5 things I learned in May

I haven’t found the words yet to convey how huge and all-encompassing the changes in my life over the last two months feel every day. I’m still joyfully learning to navigate my way through this new landscape of full-time work for me, leaving ministry for Craig and graduating college and high school for 2/3 of my children My lovely middle child is once again in the middle of both these events and completely unphased by all the hullabaloo. She’s amazing.

I suppose I could wait for things to smooth out a bit more, to have my schedule better in hand and feel more put together and less in recovery mode to make try to put together a new space, but why wait? If I want to be a more mindful person and more prolific writer, the time to start is right now, and so I shall. I’m joining in with Emily Freeman in sharing what I learned in May.

Although I am an introvert, balancing my personality with a job I am passionate about means I am filled as quickly as I am depleted.

This has been an important discovery as I transition into full-time work. Most days I come home pleasantly (or completely, depending on the week) worn out, but I seldom feel unready to face another day at work. Working in the reference area of the library means tons of face-to-face interaction with all kinds of people: the public, my co-workers, contractors, school kids, parents, people in a hurry, people with no computer skills whatsoever.  Each encounter is entirely unique, and there is no blueprint for any of the interactions. Normally, this is a nightmare scenario for someone like me, but I find myself thriving in the challenges and opportunities each day present.  I also learned that I do suffer if I don’t put the brakes on the social component of my life during the weekend. It takes a day or two of introverting between the workplace days to really be myself again.

Kansas City is a really cool place, and visiting libraries in other towns makes me swoony.

I was fortunate this month to travel to Kansas City for a conference. Not only was it a great time with people who share my passion, but the city was so fun to hang out in! We visited the library hours before the conference started just to poke around and ended up hanging out until time to begin. The Kansas City central library is housed in a 100-year-old bank which is absolutely captivating. We explored, asked questions, and poked around from the underground vault – which is now a 28 seat public movie theater – to the fifth-floor rooftop patio and local history room. Clearly, libraries are my natural habitat. I’m not even ashamed.

It’s better to start imperfectly than to wait for the perfect moment.

In my head, I’ve known this for awhile, but in my practice, I’m still prone to procrastinate by waiting for the perfect moment to arrive. I know this stems from both my co-dependency and my perfectionism, but knowing why I do it, hasn’t made it easier to stop doing it. Growing up, I learned that doing things perfectly the first time is the best way to gain the praise I desired. These beliefs aren’t easy to unlearn in adulthood. When I am uncertain or overwhelmed, I often revert to them even though I know better. But I’m learning that a little bit of an imperfectly good thing is better than constantly waiting for the perfect moment or level of readiness. Perfection is an illusion. Starting and continuing despite flaws and imperfections is a superpower. I am learning to be my own shero.

It’s hard to be yourself when you don’t really know yourself.

I’ve been untangling this one for a few years now, but it hit home with me in a new way this month as I work at something I think I do well, and doing so without any of the labels I’ve previously worn. I don’t regret the years my identity was wrapped up in motherhood, or as Craig’s wife (which I still am, but differently). I somewhat regret other labels I have embraced and embodied believing I could make myself fit, but that’s a therapy session for another time. For long stretches of time every day, I am just me: doing what I love, working out what I want, embodying who I am. I’m fortunate to work in an environment that believes I can learn it, conceive it and orchestrate it well, and which encourages my creativity and my voice. You know what? I’m a pretty amazing person when I am not contorting like a pretzel trying to meet someone else’s ideal. I’m learning who I am as myself again, at last. This is freedom, and it’s wonderful.

45 is a great age to start again.

This month we celebrated my 45th birthday and the fact that I have now lived as long since my cancer diagnosis as before that nightmare day. These events were overshadowed – rightfully so – by the graduation of my oldest from college and my youngest from high school. Hunky and I are shifting into the ‘parents of adult children’ stage with our youngest daughter’s 18th birthday. All the babes are still here under our roof, but life is so different now than even two months ago. I’m learning new skills and concepts as fast as I can in my new career. Hunky is out of professional ministry and poised on the brink of a new path (further details aren’t quite ready to divulge yet). Everything feels fresh, new, and clean. Life is exciting and I’m finding ways to hope and dream in ways I had forgotten. I believe we can begin again at any time, every moment is new, but I’m claiming 45 as a pivotal year, one which can affect the trajectory of our lives in ways that excite me.

What lessons did May hold for you this year?

Author: Dana Portwood

I'm a writer, reader, library lover, grower of feminists, leaver of church but friend of Jesus. Inclusive minded, married to my best friend. Sometimes afraid of my own voice, but using it anyway.