2019: The End of ‘Should’

Here we are, New Year’s Eve. That time of year when we take stock of the last twelve months and vow to do something different/better/more with the next twelve.

Be more productive! Get fit!

THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.

We take the most stressful, over indulgent part of the year and say: “In this state of mind, when none of your clothes fit and your family has triggered you restlessly for the last two weeks, set some healthy, balanced, realistic intentions for the year to come.”

For this, I stopped making resolutions a few years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of a fresh year, a blank slate. And as someone whose blood is 50% charcuterie and 50% homemade sea salt caramels at this point, I relish the idea of a blank slate.

I’m ready to prioritize some ordinary healthy eating, get to know broccoli again. And after nearly two weeks off from work with my wonderful, perfectly behaved children, who always do exactly as I ask, I’m ready to get back to an every day routine that includes some paid childcare help.

But gone are the days of nonsense like: lose 50 pounds by Valentine’s Day! Meditate every day! Get a promotion! Go to therapy. (Ok, I finally did that last one and I recommend it.)

In the last four and a half years, my body has carried and birthed two babies. I’ve kept those two mini humans plus myself alive (and considering Veda hasn’t gone to sleep willingly since 2016, I consider her alive-ness a triumph in itself), managed to stay happily (most days) married, and worked outside the home. I. HAVE. DONE. ENOUGH. The absolute last thing I want is to ADD to my list of ‘should do.’ There is no more room for ‘should’ in my life. I’ve got ‘should’ all over the place.

(Cue Enya music.)

For me, a healthier way to approach self iteration is to set a principle, or two, and see where it takes me. This is meant to be a zero pressure approach. Principles don’t have a deadline or measure of success. It can change mid-year if another principle feels more intuitive. Like I said, no pressure, no rules, no should.

Aside: I originally titled this post “No, I don’t want no shoulds.” I obviously reached out to TLC’s people (RIP Left Eye) for a little collab, and they didn’t get back to me by the time of this writing. So I’ll use my back up title: “2019: The End of ‘Should’”

It’s the End of Should, in all senses: things, commitments on my time. I’m giving myself full permission to break up with ‘should.’ It’s permission to be cool with myself every day, no matter how I show up.

Principle #1: if it’s not a “hell yes!” it’s a “no”

Time has started to move at breakneck speed for me. January 1 shows up, I black out, I come to, it’s now December 31 and everyone’s like: ”How was your year? What’s going on?” And I’m like: “Who are you? How did I get here? And why don’t my pants fit?”

The culprit? Busyness. Busyness should’ing all over the place. It arrives like a friend with a bottle of wine, and you think: “yes, this is amazing!” Then another friend arrives, more wine, more friends, MORE WINE, MORE FRIENDS. The suddenly, the room is spinning and your car is on fire in the driveway and all these people need to get out of your house! That’s busyness. You don’t notice it until it’s too late.

I’m tapping out on busyness. Matt and I implemented the “hell yes rule” in 2018, and we are doubling down in 2019. It’s a tool we use to keep commitments manageable.

Here’s how it works, whenever we are posed with any commitment on our time (this also works for commitments on money – should I buy this shirt? And energy – should I make these Pinterest-level snacks for the school party?) Is our immediate reaction HELL YES? If not, it’s a no.

Here is an example:

  • Should we host the kid’s birthday party at the house? HELL YES
  • Should I make all the food for this party? NO

In practice it means we’ve outsourced a lot of things or found alternative solutions. I outsourced all the food for Mavis’ and Veda’s birthday parties, and still enjoy hosting at the house. We found that costs roughly remained the same. Outsourcing food means we buy less, and save time –no shopping (often over shopping), preparing or cooking.

Principal #2: Self-care is a must

Not enough self-care happening right now. And how do I know? The screaming into pillows. Screaming into pillows? Yes. Screaming into pillows.

My children are wonderful, magical mini humans that bring me incredible joy. I am often completely overwhelmed by my love for them. They are also merciless assholes. Veda has reached expert level diabolical, you know, the special level reserved only for four year olds.

During a bedtime in the not too distant past, she came to the threshold of her room, looked me in the face with her dead eyes, said, “I’m not going to bed.” and pissed herself.   

Just let that sink in for a minute. Diabolical.

