Plodding progress

pexels-photo-129264Earlier this year I wrote about how life and “progress” can feel very slow sometimes. I’ve been thinking about that and also reflecting on the book, Ordinary, I read in preparation for my first child. Yes, lot’s of reflecting, as usual. (Have I mentioned I’m pregnant with #2 and he’s coming any time in the next 2-ish weeks?)

Jack just turned 2 a couple weeks ago. Two! I’ve been a mom for two years! I haven’t learned this much about life and myself since University. My personal growth in the last five months alone is a bit shocking to me, and it’s all been slow plodding. So often I have felt like I’m not moving in any direction, but looking back at the last year, I certainly have grown.

Just like the thesis of Ordinary says, the normal patterns of the Christian life bring natural growth; you don’t have to strive and strain.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve learned to do my dishes regularly. My house is generally speaking tidier more often. Of course, soon baby will come and throw a wrench in everything again. The pattern will continue, I’ll get the hang of things again – this time with a bigger load, and then baby 3 will arrive etc.

I guess what I’m saying is: I’m learning to chill out and not try to rush everything all the time because it turns out that I’m still growing. Except with less stress.

Gettin the groove back

I don't know who the artist is!

I don’t know who the artist is!

Life is starting to feel a lot more settled. I’ve been back to work (part-time) for a month and we’re starting to find the rhythm of me working. The feelings of being overwhelmed are gone, I’m adjusting to my “baby” boy walking and transitioning to being a toddler, and I feel like I actually have some time to myself again.

We love our new place. It feels gigantic and yet, it doesn’t take a million years to clean/tidy. Part of this, I think, has to do with how much I got rid of before we moved. I’ve been thinking a lot about housekeeping and the “zen” of tidying lately. I downloaded The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up because the entire internet is freaking out about it.  On Amazon.com it has over six thousand reviews and it’s still rated 4.5 stars. As I’ve been reading through it slowly, there are some things I’ve accidentally applied as we moved and as we had been feeling increasingly squished in the 800 square feet of our previous apartment.

Rather than obsessively colouring all the time, I started reading a bit again and I picked up my crochet. Though life is intense with a pre-toddler, a marriage to maintain, a house to not let fall into squalor, and friends to enjoy…. I’m finding a flow.

The 5 year plan

I should be packing right now. On Saturday we’re saying goodbye to this apartment and moving to our new home. The one we bought.

When we got serious and planned to put an offer on this place, I started thinking about the five years I’ve lived in this apartment, and what I thought my life might look like when I first moved in.

My friend and I saw this place and loved it despite its hideous chocolate brown and orange walls, purple glossy ceilings in the bathroom, and a few other awful paint decisions. When the landlord asked us if we’d be willing to sign a two year lease (which is unusual), we considered our life and both thought, “Well, I can’t see why not.” As far as we were concerned, our lives were going to continue as they were. Neither of us were dating or seemed to have any prospects and I was planning to stay in Montreal for a long time. Nakita and I moved in on the classic moving day in Montreal, July 1.

jess-nakita

Nakita and I (in green) are with a friend in our apartment.

I think it was a month after we signed our lease Nakita got her first phone call from her now husband. By December they were engaged and by April they were married. Willy and I started dating October of the year she and I moved in here. By January we were engaged.

This was the apartment we Skyped in when he lived in Quebec City. This was the apartment where he brought me flowers for the first time. It was where I got ready for our wedding, and the apartment we came back to live as husband and wife (the two year lease, remember?).

It more recently became the apartment where I grew a human in my belly and that tiny human learned to eat and sleep through the night.

If you had asked me five years ago what I imagined my life to be like, I probably would have said, “Maybe I’ll be married.” I would have never imagined being married, a mom, and moving in to a great apartment that we own.

Which leads me to OUR five year plan – Willy’s and mine. When we were first married, somehow we thought in five years time Willy might start seminary and we hoped to buy a house and maybe have a kid. but in our mind all of  these things would happen around the same time. Imagine: having a newborn, moving, and Willy starting school??? That was a foolish and crazy plan.

