numbers mean everything

If you’ve ever read anything about goal setting, you know that one of the keys is setting goals that are measurable. I love a goal with a definitive end point, something I can draw a big, bold line through.

The trouble is that sometimes, I see more value in the things I can measure – places where I can assign a number, a value, a literal marker of progress.

One of the reasons I’ve submitted so wholeheartedly to paying off debt is that it’s a tangible marker of progress every month in the midst of a life that otherwise often feels messy and confusing. 

We’re all motivated by different things, and one of my key motivators is validation. I’m always looking for proof that I’m doing enough, and I wish I were better at accepting the kind words from people who know and love me best. Instead, I look for tangible evidence.

In my mind, work that makes money always trumps work that doesn’t, even though some of the most important work any of us do on earth is unpaid. A paycheck is tangible evidence, and I put way too much of my identity into that number.

There’s nothing in me that particularly loves money. When I picture life with more money, I don’t think about what I would buy or where I would move. I don’t really care about having much more than I do now. It’s the sense of validation I’m looking for – the tangible, higher value of my work and time.

I don’t obsess over blog numbers, but I do define “success” for my blog based on numbers. It’s easy to say that if your words reach one person, blogging is worth it, but I do look for numbers as an indicator of how meaningful my words are. 

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My summer jam

July 18, 2014 — 2 Comments

my summer jam

Mmm summer. I always get the intense urge to slow down around this time – late July, early August. This year, it coincides with a family vacation, so all the more reason to spend more time outside, away from my laptop, enjoying the people I love.

Most of the thoughts I’ve had to share with you have been more superfluous than usual. So I thought, summer Friday? Perfect time for a list of stuff I’ve been into lately!

1. Trying new recipes

No one is more surprised about this than I am. I’ve been inspired to get creative in my kitchen again after months (years?) of dragging myself through the motions of feeding myself and Mike.

I love eating light and simply in the summer, so our dinners haven’t gotten very elaborate, but I did try these recipes in the past month or so:

banana walnut granola • browned butter banana bread • Marcona almond blondiesricotta basil bruschetta • sangria • whipped coconut cream • spicy zucchini frittata • cauliflower crust pizza • balsamic roasted quinoa

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babies and bellies revisited

I wrote last year around this time about not wanting a baby yet, even while everyone I know is having them.

Mostly, I feel the same way now that I did then, but I’m inching closer to the possibility. What has changed is that even more of my friends have babies now, and I’ve had more honest conversations with mothers, would be mothers and Mike.

I’m struck by the underlying assumption that we can (and should) control the timing of pregnancy. Am I more anxious because it’s a decision, something I choose to do rather than something that happens to me?

For most of human history, women haven’t had choices like we do. I’m grateful for them, but man, is that some pressure or what?

Maybe it won’t surprise you that this false sense of control is what I fear losing most.

As many parents will say, you’re never “ready.” There’s no such thing as the perfect time. There’s no getting around the weighty responsibility and permanent change that accompanies new life.

When I wrote about this topic last year, I wrote that at some point, gradually or all at once, I would stop seeing a baby as the end to life as I know it, and view it instead as the beginning of something so much better.

Well, here I am, a year later, and I’m not there yet. My view of motherhood is still closer to the “unwelcome interruption” end of the spectrum than the “greatest gift” side. 

*I am sensitive to the fact that many of you are on the other side of the spectrum, and are struggling with infertility. Please don’t take my honesty as callous or harsh or unaware of your struggle. My tears and prayers are with you and while I may not understand your specific pain, I want to acknowledge it.

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smartest person in the room

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

I bristled the first time I heard this, because like most people, my ego subconsciously seeks circles where I can be among the most smart, capable, or talented. 

I recently worked on a project where I was decidedly the least experienced, proven and knowledgable person on the team, which got me thinking about this idea, and how valuable it is to swallow my pride and embrace being in the middle or the bottom of a group.

Middle of the pack

High school wasn’t fun for me. There was the usual stress and anxiety that comes with breaking through to young adulthood, but it was also the first time I found myself somewhere in the middle of the pack academically. 

I had never been the prettiest, funniest, or most popular, so I’d taken immense pride in being one of the smart ones in earlier grades. When I realized I wasn’t anymore, my identity unraveled.

To my relief and despair, my freshman English teacher confirmed that I still stood out in the subject I’d excelled in most, granting me an award.

I felt equal parts glowing pride for being picked and embarrassment at such a small, somewhat meaningless award when it felt like my classmates ran circles around me. 

They didn’t just excel at one thing; they had perfect GPA’s and took advanced math classes and made JV and varsity sports teams as freshmen.

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filing up, pouring out

When I heard about the idea of choosing one word as a focus and theme for the year, I knew immediately what my word would be for 2014: serve

I recognized in myself that human tendency to become consumed with my needs and plans, and my life is meant for more than that. (And so is yours.) For what profit is there if we gain the whole world but lose our souls?

I also noticed that overly focusing on myself triggered anxiety, stress, self loathing, a false sense of pressure, and discontentment. I never like what I see when I look too hard at myself, because my flaws/needs/deficiencies appear larger than they are. 

Shifting my perspective off myself and onto God and other people refocuses that energy I might otherwise spend feeling anxious and unhappy. 

A picture to come back to

Have you ever picked a catchword to redirect your attention when you’re trying to maintain focus? I’ve heard it’s a useful practice, though I can’t say I’ve really tried it.

There is a picture, though, an image that brings me back to “serve” when I’m deeply focused on myself.

The picture is of a glass bottle being slowly, methodically poured out until it’s empty. I see that image, I hear the water, and I remember to ask myself:

“Are you more focused on who’s pouring what into you, or are you pouring out every ounce of what you have to offer for the benefit of others?”

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