What didn’t work for me in 2017

As a follow-up to “What Worked for Me in 2017,” here’s what DIDN’T work for me in 2017. I think it’s just as important (maybe more important?) to recognize what isn’t working, so that you can learn from it and adapt. I’d like to look back on this post in a year and see that I’ve improved in the following categories:

  1. EXPECTATIONS: I could (should?) write an entire series about the nasty hydra-monster of expectations. There are so many ways that expectations go wrong (un-met/too-high/un-communicated/unfair/etc.) yet so few ways that expectations go right. Now, I’m not saying don’t have ANY expectations (is that even possible?); what I am saying is that whatever expectations we have should be reasonable, and most importantly, COMMUNICATED. Life would be so much better for all of us if we all saw our unconscious expectations, aligned them with reality, and communicated them to whoever is supposed to be living under those expectations. I’m trying really hard to notice the often unconscious expectations I carry around; sometimes I don’t notice these expectations until they’re unmet, and I’m left feeling frustrated, or resentful (two clear signals, right there). In those times, I’m trying to pause, and uncover where the root of those feelings is found: 9 times out of 10, it’s an expectation I didn’t even know that I had.
  2. SCREEN-BASED PLANNING AND ORGANIZATION: I’m a 1 on the enneagram, an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs, and a Virgo to boot: I am a fastidious person who preaches the gospel of “failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” and who thrives when working within thoughtful systems and smart routines. So you can trust that I’ve tried all the best and most popular planning and task-management apps, and none of them come close to rivaling the success I have with a paper planner. This year I tried to go screen-based, because I don’t like having so many separate notebooks, and places to check for information, but it just did not work. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m sticking to my hybrid system of keeping the calendar on my phone (which is set up to share with my family), and keeping everything else (goal, habit and task tracking, etc.) in my paper planner. Let it be so.
  3. TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR EDUCATING ACQUAINTANCES ON THE INTERNET:  Yeah, I’ve let/am letting this one go. While I will always be here to engage and challenge others (and myself!) to stronger reasoning, I accept that I am not responsible for the growth and development of anyone who’s not a child of mine. By now I know who in my group of acquaintances is reasonable (or who has a desire to be reasonable) and who is strictly interested in stirring the pot. If you’re a pot-stirrer? Peace be with you. If you’re taking steps towards wisdom, and love? Well, let’s walk that way together, friend.
  4. KEEPING THE TOP OF MY DRESSER CLEAR OF CLOTHES/CHILDHOOD EPHEMERA: This is definitely my biggest failure of 2017. I’m not exaggerating when I say that not a day went by where the top of my dresser appeared remotely tidy. There were a few weeks where all the clothes were put away, but there were all these little piles of kid-stuff, lovingly deposited there by the other three people on my family, and guys? I just can’t. I can’t be the perpetual putter-awayer of All Of The Things. I can barely keep my own possessions reigned in. Why do they think they can just put their singleton socks on top of my dresser, and expect that something good will come of it? Instead of resolving to do better at this one, I’m giving up. If any of you are looking for a singleton-sock, it’s probably on top of my dresser.

There’s plenty more, but I figured I’d stick to over-arching themes. (For example, my dresser situation can also be applied to my desk, our dining table, and the breakfast bar.)

What about you? What worked (or didn’t) in 2017? What habits and systems are you carrying over into 2018?

 

 

Forbearance and listening

If you’ve known me for more than a few weeks, you’ve likely noticed that I have a lot to say.

About a lot of things.

Numerous are my strongly-felt opinions. And before I go further, I want to say thank you. It can sometimes be a lot to bear, my intensity—especially if we happen to disagree—yet, with rare exception, the people I’m privileged to dialogue with on a routine basis are graceful, and mostly kind. We’re all on a journey of discovery, and (again, with rare exception) you support me in continually finding my footing, exploring, and attempting to persuade. As I reflect on the past several months (and years), I’m especially fond of this community I’ve surrounded myself with—this truly diverse body of humanity.

So how does someone with “a lot to say” go months without spouting off on her blog?

Some of it is the seasonal nature of life; there’s homeschooling to do, a toddler to wrangle, the ceaseless “mundane” demands of day-to-day life, a business to run, women to invest in, and of course a self to cultivate, care for, prune.

