Me and Bilbo and Aerosmith

I turned 40 this summer and honestly, 40 feels great. It offers all sorts of permissions to be really, truly, wholey myself. I mean, by this point I am certain in who I am and what I will accept; I’m not gonna step around toes so much any more. I mean…

I’m 40, YOU aren’t the boss of me.

Additionally, I’m leaning into permission for grace in all sorts of ways. There is space for grace for my body and all it has experienced and accomplished. I am loving finding ways to nurture it in health instead of beating it into submission (or ignoring it and hiding from the world). I don’t need to try to force myself into some fully subjective societal construct of beauty. I’m 40! I don’t need you to like my ass!

On top of all that, I’m relaxing into knowing that life goes on even if I’m not perfect. I can make mistakes, adjust, and mive forward without drama. Imagine that!!

This new decade of life, besides providing confidence that comes with age and experience, slipped me a gift in the form of some new and welcome changes for my day-to-day world. For the first time in my almost 16 years of parenting, ALL 6 of my kids are in school. They are spread across 4 different schools, but they are ALL gone from the house during the day. Just me, the cats, the dog, and the chickens are at home from 9:15am-2:30pm. The silence has been amazing and taking shower (or a poop) without children in the bathroom talking at/to me is unreal.

But..I’ve never done this before…this whole alone-and-in-charge-of-only-myself thing is totally foreign to me. I mean, I grew up in a family with 2 brothers, an extrovert dad, and a homebody mom. Then I moved into a dorm-style living situation in college. Then I got married and worked full-time until I became a mother. I have never been “on my own” during the day. I’m completely thrilled and also a bit overwhelmed—I feel almost unmoored by the freedom in front of me. I have 5.25 hours each day “to myself” and feel a little frozen trying to decide what I want to do.

Of course, there is the mom/keeper-of-the-home side of me that thinks about how clean I could get this place. I also think about all the DIY projects I could bang out in a month. Then there is all the art I could create, and all the trails I could hike, and all the hours I could volunteer with refugee families, and all the books I could read, and all the yoga classes, and all the baking projects (I WILL conquer cinnamon rolls one of these days!!) And napping!!! How could I forget about napping?!?!?

However, after the “Creating Space” series I know that some relief from doing/producing/striving is needed in my days. I’m beat, just plain depleated. I don’t so much feel physically exhausted, but I feel like Bilbo Baggins described himself before he disappeared at his birthday party:

“I feel thin, stretched out, like butter scraped over too much bread.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Rings)

The past few years have been emotionally draining with plenty of unexpected changes on multiple fronts. My fight-or-flight stores are drained and I need to shift so that I can rebuild all that lost ground.

Neghar Fonooni (@negharfonooni), an inspirational yet delightfully salty voice on IG likes to say, “Energy in before energy out.” I’ve neglected the “energy in” part for so, so long but have had the “energy out” part on full blast. My butter can’t spread across all my bread. Time to change all of that.

So, I want to get this right, honor myself, use my 5.25 hours wisely. At the risk of sounding like Aerosmith (boy, I’m quoting a lot today), I don’t want to miss a thing. But, I also don’t want invite too much into my world or put my energy into the wrong things.

Nevertheless, I am not going all paralysis-by-analysis here; analyzing myself into a corner is a bit of a habit with me. I’m going to start simple and loosely structure my days with plenty of space for mistakes, new growth, and/or modifications.

I know for certain from my “8×11 Life” page that I need space for experiences and feelings (adventure and belonging, 2 of my core values, btw). I am filled to the brim with feelings. I am basically emotion in walking, human form. I am going to try giving myself time alone to manage those feelings–processing, releasing, and coming back to equanimity. I’ve unsuccessfully put my emotions on the back burner for the past decade. It hasn’t been pretty. Barely touched emotional processing has bubbled over into anger, frustration, resentment. Like I said, not pretty. That can’t continue. I must use this gift of time to cultivate patterns of emotional wellness and long-term stability.

However, if I live only in my emotions I will become disconnected from reality. I need experiences to ground me, connecting to the greater world around me. I need the woods, different cultures, to create art, laugh with friends (and cry…I do love a good cry with friends), and eat good food.

So, I’m building my weeks and months around 2 foci: alone time for feeling my feels and experiences to connect my feelings to the world.

The loose structure is where I put these ideas into action. Have you read that quote about goals without plans are just dreams? Yeah, I bet you can guess I have tons of dreams. I do. I dream of traveling the world, building a teepee, racing a half Ironman. I have no plans in place to accomplish those, so they stay in dream form for now.

