpose.
Lesson 1 naturally gives way to defining an inner circle. I used to think that cliques were a bad thing; and they can be when they are mean-spirited and filled with people who believe they are better than others. All too often, high school cattiness follows us into adulthood… ew… I’ve seen this first-hand and it makes grown-ups look ugly. I would like to think that by the time we reach honest-to-goodness adulthood, we have evolved enough that we leave high-school-type cliques and the attitudes that accompany them behind. I don’t call inner circles “cliques” anymore because I believe that to have an inner circle is a wonderful thing. An inner circle allows you to be exactly who you are and they love you anyway; they let you pour your heart out and will not dismiss it as an inconvenience; they can be trusted not to gossip about you or judge you; they respect difference of opinion instead of letting those things define the relationship; you can call them any time of the day or night in a moment of crisis; they will pray for you and genuinely want good for your life; and much more. I am so thankful for those people in my life, and my only wish is that I had been more intentional in those friendships this past year. Moving forward, it is my hope to invest in those friendships with my words and my actions- well beyond 2013- and treat all others with kindness and respect.
2012 Lesson 3: Geography matters.
Looking back on the past four years, Cody and I can say with confidence that living in Gilbert was a bit of a desert-dwelling experience (literally and figuratively). I had a conversation with a friend the other day who also used to live nearby, and being older and knowing ourselves a little better, we reflected on why we ever moved out to the suburbs in the first place. We decided that for us, it’s because it’s what people our age did- got married; bought an affordable house in the family-friendly outskirts of town; had kids; the end. And boy, I will be the first to admit that I wanted it bad. I wanted the nice house, the normal life, to feel settled. And we were blessed in many ways while we lived out here. However, the biggest blessing of all was the realization that this lifestyle simply didn’t fit who we were made to be: creatives, artists, writers, in need of diversity and inspiration and family and freedom of time. These things simply weren’t coming to fruition for us while we lived out here, and geography really started to matter to us. Personally, I desired to be closer to my family and nearer the neighborhood I grew up in- perhaps it is because I have girls of my own now and I want them to love their childhoods as much as I did. Cody and I both agree that we are city folk who crave diversity and to live in an area that isn’t strictly residental for miles and miles. We live terribly far away from his current employer, which costs us both in time, gas money, and mileage on his car; and chances are that any future opportunities will be in town as well. And as a creative, I simply don’t feel inspired living in the suburbs. All that to say, it is a lifestyle that doesn’t work well for us; it can be a wonderful way of life for many other people. Whatever the life you want, geography matters. Choose your location wisely, invest in your choice by becoming involved in the community, and allow your community to invest in you by inspiring a fruitful lifestyle.
2012 Lesson 4: Be who you are, and if people don’t like it, that’s OK.
I’ll be honest: the first half of 2012 was plagued with epic amounts of hopelessness and depression for me. This was exponentially difficult because I was pregnant and already had a little girl that I felt hopeless to set a good example for. Not only did I feel as if we would be in a desert place for the rest of our lives, I felt like no one really knew me, no one really liked me, and no one cared enough to try to do either. I had never been faced with such attack by the enemy nor had I ever believed such atrocious lies about myself. The result was an unhealthy level of withdrawal from the people who did know me and like me. These things were all very circumstantial and I was attacked at my very weakest points; but God carried me through and gave me the strength not only to overcome these feelings, but to revel in His truth and equip me with better ways to move forward. I think that it is easy to say that we don’t care what others think of us, but when we learn that in fact someone doesn’t care for us, it cuts to the core. I’m not sure it ever gets easier realizing that perhaps someone may not take to you, but it simply boils down to the fact that nobody likes everybody. And you are going to be on someone’s list of people-they-don’t-like. And face it, you have one of those lists too. Get over it, own it, and see Lesson 2 for what to do in response to not being everyone’s favorite person in the world.
2012 Lesson 5: You do you, and let her do her. Comparison kills joy.
This one is hard. Who’s with me? In the online world of instant social connection, it is so easy to see your competition’s flowery, happy, perfect blog posts that make it look like everything is hunky dory (and maybe things really are that great) but chances are better than not that things are harder than meets the eye. The other day I was on a popular site, and as I scrolled through the pages, which were all very well done, with beautiful and inspiring work, I was suddenly over it- the envy, that is. This person is doing a great job at what they do; they are honed in to their market; they appeal to a wide audience; and it was actually inspiring. Good for her, I thought; she’s doing her and is kicking some serious tail; I’m gonna do me and I’m gonna be awesome at it. The comparison bug can either bring you down, or you can let yourself be inspired by the success of others. I’ve always had a competitive nature and I’ll be honest, it can be a struggle not to be jealous sometimes; but I see the difference now, and I’m going to choose the latter the best I can and thrive while I’m doing it.
2012 Lesson 6: Less really is more.
This summer, there was a purging extravaganza in our house. Twelve trips to Goodwill later (no joke! I have the receipts to prove it), it barely felt like I had made a dent on my goal toward minimalism. Inspired by blogs like Minimalist Mom and Miss Minimalist, I was intrigued by the merits of living with less, including less clutter, less stuff to manage, and spending less money because the focus is lifted from stuff and placed on relationships and experiences instead. I love the idea of raising my girls to cherish the memories they make with their loved ones instead of the things they collect through the years. I do have to admit, however, that for a sentimental soul like me, it was hard to part with certain things. But once it was done, I can honestly say that I don’t miss the things I parted with. I will, however, say that I care a little too much about fashion and, while I have purged A LOT of my clothes, I am going to give myself some freedom of expression in this arena… especially since I have two little girls I luuuuuurve dressing in adorable outfits.
2012 Lesson 7: God really is in control. Not me. So stop trying to control everything.
I’m a bit of a control freak. I don’t like it when things don’t go my way. I don’t like unexpected outcomes, or when others disappoint me. But such is life. I have found in each situation that slipped messily through my fingers a lesson to be learned. And sometimes, I know in my heart of hearts that I may simply never understand why something happened the way it did. It’s hard, but it’s all about surrender. As Cody and I have made decisions this past year, we have done so with a tremendous amount of trust that God is up to something, because I can say with confidence that I forced some things that just didn’t end well for us. And we have to move forward knowing full well that our decisions may just blow up in our faces. Let go and let God- the mantra is true. Make choices the best way you know how, and remember that He works all things together for our good.
This list is not exhaustive; I’ve learned a ton this past year, lessons both welcome and difficult to swallow. But this is the first truly honest post you’ve seen from me because I was holding back. I am a writer, and part of who I am is someone who can be honest to a fault. I’ve been known to open my mouth when I probably shouldn’t have said a word. Like everyone else, I am a work in progress. But I hope to share more of my heart with you in the future because I have found that oftentimes, I am not alone in my struggles. There will be good times and there will be bad, too. But from now on, I’m gonna do me. If you choose to be along for the ride, let me just say welcome and I am SO glad to have you!
Cheers to 2012,