Monday, April 3, 2017

Purposeful Project: Conclusion

In short: I failed. I suppose it did not bode well for me that I was behind on my monthly projects by month 2. By month three it totally went out the window and by month three I hadn’t even looked at the list to see what I was supposed to be doing that month.

In November, we decided to host family for Thanksgiving, and that was equally fulfilling as checking all the boxes on the list I never got around to creating. I originally intended November to be the month I wanted to be more intentional about spending time with the kids in my life – nieces, nephews, and goddaughters. It’s tough for me to want to give up free time, but especially with kids, time just goes so fast. It wasn’t exactly intentional the way it lined up with my “purposeful project” goals, but I did end up seeing the kids on Jason’s side a few times that month, took Claire shopping for her birthday, and went ice skating with my goddaughters. Though I didn’t exactly set up a checklist, having that goal in the back of my mind helped me recognize that time spent with people I love is so valuable that I don’t need to feel guilty about what isn’t getting done.

I got really busy with a new work assignment in December, so, instead of my purposeful project for this month, I consider it a success that I used the free time I did have to help a friend, do what I needed to keep myself sane, and enjoy holidays with the family at the end of the month. By the way, the focus that month was going to be on the home. That’s a big category, but specifically I wanted to be intentional to make it a place of refuge and treasured memories. Really, the main goal I had was to get some photos on the walls. (And in my dreams, I wanted to transform our house into a hotel, complete with housekeeping staff.) I want our house to be a place that is a relief to come home to. So to me that means taking steps to make it a clean, calm, and pretty place to be. The pictures didn’t happen, but the Christmas decorations did make it nice and cozy, so that kind of hit the mark.

January was going to be my month dedicated to food. I know, I know – basically my whole life - or at least a disproportionate amount of my time and brain - is dedicated to food anyways, but specifically I wanted to get more organized with it: declutter the pantry, do something about the stack of recipes on the bookshelf, and maybe even create some kind of grocery shopping checklist. I did get the pantry organized with Jason’s help and a trip to the Container Store, but the rest of it fell by the wayside when Jason bumped some other house projects up on the priority list. But even that I was fine with, because I spent time getting tasks done that were important to Jason, so I knew it would bless him.

February I wanted to use to focus on marriage. One thing, according to studies, that contributes to happiness is surprises. Jason and I are really not that into surprises – I am a control freak so usually would rather plan things myself, and as an introvert, Jason is not blessed if surprises involve unexpected social situations (or leaving the house). However, I did want to try to surprise him more with things that really would bless him: notes in his lunchbox or maybe a favorite food. I also wanted to have a more charitable mindset towards him. I find that many of our conflicts come when we disagree about things that aren’t morally right or wrong – we just seem to approach things the most opposite ways possible. Instead of letting this frustrate me, I want to recognize that “our differences make us stronger” or some other sentimental mumbo jumbo. But – eh, as should now be clear, I failed, so... Jason’s loss..(err.. I'll try next month?). The closest I got to surprising him was taking a running leap onto the couch he was sitting on and yelling, “Surprise!”

March was going to be the month that I got some of those nagging financial things done – look into various insurances, create a will, etc. For now, if I die, Jason will have to make his best guess at my banking passwords.

I've only got two months left to go.  April's theme is work/job and May is spiritual life.  I'm not that optimistic.  But you know what? Despite totally “failing” at my lists, I think I still succeeded anyway. I did have a bunch of goals that I wanted to stick to, but when I didn’t, I was more aware of the choices I was making. I think I’ve come to realize that one of my biggest frustrations is wasted time. I didn’t mind skipping the to-do list as long as the time was still well spent.

One part of this was recognizing when other tasks were more important.  I was more aware that leaving things undone in order to make relationships with others a priority, not burn myself out, and enjoy time with Jason was ok.  It was like I gave myself mental permission to enjoy whatever I was doing, even if it wasn’t on my list or kept me from getting to said list. Because if I was doing it, it was probably more important, right? I didn’t have to feel guilty about what didn’t happen, and I could more fully engage in what did.

I think without realizing it, I also ended up just not doing things I didn’t want to do. I tried to stop feeling obligated to do tasks that, for me, were not worth the time. So, I spend a few dollars more to go to the grocery store that is more convenient, but doesn’t have the best prices. I’ve gotten better at making dinners that are easy, even if we had the same thing a week ago. When appropriate, I’ve even left meetings once I start to feel that antsy/ frustrated feeling that comes when the discussion is totally irrelevant for me.

Finally, I realized that a big time suck for me is that I am a maximizer.  In the age of the internet, literally every decision could be researched, price checked, and polled on social media.  There is a great quote by Voltaire in Candide about “Do not let perfect be the enemy of good.”  All the information and choice we have access to can create the idea that there is a “perfect” option out there – the perfect hotel to stay at, the perfect recipe for angel food cake, or the perfect luggage to buy.  For me, this can lead to researching every decision ad nauseum.  You think this would make it better, but it doesn’t.  It often leads to frustration over time spent, agonizing over minor decisions, and constant second-guessing.   So I’m trying to be ok with “good enough,” though this one is still really hard for me.

I don’t have high hopes for the remaining few months, but that’s my update. I didn’t do most of the things on my lists, but I do think I’ve managed to be more purposeful with my time anyways, which was the original goal. I guess life kind of jumped on the couch next to me yelling, “Surprise!” and science is right – it did make me happier.