My days alone are real and need a plan. Here is how I’ve loosely broken down my days:

Monday: Groceries and prep for the week, personal appointments, housework, take a nap

Tuesday: Writing work, reading, baking

Wednesday: Writing, hike/explore a new neighborhood, family appointments

Thursday: Art day!!! Also a secondary hiking day.

Friday: Friday Farm Day! DIY and farm chores, friend time

Weekend: Family time, writing, exploring new places together, church, friends

I’ve really loved my time at home the past 4 weeks of the school year, investing into my rest (remember our discussion here?) so that I can be the best mom/wife/woman/human to all the people in my world. I have been pretty serious about honoring the structure I need, too. I felt bad doing it, but I’ve said no to lunch and coffee invites multiple times over the past few weeks. I love my friends but…my butter, ya know?

How can you set up your days and weeks and months to honor your needs? Do you prefer a more rigid structure or a loose one? Do you thrive with almost no structure? For those of you who work full-time, what do you do to honor your needs? I’d love to hear from you.

Connect with me over on IG (@bigbeautifuladventure) to see pics of how my daily routines work out over the next few weeks. I also post hilarious pics of my adventures with my kids and my farm life. I also have a cat that I swear sends me death threats via kitty telepathy. You can see her glaring at me over on IG, too.

Keep on keeping on, Brave Hearts!!! See you back here soon.

About

Welcome, Brave Hearts!

I’m done with fear. I’m done with weary. I’m done with being disconnected from myself and my world. My soul just can’t bear it any more.

I bet you are done, too, or the idea of being done sounds pretty fantastic.

It is a great idea, being done. It is almost a fantasy of what life *could* be like. But when you make the choice and drop the weight of fear, what then? What comes after the “done”?

Here, we will work to figure that out together. We will pay attention to that which turns our head and heart, those fears that keep us from moving forward, and we will dig deep to brave interaction with all of those thing, the goals being growing, learning, and connecting with the world around us.

Let’s do it. Let’s do it all. Let’s be curious, brave, go on adventures, let go, learn, connect with ourselves, with God, with our world. We can do this.

Bravery is just a skill and a skill that we can cultivate with compassionate intentionality. 

Bravery sometimes means risk…but it also could mean freedom, peace, knowledge, and connection.

If you feel stuck….

If you are afraid…

If you feel like you need more…

If you feel like an outsider…

If you aren’t naturally social but need to break out of your regular pattern…

If you are VERY social but need to recall your energies and find some calm…

If you just need relief and someone to share your journey with you…

Then I’m glad you are here. Join the email list so that you never miss a post.

Let’s be curious, be brave, and be connected.

 

 

The Antidote to Exhaustion

“Here’s to freedom, cheers to art. Here’s to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start.” ― Jason Mraz

My life requires a great deal of organization. Helping my 6 kids navigate the ins-and-outs of regular life is activity enough, but the 6 of them are spread across 4 different schools, plus one a traditional homeschooler. 3 of them have an IEP each, 1 has a 504 Plan, and one has a mental health diagnosis that involved both a heavy mental and physical burden on the child and the family. Between the 6 kids we regularly see a neurologist, a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a dermatologist, 3 different pediatricians, and a disability case manager. I have a slew of spreadsheets, bullet journals, and digital calendars to keep me on top of everyone’s needs.
I’m not a naturally organized person. I invest a lot of energy into my systems. If left to my own devices, I am sure I’d be a happy and carefree sometimes-artist living in a van down by the river.

I work hard to know myself and to create patterns that benefit me and my kids rather than stunt me and damage them. However, delineating my days and weeks by appointments and the needs of others can make me feel like an empty robot. Not a cool robot who feels feelings against all odds or a R2D2 who dances with Ewoks, but a cold, input-output, happiness-does-not-compute robot.

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Feeling like a robot exhausts me, fries my circuit boards, if you will. Not the type of exhaustion you feel after a half-marathon but the type of exhaustion you feel from getting up too early for too many days in a row while managing grief, trauma and a full household. A deep, to-the-bone weariness that isn’t fixed by a nap.

 Have you felt this level of weariness? Do you know the deep ache for rest that can’t be quelled with an afternoon nap or a surprise pedicure? The kind that causes your belly to sour when you hear the too early pound of kid feet in the morning. The kind that makes your head swim when just one more typical kid fight comes on the night you are solo parenting. The kind that keeps you staring in the refrigerator at all those ingredients with zero energy for creatively assembling them into a meal. This level of exhaustion was my constant companion for well over 10 years.
The past few years I have slowly woken to myself. I have realized that weariness, like fear, is no longer welcome in my life. I’ve worked to create boundaries with that weariness, to make myself as important as my children, to recognize the value of who I am in the world apart from what I do. Who I am is great. I want to honor my greatness.
So, after considerable trial and error, I’ve found the cure for my robot funk. Returning to my lovely, fun, connected human form is found through adventure. Now, I realize that this may seem counterintuitive. Why would I go on an adventure when you barely have energy to shower all the way? I certainly couldn’t be asking you to DO more, could I?

