1. Social media is a slow leak. Drip. Drip. Drip. Leaks are sneaky. You may not even notice them. If you do notice them, they may not seem like a very big deal. But failing to repair a leak is money down the drain (sorry, that was lame).
2012 ushered in a new wave of social media participation for me. In September, I shut down my old blogs and merged them into The Scoop on Balance. At the same time, I also opened a Twitter account, started a Scoop on Balance Facebook Fan page and joined Pinterest—because, supposedly, that’s what professional bloggers do. I wondered how in the world I was going to manage all that, since I didn’t have much discretionary time to begin with.
And SURPRISE! I can’t manage all that.
Here’s me in 2012: Checking e-mails (drip, drip) and facebook (drip, drip, drip) and blog comments (drip, drip) and my Twitter feed (drip) and my Pinterest page (drip) “really quick” in the carpool line (drip, drip) and while my coffee is brewing (drip, drip) and before I go to bed (drip, drip, drip, drip, drip). 5 minutes here (drip), 10 minutes there (drip, drip).
If I do it 20 times a day (which I do!), I lose 200 freaking minutes! Poof! Just like that. Gone, with nothing to show for it.
I know social media is here to stay—especially for bloggers. And mothers of teenagers. Of which I am both. I’m not hating on social media. It’s a fantastic way to stay connected with family and friends. It’s allowed me to reach people with my writing whom I’d never, ever reach otherwise. But it’s also a sneaky little time-sucker.
2. Focusing on what I did not accomplish steals my joy. Recently, I went to visit a dear friend in her newly renovated home. She and her husband bought this fixer-upper over the summer and completely transformed it with their own creativity, muscle and sweat. They tore out walls, cabinets and floors. They replaced screens, windows and siding. I was so impressed when she took me on the tour, because the house was a mess the last time I saw it. As walked from room to room, I admired the shiny new fixtures, the fresh, vibrant paint colors, the detailed trim-work. It was gorgeous. But as we stood in each threshold, my friend was quick to point out everything that was unfinished: “We haven’t done the floors in here yet. Don’t look at the blinds, we didn’t replace those yet! I’m sorry this room is sort of disorganized, it’s not quite finished yet.”
With every room, she was quick to divert my attention from all the beautifully impressive finished work to the stuff that was yet to be completed—stuff I would not have noticed or cared about had she not pointed it out. I was standing there in utter amazement at her talent and she was apologizing (!) for the old linoleum in the guest bath.
I learned last year I am just like that with my life. Every day, I set out to accomplish a list of things. Good things. Mom/wife/writer things. But if I were to take you on a “tour” of my day, I would be quick to point out everything I did NOT accomplish. “I meant to get up early and workout, but I pressed the snooze and slept instead. I wanted to return those phone calls today, but time just got away from me (see #1). I meant to mail those packages and call the granite guy and write those thank you notes, but I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
I may have accomplished 30 meaningful, eternally relevant things. But, if I intended to accomplish 31 things, at the end of the day, I will focus on the 1 thing I failed to do. And I will have a lingering tightness in my stomach most of the day because of it. And I will decide my character is somehow flawed because of it.
And all of that just smothers the heck out of my joy.
3. I need a plan. I spent a lot of 2012 trying to clear off my plate to make room for spontaneity, for fun, for margin, for God. I stepped down from my spot on the worship team at church. I did not allow my kids to play any spring sports. I took on no new commitments. I took a 6-month writing break. When I sent my baby to kindergarten in the Fall (meaning I had a kid-free home during the day for the first time in 15 years) I refused to set a daily schedule, letting the proverbial chips fall where they may. I experimented with “going with the flow” for cooking dinners and doing workouts and maintaining my home.
And guess what I discovered: I suck at life when I don’t have a plan.
Margin is good and necessary for me and for you. I love me some margin. I highly recommend it. But when my whole schedule is one giant margin, I tend to sleep in and over-eat and over-spend and skip workouts and leave the bathrooms a mess.
By the end of 2012, I made peace my with inner-planner. I discovered that I like her. A lot. My kids like her too, because she knows what’s for dinner and she makes sure everyone has clean underwear. And as much as my spontaneous husband would hate to admit it, he likes her, too. She’s much nicer and more relaxed. Ironically.
There’s so much in life that surprises me from day-to-day—for everything else, I need a plan.
4. I set the wrong goal for 2012. Last year, I thought God wanted me to focus on All-Things-Time: how to manage it, how to stop wasting it, how to savor it, how to make the most of it. And, in some ways, He did speak to me about Time (again, see #1). But that was not the main focus of the year. Not by a long shot.
Instead of “Time,” the word He whispered daily into my heart was “Transcend.”
I gotta be honest…2012 was a hard year. As I reread my journal in preparation for setting 2013 goals, I was reminded of all the difficult things I endured last year. My marriage went through a very dark period. One of my children faced a crisis, causing us to seek outside help. I lost my passion for blogging and for singing and for homemaking, so much so that I set 2 of them aside (I would have set the homemaking aside as well, but I’m sort of stuck with that one)—In fact, I lost my confidence in nearly everything I set my hand and heart to do.
But through it all, I learned to lift my sails above the turmoil and catch something higher, holier.
When Jon and I struggled in our marriage, God said, “Transcend your hurt and confusion and love him anyway.” When I felt like everything I was doing as a mother was producing the opposite result of what I intended, God whispered, “Transcend the emotion and chaos in your home and find your peace and wisdom in me.” When I struggled daily with the reality that a cherished friendship was damaged beyond repair, God said, “Transcend the feelings of rejection and failure and allow Me to restore you.”
I learned this year that Transcend does not mean turning off my emotions (I tried repeatedly to do this and only became more frustrated with my inability to do so). Transcend means tapping into something higher than emotion. God has for me a spiritual sustenance where I am truly free to respond with complete self-control—not between gritting teeth and clenched fists. Where I am able to love, regardless how (or if) I’m being loved in return. Transcend means there is a choice to rise above the situation and find my peace and strength in something higher.
5. Seeking affirmation from anyone or anything but God leads to disappointment. Getting affirmation from people is nice. Getting affirmation from your work or your role or your ministry is also nice. God created us for community and we absolutely need each other for affirmation in who we are and how we’re doing.
But I learned this year that I cannot depend on that affirmation to define me or sustain me. Only God can define me. Only God can sustain me. Only God can affirm me in the way I need for survival. I cannot look to that affirmation as a substitute for God.
This year, everything from which I previously drew affirmation, definition and purpose failed me in one way or another: My role as excellent wife. My position as nurturing mother. My ministry as writer. My confidence in being a selfless best friend. I never realized until 2012 how much I depended on those things, people and roles to establish my identity and purpose.
I’m not sure what it looks like, but I know 2013 marks the beginning of striving for excellence in all those areas without depending on them for meaning, identity and survival.
And I, for one, am happy to bid 2012 farewell and look forward to much more balanced, joyful and God-centered 2013.
Q4U: Tell me something you learned in 2012.
p.s. I missed you so much during my blog break. It feels good to move my fingers across this keyboard and know you are there reading. :)