Monday, January 6, 2014
Word of the Year: SIMPLIFY
Finally! I'm back in the saddle. After two years of graduate school and then nearly one year of thesis-researching and writing, I graduated with my Masters Degree in TESOL. Now, I can be proud of myself for achieving something I never thought possible while being married, working full-time and raising two children.
When I first began my graduate program in January of 2011, I decided to join Ali Edwards' class called One Little Word (offered at Big Picture Classes). In keeping with my new goals regarding grad school classes, I chose LEARN as my word. Indeed, I did learn a lot that year, not only about teaching methods and language acquisition, but also about my own strengths and capacity as a mother. Much of what I journaled about also included my daughter's attempts to learn to read and write. She was 4 at the time.
In 2012, I was half-way through grad school courses and I wanted a lighter word, so I chose SHINE. Shine was supposed to push me to my limits while helping me encourage others to shine. I did, but all this focus on studying and pushing myself resulted in a stark and undeniable weight-gain. By the midway point of 2012, I was over 200 pounds. Even my father voiced concern at my appearance when I took the kids on a trip to visit my parents in the States. I was also experiencing some health problems and was told to lose the weight or else. So, my existing burden became heavier, not only literally, but figuratively as well. The decision to study less and exercise more weighed on me. The possibility of getting sicker if I didn't start taking care of myself also weighed on me. Shine sort of lots its gleam, so to speak.
By 2013, I was ready to MOVE and through the help of Ali's One Little Word class, I attempted to find ways to incorporate the word MOVE into my lifestyle. Moving my body was not the only goal though. Moving through the process of proposing, researching and writing a thesis paper was also my goal for the year. Like any organized full-time working mother and student, I had a plan and I followed it to the T. Each month, I moved through the process while trying to fit in exercise whenever I could. In July, I decided my theme for the month would be the opposite of "move", and so "stillness" became my focus. It was supposed to be just for one month though. I had never been "still" before. I was always moving, like a ball in a pinball machine. My father had sent me a Kindle for Xmas the year before with an Amazon gift card that read "Take some time to just be still." I fell in love with "stillness". It became my crutch, my excuse for needing balance in my life. All of the goals and dreams that ran through my head, competing for attention, began slipping away. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I was way over-extended. After the thesis was submitted, and I was notified of my graduation, I reveled in the STILLNESS even more. My body was not used to this nor was my brain. But, since my goals and dreams had sort of slipped out of my head and gotten lost somewhere, I wasn't sure what to think or do. As for MOVE, I made every excuse not to go to the gym. Usually, all my new-found free time was filled in with work responsibilities. Sad, but true. I kept wondering how I had managed for the past 2 1/2 years. I also got sick for the first time in ages, and after not being able to eat for a week, I went back to food and forgot about my diet. You see, I had been making progress up to that point.
I don't blame STILLNESS for ruining the word MOVE for me. It didn't ruin it. Without MOVE, I am not sure I would have finished my thesis on time. (My friend says I would have because that's just the way I am though.) Without MOVE, there would be no STILLNESS. Sometimes, you need to accept the opposite of reality to force you to learn something new. I learned that balance is important, that stillness is important, not just to me, but also to my family. You see, they LOVE it when I sit down and cuddle with them to watch a movie or a favorite TV show. And friends too. My friends don't want to get together to go for runs or play tennis. They want to sit in coffee shops all afternoon and chat and gossip. (Bad friends, but I am right there with them!) No more ball in a pinball machine.
Now, that doesn't mean that I was considering BALANCE as my 2014 word. By December of 2013, the words that kept flashing in my mind were "Simple", Simplify", Simplicity". I craved simple, uncomplicated days. I felt completely overwhelmed. My to-do lists were starting to creep up on me again, my job was brimming with grading responsibilities, and my dreams and goals were starting to slip back into my brain, needling at it and crying for attention. Well-meaning friends were asking me about my job search, and I had to break it to them. I wasn't searching for anything. Our house was in chaos - this layer of chaos covered over the once carefully-organized structure I had arranged years ago. My kids needed more attention from me, and I wondered what would become of my relationship with my husband. It had been on the back-burner for the past 3 years, and I wondered if he still wanted anything from me or if he had long ago given up.
How could "Simplify" help me, help us, become a united family again?
My word for 2014 is SIMPLIFY. Where it shall lead, I know not, but it is the getting there that will be a fun adventure for us. And, Mama shall lead the way!
If you are interested in taking the One Little Word class with Ali Edwards, click on the link. There is also a closed/secret Facebook group for members of the class to share their work and communicate about their progress. It's a wonderful and inspiring atmosphere.