Needing inspiration?

Needing inspiration? November 4, 2011

According to Mary Alice’s last post, it seems like this is the time of year for many of us when fatigue sets in. We lack inspiration. The weather is colder, the days are shorter, our families are sicker. As a result, our motivation wanes and we struggle. This morning I look out the window and see the gloom of rain and am immediately lethargic and uninspired. I run the baby up to her room and find myself completely exhausted at the top of the stairs. Fall is hitting me hard. Not only that, I’m starting to feel the overwhelming burden of the holidays approaching and the many tasks that lie ahead to get there. Perhaps crawling away into a hole and not emerging until March is the best plan for my weariness.

Yet now is the time of year when we have to fight hibernation mode and our tendency to draw in and away from everything. We have to willingly tie our shoe laces and rest in the habits we’ve formed during the cheerier parts of the year. We have to put one foot in front of the other and take one step, then two, and so on. We have to get it done because if we put it off, we’ll be left in a worse place than when we started. We know that. We’ve seen it happen before.

But how do we light the fire?

Here are a few thoughts for how I plan to be successful…

I’m going to find a partner
There’s no better way to get me to the gym or a meeting or even the grocery store than the promise of a friend meeting me there. Friends are the accountability Red mentioned in her comment in the last post.  I’ll find a friend who shares the same interests and struggles and needs the motivation as well. And I know we’ll do a world of good for one another.

I’m going to try to make it interesting
Whether its Christmas shopping in November while holding a treasured cup of coffee (such a treat for me!) or heading to the gym in a new workout shirt and shorts, I need to spice things up to keep my brain engaged. Just at the time when my noggin’ feels like it needs to go down for a long winter’s nap, I have to shock it into interest with something new and unusual and fun. Back when I studied organic chemistry in college, I did homework by candlelight or with pigtails to make it “fun” to study polymers and atom bonding.  I had to do something to survive!  Part of me can’t wait to venture out in the rain today thanks to a new pair of welly boots, a gift from my MIL. Anything to help get me going and somewhat excited!

I’m going to try to make it meaningful
Busyness tends to be the default around here, but what if we spun it in a more meaningful way? How about the family taking on a daily character trait to shine Christ to the world in all the ongoing craziness? Zeroing in on something more profound and meaningful will help to focus my attention on something other than myself.  I’m hoping it will help my children too.  In the coming weeks, we’re going to check out Col. 3, which is chock full of Christ traits and choose one a day for each of us to embody.  This idea came to me at Bible study yesterday thanks to the idea of a fellow mother.  Infusing Jesus into our everyday will undoubtedly make our days richer and of greater value.

I’m going to stay away from “fillers”
When the skies are darker and the weather gloomier, I find myself in front of the computer more seeking warmth and relationships. Unacceptable! My Facebook consumption has increased tenfold in the last weeks and what an empty filler it is. I crave more and more until it has been hours and I’m completely unsatisfied. Beware of the easy fillers in your life that might seem to bring meaning, but leave you aching for more. I’m thinking of making my computer time on a check-in basis only– I can check my email, but I am NOT ALLOWED TO SIT DOWN. This would be a good challenge for me. Join me?

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  • JMB

    For me, the best motivating factor for working out was finding an activity that I had to pay for per diem.u00a0 My inner cheapness took over when I had to fork over $15 for a missed workout (having not cancelled within the 2 hour time limit before a class).u00a0 It was priceless.u00a0 It has kept me going back to class (I do a Bar Method workout 2X per week) and the more I go, the cheaper the class is per package pricing.u00a0 Outside accountability is good, whether it be a friend or your purse.

  • Mary Alice

    Love this, thanks B!u00a0 As I updated in my post below, I joined a gym.u00a0 JMB, I think that you are right, my cheapness is making me go today since I know that I paid for it and I want it to be worth it!u00a0 Also, it is a change of pace and fun to run inside for a while.u00a0 nnOn the holiday to-do list stress, I think that Red has the right idea about making a list and starting early, but I also think that you are right about making it fun/meaningful.u00a0 My husband and I do some online ordering together on Thanksgiving weekend each year, and I will have a shopping night in town with a hot cocoa and check a lot off of my list.u00a0 However, when I looked at Red’s list I was totally overwhelmed, so one of my holiday “to-do”s this year is just to eliminate some of the things from my list!u00a0 We are going to do what is essential and what is fun/special for us, and not sweat what others are doing.u00a0 This means that we don’t do many outdoor lights, and even our indoor decorating is minimal.u00a0 Many of our decorations were destroyed in the flood and will not be replaced.u00a0 We will have our tree, wreaths on the front door, stockings and some seasonal touches on the mantle, but mostly we will focus on cozy reading by the fire.nnBy the way, I am lighting a fire as often as possible, it goes so far to making me enjoy the dark cold afternoons this time of year!