And then there are the mornings, most of which have just felt like too much lately. My dear darling, hard working husband leaves the house at 5:30am most days. And sometimes the children just wake up and need to express all their feelings directly at me. I pick the wrong socks, the wrong milk cup, the wrong everything, and their age-appropriate behavior and screechy voices are like a screwdriver to my head.

After I load them into the car, I return to the house and scream into a pillow. And I don’t mean a little yell, I mean a primal scream. A scream that leaves my voice hoarse. And I don’t know, that just seems like a red flag to say I’m not doing enough for myself.

So here is the game plan for 2019, I’ve made a list of things that will support my self-care, but one or two is “hell yes” family moment that I am also excited about. (And yes, I can see how that is problematic in a self-care list. This is so hard!)

Using my Extra Vacation Time
About the screaming into pillows thing…this year my company updated its vacation policy, and my vacation time increased. AMAZING. I’m using all the extra time for me. I’m sitting on those extra days like a dragon on gold. MINE! Swimming through those extra days like Scrooge McDuck. MINE! Also key, I’m planning the days off in advance so I can book a massage, see a movie, or do nothing and lay under a blanket and watch Netflix. Whatevs. No should.

Potty training Mavy 
Yes, this is happening, and I’m excited. As a parent, you don’t often get moments when you know exactly what ‘good’ looks like.

Visting MASS MoCA + staying at Tourist
Date weekend, but probably a family weekend. About two hours from us, in North Adams, MA sits, MASS MoCA is an incredible art museum. It occupies the site of a former 19th century cloth printing factory. Architecturally, it’s still recognizable as a factory. There is a brewery and coffee shop on site. MASS MoCA’s installations are vast and cross mediums – photography, sculpture, painting, film. It checks all my boxes: unique, historical environment, approachable art, caffeine and beer. And it has a bangin’ children’s space. Oh, AND it’s also the site of Wilco’s bi-yearly music festival, Solid Sound.  So of course, I have softy spot in my heart for MASS MoCA. I can’t wait for our 2019 visit.

Typically, it’s a day trip for us, but North Adams is certainly on the up-swing. Tourists is a newly-renovated midcentury hotel next door to MASS MoCA. From the photos, everything about it is STUNNING, unfussy in bare woods and open spaces, organic materials instead of varnish and buff. It’s pretty dreamy stuff. AND they are opening restaurant lead by a James Beard Award winning-chef in early 2019. We are going to swing an overnight stay here to complement our MASS MoCA visit. SO MUCH CULTURE!

Wilco’s Solid Sound
Every other summer, Wilco hosts a music festival at MASS MoCA called Solid Sound. 2019 will be Veda’s third and Mavis’ second. Yup, we are those parents! Not going to lie, 2017 with a 2.75 yo and 6 month old nearly killed us.

This year, we skipped our usual hotel, and rented a house with a playset in the backyard. AND, the sanity-saver, WE ARE BRINGING A BABYSITTER WITH US! God, how did we not think of this before now?? She can take the kiddos to bed, Matt and I can rage (until our 11pm bedtime because we also a little old.)

Hiring a Nanny
Remember the above note about the mornings? It’s not going to get better when we have two drop offs – Veda to kindergarten in the fall and Mavis, in the opposite direction, to daycare. It’s just too much. By August, we need to transition to a nanny. I’m nervous about finding the right person, and being someone’s employer, but I am SUPER excited to eliminate dropoff/pickups from my daily.

Date Nights
My husband is the most fun person on the planet. And he’s a total babe. I would like to hang out with him more sans bebes.

Save for a Bathroom Reno 
It’s time for a big girl house project. One of the reasons we bought our house were the untouched, original 1984 bathrooms. Nothing was sadder than the zillions of houses we saw with the dreaded travertine tile update. My Practical New England Heart wouldn’t let me gut a well-functioning bathroom because the style wasn’t my taste. But our bathrooms have done their time. We’ve worked hard to hit the financial milestones needed – paid off my grad school loans in 2017, and paid off our cars this year. Bathroom, here we come! (And not in the potty training way.)

So, here’s to a year without ‘shoulds.’

Here’s to more ‘hell yeses!’

Here’s to more self-care!

Here’s to 2019.[

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