On New Year’s

Happy New Year!

I didn’t write a 2011-in-review post, but I do think my first post of 2012 will cover that anyway.

Just before New Year’s last year, I wrote that 2010 was the year of the baby, and all that entailed.

Looking back, I’d have to say that 2011 was the year of figuring out where to place everything else in my life, since my baby comes first.

I remember writing Bring It, 2011 , so vividly. I was sitting at our breakfast bar late at night, and I could see my reflection in the kitchen window as I hunched over my laptop. I was days away from starting my first full-time semester, though I’d gone back to work on a more flexible schedule a few weeks after she was born. I wrote how my biggest concern was figuring out how to balance it all—a young infant, a job, a book, health needs, family health needs, etc.

I wrote about working and chronic illness, and discussed another huge change in our lives—my husband’s company, The Well Fed Dog.

I savored every morningspent with my giggling, wriggling little baby, who quickly became a a signing, walking, talking, exploring, pointing, dancing, chair-climbing, fork-wielding toddler. No matter what else was going on, how many stresses and anxieties, obligations and expectations the year presented, as long as she was okay, nothing else mattered.

And as the year progressed, and after some successes and some misfires, I came to the conclusion that sometimes, balance isn’t possible and knowing how to prioritize is much more important than that ever-elusive notion of balance.

I’ve come a long way since that night a year ago when I was nervous about making all of this work. When I think about what I want for 2012—for my daughter, for myself, for my family, for the rest of the roles in my life—I want to be as present as possible.

Sure, I have more concrete goals: finish my book revisions by February 1; implement some new strategies in my courses; be more consistent in attending playdates and playgroups with my daughter; getting back to more regular group classes at the gym; keeping in better touch with friends, etc.

But the larger theme that ties all of those smaller threads together is being present. It is something I have done well with my daughter—each day, the time I spend with her is hers, whether we’re playing in her room, at music class, or at a playgroup. No laptop, no television, no scrolling through Facebook updates on my phone. The time with her is precious and hard-fought, and she deserves the best of me.

When I’m in the classroom my students are my focus, and when I read their work, I give it my full attention. I’ve started using the full screen option in the latest Word version, which blacks out my desktop and browser windows and allows me to look only at my words when I’m working on my book.

But now I want to focus on harnessing that in other areas of my life. I find myself doing work while getting my haircut, or glued to my laptop till midnight while my husband sits on the other couch watching “our” shows, answering my phone while sending e-mail, and other things less minor and more ridiculous. All of this is to say, it’s the next natural step in an effort towards the prioritization I wrote about in 2011—if I am going to do something, then I need to focus in on that one thing (or person, or interaction), and be fully present.

(And that means being more present in this blog space, too.)

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4 thoughts on “On New Year’s

  1. Every time I visit my parents, who don’t have WiFi, I swear I’m happier being able to just read a book in one small day or watching a movie without interruption.

    I’m slowly starting to focus on one thing at a time. Even if it’s just watching a one-hour TV drama with the laptop and iPad closed, or if I make the dinner hour truly time to make dinner, eat slowly, and then clean up (a big task when cooking for one).

    I think 2012 is going to be full of what you’re talking about, in other words – we’re all finding ourselves too…not fully present.

  2. I love it…being fully present. Something we all need to do better. In this world of so many distrations…something or someone is being cheated of our time, love, devotion. Thanks for reminding me of that. Great post! What is your book about? I just wrote my first book this year. Is this your first book?

  3. Rachel, funny you mention that example because recently, when our Internet was down and anytime I was home I could only work offline, I got so much done. And felt so free. And when I wasn’t working,my laptop was closed and I was engaged.

    It’s hard with an unconventional work situation (at home some of the time, self-employed some of the time, etc) to ever feel a physical distance from work.

    Kari,so true–we all lose when we’re not present. My first book was about chronic illness in young adults (Life Disrupted, see sidebar info) and my forthcoming book is a loose social history of modern chronic disease. Good luck with your book!

  4. Yay, I’ve missed you here…but I have taken some much needed interweb breaks this last year myself. I have written fewer blogs and focused more on healing my whole self. And you know what, I have come out stronger and happier!

    Here’s to a happier and healthier 2012 for both of us!

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