"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, December 31, 2017

ready for change

I'm an introvert. I'm social in good company, but prefer the quiet of home. I like structure. Routine. Predictability. I like comfy clothes and hot coffee. I like calm. If my entire life could exist in hygge-state, that would be just fine with me.

But, it turns out, I'm pretty adventurous, too. Maybe not in the ways of jumping out of airplanes or eating exotic meats, but as much as I like my structure and routine....I love a good, big change every now and again.

As a kid, I scratched my need-for-change itch by changing my bedroom. Because there was a new baby in the house every couple of years, my siblings and I did a semi-frequent bedroom shuffle. As one of the oldest kids, I was fortunate in having my own room from about middle school on. Every time we shuffled rooms, I'd pick out a new wallpaper or comforter...I'd arrange and rearrange my furniture in my new space. I liked the freshness of change.

When I was in college, I achieved change through self-expression and my appearance...I'd dye my hair, pierce an eyebrow, get a tattoo. Small acts of rebellion (against whom? Certainly not my parents who championed each new look...) that made me feel like I could defy the limits of the box I felt was closing in around me. (A kindergarten teacher with an eyebrow ring? Now THAT's different! Too bad I took the piercing out before my first student teaching placement. I was ready for that box, it turned out.)

After college, change was fast and easy....a new job, a new relationship, another new job, a new town, a new apartment, a wedding, a new house, another new house...then babies.

Once the babies came, change happened around me...I didn't have to go looking for it. Every few weeks or months a new milestone...a new stage of development. It was hard and beautiful and all-consuming and exhausting. For nearly a decade, I was so in the thick of change all the time that, when I finally came up for air a few years ago, I wanted nothing but stases.

And so, we settled into our routines. For the next few years, we didn't rock the boat. Smooth sailing, dead ahead, we stayed the course. We were comfortable...and happy.

In the summer of 2016, settled and comfy, we decided to make a big change. Sam quit his job to start his own financial advisory firm. A risk, yes, but a calculated one. Less a gamble than a dream realized, it was definitely the right thing to do. Sam was able to reclaim even more of that work-life balance we're all seeking, while at the same time build something of which he could honestly and truly be proud.

Looking back now, though, I see that one, big change as being the tipping point. It sits on the center of the timeline, before which was comfortable stases and after, a series of changes that would ultimately lead us to our next big adventure....

Shortly after the start of Sam's new business (summer 2016), it became clear that Trump was not just a sickening sideshow. He was actually a legitimate threat to our country and our democracy. (I didn't realize the extent to which he was also a threat to science, journalism, truth, and the entire freaking world.) I started to feel shaky...like everything I thought I new about this country and the people in it was wrong.

Then he actually won the election. (It still doesn't feel real.) The end of 2016 was a blur of fear and denial. I remember thinking, at this time last year, that I was just glad to be finished with 2016. That 2017 couldn't possibly be worse. I felt sure of this because I was convinced that his presidency wouldn't survive the year...surely he would be impeached by April.

But he wasn't.

2017 was hard. It was hard and heavy and full of heartbreak....mostly because of our dangerous and narcissistic president, but closer to home, too. Inside our circle of family and friends, there were hard medical diagnoses, lost jobs, broken relationships, the deaths of a mother/grandmother and a child, depression...anxiety...hopelessness. It's easy to look back on this year as one during which we worked so freaking hard but... for what?

Around September, when the full weight of 2017 was bearing down on my shoulders, I had a realization. What I needed, more than anything, was a lifestyle shift AWAY from more/bigger/faster (the American way), and toward slow, streamlined, simple. It was time to circle my wagons and to trim the excess that was cluttering my mind and my heart and my life.

Luckily, Sam had the same realization at the same time (we're lucky that the BIG changes seem to happen that way for us...). So, we decided to move. (A BIG change, made simpler by the fact that we'll stay in the same area...the kids will go to the same school, we'll still be just blocks away from my parents.) Our house will be a bit smaller, but not by much...we still use our house and its space really well...but we're completely getting rid of our yard. No more yard maintenance means more time spent on what and with whom we choose. There will be a small patch for Jake, but we'll mostly use our neighborhood's green spaces, trails, and sidewalks for outdoor recreation.

Making the decision to move was just the change I needed to end this year. The second we signed the contract with our builder (yes, we're building again...it's apparently what we do), I felt like I had shaken the burden of 2017 right off me. I was able to see the year in review for what it ALSO was.... 2017 was the year we FINALLY got some health questions answered. There were new babies and new marriages and exciting personal achievements. There was joy and kindness and love. A new passion for activism was lit and we realized we were so much stronger than we thought we could be. It was the year we found that complacency is dead....and that we, mere stay-at-home moms in a small town in Virginia, are a force to be reckoned with.

It was the year we woke up. And that's one change that will stick with me forever.

Lesson Learned:
I am SO ready for 2018. The year of the New House...I'm not sure what color we'll paint ours yet, but the one in Washington is DEFINITELY going to turn blue.