Monday, September 11, 2017

GUILT, FREEDOM, SPACE, DREAMS, AND LIFELINES



This morning, my two bigs went to school (first day of kindergarten, woo hoo!).   I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to feel right now.  I saw moms get teary as they waved goodbye to their little kindergarteners getting swallowed up by that great big school building.  I think maybe that's how I'll feel when the last one goes to school.  Maybe not.  I feel celebratory today.  I raised three kiddos capable of doing part of life without me by their side.  I feel thankful that we have such an amazing elementary school.  I feel relief at having some breathing room.  I feel hope at resurfacing pieces of myself that haven't had space for a long time.

And today also marked the first day I dropped Pippa at an at home day care for a few hours.  As a stay-at-home mom, I would have never done this with my older two kids.  I think I felt like I needed to be with them constantly and that I didn't have the right (self permission?) (confidence?) to leave them in someone else's care when I could be home with them.  

But here's what I want you to know.  Today feels a little weird, but today feels good.  I'm nervous about all my tiny humans out there in the big world, but I'm also celebrating in my heart.  This motherhood thing, it's hard work.  It's beautiful and powerful and fulfilling in a lot of ways, but it's the most challenging thing I've ever done in my whole life.   After 8 years of being a full time, stay-at home mom, I'm ready for a little break.  I know I've done my job, and though there have definitely been days that I would never want to re-live and moments I wish I could re-do, I know I've done my job well.   

I have carried around a lot of guilt as a mother.  Not the "you should potty train this way" or "let them cry it out" or "only feed them organic, paleo, from scratch foods".  Those things are definitely guilt inducing as well, but that's not what I'm talking about.  I feel a lot of guilt because, while I am very certain I am supposed to be at home and the primary caregiver for my children, I am not totally fulfilled by that.  The world tells me I should be and that, if I'm not, then the message I hear is, "Something is wrong with you."

About 4 years ago, I realized that I lived motherhood with a one foot in and one foot out mentality.  I had always been so afraid that I would be consumed by motherhood and that I would lose my own identity outside of that.  I wasn't necessarily doing anything to create an identity outside of my kids, but I stuck one foot on the other side of the line out of fear and planted myself firmly in this middle ground.

As I wrestled with my own insecurities and restlessness, I decided to try jumping in with both feet and really committing to this motherhood gig.  All in.  A year later, instead of feeling better about everything, I felt more restless than ever before.  And more guilty.

I deeply love my kids.  I don't regret having them.  They are the loves of my life.  I don't regret staying home with them.  I have felt passionately that I want and need to be here and have never felt like my calling was to go back to work full time.  

I do, however, regret not listening to my heart.  

I regret that I knew that I wasn't thriving and I wasn't at my best and that something was missing for me and not doing anything about it.  I definitely wanted to.  There were lots of tears and lots of exhaustion and even bits of rage, but I think the hardest part for me was that I didn't know what I was supposed to do.   I didn't have a "career" to go back to part time or a skill set to really work from home.

I didn't want to just have a job, I wanted to do meaningful work.  I wanted to be creative and have an outlet of some sort that would be fulfilling to me, but it's really hard to give yourself permission to do that when you know it's not paying anything and in fact, you are actually paying to do it because child care isn't cheap, am I right?

But I know I'm supposed to do more.  I'm created to do more, and even though I'm not exactly sure what that is, I feel it deep in my bones.  Being a mom is one of my favorite things in the world, but it is not all for me.  

I had a really clear image in my head a few years ago.  It was a hot air balloon with the burner blazing full force.  The balloon was so full of hot air it was ready to burst, and it was trying so hard to fly.  But it's ropes were still tethered to the ground.  It strained against these ropes and could not break free.  It could only go as far as the ropes would allow.    

I understood that the hot air balloon is me.  Trying to fly.  Trying to move beyond the life I'm in. The ropes are my kids, my husband, my home.   I felt so bound by them.  So limited in a lot of ways.  I felt angry and bitter and resentful.  

Friends, I have no idea what I'm doing right now, but I do know that I'm going to spend some hours filling my tank every week.  I'm letting go of any guilt of my two year old spending some time at day care while I'm at home.  I'm going to allow myself time and space to create some things, write some things, paint some things, move some things and see what happens.  I'm going to figure out what meaningful work looks and feels like to me.  I'm going to deem it a success if not one person gets anything out of it other than me.  Because if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  

If you are feeling stuck, I understand.  If you are feeling tied down,  I understand.  If you feel held back,  I understand. If you are feeling guilty for your feelings,  I understand.  If you feel like you don't fit the mold and something is off, I understand.

