All month, I have been in search of my “one little word” to guide me through 2013. I’ve resisted sharing my word because it doesn’t sound that dazzling. But some years, you just can’t help it, and the “one little word” chooses you.
So, the word I’ve settled on for 2013 is . . . “less.” See, not that inspiring is it? Who enters a year hoping for “less”? I guess I do. But it is what I hope for “less of” that makes this word matter to me.
I’m thinking . . .
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Less of a whole lot.
So far, letting this word enter my life had brought some changes. First, it has meant four trips to the good will and “less” in my house. It has also given me courage to turn down some summer teaching jobs. Yup, it means less money, but it also means less stress, less child care, and more time with my children.
“Less” played a part in a crazy day I had last week. There was this huge snowstorm and the roads were not plowed. One daughter needed to go across town to study for a final in English. Another needed a ride to and from volleyball practice. In the middle of it, I was in this big mess making cornbread waffles for my freezer dinner group that had to be delivered that night. (It’s eventually a blessing, but getting those freezer meals done can be a real stress.) There was also the dilemma of what to make for dinner that night and what to do with my little ones while I am driving all over town in the snow. Looking at the clock, the weather and the mess in my kitchen, I thought: “This is not less.”
Instead of pushing through anyway (like the martyr I tend to be) I decided to call my husband and ask for help. He was tired, but willing. So, it was my husband that drove us all over town that night in the snow. It was also my husband that bought dinner at a drive thru and carried the heavy cooler to and from the dinner group in the ice. Checking Facebook on the way home (which I am working on doing less of) everyone seemed to be talking about the storm and cautioning to stay home. We didn’t exactly heed that warning, but navigated the roads slowly in a crazy quest to finish the work of the day. After it was all over, I walked right past the messy kitchen and we all went to bed. I know it doesn’t sound that wonderful–it doesn’t even sound like I stuck much to my “less” resolve, but it was a small triumph for me: I did less on my own and more of paying attention to my own heart.
I don’t do this very well. Probably most moms don’t. We push through the day meeting all kinds of crazy demands and suppress our own desires until we are not even sure what they are anymore. “If I can just get through this…” tends to be phrase I say over and over again through the year. I am not sure I want to live another year of “getting through things.” I think I would rather spend a year enjoying things. I am wondering if “less” might lead me there–wondering if less on my plate might leave me more room for happiness.
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project challenges to look hard at those things that bring us happiness and then make room to include them. She asks the simple question: What do you do that brings you joy? The answer to this question is a hard one for me. As a mom, I think I always need to be working, helping someone, washing something, driving somewhere and generally wearing my busy mom life like a badge of honor. While yes, it is an honor, the craziness of “getting through things” time and time again is not joyful. It is in fact robbing me of the joy I think might be within my reach if I can just scrape out a little room for it.
Last weekend my husband came home early to take the girls sledding at the park. (He has a much better handle on the joy factor that I do.) It was tempting for me to stay home. There is a whole lot of stuff I can do with a few hours on my own. But in the spirit of “less” I put on my snow pants. “You’re going?” my daughter asked surprised. I did go. And even though sleds were few, I lined up for my turn. Do you know how scary it is to speed down an icy hill with a six year old on your lap? Do you know how loud you have to scream to make it safely down that hill? Pretty scary and pretty loud. Also pretty fun. That day, I discovered less done at home gave me a little space for more.
I’m just beginning this journey, but I hope my experiences so far will repeat themselves. Contrary to pace I’ve set for so long, perhaps letting this one little word in my life will help me find the true abundance I long for.