No, I’m not. I would never seek to add to your load. In fact, all I will ever ask you to do is LESS. You need nourishment at the soul-deep level. This can only be achieved by doing less and experiencing more.
Adventure is not a task to be added to a to-do list, a means of stressing your already taxed adrenal system, or about adding expensive gear to keep safe and manage on top of all your other household stuffs. Adventure is about resuscitating then rejuvenating your truest self, nourishing your soul and connecting with your body. Adventure is about feeling a youthful glee with God while we embrace the freedom we innately posses.
If your soul longs for the freedom of adventure, for the joy and lightness that comes with discovery, the purpose and fulfilment that results from meaningful connections then this is the place for you. Here we will seek out ways to add adventure to our lives, on our own and with our family. We will figure out what we can say NO to in order to say YES to adventure. We will learn to open our eyes to the adventure in our every day lives but also adjusting our focus out into our community and into the whole world. 

Adventure, a Definition

The word adventure may conjure up an exciting image in your imagination. You may picture Bear Grylls swinging under a helicopter on his way to eat bugs and drink his own pee during a desert survival journey. You may picture cage diving with sharks or white water rafting or climbing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. You might even picture an African safari or maybe, just maybe, Coachella.

Adventure surely can be all of those things. Those things certainly SOUND adventurous, don’t they? But for the average woman, that kind of adventure is out of our league. We can’t realistically leave behind our every day responsibilities to go wild with Bear, exhausting our bank accounts, bodies, and energy stores. I certainly can’t. I have 6 kids. I have a mortgage. I have chickens. I am needed here, in my life, every day.

Still, those activities call to my soul. I suffer from wander lust in a barely containable way. I want to climb all the rocks and swim all the oceans and safari all the continents. I crave friendships formed in far away countries that are continued via Facebook and renewed with visits every few years. I need to explore, to learn, to experience, to let my spirit stretch and grow and dance in a field of flowers (hypothetically…but also really).

For years and years and years I denied my need for adventure. It didn’t fit into the box I was trying so desperately to make work. I didn’t think a “good” wife and mom would be one who adventured. I should be satisfied with my babies, my home, my faithful and kind husband and my group of church friends. I should be spending my time clipping coupons, teaching my children, keeping a tidy home, keeping it tight, and being active at church. I should be fulfilled with this life. Right? I was filled with fear that meeting my needs would mean I was failing at the roles I love–mother, wife, sister, daughter, human, daughter of God.

Really, I look back at that phase of my life and see that I couldn’t really suppress my need for adventure. I birthed my babies in the water and/or without drugs, I raced a triathlon, I went grain-free, I became a foster parent, I cloth diapered my babies, I ran 2 half-marathons. I was adventuring. I didn’t know it. I denied my need for it and mentally beat myself up for craving time outside of my family and outside of the walls of my home (which I constantly repainted). But fear kept me from naming my need and making it a priority.

Now, I fully embrace my need for adventure. Denying my need has never resulted in better relationships with my family, with God, or with myself. Denying has only hurt me and others in my world. But, how is adventure defined in my life now? I would LOVE to travel and see the world. Even at almost 40-years-old I dream of backpacking through Europe, zip-lining in Costa Rica, trekking the John Muir Trail, and ice climbing in Greenland. But none of those are realistic for my life right now. My kids need me here and I want to be here with my kids, too. Nevertheless, letting my spirit shrivel again is not an option. Letting fear keep me stuck is not going to happen any more.

So, I’ve had to create my own definition of adventure and means of accommodating my needs. And, yes, NEEDS, not wants, is the absolute right term.  Adventure is any way that I nurture learning, exploring, and connecting to the world around me. I make knowing myself a high priority in my life so that I can meet my own needs in efficient ways. For example, I love non-American cultures. That isn’t to say I dislike America. I love being a free American, but I love African, Asian, European and Middle Eastern cultures. I can’t travel to those areas of the globe, but I live near a major city where all of those people groups have emigrated via various routes. I am partial to those here on refugee status, so I make a point of volunteering with a refugee resettlement agency, going to refugee-owned and operated restaurants and stores, and attending different celebrations across our metropolitan area.

But let’s come up with a more static definition of adventure, shall we?

Dictionary.com defines adventure as:

noun
  1. an exciting or very unusual experience.
  2. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
  3. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.

Moreover, as a verb, adventure is defined as “to take the chance of”. These are fabulous phrases and easily applicable in our everyday lives. You can plainly see that the definition of adventure is not limited to dangerous or thrilling or unusually risky undertakings.