May you give yourself freedom and space and permission to do some things you love if for no other reason than it makes you happy.  

We are not martyrs here.  We are women with dreams and loves and ideas AND kids.  I used to think those things were mutually exclusive.  They are not.  

The more that I'm doing this, the more my perspective shifts.  I'm still that hot air balloon, and I still want to fly.  But those ropes, maybe they aren't working against me.  Maybe they are anchors, securing me to a safe place while allowing me to fly high and see things from different viewpoint. Maybe they fill me up and show me more and more the truth and the good and surprising things about myself.  

Maybe they are actually lifelines.  




*I sent this song to my husband the weekend of the retreat.  He was my biggest encourager and support when I totally stepped out of my comfort zone to do this thing.  I'm reminded of it as I type these words today.  Maybe it'll resonate with you too...

Click here to listen →  Anchor by Mindy Gledhill










Thursday, July 20, 2017

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FEARLESS WARRIOR



A man just sat down next to me in the coffee shop.  I didn't notice him at first, not until his body odor reached my nostrils.  I sat up straighter and eventually stole a sideways glance at him.  His hair, matted; his clothes, dirty.  In front of him sits a steaming shot of espresso.  At $2.15, it's the cheapest thing Starbucks sells.  

I am in this moment acutely aware of the privileged life I lead.  That I'm paying $80 for a babysitter right now, plus another $5 for the overpriced coffee in front of me, so that I can type words on a screen that may or may not be important to anyone besides myself.  

It seems he's come here to charge his phone.  

I have come here to charge my heart, but instead have wallowed here at my circular table and down internet trails. I have questioned my value, ability, and direction in the span of a few hours and written zero words on a page because when you question your value, ability, and direction there's not much to write.  

He's leaving now.  He shuffle/limped to the trash/recycle/compost area and took a moment to decide where to deposit his cup.  I'm surprised by this for some reason.  A beige trench coat is draped over one arm as he exits the building on this summer day. I wonder how he got here in life.  I have no idea where he will go next.  I wonder if he knows.

The truth is, though, that I have no idea where I'm going either.  I have every single thing I could ever need, a beautiful family, a lovely home, and yet my heart feels homeless sometimes.  I don't really know what I'm doing in life.  Does anyone?  Do you?  

I'm inspired by people who seem to know who they are.  They are confident in what makes them unique and live fully into that.  They build businesses and lives out of the sheer fabric of themselves, and it's motivating and paralyzing at the same time.  

What if my fabric is not worth sewing?  

I'm learning, however, that this war with myself is bigger than me.  It's something that every person faces in time.  But it often feels like a pretty lonely and misunderstood place.  It's a place that not many of us are brave enough to talk about, but we all experience.  

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the life we want to live.  What stands between the two is fear, doubt, resistance.  

Stephen Pressfield writes in The War of Art, "Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work...Resistance is always lying and always full of shit."  

Amen to that.  

The other thing he said that has been pushing me forward right now is this, "Resistance will unfailingly point to true North - meaning that call or action it most wants us to stop doing. We can use this.  We can use it as a compass.  We can navigate by resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others."  

When we question and doubt, the misunderstanding people in our lives might think, "We are here again?" with an internal eye roll.  But this resistance is an unrelenting force. It is a battle that must be fought every single day in order to win the war.  Each morning brings new resistance and new fear that must be slain.

If you feel this resistance and want to give up, I beg of you to press on.  If you are asking yourself, "Who am I?  Am I really a writer or artist or good mother or strong businesswoman?" chances are you already are.  Those with total confidence are the counterfeits among us.   The real ones are scared to death.  

You have no idea how much peace that gives me.  I've been scared to death my whole life of the things I'm trying to do.  I always thought there was something wrong with me; I think other people did too.   The truth is though, that I'm fighting a unrelenting battle on this earth to live into the life that I'm supposed to, and I always will be.  

I feel compelled to say today that if you are afraid, unsure, unravelling, or paralyzed, I get it. I get you. I am unfortunately a master of self-sabotage, and have committed treason on myself more times than I can count. 

There is no such thing as a fearless warrior.  What matters most, though, is not living without fear; it's facing the fear with trembling hands and punching it in the face.  

This place of fear.  This place where you are stuck is not the end.  It is the middle.   

There is no way out, only through.  

The middle is hard, y'all.  The middle is where we give up.  The middle feels like treading water, and we can't see the distant shore.  But the middle is the place of transformation...it's the whole point.  It's where we decide to sink or swim, to make life a daring adventure or numb ourselves right out.  

