Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why This isn't Really a "Perfect Year" and I'm Okay with That

When I began this project, I chose the order of these first two months carefully, knowing that it is easier for me to feel spiritual when my home and mind are uncluttered. Of course, if you caught my recent video of Lilly that I posted to facebook, you know that the uncluttered clean home did not last. I have been tempted to start this whole year over because I have not been perfect in achieving my monthly goals, but I am constantly reminding myself that in this case, perfection is not my goal. This is not a perfect year and I do not intend for it to be so. Bear with me in the next paragraph here. It may sound a bit rambling, but I promise I'm coming back to the point.

In my career as a drug and alcohol counselor, there is a popular movement away from the all-or-nothing view of abstinence based programs toward a "harm reduction" approach. The idea behind this approach is that many people are not ready to quit using their drug(s). In fact, they may never have the desire or motivation to do so. If we limit their options to "quit or get out of treatment until you can," they miss out on an entire range of potential life-bettering changes that could occur.

For example, there may be a heroin user who will not consider quitting opiates. However, given the resources and opportunity, she may choose to change her habit of re-using old needles. She may choose, instead, to participate in a "clean needle exchange" which provides users with free, clean needles. While she will continue to suffer the harmful effects of the drug, her risk of contracting aids will decrease dramatically. This kind of change is positive and was worth the effort.

I have come to really love this concept, which is summed up by the mantra, "any positive change." To me, this means that perfection (in this case abstinence, in my case perfect completion of my goals) is not the only form of success. (That should be obvious, but sometimes it really isn't).

In the church, we often strive for perfection. Christ himself set the bar pretty high when he said "be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect." This sounds like it would be a very pleasant achievement, but I think Jesus knows that's not going to happen in this lifetime. I have felt the Spirit confirm to me that "any positive change" is a concept that pleases God. After all, the more harm reduction we do, the closer we get to the ultimate goal of perfection.

So, friends, I am not starting the year over so I can "do better this time," partly because then I would have to decide between waiting until January 2016 or counting 12 months from March, which just doesn't feel right (perfectionism dies hard), but mostly because I am meeting my goal of "any positive change" and I count that a success worth celebrating.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

January: De-Cluttering my Life

Matt, the girls, and I were lucky to have a nice long break for Christmas this year. We, emboldened by our success last year, decided to drive to Utah to visit family. The drive there was shockingly pleasant. We left in the evening shortly after I got off work and drove through the night. The girls fell asleep around 9pm, we took a short nap in the car at a rest stop from about 2am-4am and stopped for meals. The trip was a blast. We got to spend a week at my parents and a week at Matt's mom's. While at Isabel's (Matt's mom) I came across the book that I mentioned in my last post, "The Happiness Project" and read most of it on our vacation. I finished it a few days after we got back and started my own project, which I'm calling "The Perfect Year." (Not that I intend to aim for perfection in the same way I do with my perfect months, I just like the sound of it.)

Tina enjoying one of our McDonalds play-place breaks from the long drive.   

Roommates reunited!!!

Cousin Sleepover at Grandma's

The Pinball Wizard

So, I decided that the first month should be something that would motivate me and give me energy. For me, my living environment makes a huge difference to my mood and energy. So, month one was dedicated to 1) De-cluttering the house--I gave away several large grocery bags and boxes full of STUFF that would not pass the "would we take it if we moved" test. and 2) Decluttering my mind. I made lists for the three major areas of my life right now (Home, Work, Church) of all the "nagging tasks" that I've been avoiding. You know the ones, make a dentist appointment, change the oil in the car, etc, etc. and started working my way through them.

I set a goal to get rid of at least one thing a day and to try to cross one nagging item off my list per day. While I failed pretty badly at the "daily" aspect of this goal, we have several empty shelves and extra storage space now and things are easier to find. (And remember, despite my misleading choice of a name for the project, I really don't intend for these to be "perfect" months. I'm just hoping for any positive change).

I don't feel like I ever met my BIG goal of the month of starting the next month with a "fully cleaned" house, but we are stepping on unidentified sticky chunks much less than we were a month ago. I call that a win.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Perfect Year...wait, WHAT?

I'm back and since I apparently got bored with perfect months, I'm going for a perfect YEAR. (Kind of.)

Over Christmas I had the rare luxury of reading for pleasure when I noticed a book at Matt's mom's house that caught my attention: "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. Obviously any book with the words "happiness" and "project" are right up my ally, so I picked it up. 

Here's the basic premise: She studies everything she can about happiness, and develops a plan to make her life happier in 12 months. It is loosely based off of Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues (Emily M now H, I now know what you see in the man). Each month she charts herself on daily goals based on the virtue of the month, adding each new month to the previous months on the chart. I, being a goal and chart loving person myself, was drawn in by the idea and I'm now one month in to my newest self-improvement endeavor. I am not necessarily shooting for perfection on these goals in the same way that I did for the Perfect Month, but I am shooting for perfect charting and accountability. I will also plan to update this blog once weekly on Sundays to report on my progress.

Please follow me and leave comments. It will be a HUGE help in motivating me.

If you're curious about the book that inspired me, feel free to check out her blog: