What I’ve Learned this Year

This is our first entire year with two kids and man it is Nuts. Bonkers. Insane. Cray Cray. It’s been a lot of fun, which I’m sure is obvious. But it’s also actually been one of the most humbling years and I’ve learned more this year than any other in a long time, both about my surroundings and about myself. I know Oprah has her Things she Knows for Sure. I’m no Oprah, but for the sake of retrospect, here are the things I’ll try to take away from this year the most. There are many components to our life, so these are a little all over the board.

  1. I can really do anything I choose to. Isn’t it an absolutely incredibly country we live in? We’re so fortunate that we can do pretty much anything we want. This becomes very apparent when I think about priorities. Some people prioritize health and fitness. Some people prioritize their families. Some people prioritize work. Some prioritize learning. The point is there are days when I think to myself, “I’m so frustrated I can’t do that.” And then after a little while I realize that I actually can; it’s just a matter of prioritization. Sometimes I’ll take that information and simply prioritize what I want and sometimes it’s a matter of understanding I actually have more important priorities and I can’t do it all, but I can do what I choose to.
  2. Love is an action. One of the consistent things I hear people try to figure out is love. They want to know how they can make their relationships work for life and how other people do it. Being in a family with divorce and seeing so many people get divorced, I obviously want to do everything I can to not only make my marriage last forever, but be happy doing so. On one of our date nights this year, Brian told me “love is a verb and a verb is an action.” I thought about that for awhile. Sometimes as human beings we get in a funk or something’s not right and we just keep going and doing and operating, but we forget about investing in our relationships. Sometimes all it takes is making sure you look at someone in the eyes, smile and give them a kiss. Simple actions can make our time together more pleasant, even when we feel like we’re caught up in the grind.
  3. Energy and connections are what life is about. There are few things that make me more happy than a genuine experience with someone I’m really connected to. I’ve seen people try so hard to make relationships work when there just isn’t a natural energy or connection. It probably sounds a little woo-woo, but I sincerely believe that there is an element of energy in the world we do not understand and cannot explain. When we force a connection (which I’ve definitely done it the past) it inevitably fails. When we focus our energy on the natural connections that please us, the joy that comes from them is immense.
  4. Imperfection is perfection. I took a Myer’s Briggs test at work this year and discovered what I already knew about myself and what every other Myer’s Briggs test and Myer’s Briggs-like test had told me in the past – that I am a perfectionist. I try very hard at pretty much everything I do. But I think what I’ve learned more and more about perfection as I’ve gotten older is what the definition is to me. Having everything appear to be perfect and look perfect and feel perfect is not perfection; it is stagnation. It is being blind. Perfection to me is trying new things, sometimes failing at them, sometimes being wrong (although not very often in my case…wink wink). Perfection is sharing our failures and our vulnerabilities with others so that they may learn something from them and feel empowered to be vulnerable to us. Perfection in life is feeling the downs so that we may fully appreciate the ups. I love this definition because it allows me to not be scared of doing the wrong thing; it allows me to take action and try something new. As a parent, there are too many things out of my control to be scared of – I don’t need to worry about falling on my face or appearing a little “un-put-together.”
  5. Death is unpredictable and unfair. This year, my step mom and one of my friends lost several family members each. For some of them, we may have known their time was near, but for too many of them, their deaths were completely surprising and unpredictable. Last Christmas my dad spent a lot of time in the hospital and narrowly escaped dying. My dad is not a man of many words, but this Christmas he wrote in our Christmas card: “Love to see your family grow and mature. Enjoy it since it goes so fast. Hoping that 2015 will be joyous and rewarding.” I’ll do my best to heed the advice of enjoying the people around me and my life.
  6. Life is unpredictable and unfair. Every day things happen to us. What I do know is we have a choice about what to put out there in advance and of how to respond after. Even when I know I’m not responding perfectly, I talk to myself about it. If I’m mad about something, I literally sit there an tell myself “you don’t need to be mad Lacie, what is it really going to accomplish?” At the end of the day I don’t want to make myself a happy little robot, but I do want to get better and quicker at processing situations and responding in the most productive way possible.
  7. It’s cliche, but it really is the little things. Sometimes Ellie will randomly say to me “Mom, you look so beautiful” or Piper will blow me a kiss. If joys and sorrows are a bank in life, these little things on a daily basis keep me richer. Cherishing those little moments and responding positively keeps me going and I’ve noticed it keeps the little things more plentiful.
  8. Health feels good. For me, the first year after having a baby is the most difficult. Like all parents, we sacrifice greatly for our kids. Part of that for me has been not prioritizing my normal workout regimen. Getting back into a more active lifestyle makes me feel so good. Putting good food in my body produces the same results. If someone asked me what they can do to make themselves feel better, the first thing I would ask them about is their health. I truly think it’s key.
  9. You can pick your battles with a toddler, but when you do, you better be ready to win. It’s never fun to go through a toddler meltdown. Toddlers are the most one-track-minded people I have ever met. They will wear on you with their request over and over and over again, but once you’ve said no, standing firm is mandatory. I’m no expert for sure (and I know there are many out there), but there is a way to pick a battle and win without a meltdown and in a loving way. It’s tough and definitely a daily struggle, but I truly believe it’s imperative in order to help a toddler grow and learn.
  10. Lead by example. Our kids, our spouses, our co-workers – everyone around us – will respond to us in the way we respond to them. It’s a basic principle we’ve been teaching Ellie. If she grabs toys from Piper, Piper will grab toys from her. If she pushes Piper, Piper will push her. I actually had a breakthrough the other day in the car with Ellie. She was playing with Piper’s new “cell phone” that she got from her buddies Enzo and Archie. Piper was trying to get it from her for a few minutes and Ellie would not give it up. Over and over again I said “Ellie, I know you’re playing with Piper’s toy, but I think she would really love it if you shared with her.” At some point she set the plastic phone down and at some point later I handed Piper Ellie’s Violet (a talking stuffed dog). Ellie kept saying “I want Violet, that’s my Violet.” I said “Ellie, if you want Piper to hand you Violet, maybe you should offer her the cell phone.” Ellie gave Piper the cell phone and Piper handed her the Violet. I literally wanted to jump up and down. The way to get what you want in the world is to give it.
  11. We’re all the same. This is the one thing I’ve thought about so much throughout this year especially. We are all made out of the same stuff. We are all human beings. Some of us were fortunate to be born into lives and families that are more comfortable than others and admittedly I happen to be one of them, something I’m incredibly grateful for. That doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. I literally could have been in a multitude of other situations just out of pure chance. I think about this all the time when I hear people express political views that benefit or harm certain people in the world. I think about it all the time when I hear people give parenting advice. I think about it all the time when something great happens to someone or when something bad happens to someone. If we’re all the same in this world, philosophically we ought to treat each other nicer. We don’t have to love everyone in the world, but by truly understanding we’re all the same and in some way connected, perhaps our actions toward each other would be slightly more positive.

This year has been amazing and incredible, and at the same time challenging and sometimes excruciating. The beauty of a new year is reflecting on that, learning from it and using those learnings to shape the next year and beyond. I guess that’s what a resolution is all about, so my resolution this year is to take what I learned last year and apply it moving forward. Vague, I know. Perhaps lame. But I’ve never been a resolutions person, so why start now?