Please don't stop in the middle.  We are meant to experience the middle like a butterfly is meant to experience the struggle of emerging from it's chrysalis.  Without the struggle, it can't fly.  Neither can you.  

If you've been waiting, comparing, and making excuses, stop.  Stop waiting.  Stop comparing.  Stop making excuses.  Just go and do that thing.  Even if it's hard.  Even if you're scared.  Everything you want lies on the other side of your fear.  And believe me, I'm preaching to the choir here.  

It takes intense heat to refine precious metal, intense pressure to make a diamond, intense irritation to create a pearl.  Our transformation is no different.  

I'd rather be the diamond than the lump of coal.  You?




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WEEKEND|REFRESH WORDS


It's now been a month and a half since our glorious Weekend Refresh Retreat.  I've wanted to write about it so many times, but I haven't quite known what to say.  I think I needed some time and the perspective that comes with that, but still am just having a hard to even put into words the experience of the weekend.

We laughed, we cried, we ate, we drank, we learned, we reflected, we stand-up paddle boarded, we shared beds and bathrooms and space and life.  It felt kind of sacred.

I think as I started planning the retreat, I realized how much of a need there is for women in this season of life to have some space carved out for them.  We are weary and usually taking care of everyone except ourselves.  A traditional conference, though away from kids and life, doesn't really allow the space for decompression and reflection and rest.  I wanted to create that space for these women, and allow them to simply show up and receive.  I wanted them to be surrounded by beauty, support, and encouragement.  

I could literally feel people exhale over the weekend.  Looking back over the photos, eyes got brighter, smiles got bigger, people sat closer together.  A sense of aliveness and clarity just swept through everyone.

While I still struggle with putting my own words to the retreat, I thought maybe the women's words would be a truer description.  These are from an anonymous survey I sent out post-retreat, and quite frankly blew me away.


I loved connecting with so many different women.  I loved the smaller size of it, how we were able to meld together so wonderfully and deepen relationships.  I loved how honest and open all the women were - what an amazing group of strong women that gathered! 

I loved the workshop + time to reflect.  It really really really helped me understand myself in a way that gave me strength and courage I so desperately needed right now.  And I feel like the quiet time and strength has lasted...I'm still able to come to a place of knowing that I can and will succeed through my daily challenges.
 

This was exactly what I wanted...a retreat with Christian women that was more intimate, more vulnerable, easier to make solid new relationships and build on the old ones, more fun and less scheduled, but still left me with my bucket and my toolbox filled.  
 

Just an overwhelming feeling of gratitude!  You wouldn't believe me if I told you how many people I have raved about this to or how many conversations have continued about core values, taking time to rest, etc.  It was truly life-giving and felt like a true gift.


When I asked the women to describe the retreat in one word, here's what they said:
Valuable 
Amazing 
Centering 
Refreshing 
Life-Giving


If, at the beginning of all the planning, I had written out my hopes for the retreat, these would have been my words.  Verbatim.  What started as a tiny little thought, grew into this amazing thing that impacted these women for the better.  I am so humbled and thankful every time I think about it.  It was so worth it.  



Friday, July 7, 2017

WEEKEND|REFRESH RETREAT IN PHOTOS



They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I don't think I could ever adequately describe to you the beauty in this weekend.  The location, the house, the women inside and out.  

So, let's do a photo walk through of the retreat.   These photos have all been culled from women on the retreat.  Thanks so much for sharing these, ladies!  


FRIDAY

The women started arriving around 7pm on Friday night.  Upon arrival they were handed a blackberry fizz cocktail and sent to the patio to decompress from whatever they left behind...a million logistics of childcare and work and husbands and crazy lives.  


I had the most fun creating some special touches for the women's rooms.  It was such a joy to put together.  




My dear friend, Kelsie, planned, prepped, and cooked ALL the food for the retreat, and it was nothing short of AMAZING.  I could not have done it without her! 


We had 16 women (included myself) on the retreat.  Some women only knew one other person, some knew a bunch, but all of them rolled in gracefully ready to embrace each other and the weekend. 

Taking this photo was probably the most surreal thing for me.  This vision was actually reality.





SATURDAY

We started Saturday morning off with a devotional about identity through transition.  (A post on that is coming soon.)  Prior to the retreat, I had asked the women what they were struggling with, and this idea of "Who am I now...?" came up from so many people.  

My sister-in-law, Jaclyn, led an incredible workshop about our Core Values.  Again, something I plan to post on soon with some materials from the retreat.  And afterwards, everyone had an hour of silence/self-reflection time that afterwards.

