What I Learned in May


Emily over at Chatting at the Sky has made it a practice to record the things she learns each month. It’s a valuable habit, this habit of reflection, and so I’ve been joining her in it for the past year. If you’d like to join us as we remember, you can comment on this post with what you learned, or head over to Emily’s site and link up there.

1. Fifteen minutes can make a huge difference.

Katie craves my attention. She needs to know she matters to me, that she is an important part of my day and of my world. In the past few months, she’s grown more and more aware of the times when I am multi-tasking, of the times when she isn’t getting all of me – and she doesn’t like it.

There are days when this isn’t a problem: though her games are repetitive and I have all of her books memorized, I’m all too aware that she’ll only be small for so long, and I (on my good days) cherish the fact that she wants time with me. Other times, though, there are things that need doing (despite all the mantras about cleaning and scrubbing waiting). When this happens, I’ve found if I give her a period of focused, dedicated time early in the day – even if it’s only fifteen minutes – I can then vacuum or wash dishes or fold laundry (if I must) and she is much more content to occupy herself.

I’ve been thinking about how this principle might carry forward to other parts of my life, too – fifteen minutes of bible reading or prayer, for instance, or fifteen minutes of brisk exercise. Even a short time of intentional focus can make a huge difference in my attitude throughout the rest of the day.

2. Location matters.

For the majority of this year, I’ve had the most difficult time convincing myself to write. At first, I blamed it (fairly) on first trimester exhaustion, but even once I was well into the second trimester and my energy had returned, I found that Katie’s nap time – which is really the only time available to me for writing at this stage in life – was also when I hit my mid-afternoon slump. Day after day, I’d settle on the couch with my laptop intending to write, only to browse the internet until I fell into a kind of stupor, at which point I’d convince myself that a nap was in order.

Finally, about halfway through this month, I decided I needed a change. Instead of relaxing on the couch, I sat down at the kitchen table. Something about this change (combined with lesson #3, below) has worked for me – with the exception of a weekend when we had out-of-town company, I’ve managed to write during nap time every day since May 15.

3. Most of the battle is in getting started.

I feel as though all the lessons from this month have been ones I’ve read dozens of times in various places around the web, and this one is no exception. As it turns out, all of those productivity gurus who tell us to “just put our shoes on” if we want to start a running habit have been right all along.

This has been true for me in many areas this month. It started with journalling, which is a habit I’ve always struggled to maintain. Sometime around the beginning of May, I told myself that, as soon as I woke in the morning, instead of assuming Katie would wake any minute and interrupt me, I’d just start writing. Some days I get five minutes and some I get thirty, but either way, I’m journalling more than I was previously.

Starting small has also worked for running (well, let’s be honest: I’m six months pregnant. “Running” is a generous term. Perhaps “lumbering” would be better) and for more general writing, too. I tell myself that I only need to walk a quarter-mile on the treadmill and end up jogging – er, lumbering – two miles. I tell myself I only need to write five hundred words and end up punching out a blog post or the start of a short story.

So much of the battle is in getting started.

4. Grief works on its own schedule.

I faced grief twice this month – in the unexpected feelings that surfaced around Mothers’ Day and in the death of my Grandfather a few weeks later. In both cases, my reactions took me by surprise.

I thought I’d worked through so much of the sorrow surrounding our failed adoption, that I’d moved on, when the reality is that that pain will likely show itself from time to time for the rest of my life.

When I first heard that Grandpa had died, I felt nothing. It was partly because the news was not unexpected – he was 96 years old and had lived a long, full life – and, partly, perhaps, because I was distracted, in the middle of a busy weekend. But a few mornings later, I woke Jonathan with my tears, tears that came suddenly and uncontrollably as I thought about the hole Grandpa Greer left behind.

I tend towards pragmatism, away from sentimentality, and I like to maintain the illusion that I have some control over when and how my feelings come. I’m learning, though, that grief doesn’t work like that.

Those are my lessons for May. How about you? What did you learn?

6 response to "What I Learned in May"

  1. By: K. Ann Guinn Posted: May 31, 2016

    Hello Jenn! How nice to meet you at Emily’s link-up page! 🙂

    I sure do agree that fifteen minutes makes a difference! That’s a life principle right there, for sure! I apply this to exercise, especially, and it makes it practical and is easier to be consistent. There’s a better chance that I will stick to a short workout (which I do), on busy days, and it’s less stressful. Then when I do more, it’s a bonus! It goes right along with your principle number three. Getting started is half the battle!

    Thanks for some interesting and practical points.

    • By: Jenn Posted: June 1, 2016

      Hi Ann!

      It’s true – so often, my lessons each month tie in together. My first three this month really do work hand-in-hand.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. By: yettie Posted: May 31, 2016

    Sorry about your grandfather. I lost my dad last August and one lesson I’m learning is that grief is a process that will run it’s course. It can’t be rushed or ignored.

    • By: Jenn Posted: June 1, 2016

      I’m sorry to hear about your dad. It’s never easy to lose somebody we love – and we only suffer more if we don’t allow grief the time it needs.

      Thank you for stopping by.

  3. By: jywatkins Posted: June 13, 2016

    Sorry about grandfather, Jenn.

    I would say I learned something of a similar lesson to you in terms of just getting started. I was trying to develop a good exercise routine, running 3 times a week (I hate running, but I’m trying anyway), and I just couldn’t let myself have an alternative. If I went to bed thinking, “I am getting up and going running in the morning,” then it would happen. But the moment I would allow my thoughts to wander into the territory of “well, maybe I don’t have to, maybe I could skip tomorrow,” it was all over. If I tell myself to do something and don’t offer myself an alternative, it works much better. It kinds sounds silly, but it works!

    • By: Jenn Posted: June 14, 2016

      Thank you, Jamie.

      And yes. It’s exactly as you say – I can’t offer myself an alternative, or I just won’t do the thing I’m supposed to do. The mind games we play with ourselves!

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