But we didn’t realize this until various things got turned on their head, and life twisted and lurched into a different direction. Willy started his Masters only a year after we were married. It took longer to get pregnant than we wanted. And when we started really saving for a house that was two to three years away, our circumstances dramatically changed thanks to generous parents and a house became imminent. Our five year plan was somehow accomplished in a different order in four years. And while that sounds like wonderful good fortune (it is), the road was not at all what we imagined and much more tumultuous than we had expected. But it turned out far more lovely than we would have planned.

marguerite-wedding

Getting ready for our wedding in my apartment. Photos by Chelms

How are you doing?

Version 2

Lately, I can’t decide how to answer this question when people ask. This summer has been bizarre. It’s been wonderful to experience life with my son, taking him to the beach for the first time, and going swimming with him etc. He’s such a joy. What makes it bizarre is that despite these swells of happiness and enjoyment I’ve been dealing with post-partum depression.

So when people ask “How are you doing?” I don’t know how to answer. Do they really want to know? Is it over-sharing to tell them right away? Or do I say I’m OK or I’ve been better and then further into the conversation I share what’s really going on. I’m not embarrassed by it — it happens to a lot of women. I’ve been in treatment for a few months now and it’s been going really well. But I have been thinking about a few things, like this blog. One of the things I often face is with goal setting. I talked about this with my therapist this week. If I tend to have too-high standards for myself, how do I know when my goals are too much? It doesn’t seem right to throw them out all together. So what do I do?

The weirdest part of this blog etc. is that I look around me and see people succeeding who have told me that I have inspired them. This is very cool! But it’s also strange knowing that in a few ways I feel stuck, but these other people seem to be flourishing after I have “inspired” them. As you can see I, like so many people, have the tendency to compare. I am “happy” with my life. I am content. I love my family, I love my job, but somewhere between J being born and June my train hopped off the rails. It’s the oddest thing to have this mix of such positive feelings and such lack of motivation, tiredness, etc.

So that’s where I’m at. That’s how I’m doing. It’s why I haven’t been blogging or running. Despite knowing that it’s really really good for my health, I can’t be bothered. But I am colouring…. and people, this is good for my soul! I’m so glad “adult” colouring is a fad right now because it’s the greatest thing!

A pep-talk

Source: marianovsky

Pep talks are key to my success. Business leaders or others might call it ‘casting vision’ for what you’re about to do. To make meetings less boring I (try to remember to) remind my staff why this meeting is important. It’s not just us sitting here for an hour and a half wasting our time, it’s because the decisions we will make in that hour and a half will impact our achievements that week and could change the course of our year entirely. That hour and a half could change our jobs, it could impact the world.

I don’t think we can have success in very much without pep talks or vision. Without being reminded of why we’re doing things, it’s so easily to get lost in the what or the why does this suck? of present reality. This is why I loved this pep talk by Chris Baty, the founder of Nanowrimo. It’s a bit long, but it’s worth the read. The last few days I’ve been feeling my novel is crappy (it was never meant to be published), more than crappy, I still had 30,000 words to write and very little plot space left to achieve what I wanted. I made some changes, but the writing was ARDUOUS at best. At the beginning, I was pumping out my daily 1,667 words in under an hour. Yesterday it took me THREE.

I needed someone to remind me that it will get better. Because it does. While this could be a pep-talk for life as well (it usually does get better), I’m reminded of the importance of vision and having people around me to encourage me, who are rooting for me to succeed. Do you have those people?

Here’s Chris’s pep talk:

You’re watching a movie. And halfway through it, the hero crumbles.

He or she is lost. Surrounded by zombies or forsaken by love or separated from their favorite wookiee. They stare forlornly at the mess their life has become, hope fading that things will ever be put right again.

Screenwriters call this moment “the long, dark night of the soul.” Every Hollywood movie has one because we love seeing our protagonists pummeled for a while before they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and head out to kick some ass.

NaNoWriMo participants go through their own long, dark nights of the soul halfway through November. If you haven’t experienced one already, you will very soon.