Sometimes in our whirlwind of daily life, we get out of the habit of taking time to really reflect inwards with ourselves.  We are so busy and moving from place to place and thing to thing all the time and that becomes the norm.  Having an hour to sit and journal and think is a rarity, and I heard from many people that this was their favorite part of the retreat.


We might have had carnitas tacos with margaritas for lunch.   I told you we ate well!  And then everyone had free time until dinner that night.  

I loved how everyone felt comfortable to do their own thing.  Some women kayaked and stand-up paddle boarded, some hung out by the pool, some took a nap in the sun, some went for a run, some put their headphones in and read a book, some spent more time journaling in quiet.  It was a pretty sweet sight.  


 

Saturday night, we had a big dinner party which was so much fun!!  Kelsie treated us with prosciutto wrapped asparagus, roasted grape and olive crostini, a delicious salad, and sweet potato gnocchi in a brown butter sage sauce.   Yum-O!   We also got to celebrate a birthday that day with a scrumptious chocolate cake.  Here's Kelsie working her magic in the kitchen.  




There were apparently some shenanigans on the porch over appetizers the involved red lipstick.  I love how happy and relaxed everyone looks, and I love that red lipstick makes women feel bold and a bit daring. 








Yep.  We fit 16 women around one table!  Can I say again how amazing this house is??



SUNDAY

Sunday morning arrived, and a few brave souls got up early and hiked Saddleback Trail.  




We wrapped up our time together that morning with women sharing some things that came out of our core values workshop and reflection time the day before.  It was so cool to hear their ideas and their aha moments and their hearts in it all.  Each one of these women is a beautiful soul through and through.  


Sadly, our time did have to come to a close.  I'm just honestly so very thankful for this time.  It was such a privilege to share time and space with each one of these women.  They were willing, brave, vulnerable, thoughtful, honest, fun, loving, and utterly breathtaking.


Hopefully, Weekend Refresh 2018 will be on the books soon!!  








Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WEEKEND|REFRESH RETREAT - MAY 19-21, 2017

You know that retreat we talked about a forever ago??  Well, it's exactly one month away!

I had such an overwhelming response of women expressing interest in the retreat, that I decided to give dibs on registration to those people.  And well, the whole she-bang booked up in a matter of hours.  It was fast and furious, and a sign to me that there is a desperate need for this type of thing.

I so wish I could include every single person who wants to go, but the house is only so big.  If you would like to add yourself to the waitlist in case anyone drops last minute, please fill out the form below.  And if you're not necessarily interest in this one, but this is something you'd like to do in the future if (when?) I do another one of these, go ahead and sign up on the waitlist and write that in the notes section.  That'll help me gauge interest in planning for another one.  


My hope is that this is a weekend that balances the need to be filled up, but also poured out.  A restful place for the weary mom just needing a break, the busy woman who hasn't had any time to reflect and process, the girl who desperately needs some love, a glass of wine, and Jesus all meshed into one weekend.  I can't wait to report back how it all went!

The waitlist registration form and more details for the retreat can be found below if you are interested.  


xoxo,
Amy




May 19-21, 2017
Entiat, WA
$160.00



DATES and TIMES
The retreat will officially kick off on Friday, May 19th at 7pm and come to a close on Sunday, May 21 at 11am.

LOCATION

Y'all.  THIS is where we will be staying...
I'm not kidding.  And this is the reason why we HAD to move the retreat from March to May! Average temperatures in Entiat in May are mid-seventies, so we can definitely take advantage of the pool and lakefront amenities!

The house has 4 bedrooms (one of which with an additional loft with a queen bed), as well as a bunk room with 6 twin bunkbeds, and 3 and a half bathrooms.  Depending on numbers, we will figure out sleeping arrangements.

It's absolutely beautiful!  You can check out more photos of the house HERE.

The owner has been extremely generous with us so that we can keep costs as low as possible.


COST
The total cost for the retreat is $160.  That includes a two night stay at this gorgeous house, as well as food for the weekend - 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 big, glorious dinner party - and all the amazing stuff we are going to do!

Cancellations (with a full refund) must be made at least 2 weeks prior to the retreat (by May 5 at the latest). 


And if cost feels prohibitive to you, but you really want to come, please email me at tinyuprisings@gmail.com.  We may be able to provide a subsidized cost or scholarship for you.

JOIN ME
The retreat is now full!  Please fill out the form above to be added to the waitlist.  Waitlisted people will be added in the order that they were received if spots become available. 





Thursday, April 13, 2017

THIS EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY LIFE



Here I am.  I'm 40.  And yep, I'm struggling a little to swallow that number.  

