Catching Up

Monday, January 18, 2016

Life lately has been good. Calm.

Things on the work front are much less hectic, and I'm starting to, dare I say, enjoy my job again. The balance is definitely teetering away from terrible. This month ushers in a more predictable schedule, so that should help in regard to the whole work/life balance thing. Learning to be less stingy with my PTO has also been a bit of an epiphany.

Kiddo's semester is coming to a close, so there are assignments to complete and such but he seems to be taking the reigns and that's nice. It was time to check our helicoptering and let him be the master of his own education. If he needs us we're here for him, always, but his homework is his responsibility. That perspective has been beneficial all around.

Mario is off to San Diego for those big conferences that happen every January. And while I miss him, I'm glad to have this time to recharge. Time for him to focus on work while I concern myself with the homestead. And, hashtag honesty, it's easier to still be in your pjs at noon on a Wednesday when no one is there to witness it.

December brought the Portland winter everyone talks about but we had yet to experience. I'm a fan of rainy days, but two weeks sans sunshine can take its toll on even the staunchest homebody. I found myself rather melancholy and unmotivated, especially in combination with a dreary work life. Fortunately, there have been sun breaks on both fronts, but I've learned the importance of dashing outside and leaning my face toward the sky when that bright orb makes even a momentary appearance. An unintentional metaphor for life in general, no?

I took 10 days off from work while Mario is in sunny SoCal, so the school days are my own. I had some pretty noble aspirations going into this break, and I've done very little to check things off my project list. Instead, I've caught up on the DVR and embroidered and, well, sometimes I'm not sure what used up all my time. I felt frustrated with my lack of productivity until I realized this is probably what I needed most: a few days to do nothing. To be an introvert and only worry about myself a few hours a day and enjoy the solitude I need to fill my bucket. Once I stopped beating myself up about it, I began embracing it for what it is: an opportunity to recharge. I'm off until Friday, so there are plenty more hours left to clean the kitchen and organize my closet. These last few days were for making progress within, which is a lot less tangible and therefore harder to gauge. (Yet equally or perhaps more important than scrubbing that stubborn water line out of the toilets.) I've been going full force since last July, and not without a healthy dose of frustration, self-doubt and worry; I needed this time to reset my intentions, while make new ones for 2016. Sometimes doing nothing is just as important as doing something.

As for the holidays, well, they were just as lovely as can be. It was a low-key holiday spent at home, just the three of us. The gifts were amazing, though not in their abundance. They were so meaningful. This year we didn't set a budget for the holidays, but we did limited the number of gifts exchanged. I hand sewed embroidery hoops for my mother- and sister-in-law. We gave experiences, as opposed to only tangible objects that would get tossed on a shelf. The boys took a page from my bucket list and gifted me a guitar so that I may finally fulfill my lifelong goal of learning an instrument. Tears were shed over that one, I tell you. Because that unassuming piece of wood and string showed just how much they believe in my dreams.

obligatory top-of-the-Space-Needle (grainy) selfie

The week between Christmas and New Year's we took a trip up to Seattle. It was a chance to explore the city's less touristy neighborhoods; to see it from more of a local's perspective. It was a lot of walking and eating and relaxing as a family. Though only a couple hours away from home, we needed to get away from the siren's call of work and chores and sitting around all day doing nothing. Seattle is a beautiful city: coastal and cosmopolitan; at times I could easily forget I wasn't in Boston or New York. The window displays in Macy's, the ivy-covered brick in Pioneer's a city of many moods. We bundled up and wandered mostly by foot; got all dressed up (Kiddo in a tie! Be still my heart!) and splurged on dinner at the Space Needle; and toured the Starbucks Reserve Tasting Room. The boys went to the EMP Museum (I've already been there 3 times since we moved here) and left me to explore on my own. Latte + camera + aimless wandering = true bliss. It was all rather magical and reminiscent of our many Christmases on the East Coast. Because, let's face it, they know how to do Christmas Back East.

I worked New Year's Day, which was actually quite calm and nice as far as workdays go, then Kiddo's post-holiday semester resumed. It's amazing how things just sort of pick back up and the holidays, after months of buildup, fade into memory. It is mid-January and Christmas already seems months ago. Life has a funny way of marching on.

This year, 2016, holds a lot of promise, I think. My back is against a wall, so this is definitely the year I suck it up and take the GREs. (Sooner, rather than later.) This is the year I finally apply to grad school, a milestone 6+ years in the making. It's the year I start letting go of old habits that bog me down and faulty thinking that holds me back. The shift started taking place last summer when I went back to work and checked a huge box on my to-do list, but I can see and feel that I'm on a roll. More yeses than nos while still empowering myself to decline unnecessary invitations and obligations. Last fall I took some fun classes which allowed me to learn new (non-academic) skills and meet new people. This year there will be music lessons and travel and things that will contribute to a richer life.

For the first time in my life, I'm learning to live in the now. Not the life I imagine 5 or 10 years from now, but the now now. Everything doesn't have to be perfect for me to find fulfillment. I don't have to own my dream house, work in my dream career, or obtain the perfect body (is there such a thing in real life?) in order to travel abroad or wear high quality clothing or decorate my home exactly the way I want it. Gosh that has been a mental hurdle for me. This year I vow to only keep objects that fit my life (and body) as it is today while bringing me joy. I vow to tap into my creative side whenever possible (that includes writing in this space more regularly). To pay off debt and use my added salary to do things we want to do and see places we want to see. I plan to elaborate on some of these things in their own posts which will solidify them as goals and allow me to explore them with more depth. They say that putting things in writing makes you more likely to do them, and since writing is a source of one of my deepest joys, it's a win-win.

Here's to 2016 being our best year yet...


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