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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Challenge Complete


Day 7 - The Final Day of The Your Turn Challenge.

I did it! I posted a blog post every day for 7 days. In a row! That is only 1 less post than I posted in the 6 months leading up to this challenge. Now that is what I call success!

I tribute the relative ease I had completing this challenge with how desperately I was ready to be challenged. I was stuck in a massive pile of "UNDONENESS" - writing more frequently, but sharing less. Being a person who relishes feedback and encouragement this wasn't working.  I was stuck in my head, my own vicious is circle of self-doubt. I want to blog. I want my words to be read, my stories to be told, but did I have the drive or the discipline to make that happen?
Yup. Turns out I do.

I don't want this challenge to end. The accountability and support the other participants have provided is tremendous. Being a part of a group of individuals with a shared goal of stretching boundaries and sharing ideas has reaffirmed that community is an essential part of my success.

I am ending this challenge feeling motivated and inspired. The more I write, the more I want to write. I am not sure why this surprises me. When I taught Language Arts to 3rd and 4th graders, parents would frequently ask how to help their child improve in reading or writing. I would share strategies when applicable, but the advice I always gave was to READ and WRITE every single day. Just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you'll become.

I think it's about time I start taking my own advice.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Challenges & Surprises

5 days before 2015 began I turned 35. Having my birthday so close to the New Year always provides a double opportunity for me to reflect on the past year and set goals or resolutions for the next. For years past my list of resolutions has been a lengthy hyper-critical list of all my short-comings I wish to improve on.  This year I narrowed it down to one - "Challenge Yourself."

The first challenge I decided to participate in was A 30-Day Yoga Challenge at my local Yoga Shelter. The challenge was simple. Try to commit to spending one hour a day practicing yoga every day for 30 day. Pre-2015 Christy would have used the excuses of not being able to attend classes at the studio daily and my less than ideal conditions for at-home practice to decline participation in the challenge altogether. If there was no way for me to do all 30 days why even try. Thankfully, 2015 Christy realized that committing to attend as many classes as possible and practice as much as possible was enough of a challenge so I signed up. 

I am so glad I did. Today is the 24th day of the challenge and as of this afternoon I have attended 18 classes.  I am surprising myself daily with how quickly my practice is improving, how much stronger I am, and most importantly how proud I am of accepting this challenge and sticking with it.

Even through there are still 6 days left to go in this challenge I can say two things for certain:
1, I will not win for most classes attended in the month of January.
2. I don't care, I succeeded.
Every time I roll out my mat I succeed. I have made the time to do something good for myself. I have done more yoga in the last 24 days than I have done in the past 5 years.

Feeling successful in my yoga challenge allowed me to take on the Your Turn Challenge and what a wonderful surprise that has been.

Here's to 2015 - the year I challenge and surprise myself.



Yoga Shelter Rochester Hills, MI
Day 1 of the 30 Day Challenge 




Friday, January 23, 2015

Getting Unstuck

I am not sure I am highly qualified to offer advice about getting unstuck. Unless you count my numerous experiences with battling feeling stuck as qualifications. If that is the case then, I'm your girl.

When I feel stuck, I feel paralyzed by circumstances out of my control. Full of fear and self-doubt, it often seems easier to give up on whatever task I am working on than it would be to persevere and move forward. Thankfully, my mother blessed me with a stubborn streak that makes it darn near impossible for me to actually cave in and take the easy way out. As a result, I am constantly searching for ways to help me get unstuck and keep trudging along.

After some deliberation I narrowed down the top 3 things that help me the most when I feel stuck.


ACCEPTANCE:

I am a broken crayon. You are a broken crayon. We are all broken in some way. No longer, shiny and new, fresh from a package we are full of dings and dents, the impressions that life leaves as we live it.
Anyone who has every survived a trauma knows that it can be hard to live in the present and not dwell on the past. So much of who we are as people are defined by our experiences. Yet, the rest of us are defined by our choices. It's taken me a long time, but I accept that my body has failed me time and time again and is littered with the dings and dents of trauma. However, I also relish in my ability to still color. I am still here; still moving and breathing, dreaming and creating. Brokenness is not failure. It is experience. Accepting those experiences as opportunities to grow is a major step in becoming unstuck.

