The New Year (Part 2)

This year I am trying something new. I know we’re getting too late for new year’s resolutions but it’s taken me this long to be able to put my plan into practice, and to be honest, until I actually had one week of doing this I just wasn’t sure that it could happen. I thought something would stop me. I thought it wouldn’t be possible. (Hence the previous blog post). But now I’m starting to get excited. My plan might actually become a reality. It could actually work!

This is my plan, my Big Plan for the new year, my awesome and exciting new thing:

Do Less.

It has taken me some time to make this big plan a reality. You would think that doing something (climbing Mount Everest, or sailing around the world, or starting a new charity or a new small business) would take heaps of planning but that doing less would not require any deep thought at all – just a penchant for laziness – but I have found that not to be the case.

I started planning for this brave new future in about August of last year. I talked to the owner of the tutoring business I work for and told her I was reducing my hours in the new year. It was tough. The kids I tutor are wonderful and I love having input into their lives. And there’s so much need there – always more kids that need help with reading and maths. It’s a great job, very worthwhile. I love the boss of the business too – she’s fantastic! So full of passion! And she sacrifices for those kids like no-one I’ve ever met. I didn’t want to put more pressure on her but I knew that I had to decrease my tutoring hours, so we spent time, months, figuring out how it could be done.

I also started discussions at the university where I teach and research. There was teaching that I had done last year that I needed to stop doing, and new teaching that I was offered and turned down. That was also tough. There is a great need right now for good teachers in the Chemistry department. There are people leaving to enter new things in their lives and I could make it so much easier for those left behind if I took a greater teaching load for the next couple of years. These are good people, they work damn hard, and I have refused to take some of the load off their shoulders. It is not easy for me to say no to something this worthwhile.

As far as research is concerned, I had a meeting a few months ago where I asked for a reduction of my hours from 50% to 40%. Again, not an easy thing to do. The university is a big business and you are expected to want to climb the ladder and to put in effort to do so. You are expected to work 100% and then add another 50% on for good measure. There are not many in leadership in the university who would understand the desire for reduction of work hours. It felt incredibly counter-cultural. But I feel it is the right thing for me to do. Therefore, in early December I informed my research team that I would be working three days a week. I will be available to them from Monday until Wednesday and then I will be at home. This month when I got back to work I changed my email signature to read

Office hours: Monday – Wednesday 830 – 530

I am trying to make it clear, both to myself and to others, that I am challenging myself to do less.

It’s not over yet either. I found that now that the work is sorted out I need to start thinking about the volunteer activities that I take part in. All of these worthwhile things need to be held up to scrutiny and if they don’t fit the master plan, they have to go. There is more ‘no’ to be said. I hate saying ‘no’. But I will keep doing it, I am determined to free up my time.

So what am I doing with all the free time I am making? Well, not much! I am planning to spend time with those I love and be social, and I am planning also to spend time alone, to read and to write. To create and to recreate. To rest and rejuvenate.

This week was the first week where I could put this plan into action.

Yesterday I spent the morning with people I love having coffee and chatting. Then I came home in the afternoon and I sat on the couch and wrote in my journal and read my bible and some other excellent books. I napped! I reflected. I thought. I wrote.

I felt really guilty!

‘You should be doing something!’ my brain screamed, ‘You are wasting time! That’s a mortal sin!’

But then I read this:

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’

And this:

‘Reflection takes time, quiet, and patience.’

You see, I want to be an author. A published author. I want to write books that encourage, strengthen, entertain, and give peace to people. I want to write blog posts too, posts that have meaning or posts that are just plain fun, posts that give something to others. But if I don’t take time to read and reflect then my writing will be empty. Oh, and if I don’t take time to write, then there will be no books or blog posts at all.

But I don’t just want to be an author. I want to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a friend, someone who gives time to those she loves. I don’t just want to give people the worn out leftovers after I’ve spent myself in service to strangers, I want to give good time, decent energy, loving attention.

These are my goals for the year: to write, to read and to give time to those I love. And in order to achieve them I have had to say ‘No’ an awful lot. It’s not a word I am good at saying, especially when I am saying no so that I can come home, sit on the couch and read – my favourite activity. I’m sure I will feel guilty at many times through the year, but I hope I will also feel strength and salvation.

I just want to add a disclaimer here. I don’t think that my wonderful master plan is the right thing for everyone to do. I’m pretty sure that some of you (mums with young kids, or phd students for example) want to kill me right now! Here I am extolling the virtues of a way of life that is completely out of your reach! It has taken me years of work and years of deep thought and sorting out my life goals to get to this place, and I have not got here by myself. I have an awesome husband who has secure work and who is happy to do more work so that I can do less. I have two grown up children who look after themselves, more than that, who look after me! I am in such a wonderfully easy place right now compared to others, and compared to where my life has been. The thing is, I want to take advantage of that, not fritter it away, but actually use the resources and time I’ve been given to be the person I feel called to be.

You are in a very different place, but I pray that you can also use your resources according to what is right for your life and not try to just live up to the wonderful plans and expectations that everyone else has for you.

So right now I am feeling excited, I am feeling hopeful, I am feeling joy in the work I am doing and in the work I am going to do. I am looking forward to the year ahead. Finally.

Bring on the fireworks! Happy New Year Everyone! May your dreams come true!

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