If we push off of the first definition, we can find ways to add adventure in every day. “An exciting or very unusual experience” is a highly subjective statement. What is unusual to me may be commonplace to you. What is exciting to you may be bore-ville to me. We can create adventure based on our own likes, dislikes, living situations, etc.

I would go a step further in creating a statistic definition of adventure as:

“an exciting or unusual experience that nourishes your soul and further inspires your spirit of adventure; usually requiring curiosity, bravery, and connectedness.”

If your adventure is not making your life BETTER, then it has crossed the line of adventure into a hazardous undertaking. Adventure is often accompanied by a level of unknown, but if it crosses into stressful and dangerous then it isn’t serving you and you can let it go. It is okay to feel some stress when stepping into new adventures, but big, continued stress is when you should hit the eject button without hesitation.

Take some time this week to notice what seems exciting to you. What seems like it might be an unusual experience? What bold action pulls you toward participating in an exciting undertaking?

Let me know in the comments what adventures are pulling you their way? 

 

Here is a brief list of potential adventures I have noticed and started planning for over the past few weeks:

1.) Attending one of the free lunches for kids in my area.

2.) Attending webinars about immigration reform.

3.) Research “How to protest with kids in tow?” and go to an immigration reform protest.

4.) That 3-mile hike near me that I haven’t tried out yet.

5.) The free art time at the library with the kids.

6.) Free music in the park in Minneapolis.

7.) Making my own water kefir.

8.) Applying for the Adult ESL Certification at Hamline University in St. Paul.

10.) Research an Immersion Trip to the border to get first-hand experience with what is happening there.

Beginnings

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Thanks for joining me here! As an extrovert’s extrovert, I absolutely love company. This being my first post of my brand spankin’ new blog, I am thrilled to have good company  reading my words and sharing in my passion for adventure. I truly am so glad you are here.

I’m guessing, because I am so new in this space, that you are here because either you or someone you know knows me personally (love you, Friends!) or the words “brave, curious, or adventure” spark something in your soul that you don’t want to or can’t extinguish. 

For the latter bunch–YESSSSSS!!!!! Adventure is our jam, right?!?!? You may not even know what that looks like in your life, but you know you need it. You need to learn more, see more, do more, taste more, experience more. You may be happy with the ins-and-outs of your everyday life but deep down you feel your inner explorer tapping, knocking, clawing to be let loose. And if that terrifies you, it did me, too. Having a large and/or busy family keeps your days full, running on a moment-to-moment schedule; the thought of letting adventure on the loose feels like it could mean the end of any sort of organized flow in your life. Then, before you know it you are living out the plot to either of the Jumangi movies! Been there, done that, don’t want to repeat it!

You don’t want WILD, but you need MORE.

The journey to finding a doable way of releasing fear, grabbing ahold of bravery, and incorporating adventure into your life can be lonely, intimidating, maybe too scary to start. That’s why I’m here. I’ve been working for years to figure out what my needs are and how to meet them (and do so without neglecting everyone else in my life).

Six years ago I was just broken in pieces. I was stressed (6 kids with a new baby, physically recovering from a huge mid-pregnancy injury), I was wrecked by PTSD from a big trauma (EF-5 tornado), I was deep in self-hate from some a self-destructive choice I had made (complicated). I found myself sitting in a mental health/spirituality class with a dozen other women who were strangers to me. I remember looking around at the other attendees thinking that there was no way we had anything in common. And we didn’t, except for the fact that we all shared a need for healing, direction, and hope. We were all at a sort of emotional and spiritual rock bottom.

Within the first few sessions we deep-dived into discovering our personal core values and how honoring them was key to our healing, knowing God, and being known by others. It was glorious sunshine on my shivering soul. To know that God made me with individual values that may not be what my history (evangelical Christianity) told me was “right” or “good” for a married woman, mother, conservative Christian was an amazing revelation.

Long story short…ADVENTURE is my #1 value and I’ve spent the last 6 years exploring, trying, failing, adjusting, trying again, and even celebrating victory in my journey to honor my values with ADVENTURE at the top of the list. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, about adventure, about honoring myself and others, and above all, bravery. I hope to share all of that here with you here. And I doubt I will run out of material any time soon as I’m always learning; I’m sure I will have plenty more failures and triumphs to share in the years to come.

Read on and don’t forget to subscribe to my email list. I send out a monthly email with my top adventure links, favorite spiritual quotes, funny stories from my big ol’ family and farm, and also resources for my personal passion–refugee resettlement and immigration reform.

I’m so glad you joined me here and hope you stick around to see how we can be curious, brave, and connected.