penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Looking behind, looking ahead

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I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions.  I’m more of a make it up as you go kind of girl.  If you have a good idea for self improvement, there’s no time like the present!  I have also found that New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep – what seemed like a good idea after a couple of glasses of red wine on December 31 may be difficult to follow through on during the harsh realities of January.

That being said, the closing of the year and the beginning of another are a good time to take stock and think about improvements that might be made.

What happened to me in 2012?  And what might be in the cards for the year to come?

My mother was diagnosed with cancer.

What the doctors thought was hepatitis turned out to be pancreatic cancer.  If you will pardon the expression, this is the mother of all cancers.  After months of feeling like we have been living on death’s door, we had a bit of good news on New Year’s Eve – the treatment my mother has taken has stopped the cancer from growing and spreading so far.  But it remains camped out on an artery and so is inoperable. 

I can’t even begin to explain how this news has affected our family.  We’ve fallen apart. But we’ve stood together too.

I’ve learned how strong a person my mom is.  Despite major surgery and chemotherapy, she has dealt with everything with a positive attitude and a wicked sense of humour. 

She is my hero.

My dad has never run from a fight, and he isn’t running from this one either.

He is my hero too.

My aunt, despite having many hardships and health issues herself has been there every step of the way, guiding us through the maze of hospitals and treatments.

I’m also going to buy her a cape.

My brothers, sisters-in-law, my husband and my kids have been supportive all the way along.  We’ve had intelligent conversations about how to manage and we’ve all helped mom out. 

My parents’ friends and their communities have stepped forward to help in a myriad of ways that I can’t even begin to thank them for.  My own friends and communities have offered their help and their prayers.

I can’t possibly repay all of these people.

I don’t know what the future holds for mom or for us.

What I have learned from all of this – which I hope to take into the next year with me – is to appreciate what I have. At any moment, in a blink of an eye, it can all be taken away from you.  Like my mom, we are all living on borrowed time.

I also want to spend more quality time, with my mom, dad and siblings, with my husband and kids, and with all those that I care about. 

I want to be present in the moment and live in it.

I also want to be more like my heroes –  to face obstacles with a light heart, show strength in the midst of adversity and help others no matter what my own problems are.

I want to learn how to gracefully accept help when I need it and be thankful for it. 

I nearly lost my job

Many, many people who worked for the Canadian federal government lost their job this year.  It is hard to know exactly, but I believe I came within a hairs breadth of being one of them.  Many who worked around me were affected and were left either fighting for their job or out of a job all together. 

A couple of interesting things happened as a result.

First, I was impressed and humbled by the courage, professionalism and positive attitude that most people embraced the situation with.  It showed me the inner strength of the people around me at work.  I’m proud to work with each and every one of them.

Second, it gave me pause to evaluate the work that I was doing and contemplate what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this particular job.  My job, while important to our livelihood is not the only thing that defines me or my values.  How would we change our lives if I had to significantly adjust my work or was not working at all?  I realized that while there would be many challenges to this, it would not be the end of the world.  And if that were the case, why was I continuing in my current position rather than taking a few risks and trying something new? 

Over the next year, I want to think more deeply about the work that I am doing, about what motivates me, about what I can change.  Do I want to consider other opportunities and if so, what would the ideal position look like for me? How can I make the right connections to get there?

If I stay in my current work situation, I want to look for ways to create a positive workplace.  I need to create new challenges and ensure that the job stays interesting.  Otherwise it just becomes another grind – and there is no point in that. 

I stepped down as President

It wasn’t Mutiny on the Bounty.  It was more a slow realization that I needed to move on.

I have been president of the parent board of my kids’ daycare for three years.  It was a rocky bit of time, during which the daycare unionized and we needed to negotiate a contract.

I learned a lot about running a daycare.  It gave me new respect for the management and the staff who work there.  The take such great care of our kids and I know I don’t need to worry about them during the day because they are in good hands.  They are also great teachers – and a lot of learning goes on while they are playing.