There have been some funny moments.  Desperate shopping in the juniors department for a dress to wear to my birthday party, my mind awash with images of sirens going off and security guards with megaphones yelling, "Ma'am, step away from the clothes or we may have to arrest you! You are too old to shop here!"  Is there an age limit in the juniors department?  I didn't have these thoughts when I was 39, but there's something about 40 that screams middle age in a different way.  

I have read many articles entitled things like What I Would Tell My 30 Year Old Self  or What I Wish I had Known at 20. I will not be writing one of those articles. Every multi-facet of me at every age has made me who I am today.  I wouldn't be able to offer encouragement to a women struggling with body image or new motherhood if I hadn't struggled with my own.  I would not have learned to make smarter choices if I hadn't made bad ones early on.  I wouldn't want to change any of it and I don't take any of it back.

Life has a learning curve that no advice, no words of wisdom, could ever straighten.   Whether we like it or not, that learning curve looks more like a roller-coaster than a steady, upward slope. Ups, downs, twists, turns, the unexpected loop the loop.  We all start at the same point and we all end at the same point, but some of our middles are a little more twisty than others.  

Lord knows I'm twisty.  

My learning curve just decided to kick into high gear with this milestone birthday and all the introspection that it brings.  Currently, the roller coaster ride is bringing me back to this one thought: 


THIS IS IT.

This.  This right here.  This year.  This day.  This moment.  This is my life.  This is all I get and I better start living it.

I've spent my whole life anxiously waiting to get to the next thing.  I thought life would start when I got there, but then it was on to the next thing after that.  

As a child I couldn't wait to be thirteen with braces (Where I got that hair-brained idea, I'll never know. I would even cover my teeth with those silver Juicy Fruit wrappers to pretend I had them.)  In high school, I couldn't wait to be in college.  In college, I couldn't wait to pursue dancing again.  After college, I couldn't wait to get married.  When I was dancing professionally, I couldn't wait to make it through some of those rehearsals or the next set of performances.  I couldn't wait to get pregnant, to have a baby. And when baby arrived, I couldn't wait to be out of the newborn phase, the terrible twos, the toddler years. I couldn't wait for the long days of early motherhood to be over and kids in bed.  I couldn't wait for school-aged littles and a break in my day. I couldn't wait to start this blog. What did I forego with all this waiting to start and to live?  

I push my friends, my husband, my kids away because I'm busy waiting and being impatient. Get out of my way, everyone, can't you see that I'm trying to get to what's next?

And here I am. Did I miss it?  Am I missing it?  Am I missing my own life because I was waiting for something else.  Something shinier or bigger or more extraordinary.

Extraordinary.  Extra Ordinary.  EXTRA. ORDINARY.  

Let that sink in for a minute.  

Open your eyes.  Life is extra ordinary.  It is both remarkable and unremarkable in one breath.  

The ordinariness of life, I have tried to sweep away like cheerios from the kitchen floor.  I want to brush it away and get on with it.   I wanted to do something... be somebody.  I didn't intend to end up here.  Small girl.  Small life.  

But THIS IS IT.

And I mean that not in a despairing or melancholy way.  I mean that in a WAKE UP AND LOOK AROUND way.  Beauty is all around me.  To these kids, I am their world.  To my husband, I am his one and only.  To my life, I am the leading lady.  

I want to carve, "Amy was here," all over my life. 

See, feel, taste, smell, hear this.  This is it.  This is your extraordinary life.   

May we be present in it.  May we savor the coffee instead of gulping it.  May we look into little eyes and mirror their wonder instead of rushing them along.  

May we be content in our smallness instead of coveting bigness.  And in our smallness, feel the vastness of God and understand that He created us for such a time as this.  For this exact day, hour, moment, child, joy, disappointment. May we not underestimate or discount the work we are here to do, the love we are here to give.  It is BIG and essential.  

May we give of ourselves freely instead of saving our time, energy, money, ideas, and love for later, because later we'll still want to save our time, energy, money, ideas, and love.   Later is not finite. It can never be reached, for there will always be later, more, better.  Time is sand sifting through our fingers.  

May we say yes more because right now is all we've got. May we say no more because right now is all we've got.  May the circle of the ones we love most deeply know that they are shiny, big, and significant in our lives, that they are extra ordinary and extraordinary. 

May we come to understand that it is most often the little things etched in our mind forever, the things we thought were inconsequential or felt totally random or normal that make a life well lived.  

