I came across a ten-step goal setting roadmap; I’ve changed the order of the steps, which I think is a good thing. I hope it’s indicative that I am already seeing more clearly in 2013 how to make my own path toward the life I am meant to lead.
Most people do this sort of thing at the start of a new year, but it really does suit me best to do all things late. For now, I’m sharing my responses to numbers one through four. I’m still working on the rest of my roadmap.
One: Write down what DID work in 2012.
Practicing gratitude worked. Instead of bemoaning what I did not have – financial stability at the age of thirty-seven – I focused on what I did have in my life to be grateful for: a brand new human being to love and to learn from, a husband who is unafraid of hard work and who is equally true to himself and willing to take risks, like having started a new job outside the field of architecture, and who, everyday, shows himself to be a great dad. Sisters who were willing, in 2011, to set aside busy, complicated, important families and lives to guide me into motherhood. I was grateful in 2011 when they came to stay with me, but in 2012, that gratitude felt so big and completely unbreakable.
One: Write down three lessons you learned from what DID work.
What came of practicing gratitude? I learned that gratitude is more fulfilling than desire.
For the first half of the year, I was seeking employment so desperately that I’m sure prospective employers could smell the desperation. I wasn’t getting hired. I came to a point at which I just stopped feeling disappointed and instead, felt entirely blessed to have mornings watching Desmond develop. Early in the morning, I used to sit in bed drinking coffee and watching him; we cooed at each other, smiled, discovered one another's personalities. There were so many moments of simple joy; I heard him laugh out loud for the very first time in his life. That sound and all of the sheer pleasure it communicated remains so distinct. I had a full nine months with him. Watching a new person learn the world kept me so near to the most exciting, breathtaking, and basic of human experiences. Financial stability or not, I began to see myself as the luckiest girl.
I learned that faith is more powerful than doubt.
It was in the midst of recognizing and embracing how lucky I was that I stumbled into work and a long-awaited return to financial stability. Within days of each other, I was hired for a part-time job with the university and hired by an individual to co-write a book. When these jobs came about, I went on the hunt for daycares. They either did not have openings or did not feel like a right fit. Two weeks before my start dates (also within days of each other), we found a nanny for Desmond
I learned that the introduction of new people into your life who help you grow is immeasurably valuable. In 2012, two new people, Des's nanny and my book client came into my life. I don’t think there is any coincidence that I see parts of myself in each of them. In some small way, I think they learn from who I am and how I approach life, and I know that I learn from each of them.
The overarching lesson I learned in 2012, be it out of practicing gratitude, or not, is that my mother is still looking out for and taking care of me in this world. It’s becomes more challenging, in the years after her passing, to really feel her presence in my life, but I was reminded repeatedly in 2012.
Three: Write down what DID NOT work in 2012.
Fixating on the negative, on what my life lacked, did not work.
Losing sight of my vision for the future, for what my life is intended to be, did not work. After my mom died in 2006, I started to see this image of my life, a tiny snapshot that was so clearly focused. It showed me, "This is who you are supposed to be. This is what your life is supposed to be." I was outside in my backyard gardening, growing. There was bounty. I could see a window into my home. On the other side of that window was a writer's desk, and it was clear that the work on the desk was my writing in progress. I gardened. I wrote. I grew a family and a craft. And when I looked at myself inside of that snapshot, I was content, happy. It was as if the sun shone within me. I was full of warmth. It was a rather simple image, but so vivid and crisp, and yet nothing I had ever consciously intended for myself. Literally, one day in the midst of grieving, the image showed itself to me, and I wanted nothing more than to quit my job, write, and teach myself to garden. I forced myself to wait out the urge, to move past the immediacy of my grief, and to reevaluate later. After six months, the image and the knowing within had not subsided.
I had the fortitude to recognize my truest ambitions and to guide myself in the direction toward those ambitions. At thirty-three, I shifted gears and walked away from a secure job and income. At thirty-four, I entered into an MFA program that I completed at thirty-seven. That was an honest and brave shift to have made.
But in 2012, eight months out of graduate school and newly a parent, I could not decipher how to continue to guide myself to the image. The path no longer revealed itself to me so easily. Instead of making a clearing for myself, which would be hard work, I wallowed in the ramble of weeds and allowed the image to become blurry.
Four: Write down three lessons you learned from what DID NOT work.
Be willing to take risks.
Do not lose sight of the larger purpose of those risks.
Living my most authentic life not up to chance; it is up to me.