I also met many great parents who care a lot about their kids and are willing to put a lot of time and effort into volunteering.  Many of them had my back during difficult times – I can’t thank them enough.

I also learned a lot about managing difficult staff, mediation and how unions work.  This was all experience that was extremely useful to my current position – and it was helpful to figure it out in an arena that was different from my work place.

I learned about the value (and cost) of a good lawyer.  And a good mediator. 

I felt an enormous amount of accomplishment as we signed the contract just as I stepped down.  It felt good to knowing that we had found a balance between protecting our wonderful staff and representing the parents’ need for affordable daycare.

However, also I found it the process to be exhausting.  It took more time away from my family than I expected.  I’m feeling a bit burned out.  As a result, I have decided not to volunteer for anything for the next year.  This is not a decision I am taking lightly.

I believe that volunteering is important, and I fully intend to volunteer again in the future.  I’ve had many rewarding experiences volunteering not just for the daycare, but also for other organizations. It’s one way to gain experience that you will never learn at work or in the normal daily course of life.  It’s a great opportunity to network and meet new people. You find out what is really going on behind the scenes. You gain so much, while at the same time, giving back to the community.

It also sets a good example for the children – volunteering is all a part of being a good citizen. 

For the next year, I want to have a look at my commitments and see if there are other organizations that need my skills. Or if there are skills I want to learn that volunteering may help me with.  I have very small amounts of free time though, so I want to make sure that every minute spent volunteering counts.

I may start volunteering again before next year ends, but only for the right reasons and for the right organization – and only when I have enough energy to do it right.

I rejoined the gym

Actually, unbeknownst to me, my workplace gym membership never lapsed while I was away on maternity leave.  So rejoining was easy as technically I had never left.  Too bad no one had told my body that.

I started going back regularly in early summer.  I stuck to a routine.  Things went fairly well until late fall when my husband changed his morning schedule and the snow hit, making the morning commute sluggish (it’s almost become a workout in itself).

It’s not enough.

I feel like I can and should be doing more to improve my health.  Now that I’m forty-two my metabolism has slowed to a crawl.  Despite working out, my weight has slowly crept back up the same as it was when I was three months pregnant.  I am also looking at my mom and dad’s health and wondering if there are measures I can take to avoid the issues they have.  

This year I plan to become healthier. I’m going to start paying attention to the food and drink I put in my mouth. I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back on the work out wagon. Realistically this will happen closer to spring time when the kids all start going to the same school, the snow disappears and I can get a better routine down.  But I can look for opportunities right now to take a walk, go for a skate, or hike up and down a toboggan hill.

I don’t need to run a marathon by the end of 2013, but I want to be able to run around the block without being out of breath. Or jiggling enough to cause the neighbours to talk.

My kids are the best reason in the world to do this – I want to live with a quality of life good enough to enjoy their energy level as they grow up. 

I started this blog

I started this blog in November.  I’ve managed keep up my writing little by little, week by week.  It has already helped me feel calmer and to think more clearly.  It has helped me get some of my ideas down on paper in a way I haven’t before.  It has been a surprising little victory for me so far.

In the next year, I want to continue writing on this blog and make it a habit.  I want to be braver about being more creative.  I want to expand on my opportunities to write. I hope to use these writing opportunities as a spring board to improved writing at work – and to find ways around the limitations work tends to impose on my writing. 

An integral part of good writing is good reading.  I have found that due to lack of time I don’t read as much as I used to.  I’m lucky if I can get part way through a magazine article.  I’d like to get back to reading actual books – and maybe even blogging about them.

Through this blog, I’ve also dipped my big toe into the vast ocean that is social media.  It’s too huge and complex to comprehend with any sense of expertise at the moment, but I plan on doing more exploring this year.

I resolve

I don’t plan to conquer the world this year – I’m doomed to failure if I try that.  I am hoping that through small improvements that are all part of a larger project, I can conquer parts my life and wrangle it into some kind of order. 

Whether or not it all works out, only time and the next year will tell.

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Written by pennyinacastle

January 1, 2013 at 3:33 pm

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