But a lot of it is forbearance. Something that has never been my forte, and something that’s become a bit of a practice for me, over the past year. (I know I’m not the only one who struggles in this. “Forbearance” is an alien virtue to most people who are regularly dialoguing on the internet, it seems.)

The problem is when you have a lot of things to say, and you spend a lot of time turning those things over in your mind—formulating your stance, pre-writing a draft—you run the risk of becoming a weak or ineffectual listener, and that’s a prospect that fills me with disgust. (I do not want to become that person.) So I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately, and I have to admit: listening without building a response has been a significant challenge for me.

Here are three practical things that have helped me strengthen my listening:

  1. Assume from the beginning of a dialogue that the other person/people are not interested in what think, and won’t ask probing questions of me. (This enables me to pause the part of my brain that’s structuring a reply and devote myself to listening and perceiving.)
  2. Allow myself to indulge my curiosity about others, and ask (polite) probing questions of them. This helps me to hear each person as an individual, rather than lumping them into a category and making assumptions about them.
  3. Do not offer an alternative perspective or contradictory point unless expressly invited to do so. (i.e. until invited to do so, I make no statements, I only ask questions.)

Interestingly, this process of critical listening has not resulted in the outcome you might predict; as I gather more and more stories, reasons, conclusions from others, I find that my positions (on many, but not all issues) are becoming firmer. By silencing myself and my own perspectives, it’s much easier to see where others’ perspectives break from truth, or reason. (Of course none of them ask about that, so it’ll be a secret between me any my blog. 😉 )

One more observation, and then I’m done on this subject for now.

Many (certainly not all) people I ask questions of seem genuinely threatened by someone asking them to elaborate, or provide a specific example for illustrative purposes, or describe what has influenced them the most on a particular issue. I’m surprised by how little good faith is present in many people, and how sensitive they are to being asked to explain their thinking. It’s the kind of defensive lashing-out that one might expect from a teen from a troubled home, not a fully-grown, seemingly emotionally-healthy adult. I have a few theories as to why that is (being plugged into a constant loop of aggression/assumed victimhood/outrage is one possible reason), but in listening first, I’ve been able to rediscover compassion and empathy for those hurting people, as opposed to condemnation, or general “yucking” them (i.e. “YUCK, I’m SO GLAD I’m not like THAT”).

So one more time: thank you. Both for having patience and grace for me in my longtime estrangement from forbearance, and in this current (admittedly privileged) exercise of thinking about thinking.

I won’t promise regularity here, and the next thing I post will probably be a few simple veggie recipes, as I’ve been focusing on growing my culinary oeuvre.

Peace to you!

mj

10 Changes Over 10 Years on YouTube

To celebrate 10 years of making videos on YouTube I decided to focus on the theme of change. So in this video I cover 10 changes in my life over the past 10 years, and I hope there’s something encouraging or helpful in it for you, I maybe for a friend. Enjoy!

My Changed Mind

We have a crummy way of treating people who change their minds, and I think it sucks. Here’s a little bit of my story of a (slow, uncomfortable) change of mind.

No Offense. (No, Seriously.) | Choosing Not to be Offended

I’m deeply fascinated by social media, and internet culture in general. (When I describe my professional background, I playfully simplify my skill set as “being good at the internet for a living.”) Over the 18-ish years that I’ve been participating in and observing social engagement via the internet, I’ve seen a shift from a general sense of delight and connection, to one of barrier-building and hair-trigger outrage.

Don’t get me wrong, the beautiful and diverse communities of internet-past are still very much alive and vibrant, and new ones are created every day. Those communities are what keep me coming back, and persisting through the ugliness we’ve seen rear its head over the past several years.

But the ugliness! I hate to say it, but it started to seep in and affect me too. I’ve found myself taking offense more easily than I used to, and feeling somewhat prideful of my ability to construct an argument (and a judgement) quickly and pointedly. But that’s not who I want to be. I don’t think that’s who any of us want to be, but like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, we don’t notice what’s happening to us until it’s too late. We’re immersed in an increasingly bitter and divisive tone of discourse, and it takes a degree of intentionality to choose a better way.

Without careful watch on ourselves, we can become bitter, cynical, and lacking in grace and mercy. We begin looking for opportunities to be offended, and it is just too easy to find them.

