This year I arrived at Christmas like a runaway train, flying above the tracks. Having just started an executive MBA in September, studying for finals and writing papers had to mix with Christmas shopping and holiday traditions, the busiest quarter of the year at work and conference travel (with kids). The month of December required a high level of momentum (and a low level of sleep) to survive. I was on the track, but just barely.
It wasn’t until we were driving to visit family that the frustration started seeping out. I was in the process of trying to write my last final paper in the car with two kids, two dogs, and an equally tired husband. My neck, shoulders and back were aching with stress. It didn’t take long in a contained space for Eric and I to start arguing. We were complaining about each other, but deep down we both knew the real problem – we’ve got too much to do and too little time and energy in which to do it. We need more help and rest, and in the absence of that, we were both doing the very best we could.
Once we arrived at our family’s house we received the kind of medicine that only parents can provide- a safe place where our needs were provided for and where extra rest was possible. We ate well, took naps, played with the kids, and watched the cartoon version of The Grinch four times. We drank mimosas and ate oatmeal (the slow cook kind) and wore matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. Eric put together a Barbie Dream House, I went for a slow run. We welcomed the leisure with open arms. Our dispositions changed so quickly that I was stunned – a little rest and margin went a long way.
I am often asked when I speak at conferences “how do you do it all?” The one thing I want people to know is that it’s not pretty – I’m a runaway train a lot of the time. I’m usually tired, I wish my thighs were thinner, I am inconsistent in disciplining my kids, I should study more, I should drink less caffeine and alcohol, I second-guess myself every day… Most of the time, I feel like I’m behind on one or more critical commitments. It’s not perfect or easy, but it’s my best.
I thought about this today in relation to upcoming New Year’s resolutions. The idea of setting another requirement on myself under which I could fail is not appealing. I’m not going to diet, work longer hours, run every day, or stay up later studying… I am already doing my best.
Life provides ample opportunities to adjust and improve in this daily experiment we call a dual-career, intensive-parenting family. Who has the luxury to think about change once a year? We are constantly evolving.
For this New Year, unlike all the past, I’m not asking myself for more. Instead, I’m going to affirm that I am giving life my very best- down to the last drop- every day. I’m going to celebrate, and as I look toward 2020 I’m going to commit to doing the same things I’ve been doing – giving my best and trusting that God’s grace and mercy will continue to take my inconsistent, disjointed efforts and turn it into something beautiful. And in that, I’m reminded that the New Year is less about focusing on what I need to do differently, and more about giving thanks for the miracle of life.