I’m resurrecting and remixing this post from three years ago because the mind-blowing wisdom of it rings truer now than ever before in the new light of marriage and parenthood.
Before 2011 I would say I was a very goal-oriented, moderately driven and perfectionistic person. What I wanted, I got, as long as I worked hard and followed the rules. (Considering all I’d ever done up to that point was go to school, this formula worked swimmingly.) 2011-2013 proved to be an exercise in unraveling that equation, and I sort of gave up having concrete goals of any sort, both as a pushback against performance-based self-worth but also as a way of defending myself against disappointment. I went through a process of rejecting goals (some of which, admittedly, were ones I thought I should be pursuing but didn’t actually want) and abandoning intention in favor of what felt good at the time. I believe strongly in the important of process and presence, and I don’t think everything needs to be quite as Purpose-Driven as I used to believe, and there is learning value in wandering off the path. But I also made mistakes that I eventually came to regret pretty deeply once I realized how they affected those I care about most. (Thank goodness for grace.)
Three years ago I had an enlightening late-night conversation with a friend, and I realized that goals didn’t have to become should-do’s, conditions for approval/acceptance, expectations for particular outcomes (RAWR DISAPPOINTMENT MONSTER CRUSH DREAMS DIE!), or obligations to anyone but myself and God. Rather, as my friend pointed out, they can be signposts by which to navigate or pole stars by which to triangulate and reorient my actions and perceptions.
At that point I consciously decided that I was tired of spinning my wheels. I no longer wanted to crash helter-skelter through life but neither did I want to turtle up and stay in my safe box, which were the only options I knew of at the time. I no longer subscribe to the concept of God as a tyrannical vending machine that demands the currency of religious ritual, so I will not say, “I finally obeyed so God gave me what I wanted.” Rather, I made room for what I truly needed by deciding to continue saying yes to what enlarges and enriches my soul, and start saying no a little more often to substitutions, surrogates, and pacifiers. And wouldn’t you know it, less than a month after writing the original version of this post, I met Science Guy who has been the best Yes I didn’t even know to ask for.
It was incredibly liberating to stop seeing goals as ways to judge and rush myself. Now that I’ve been through pregnancy and am parenting an infant, two things that literally cannot be rushed by any effort of my own, it’s easier to see goals as value-free milestones that can be worked toward but will ultimately be reached in their own time. Fire Monkey isn’t a “good” baby because he could hold his head up briefly at three days old, and he isn’t a “bad” baby because he likes to make pterodactyl noises every night from 7-9pm. (Really, he’s not.) He’s just a baby, and every goal reached is cause for celebration. Wouldn’t it be nice if we (especially moms) treated ourselves that way?
In the absence of a job outside the house and, more importantly, in the presence of our new little family, goals, expectations and even desires are a little more organic and free-form than they used to be. Motherhood has really distilled the things I want into two things (which are interconnected enough to arguably be one): health and happiness. And fortunately it doesn’t even make sense to set those as, “Meet these or you suck,” kind of goals. (I mean, who even says, “I have a fever, man, I’m a failure.”) All of our decisions as a family or individuals can now be viewed in the context of bringing us closer or farther from health or happiness, which simplifies things a great deal.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to quantify things a little more specifically, so here are a few goals of mine in no particular order directed toward increasing my and our health and happiness:
- Take 7500 steps a day. This is a lot harder now that I’m not teaching…in my defense, I probably spend 3-4 hours a day nursing our tiny mammal and our condo is small. Now that it’s less blazing hot during the day, though, I’m hoping to at least take him for walks around the neighborhood a little more often again.
- Hand-journal at least once a week. I’m doing a lot of blogging for myself and others right now, but the physical act of writing longhand is a deeply beneficial practice I’d like to revive.
- Sit down once a week and use my planner to sketch out the week’s priorities. It’s easy to fritter away time without a regular routine to speak of. This goal isn’t about being an overachiever but rather being intentional with how I spend the time I have.
- Go on a child-free date at least twice a month.
- Read to baby every day.
- Start establishing daytime and bedtime routines. This is important for mommy’s sanity but also baby’s development.
- Organize my closet, office, and teaching supplies sitting in the garage. If I can’t find a rational home for it in the space that we have, sell, donate or discard.
- Floss at least every other day. This has been on every goal list I’ve ever written. Sigh.
What are your goals this week? Month? Year?