A GOOD SUPPORT SYSTEM:

The best people in my life are the people who know when I am stuck and in need of assistance without me having to ask for help. There I times when I need reassurance - that I am making progress effectively. There are times when I need to be called out on my procrastinating and avoidance of the hard stuff. There are times when I need comfort and consoling, a place to let it all out. There are times when I need to be challenged, my competitive side engaged, and pushed as far as possible.
I am so thankful to have people who can differentiate the types of motivation I require and are so willing to provide it with love and without judgement. These relationships are what get me unstuck time and time again.

BALANCING INSPIRATION:


I search for and find inspiration everywhere. Books, TV,  movies, social media, blogs, music, my family,  friends, strangers, nature; they all inspire me a thousand different ways every single day. The problem is that I severely lack the ability to turn that inspiration into anything productive. So often I get lost in the inspiration, to the point of distraction and I can no longer retrace my steps back to the focus and motivation. In order to combat my extreme distractability I (attempt) to enforce limits. No phone, Internet, or TV until X,Y, and Z are complete. I must do A before I am rewarded by the distraction of B. Limiting distractions through whatever means necessary and allowing myself to focus on completion of tasks goes a long way to prevent me from feeling stuck. It is when I succumb to the distractions that I begin to feel the palatalization of  unaccomplished.

So there you have it - three keys that help me get unstuck. What helps you? Please share your tricks and let's help each other get unstuck as fast as possible.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Parental Epiphany

There has been too much nagging, snapping, yelling, reprimanding, reminding, sighing, eye-rolling, arguing, negotiating, repeating, and crying around our house lately. Last night after a particularly difficult day with my daughter I was at the end of my rope.

Tears in my eyes, frustration radiating through every bone in my body I was in desperate need of answers. So I did what I assume most moms do when it is too late to phone a friend or relative. I Googled it.

The exact phrase I initially typed in - "how to survive mercury retrograde with children"

Fascinating results. But not exactly what I was looking for.
Thinking about how out of whack Emy has been I was searching for something to blame. The internal debate I was having about what was having more of an impact on her declining mood - Mercury or the Chuck E. Cheese Hangover I was pretty sure she had from our previous days outing, was a lot more entertaining than acknowledging the likely truth. Was it me? 


This morning my friend Loni shared this incredible blog post from the site Coffee & Crumbs by Jennifer Batchelor. Entitled - When Does It Get Easier?  it held EXACTLY the answers I was searching for last night.

"Then she grows up a little more, and you realize that merely keeping her alive isn't enough anymore. You also have to actually parent her. You have to teach her not to hit when she's angry. You have to teach her to be kind to others and share her toys.
And, when this phase happens, it dawns on you. You cannot teach her anything without demonstrating it first. Kids are sponges, and she's soaking you up all day long, every single day. If you want her to be kind, you must be kind. If you want her to be generous, you must be generous. If you want her to control her temper, you must control your temper. Parenting isn't just about shaping her character - it's also about shaping yours." 

I cried.
I cried because I love when the Universe sends me messages via Facebook.
I cried because I needed to hear those words, that minute.
I cried because the truth is hard.

It isn't that Emy's attitude needs adjusting, it's that mine does. I need to do a lot less of my list of bad behavior and a lot more  apologizing, hugging, consoling, reassuring, laughing, waiting, cuddling, and forgiving. Not just for my little girl's sake either. For my own.




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Questions & Answers

"I don't drive."
"We only have one car."
"I had some health problems when my daughter was born so I took a year off and tried to go back to work part-time."
"We moved to Rochester so I could be closer to my (then) teaching job," 
"I left teaching almost 2 years ago.
"I'm home with my daughter." 

While all of these statements are in essence true, they are also all big fat lies of omission. They're the guarded responses I give to new acquaintances or questioning neighbors when I try and explain my current status of unemployment/stay-at-home mommyhood. They're the statements that I choose to utter when I want to be honest but am not ready to unleash the full story that is my my crazy journey of motherhood and subsequent vision loss.

I've scared the crap out of enough relative strangers to realize that complete honesty isn't always the best policy, Witnessing the wide-eyed, slack jaw, left speechless response to my over-sharing just leaves everyone involved feeling awkward and isn't always called for. I'm not sure my mail carrier will ever recover from the over-detailed explanation of why she always sees me and my daughter home, yet there is never any car in the driveway. To be fair, she did ask.

