While January is the typical time many of us look back at where we’ve been and set goals for moving forward, every person I know who lives by the school calendar feels that September is really the start of a new year. And I am a person who lives by the school calendar.
I started this post back when I realized that it actually was September (a few days into the month) and that not only was our new year starting, but also that we’d been in our new house for just about one month. (That I’m not finishing the post until now tells you something else about how September is for me.)
Back around the 2nd of September, I realized that it could be easy for me to look around the house and get discouraged. As we were moving in, we said things like:
Before we go back to school, I’d really like to get the living room and kitchen walls painted.
I really want to be able to park both cars in the garage by the time we go back to school.
I just want to have everything we really need for every-day functioning organized by the time we go back to school.
Well, the walls still look like this:
And the garage looks like this:
And this is our oh-so-(NOT)-organized place to put bills and other important paperwork that we need to deal with:
What else did I want to have done by now? I’ve been working on a revamp of this blog, which I really hoped to unveil on its one-year anniversary (come and gone). And Cane and I wanted to launch a new blog that we’ve been picking away at since last May. Oh, and I also really wanted to be all ready to go for the 4-hour staff development session I needed to put on last week. (I wasn’t.)
So, what have we been doing?
Well, working on new blogs and staff development sessions and other, smaller stuff. We haven’t had time to take on such big things as stripping the walls of their lovely paper. We’re waiting on many of those boxes in the garage because I need to get a bookshelf that will store my books. We have made some progress on the paper chase (see the photo below of the cool credenza we scored at City Liquidators), but we’re just not done yet.
That doesn’t mean there’s been no progress. It’s just been small, baby steps–and it hasn’t always been the things we thought we’d do.
My friend Molly offered me a large, free ficus tree, which required a trip to Home Depot for a new pot, which got me thinking about plants and the desire to commit to caring for living things, which then got me to dig out old planters and fill them with new plants. That took an afternoon:
The kids have been fighting over a particular pillow, which prompted me to take a trip to Pier 1 to get more of the same kind–which took awhile because once there it seemed like it would be a good idea to buy some other new ones, too (one of which has already been destroyed by the dog who is compelled to disembowel anything that appears to be a stuffed animal), which couldn’t happen without first thinking about (and looking at) rugs, which then led to…
One day I came home from back-to-school shopping with Grace to find that Cane had taken his saw to the large Japanese Maple that looked like a cancerous growth in our front yard. Which was great–except we’ve now got some bare spots that seem to really need filling, which is how we ended up spending a whole afternoon at a local nursery, where we didn’t buy anything because we found ourselves wondering what color we really want to paint the house and in what order all our projects should be done.
And so on. For many days now, I’ve been feeling as if we’re making no progress. I haven’t unpacked a box in almost three weeks. And yet, when I look back and then look around, I can see it. Here’s the living room on the day we moved in:
And here it was a few weeks ago, right after we put in the new floors:
And here it is now:
Small changes, made consistently, over time. All transformation happens that way, doesn’t it?
Four years ago at this time, I had just made the decision to leave my marriage. But I was still in it, still living in the house that was two homes ago, with no idea of how to get out or where to go.
“You don’t have to have it all figured out,” a good friend told me. “Just figure out the next right thing you need to do. After you do that, figure out another one.”
One step at a time, one day at a time. That’s all we can really do, isn’t it?
Three years ago at this time I was about to start another year of teaching, in a different high school than I now work in, with no idea that it would be my last year of doing that kind of work in that particular place. One year ago I was trying to figure out how to make my life on the mountain more manageable so I could keep living there for six more years (the amount of time I was sure I’d be there); the idea of living anywhere else was so far off my list of possibilities that I refinanced my mortgage that month.
If you had asked me on September 12th in 2007 where and how I’d like to be living in 2011, I would never have said that I’d like to be living in a 70’s split level in Gresham with Cane and all our kids and putting on staff development sessions for teachers at a large urban high school. I could not have imagined it, so I couldn’t have said it. But here I am.
For those who live by the school calendar, this is a great time for making plans. This is when all things feel possible, when everything is fresh and new. It can also, by the end of the month, when we realize that we are still the teachers we were in June and the kids are still the same kids, be a time when discouragement sets in. I think we have to remember that real change rarely happens in a moment. In September we are pretty much the same teachers we were the previous June. But by next June, we’ll likely be different–especially if we’ve decided we want to be.
Today I am grateful for our new home, which reminds me that all significant change takes time, and it generally happens in small steps, taken consistently, over the course of many days. I’m more grateful for the reminder that plans (dreams) are great, but we need to be open to all things that present themselves. We need to try not to be so fixed on where we think we need to go that we lose sight of where we actually are.
If I had a new year’s resolution it would be this: To keep my eyes open and my feet moving and to put more stock in where I am than in where I think I should be. What would yours be?