My pinnacle moments include a sunset hour stolen at a park last minute, sun glinting off water and little feet swinging high, squeals and smiles all around, bedtime kisses with my son, watching my two bigs ski down a mountain while remembering when they were still cocooned inside me, that I got to take part in an extraordinary, ordinary miracle growing them and making life and now they are little people sailing away on skis like it's nothing, a $2 creative ice cream date with my husband so many years ago, a long dinner with friends. 

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you die, and I'm pretty sure these are some of the things I will see.  I doubt I will see the things I strived for, the manufactured mountaintops that only last for a second.  I doubt I will see the promotion or the time I fit into size 4 jeans.  I doubt I will see how many readers or likes or comments I got.  

I will see faces.  Faces.  Faces.  Faces.  Ordinary faces that were extraordinary because our lives intersected, and we chose to live it boldly, fully, richly.  We chose to be present and bump into each other and sift our sand together.

This is it.  Now is the time.  This is the opportunity, your happily ever after, your for better or for worse.  This is your life, your love, your people.  And these are your faces right before you.  

Don't miss it.  



Monday, March 6, 2017

7 WAYS TO QUIET TECHNOLOGY



I recently posted on why I feel the need to quiet technology in my life right now.  If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Today I'm sharing the steps I'm taking in limiting phone use and social media in my life and simple actions that are making a big difference.  

1. WEAR A WATCH
A few years ago, I asked for a watch for my birthday, because I realized that I was often pulling out my phone to check the time.   When you innocently pull out your phone to simply check the time, you also see any notifications you have (a text, voicemail, push notifications from social media, etc.). Too often, the temptation to then read that text, listen to that voicemail, or find out exactly what so-in-so commented on your Facebook post causes that quick time check to spiral into a time suck. Instead of quickly knowing what time it is and going back to playing with my kids or doing whatever it is I'm doing, I am suddenly replying to something that doesn't need my immediate attention or scrolling mindlessly through my Instagram feed, and subsequently shooing my kids away or burning dinner.

So, I now wear a watch, and if I need to check the time, I glance at my wrist.  No push notifications included.  No rabbit trail to go down.

2.  HANG A CLOCK
Along the same lines as wearing a watch, I recently hung a clock in our home that I can see from pretty much anywhere on our main floor.  I didn't know how much I would appreciate that in addition to the watch.  The kids and I both now know what time it is at a moment's glance...which means that they too also aren't tempted to ask for my phone when they see me pull it out to check the time.  No arguments with them over refusing to let them look at pictures on it or play a game.  Out of sight, out of mind, folks!  I swear.

3. GET AN IPHONE CASE WITH A COVER
I requested an new iPhone case for my birthday this year.  It's this one from Amazon.  What I love about this is that I can't see when my screen lights up.  I check my phone when I want to check it and when I have time to check it.  

4. PUT IT AWAY
The other "quieting technology" benefit of my new iPhone case is that it's just a little bit too bulky too feel comfortable in my back pocket, which is where I would normally carry my phone.   I purposefully chose this case for this reason.  I do not need to have my phone on my person at all times, so when I'm out and about I put it in my diaper bag or purse or sometimes my jacket pocket if I'm not carrying one of those things.  

I also have been trying to put my phone away at home.  I put it in one spot (usually the kitchen counter) and not move it if we go to the basement or upstairs for something.  And if I'm feeling really brave and feisty, I'll plug it in upstairs in my bedroom and leave it there.  So not a big deal, but due the expectations of our culture, it feels like a big deal.  I will say though, the more and I do it, the easier it gets.  

There is something mental about having your phone so close to you all the time...pressure that you don't even know you're feeling about meeting expectations to be available to everyone at all times.  And what does that teach my children about what I value?  I lead by example.  If I don't want my kids to be those kids that are constantly on their phones without ever looking up, socially awkward because they don't know how to look someone in the eye and have an actual conversation, distracted all the time, addicted to their phones and the dopamine hit that happens when they get a text or check social media, and having an unrealistic view of real life and impossible expectations, then I can't be that person either.  

My children will emulate what I do, not what I say.

5. TURN OFF PUSH NOTIFICATIONS
This one has been huge.  I have turned off all notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and basically all apps on my phone.  If you have a iPhone, open the Settings App and look for the Notifications Tab (mine is 5 from the top with a red icon).  Once you go into this, you can choose toggle off Allow Notifications for each app.  I do still receive text notifications, phone notifications and notifications from our bank if our account is getting low, but have opted out of push notifications for just about everything else. 

6. BLOCK TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA
As you can see, a lot of these things bleed into other things.  Turning off push notifications put social media and my phone in general back on my terms and in my own time.  If I post something, I'm way less distracted by it because I'm not seeing every time someone likes it or comments.  I can choose to open things when I want and when I have time.  