I say this with certainty because we’ve spent a lot of time and money making the middle stretch of this year’s adventure especially difficult.

We don’t have the costumes or the makeup budget to send a convincing-looking group of zombies to your door. Instead, we’ve relied on smaller, cheaper things to demoralize you mid-month. We’ve convinced your bosses and teachers to heap projects on you at the last minute. We’ve gotten your family to pitch fits when you need to get caught up on your word count. Most insidiously, we’ve paid your novel’s cast to stumble through their scenes with all the eloquence and charm of a baked potato.

Why? Because we have to do something to make your novel-in-a-month endeavor a fair fight. Which it isn’t. Look at you! You’re a fantastically gifted individual, with fierce courage and an imagination powerful enough to knock out a dozen books in November.

If you don’t believe me, just scroll back through all you’ve written so far. That’s more than most people achieve in a year, and you did it in two weeks. It may be less than you’d hoped, and the quality may be crappier than you’d envisioned. But first drafts are supposed to be rough, and I guarantee you’re too deep in the process right to recognize all the great stuff you’ve put on those pages. Despite our meddling, you’ve achieved a truck-load of literary goodness. And it’s just a taste of what’s ahead.

Because the second half of this noveling marathon is when things really begin to move. For starters, the NaNoWriMo-funded interference will end. This is partly because we’ve realized the whole “fair fight” thing was a dumb idea, and partly because we blew all of our harassment budget on yesterday’s spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to crash every word processor in Manitoba.

Shenanigans aside, the back half of NaNoWriMo has always been a place where writers get their second winds. As long as you keep working, your potatoes will turn back into charismatic protagonists, and your imagination will build a path right out of these mid-month doldrums.

You can help build that path faster by hitting your writing goals for the next three days. This may sound like a small thing, but little, consistent writing achievements open the door to huge writing breakthroughs.

If you’ve fallen behind on your word count or lost the thread of your story, you may think no breakthrough will be big enough to save your book. Take heart: There are 300,000 of us out there right now living that exact same movie. We’re all struggling to balance our books with the crazy stuff life has chucked at us these past two weeks. We’re all wondering if we have what it takes to see this thing through. And we’re all about to stand up, dust ourselves off, and go kick some major ass.

The long, dark night is ending, my friend. The homestretch lies ahead.

I’ll see you at the finish line.

Chris

Finding that middle road

When Willy and I were dating it was pretty clear that we were coming from two distinctly different planets when it came to our music taste. He shared with me a song by Corb Lund, I shared with him a song by Broken Social Scene. The sole things these two artists shared in common was that they’re both technically Canadian Indie artists.

That day when we exchanged those texts, I think we both had a moment of shock like, “Ok, so this is different.” In fact, Willy tells a story of how growing up he always thought marriage was about ‘sacrificing’ by repainting the living room a different shade of beige to appease the wife who desire change. “I didn’t think it would mean I’d have to listen to this!”

To his credit (and my great pleasure), Willy has never complained about my music. But I have also really tried to make sure I don’t drive him to it, either. Since music is tremendously important to me (it’s a life-giving force, even!) I’ve tried to find a middle ground of music that we both enjoy.

Guess where we found it? Hipster-Pseudo-bluegrass/country!

Here are some of the artists we like best:

  • Joel Plaskett: Example here and here
  • Mumford and Sons (not Canadian, but definitely pseudo-bluegrass) – here and here
  • Civil Wars (thanks Beth!): I die every time I hear this song. And this one is great.

As this is being published we’ll be en route to a marriage conference put on by Family Life in Mont Tremblant. I plan on introducing him to the Great Lake Swimmers (concrete heart) as we drive through the gorgeous Quebec countryside. I’m confident he’ll like the band.

Just like the in our relationship sometimes we need to find the middle road  in order to find moments of peace and enjoyment, we also need to chill out, step away from pushing towards our goals and being productive and just enjoy life.

That’s what I plan on doing this weekend with my husband. You should, too. (Except not with my husband).

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