These conversations always leave me a bit on edge and sometimes deeply embarrassed. I despise being misunderstood or judged. There is a huge part of me that feels if I could explain my story to everyone I interact with then they'd all "get it" and we could move on to either being friends or fellow community members who respect and understand one another. Naive and improbable? Probably, but it is still something I strive for consistently. 

For the past year I've been making a conscious effort to answer questions honestly and candidly but with consideration. Trying to find a balance between the ambiguity of "my vision isn't very good" and the emotional onslaught of "I finally had a baby, almost died, and lost my vision." The truth is somewhere in between.

I'm trying to keep my over-sharing to a minimum, but when it does occur (often) I embrace it, apologize if I made someone feel uncomfortable and move on. Life's to short to dwell on feelings of embarrassment and worry about sharing too much, too soon.

Besides, I've found more often than not, when I do open up freely I encourage others to do the same. By sharing our stories we build connections and are one step closer to "getting it."


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Important Things


For the longest time I thought teaching was the most important thing to me. Being an elementary school teacher was more than my career, it was my identity.
I loved my job and I loved my students. I wanted them to succeed and develop a pride of hard work. It was important to me that they feel connected to our classroom and that I was on their side. I wanted them to LOVE learning and develop a reverence for the power of words. I wanted them to understand that we all learn differently and what is best for you may not be what's best for me and that is OK. I wanted them to learn the value of mistakes and the only failure is not learning from a mistake. It was important to me that they learn how to function responsibly in a shared community; that our actions impact others and every choice has a consequence. I wanted them to learn how to respect themselves and others' bodies, property, feelings, work, ideas.

I worked hard at my job to impart these life lessons along with the constant changes of curriculum. I accepted these changes with more optimism than not; taking the new, mixing it with the old, and attempting to deliver it in a variety of ways that would best impact diverse learners.
I was good at teaching. In the 9 years I spent in a classroom I did important work. I know I made an impact on children's lives.
It's been almost 2 years since I left the classroom. Making the decision to leave was the hardest decisions I've ever faced, Doing my job to the high standard I held myself to was no longer possible due to vision-loss that occurred at the birth of daughter in 2010. I could no longer be the teacher who I wanted to be or needed to be, and I came to the realization that "teacher" was not my full identity. It was just one aspect of me - an aspect that had changed dramatically with the additions of "mother" and "disabled" to my life.
Most of the time we have the opportunity to make choices about what is important in our lives. These choices dictate how are lives turn out, but life isn't lived within a bubble. Quite often decisions we've made, plans we've counted on are changed suddenly, without warning and without consent and we have no choice other than to begin to live our lives differently.
I am not the same type of teacher I was 5 years ago. In fact, I am no longer employed as one at all. However, I still teach every day yet I still teach. I teach others as I learn how to embrace transition and transformation, while adapting to new identities. I teach those around me how to live a life that matters, by redefining purpose and finding joy in the unknown. It's not the same, but it is important.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I'm DOING This

Why am I doing the Your Turn Challenge?

I need a swift kick in the butt. Often. I get complacent and go on autopilot and avoid THE DOING as long as possible. Not because I don't want to DO, but because there are usually a million reasons I can think of why THE DOING can't be DONE because it's JUST NOT RIGHT YET. This is the trouble with being a procrastinator with a perfectionist complex.
The result of all this avoiding is that very little ever gets DONE and then all THE UNDONE piles up and threatens to swallow me whole with their overwhelming massiveness of UNDONENESS.

It's messy and anxiety inducing and all the guilt I feel every time I encounter another UNDONE project, blog post, chore, task, want, need has gotten out of control. Enough is enough. I don't want to be surrounded by THE UNDONE any longer. I want to DO the DOING.

The Your Turn Challenge came at a perfect time for me. I am ready for change. Ready to change. Ready to be a DOER who gets things DONE - a WRITER who WRITES. Even when it is not ideal.

The accountability piece of this challenge appeals to me. The social pressure of everyone knowing whether or not I am DOING or allowing it to become another UNDONE is exactly what I need.

The Challenge: A blog post every day for 7 days. Alright, let's DO this. Day 1 is DONE.