My system is definitely not perfect and I am not super stringent at this point, but instead of looking at social media 10 times a day in tiny spurts here and there, I'm choosing to wait until I have a block of time that I want to devote to it.  Sometimes that means during nap time and sometimes that means at night after kids go to bed and sometimes that means that I don't look at it at all in a day and I'm refreshingly ok with that.  

My FOMO is not longer getting the best of me, because I'm realizing that I'm not really missing out on anything on social media.  However, if I am distracted by it all the time, I am missing out on my real life.  And that, my friends, is something to think about.  

7. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO SAY NO
Out of all the things on this list, this one is by far the most impactful, but also the hardest (at least in the beginning for me to do).  I want people to think I'm responsible and responsive when they are texting or emailing about something, but I'm not sure over the years when, "I'll get back to you in a day or so," became, "I'll get back to you immediately or in a few minutes or else you'll think I'm a schmuck."  

I'm giving myself permission to not respond to things immediately if it's not a good time, and to stop feeling guilty if I don't.  I'm giving myself permission to not care what people think if I'm not available to them any time of day.   I'm giving myself permission to not have to keep up with my Facebook and Instagram feeds and release myself from feeling the need to "like" people's posts in order to feel like I'm invested in their lives or for them to feel like I "like" them.  I'm giving myself permission to say no to all of it if I want to, and permission to enjoy a few minutes texting with a friend or scrolling through a feed if I want to.  Mostly, I'm giving myself permission to do what feels right for me and my family, because in the end I'll be a better person, mother, wife, and friend for it.       


So there you have it.  7 ways I'm quieting technology in my life right now.  This may not be for you.  I get that.  But as an overwhelmed mom, this has helped so much in my ability to start living a life that serves me and our family well.   I am way less distracted, less annoyed by our kids, more mindful of how I'm spending my time, more able to make choices that are life-giving, and less likely to get stuck in comparisons and unrealistic expectations.  That's worth it to me. 





 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

QUIETING TECHNOLOGY: THE WHY



Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?"  
~ Mary Oliver, "West Wind"

I'm still on the change train these days.  There's so much that I'm sort of peeling it off in layers. And sometimes, when you peel away layers, what you find underneath is surprising.  

I'm asking myself, "What is making me crazy?"  "What is secretly stealing my joy and my time?"  "What causes me to look at my kids as a nuisance instead of a treasure?"

These two words bubbled to the surface:  Distraction. Expectation.  


DISTRACTION

A few weeks ago, my phone might have accidentally fallen into the toilet.  I know, I know. What is my phone even doing near the toilet? Don't judge.  You know you do it too.

It was a Sunday, and I was home from church with a feverish kid.  I quickly popped said phone in a bag of rice  (Arborio.  It was the only kind I could find, but I figured it would still work.) and said a quick prayer.  

For a brief moment, I felt a bit panicky.  What if someone needs to get in touch with me? What if I need something?  

But seriously, how often is a text urgent or cause for immediate response?  Almost never.  

And how often is the perusal of social media necessary to life?  Definitely never.  

On this accidental phone-less day, I noticed that I was way less distracted.  Before that, I wouldn't have said that I was even a distracted type of person or someone that was on my phone that much.  But not having my phone available made me aware of how often I reach for it in little moments, how often I check for a text or a like or a notification, how often I use it as an escape from my very unglamorous life. 

For the first time in a long time, I had a day uninterrupted by a ping, alarm, text, or vibration. For the first time in a long time, I actually felt productive (granted I had only one sick child home with me, so let's be clear).  I managed to tackle a few projects around the house and even some gardening outside.  I read for a forever long time to my daughter, without feeling that vibration in my pocket that even momentarily mentally distracted me from time with her, even if I didn't check it right then.  "Mom, you just got a text," she would say.  "I know, honey, I know, but I will check it later."  

Even my 1 year old will pick up my phone and hand it to me if she sees it lying around, like she knows it's an extension of me.  Personally, I think that's a little messed up.  

I've been reading the Little House on the Prairie series to my oldest.  One thing that has been so striking to me about the life of the Ingalls family is just how amazingly productive they are.  They build their own houses, catch their own food, grow their own gardens, farm the land, make their own maple syrup, care for their animals, cook everything from scratch, make their own clothes, knit their own mittens, play their own music.  

