I want to make all of the plans. I’ve seen so many good ideas floating around the Internet, heard great resolutions from those around me, and a part of me wants to jump in, to claim them all for myself. I want to write every day. To pen an essay a week. To finish a novel. To exercise twenty minutes per day. To pray every morning. To journal each night. To complete a reading challenge or two or three. I want to start practicing the Examen again. To read through the bible this year. To try centering prayer. I want to start using Instagram. To take more pictures. I want to get a Costco membership, and to do plan-ahead meal prep, to declutter. I want to have regular date nights. To inspire creativity in my kids. To say yes more often. I want to encourage others more, to seek out ways to bring joy into the lives of those around me. I want to practice hospitality. I want to take Katie on nature walks, and to sing with her more often, and to grow her circle of friends.
I want to do it all.
And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with setting goals, with working and planning to build good things into my life. There’s much good here. So much good, in fact, that each time I come across some possible new resolution, I think, I could do that too. I should do that too.
For the past month plus a bit more, I’ve been dealing with what I’ll term a postpartum funk – something best described as a weight or a cloud or a lethargy, not quite heavy enough to be depression, but still strong enough to affect my day-to-day. There seems to be a light now, a promise at the end of the dark, a gradual return to my normal moods and energy levels, but for some of November and all of December, discouragement and disillusionment seemed to be my constant companions.
Postpartum hormone fluctuations are not fun, and I do not wish them on anyone, but there’s one thing they have taught me:
I can’t do it all.
In my mind, I should be able to manage a household and raise two tiny humans and be an excellent wife and a remarkable friend while exercising daily and having a vibrant spiritual life and oh, yes, writing a novel and publishing to my blog and submitting articles for pay. I should be able to do everything on that list up there, pursuing all the things, doing all the resolutions, because they’re all good and wonderful and healthy.
But I can’t. For the past however many weeks, it’s been all I can do to keep everyone fed and alive, to do the bare minimum of housework. There have been no extras, despite my desire to craft a wonderful, lovely, beautiful, perfect, [enter-your-superlative-here] Advent and Christmas for my wonder-filled toddler.
I can’t do it all. It’s been true when I’m in a postpartum funk, and it’s true during other times too. I can’t do it all, and trying only leads to frustration and guilt and defeat.
Which brings me back to resolutions, and to what I can – and should – actually manage as the mother of two very young children.
And what I can manage is a single word:
I haven’t chosen One Word in the past, and I didn’t really have plans to do so this year, despite the popularity of the movement. But as I was thinking and praying about what this coming year holds, about how I can better grow to be the mom and wife and friend and human being I’m called to be, I kept coming back to the idea of listening, of paying attention, of focusing on this one idea in multiple areas of my life.
To listen to others: to my children, to my husband, to my friends. To really listen, giving them my full attention, the respect and the love of an engaged mind and heart.
To listen to those who are wiser than I am: to those further along in the journey, be it in writing or in parenting or in simply living life. To have the humility to learn from others, to not feel as though I must know everything, must get everything right the first time around.
To listen to my own needs: to my body and my mind and my spirit. To give myself the rest and the space and the grace I need.
To listen to God: to His voice in bible study, in prayer, in nature. To open my eyes and my heart to His presence and to His working around me and in me and through me.
In all of it, too, is the underlying idea I’ve been trying to pursue for some time now – the idea of being present, of choosing this moment, of living in the here and now.
In many ways, this single word is both more demanding and more open-ended than a list of resolutions. It both narrows and broadens my focus. But it seems right for me, for this time and this place in life.
And so I’m doing it, declaring 2017 as my year to listen. We’ll see how this goes.
How about you? Have you made any resolutions (or chosen One Word) for 2017?