Just a couple of days ago I had an interaction at school drop-off that reminded me of how easy it is to be offended, but also, how easy it is to not be offended, if you can just remember to try. Continued in the video:

Do you find yourself losing energy being offended by people and opinions that are ultimately unimportant? Are you susceptible to the rip-tide of us-vs-them discourse on the internet? How would your life (both internally and externally) be improved if you chose to be more buoyant, and engage less in those kinds of conversations? As always, I ask these questions of you because they’re the very questions I’m asking myself.

Until next time,

mj

None of My Business | On Releasing Control of Others’ Perceptions

My impulse is to begin by apologizing for the months that pass without fresh content from me, but that instinct—like so many others—is more an attempt to manage what you think of me than it is an authentic apology.

I follow author Michele Cushatt on Facebook, and my day-to-day is better for it. Last week she posted a few concise words on managing others’ thoughts of ourselves, and though the concept is not new to me, her words struck me with new truth. It’s like she flipped on a light switch in my brain, and suddenly I could see all the ways—conscious and subconscious—that I attempt to manage/control others’ thoughts and perceptions of me. Here’s what she had to say:

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-8-49-37-am

So I made a quick video that goes into this in more detail.

Do you find yourself in a similar situation, going out of your way—even in tiny ways—to control how others perceive you? Does this impulse ever prevent you from engaging with others, simply because you don’t “look” the part, or “feel” the part? And is it worth it? I’d love to hear if/how you wrestle with this, as these are all questions I’m dealing with myself.

Until next time.

MJ

Who’s getting your best?

For months I was haunted by the question “what would your life look like if you gave the best of yourself to the people you love, instead of the people giving you money?” And now we’re taking steps to figure that out.

The Ugly Side of Grit (and the Virtue of Leaving)

To my detriment, I’ve never been a quitter. In all things there is an end, but for most of my life I’ve rejected/ignored/pushed way past those natural endings. I fundamentally don’t believe in giving up, and while this sounds like a virtue, those of you who have carried the weight of a dead project/relationship/responsibility on your back know just how self-destructive a belief it can be. It’s stubborn, and simultaneously disrespectful and self-righteous. It says “I don’t need anybody or anything to make this happen. I can carry this relationship/project/responsibility on my own,” which—while possible for a time—is no way to live your entire life. (There are better uses for one’s time and talent than slogging through an unworthy situation.)

Primarily my attitude has to do with how I self-identify as someone of exceptional grit and determination. I grew up in very rough circumstances, so my whole life I’ve known myself as an uncrushable force, an overcomer. I’m grateful for that identity as it got me through a couple of challenging decades, but somehow, even though my life is entirely safe and healthy now, I hadn’t shed that primary identity as bulldozer of adversity, and what used to be my saving grace slowly became the single biggest drain on my life.

This is a recent realization for me. It came to a head a couple of months ago, when I found myself in a situation at work that summoned my grit/determination response, except this time I had an epiphany: just because you can make it through a circumstance doesn’t mean you should, and you certainly aren’t obligated to do so. Not every circumstance is worth the expense of resources and energy it takes to make it through the other side. (It helps me to think in terms of value exchange.) I had to ask myself “am I getting enough value from this experience to make toughing it out worth it?”

And for the first time in my life, I chose to respect myself enough to do the healthy thing and remove myself from the situation, rather than grit my teeth and bear it, and oh my gosh was it uncomfortable…at first. Like I said, I fundamentally believe in never giving up, but now in my ripe old 31 years I’m beginning to see the shades of grey between the healthy assertion of grit, and the cowardice of bring ruled by one’s own self-righteousness.

So 40 days ago I chose to swallow my self-righteousness and honor my time and talent by resigning. It was one of the most uncomfortable circumstances of my adult life, and I am so grateful for having gone through it. I won’t go into the details, but I want to take a moment to recognize some of the good the came out of the ugliness:

