Hello! Welcome to another goals post for my monthly goal-setting series. If this is your first visit here, thanks for joining me! About a year ago I decided to start setting three specific goals for myself each month. My objective was to be more intentional (my 2019 word of the year) in my day-to-day life. It turned out to be such a great experience! I’m back with my September goals and hoping to keep this momentum going! This series is designed to share those goals with you as well as to provide me with more monthly accountability.
“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul… but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October.”
― Peggy Toney Horton
I am not sure how the first of the month keeps sneaking up on me but here I am again, surprised to discover that the first week and a half of September has already come and gone. That’s probably in part to the fact that the weather here was in the 90s that whole first week. And it’s humid as all hell. Hard to believe autumn is right around the corner. So many things have changed and yet so many things feel the exact same. The same as they have been for the past 175 days at least.
Our days are loosely anchored in the week by specific rituals we have initiated to help break up the continuum. We started doing homeschool for the boys on Tuesdays and Thursdays, family nights on Fridays, and on Sundays it’s a free-for-all for the kids to watch as much tv as they want (with some limitations of course). This is as much a treat for them as it is for us! But even with these rituals helping us along and giving us stuff to look forward to each week, things have still been difficult. There is so much to be grateful for but that doesn’t mean the reality of our days is all sunshine and rainbows.
Quarantining these past six months has been a strange time-warp that keeps things complicated. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling that way.
Right now I’m sitting out on the front porch with my computer propped in my lap. There is a symphony of bugs serenading me in the background. I’ve got a fan aimed directly at me (did I mention it’s hot here?). And I’ve been enjoying an evening “off” of kid duty after another long day. Paul has worked evening shifts almost every night for the past 2 weeks. I feel like he has been working a ton lately. This is hard on all of us.
We all ate dinner together tonight and then I snuck out here while they all clamored upstairs to tackle the bedtime routine. It becomes a special treat for “Papa” to put them to bed. Especially after he has missed out on this part of the day with them for so long. I’m pretty sure he gets finagled into reading twice as many books as they’re usually allowed. He never minds, it’s great bonding for all of them.
September is usually a very inspiring month for me because it’s the doorway to autumn, which is my VERY favorite time of the year!
We do our best to squeeze the last bits of summer out of these final sweltering hot days. And we slowly begin transitioning to fall. Cue – lighting my fav candles, eating a ton of apples, thinking about Halloween costumes, and planning some camping trips. We’ve got one more beach trip on the calendar this month before we turn our sights towards the mountains. I’m pretty excited about BOTH right now.
This month can also carry some heavier emotions for me. I hold some difficult reminders of heartbreak that tend to bring out an emotionally vulnerable jumble in my brain and heart in September of each year. I have to dig deep to remember that sometimes simply reaching out can be a total game-changer. After all, we are each only human. Solidarity is such a valuable connector. And this life can be haunting and heartbreaking and complicated. We can hold both gratitude and sadness in the same hand.
My truest intention is to love the hell out of this life – the good, the hard, the messy, the beautiful, the light and dark, and everything in between.
I’m still feeling a lot of ups and downs from day to day. The shift in seasons has me hopeful and eager for what’s ahead. It’s strange how quarantine affected our summer. Limiting our usual travels to see friends and family, keeping us home from the playgrounds and museums (which are all still closed here), and forcing us to get creative on how to spend our time at home without getting too stir-crazy. Overall we survived it and we made some lemonade out of it for sure.
Now that the seasons are shifting and we’ve hit the place in our lives where we typically see a lot of transition. Back to school, shorter days, cooler weather, more mountain trips than beach, planning family holidays together. I think we’ve done a damn good job of managing as well as we have for the past 6 months. And yet suddenly it feels like we are having to adjust to things all over again. This new way of life is uniquely challenging for everyone. It kinda feels like I’m back on board the hot-mess express over here these past two weeks. I keep telling myself, we can do hard things. And… this too shall pass.
We will keep forging ahead and finding the light wherever we can.
Now for a quick review of my August goals:
>>Get organized for the second half of the year
I wouldn’t say this goal turned out to be particularly productive this past month. Unless of course, I get credit for getting organized for the month of August – which I kind of did. Organizing is a double-edged sword for me. It’s something that brings me great joy and that I am surprisingly good at doing. Yet it is simultaneously the most difficult thing for me to remember that I enjoy doing. I am easily overwhelmed by disorganization or when things are overly chaotic. Then I go into freeze mode where I can’t will myself to do much of anything. You may remember the month I decided to organize all of the areas of my house… yikes. But seriously, when I do manage to knock those kinds of projects out it is incredibly liberating!
