The other day at lunch, I ran up to the grocery store near my school to pick up a few things for an ice cream party I was throwing some of my students. At the grocery store, I ran into a teacher that I used to teach with. She has kids my own kids’ ages, and she quit teaching last year to stay home with them for a while. I asked her how she was doing and what she was getting herself into these days.
“Nothing,” she said. “I gave myself one whole year to take on nothing. I promised myself that I would say no to any and every opportunity that came up for one year, and it has been so liberating!”
I didn’t get to talk to her that much longer because I had to get back to school, but days later, her words are still rolling around in my head. Saying no to anything and everything?!?! Was that even allowed?!?!? But then I realized that I have sort of been going through a purging period, too, and like my friend, I have felt happier and more relaxed than ever before. I feel like a butterfly coming out of their overworked, self-judging, tired cocoon.
- Anything I don’t like doing. HA! How’s that for life changing?! I can’t really explain where the epiphany came from, but a few months ago I realized that most of the things I dragged my feet on in my life were things I had voluntarily taken on. Maybe because I felt like I SHOULD do them. Maybe because at one season in my life they had been helpful or beneficial or served some kind of bigger purpose. Maybe because someone asked and I just didn’t say no. But a few months ago I realized, “HEY! Quit complaining! No one is MAKING you do these things!”
- Dieting. I am miserable when I diet. Absolutely miserable. I’m not one of those people who feels good or better when they are eating right. I just feel pissy and irritated. I’ve tried various diets at different periods in my life, for different lengths of time. I’ve tried telling myself I’m making a “lifestyle change” instead of going on a diet. I’ve tried counting calories, increasing my water intake, skipping sugar, cutting carbs, Weight Watchers, clean eating… you name it, I’ve given it a fair go. And, you know what? Even if I lose a few pounds, over time, I always settle back to my standard weight, which hasn’t changed in about three years. So, I’m a size 8 (sometimes 10!). And I like sweets. And I like Mexican food. And I eat ice cream after 8:00 at night sometimes. And I love laying around the pool or beach in my bathing suit. And I love short skirts and twirly dresses. And I love tank tops and sleeveless shirts that make my arms look like tires. And I hate wearing pants when I’m pants when I’m home. And what’s wrong with a size 8 anyway? I’m happy just the way that I am, living just the life I’m living. As long as I have more fruits and veggies during the day than I do cakes and ice cream, I’m cutting myself some slack.
- Extra work. Recently, I gave up two extra responsibilities at work. They both earned me small stipends, but it really wasn’t enough to make any kind of difference in my paycheck. I realized this year I was dragging my feet about both of these activities because I just didn’t want to do them anymore. I took them on during my first year or two of teaching, when I was trying to figure out where I belonged and what kind of teacher I wanted to be. But, it’s been six years now and every year that passes helps me get closer and closer to what parts of teaching I love and what parts I could live without. So, I’ve been cutting away anything that I can do without so that I can focus more on the what I love part.
- Stitch Fix. Sad, but true. I loved my Stitch Fixes. But, alas, every time they arrived, I felt guilty not keeping something. Talk about out of control guilt! I felt guilty that they had gone through all that trouble. And I didn’t want to make my stylist feel bad. My stylist. That I’d ever met once in my life. I was worried about making this imaginary person feel bad and so I bought overpriced clothing. CUT IT OUT OF MY LIFE, PLEASE! So, I recently rediscovered TJ Maxx and Marshall’s and Ross and have realized they have just as cute of items for about 1/4 of the cost. The luxury of having clothes delivered was great a year or so ago when my kids were a nightmare to take shopping with me because they hated waiting. But they are older now, so I throw a book at them and park them in the corner of my dressing room and – VOILA! – money saved and guilt gone!
- Any kind of routine whatsoever for summer. So many of our friends are signing their kids up for summer camps all summer long. Most of them have to use camps because they are working and they need somewhere for their kids to go when school is out. Last summer, I signed mine up for quite a few camps, too. It just felt like the right thing to do because everyone else was doing it. But when summer ended last year, I felt just as tired when the school year ended because I had kept this crazy activity schedule all summer long. As my kids age, our school year becomes more and more active, so this summer I have made a conscious decision to stop everything. This summer I am avoiding any kind of scheduled activity for the kids because they need a break, and so do I.
I don’t have the luxury yet of saying no to anything and everything, and I am not at the place yet where I think I’d want to (though, give me a few weeks of summer and “No!” might become my new mantra!), but I have definitely become more mindful of the excess amount of responsibilities and unnecessary guilt in my life. Just like cleaning out closets and junk drawers, every now and then I probably need to clean out and purge my schedule and commitments.
Enjoy these pictures of me taking Daisy for a run. It’s my new thing. She needs to run farther and faster than I can run. Plus, at the end of the day, I just don’t want to go running (see Item 1 above). So, I’ve started teaching her to run alongside my bike while I ride around the neighborhood. It is so much fun! It was also highly dangerous the first few times we did it and I thought I was going to die every time she saw a squirrel, but we’ve gotten much better. So much better, in fact, that I could actually take a picture as we ran today!