  • I had the opportunity to grow an already beautiful friendship with a coworker. She’s a light in our world, and during this time of stress she came right by my side and supported me. I don’t have a sister, and for all intents and purposes I don’t have a mother, but this woman shows me what a sister and mother can look like in my life. She’s a beautiful human. When I read that we’re made in God’s image, I think of people like her.
  • I had the opportunity to know what it means to need fellowship with God. I was so messed up about this situation you guys. I don’t like to dwell on the negative, so I tend to understate it, but believe me when I say that I was a wreck. I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t eat, I had an ulcer. It was eating me up from the inside. And you know what’s awesome? I got to experience firsthand that if you cry out to God in your need, and in your fear, and in your pain, he will meet you with a more than matching portion of his strength and mercy and grace and sweet relief. You can trust him.
  • It made for an amazingly seamless transition to me running our home business (which I haven’t told you about yet). More on that another day.
  • I have bandwidth that I never would have carved out for myself. In my first week off I built a raised garden bed, and now we have a bountiful vegetable garden! And I’m reading for pleasure, simplifying/organizing our home, cooking six meals a week…I can’t even believe this is my life.
  • We can keep Ellie at her amazing school! (Ellie goes to a hybrid classical homeschool. She spends three days a week at SLOCA, and two days homeschooling with me. It’s THE BEST!)
  • Our marriage is the best it’s ever been. I’m so stinking in love. We’re disgusting, y’all.
  • I grew. Thank God, I grew. I’m a nasty combination of stubborn and self-righteous, but I’m changing.

There’s a ton more, and a ton more to the story, but for now that’s that. I’m officially a work-at-home, classical homeschooling mom. Can you believe it? (My 21 year old self thinks I’m THE WORST, hahaha.) You’ll be seeing me around these parts more often beginning next week, which is exciting. I have some changes I want to make around here, and I’m looking forward to talking them through with y’all.

LoserKids

When I was in high school, I had this friend Maria (who I often called Mimi, or Meems). Maria is Korean (“Maria from Korea”), and is one of the few Korean females I know whose name isn’t an old-timey American name (shout-out to my friends Eunice, Esther and Hazel!).

Meems and I were friends from the start, which is unusual for me (and for her also, as I would later learn). I have a vivid (and sometimes wild) imagination, but it’s almost always kept tightly under wraps, not on purpose, but because it takes a special kinship to share and enjoy that kind of thing, which is a shame, because it’s really so much fun.

Effortlessly, Maria and I would riff on situations, creating entire characters,  experiences and scenes out of thin air. She’d observe the same details in people and circumstances that I did, and without even exchanging words, we would laugh about it until our faces hurt. With Maria, I felt like I was my truest self. Unfiltered, totally open, and always understood.

We had a special name for ourselves, which we felt perfectly explained our marginalized yet massive existence. We were “LoserKids,” and our weirdness, brokenness, and resourcefulness made us exceptional.

Maria grew up in the Bronx (and was forever telling me how great it was, but would hit me when I called it “the block”), and I grew up across Southern Orange County (sometimes living with my grandmother, homeless for a little while, but eventually settling into a Mexican project across the street from where rich people kept their horses).

Maria’s family was very hard on her. I never got the details, because she’s Korean, and I  knew not to ask. My own family was a mess. I never knew my dad, and the men my mom brought around were abusers, drug addicts, or misogynists. Maria and I were intimately familiar with brokenness from a young age, and though we never acknowledged it outright, I believe that’s one of the causes for our immediate and unquestioning friendship. Amidst all the darkness in our lives, we offered lightness to each other. I feel like Maria and I laughed so much together because until we met, we really hadn’t laughed at all.

What strikes me as interesting nowadays, is how totally at home I felt with her, and how much our friendship taught me about belonging. Neither of us had the advantages that many kids do (a stable family, reliable meals, etc.), and I think subconsciously, other kids understood that, and it scared them, so they shunned us, and all our lives, Maria and I were outcasts. But throughout that time of disconnection and loneliness, each of us learned how to bury ourselves inside our imaginations, and protect ourselves with a thick layer of curiosity that kept each of us too busy reading and learning to notice how miserable we actually were. And when our paths finally crossed, words didn’t have to be exchanged. I accepted her, and she accepted me, and it was like all of our hidden greatness was given permission to reveal itself.

Maria is the only LoserKid I would meet in high school, but in the 12 years that have passed since then, I’ve met several others, and here’s something I’ve noticed: LoserKids get stuff done. LoserKids are innovative, and hilarious, and sensitive, and above all things, they’re brave. They’re used to being the weirdos, so they’re not afraid to stand up and speak against injustice. Their disadvantages growing up turned into their super powers as adults. LoserKids set the bar high, and they achieve, and when they’re done, they celebrate, and laugh, and prepare to do it all over again. LoserKids know how to work. Hard.