One thing I’ve realized is that not having routines and rhythms that are consistent leave us feeling ungrounded in our day to day lives.
This has proven to be exceptionally overwhelming over the past 6 months where the structures we depended on (like preschool, the boys’ swimming lessons, my tennis lessons and soccer games) all got cancelled. Getting “organized” without those structures has felt counterproductive and even frustrating. Our life needs organizing all around – from the clutter to the calendar and I’m going to have to keep working at it!
I think what I will do is try to create some self-imposed rhythms for us. Some plans for days when the kids will do “school,” specific days or evenings for certain activities – such as having a night I can have them help with dinner and perhaps starting a poetry tea time one afternoon a week. I’d even like to set certain days of the week as laundry days and/or other chore days to maybe help me stay on track/motivated. My hope is that those kinds of things will help anchor us in more concrete ways as we venture in to the remainder of 2020.
>>Saturday adventures with my boys
This was one of the most fun goals I’ve ever set and we have the photos to prove it! One thing we found in every adventure was water! From rock skipping and stick floating in neighborhood creeks, to kayaking on the lake, to swimming in the river in a summer rainstorm – we explored some incredible new places and had a blast doing it! I feel like this is something we will continue to do on weekends when Paul has to work and it’s just the three of us. It really helps break up the day and make them feel special. Plus the fresh air is awesome for our moods!
>> Implement some S.M.A.R.T. daily goals to combat my procrastination
This goal (or series of mini-goals, rather) was incredibly helpful for me this past month. It wasn’t a perfect science and I still struggle to get to bed on time. Overall I felt very satisfied with how it went. The areas that were the most difficult for me were my commitment to working on my blog in some capacity daily and writing 100 creative words daily. Both of these are things I want to continue to work on. I’ve already filled out my goal-tracker for September. I don’t think I’m ready to raise the bar quite yet. Still want to gain some consistency before I lose traction trying to jump ahead. I made a few revisions based on what I felt I struggled with and needed to modify for success. And I plan to keep it going for now!
My handful of S.M.A.R.T. daily goals that I started with:
- be in bed by 11:30pm
- spend at least 15 min on my blog
- write 100 creative words
- read at least 5 pages of one of my books
- spend at least 15 min of undivided attention with each kid
- continue morning pages
My September Goals 2020
1. Plan a few “Artist Dates” for myself this month
I just finished reading a book called Finding Water by Julia Cameron (author of The Artists Way). In this book she recommends that any person pursuing a creative life consider scheduling weekly “Artist dates” for themselves. I loved the idea from the moment I read more about it! I’m a huge advocate for self-care and I’ve been very intentional about carving out time to nurture my own needs.
As someone who feels a deep pull to pursue more creatively than I seem to prioritize time for, this seemed like a natural next step for me to start to hold space for myself in this way.
In seeking to nurture our creativity, we need adventures that can be counted on. I call them Artist Dates. As the name suggests, we are out to romance and woo our artist. We do so by taking a weekly solo expedition to do something that is just plain fun. As with any date, the planning is part of the adventure. The anticipation is a large part of what makes it special…
Artist Dates fill us with exuberance. We see that we are not caught by the narrow confines of life as we have known it… Artist Dates bring us optimism. They awaken in us a sense of potential: our own and our world’s… Artist Dates bring us a sense of enchantment. There is magic afoot and we encounter it more easily… An Artist Date is an adventure, a lark, a flier into the unknown. It asks you to have fun and to preplan that fun.Julia Cameron, Finding Water
Why is this one of my September goals? I’ve been trying to plan at least one evening a week to spend some time out of the house. Since covid, there aren’t many chances for me to really go anywhere any more. Some evenings this has meant I simply go to the park by my house and just sit in my car, enjoying the night swallowing up the day and the quiet all around me. Even if it requires me hiring a babysitter, I feel like this time is so valuable, not only for my self-care, but also for my creativity.
Action plan: Talk with Paul each week to find a date that works for me to take this time for myself. If he is working, hire a sitter. Try to get at least one date for myself each week. Do something fun! I bought a small palette of watercolors, a watercolor notebook, and some travel brushes so I want to play with that! And there are a few puzzles I’ve been wanting to work on. Plus, I’m always up for just relaxing with a good book.
2. Block some screen-free time
My youngest sister and her husband just read the book “How to Break Up with Your Phone” by Catherine Price. Paul and I have had many conversations over the past few years about how we feel often tethered to our phones. And nowadays it feels worse than ever. How could we not be? It’s the Swiss-army knife of technology! Even when I am trying to be more intentional about my use, I feel like I just have to keep it on hand because inevitably I will need my camera, calculator, online bank statement, music my kid is requesting, the weather forecast, my calendar, or a random address.
