06 March 2017

New Year's Resolutions 2017: Family Edition

It's been forever since I blogged. The last 18 months have truly been some of the hardest months of my life. Actually, the last 8 months have been the worst. 

This year our family wrote our resolutions for the year on a little white board that is tacked to the door leading from the kitchen to the garage. We see it every day, many times a day.

Here are our family goals:

Tyson: 1) try the Keto diet; 2) focus on spirituality
Denise: find peace
William: 1) increase personal-habit skills; 2) do a sport (or swim lessons) and/or start learning piano
Matthew: 1) no more pacifiers (ACCOMPLISHED); 2) potty-train? (too young? maybe)

Matthew is winning since it's the beginning of March, he just turned 2, and he's totally off of pacifiers. It helped adopting Frankie because Frankie basically chewed all the pacifiers into oblivion and I didn't buy more.

You may notice my goal for the year is a bit vague. I only wrote that two-word phrase on the white board for brevity; I know my goal has more parts, though that doesn't make it any more quantifiable.

Good goals are supposed to be quantifiable. You must be able to record it and see your progress. Without any kind of measurement system, how can you determine your progress?

My goal is really this: come to peace with my exit from the standard workforce and find ways to strengthen my testimony (specifically, attend the temple more regularly, be more consistent in my scripture reading, pray every day, and use other Church resources for study, like General Conference talks, BYU devotionals, manuals, etc.). Part II is fairly straight-forward. But Part I has been weighing on my mind for the last eight months.

Part I: Come to peace with my exit from the standard workforce
In August 2015 I got my first full-time job. I had finished my master's degree, my second baby was 6-months-old, and things were going well. I LOVED that job. The first few months were interesting due to some unconventional team dynamics, but in January 2016 I was moved to a new area of the office, with actual people, and things got so much better. I was great at my job. I was finding ways to streamline and maximize our process. I made friends. My cubicle-mates were hilarious and I loved working with them.

In July 2016 the company decided to move in a new direction by effectively shutting down one side of their process. My side. I was let go. And it wasn't just me. Many people lost their jobs and it was very sad for a lot of people. I sort of knew it was coming. I could feel that things were changing. I had started looking on job sites for other opportunities. But when the day came, July 12, I was devastated. I was told that I was being let go because of the company's change, not because of my performance. In fact, they told me they thought I was wonderful and they really wished I could stay. They asked if I'd be willing to work as a contractor in the future. I cried. And I thought I understood. I thought I was fine.

I found temporary work quickly after that. And I found a part-time job I didn't particularly enjoy shortly after my temp work ended. That part-time job was as a teaching assistant for a professor in BYU's MBA program. The class was a leadership class, one of the first classes the new MBA students take. I was required to attend class and I learned a ton about leadership, personal missions, and something called the COP model. The COP model (Competency, Opportunity, and Passion) teaches that if you can find a job where you land in all three categories, you have found your career "sweet-spot". The more I thought about that model, and the more I learned about other models, the more I felt that my job I had been fired from HAD been my sweet spot. I was good at my job (Competency), I was getting paid for it (Opportunity), and I loved the work (Passion). After realizing this, how could I continue to work at a part-time job that wasn't in a field I loved, where I felt I wasn't using my skills effectively?

In November 2016 I was approached by a local marketing company with an offer to be an editor on their team. I was thrilled. They wanted me to work temporarily as a contractor until the new year when they finalized their budget, but then they would hire me full-time. I quit my TA job at the end of the semester, assuming I'd be working full-time in January. Then they decided to have me just work as a contractor. That was fine, too. I was getting 20 hours a week, I could work from home, I loved the work, I was learning new things, and I was getting to know the people I worked with. A few weeks later, the company found they didn't have the budget for contract work and they pulled all contracted work back in-house "for the foreseeable future". And I was out of a job. Again.

I couldn't help feeling like that was just something they told me. I didn't really believe that they didn't have the budget. I started to feel totally incompetent. I had applied for another editing job in October and was told I wasn't good enough. Now I was really starting to believe it. What was the point in even looking for a new job? I don't have the skills. No one would hire me. And, in the spirit of honesty, I'm still dealing with these feelings of inadequacy. 

In October 2016, the depression really kicked in. I had to see a therapist. I was taking anti-depressants. I had a pretty awful experience with a temple worker, which certainly didn't help anything. There were a few nights I contacted the Crisis Line. I tried to find new hobbies and practice new skills. I played the piano a lot. I started using some essential oils. I downloaded a meditation/breathing app on my phone. I tried coloring books. All my old tricks for relaxing. But no matter what I tried or how hard I prayed, I didn't feel any peace about our situation. And nothing seemed to get better. In fact, things got worse. 

In January, the day I lost my hours from the marketing company, my throat started to hurt. By the next day I had a fever and I could barely talk. I went to the doctor who told me it was just a virus, and he sent me home. Tyson thinks it's because I've been under so much stress that my body just gave out. I'm inclined to believe him. It's been almost two months and I'm just now starting to feel better. Some days are better, some days are worse.

In the meantime, I am trying to learn how to be an effective stay-at-home mom. I've been working at least part-time since before William was born. This is my first crack at being home full-time. I am trying to find a cleaning routine, cook more meals at home, plan activities with my kids, etc. I feel like I really don't know very much about keeping a house, especially when it comes to gardening, which is a challenge with the yard we have. It's one thing to maintain a home, but I want our home to thrive.

Today I came across a documentary on Netflix about minimalism. I've been reading about minimalism for a while now, and I've even tried implementing a few principles to de-junk parts of the house. I sorted through the kids' toys, cleaned out a bunch of old dishes/sippy cups, and donated a bunch of old clothes a while ago. But it wasn't enough. While watching that documentary today, I finally felt like this is what I need to do. For my sanity. For the health and well-being of my family. Minimalism is maybe not THE answer, but it's part of it.

So, now I have a project. Something to guide my days at home. I'm not a very sentimental person, so I don't think I'll have a big problem with most of our stuff. Except for our books. That might be harder. Our plan is to sort through all our stuff, and anything we want to get rid of will be listed online for sale or saved for a yard sale. Everything left after the yard sale will be donated. All our profits will go to paying off debt and increasing our savings.

After we de-junk our house, we have to instigate some rules to keep our things minimal. I don't yet know what those rules will be, but I think one will be no new toys for the kids unless they swap it out for one they already have. And maybe no toys as presents. Instead they can receive outings and experiences.

 I haven't talked much about what I've been dealing with in regards to my depression. It's definitely been a learning experience for me and Tyson both. We've been married for 6.5 years and in all that time I've played the role of caregiver while Tyson has struggled with his chronic depression, anxiety, and ADD. Suddenly, I was the one who needed the support. This trial has helped us see through each other's eyes a bit more. I am optimistic about our foray into minimalism because I've read that reducing clutter helps ease stress and the overwhelming symptoms of depression.

I'm definitely going to continue my research and continue to post about our progress. Any advice from those who subscribe to minimalism in any degree would be most welcome.

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