So here’s to my friend Meems, who I haven’t seen or heard from since high school. I miss you, and I hope our paths cross again someday. Your friendship not only kept me afloat during some of the more difficult years of my life, but taught me that there’s a tribe for everyone, and not to shun my “otherness” in favor of pretending I’m something that I’m not. LoserKids are for life. ❤

Monday is My First Day at My New Job

Rosetta’s brand-spankin’-new West Coast HQ. Ain’t she a beaut? Click HERE for more images.

I’m very excited to announce that Monday will be my first day in my new role as Talent Brand Ambassador at Rosetta! I’m honored (and humbled) to be welcomed onto such a talented and innovative team, and I can’t wait to get started. (You can get acquainted with Rosetta at rosetta.com , and of course, I’ll do my best to answer whatever questions you have.)

But of course to begin this new chapter, the previous one must come to a close. When I started at iFixit, the video department did not exist, and “MJ” was concept in my imagination. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done over the past few years, and I’m confident the video department will thrive with the fresh perspective and energy of a new host. (But I’m not going to spill the beans on who that person is, so you’ll just have to wait and see.) 🙂

To those of you who came to know me during my time at iFixit: it’s been such a pleasure creating content for your guys, and interacting with you on a daily basis. Thank you so much for your support! I hope you’ll continue to follow the channel, and welcome the new face of iFixit with enthusiasm. And, of course, you’re invited to continue following me on my journey. I’ll be *very* sad if I have no one to nerd-out with over the iFixit teardowns. 😦

Thanks again for your continued support, especially those of you who’ve been with me since *before* iFixit, back in the days of YouTube’s infancy, and the advent of “web personalities.” Pretty remarkable how much things have changed since then, huh?

Onto new beginnings!

TL;DR? I have a new job that I’m stoked about. Leaving iFixit is bittersweet. I love you guys. ♥

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Let’s be friends!

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When You’re Mothering From Scratch (Coping With Absentee Mothers)

I popped into Sally Loo’s this morning (espresso con panna + molasses spice cookie = happy mama), before I headed into the iFixit office, and the place was crawling with babies and toddlers. Makes me wish I had Ellie with me, so she could meet some kiddos, and I could have an easy transition to talk to other coffee-loving parents, but I digress.

There was a woman in front of me, presumably about my age, with a little girl on her hip who looked to be about 12 months. Judging by the still-matted patch of hair on the back of the little one’s head, and her lack of desire to be put down, I’d guess she’s not a proficient walker, so maybe she was younger than 12 months. Regardless, the little girl was adorable. Bright blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and tiny little fingers that unconsciously swirled themselves in her mama’s hair. As she rested her chin on her mama’s shoulder, we had a staring contest. She won, on account that I smiled first. (Couldn’t help it.)

After a minute or two of us making eyes at each other, the little girl’s nana walked up, and gave her rapid-fire smootchies on her big soft cheeks, and the little girl giggled. It was too cute. Shifting the little girl to her other hip, the mama looked over at the nana, and asked “ya want a cappuccino? I know how you love ’em.” Nana nods her head, but never loses the little girl’s gaze, now playing tickle on her tiny palms. “Ooooohhh, I just wanna eat you up,” coos Nana, again with the rapid-fire smootchies.

It’s a perfectly normal, perfectly natural interaction, and I’m sure I’ve seen many like it in recent weeks, but for some reason this particular exchange stung me. My throat got tight, and my eyes began to well up, and I ditched my spot in line in favor of the privacy of the restroom.

———-

It’s harder, some days than others, coping with the absence of my mother. Most days I recognize her absence the way one recognizes a blank wall in their home, knowing that there should be a photograph, or a piece of art in that spot, but not having a vision for what it might look like exactly. But other days–days like today–I see a completeness, and a love that I know I don’t have, and I feel envious.

I’m not kidding myself into thinking that if my mother were in my life, that our relationship would be as warm, or as familiar, as the two that I saw in the coffee shop today. I’m not idealizing the relationship. But I want the chance to know what our relationship would look like, if it were healthy. I’m 29 years old, and to this day, I do not know what that feels like. I suppose it’s okay to respect those feelings, even if they hurt, in order to grieve properly, so long as I’m not wallowing. I have very little patience for wallowing.

———-

In so many ways, I feel as if I’m doing this mothering-thing from scratch. Seeing three generations of women all together really pushes that button for me, I guess.

