Is it too late for a New Year post? I didn’t want to write one, to be honest, because I’d prefer to avoid the cliché internet fodder posted for every holiday and shared for no reason other than to get link clicks. But, ever since Little was born, I’ve written a year-end recap in my journals, and I always highlight the trials and tribulations plus the successes and achievements. Then, I summarize for myself the lessons to take with me into the new year.
This being the first year I’ve been systematic in turning lessons learned into mantras, I decided what better way to start of ZenMamaMantras in 2018 than with the ones I’ve developed based on lessons learned in 2017? Especially since 2017 was one of the most blessed and most difficult years of my adult life.
1. Take Time For Yourself
2017 was a crash course in the art of juggling. I’d always thought I was good at it, having been a straight-A student in college while working two jobs. I’d managed to balance deadlines and a full load of classes with two separate work schedules, never missing an assignment or a shift.
Those years should’ve prepared me for a lifelong career juggling. They did not. College was like juggling three balls made of foam. Drop one, and all you need is to pick it up and get moving again. The last year, was like juggling flaming swords. Drop one and you’ve not only sliced off a toe, but your foot is also now on fire.
I could write an entire blog on this one alone, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll get to the point.
When the holidays rolled around, the burnout of the year–Oldest moving in and acting out, planning a wedding, balancing my paid work with writing submissions to get published, getting married, learning to be step-mom and mom, flipping a house, carrying the bills while my husband refurbished the flip house, changing my name, combining families and households, etc.–caught up with me. I barely practiced yoga in December and I rarely left the house. I wrote no holiday-themed blogs and I posted nothing to any of my personal social media accounts for weeks. In the back of my head, my marketing knowledge was nagging at me. You’re losing momentum. You need to post at least once a week. You can’t be quiet this long…
And, it’s true. In marketing and the social media world, you have to be on it. Every day. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I needed as much digital detox as I could get. I needed time with my family. I wanted to be present in our family time this year, not watching it from behind a screen and documenting everything for the wide world of Instagram and Facebook to see.
And yes, I possibly lost momentum in both my career and here on my blog, but as someone who wants to deliver quality over quantity, I needed the break. In every aspect of my life, as a mom, as a wife, a daughter, a friend, as a writer, as a poet, as social media manager, I needed a break.
Lesson Learned: rest when you need it. Had I taken more time for myself throughout the year, I might’ve avoided the burnout.
2. Get Back on the Horse, Bike, Wagon…
After yet another stressful period with Oldest acting out, fights with my husband over what to do, work not getting done and watching our bank accounts dwindle, I turned to a nasty old friend for help when I felt all my Zen work wasn’t working. It happened one night after a fight with the kids about their behavior at a family party. I ripped apart the boy’s room and found two half-empty packs of Pall Malls. I bagged them, and I should’ve thrown them away, but for some reason I kept them.
So that on another stressful day they were there. Calling me.
It’d been so long. I just wanted to relax. I was tired of how difficult it is for me to let go when I’m angry. I was tired of my temper. I was tired of worrying. I was tired of doing the “healthy” thing and feeling unsatisfied without that immediate gratification.
So I smoked them. And told myself that was it. I would NOT start smoking again. Until a new disagreement with my husband, again I wanted to be able to go do something with my anger other than yell. So I bought my first pack in four years.
I think you can guess how this story goes. It’s been two months of sneaking cigarettes and telling myself they’ll be my last. I’ve struggled with smoking since I was a kid. Every other time I’ve tried quitting and didn’t make it, I gave in. I’d hate myself for it, call myself weak, and then keep smoking because I felt powerless to stop.
Not. This. Time.
I do NOT want to smoke. I hate the smell. And I refused to let my kids or husband know I was doing it, so a lot of time and effort was going into keeping it a secret. I’ve quit before and I know I will do it again. This time, I forgive myself for having a lapse back into a bad habit and rather than let the guilt feed it. This time, I’m getting right back on the horse or bike or wagon, whatever metaphor you want to use.
Lesson Learned: sometimes we have setbacks, that doesn’t mean you give up! I also learned some bonus lessons that can be perceived as the silver lining for my backslide. When angry, I should walk away from the situation before yelling. Essentially that’s what stepping out for a cigarette was doing, it was making me pause. And, back to Mantra #1, take time for myself. Some of the draw to smoking was how much I missed quiet moments alone with my thoughts. Now, the trick is to do both these things without the cigarettes.
3. Open Up
An oldie but a goodie and it seems to always need a reminder. When I was deepest in the hole over the past year, one thing that saved me was advice from friends. I don’t always want advice because I’m easily influenced by the opinions of others. I’ve spent the last few years learning to make decisions for myself based on what I want, and in a way, I’ve closed myself off from asking for help. Which is not good. Sometimes it’s our friends and family who are outside the problems we’re having who see a solution we don’t.
Recently I told my bestie that my shared home and work life didn’t seem to be working anymore. I was getting too easily distracted and feel like I need more separation. I felt stuck. All I saw was the problem. She, on the other hand, popped open her laptop and within minutes I had a list of affordable shared office spaces to go check out as an option to create the separation I need. I didn’t even know these shared offices existed!
Lesson Learned: let others in and remember to ask for help when you feel stuck.
4. Let It Go
Having children, in general, is an exercise in choosing your battles, which is the cousin mantra to let it go. Getting married is another one. The only way to survive life living with family is to learn to let the little things go.
But what about the big things?
One of the most difficult things for me this past year was cutting ties with two toxic people in my life–my dad and sister. These relationships have been a source of great pain and are the root of a lot of self-loathing and insecurities. And I thought like so many people do, that to forgive them meant to stay in each other’s lives.
But it doesn’t. And the most important lesson I’ve learned came in 2014 after splitting with my son’s father. Life is too short to keep people around who are hurting you. No matter who they are to you.
The act of letting the people go is difficult enough. But, that’s nothing compared to letting go of all the feelings. All the memories. All the hurt. All the resentments. This takes time and a lot of forgiveness. A LOT of forgiveness.
I’ve written letters and burned them. I’ve written more letters and not burned them but not sent them. I’ve written in my journal. I’ve written poetry. I’ve burned candles and incense. I’ve done forgiveness meditations. I’ve done forgiveness exercises. I’ve read books on forgiveness. I’ve collected quotes and affirmations and mantras on forgiveness. And, it’s been a slow arduous journey that sometimes feels like I’m stuck in a hamster wheel.
Lesson Learned: letting go is an active thing we must do, and sometimes we have to do it over and over and over again. It takes time. And it may never be easy but hopefully, with practice, it will get easier.
What are some of your 2018 Mantras? Or do you have a word for 2018? Or a resolution? Did you learn any major lessons in 2017? Please leave a message in the comments!
Do you have a mantra helping you be a Zen Mama? Or a lesson you’ve learned along the way you want to share with other mamas to help them be more Zen? Contact me if you’re interested in posting it here on Zen Mama Mantras.