  • Fulmerse

    Once again, you’ve penned exactly how I feel B-mama! The dark, cold days of AK are starting to get to me. The sun doesn’t rise until 9:30 these days which leaves me wanting to stay in bed forever in the morning. The children don’t feel this way! Ha!u00a0 Back in the summer I took advantage of some Groupon deals for indoor play places. I was saving using them for this very reason. We’ll use them now that the days are darker and colder. This also ties into the purse comments already listed. I love a good deal and you bet I’m going to take full advantage of it! You’re so right, FB is a total time drain and the more I do it, the more I want to do it, and the more blah I feel afterwards. nnMaking it meaningful is something I’ve always struggled with. I often find myself feeling sorry for ME. I hate that it’s so easy for me to drift into the thoughts of, “what about my time to myself, what about my projects, me, me, me, my, my, my…” I love your idea of picking one trait at a time to focus on. That seems more doable and I can see how it could totally change my mindset, which is what I need. nnThanks again for being an inspiration!

  • Jurismater

    This is fabulous B-mama. I’m still in 100% denial about the gloomy days to come. It’s been 60 and sunny here for most of the last month and for another week to come (except for that horrendous day of snow last Saturday). When I sit down to figure out how to deal with the next 4-5 months, I’m going to print this out and make notes. Thank you B-mama for sharing your methods–I like to get a glimpse into your sunny personality and how you keep it that way! Bless you friend!!

  • Anonymous

    So many great thoughts here B!u00a0 I love the “make it interesting” idea.u00a0 My gloomy mood was lifted this week when I splurged and spent $14 on a silver sparkly pair of shoes for Claire.u00a0 My entire shopping trip suddenly went from being a chore to being much more fun.nnI think a latte or hot chocolate, like MaryAlice suggested, can really help me get through all the shopping/errands of this season.

  • Kathleen

    Love the motivation and advice, especially to stay healthy and active! But I feel like I must be missing something on the Holiday stress. u00a0I guess it’s the phrase “overwhelming burden of the holidays” and the earlier holiday to-do post by Right Said Red. u00a0 u00a0Christmas cards, presents, parties, are just not as important as I think our particular culture makes them out to be and they are certainly disordered if they cause so much stress to the Mom and in turn the family. u00a0I get the fact that we moms want to make things beautiful. u00a0But sometimes less is more! u00a0LEss presents, less parties, less travel, less trips to see Santa, less food. u00a0I read not too long ago a book called Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and I am going to try and apply his philosophy to the Holidays this year. u00a0Maybe one gift per kid. u00a0Instead of making five types of cookies, make one. Maybe chinese food for dinner. u00a0Anything to help make family life calmer so that they can focus on what’s really important. u00a0 I am sort of thinking out loud here, and I’m not trying to be critical, but I just think that all of us can feel the “burdens” of a very materialistic culture, and I don’t don’t think have to be burdens. u00a0Christ celebrated christmas in a stable. u00a0Perhaps we can all aim to do a little less in that same spirit.. u00a0 u00a0

  • Mary Alice

    Kathleen, I totally agree, but we do live in the world, so even with a more simple christmas there is lots to be done! The gift giving can be so joyful, but some of the grunt work and prep just has to get done, and we have a large and loving extended family to shop for.u00a0 Even when we keep it on the simple side, it winds up being a lot to keep track of.nnOne thing that I have finally learned which helps a ton in December, when we have 3 birthdays as well, is to NOT SCHEDULE NON HOLIDAY THINGS, like dentist appointments or getting the oil changed in the car for late december.u00a0 You’d think it would be obvious, but a few extras like that sneak in and just add to the stress when there is more traffic, etc.nnLastly, I suggest hiring help in small ways if possible.u00a0 When I had a baby due in late December, I hired neighborhood teenagers to wrap all of my gifts, it cost about $30 and it saved my sanity!u00a0 You are right that take out or pizza on the night when you are trimming the tree or busy in other ways helps.u00a0 My sister in law’s family tradition is spaghetti with jarred sauce on Christmas Eve, we laughed, but her mom said that they just needed something that could get on the table easily before a candlelight church service when mom was already pushed to the limit — funny, because her now adult children look back on it with love as “what is supposed to be eaten on Christmas Eve.”u00a0 Things do NOT have to be Martha Stewart perfect to make a joyful impression on our kids.nnBut, that said, if there is a tradition that gives you joy, make time for it and preserve it and plan for it.u00a0 We have done some very, very pared down Christmases in survival mode and they were sort of sad.

