Monday, February 2, 2015

A Change for the Better

I have a favorite new word.
It is NO.
The best part about it is that I am actually learning to use it on a pretty regular basis.
Don't get me wrong.  There are some things I have never had a hard time saying no to.
For instance:
"Mom, can I drive your car instead of dad's?"  NO
"Would you like to stay at work for a few extra hours today?"  NO
"Can I get you to step on the scale quick so I can get your weight?"  NO
"Are you finished with that dessert? Should I take your plate?" NO!
"Could you get up at 6am and drive me to school?" NO
"Would you like to go for a 5 mile run today?" Hell NO
And so on.

However, there are many things that I found it difficult to say no to as well.
For most of my adult life, I would take advantage of any opportunity offered to me.
If I got a call asking me to sing or play for something, I would always accept if I had the date available.  Early in my career, I did it to build my reputation, as well as to earn a living.  Eventually, I didn't have to worry anymore about "getting my name out there" but I continued to take these opportunities because I typically enjoyed them, and it was a way for me to make extra income.  I would be foolish to turn down any opportunity to make money, right?
Well, a few years ago, I finally started to figure it all out.

I started to realize that I wasn't enjoying all of the "extra" things I was doing anymore.  Rather than looking forward to going to these rehearsals or gigs or whatever it was, I was starting to dread it.  I was longing for those blank calendar boxes, rather than having everyday packed with activity.
I was tired of being tired.  I was sick of coming home to a disaster of a house, having no clue what to make for dinner, and feeling completely overwhelmed.
I needed to start taking care of my family, my home and me!
I still remember the day when I made the decision that anything I agreed to had to fit one of two criteria:
It either had to be very lucrative, or very fun.
If it didn't fit into one of those categories...I wasn't going to do it.

I was going to start putting my needs first for a change.  
There was nothing worse than that feeling of agreeing to something, and then regretting every minute of it.
I had been in that boat too many times.
I wasn't a person who would pull out of a commitment, so if I had agreed to do something....I was going to see it through.
When that "something" was a project I had reluctantly agreed to do....I would spend the next several weeks kicking myself for saying yes until the darn thing was OVER.
I never wanted to feel that way again.
I only wanted to be involved in things that I was ready to commit to 100%.

I am sure that I have become more "selfish" since I've made these changes...and you know what?  I really am just fine with that.
What good am I to anyone if I constantly spread myself so thin, that I am miserable in every facet of my life?
I have also come to realize that my time is worth more than money.
It's so easy to say "yes" to each little accompanying job that comes my way....because that is how it sounds.
When someone calls and says "can you play for one song?" it sounds quick and simple.  However, the reality of it is never quick and simple.
It always involves setting up a rehearsal time...driving to wherever to do that.  Then, driving to the performance, audition, whatever....waiting around for it to start. (God forbid, it's a recital...then I get to sit through an hour or more, waiting to play for ONE song) and after I have put at least 2-3 hours of my time into playing for this ONE song....I may or may not walk away with a check equivalent to what I make sitting in my home teaching piano lessons for an hour (assuming they haven't forgotten, and "will get it to me later") and drive home wondering why the hell I do this to myself.

Here is the deal.
I have been working on my "tidying up" after reading that book I had mentioned a few weeks ago.
It's funny, because in it, she talks about how during the tidying process, often times people figure out what their true calling is.
I think I have found mine (and I'm only two rooms into the project!)
I want to be a HERMIT!
I seriously could just stay at home all day everyday and be blissful.
My bliss levels go up as the tidiness increases.
It's my happy place.  I guess this is how I say yes to happiness, and block out the things and people that stress me out?!

It's strange, because I used to thrive on that socialization aspect of life that I loved so much.
Now...I could totally live without it.  I am perfectly content being alone with my dogs.  
I mean, I can still act like a normal person in public, so there is no need to call in a specialist for a psych evaluation or anything.....yet. ;)
I do think this shift has been a challenge for some of my friends that I used to spend a lot of time with during my very social phase.  
I guess, in some respects, it is almost like I dropped of the face of the earth, and just retreated into my home, never to really resurface.
Once again, I can't apologize for following my heart, and taking the time to really figure out what I needed to do, and where I needed to be.
For SO long, I felt like I was searching for WHAT I needed to be.
I really believed that my worth was defined by what I did for a living....where my career path took me.
If I wasn't doing something important, or meaningful, or something that stood out and got me noticed, I must just be wasting my life then.
I really felt like I was failing, because I didn't have a clear path, or idea as to what I wanted to do.
Once I got out of teaching, I was sort of just floating.
I'm not sure if it was my parents, or my husband, or society...or maybe just myself that convinced me that this is how I should feel.
At any rate...I am really glad that I was able to change my thinking on it.
I don't feel that way at all anymore.
Now, I wonder why on earth I would ever want to pursue something I didn't necessarily love, just because I felt like I needed to do something for the 'greater good'.
I spent 15 years of my life working my butt off as a teacher.  Now, I look at the hit Wisconsin educators are taking because of our current leadership, and it is just disgusting and disheartening.  I have never worked harder at any job in my life, nor have I ever been more stressed out and exhausted in any job as I did when I was teaching.  (And remember, I'm a farm girl who grew up working on a dairy farm and spent my summers planting tobacco and bailing hay.  I'm not some lightweight who doesn't know what "real work" is!)
In my opinion, life is too short to spend it doing something that doesn't make you happy or feed your soul.  When Sunday night would come around, and I wanted to cry because I knew what Monday morning would bring...I knew a change needed to be made.
I no longer feel like I need some big, powerful, impressive job to make my life meaningful.
Seriously....have you ever seen a tombstone that read "She was a great lawyer" or "excellent brain surgeon?"   
Right now, I am just really happy doing my music thing, and being a mom.  
It is hitting me really hard that my daughter is going to be a senior next year.  I thought I was going to be totally fine with that, but I now realize I am NOT.
I am already trying to stop the clock, and hold on to her.  She is way too special to let go, and I am already conjuring up way too many things to worry about.
I need to quit watching 48 Hours.  Good Lord.  I wish I could lock her in her room, and home school her through college!  (That should go over well.)
So, rather than worry about solving the world's problems, or making a big name for myself....I am going to just take these next few years and make the time I have left with my kids at home as meaningful as I can.
I feel like I missed a lot when they were younger, because I was always working 7 days a week.  And for what?  I would rather live frugally and enjoy time with my family.  In the end, they are all that really matters anyway.  The material stuff is just stuff.  
When it comes to the people I love, I will always say YES.

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