I wonder, does having an active and involved mother of one’s own give one more confidence as a mother? Does having that support, and that wealth of knowledge and experience equip women better for their marriages, and for raising their children? Does everyone else have resources, and support, and knowledge that I don’t have? (That’s my insecurity speaking.)

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but it’s rare that I spontaneously cry in public, so I figure maybe I needed to get that off my chest. And hey, silver lining: I’m not wearing makeup today, so no scary mascara tears!

Some of you have shared having similar relationships with your mother. Do you experience “flare-ups” the way I did today? What triggers them? How do you cope?

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Let’s be friends!

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Vacation Life (A Beginning)

Morro Rock in Morro Bay Harbor

Morro Rock, in Morro Bay. You’ll be seeing a lot of this big fella.

It makes sense that after writing an entire post about “balance,” that’d I’d completely abandon my blog, right? Yeesh, have I been away for a while. Sorry ’bout that.

Obviously, I’ve been taking some time away from my computer. This happens when the weather is in the high 70s in October, and you live a couple-a blocks from the ocean. (Humble brag if I ever wrote one.)

But seriously. I guess I just felt like I needed some space. Not from you all, or the blog in general, but, like, real physical space. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, and very little time writing. This, as you can imagine, is both good and bad. On the one hand, my summer tan has extended itself into an autumn tan, which is worth at least +25 awesome-points. On the other hand, well, I’ve been completely MIA, and since writing is somewhat cathartic for me, I’m starting to get a little antsy. But I have an idea! And I think you’ll enjoy it.

(Prepare yourself for a flat-out brag.)

I live in the most beautiful place in the world. (Somewhat debatable.) It is also the happiest place in America. (Not at all debatable, unless you want to go toe-to-toe with Oprah Winfrey.) I’m blessed in countless ways, but I hold where I live very close to my heart. I’ve lived lotsa places (my “about me” page talks about some of them), and the Central Coast of California is truly special. It struck me, a couple of weeks ago, that I live where millions of people vacation each year. So why the heck aren’t I living it up more? Then I asked myself this question:

“What would I be doing differently if I were vacationing here, instead of living here?”

I felt as if I was taking this amazing location for granted, and that if I didn’t snap out of it soon, me and my family would be stuck in a rut of just existing here, rather than truly living here. Does that make sense? We’d keep on doing the work-home-sleep, work-home-sleep shuffle until we’re too old to hike 128 some-odd hiking trails in the area. And that simply won’t do.

Enter: Vacation Life!

“Vacation Life” is the tag I’m going to use for all of the posts that have to do with exploring this amazing place my family calls home. Over the past two weeks I’ve amassed a ridiculous number of photos from various excursions, but I’ll only share the best ones here on the blog. (Don’t want to spam you with 17 pictures of the same sunset, ya know.) This way I’m staying active and enjoying my surroundings and I have a steady stream of beautiful photos to share with you guys. (Gotta love a real win-win situation.)

Of course, not all of my “Vacation Life” posts will be breathtaking sunsets and seaside panoramas. Because what else do people do on their vacations? They relax. They treat themselves. They spend quality time with their family. So I’ll share that stuff, too.

So, I’m inviting you all to get to know us Godseys a little better, and join us as we try and make the most of where we live. I hope you enjoy it! And who knows? Maybe some of you will dig a bit deeper into what makes your towns special, too. And if you do, please let me know! I would love to see/read more about y’all and where you’re from!

For starters, here’s a panorama I took of the sunset last week. We were barbecuing, and suddenly: BLAMMO. Pink and orange everywhere. So I ran on up to the crow’s nest and snapped this quick photo with my iPhone. (Say what you will about the Maps app in iOS 6, but the panorama feature is totally worth it.) You can click on the picture to see it full-sized.

Sunset in Morro Bay
xoxo, mj
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“Balance” as a Process, Not a Destination

So here is a really basic thing I learned recently:

My idea of what “work/life balance” is, is wrong. I’ve always thought of “balance” as a destination, as a sort of nirvana to be achieved if I would only get more sleep, drink more water, and follow all of the rules set out for me in well-meaning blogs by women who “have it all together.” And if I could just do those things, I could “have it all.” I thought that it was my failure to follow those rules that was holding me back from achieving “balance.”