Do you know how they do this?  THEY DO ONE THING AT A TIME.  I'm so serious.  One thing at a time.  If it's harvesting time, they harvest.  If it's planting time, they plant,  If the maple trees are giving sap, they tap the trees, gather sap, and then boil to make maple syrup right then.  If they need a house, they build a house.  They aren't trying to plant and harvest and make syrup and build a house all in the same day.  Doing little bits at a time. They do until it's done.  Their eyes are focused on their work at hand.  

While I understand this is a very different than the world we live in, let's not overlook this very important lesson:

Distraction is defeating and is the killjoy to our productivity and our focus.

The day my phone was on rice, I was able to focus without wanting to stop in between every little thing to check on something...anything. And let's be honest, those things I were checking on were insignificant.  

Do you know what is significant?  Looking into my kids eyes and them knowing I value them so much more than this hand-held rectangular window to other things. I didn't have the feeling that my kids were annoying all day long because I was trying to look at something or post something or text something, constantly shooing away the "Mom, Mom, Moms!"   I saw, and I mean really saw my daughter and gave her my full attention.   

I felt lighter, less tethered to an unrealistic fantasy world, less stressed.  I did one thing at a time.  

I felt less crazy.  Less pulled in a million directions.  Less like I had to please everyone.


EXPECTATION


The weekend after Thanksgiving, we gathered our tiny humans and took a family trip to the great white north.  We needed some time away from our intense lives to just focus on one another and have some fun.  

Also on that weekend, my Instagram and Facebook feeds exploded with Christmas trees, fully holiday decorated homes, and already bought and wrapped Christmas gifts.  All finished decorating!  Wrapped gifts while watching Elf and sipping Bailey's hot cocoa!! All ready for Christmas!  

Watching all this made me hyperventilate and instantly feel behind in a season that honestly hadn't even gotten started yet.  We've never been a family that got our tree and decorated the day after Thanksgiving, and it never bothered me before..until this year, for some reason. Until I was watching everyone's best bits in little lit up squares scroll through my screen.  

I can't compete with everyone's best bits, especially without seeing the whole.  It's not the best bits that make a life.  It's the best and the worst and everything in between.  It's the realness and the rainy day you pick you tree out from the hardware store down the street and carry it home.  It's the tears that were shed when one child didn't want to walk the one block home behind that tree.  It's the hot chocolate drunk around that tree while our electricity was out during the decorating.  It's the hoping all those strands of light actually work because we can't plug them in to check.  It's the candles that soothed our family and lit our way as we decorated. It's the kids who really didn't care to be decorating and bailed about 3 ornaments in.  It's the accidentally broken ornaments and the dinner that no one liked.  It's the joy on their faces to see the tree all lit up and decorated for the first time.  Or the first presents wrapped underneath.  It's the arguments you get into over waiting to unwrapped those gifts until Christmas.  Its the growth and the stubble.  

And so, I decided to take a break from social media over the holidays.  I didn't want to feel the imaginary pressure that it would cause during an already high pressure season.  

I didn't want to measure my experience with anyone else's ruler.  And isn't that what social media slaps in our hand all too often? Someone else's ruler?  I've got enough of my own, thank you very much.  

Here's what I noticed on my social media break.

I could take things at a realistic pace for our family and not feel like I had to keep up with everyone else.  We didn't even get a tree until December 10th, and that was just fine for us.  
I cared more about the actual moments  than how that moment would look in that little lit up square.  I wasn't taking a photo in order to post it to social media, already running witty captions through my head.  I was taking a photo because I honestly wanted to remember this moment. Just us, for what that moment was, not for what I wanted people's reactions to be. I stopped thinking in those terms.

I spent a lot less time scrolling through a feed, and I really didn't miss it much.

I found I was more curious about what was going on in people's lives because I didn't already know. This made me reach out more on a person to person level, which should always be my aim.  

I don't need anyone's feedback to validate my life.


Let me add a caveat here, too.  I love social media.  Instagram is my jam.  Give me all the fun, real, beautiful, and inspirational photos.  As a stay-at-home mom, it serves as a connection point in to the outside world in an often lonely season of life.  A great, quick way to keep up with friends that I don't have much time to keep up with.  And I often need that.  

Social media and technology are not evil and are actually really great things.  We just need to make sure that they keep their rightful place in our priority lists...preferably near the bottom.  When they lead to distraction and expectation that sucks the joy out of life, when they make our kids wanting our attention seem like a nuisance, when they cause too much unhealthy comparison, we need to reign them in and shut them up.

It seems counter-cultural, but culture doesn't get to dictate what's best for me.  I do.  I told you...I'm not gonna play by their rules anymore.  

I'll be back on Monday with exactly how I'm quieting technology in my life...  


 
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