Since quarantining, my phone has become a lifeline of sorts.
It has helped keep me in touch with my family and friends whom I haven’t seen in months. We’ve done virtual family game nights and hangouts. My boys have had FaceTime snack dates with their cousin and grandparents. I’m staying up to date with friends via Instagram stories and Facebook. I’ve used more apps the past 6 months than I ever have before: Viber, Marco Polo, GroupMe, Zoom, Slack. My phone has become even more ingrained into my daily existence than ever.
Sometimes I discover I am glancing at my phone mid-movie scene or at a long stop-light (this one I am truly embarrassed to admit!). These realizations don’t make me feel good. It’s difficult to acknowledge how much our phones have infiltrated our lives. While we may be “connecting” through our phones, it is often at the expense of connecting with our loved ones who are directly in front of us.
More and more lately, I use my phone as a way to mentally disconnect from my in-person reality when I get overwhelmed.
Why is this one of my September goals? I want to re-evaluate my relationship with my phone. There are plenty of things I appreciate and enjoy about it, but I also feel challenged to disconnect from it. There is a strange manipulative hold that it has over me that I want to feel more in control of. My phone use is something I want to set a positive example of for my kids – to have a healthier balance of my online and offline lives. My childhood was relatively (and gloriously!) screen free and I am realizing that is a reality my children will rarely experience unless we set a precedent now.
Action plan: Read the book “How to Break Up with Your Phone” by Catherine Price. Designate specific ares as screen-free in our home, such as at the table during meals and in bed. Block a few intentional chunks of time to disconnect completely and see if I can get Paul on board for accountability.
3. Make our bedroom into a sanctuary.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spaces in our home and how they make us feel. My husband and I are very different in how we tend to tackle messes. His version of tidiness leans heavily in an “out of sight, out of mind” direction. He prefers clutter-free spaces and clear countertops. We will call him a wanna-be minimalist. Sometimes things get “put away” by piling them behind closed doors (like the pantry or in my office). I, on the other hand, feel like a home should feel “lived in” and at the same time, ideally, I prefer things to be well-organized.
My ideal space is where everything has a place that it belongs and brings a sense of calm and comfort.
I’m pretty sure I don’t lean toward minimalist (my friends and family are having a good laugh at that!) but I do feel strongly that less is more. *Exceptions – books, kitchen tools, cute kids clothing, and toilet paper. I like to be prepared, so sometimes more is just my jam. One problem we have though is that my organizing tends to be rather labor-intensive and long-winded. Too often I procrastinate the process to avoid being overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. And this means usually there are piles of things just waiting around to be organized. Talk about ultimate juxtaposition. Procrastinating to avoid overwhelm most typically just causes me more overwhelm. Paul is fantastic at simply knocking out a to-do list. I agonize over mine.
When I was a little girl the most wonderful space in our home was always my Mama’s room. It was the epitome of calm and comfort. The bed was always piled high with crisp neatly made covers and hand-fluffed down pillows. There was light pouring in through every window, and the room was always tidy and uncluttered. A tall leafy ficus tree stood in the corner. Special mementos and beautiful framed photos adorned the dresser and bedside table. Eclectic art adorned the walls.
Every day after work my Mama would come home and head straight in there to “decompress” for a few minutes and recharge. It was her sanctuary.
I’ve realized over the past several months (of not leaving our home much) that Paul and I need a space like this. Free of kid toys and chaos. Quiet and calm. Bright and refueling. And when we talked about it, it feels like our bedroom is the best place to create this kind of space. It’s actually been really fun thinking about what that might look like. Well, the part where we have to declutter and prepare the space isn’t exactly fun but the other stuff is. Like the part where I may have already bought some awesome plants to put in there (pictured below – not yet moved to their new space).
I’m also excited about the part where I get to choose a few new photos to print/frame and hang up (our 2 year old has yet to make a debut on the photo gallery wall yet!). And the part where I found a new set of sheets on sale in the clearance section online. Man oh man did we need a new set of sheets! Overall I think this is going to be a fun goal that will feel really good to tackle.
Why is this one of my September goals? Paul and I need a space that we can go in our home that is comfortable and calm, tidy and chaos free. I loved how much my mama’s bedroom always felt like a sanctuary when I was growing up and I’d like to create a space for us that feels like that.
Action plan: Move the plants I bought upstairs. Make our bed every morning. Clear out the remaining baby-gear that we still have stored in our room. Hang a few new prints up on the walls. Light some candles. Retreat to this space whenever possible.
I’ll be back next month to update you on how well I kept up with these September goals. And to share my upcoming goals for October!
What are your September goals?
I’d love to know what you’ve got in mind for this month.
Drop a comment below!