  • JMB

    One thing that I eliminated a few years ago and I don’t miss or fret too much about is the family picture Christmas card.u00a0 With most of my relatives and far away friends on FB it seemed like over kill to send them out.u00a0 I blew it off one year and nobody said anything to me.u00a0 After 3 years, I noticed that I receive less cards each year.u00a0 I understand that I may be “off the list” from certain people, but I don’t really care.u00a0 It was a HUGE stress to dress the kids up, take them to a place, take the picture, pick one out, address and mail them all, not to mention the expense.u00a0u00a0 It just kind of seemed like this huge vanity thing for me.u00a0 nMy kids are older, but we do less gifts now, and more “experiences” with them, like travel and cultural trips to NYC.u00a0 I’ve spent way too much time over the past 17 years hauling toys out to the curb for big trash night.u00a0 I’m glad that part of my life is over.u00a0 It just seems so wasteful in retrospect.n

  • B-mama

    I do think, however, no family is alike. u00a0Red has a large extended family, hosts a big family dinner so that everyone can attend, and reaches out to family and godchildren during the holiday season. u00a0I, on the other hand, do not have half of these obligations due to the size and location of my family. u00a0The “overwhelming burden” of the holidays was probably a bit of a dramatic overstatement on my part. u00a0The holidays are beautiful and lovely and full of tradition, which I’m not willing to give up. u00a0I *love* that the kids want to decorate the outside of our house–tradition. u00a0I *love* that they want to put up two trees–one in the front for all to see and another in the back just for us. u00a0I *love* that we are adding caroling at the area Catholic nursing home with our catechesis group. u00a0I *love* buying gifts for my children (but not many) that will bring smiles to their faces. u00a0I *love* that all of these busy things will add to our Advent and leave us breathless for a Savior. u00a0They will enhance my children’s Christmas memory and establish family traditions that are worth far more than the temporary stress I might feel in the moment. u00a0nnHaving a plan in place is such a brilliant idea because then nothing becomes overwhelming. u00a0Everything has its place and tradition can happen with ease and peace. u00a0We can enjoy our Advent to the fullest and rejoice during Christmastide. u00a0nnAdd a new baby to the mix; deal with the illness of a family member; etc., etc. and I throw tradition out the window. u00a0I’d be the first in line at the Chinese food restaurant. u00a0You have to do that every so often and I’m in full support. u00a0

  • Kat

    B-Mama, thanks for this great post and your cheerful perspective, I love reading about what you are thinking these days!nWith regards to the holidays, I have to say that I really enjoyed Red’s post and it was a good reminder for me. I think that I tend to be too laid-back for the months leading up to Christmas, which leaves me (and my family, as a result!) stressed out for the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. This is such a shame, and could be avoided by planning and doing some of the grunt work now.u00a0

  • Anonymous

    Great inspiration and great discussion on planning, stress, moderation, discipline and thinking about what is really important! Really, lots of food for thought here and from MaryAlice and Red’s last posts!

  • Alice

    Totally, and I DON’T love going to target with six kids for a third time because I forgot tape, or pacing with a crying baby while missing my kids Christmas concert because i didnt line upa sitter, etc, which is why the calendar and list making can be crucial to keep sane/joyful/recollected, however much or little you need to do in December. nnIn generosity, it is also important to keep temperments and love languages in mind. It has taken us years to learn the balance in these things. For example, to my husband it just would not be Christmas without his making elaborate, time consuming Italian cookies with the kids. We have to set a date for this to make sure it happens. My cozy tradition, decorating sugar cookies, can be bumped to Valentines if time gets tight

  • Kathleen

    Great discussion. Perhaps it really comes down to temperament. My favorite Christmas was when we were all mildly sick and couldn’t travel or go anywhere. It was so peaceful and stripped to the essentials that I really felt it a spiritual Christmas. We had a blast with just the kids. But as MRy Alice says we live in the world and I have big families in the same town and spend both holidays driving our kids from event and meals. My babies miss naps my kids get over sugared and the gifts from grandparents can overwhelm. But we love our families and continue to split our time. Wonder how other families handle both sets in townn

  • Gina

    So important, Mary Alice!u00a0 Advent and Christmas are one of the most peaceful and joyful times of year in our family, and for years, I could never understand why this season brought others so much stress. u00a0u00a0 Red’s list–while very impressive in itself–gave me an insight …I would become downright depressed if our family tried to accomplish even half of those items, as marvelous as they are.u00a0 nnSo we don’t: we spend many cozy evenings together in front of the fire with stories and hot chocolate and the Christmas tree and prayers/songs; we buy gifts online (only) from September to December; and ALL the rest–photos, new outfits, concerts, outings, decorations, cookies, etc., etc., etc., etc. we enjoy if we get to them, and don’t worry for a minute if we don’t.u00a0 They are not at all essential to Christmas, even though they make it nice.u00a0 nnMy mother was raised in a very devout family who was also quite poor, and she really impressed on me the importance of celebrating Christmas with a spirit of interior poverty and simplicity–it makes the season so joyful.

  • Gina

    Just realized my post might have come off as critical or sanctimonious toward others, even Red.u00a0 I didn’t intend this at all, but only hoped to share our family’s experience as an encouragement to others who become easily overwhelmed like me.u00a0 We truly love the our Christmas traditions, but we also don’t fret if we don’t get to them some years…