But it’s not like that, is it? This whole time I’ve been stressing myself out, trying to achieve balance, without realizing that balance isn’t a singular achievement, so much as how you walk out your days. Individually. Curveballs and all. Balance is not a destination that I can reach, and from thenceforth live in perfect tranquility. Balance is more like making the best choices I can, as they come, and trying not to let things get too out of hand.

I’ve been driving myself crazy, chasing down this mirage of “balance,” which would suddenly disappear once I reached it, only to reappear way over there, in the gluten-free aisle of the health food store, and again, over there in the books about Attachment Parenting, and again, over there on a Pinterest board full of crock-pot recipes/seasonal wreaths/crap made out of mason jars. And chasing down the ever-elusive mirage of “balance” was freaking exhausting.

Adjusting My Expectations

So lately, I’ve had this image of a tight-rope walker in my head. As she’s walking the tightrope, she expects to be wobbly, and she knows that the feat isn’t simply making it to the other side of the rope, but taking each step as well as she can. She does not expect perfection. She does not expect to “figure out” balance halfway through, and walk, perfectly balanced down the remainder of the length of the tight-rope.  And I think she has this balance thing a bit more figured out than I do.

Adjusting my expectation and understanding of balance has given me a much needed shift in perspective. It’s going to take some repeating for me to completely unlearn my unhealthy understanding of balance, but the more I reflect on my image of the tightrope walker, the less anxiety I feel about not getting things just right all of the time. Wobbles are totally okay. And I know that’s not a revelation to most of you, but it is one to me, and I am so grateful to be continually discovering that I don’t have everything all figured out.

Young and Foolish

When I was younger, I thought I knew everything. There’s something in the combination of book-knowledge and untested theories and ideologies that affords young adults a powerful sense of intellectual superiority. Learning that I do not, in fact, know everything, has been simultaneously one of the great joys/disturbing truths of growing up. It’s such an adventure, constantly re-exploring my beliefs and opinions, and understanding of the world, but at the same time, it’s somewhat frightening. I feel as if my character is in a constant state of revision, and that sensation, of never really knowing who, exactly, you are (and who you are becoming) is ultimately humbling.

How about you guys? Do you ever find yourself struggling to live up to an unhealthy expectation? What’s been your most recent “revelation?” You guys are so wise, I usually learn a lot from what you’ve got to say. 🙂

xoxo,

mj
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  • Balance, uncertainity, and blessings  via visibleandreal.wordpress.com (I found this post literally moments after I write the post above, and when I went through the pages in her site, I definitely became internet-infatuated with Stephanie. And if you check out her resources page, I can vouch for basically all of the titles listed. (She has great taste.) I’m looking forward to reading more of her work, and maybe even signing up for one of her classes!)

Beyond Tired: How Exhaustion Effects Everything

As I sit here, I’m in a sort of funk. Have you ever felt completely wrung-out? Just tired on every level? Well that’s where I am today. (But I’m not here to moan and groan, I promise.) Even though this is a lesson I’ve already learned, sometimes it takes re-living it to give the lesson new meaning, and deeper truth. The lesson is simple enough: It’s really hard to remain joyful when you’re exhausted.

I’d call myself a typically optimistic person, except that’s not giving credit where the credit is truly due. My “optimism” (which a lot of my friends and acquaintances find naively endearing) isn’t so much an inherent trait, but rather an all-or-nothing trust I have in the joy and promises given to me by our heavenly father. In my mind’s eye, I read “they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength…” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…” and so many other words and verses, shining like tiny little gems, and hidden away in my heart. And those words sustain me throughout my days, and into my long, late nights. In a way, they’re old friends that I can call on at any hour of the day, for a reminder of what is true.

But something happens to me when I’m tired. And not sleepy-tired, but wrung-out tired. Emotionally raw and sensitive. It’s as if my body knows there’s no rest in sight, so it instinctively reallocates resources to maintain its basic operations. I draw into myself, and those warm familiar words in my mind’s eye grow dim, and disappear. And it’s at that moment that I’m the most vulnerable. It’s at that moment that I lose sight of joy, and of the peace that’s being continually offered to me. And that darkness–that sort of brief, spiritual death–is terrifying.

Not to mention that when I’m that tired, all of my flaws and nasty traits flare up: I become judgmental, short-tempered, impatient, anxious, I eat too much/too little, my stomach hurts, and I usually catch a cold. It’s very Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde, and I’m not proud of it.

So knowing all of this, I feel pretty dense for allowing it to happen. But I’m sure I’m not alone. Most of us (women especially) have bitten off way more than we can chew, continually say “yes” to responsibilities when we should say “no,” and overwork ourselves to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. What I didn’t realize, until this time around, was how much my being exhausted all the time effected me, spiritually.

Can I really offer my family, and offer God, the best of myself, when I’m this tired? Or are they getting what’s left over after all the work is done? And what kind of message am I sending to my daughter about what a grown woman’s life looks like?  I don’t like these questions much, because they poke me in a sore spot, but maybe you guys can relate? Do you have any habits for refreshing yourself throughout the day that you’d like to share? I’ll try them all. 🙂

xoxo,

mj

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Lessons From My 20s: Motherhood is Not Necessarily a Lifetime Commitment

via

I celebrated my 29th birthday on Saturday (the 1st), and because I’m the introspective type, I’ve been thinking a lot about my 20s.

I kind of can’t wait to put some more distance between today-me, and 20 year old me. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that the first half of my 20s was turbulent, and dramatic, and full of questionable decisions and behavior (whose wasn’t?), and the more distance that I have from that season of my life, the more my perspective has improved. And the more I can cut young-me some slack. (She was a hot-mess, for sure.)

The second half of my 20s has been absolutely amazing. It’s been a season of growth, and discovery, and renewal. For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in who I am, and who I’m becoming. Not that it has been easy. I’ve been working harder in the past 4 years than I ever have, and it never lets up. Only now I’m working for me, and I’m investing my time in things that bring me ultimate gratification, namely my family.

On Family

Speaking of family, I’ve learned some lessons about family, too. In early 2011, my mom quit speaking to me. (It’s a longish story as to why, but she has her reasons.) Dealing with the loss of my mother was (and continues to be) really difficult. I’ve experienced loss as a result of death before, but loss of a person that is alive and well is a totally different thing. Grieving the loss of a relationship with someone who is still alive, but chooses to be out of your life, comes with its own set of issues. Especially when that person is your mother. But here’s what that’s taught me about family, specifically mothers and daughters: my mother does not owe me anything. Just because I have an idea in my head of the kind of relationship I’d like to have with my mother, doesn’t mean that my actual mother is the person who is going to fill that need for me. Just because she is my biological mother, doesn’t mean she will mother me, if that makes sense. Just like many fathers don’t actually father their children, mothers can be the same way, and it’s selfish of me to expect that from my mother, just because I was born to her. Motherhood, evidently, is not necessarily a lifetime commitment.

In the same way, it’s conceivable that one day, Ellie (my daughter) might not want a relationship with me. I hate to imagine that, but it’s certainly a possibility. Knowing that she isn’t bound to me for life, I cherish our time together even more. Don’t get me wrong: I hope and pray that we’ll grow closer and closer as we both age, and I want to be active in her life until the day I die, but I know now that she doesn’t owe me a relationship, just because she was born to me. I’d be obliterated if she cut herself off from me one day, but recognizing her agency as an individual has helped me appreciate her as a person with her own identity. I cannot control what kind of person she will become, or what kind of life she will choose for herself, but I can ensure that she will always feel loved and cherished by her mother.

Going Forward

So as I kick-off year 29, I’m reflecting a bit on how I can best communicate to Ellie and Mike that they are ultimately loved, and that they will always have me, both as a mother, and as a wife. No, there’s no law in place saying I have to continue loving and mothering my daughter, or loving my husband, but those are two things that I commit to doing for the rest of my life, not just because it comes naturally, but because it’s my choice. It’s the great joy of my life to love my family, and I’m so blessed to go into my 29th year with the two of them by my side.

On a parting note, did any of you church-folks ever sing that song “His Banner Over Me is Love”? I didn’t grow up in church, so the first time I heard it was in a Sunday School class I was leading. Our speakers weren’t working, so we didn’t have any music for worship. One of the other leaders taught the song to the kids, and I learned it right along with them. I kind of want to paint something for our living room, inspired by that scripture. (Song of Solomon, 2:4: “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.”) If I come up with something I’m not too embarrassed by, I’ll share it with you guys when I’m finished. 🙂

I’ll be back Wednesday to announce a giveaway for a thing that I LOVE so much. I can’t wait!

xoxo, mj

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